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Monday, March 28, 2016

Reasons for not believing in the Book of Mormon

Fraud, Waste, and Abuse

15 years ago this summer, I was introduced to the Book of Mormon. I was not willing to read it at first. However, after a friend of mine repeatedly showed me passages in the Book of Mormon that addressed deep questions I had regarding life and religion, I decided that it was quite important for me to find out if it was truly scripture or just made up.

One night, I knelt down and prayed. I had been told that one could ask God about things, and he would answer. I had been shown Moroni 10:4-5 that says:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
I figured it would not hurt anything to test what I had been told. I prayed and asked God if the Book of Mormon was true, and he granted me an unmistakable revelation to the affirmative. I was surprised, but grateful.

Unfortunately, I was told by missionaries who didn't know any better that the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon implied that God wanted me to join the LDS church. That was and is a lie.

I found myself rejoicing in the experiences I was having while reading the scriptures. First, I read the Book of Mormon cover to cover. My experience then and now was that I was having an ongoing conversation with God through the Spirit while reading. For example, when I read Nephi's references to seeing Christ, I desired to experience the same and felt I knew the path. When I read King Benjamin's address, I covenanted with God that any means I gained were his and to be used to help others. When I read about what it means to be born again, I realized I had actually lost my desire to do evil and had gained a constant desire to do good. And so on.

I wonder how the last 15 years would have been different had I not been flooded with false traditions that I later had to overcome, and instead read the scriptures--including the Book of Mormon--and limited my actions to what was directly suggested by my experience with God (namely, studying the Book of Mormon), I have no doubt that I would be much further along than I am today.

Guilt by Association

The LDS church's insistence that it owns the Book of Mormon causes a false two way relationship in people's minds: The LDS claim that if the Book of Mormon is true, the church is true, causing the rest of the world to assume that since the LDS church is not true, the Book of Mormon must also be false.

We really need to break that pattern. Modern Mormonism has about as much to do with the Book of Mormon as Catholicism does with the Bible. No Christian would say that problems in the Catholic church imply something wrong with the Bible, yet so many Christians are unwilling to consider the Book of Mormon because of something they realize is wrong with the LDS church.

One-sided Evidences

There are many who propagate arguments against the Book of Mormon. I take what they have written seriously. I've read it. I've studied their premises and their conclusions. In general, I find their analysis tremendously limited. The pattern I have found is that they present only part of the picture. Most that I talk to who have bought these arguments have not bothered to investigate them for themselves. Instead, they let someone else do the heavy lifting for them, and trust their conclusion. I find that the search for truth requires work. We really ought not outsource what may be the most important issues in our lives.

Here is a sampling of the strongest arguments against the book of Mormon I have found.

Archaeological Evidence

Proponents of this theory claim that people and events of the Book of Mormon could not have occurred, because there is no record of the bones, cities, etc. that would exist had they taken place on this continent.

Well, it turns out this is just plain wrong. It turns out that when the white folks arrived in the United States, there were massive Indian cities from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic Ocean. Lots and lots of them. The cities were plowed under by farmers, but not before a landmark project by the Smithsonian took place in 1848 to meticulously survey (as in cartography) the hundreds of native earthwork cities still in place at that time (most had already been destroyed by farmers). The mound cities were full of artifacts, many of which the Smithsonian has. Luckily for anyone who cares to know, there was a book written in 1848 with the results of the project. You can buy it on Amazon.

You will see some funky stuff in this book. First, you will see that the scale of these projects and the precision of the shapes used on that scale are mind boggling. The engineering involved was so advanced that the authors concluded that "the moundbuilders could not have been the ancestors of the supposedly savage Native American groups still living in the region" (from Amazon summary). Yes, these marked non-Mormon Smithsonian cartographers came to a conclusion stunningly inline with the premise of the Book of Mormon: An advanced ancient civilization of Indians built a thriving network of large cities but was wiped out by another group of supposedly savage Indians. Second, you will see some very interesting patterns within the walls of their cities. Here is my favorite:

An ancient American city in the Ohio valley. Note the oil lamp (top) and Menorah (bottom center). 

Now, why would a bunch of Indians go through the trouble of building a HUGE earthwork Menorah  or oil lamp into the wall of their city? Is the most likely explanation coincidence?

