I'm not sure about you, but the majority of conversations that I have had with Mormon friends ends up with them telling me to ask God if the book of Mormon is true. Because after all, James 1:5 says "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. "And they tell me that they know the Book of Mormon is true because they asked God, and God gave them "a burning in their bosom" and somehow, internally, they felt and knew God was confirming to them the truthfulness of the book of Mormon. Now this is a bad test of the truthfulness of a book for many reasons, but without even going into that, the whole method misunderstands how God makes people wise. We should absolutely ask God for wisdom, but there is something else that we should do when asking for wisdom, that is seek the wisdom out in His word!
In 2 Timothy 3:5 Paul writes to Timothy: "But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work."
If I want wisdom, I should absolutely ask God, but then I should also go to where God speaks in order to hear him! If you want insight in what God wants you to do and how you should live, you read his word! We meditate on it day and night! It is a lamp unto our feet! We read it, memorize it, study it, declare it, teach it, sing it, summarize it, proclaim it. We base our lives on it! And when we live according to it we become wise! Wiser then our enemies:
Your commands are always with me and make me wiser than my enemies. - Psalm 119:98
So what kind of wisdom does God's word have for me in deciding if the book of Mormon is true? I would have to read and know God's word, and then start reading the book of Mormon and see if it aligns with what God's word says. Thankfully for us we do not need to read the whole book of Mormon to see that it does not align with God's word. We see issues in the first 2 chapters of the first book in the book of Mormon!
The first book in the book of Mormon is 1 Nephi.
The summary of the chapter says:
"An account of Lehi and his wife Sariah, and his four sons, being called, (beginning at the eldest) Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi. The Lord warns Lehi to depart out of the land of Jerusalem, because he prophesieth unto the people concerning their iniquity and they seek to destroy his life.”
Verse 4 sets the scene:
"For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days); and in that same year there came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city of Jerusalem must be destroyed.” (1 Nephi 1:4)
The book of Mormon says that a man named Lehi lived and prophesied in Jerusalem during the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah. Interestingly enough the Bible records a man who also lived and prophesied in Jerusalem in the same time.
“In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the Lord.” (Jeremiah 27:1)
What did God say to Jeremiah during this time?
5“It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. 6Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. 7All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave.
8“‘“But if any nation or kingdom will not serve this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, declares the Lord, until I have consumed it by his hand. 9So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your fortune-tellers, or your sorcerers, who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon.’ 10For it is a lie that they are prophesying to you, with the result that you will be removed far from your land, and I will drive you out, and you will perish. 11But any nation that will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will leave on its own land, to work it and dwell there, declares the Lord.”’”
12To Zedekiah king of Judah I spoke in like manner: “Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him and his people and live. 13Why will you and your people die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence, as the Lord has spoken concerning any nation that will not serve the king of Babylon? 14Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are saying to you, ‘You shall not serve the king of Babylon,’ for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you. 15I have not sent them, declares theLord, but they are prophesying falsely in my name, with the result that I will drive you out and you will perish, you and the prophets who are prophesying to you.”
God’s message to Jerusalem through Jeremiah is this: Because of your disobedience you have come under my judgement. I have raised up Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon to rule over you and I have given him authority over all. You must serve king Nebuchadnezzar and if you do so you will be able to live and stay in the land I promised you. He also warns them that if anyone does not serve king Nebuchadnezzar that he will punish them with famine, sword, and pestilence. But why would people not serve King Nebuchadnezzar like God has commanded them to do? Because they have false prophets who are prophesying falsely in God’s name telling them not to serve him! God commands them to not listen to the prophets, “your diviners, your dreamers, your fortune-tellers, or your sorcerers… saying “You shall not serve the king of Babylon.” God’s instruction is simple:"Do not listen to them” (The false prophets telling them not to serve the King of Babylon), Rather they must "serve the king of Babylon and live.” (Jeremiah 27:17)
Now what did God say to Lehi?
"1 For behold, it came to pass that the Lord spake unto my father, yea, even in a dream, and said unto him: Blessed art thou Lehi, because of the things which thou hast done; and because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee, behold, they seek to take away thy life. And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness. And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him.
4 And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.” (1 Nephi 2:1-4)
God’s message to Jeremiah: Don’t listen to false prophets and dreamers who say leave the land, rather, serve the King of Babylon and live.
God’s message to Lehi (in a dream): You are blessed, flee from the land into the wilderness. According to God’s message to Jeremiah, Lehi would be considered a false prophet and dreamer because he said God told him to leave the land instead of staying and serving the king of Babylon.
The whole story of the Book of Mormon follows from this man’s dream and his obedience to God’s call to leave the town. Eventually he goes with his family and builds a boat and goes to the Americas, which is the new promised land where they would build a new temple of the Lord and worship there.
There is much, much more that could be said concerning the Book of Mormon and its contradictions with the Bible, but thankfully we need not go further then the first few pages of the book of Mormon if we are familiar with God’s word. As Dr. Kevin Lewis said in an apologetics class I took with him, “You don’t need to drink the whole pacific ocean to know that it’s salty.” We don’t need to read the whole book of Mormon to know that it differs greatly from God’s revealed word, the Bible. And if I come to know that it differs from God's word, then that's all the wisdom I need to make a decision on its truthfulness.
**I am thankful for Dr. Kevin Lewis (in his class Cults of America) for the observations made in this blog post.