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 you know what?…
I still believe the Book of Mormon too!
I know. 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.
A Word About My Background…
Reared in a small conservative Baptist church back in the hills of the Ozarks, I was taught with strong convictions that Mormons were no different from Jehovah Witnesses, Christian Scientists, or Armstrong followers. They all sooner or later knocked on your door. We were instructed by our parents to “…let none of them in the house. And don’t buy their materials…” All were cults. Certainly the Mormons were not within mainstream Christianity.
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?…”
These are questions my friends now ask me, wondering if I haven’t erred from the truth.
What’s my response?…
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 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 to 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. And I’m aware—that’s a shocker.
A bit of trivia–God would not end His book with the numbers ’66.’ That’s one “six” short of 666—the number of the Anti-Christ. God’s number has always been “seven,” not “six.”
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…
“…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 eighteen hundred years the saints did not believe in the rapture, pre-tribulation, post-tribulation, or mid-tribulation. The teaching is new. In the light of church history, it’s new. Again, perhaps that’s a shock to some of us.
I find it very interesting—both the rapture theory and the restoration of the gospel came forth in the same year: 1830! When the Lord moves in the earth, the Devil usually attempts his imitation of the real.
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. The vision was recorded in two books written by R.N. Norton, M.D., and printed in London, England in 1861. Two Brethren ministers, Edward Irving and John Darby, popularized her vision. The Plymouth Brethren accepted the vision as valid and the rapture doctrine “took off” during prophetic meetings at Powerscourt House in Ireland.
Irving’s views influenced C.I. Scofield, whose Bible notes popularized the new theory among fundamentalist/evangelical Christians in the West. The rest is history. However, as I said, 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.
…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.