Part of the problem with this complaint is the ignorance of history on the part of those who make it. Another part is the persistence of myths by the LDS church. Over 100 years ago, the LDS church decided that the Book of Mormon took place in Central and/or South America. Since then, their apologists have made every case they could for that location. Antagonists rightly identify that the location could not be correct. The LDS church has since said they have no position on location, but that does not reverse the imprint on the minds of everyone that the Book of Mormon is supposed to have taken place in Central/South America. This is a problem with the LDS church, not the Book of Mormon.

Recently, a group of LDS apologists have begun to make the case for a US location for the Book of Mormon (the so-called heartland model). Despite their religious affiliation and sometimes erroneous linkings and excessive extrapolations, they have collected quite a few pieces of evidence that I believe are compelling. I want to emphasize that I don't agree with their very specific maps, nor their attempts to link geographical descriptions in the Book of Mormon to modern geography (recall that we are told in 3 Nephi that tremendous geographic change took place after the crucifixion of Christ).

Here is one story that I like about how one of these folks, Wayne May, tracked down the Zelph mound and found professional archeology studies in that area that corroborated Joseph's timeline of that event: https://youtu.be/BMq8JeVgmoI?t=4m5s

DNA

Some critics claim that if the Book of Mormon were true, there would be DNA evidence linking the Native Americans with the Jews. Well, there is:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131120-science-native-american-people-migration-siberia-genetics/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jonentine/2012/06/04/israel-in-all-of-us-research-find-jewish-links-in-unusual-places/#7b35bc5246c5

(there is more)

...but I don't like to dwell on that. You see, DNA is great for things like establishing paternity or proving that a person was at the scene of a crime. It is quite terrible for things like establishing thousands of years of ancestry.

My biggest issue with the DNA complaint is that we are talking about a story where God changed the skin color of the people in question. Shouldn't we expect that their DNA was changed to bring about this change in skin color? With that in mind, I personally don't suppose that finding Israelite DNA in Indians makes the Book of Mormon true, and were it the case (it isn't), I wouldn't suppose that a lack of Israelite DNA in Indians would make the Book of Mormon false.

Seer Stones

Some complain that Joseph didn't really "translate" the Book of Mormon at all, but looked into seer stones and dictated what he saw. The problem is Joseph never hid how he translated the book. His scribes all knew firsthand that he didn't actually "read" the plates, but used seer stones, and they went on record saying so. Seer stones are part and parcel of the Book of Mormon, and inescapable from the definition of what a seer actually is. The Book of Mormon itself defines a seer as one who looks into objects:

13 And now he translated them by the means of those two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow. 14 Now these things were prepared from the beginning, and were handed down from generation to generation, for the purpose of interpreting languages; 15 And they have been kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord, that he should discover to every creature who should possess the land the iniquities and abominations of his people; 16 And whosoever has these things is called seer, after the manner of old times. (Mosiah 28:13-16)

13 Now Ammon said unto him: I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer....15 And the king said that a seer is greater than a prophet. 16 And Ammon said that a seer is a revelator and a prophet also; and a gift which is greater can no man have, except he should possess the power of God, which no man can; yet a man may have great power given him from God. 17 But a seer can know of things which are past, and also of things which are to come, and by them shall all things be revealed, or, rather, shall secret things be made manifest, and hidden things shall come to light, and things which are not known shall be made known by them, and also things shall be made known by them which otherwise could not be known. 18 Thus God has provided a means that man, through faith, might work mighty miracles; therefore he becometh a great benefit to his fellow beings.This is one of many complaints about the Book of Mormon that are wholly the fault of the LDS church's persistent falsification of history. (Mosiah 8:13,15-18)

If you disbelieve that seer stones are real or that they function, fine. However, the story is self-consistent. The problem comes, I think, because the LDS church for decades declared that Joseph read the plates and did not use seer stones. This has caused people to accept the Book of Mormon without accepting how it came to be, and they correctly feel lied to. Well, take that up with the LDS church. It has nothing to do with the Book of Mormon.

Some ask, "if Joseph read the words of the Book from the seer stones, why did he need the plates?" I will split this into two questions: why did Joseph need the plates, and why did the plates need to be written. I don't expect anyone to believe what I am about to say because of what I am about to say. Rather, I would hope that any who read this can see that there are sufficient texts to prove that this story is at least self-consistent. Whether it is true or not is something you have to figure out for yourself, but it does make sense.

