What's The Book of Mormon about?

By November 8, 2014 40 Comments

Full Question

Mormon missionaries have been bugging me to read their Book of Mormon. I don’t plan to do so since it is false scripture, but I would like to know what the book is about when I talk to them. Can you give me an overview?


The Book of Mormon comprises 15 books, each allegedly written by an ancient American prophet. It professes to be a religious and secular history of Hebrews who fled Jerusalem and certain persecution in 600 B.C. Lehi, an alleged prophet and contemporary of Jeremiah, led his wife, children, and their spouses through the Arabian wilderness to the shores of “the large waters.”
After much hardship and contention, the righteous son Nephi built a ship and the company sailed to a new “promised land,” but not before having obtained a collection of brass plates on which was recorded not only the Pentateuch (or first five books of the Old Testament) but also a record of the Jews from the beginning down to that day. All the while, Nephi had been making metal plates of his own and engraving on them a record of his family’s labors.
Upon arriving in the Western Hemisphere, and after the death of Lehi, Nephi’s brothers Laman and Lemuel rebelled against Nephi, forcing him and his followers to separate from them. Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites (as the followers of Laman andLemuel were called) were cursed with a “skin of blackness”—which here means a darker, American Indian skin tone, not a Negro complexion—and became persecutors of the Nephites. At Nephi’s death in the mid-sixth century B.C., his younger brother Jacob took up the story and the plates. Several other alleged prophets followed Jacob, maintaining written records of the Nephites or “American Hebrews.”
Throughout these centuries, and reflecting the same theme sketched for Israel by Old Testament authors, the Nephites enjoyed periods of material prosperity when they followed the Lord’s voice and languished in misery when they didn’t. Much of the book is a dull, repetitive recording of bloody battles waged between Nephites and Lamanites.
Evil kings, corrupt judges, “secret combinations” (or “gangs” of robbers), persecution of the righteous, their subsequent apostasy and restoration, massive genocide—this is the stuff of the Book of Mormon. There are occasional discourses on religion, most of which remind the reader of the words of Old Testament prophets, the Sermon on the Mount, or the teachings of St. Paul, despite the chronological problems this poses.
Towards the end of the Nephite-Lamanite record we find inserted, out of chronological sequence, the “Book of Ether.” These 15 chapters are said to be the record of yet another group of Hebrew émigrés, these dispersed at the Tower of Babel. Following the “brother of Jared,” who had had a vision of the “spirit body” of Jesus Christ, these righteous ones built barges and sailed for the promised land of America.
The “Jaredites” soon split into factions, warring with one another throughout a succession of kings, prophets, murder, and intrigue. Some of their prophets predicted the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the establishing in America of the New Jerusalem.
The forces of good and evil ultimately arrayed themselves in a final battle. Millions were killed; indeed, every single Jaredite but one was slain. The prophet Ether recorded the devastation on twenty-four metal plates that were later discovered by Nephites and appended to their own writings.
Without doubt, the high point of the Book of Mormon is recorded in Third Nephi. This book allegedly covers the period from A.D. 1-35. Raids, murders, government upheavals, tempests, earthquakes, and fires allegedly preceded the appearance of Jesus Christ on the American continent. According to Mormonism, Jesus Christ showed himself to the people of America in the year 34 and established a second church, paralleling the one in the Old World.
The Book of Mormon story ends early in the fifth century. By the fourth century war and carnage had consumed both the faithful Nephites and the reprobate Lamanites. After gathering hundreds of thousands of warriors to the Hill Cumorah (located in New York state), the Nephites were utterly massacred by the sword by an even greater army of “dark and filthy” Lamanites (Mormon 5:15; Mormons frequently identify contemporary Native Americans as descendants of these Lamanites).
The only survivor was Moroni, the son of the Nephite prophet Mormon, from whom the book takes its name. To him his father had entrusted the centuries-old records of God’s American prophets, to which Moroni himself added a few concluding chapters. Before dying in 421, Moroni allegedly placed the gold plates in a stone and cement box and buried it in a hillside near present-day Palmyra, east of Rochester, New York.
In Joseph Smith’s day, several burning theological issues occupied the attention of scholar and layman alike: the nature of religious authority and priesthood; the necessity of baptism; the validity of infant baptism; the administration of the flesh and blood of Christ. Smith found the 13 pages of the book of Moroni that just “happened” to resolve the theological disputes of the day.


