I heard years ago this term used for two groups: Jews and Muslims. Jews, of course, have long identified with the Torah, and later with the Hebrew Bible (or Tanakh), that is included in the Christian Bible as the Old Testament. And the Qur’an is the book Muslims consider to be revelation.
We Latter-day Saints (aka Mormons) are people of the Book, too. That Book is naturally the Book of Mormon – another testament of Jesus Christ (we believe the Bible also to be from the Lord). What is the purpose of the Book of Mormon? The link above is to the Title Page of the book, which was translated by Joseph Smith (meaning explicitly the Title Page here, in addition to the whole book) from the metal plates by the gift and power of God. From the Title Page I will quote the following:
[T]o show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations (emphasis added)
So the primary purpose is to show the dealings of the Lord with a group of Israelites and to convince both Jew and Gentile (I think this means Israelites and non-Israelites) that Jesus is the Christ. It is the latter that caught my attention early on. I grew up with the Bible (as I told a little about in this earlier post), but I did not accept the testimony of the Bible. I don’t know exactly why it was so, but so it was.
When I read the Book of Mormon, I was excited that there was another source that confirmed the Bible. The whole thing made sense to me, and when I prayed about the book, I for the first time in my life prayed with a specific question in my mind, and received an answer. It took me a little while to realize, that if the Book of Mormon is really the word of God, the Bible is, too. Then, if they are true, then Jesus of Nazareth was really the promised Messiah, God in the flesh, who took upon himself the sins and infirmities of his people, and he gave his life and by doing so overcame death. He had done it for me, too! It is impossible to describe the joy that I felt about knowing this was true. I have later found, in Galatians 5:22-23, a description of what the Holy Ghost does for us:
[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance.
This is not all, though. There is also the “in your mind” as well as “in your heart” (See D&C 8:2). But I will have to get back to that later.
Because the Book of Mormon is such a key element of the Restoration, it has been fiercely attacked by critics from before it was published. Most of the criticisms are based on misunderstandings or even purposeful misrepresentations. I will not attempt to answer them in this article. If you are curious about what’s been going on, take a look at Jeff Lindsay’s collection of some of it. He has done a good job of presenting the case for the plausibility of the Book of Mormon.
Note the emphasis on plausibility. If we were to uncover ruins somewhere in the Americas that could incontrovertibly be identified as Zarahemla, that would not be proof towards the primary purpose of the book. No more than finding sites of Bible events in Palestine is proof that Jesus is the son of God, that he atoned for the sins of mankind and that he rose from the dead.
The ultimate proof is the testimony of the Spirit and what the teachings of the book do in my life. If you want to know, let the book do the talking and then take hold of the promise of the Holy Ghost. Your journey will not be identical to mine – we all have our own kind of experience – but if you want to do the will of our Heavenly Father, you will know it it is from him (see John 7:17).