The Book of Mormon
The [B]ook of Mormon is more correct than the Bible, (History of the Church, 4:461).
That statement does not appear at the reference CARM supplies to its readers. The reference states:
"I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct book of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other book." [Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 4:461]
Readers are to note that this statement is not made in The History of The Church, 4:461, nor in any other Mormon writing. It is the conclusion of Mr Slick!
Note the following abstract from an article by Monte Nyman, a Latter-day Saint.
“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (History of the Church, 4:461.)
“The most correct of any book on earth” was a bold statement to make in Joseph Smith’s day, let alone in our day of sophisticated publication. The statement is still applicable, for the Lord has never rescinded it nor cast doubt upon it.
An analysis of the statement reveals important principles that are significant to readers of the Book of Mormon and especially to members of the Church. Its correctness must be attributed to the Lord’s hand operative in its translation, an event that was, as Isaiah described it, a “marvelous work and a wonder.” (Isa. 29:13–14.)
There is irrefutable evidence to show both the correctness of the translation and the Lord’s hand in it. The Three Witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, bore record that the voice of God declared unto them that the book had been translated by his power. Their testimony still appears at the front of each copy of the Book of Mormon. Furthermore, in a June 1829 revelation given to the three men through the Prophet, the Lord confirmed that Joseph had translated all that he had been commanded to do and that it was a true translation. (See D&C 17:6.)
However, “the most correct book” implies that it may not be absolutely correct, and in light of the Lord’s declaration, this may seem contradictory. But herein lies another significant principle: if there be any errors, they should not be attributed to the translation.
An example from the Book of Mormon itself supports this principle. The prophet Moroni concluded his father’s record by excusing the errors, if there were any, to the faults of men (see Morm. 8:17) and to the necessity of writing in what was termed reformed Egyptian rather than in Hebrew (see Morm. 9:32–33).
Therefore, the qualification on the absolute correctness of the Book of Mormon may be imposed because of language limitation.
A second example in the Book of Mormon of man’s inability to record the principles of the gospel perfectly is found in 3 Nephi 19:31–34 [3 Ne. 19:31–34]. Here the Savior’s prayer to the Father was described as being one that could not be spoken or written by man. Yet the prayer was heard and understood by the Nephites as their hearts were opened.
It seems logical, then, that the correctness of the Book of Mormon was not limited so much by the translation process as by the inadequacy of present languages.
Joseph Smith taught that the Savior would adapt his language to the capacity of a little child (see History of the Church, 3:383), and undoubtedly he had to adapt the language of the Book of Mormon to our linguistic capacity.
Until the time arrives when the Lord will restore a pure language to fill the earth with sacred knowledge, the Book of Mormon represents the gospel teachings in the most correct form available to man. Furthermore, the book acts as a catalyst in obtaining even greater understanding of the gospel. As a person studies the written text with “real intent,” the power of the Holy Ghost will manifest the truth of what he reads.
The Prophet Joseph’s declaration of the Book of Mormon as “the keystone of our religion” underlines its importance in uniting the Church. As the keystone holds the rest of the stones in place, so the Book of Mormon upholds the principles and ordinances of the gospel. (See History of the Church, 2:52.)
Jewish scribes have known for more than a thousand years that the Bible is not a perfect book, but has some textual difficulties, and many Christian scholars readily admit the same. While Latter-day Saints hold to a qualification as to the correctness of the Bible as we have it today, they embrace it as the word of God, but cannot embrace any of the errors it is shown to contain. The Mormon position is that when the original monographs were made they were perfect, but that over time and in the course of manual transmission by imperfect scribes making copies of copies of copies, etc, errors crept in accidentally, and other changes were made by redactors and haggadists that altered what was originally written. Nevertheless, the Mormon position is that it is inspired of God except where is holds errors. No Bible believer should be put to the necessity of believing that God requires them to embrace the obvious errors as inspired, for ‘God is not the author of confusion.”
[End of Nyman abstract]