“Why is the Book of Mormon the ‘most correct of any book on earth’?” Ensign, Aug. 1988, 28–29
Donald B. Doty, bishop, Bountiful Fifty-ninth Ward, Bountiful Utah Mueller Park Stake. The concept that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book in the world comes from a statement made by the Prophet Joseph Smith. He said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth. …” (History of the Church, 4:461.)
There may be a number of reasons why that is so. Some writers have noted that since the plates of Mormon and their English translation did not suffer the many editorial changes most other scriptures experienced over the centuries as they were translated and transcribed, the Book of Mormon is closer to the source of its inspiration. Others have suggested that the translation of the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God qualifies the Book of Mormon as more correct than books produced solely by human agency.
As the author of three texts and many scientific articles on subjects relating to cardiovascular surgery, I am thoroughly familiar with the time and effort required to produce a manuscript that is factual, consistent, and error-free. I am amazed that the translation of the Book of Mormon was completed during a period of only eighty days. I am also amazed that the Prophet produced the manuscript from dictation. Dictation is a rapid way of getting ideas onto paper, but it is one of the most difficult methods of composition. Words are often repeated, phrases may be trite or redundant, and the finished product is usually unstructured; it is more conversational than readable. Yet the Book of Mormon is intense prose, filled with complex, highly developed philosophical concepts that are presented extensively, logically, and coherently.
In discussing why the Prophet called the Book of Mormon the most correct book, we need to examine Joseph Smith’s complete statement. He said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book.” (History of the Church, 4:461; italics added.)
Above all other considerations, it is the doctrine contained in the Book of Mormon that makes it the most correct of books. The Book of Mormon establishes better than any other book the plain and precious truths of the gospel, many of which have been lost from the Bible. As we read in 1 Nephi 13:40 [1 Ne. 13:40], “These last records … shall establish the truth of the [Bible] … and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from [it].”
I have had the opportunity to present the Book of Mormon to a good friend in Soviet Russia and another in the People’s Republic of China. The book had been translated into each’s language. Both individuals read the book, and the response was nearly identical: “The words and thoughts are so beautiful.” One need examine only a few passages from the Book of Mormon to appreciate the correctness of its doctrine.
In the Book of Mormon, the purpose of life is defined:
“This life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead.” (Alma 12:24.)
The complex relationship of divine law, justice, and mercy are clarified:
“But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed, and a repentance granted; which repentance, mercy claimeth; otherwise, justice claimeth the creature and executeth the law, and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.
“But God ceaseth not to be God, and mercy claimeth the penitent, and mercy cometh because of the atonement; and the atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God; and thus they are restored into his presence, to be judged according to their works, according to the law and justice.” (Alma 42:22–23.)
We are shown the way to judge good from evil:
“Ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.
“But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil.” (Moro. 7:15–16.)
The mission of Jesus Christ is explained:
“Redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth.
“Behold he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” (2 Ne. 2:6–7.)
“This is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.
“And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.” (Alma 34:14–15.)
The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the visit of the Lord Jesus Christ to the people in the Americas shortly after his crucifixion and resurrection. Third Nephi contains the doctrine of the gospel as presented by the Lord himself and recorded by witnesses at the time he gave it. To the Nephites the Lord gave a discourse similar to the Sermon on the Mount, counsel on how to live a Christlike life, and instructions to Church leaders on administering the affairs of his church.
Like 3 Nephi, the entire Book of Mormon contains the plain and precious doctrines of Christ.
The prophet Alma, for example, teaches us clearly and simply the correct way to return to the presence of God. Alma advises us to be born of God and experience a mighty change of heart. He teaches us to exercise faith, to do righteous works, to have a clean heart and clean hands, to strip ourselves of pride and envy, and to persecute no one. Could there be any more correct formula for life?
Thus, it is the correctness of the doctrine contained in the text that more than anything else makes the Book of Mormon “the most correct of any book on earth.” Reading this book helps us understand the ways of the Lord and follow a pattern for life that will assure us happiness now and eternal life hereafter.