  • Eric E says:

    I spent some time with a couple Mormon missionaries, hoping to challenge a few doctrines and hear their understanding and defense of it. I was repeated disappointed by the shallowness of the responses. If I showed logical contradictions and explicit fallacies that they could not offer an objective defense for (which was more often than not), I was told that if only I read the Book of Mormon and prayed to believe then I would know it was true. There was no source (not even the Bible!) that could supersede their reliance on the subjective “testimony of the Spirit”. And when I finally told them that the Spirit testifies to me the truth and goodness of my faith, they suggest (surprise, surprise) that I should read the Book of Mormon cover to cover and then I would feel the “correct” Spirit. It’s interesting that one can find faith in Christianity (or even Mormonism) without a full reading of the Bible, but reading the Book of Mormon is the only way to discount traditional Christianity.

    • Jeff says:

      It is difficult to prove any interpretation of the bible. Many discussions even between people of the same faith have endless disagreements. Thankfully, one very clear scripture, James 1:5, suggests that if any of us lack wisdom, to ask God, who gives to all men liberally. We never have to listen and trust anybody except God. If you receive an answer, stick to it with faith, and repeat. How do you know if it is the spirit? You will witness one, if not more of the fruits described in Galatians 5:22-23.
      For this reason, I am not “tossed to and fro like the waves of the sea,” as James describes.

    • Jim Wright says:

      Eric, Just a couple of questions. What is your educational background, particularly in the area of religious studies? What was the approximate age of the missionaries with whom you spent time? What I am really asking is if you have discussed your concerns with someone who has an equivalent religious background to yours? Perhaps by doing so you might receive at least a well-informed response, even if it still might not satisfy your concerns. I say this because my wife, who has a master’s degree in religion from an Assembly of God University, and who reads the Old Testament in Hebrew, has asked and found answers pertaining to the Book of Mormon fully satisfactory to her.

  • Hunter says:

    I completely agree with Jeff. If we want to know the truth about anything, especially referring to theological truth, God is the one with answers and He will never give us anything but the truth. Matthew 7:7-11. Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you….how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

  • sifi says:

    The book of Mormon is the same as the fake iphone…

  • sifi says:

    Grandpasvoice,,,I don’t want to waste my time to read the book of Mormon because it not a real bible,,its a copy of KJ verson of the bible…if you know a guy name Stuart Fergenson,,he’s a Mormon and he said He wasted 24 years of his life try to find anything to prove the book of Mormon is true,,but sadly he never find anything,,

  • Jorge says:

    The original interpretation of the Church has not changed for 2,000 years. The only people confused by different interpretations are the protestants who all want to interpret for themselves and pray for guidance. Whoever gives them each a different answer and thus different interpretations cannot be God, for God is not the author of confusion. That would be another who is the Master of lies. Christ came to establish His Church and when He did He said that He would be with the Church ALWAYS and that the gates of hell would not prevail. Keyword …. ALWAYS. So then you have to ask yourself as I asked the Mormons who visited my niece. ….. if you believe as I do that Jesus Christ is God, and that He would not lie to us, then you would conclude that He was and still is with His Church as He said He would be. Because if you ate telling me that Christ LIED or was INCAPABLE of protecting the Church that He came to establish here on Earth, then He must be an imposter. And I know that He is no such thing ! Remember in one of His parables He spoke of those who did not feed, clothe, visit, or give Him to drink when He was hungry, naked, in jail, sick, and thirsty that He would tell them to get away from Him, that He does not nor never knew them, even tho they said they ministered and preached Him. There’s only ONE, HOLY, CATHOLIC (UNIVERSAL), & APOSTOLIC CHURCH. Christ came to establish it in the flesh, if you are a follower of Christ’s why would you look for Him anywhere else ? And why would you not come to worship Him in His own House ? Good day to you all.

