I haven’t written a new installment to my “Why I Don’t Believe” series since last year. The series demanded a lot of my time, and I quickly got burnt-out. For a while, I toyed with writing a “Why I Don’t Believe” post about the Book of Mormon. That, though, proved to be a rather daunting undertaking. There is so much that needs to be said about the Book of Mormon that I couldn’t possibly distill my thoughts into a single post. So I’ve decided to devote an entire series to the Book of Mormon.
In the October 2009 LDS General Conference, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said that those who leave the LDS Church must do so “by crawling over or under or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit.” Holland argued that apostates have to ignore the Book of Mormon, because they cannot explain it.
Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator.
I disagree with Elder Holland that the only available answer is that Joseph Smith translated an ancient American history by the power of god. That is a textbook example of an argument from ignorance. But I do actually agree with Elder Holland on this point: Some critics are too quick to dismiss the Book of Mormon. And while the burden of proof rests primarily with its believers, I nonetheless think we owe the Book of Mormon more than just an indifferent shrug or rolled eyes. That’s why I’m writing this series—to grapple honestly with the Book of Mormon.
Here’s why I think the Book of Mormon merits our attention: Consider how it was produced. Joseph Smith, a young and uneducated man, somehow dictated a 531-page history of ancient Americans in a relatively short period of time and with his face in a hat! No easy feat, in my opinion. And more than that, he convinced many people that this book was divinely inspired. Even those Book of Mormon witnesses who later fell away from the church never denied their testimonies of the Book of Mormon.
Do these facts justify belief in the Book of Mormon? I don’t think so. But they should at least pique your curiosity and spur further investigation.
Finally, by way of preface: My series will not be comprehensive. All I hope to do is make some cogent criticisms of the popular (and untenable) LDS understanding of the Book of Mormon as “a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas…”
Expect the first installment of this series within the next few days. Thanks for reading.