In case you didn’t know, The Book of Mormon is an actual book–not just a successful Broadway musical. In fact, recently The Book of Mormon was named the fourth most influential book in American literature. The Book of Mormon is part of the scriptural canon of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or often referred to as the Mormon Church.
The Church’s founder, Joseph Smith, claims to have translated the content of The Book of Mormon from an ancient text through the power of God. He said that The Book of Mormon is “the keystone of our religion.” For those who aren’t architects, in a stone arch a keystone is the piece at the top, holding up and balancing each side of the arch. If that piece is removed, the entire arch would fall. Without The Book of Mormon, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wouldn’t exist.
Obviously, The Book of Mormon is an essential part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members, but how could it influence America in general and be touted as such an influential book?
Historical Westward Expansion
In American history, several movements and reasons led people to relocate westward, including the California Gold Rush, the Oregon Trail, and the Mormon pioneers fleeing religious persecution, mostly to Utah, but also Arizona, Idaho, and other Western states.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded in 1830, but even before its founding, Joseph Smith and his followers faced persecution from neighbors who wanted to get rid of them, not just for religious reasons but also to prevent this anti-slavery group from settling in the South. Before settling out West, the Mormon people journeyed from place to place, including Palmyra and Fayette, New York; Kirtland, Ohio; Far West, Missouri; and Nauvoo, Illinois. In fact, the governor of Missouri in 1838 issued an extermination order against the Mormons, which wasn’t revoked until 1976.
As the Church grew, more and more immigrants, at first primarily European immigrants, came to the United States and then moved West to join others of their faith. This migration to the American West has helped shape the history of the United States.
All because of a book.
At an instant, Mormons missionaries are globally recognized by their white shirts and ties with black name tags.
As of the end of 2015, there were 15,634,199 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Utah only has around 3 million people. Of course, not all Mormons live in Utah. In fact, ever since 1996, more members live outside the United States than in the United States. Church publications, including The Book of Mormon, are translated into 188 languages. Although the Church originated in the United States, it truly has become a global entity.
In The Book of Mormon, it says, “And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish” (Mosiah 4:16). Because of passages like this one from The Book of Mormon, and as a result of the Church’s past as refugees in need, the Church offers humanitarian aid around the world through disaster relief and local Helping Hands volunteers, clean water and vision care, immunizations, and training to build self-reliance. In a typical year, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sends out 8 million pounds of shoes and clothing, 300,000 hygiene and school kits, and 12,000 quilts to relieve suffering in more than 50 countries.
All because of a book.
Reading And Studying
As a people, the Mormons are instructed to read and study on their own every day, pray and find out for themselves if they believe what their scriptures and the leaders of the Church say, and develop spiritual discernment of truth. Many people don’t realize that The Book of Mormon has a subtitle: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. It is meant to complement The Bible, and members are also encouraged to study The Bible. Leaders instruct members to read, study, and value not just Church content but anything that enlightens, uplifts, and educates about the world around them.
All because of a book.
Perhaps most significantly, The Book of Mormon has personal significance for faithful members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise its members wouldn’t do what they do or be who they are, including me.
I have a personal connection with The Book of Mormon. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have read this book over 15 times in my lifetime, so far. During times of difficulty and confusion in the past, I have found its words comforting and illuminating. In the past, I have seen the positive results of its teachings in my life as I have tried to live by the concepts in The Book of Mormon.
It would definitely be on my personal list of most influential books.
Have you read the Book of Mormon? What are your thoughts about it?
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Featured image via Meridian Magazine