A Baptist Minister writes:
I'm a licensed Southern Baptist minister and I embrace the Book of Mormon.
That is, I believe the truths recorded in it. No, I'm not a convert to the Mormon faith, nor am I a member of any particular "spin-off" restoration group such as the RLDS (Reorganized Latter-day Saints), Hedrikites, or Strangites. I'm still a Baptist minister. To be exact, I'm "charismatic Baptist." That is, I still embrace the "born again" experience. I still believe you're saved by grace. By the shed blood of Christ. Salvation is by faith alone in His finished work on Calvary. I still believe in the Baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. I believe and embrace those cardinal doctrines of Protestantism.
And ... I still believe the Book of Mormon too!
I can hear you now. "...A charismatic Baptist minister who believes the Book of Mormon?! Impossible. That's like a Protestant Pope..." No, it's not. It's not a contradiction.
The two go hand in hand, really--Protestant doctrine and the Book of Mormon. They're not at odds. The Book of Mormon is filled with Protestant cardinal doctrines, believe it or not. In fact, I discovered, the Book of Mormon is more "Baptist" than the Baptist hymnal in places. I know that's hard to believe, but it's so. I read the Book from cover to cover and found as a Baptist minister, there is absolutely nothing in it that contradicts the Bible.
For example, the book uplifts the blood of Christ (Mosiah 1:118), declares that salvation is only by God's grace (2 Nephi 7:42), defends the grand theme of salvation (Mosiah 1:108), and
proclaims that salvation comes only through faith on the Lord Jesus Christ (Mosiah 3:8,9).
Other themes such as repentance, atonement by Christ's blood, redemption, and forgiveness run like a scarlet thread through the book as well (Alma 3:86, Helaman 2:71, Alma 13:13, Mosiah 2:3,4).
Thus, our "tongue `n' cheek" title, The Baptist Version of the Book of Mormon. I'm telling you, the grand themes of Protestantism are found recorded through and through. From cover to cover.
I was taught that the Book of Mormon was a lie. We have the Bible and no man was to add to the scriptures lest his soul be damned. And I was taught that the rapture could occur any minute. Establishing a literal kingdom on this earth was pure nonsense. And I believe my convictions were typical. Most protestant/pentecostal Christians today share similar sentiments.
So what are we faced with concerning the Book of Mormon? Is it... Adding to the Bible or Duped by the Canon?
"...You don't really believe in that book, do you?" Or "...you surely don't believe the Book of Mormon is equal with the Bible, do you?..."
I have chosen to follow the style of the Master. When asked a probing question, He often responded with one. The Pharisees once asked Him about John the Baptist, and...
"...Jesus responded, `I will also ask you one question. If you answer me, I will tell you...'" --Matt.21:24
When my friends ask, "...do you believe in the Book of Mormon?" I respond, "I will answer that, but first I would like for you to answer my question, `Why do you believe in the [closed] canon of scripture? Would you give me your reasons?'"
Most can't. They've never thought it through. That's really the issue, you know-not whether or not I believe in the Book of Mormon, but whether or not we as Christians are to embrace the concept of canonization. For that's the perception here-that by embracing the Book of Mormon I've violated scripture's canon.
My friends are convinced I've added to the Word of God. I'm convinced we've been duped by the canon.
To get to the point-not many evangelical Christians realize (I didn't), the concept of canonization became popular with the Church around the time of Constantine, a period when the Church became infiltrated with nationalism and worldly teachings.
Closing the canon [at] 66 books was the outcome of man's wisdom and man's heresy. Canonization has its origin in worldly tradition, is not found in the Bible, and was not practiced by the early Church.
I have discovered, there are two extra-biblical teachings propagated by Protestantism that must be dealt with before most of us will take the Book of Mormon seriously:
1) the doctrine of canonization, and
2) the teaching of the rapture.
Both are cardinal doctrines of Protestantism and both are extra-biblical teachings. That is, neither is supported by the Word of God.
The other Protestant myth...[is] The Rapture
"...Joseph Smith can't be taken too seriously because he believed in a literal city of Zion." I must say, that doesn't sound so strange these days. Many evangelical Christians no longer embrace the rapture.