Why did Joseph need the plates? If you are going to do a miracle, you need faith: "it is by faith that miracles are wrought" (Moroni 7:37.) God uses all kinds of tools to help men to have greater faith. These include the ministering of angels and his word through revelation (MOroni 7:25). He also uses objects like the Liahona. Lehi could have easily prayed and asked God which direction to go. Instead, God provided him a physical object that invited him to exercise further faith to obtain the direction they should travel. Moses was given a staff that could assist him in conducting the miracles he performed. God's power could have simply been exercised directly, but Moses apparently needed assistance. The Brother of Jared had the Lord appear to him, but it happened in increasing stages of faith punctuated by physical interactions. These began with his involved labor to create 16 stones and praying for God to touch them so that they would provide light in his boats. If God can touch a rock and make it luminescent, couldn't he just make the boats themselves luminescent? Still, the method of the Brother of Jared is validated by his success and the subsequent revealing of Jesus to him through is faith. Noah, being warned of the flood, make an ark to save his family. If God is powerful enough to cause a global flood, couldn't he supernaturally lift Noah and family above the water, or split the water as he did for Moses? Yet, he commanded Noah built a ship.Peter saw Jesus and then had the faith to step out of the boat and walk on water. Would he have been able to do that if Jesus hadn't first appeared? An infant gets the courage to take the first steps when his parent squats down with arms outreached to encourage him. The parent's presence does not affect the ability of the infant, only the belief of the infant in what is possible.

I propose that Joseph did not have sufficient faith to receive the Book of Mormon on the seer stones without having encountered an object suggesting that such was possible. I think that is a very reasonable argument given the ample examples of something similar in scripture.

Why did the plates need to be written? If Joseph could just view the text of the Book of Mormon provided on the stones by God's power, why did the Book of Mormon prophets have to go through so much trouble etching the words into metal plates, lugging them around, and hiding them up?

The Lord has plainly taught that words are only recorded in heaven if they are recorded on earth. For example,
"That in all your recordings it may be recorded in heaven; whatsoever you bind on earth, may be bound in heaven; whatsoever you loose on earth, may be loosed in heaven;" (D&C 127:7.)
And again,
"...whatsoever you record on earth shall be recorded in heaven, and whatsoever you do not record on earth shall not be recorded in heaven;" (D&C 128:7-8.)
The Book of Mormon contains lots and lots of good doctrines that the world lacked at the time Joseph Smith translated it. The Book was not written by one person in one place. It contains truths distilled through hundreds of years of diligent effort to obtain revelation from God.

What would have happened had they not recorded the Book of Mormon on earth? It simply means that all the truth contained in that book would have needed to be obtained again the hard way: through hundreds of years of diligent effort to obtain revelation from God.

In other words, had the writers not written the book in the first place, God would not have been able to reveal it all anew to Joseph Smith, because revelation comes in proportion to the heed and diligence paid to what is received, and no single man that I am aware of has enough heed and diligence to receive a whole book worth of deep revelation due solely to his heed and diligence.


Plagiarism

Some take issue with the verses in the Book of Mormon that come from the Bible. The most naive of these accusations come in the form of general complaints that there are Bible verses in the Book of Mormon at all. These have never read the Bible or the Book of Mormon. The former contains plenty of self-plagiarism. The latter clearly describes why the authors choose to quote (not pass off as their own) passages from the Bible.

More sophisticated complaints stem from the fact that the passages in the Book of Mormon clearly come from the King James Bible, a translation that would not have been available to the Book of Mormon authors, but would have been available to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. I think this is one of the most justified complaints about the Book of Mormon. Since Joseph and Oliver are not around to interrogate, and because they never addressed this issue during their lives, we can only speculate why. But there are plenty of possibilities. First, remember that Joseph Smith dictated the book to Oliver Cowdery. Oliver is an interesting fellow. He demonstrated on multiple occasions his willingness to change Joseph's revelation manuscripts to match how he felt they should read. For example, he created section 101 in the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants and even changed the revealed words for the baptismal prayer in another section of the same volume. If he thought it was ok to do that in 1835, after his subordinate position to Joseph was made explicit, it is not hard to imagine he would have been more willing to do so in 1830, while he was under the impression that he and Joseph were co-partners in what they were doing. It is not a stretch of the imagination to conceive that the words Joseph spoke in the Bible passages of the Book of Mormon were later modified by Oliver to match the King James version. Some may scoff at that possibility, saying Joseph surely would have picked up on that. Well, he either didn't pick up on or didn't change the other changes Oliver made in 1835, so that doesn't hold water. There are other possibilities, as well. What if Joseph made the changes, doubting his own revelation of words differing from the King James? Or, what if God himself gave those passages in the form they appear in the King James, anticipating the difficulty it would place on Christians to not only accept an additional book of scripture, but also admit that the King James--which most revered as perfect--was flawed? Joseph Smith never said that the Book of Mormon was perfectly correct book, he only said it was the most correct book.

