FAIR Questions features a question that was submitted to FAIR volunteers through the FAIR website at fairlds.org. The answer in each episode is compiled from the various responses provided by the volunteers.
And now for the question:
I just want to start out by saying that I have the highest respect for all church apologists. I am 19 years old and just saving up some money before I send my papers in to serve a mission. I download the podcasts from FAIR and I listen to them all the time. I just want to say, thank you so much for everything you do. After having some questions of my own answered, my testimony has been strengthened beyond words. I have also been able to help others because of what I have learned from the podcasts and books I have read. I just want to ask a question from the point of view of someone who deals with non-members and apostate members on a daily basis: What is the best advice you can give me as a prospective missionary in regards to teaching people about The Book of Mormon? I know it’s a very general question, but if you could leave one ounce of your knowledge with me it would be a blessing to me!
And now for the answer:
Thank you for your kind words. We here at FAIR are not compensated monetarily. Our only “payment” is kind words of gratitude that we get from individuals such as you.
Congratulations on your decision to serve a mission! Although it will be challenging at times, it will be completely worth it.
Can you think of anything the world needs right now more than the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Unfortunately, the world is extremely divided as to what is meant by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Bible alone, as magnificent as it is, has not united the believing world under one Lord, one faith or one baptism. In fact, it seems that the Bible itself has never come under more criticism or skepticism at any time since its inception than it is today. Many around the world are concluding that the Bible is irrelevant in their lives. They say that Jesus may have been just a legend or a mere myth which, over time, transformed him into a God in the minds of a group of people who came to call themselves Christians. The very value of scripture seems to be assailed constantly.
What if there was a record that shared a common genesis with the Biblical record, yet was maintained and revealed to us from a separate nation apart from Judea? What if another people, or several groups of people had preserved their own witness of the divinity of Christ? What would be its value to the world today? What if there was a volume of scripture, apart from the Bible, that bore witness of the foundational truths contained in the Bible? What if that volume came to us as a result of God calling a Prophet today to once again bear witness that Jesus is the very Eternal God manifesting Himself to all nations – a book that reminds us of the important promises and Covenants made long centuries ago, to a people long dead, which are being fulfilled in our day? Wouldn’t that go a long way toward showing that God is the same yesterday, today and forever, and that he remembers his covenants to the children of men, and that no matter how long it seems to take to the human mind, He has not forgotten or forsaken his ancient promises?
The Book of Mormon was published in 1830 before Joseph Smith was even 25 years old. In a few short years you will be that same age. Even with all the educational advantages you will have between now and the time you are that age, can you imagine producing a volume like the Book of Mormon? Could you sit day after day in front of a scribe and recite endless passages of Isaiah, or even Jacob chapter 5? Could you speak for days in one long paragraph, without any double checking, without any punctuation, without any proof reading, and then submit the final product of hundreds of pages to a publisher?
Several months before the Book of Mormon was published, Section 4 of the Doctrine and Covenants was written. It is inspiring to note that this section was given by the young Prophet to his father, who had encouraged Joseph to listen to the Angel Moroni when Joseph had confided in him about the angel’s visit almost five years previously. Looking back over the nearly two hundred years since this revelation was given, its prophetic import is astounding:
“Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day. For behold the field is white already to harvest: and lo, he that thrusteth in his sickle with his might, the same layeth up in store that he perisheth not, but bringeth salvation to his soul…. Ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you, Amen.”
This revelation was given in February of 1829. The Church would not be officially established for over another year. Yet the young Prophet had the temerity to predict that this effort, the Restoration of the Gospel was going to result in a Marvelous Work. You live in a day and time where over a hundred Temples dot the earth, with dozens under construction. You are going on your mission at a time when there are nearly fourteen million people around the globe who are now members of the Church established by a twenty five year old Prophet and five other men on April 6th, 1830. Before you are much older, this Church will celebrate its Bicentennial. Who would have gambled on the chances of this movement in its infancy in February of 1829? Yet that is what young Joseph did. Why? Because he told the truth. He knew that God was behind the work he had begun and nothing was ultimately going to defeat it.