    • Following his resurrection, the Savior said: Other sheep have I that are not of this fold (John 10:16). The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints believes that some of those “other sheep” were on the American Continent at the time of his resurrection.

  • Santos says:

    Does thiS Have followers?

    • Santos, Thanks for asking. Very briefly, The Book of Mormon is a record of at least three migrations of peoples from the near east to the American Continent. The majority of the events recorded are of a people the offspring of Lehi, who fled Jerusalem with his family around 600 BC. Two of his children rebelled and broke off. They are generally called Lamanites. Another faction are the Nephites. Over a period of 1000 years there are numerous conflicts between the two groups, occasional reconciliations, and more schisms. The overall purpose of the Book of Mormon, however, is to testify of Jesus Christ as the literal son of God, and to explore the consequences of faithful adherence to His teachings, or the consequences of failing to follow Jesus Christ.
      You have indicated you believe it is a “false book.” For what it’s worth, I suggest that you just read the book named 3 Nephi, which tells of Jesus Christ appearing to people on the American continent after His death and resurrection. I am a retired California lawyer and Judge. In my work I relied on evidence to make decisions. With regard to the book of Mormon, the evidence strongly suggests that Joseph Smith did not have the education or information available to him to have written the book from his own store of knowledge. If you Google the question “Who really wrote the Book of Mormon” You will find many people who claim they have evidence that someone else wrote it, but there is no one who claims to have written it, except Joseph Smith, and he says he Translated it, with God’s help. His explanation, which requires acceptance that God can still speak to man, is the only explanation that makes sense.
      Good luck!
      Jim Wright

  • Sifi asked: Do you really believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God? There are many reasons why I answer that with an emphatic “Yes.” 1. The book exists, that is undeniable. 2. Joseph Smith had a 3rd grade education. 3.) The entire 534 pages (currrent edition) was written out by hand using quill pens in 61 days. 4)There have been a great number of archaeological discoveries, and scholarly studies after 1830 that validate (Not Prove) the content of the Book of Mormon. 5) As several people (who I surmise share your faith) have indicated, they believe in the power of prayer to guide them in their pursuit of truth. I share their belief. Joseph Smith began his spiritual journey after reading James 1:5,
    I confess to being a little puzzled by people who say “I won’t read it because it is a fraud.” It reminds me of the man who said “I can’t understand my son, he never listens to anything I say.” Is it fair to judge a book if the book has not been read? Is it fair to judge the book by the comments of critics or detractors of the book? My wife is not a Catholic, but we own and have read the Catholic (Douay)version of the Bible, with its books not contained in the King James Version. We have found evidences of truths there that are not in the King James Version. We have found an additional witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon, in ways that are not “taken from the Bible.”
    Do I believe Joseph Smith was a Prophet? I believe he was a human being. I believe he was not perfect, and that he made mistakes in his personal life. I believe he was a lousy business man. But I believe he was, for a brief few years, a prophet of God, who died for the work he was called to do.

    • sifi says:

      Did you believe in his teaching that God was once a man ???

      • Jorge says:

        So, none of the Mormons addressed my statements or answered my question. Just like the ones who went to visit my niece, they were at a loss for words and only stated to read the book and pray. There was no “apostasy” of Christ’s Church for Hr said He would be with the Church always. The Catholic Church put the Bible together and approved the books to be included first at the Council of Nicea and has been preaching and preserving the Word ever since. This is my last post.

  • Sifi asked: Did you believe in his teaching that god was once a man?
    “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” (KJV
    Philip. 2:5–6.) or” Make your own the mind of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped” (Catholic Bible version). .
    Based on these verses, it seems apparant that the question is not a new question first answered by a Latter-day Saint. Paul approached the question in the New Testament.
    The Bible also promises to man “all that the Father hath.” which, I presume, means that every human being has the potential to become as God, ie. to become a God. If this is true, is it such a stretch to say that God (Elohim) had a body. It is important to understand that the Latter-day Saints believe that God (Elohim), Jesus (Yahweh) and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct beings, and that all three are Gods, each having a separate mission but united in purpose. We take literally the events at the Baptism of Jesus, that the Holy Ghost descended upon him in the form of a dove and a Voice from heaven announced “This is my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” It Jesus Christ was a man and now a God, as most of Christianity believes, this seems to again validate that God was once a man, which I believe.