What about the rapture? Where did the doctrine come from? Did the early saints believe in it?
For instance, which does the Bible teach: removal or restoration? Joseph Smith, Jr. was called to restore primitive Christianity to the Church in 1830 and Margaret MacDonald, a fourteen year-old Scottish girl, went into a trance that same year. She described a vision where she saw the saints leaving the earth at the return of the Lord. Her "revelation" occurred while living in Port Glasgow, Scotland.
However, ... many fundamentalist/evangelical Christians today have second thoughts about the doctrine, having re-evaluated their position. They no longer believe Christians will be "raptured out" of the tribulation.
There they are-two Protestant myths that must be dealt with before one is likely to take the Book of Mormon seriously: the doctrines of canonization and the rapture.
Let's suppose... that God still speaks today-that the canon is still open-and that there's not going to be a removal of the saints but a restoration of His creation (which includes His people), then perhaps the message of the Book of Mormon is not so "far fetched" after all.
Speaking of the message of the Book of Mormon, what exactly is its message? What is its central theme? Restoration of the covenants in these latter days. That surprised me, blessed me, and witnessed to me.
No, the book is not meant to be used as a tool to proselyte you into some weird sect or cult. No, it's not meant to be used to "make a Mormon" out of you. The Book of Mormon is the most nonsectarian book I've ever read! It's meant for Catholics, for Methodists, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Charismatics, Seventh Day Adventists, for Baptists, Pentecostals...you name it. It speaks to all.
I'll say it again. The central message of the Book of Mormon is-restoration of the covenants in these latter days! And that message is meant for all God's children.
"...For behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have been taken away..." --I Nephi 3:168,169
Let's explore the central theme of the Book of Mormon-restoration of the covenants. Somehow our generation has overlooked the obvious: the Bible is a covenant document!
[A covenant is] the missing revelation among God's children, among the church at large. That's what it is. And how sad. Like Mephibisheth, the majority of today's Christians do not know they have a covenant with the King. And as believers we don't miss the covenant because we don't know we have one. We have no idea-we were destined to sit at the table with the King.
The Book of Mormon is a revelation of the covenants being restored among His people in these latter days. When a people sign a contract they act differently (especially if the contract is with God!). They weigh the consequences. In these latter days we will again begin to know what it means to sign a contract with the Lord of Hosts, and act accordingly. A revelation of biblical salvation will return to his people. Praise His name.
In other words, the central message of the Book of Mormon is---to repent and come unto Christ, which means to establish a covenant with Him. And that message is coming to light in these latter days.
And that's why I embrace the Book of Mormon. Our generation knows very little, if anything, about establishing a covenant with Christ. Protestantism doesn't teach it. Unfortunately, most of us are products of "cheap grace" and "decision-making" Sunday School preaching. Listen to the words of the ancient prophet.
"...Behold, I [the Christ] have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin; therefore whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive; for of such is the kingdom of God." --3 Nephi 4:51
[H]aving read the Book of Mormon through as a Baptist minister, I was astonished at how often I kept running into Protestant themes. Themes such as: the plan of salvation, salvation by faith in Christ, salvation by grace alone, repentance, the gifts of the Spirit, the filling of the Spirit, sanctification, justification by faith, forgiveness and redemption. I could go on.
I kept thinking as I was reading, "...wouldn't it be wonderful if there were some piece of writing available that listed all these themes from the Book of Mormon." I searched and searched for such a work and never found it. (I've noticed, since becoming a part of this wonderful restoration movement, there are very little, if any, writings concerning the restoration written to "non-restoration" saints.)
Like the Bible, the central theme of the Book of Mormon is the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There are over 160 passages in the Book of Mormon that speak of the Lord Jesus Christ. There were 22 men named in the Book of Mormon who saw Christ. Some form of Christ's name is mentioned on an average of every 1.7 verses. The New Testament mentions a form of Christ's name on an average of every 2.1 verses. The name of the Savior appears nearly 25 percent more frequently in the Book of Mormon than in the New Testament. When we realize that a verse usually consists of one sentence, we cannot on the average read two sentences in the Book of Mormon without seeing some form of Christ's name.
