What does the Book of Mormon mean? Does it follow from its existence that Joseph Smith was (is?) a prophet, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God’s only church on the earth, that Thomas Spencer Monson is the only one on the earth today that has the authority to officiate for God? Alternatively,does it mean that anthropologists are mistaken about the origins, history, and cultural practices of pre-Columbian Americans? That Latter-day Saints are in possession of the real history of the Americas?
Or does it mean, as many early Saints believed, that the Restoration of the lost parts of the gospel had begun,and that the tribes of Israel were about to assume their rightful seats in the order of things, and Christ to inaugurate his government from the Old and New Jerusalems?
Here are some meanings contained in, or suggested by the existence of, the Book of Mormon which LDSaints have suggested to me at one time or another:
- That Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ.
- That atheism, communism, and the welfare state are satanic creations.
- That military actions are morally defensible and defensive wars are just.
- That pacifism is a morally defensible alternative to military service.
- That the United States is a land chosen by God for a special purpose.
- That native inhabitants of the Americas are descended from Lehi.
- That the United States is in the grip of secret combinations.
- That faith is like a seed.
- That cataclysms ravaged North and South America at the time of Christ’s death.
- That Polynesians are the descendants of Hagoth.
- That God speaks to all peoples geographically (the First Vision suggests God speaks to all people historically).
The only items above about which I have strong opinions would be 1 and 11. Anyone like to make a case for meanings 2-10 or state others?