Starting with the near year, members of the LDS Church will be studying the Book of Mormon in their adult Sunday School classes, aka Gospel Doctrine classes. This is part of a set four-year curriculum. You can purchase the teacher’s manual for this class for a few dollars at LDS.org. Look for the Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual.
The lesson they will be studying this Sunday is entitled, “The Keystone of Our Religion”. This refers to a statement Joseph Smith made about the Book of Mormon, a statement quoted in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon. “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” Sunday’s entire lesson explains and expands on this statement.
Calling it “the most correct of any book on earth” coincides with Mormonism’s low view of the Bible. After all the Book of Mormon itself claims that “many plain and precious things” were taken away from the Bible, (1 Nephi 13:28). Mormonism’s low view of the Bible has even been formalized in its Articles of Faith. “We believe the Bible is to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” (8th Article of Faith)
Although many different points could be made, I am going to restrict myself to just a couple. The first is a reminder to both Mormons and Christians to use the word “scripture” carefully. When Mormons and Christians talk with each other, confusion can easily arise if they aren’t careful with the term “scripture”. When Christians hear that word, they immediately think of the Bible. Not so with Mormons. They think of their four scriptures, only one of which is the Bible. In fact, it has been my experience that many times the Bible is not what comes to their minds. That is to be expected if you believe the Bible is faulty. In fact one LDS manual states that the other scriptures should be given preference. (Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, p.3)
Secondly, I want to highlight how Mormonism’s high view of the Book of Mormon creates a huge divide in belief between Mormons and biblical Christians. I want to highlight that because so many today are claiming that that divide is quite narrow – sometimes almost to the point of being non-existence. But how can this not create a wide divide? On the one side you not only have people relying on multiple scriptures, but viewing as faulty the one that the other side holds dear. On the other side you have people who rely on only one Scripture – who view it as God’s inerrant word and who, in addition, reject any other book claiming to be scripture. From these two starting points, this divide in belief can only grow greater as individual doctrines are discussed.
The divide between Mormonism and biblical Christianity is huge. It has been my experience that it is difficult to have any meaningful discussions between the two until that is openly acknowledged. But once that is acknowledged, often an open and honest comparison of beliefs can be had.