Mormons get their nickname from the Book of Mormon. The real name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the nickname is only appropriately applied to the people in the church, not to the church itself.
The Book of Mormon is a book of sacred scripture used by Mormons along with the Bible. It is not the “Mormon Bible” since the Mormon Bible is the King James translation of the Bible in English, with other versions used in other languages. Instead, it is a companion volume to the Bible and testifies of its truthfulness. Although many people believe in the Bible without believing in the Book of Mormon, it is entirely impossible to believe in the Book of Mormon and deny the Bible. If the Book of Mormon is true, then the Bible has to be true and Jesus has to be the Christ. There can be no question. Curious as to why that is? First, let’s find out what the Book of Mormon is all about and then you’ll begin to understand why the Bible is proven true by the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon is structured somewhat like the Bible. It was written by ancient prophets beginning just prior to the fall of Jerusalem. The Bible concerns the many generations of Adam’s family and the Book of Mormon concerns many generations of Lehi’s family. Lehi was a prophet in Jerusalem, and, like many, tried to call people to repentance. For this, the people wanted to kill him. God instructed him to take his family and flee into the wilderness, leaving behind his wealth and home. In time, God sent them across the waters to the American continent. We don’t know where they lived in the Americas.
Some Mormons in the past believed they arrived on an empty continent and that therefore, the American Indians were their descendents. This, however, is not stated in the Book of Mormon, nor was it canonized doctrine. Mormons believe that what is not canonized is fair game for speculation and intelligent debate. Even prophets are allowed to have opinions. Today, most Mormons do not believe the continent was empty, due to population studies done by Mormon scholars. It should be noted that at the end of the Book of Mormon, there was a great war between the two societies covered in the book—both formed by sons of Lehi. The Nephites (the righteous society) was all killed off with the exception of one man. The Lamanites (the wicked society) survived despite many deaths, but the final survivor wrote that they were so blood-thirsty that when his people were all dead, they simply began killing off each other. It is unlikely many survived this warlike society.
Lehi’s family had what constituted the Bible at that time and took it with them on their journey. His son Nephi, the first writer in the Book of Mormon, received a vision, as did his father, of the Savior’s birth, life, and ministry. They passed on this knowledge to their descendents. They knew of the birth of Jesus Christ through divine signs given to them. They also knew of His death, which, in the new world, was a terrible time that resulted in many deaths and much destruction. Only the righteous were left. To this small group came the Savior after his death, resurrection, and return to God. These were some of the “other sheep” to which Jesus referred in the Bible:
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. (John 10:16).
He helped them organize their church, preached to them, and ministered to them. For several generations afterwards, the people lived in peace and harmony, but eventually, as always happens, the generations that had not been born during this time began to live less righteously and again, two groups of people formed.
Why is it important to know that Jesus Christ came to others besides the Jews? It can be easy to dismiss the life of a person who appeared only to one very small group of people. If, however, in a time when travel was not easy, He also appeared across an ocean, and this appearance after His death, there is no question that He is not only real, but divine. There is no other way these people could have known about Him except through prophecy and revelation.
In addition, it sends a message that Jesus Christ was not merely the Messiah of those very first Christians. He is the Messiah of all the world. He loves everyone equally well, and wanted to give as many as possible His gospel. The Book of Mormon sends that message also.
Just like the Bible, the gospel is taught through the lives of the people of this land. However, the story of the Bible is not the main purpose of that book, and the stories are not the main purpose of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon explains its true purpose:
And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations. (Title Page, Book of Mormon)
26 And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.2 Nephi 25:26
The Book of Mormon helps to clarify some Bible verses and concepts that religious scholars have debated over the centuries. It teaches about the doctrines of salvation and helps us to understand our true worth as children of God. Through the amazing stories of its people, we learn to trust God when there is seemingly no reason to trust, we learn to cope with extreme trials, and we learn to make the right choices even when the consequences are severe.
Unlike most books, this one tells the reader how to prove whether or not it is true and even challenges the reader to do so. In Moroni 10:4, we are told that after reading the Book, we need to pray to know if it’s true and that God will tell us. This mirrors a Biblical promise in James 1:5, in which we are told that if we lack wisdom, we need only pray and God will tells us what we need to know. God is, after all, the source of all truth.