One of the most distinguishing features of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints is our acceptance of the Book of Mormon as a companion volume of scripture alongside the Bible. For millions of Latter-day Saints around the world, we revere the Book of Mormon as the word of God, a sacred scriptural text recorded by ancient prophets in the Western Hemisphere and preserved for our day as a second powerful witness to the Bible that Jesus is the Christ.
How the Book of Mormon came into existence is an incredible story: an uneducated farm boy in upstate New York, visitations from heavenly messengers, and plates of gold with engravings in an ancient language. Yet nearly 185 years after the first copies of the Book of Mormon rolled off the printing press in New York in 1830, no credible alternative explanation for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon has ever been offered. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once said, "The only thing more miraculous than an angel providing [Joseph Smith] with those plates and him translating them by divine inspiration would be that he sat down and wrote it with a ballpoint pen and a spiral notebook.”
In pondering my own personal reasons for believing and defending the Book of Mormon as ancient scripture and a new witness for Christ, I have come up with 5 simple reasons I believe it with all my heart, mind, and soul.
Reason #1: An undeniable witness from the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true.
Repeatedly in the New Testament, Jesus taught His disciples that they could know and understand truth through the witness of the Holy Ghost. The Savior testified, "The Holy Ghost…shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26). In addition, the last ancient prophet who wrote in the Book of Mormon promised that any sincere reader could know if the book is true through the power of the Holy Ghost. As a young man, I prayed to know for myself whether the Book of Mormon was in fact God's word. The answer to that prayer was as real and undeniable as anything I have ever experienced. I feel that same peace each time I open the Book of Mormon and read from its marvelous pages. On an issue as important as this, God undoubtedly hears and answers every sincere prayer. I believe in the Book of Mormon because God revealed to me through the Holy Ghost that it is true.
Reason #2: The Book of Mormon's powerful witness of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The central message of the Book of Mormon is that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior, the Redeemer of the world. The ancient prophets who wrote in the Book of Mormon each bore a wonderful witness of the divine mission of Jesus Christ. Far from attacking the Bible or setting itself up as a replacement for the Bible, the Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ on every page and affirms the truthfulness of the Bible. I believe in the Book of Mormon because it strengthens my personal faith in Jesus Christ and my faith in the Bible as the word of God.
Reason #3: An impostor would have given up after losing the first 116 pages of his book.
Most people outside the Church do not realize that Joseph Smith faced an almost unimaginable setback in the process of translating the Book of Mormon into English. Two months after starting the translation, Joseph's scribes had produced 116 handwritten pages of the Book of Mormon. 116 pages! Through an unforeseen and ill-fated series of events, the entire manuscript was stolen from one of the scribes and lost forever. It has never been recovered. If the book were a fictitious creation, I believe losing the first 116 pages would have dealt a fatal blow to the entire act. The loss would have been too devastating for an impostor to recover from. But instead, Joseph Smith humbled himself and pressed on, eventually finishing the rest of the translation without ever attempting to go back and retranslate the lost 116 pages. I believe in the Book of Mormon because only a divine calling to translate an ancient record would have given Joseph Smith the strength and perseverance to carry on after losing the first 116 handwritten pages of the translation.
Reason #4: Internal evidences within the Book of Mormon point to an ancient text written by multiple prophets.
It was not until over 130 years after the publication of the Book of Mormon that a reader first documented the existence of a complex form of Hebraic poetry in the Book of Mormon called chiasmus. We now know the Book of Mormon contains long, intricate passages that follow this difficult form of inverted parallelism. Joseph Smith never mentioned chiasmus, and he never even hinted that he realized the prophets who wrote the Book of Mormon used it. Scholars have also used knowledge about "word prints" from linguistics to examine the Book of Mormon. We each speak and use words in ways that are unique and identifiable like our fingerprints. Word print analysis has shown that (1) the ancient writers of the Book of Mormon used their own unique word print consistently throughout their portions of the text, and (2) the word prints in the Book of Mormon bear no resemblance to the word prints of Joseph Smith or his associates in early Church history. I believe in the Book of Mormon because the text itself bears witness that many ancient prophets originally recorded the book.
Reason #5: There is simply no way the young, uneducated Joseph Smith could have ever written the Book of Mormon.
Although I have never written a book myself, I wrote a dissertation approximately 100 pages long at the conclusion of my doctoral program, and I have written numerous articles for peer-reviewed scholarly journals. I have a sense for the effort that goes into writing a text that will be closely examined by those who read it. Joseph Smith was a 23-year-old with very little formal education when he published the Book of Mormon. Joseph’s mother once described him as the least inclined to read of all her children. Joseph’s wife, Emma, further stated that, at the time of the translation, “Joseph Smith could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon.” Yet Joseph Smith and his principal scribe, Oliver Cowdery, completed the entire translation of what we now have as 531 pages of text in the Book of Mormon in approximately 65 working days! On average, they translated 8-10 pages a day. Producing the Book of Mormon out of whole cloth in 65 working days would have been unfeasible for the most highly educated scholar with access to all the resources and knowledge available in the 1820s. For Joseph Smith, it was utterly impossible. I believe in the Book of Mormon because Joseph Smith could not have produced the book in any way except through translating an ancient record by the gift and power of God.