"He is Lord" rings loud and clear from its pages like a London cathedral choir harmonizing on a Sunday morning. The sound is resonant throughout the book's pages. The Spirit's witness is there. That same Jesus I discovered in the Bible is also present in the pages of the Book of Mormon. Praise be to His holy name!
"...I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell..." --II Nephi 15:7
I have always liked this verse. One of my favorites, for sure.
"...And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things, from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary. And lo, he cometh unto his own, that salvation might come unto the children of men, even through faith, on his name..." --Mosiah 1:102,103
"...We believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things, who shall come down among the children of men..." --Mosiah 2:4
"...And I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come; yea, the Son, the only begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth. And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world; yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name..." --Alma 3:83,84
Let's focus briefly on the man, Joseph Smith. What kind of man was he? The man whom God used to commence the restoration in these latter days. What did he have to say concerning truth and doctrine?
Well, first of all, Joseph was extremely tolerant of sects, of those not sharing his Christian point of view. This is a side of Joseph that's not well known even by those inside the restoration movement, let alone by those outside it.
On one occasion, in a sermon, he said, "...If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear down on them? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better. I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by force or reasoning, for truth will cut its own way. Do you believe Jesus Christ and the gospel of salvation which he revealed? So do I. Christians should cease wrangling and contending with each other, and cultivate the principles of union and friendship. I am just as ready to die defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any other denomination." --Sermon, 1843
While mayor of Nauvoo, Joseph passed an ordinance "...that the Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Latter-day Saints, Quakers, Episcopals...and all other religious sects and denominations whatever, shall have free tolerance and equal privileges in this city..."
It was "against the law" not to show charity and tolerance toward those of other sects in the city of Nauvoo, the city Joseph built.
Again, what kind of man was he?...
a group of prominent politicians...wanted to know about Joseph's Christian beliefs. Butterfield asked what the main difference was between his faith and that of other Christians.
"...The most prominent difference is this: Sectarians all circumscribe by a peculiar creed, which deprives them of the privilege of believing anything not contained therein. The Latter-day Saints, on the contrary, have no creed, but stand ready to believe all true principles that exist, as they are made manifest from time to time."
The Prophet appealed to the President US on behalf of his people. Terrible atrocities have occurred in Missouri. He had ... a meeting with Van Buren. The Prophet preached the gospel to bureaucrats. Representative Matthew S. Davis [NY] tells about a meeting in the capital by Joseph.
This US Representative, met Joseph Smith face to face, [and] I believe answers our concerns ... in a letter he sent to his wife ...
"...I went last evening to hear `Joe Smith,' the celebrated Mormon, expound his doctrine. I, with several others, had a desire to understand his tenets explained by himself.
He is not an educated man; but he is a plain, sensible, strong-minded man. Everything he says, is said in a manner to leave an impression that he is sincere. There is no levity, no fanaticism, no want of dignity in his deportment. In his garb there are no peculiarities; his dress being that of a plain, unpretending citizen. He is by profession a farmer, but is evidently well read.
During the whole of his address, and it occupied more than two hours, there was no opinion or belief that he expressed, that was calculated, in the least degree, to impair the morals of society, or in any manner to degrade and brutalize the human species. There was much in his precepts, if they were followed, that would soften the asperities of man towards man, and that would tend to make him a more rational being than he is generally found to be. There was no violence, no fury, no denunciation. His religion appears to be a religion of meekness, lowliness, and mild persuasion.
Towards the close of his address, he remarked that he had been represented to be a Savior. All this was false. He made no such pretensions. He was but a man, he said: a plain, untutored man, seeking what he should do to be saved.
Throughout his whole address, he displayed strongly a spirit of charity and forbearance. I have taken some pains to explain this man's belief, as he himself explained it. I have changed my opinion of the Mormons. They are an injured and much-abused people."
"...I have changed my opinion..." said the U.S. representative, and, concerning the Book of Mormon and the man, Joseph Smith, it is my prayer- [that] so have you [changed your mind].
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