Some claim that the Book of Mormon is a cheap knockoff of other literature at the time, such as "View of the Hebrews". I seriously doubt that most if any who bring up this claim have ever read "View of the Hebrews." If you have not, I encourage you to download the free pdf online and start reading. It's actually a really good book. "View of the Hebrews" is not a novel--it is a history. Pages 1-85 discuss, mostly from the Bible, the bilical history of the Israelites. Pages 85-217 address the Native Americans, using history of the time to link them to the Israelites. The rest of the book provides a commentary on Isaiah, suggesting that the Lord's words concerning the restoration of the house of Israel apply to the Native Americans. (Note: these page numbers refer to the paper printing, not the pdf version.) The book is not a narrative. Instead, it is (at least the third or so about the Native Americans) a compendium of evidence available at the time that the Native Americans are in fact descendants of outcasts of Israel. Ironically neither Joseph Smith nor Ethan Smith (no relation, author of "View of the Hebrews") originated the theory that the Indians came from Israel. It was quite widespread by the time the Book of Mormon was published. If you believe this is a valid reason to doubt the veracity of the Book of Mormon, I can only conclude you have not read one of the two books. Ironically, many of those who support the "View of the Hebrews" complaint also believe there is no archeological evidence for the Book of Mormon, when "View of the Hebrews" is full of it.

Animals and Plants

Some contend that the Book of Mormon can't be true because the animals it mentions do not exist in America. Most of these critics are arguing against a Mesoamerica location for the Book of Mormon, which is easily refuted using the Book of Mormon and teachings from Joseph Smith.

Barley. Barley has now been discovered in archaeological sites in the following places:

  • Arkansas (see Hunter, Andrea A. dissertation “Utilization of Hordeum pusillum (little barley) in the Midwest United States: Applying Rindos’ co-evolutionary model of domestication” University of Missouri-Columbia 1992, pg 141).
  • Iowa (see Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology , “Terminal Archaic and Early Woodland plant use at the Gast Spring site (13LA152), southeast Iowa” Spring 1998 by Dunne, Michael T, Green, William, pg. 8).
  • Illinois (see Nancy B. Asch and David L. Asch, “Archeobotany,” in Deer Track: A Late Woodland Village in the Mississippi Valley, ed. Charles R. McGimsey and Michael D. Conner (Kampsville, Ill.: Center for American Archeology, 1985), 44; see p. 78).
  • Missouri (see Hunter, Andrea A. dissertation “Utilization of Hordeum pusillum (little barley) in the Midwest United States: Applying Rindos’ co-evolutionary model of domestication” University of Missouri-Columbia 1992, pg 173).
  • North Carolina (see Scarry, John F. and C. Margaret Scarry 1997 Subsistence Remains from Prehistoric North Carolina Archaeological Sites. Research Laboratories of Archaeology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Electronic document last accessed May 15, 2009 at: http://www.arch.dcr.state.nc.us/subsist/subsis.htm).
  • Oklahoma (Nancy B. Asch and David L. Asch, “Archeobotany,” in Deer Track: A Late Woodland Village in the Mississippi Valley, ed. Charles R. McGimsey and Michael D. Conner (Kampsville, Ill.: Center for American Archeology, 1985), 44; see p. 78).
  • Wisconsin (see Hunter, Andrea A. dissertation “Utilization of Hordeum pusillum (little barley) in the Midwest United States: Applying Rindos’ co-evolutionary model of domestication” University of Missouri-Columbia 1992, pg 142).


Wheat. I have found no evidence of pre-Columbian wheat in the United States.

Sheep. Bighorn sheep are native to the United States. In fact, I drive by a wild herd of them nearly every day.

Goats. Mountain goats are native to the United States.

Horses. It is widely believed that the American horse went extinct 5-10,000 years ago. Yet, many reports exist of Indians having horses when Europeans arrived in America. This article mentions some as well as the motivation scientists had for making Indians into savages who never knew the wheel, metallurgy, or beasts of burden. In "Where did the plains Indians get their horses" (American Anthropologist 40(1) (28 Oct 2009)), the author eviscerates the prevailing theory that the American horse population came from Spanish colonizers. He doesn't challenge the theory of horse extinction, and merely reports that they must have gotten them from the whites at some point (without any evidence of that).

