There have been people who have argued that the Book of Mormon is “inspired fiction”, and that Joseph Smith was a “pious fraud”. To me, this strikes me as something that seeks to make the Book of Mormon less than what it is. The Book of Mormon authors set the book as a historical record, not necessarily meant to tell the story of the entire history of the people who lived somewhere in the American super-continent, but to help bring people to Christ. This book was written by men who lived nearly 2000 years ago, and translated by Joseph Smith through the gift and power of God. This is one of the principle claims of the Book of Mormon, as well as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This post isn’t to convince people of this claim, but to explain why this is important.
There are three reasons I can think of as to why this is important:
1) The Book of Mormon testifies of the reality of the Atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The highlight of the Book of Mormon, and frankly, one of my favorite parts reading the Book of Mormon, is when the resurrected Jesus Christ came down to the people of Nephi, showed the nail prints in his hands and feet, and blessed the people of Nephi. If the Book of Mormon is a translation of an ancient record, then this really did happen, that Jesus Christ, after his resurrection, came and visited the Nephites on the other side of the world. It must needs be, then logically speaking, that Jesus Christ must have been crucified, and that he must have been resurrected for this to happen. Which brings me to the second point.
2) The Book of Mormon supports the Bible. As noted earlier, the Book of Mormon shows the resurrected Savior coming to visit the Nephites on the American continent, and this supports the accounts in the Bible of Jesus Christ suffering for our sins, being crucified, and rising from the dead a few days later. But the Book of Mormon also helps a better understanding of certain key doctrines, such as faith, repentance, baptism, and most importantly, the Atonement, and why it was necessary. A common charge from other Christian faiths is that the Book of Mormon replaces the Bible, but the truth of the matter is that the Book of Mormon supports the Bible.
3) The Book of Mormon supports the claim of Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith has claimed that he has seen angels, talked with Moroni, and translated the Book of Mormon through the gift of power of God, and is evidence of his prophetic calling. If the Book of Mormon is indeed a translation of an ancient record, then it follows that the other things that Joseph Smith claims (visitation by angels, reception of golden plates, etc.) is also true.
The most troubling aspect that I have about the idea of the Book of Mormon being “inspired fiction” created by a “pious fraud” is that it flies in the face of the statement of the Book of Mormon, as well as statements by various eyewitnesses. From the word of Joseph Smith to the words of the three witnesses (all of whom left the Church at some point, but never spoke out against the Book of Mormon) to the testimonies of the eight witnesses to the testimonies of various other witnesses who saw the actions of Joseph Smith all corroborate with the fact that Joseph Smith did have golden plates, and he translated from them. Those who claim that the Book of Mormon is indeed inspired fiction need to explain the witness testimonies, both of those who are officially witnesses, as well as the accounts from other people who were not official witnesses per say, but did see and know what was going on at the time.