    • sifi says:

      This is what he said…He was once a man like us, that God Himself,the father of us all,dwelt on earth,the same as Jesus Christ himself did.(CHURCH HISTORY vol 6 p 305 – 306) he said God same as Jesus Christ… so if you believe he’s a true prophet you should believe what he said…your god is a creature not a creator…

  • Jorge, I believe you understand that there are many differences between the Catholic Bible and the King James Version. The Savior did, indeed, say “Lo, I am with YOU always.” The history of the Catholic Church reflects disagreement among the attendees, who represented many of the 300 varieties of Christianity extant at the time of the Council of Nicea. We are beneficiaries of the scriptures that came from the council. We note that the history of your Church reflects that the books now found between the Old and New Testaments are there as the result of efforts of Martin Luther, based on his studies of Saint Jerome. I believe you are aware that your Church first took as doctrine that Mathew 16:18 referred to Peter in the sixteenth century. We differ with your Church in accepting the passage of the priesthood from Peter to Linus.
    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches as a fundamental tenant :”We believe the Bible to be the word of God insofar as it is translated correctly.” In a note to Sifi, which appears above, are two versions of a quote from Philipp. 2:5-6, one from the King James Version, one from the Catholic version. The serious scholars of the Bible in our Church consider the translations of all known versions in seeking to determine which, in fact, is most likely to represent the word of God. Another fundamental tenant is that “we believe that God will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God, and that if anything is worthy, of good report..we seek after these things.” I believe that your Church accepts that God can continue to communicate with man. We are not about claiming to have all knowledge, we are about continually seeking for truth. We testify that The Church of Jesus Christ was established in the places in the near east where Jesus walked, as recorded in the New Testament, and in the Americas, as recorded in the Book of Mormon. We testify that God talked and continues to talk to man as he did with Moses, Abraham, Noah, Isaiah and a host of other Old testament prophets, and that the coming of Jesus Christ was foretold to those and other prophets on the earth.
    I have tried to answer your question.
    Jim Wright

    • sifi. says:

      Why you quote from the Bible but your church accuse the Bible of been corrupt?? When you have your church services you put the Bible away and use the Book of Mormon even when you have your testimony you said you believe the Book of Mormon is the true words of God….

  • Sifi: I’m afraid I don’t quite understand your reference to God as a “creature, not a creator.” In Fact, I believe that God (Elohim) is the great architect of the heavens and the earth. (I believe you will find that Joseph Smith said that “God lived on an earth like this). The Bible makes it clear that Jesus Christ lived on This Earth. I believe that Jesus Christ is the literal son of God, in spirit and in the flesh, that Jesus was the Creator of all things physical on the earth. I believe that the Holy Ghost breathed the breath of life into all living things on earth. In other words, God The Eternal Father and His son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost together designed, created and enlivened the earth, and created man in their image and likeness. I believe that both God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ have bodies as you and I have, except that their bodies are of a refined matter (I confess to having no understanding of what that matter might be), and that Jesus Christ later obtained a body of flesh and bones when he was born to Mary. It was necessary that he have a physical body to experience the agony of the atoning sacrifice at Calgary, and to relieve mankind from the bonds of death through the resurrection.
    Jim Wright.

  • Jorge, I believe I specifically answered was God once a man. (see my replies of Feb 10 at 7:43 Am and 6:08 A.M)
    Jim Wright

  • Sifi, To be clear, several people in positions of leadership in our Church have addressed this issue in the time since 1830. I believe our position is clear that we teach without equivocation that God the Father and Jesus Christ each played a role in the creation of the earth. Joseph Smith taught that God (Elohim) once lived on AN EARTH as do we. If by creature, you mean he was once a mortal, the answer is yes I believe that. But allowing that he was once a mortal does not diminish his role as the creator of the heavens and the earth. Your Bible teachess “* Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.” I accept this fully.

