Source:Nibley:CW03:Ch24:1:Book of Mormon a unique volume

Book of Mormon a unique volume

Book of Mormon a unique volume

In the Book of Mormon the words of many prophets are brought together for the particular instruction of our own age. Those words are presented to the world in a strange and wonderful form. Go through the whole literature of devotion and you will find no book like this. If the great Christian writings of such widely differing geniuses as the scholastic thinkers of the Middle Ages, Swedenborg, and the author of Science and Health were to be printed on loose-leaf, the pages of all of these could be freely shuffled among each other without any serious disruption of style and content. They are all doing the same thing—simply commenting on the Bible—and they all use with mechanical ease and practiced skill one and the same key: the old Neoplatonic formula of "spiritual" interpretation. This is an easy game to play; it is a much harder thing, in fact, to spend many years with the scriptures without acquiring the conviction that one is privy to the deeper secrets of their interpretation. But none of these inspired writers, though claiming inside knowledge into the mind of God, will face up to the test of a prophet and speak as one having authority. In the end, the Bible is always their authority, and like the scribes and Pharisees of old they can always pass off onto it the responsibility for whatever they say.

This is not the case with the Book of Mormon. What do we find in it? A wealth of doctrine embedded in large amounts of what is put forth as genuine historical material, not devotional or speculative or interpretive or creative writing but genuine historical fact, stuff that touches upon reality—geographical, ethnological, linguistic, cultural, etc.—at a thousand places. On all of these points the book could sooner or later be tested, as Joseph Smith knew. We cannot possibly deny his good faith in placing it before the whole world without any reservation. Aside from all other considerations it is a staggering work; its mass and complexity alone would defy the talent of any living man or body of men to duplicate today. Its histories are full and circumstantial; yet sober, simple, straightforward—there is nothing contrived, nothing exaggerated, nothing clever in the whole book. For a century and a quarter it has undergone the closest scrutiny at the hands of its friends and enemies, and today it stands up better than ever. Let me illustrate how very recent findings have vindicated the Book of Mormon on two broad and general themes.[1]


  1. Hugh W. Nibley, The World and the Prophets, 3rd edition, (Vol. 3 of Collected Works of Hugh Nibley), edited by John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company; Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, 1987), Chapter 24, references silently removed—consult original for citations.