Section 5 of the Doctrine and Covenants was also written before the Book of Mormon was published. It tells us that there will be three other witnesses who will see the plates and bear witness to the world that they are real. They will affix their testimony to the volume and millions upon millions will read their words and know that they, not just Joseph, have actually seen the plates with their eyes and will bear solemn and consistent testimony that it is the work of God, and not man, as long as that work is published to the world.
What kind of audacity would it take for a complete fraud and a forger to make such a statement before the witnesses had seen the plates he supposedly didn’t have? Imagine after making such a prediction in the absence of real plates, that you were to actually find three people to lie for you, stand by their testimonies despite the fact that they would all become estranged from you at some point, and who would never deny their testimonies regardless of suffering, persecution, loss of reputation and cruel mockery even decades after your untimely death at the hands of a mob? Where in the world can you find an instance where a confederacy of liars ever withstood such a test? What could possibly hold these witnesses to their word under the most trying circumstances even after the ring leader of the conspiracy was long dead and could no longer hold any influence over them?
When weighed in the balance, as incredible as it seems at first glance, the only consistent explanation for the success of this Church, and for the lives of the witnesses and most especially for the unshakeable testimony of Joseph Smith despite all the forces arrayed against him is, that the Book of Mormon is true. Every other explanation seems to wither with the test of time or persecution. No other explanation can account for the rise of this Church out of total obscurity to what it is today.
The Book of Mormon is tangible evidence for the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith. As Hugh Nibley once said, books don’t write themselves. Somebody had to have written the Book of Mormon. The question is whether it is ancient or modern. Critics who wish to dismiss Joseph Smith as a fraud must confront this book.
As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland recently said:
“I testify that one cannot come to full faith in this latter-day work—and thereby find the fullest measure of peace and comfort in these, our times—until he or she embraces the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it testifies. If anyone is foolish enough or misled enough to reject 531 pages of a heretofore unknown text teeming with literary and Semitic complexity without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages—especially without accounting for their powerful witness of Jesus Christ and the profound spiritual impact that witness has had on what is now tens of millions of readers—if that is the case, then such a person, elect or otherwise, has been deceived; and if he or she leaves this Church, it must be done by crawling over or under or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit. In that sense the book is what Christ Himself was said to be: ‘a stone of stumbling, … a rock of offence,’ a barrier in the path of one who wishes not to believe in this work. Witnesses, even witnesses who were for a time hostile to Joseph, testified to their death that they had seen an angel and had handled the plates. ‘They have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man,’ they declared. ‘Wherefore, we know of a surety that the work is true.’”
With regard to how to teach from and about the Book of Mormon, follow the suggestions that are found in the missionary manual Preach My Gospel. If your investigators have unusual or difficult questions, you can always refer them to our FAIRwiki where many of these kinds of questions are addressed. But remember that it is the Spirit that will convert people to the gospel. And the Spirit will confirm the testimony of Christ that is found in the Book of Mormon. Remember that the Book of Mormon has the potential, if it is read, to re-convert an unbelieving generation to Jesus Christ.
Finally, always keep in mind that our witness is primarily the testimony of Christ and his apostles, that he died, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven, and that he will come again in glory. Everything else is merely an appendage to that witness. Keep that foremost in your mind as you engage both the honest in heart as well as the rest of the world, and it should be a great help to you.
If there is an issue that you have been wondering about, you can often find the latest answers at the FAIR wiki, found at fairmormon.org. If you can’t find your answer there, feel free to pose your question to the FAIR apologists by visiting the FAIR contact page. Occasionally, such a question will be featured on FAIR Questions. Before questions are used for this podcast, permission is obtained from the questioner.
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Music for this episode was provided courtesy of Lawrence Green.
The opinions expressed in this podcast are not necessarily the views of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or of FAIR.