  • Sifi, Have you ever been to a meeting of our Church? I have to suspect that you have not, or you would not have made that statement. Just as a little background that may be helpful to you: A part of each Sunday worship service is called Sunday School. Each week there is a 45 minute lesson for every man, woman and child in the congregation. Those lessons change topic every year, on a four year cycle. Two years of that four year cycle are devoted to the Old Testament and the New Testament. In addition, the youth of our church, from ages 14 to 18, attend a daily one hour program called Seminary, five days a week, during their school year. In their four years, two are spent learning the Old Testament and the New Testament. Does this sound like we believe the Bible is Corrupt? Perhaps you noticed that all of the verses I have cited to you are from the Bible, either the King James version or from the Catholic Bible, both of which I have in my home.
    You said we accuse the Bible of being corrupt. I told you we believe the Bible to be the word of God insofar as it is translated correctly. Then I gave you two versions of a verse in Phillipians: One from the King James version, one from your Catholic Bible. My church had nothing to do with the translation of either one. I ask you, then, which is translated correctly, the Douay version or the King James version? As far as I have been able to study, I believe that my Church accepts more of the Bible as being correct than most other religions.
    For instance again, Your Church teaches that God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost are one entity. My Church teaches that they are three distinct personages, and rely on the Bible for authority for that.
    Please understand I have great respect for your Church. Our Church has worked hand in hand with your church in dealing with international tragedies, and have trusted your church with tens of millions of dollars of money and material to help people in need in countries where your church is well established. The fact that we differ in points of doctrine does not take away from what I believe is the desire of most Christian people to live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ.

  • Hannah says:

    This video gives a quick 5 minute overview of what the Book of Mormon is. It is a Book that testifies of our Savior Jesus Christ. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fGhI4p4G1P4

  • DONNA WHEAT says:

    Mormon’s – HOAX – Man made religion! Jesus created the Catholic Faith! The Catholic Church! Jesus created it. No one goes to the father except through me! (Jesus) Mormon’s believe they deal with God directly. Joseph Smith was a nutcracker! How can so many people believe in some nut that claims he alone saw GOD in the woods. He was alone. He was 14! He was probably Schizophrenic! Do your Theology Studies, and then go with the truth, the history.. not some man made church that was created in the 19th Century! Hello! Also, they are very very extremely Judgemental. You are not to judge! They have more money than God himself! It ridiculous! All the collection depos they have put all over the place in Utah is a joke! Then they put a huge depo in St George with GREEN ARSE GRASS (out in the desert I mind you)! Hello, they water that grass day and night! Southern Utah (right by Vegas) is hurting for water! But they don’t care! By golly that green grass is going to be watered! Who cares how greedy they are! Its ridiculous! A cult! Im totally Catholic, and proud of my faith! Example of Mormons: A homeless man would show up on Mormon Church Property and they would call the police! The Catholic Church (Parish)would feed and cloth him for free, and would do it happily, without judgement! Not the mormons! Oh hell no!

    • “With the reasonable I will reason.” Peace be unto you.

    • Nick says:

      Donna, You’re statement about the homeless man and the fact that “they are very very very extremely judgmental” are, from my experience, false. A lot of the homeless shelters in Salt Lake City and the surrounding area are built and run using church funds. Just the other week, a homeless man came in to my wards chapel, we accepted him, invited him to pray with us. I gave him food and water. Caring for and aiding the poor and the disadvantaged, such as the homeless and people whos homes and lives have been destroyed by natural disasters, is where most of our churches money goes towards. If you google “LDS Humanitarian Aid” you will see for your self that we are very giving and that we not look down on the poor.
      In response to us being judgmental. Yes, there are very judgmental people in the church, but are Catholics so different? or baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans or any Christan denomination? Muslims, Buddhists, Hindis, Jews. Being judgmental does not have anything to do with the religion. Rather, it has to do with the person.
      As for our money. Most of that goes to the building of temples, chapels, the churches welfare program and to help pay for missions. We don’t have a paid clergy. The prophet himself isn’t paid. Most of the money church makes goes toward helping those who need it, through bishops storehouse’s, where anyone can request to receive food, clothes, and hygiene goods; or Deseret Industries, the church run thirft store (all the proceeds go to the poor, employees; most of which are immigrants, disabled, or rehabilitaing from substance abuse; and maintaining the stores), and Welfare Square where we store food and supplies for natural disasters. Also on a side note, which of our two religions has a country recognized by the UN?
      Please do your research on the church before making accusations based on things you’ve heard from others.