Elephants. Here is an article from 1880 by Frederick Larkin, an eastern US mound explorer:
“My theory that the pre-historic races used, to some extent, the great American elephant, or mastodon, I believe is new and no doubt will be considered visionary by many readers and more especially by prominent archaeologists.  Finding the form of an elephant engraved upon a copper relic some six inches long and four wide, in a mound on the Red House Creek, in the year 1854 and represented in harness with a sort of breast-collar with tugs reaching past the hips, first led me to adopt that theory.  That the great beast was contemporary with the mound builders is conceded by all, and also that his bones and those of his master are crumbling together in the ground.” (preface)
“From the shores of Lake Superior we can trace this people to Wisconsin, where we find some singular earthworks: six effigies of animals, six parallelograms, one circle, and one effigy of the human figure.  These tumuli extend for the distance of half a mile along the trail.  What the animals represent in effigy is difficult to determine.  Many at the present time suppose that the mastodon is one, and that he was a favorite animal and perhaps used as a beast of burden.  That the mastodon was contemporary with the mound-builders is now an undisputed fact.  It is a wonder, and has been since the great mounds have been discovered, how such immense works could have been built by human hands.  To me it is not difficult to believe that those people tamed that monster of the forest and made him a willing slave to their superior intellectual power. If such was the case, we can imagine that tremendous teams have been driven to and fro in the vicinity of their great works, tearing up trees by the roots, or marching with armies into the field of battle amidst showers of poisoned arrows.” (page 3)
“I have heretofore suggested that the ancient Mound Builders were contemporary with the mastodon and that in all probability they tamed and used that powerful beast to haul heavy burdens.  As I stand almost alone, in relation to that theory, I will give my evidence for such a belief. It is a fact admitted by all familiar with pre-historic discoveries that the bones of the mastodon and those of the Mound Builders are found in the same localities, and in about the same state of preservation; also in and around their great works, stones are frequently discovered with animals engraved upon them which are supposed to represent that animal.  The copper relic, formerly referred to, found on the Allegany River with the form of an elephant engraved upon it, represented in harness, first attracted my attention to that subject.  If the ancient people in North America tamed that great beast it is very likely that the inhabitants of South America done the same thing.” (pg 141)
“When we consider the magnificent works built by these ancient people it looks impossible that they could have been built by no other than human labor.  The great mound at Cahokia, Illinois, is estimated to cover twenty millions of cubic feet of earth, which was all brought from a distance.  Now, it would take one thousand men nearly twenty years to perform the labor which was bestowed upon building of that one tumulus, and when we consider that that is but one of about sixty other structures by which it is surrounded, one thousand men could not have performed the great labor in the days and years allotted to human life.” (pg. 143)
The mounds described in the Smithsonian book referenced above were chock full of bones and artifacts. At the time of their destruction, no one was interested in saving them. The belief was that the Native Americans were savages and incapable of building those mounds (see Smithsonian book authors' comments). There was a vested interest in destroying or hiding any evidence that the Indians were anything but savages. Yet, accounts from the time document co-located bones of both men and elephants. Some artifacts were documented that show elephants. In addition to the above cited, see William McAdams, Records of Ancient Races,1887, pp. 114-116 and Stephan Dennison Peet, The Mound Builders, Their Works and Relics, pp. 38–44; see also  Mercer, H.C, The Lenape Stone - The Indian and the Mammoth, 1885.

Beasts of burden in general. If you examine the earthwork mounds documented in the above-mentioned book, you will see that it is not possible that human labor alone was used to create so many very large mounds of dirt. Although scientists believe that horses and elephants went extinct in America long ago, the theories are not settled, nor are the dates. The date keeps getting pared down, and a mass extinction event has now been traded for the theory that humans ate them all. Is it not completely feasible that the victors of the final battle ate the horses and elephants? If you were a nomadic hunter/gatherer, and had just slaughtered all the farmers, isn't that what you would do?

Steel, Swords, Headplates and Breastplates

1. Did steel exist at the time of Lehi? Yes. "It seems evident that by the beginning of the tenth century B.C. blacksmiths were intentionally steeling iron" [Robert Maddin, James D. Muhly, and Tamara S. Wheeler, "How the Iron Age Began," Scientific American 237/4 (October 1977): 127]

These iron chisels were found in Indian burial mounds in North America. From the book "Mound Builders."

2. Has any pre-Columbian steel or iron been found in the Americas? Yes. But not much. I am  unaware of how long it takes for iron or steel to completely rust out. If a primative culture lost the knowledge of how to work with metal, say through killing everyone who knew how to do it, it would not be surprising that you would find no new artifacts being produced by the time settlers arrived in the United States. Also, you would expect that rustable metal (iron, steel) would be consumed at some point, and non-rusting metals (gold, silver, copper) would still be around. It is interesting that so many metal Indian artifacts made of copper, silver, and gold have been found in the Americas.
3. Have any pre-Columbian metal knives/swords/headplates/chestplates been found in the Americas? Despite a blackout on wikipedia, YES they have. https://youtu.be/NzR7YD9vygY?t=5693
Mound Builder Copper Axe and Hatchet
Copper axe heads found in American Indian burial mounds.

Racism

Some say that references to the Lamanite curse in the Book of Mormon are racist and prove that the Book of Mormon is not from God. Unfortunately, this concern doesn't rest squarely on the Book of Mormon, but on extrapolations these people have made from LDS church "doctrines" and the Book of Mormon. Brigham Young was a racist. Even the LDS church has admitted that. He took the idea that blacks were an inferior race (prevalent among many at the time) and made it a part of the LDS doctrine. The LDS church used any scripture they could find to twist and justify what they had chosen to do. They found verses in the Book of Mormon that could be used to that effect. Unfortunately, modern readers have not evaluated the Book of Mormon for racism by considering the text absent cultural imprints from one of many groups who consider it sacred.

Here is an article that does just that. I can't do any better, so I will refer you to read it. The Book of Mormon is not only not racist, it actually contains many verses which explicitly teach that God treats all men fairly no matter the color of their skin, and that godly people do the same (see link). The point is that the Book of Mormon is not racist, even if some who consider it sacred are and have been racist.

Joseph Smith Problems


History happened a long time ago. Everyone knows that Mormons have had enemies since the beginning. These folks go to great lengths to distort history. What might surprise you to know is that, history has been assaulted not only by anti-Mormons, but by pro-Mormons! The LDS church has intentionally distorted, denied, and doctored their history for over 150 years. You should realize that what you think about Joseph Smith may be based on nothing more than false stories perpetuated by people who have extreme bias.

I have spent significant amounts of time pouring over historical records on this topic for more than a decade. It is not a trivial exercise, and I am convinced that the historical record is compromised enough that the truth about Joseph Smith cannot be ascertained through an appeal to the historical record. I do not expect anyone to change their mind about Joseph Smith based on what I say. What I do think is reasonable is to evaluate the Book of Mormon on its own, without drawing in the Joseph Smith question. It would be nice if your feelings about the Book of Mormon came from the contents of the Book itself, and not what someone told you about the author, that may or may not be true.

"Why Should I Care About the Book of Mormon?"

Well, you shouldn't. You should care about knowing God more than you do. That's all that matters.

There isn't going to be some gate in heaven that you can pass through only if you accept the Book of Mormon as scripture. The only gate in heaven (as, ironically, the Book of Mormon itself teaches) is Christ himself. He will admit any who believe in him and repent. So, the only reason you should accept the Book of Mormon is if you find it brings you closer to Christ. If the Book of Mormon helps you get there, then great. If it doesn't, then don't read it. However, don't ignore it without having read it. There is really nothing to be scared of. If you find the contents garbage, then feel free to dump it in the trash. But if you haven't read it, you ought to consider that God might want you to, and you might be missing out on something crucial.

As one ancient Book of Mormon prophet wrote:
And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good. (2 Nephi 33:10)
If you haven't read the Book of Mormon, hopefully my arguments here persuade you enough that you'll consider reading it. It has truly helped me draw closer to Christ. That is the purpose of the Book. I am confident that if I was limited to the Bible, I would not understand Jesus as well as I do, and I would not have had the experiences with him that I have had.

Individuals and churches have tried to hijack, discredit, and otherwise minimize the effect of the Book of Mormon. Yet, they have been unsuccessful at changing the contents. It is the contents of the Book that matter, and the contents do, in fact, draw you closer to Christ than any other book of which I am aware. If it does not draw you closer to Christ, then don't read it. I have yet to meet anyone who has had that experience.

If you want a copy that is not affiliated with any church, try the 1840 edition. I typeset this edition myself. It contains no footnotes or any other additions or modifications to the 1840 edition.