    • Gottlieb Gottlob says:

      Great point, Donna. I definately share your perspective, but I do not think that Mr Smith was schizophrenic. His “vision” has no psychological explanation, in my belief, but it’s also quite unrelated to God. Something else is afoot in such a non-Christian theology, something beyond ungodliness. If you analyse the theology of the Catholic Church, the Estern Orthodox Churches, the other churches of the Middle East (and even the Ethiopian Church) you will find more similarities amongst them because they are all very much the same age, and they stem from the same origin: the actual experience of Christ on Earth. All of them not only recognise Jesus as God, but they also recognise the wonders he has done through his Saints, etc. They also respect and revere the greatness of Mary, something which Mormons do not. The differences in theology among Catholicism and Eastern churches are very small and usually are limited to the structure of rites, the recognition of the Pope, etc. But Mormon theology, created in the XIX Century, has nothing to do with any of that. It does not even seem connected to the values of true, original Christianity in any way. Thus, I wouldn’t trust anything they have to “teach” us. Kind regards!

  • Avs23 says:

    Numbers don’t lie people, there are 1 billion Catholics worldwide as opposed to 20 million Mormons worldwide. The TRUE Universal faith Catholism has its faithful in the multitudes!

  • Nick says:

    AVS, Catholicism as been around for how many centuries? The LDS Church is new to picture. Yet in the 185 years since the Restoration, we’ve gained 20 million member’s.

  • John Lux says:

    Twenty million led astray from the truth by way of the other testament of the salamander.

  • jayson leban says:

    We do not judge others of their works but,we respect them and care for others..

  • Robert Anthony Villamor says:

    I’m sure we can all agree that creation has to have a creator and as such, mortal beings such as humans have to start from somewhere and be born. This being the case, if God was originally a man, then who or what created Him? How did he come into being?
    Even elementary physics states that an object that is at rest remains at rest until it is acted on by an external force. So how can the Mormon belief in God being initially human be reconciled with His being the creator of all, the external force, so to speak, who started it all?
    Even from the purely secular standpoint I used as an example above, I think their premise concerning the nature of God is confused. And when held up against the light of Scripture, this premise simply falls apart.

    • Pops says:

      The orthodox Christian metaphysical view of things, as I understand it, asserts that there was nothing but God, then He created everything. In other words, there was a beginning to all things save God Himself. The LDS view, as I understand it, does not include such a beginning of things, but rather I would infer from LDS doctrine that creation and life are thought to be cyclical, though not from an individual perspective. There was not a beginning, nor will there ever be an end. There is an infinity of space and an infinity of the essence of intelligent beings, which throughout the infinity of time (if such a concept exists with God) are given first a spirit body, then a material body, and thus started on the same path that God himself is on.
      While this is not explicitly taught in the LDS faith, it seems to be a logical outgrowth of the doctrine that is taught. It is also sensible, not in the sense that it is easily comprehended, but in the sense that there should be no limit to time or space or existence. For truly, any thing that has a beginning will surely have an end.

  • Michael says:

    I love the Book of Mormon and I know it is the word of God! It has helped me overcome many challenges and the more I read from it the stronger I feel to be a better follower of Jesus Christ and to love others.

  • Pops says:

    I find this to be a fairly good summary of the book. I would soften one statement, that “Much of the book is a dull, repetitive recording of bloody battles waged between Nephites and Lamanites.” While certainly there is some of that, there is so much more teaching of Christ and the doctrine of Christ.

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