(February 20, 2015)
One thing that is important, as we look for evidences in the text of the Book of Mormon, is to not become so enamored with a particular apologetic argument that we lose the capacity to discard it when it is no longer convincing. The Book of Mormon is divine scripture, even if each and every evidence that we now believe we have for the book turned out to be wrong. The danger of holding on to intellectual arguments for the book is that we can often be placed in the position of either irrationally holding on to false beliefs based upon that evidence or appropriately discarding the evidence and being left weakened in our testimony as a result.
The middle ground must be our place of refuge. We can take comfort from the evidences that we find, but must remember that these evidences are ultimately all manifestations of the arm of flesh and do not substitute for a testimony. For example, I have frequently looked at the Words of Mormon as a bridge based upon where it is in the text and where it was on the plates. As far as we can tell, it was the tail end of the entire plates (right before the Title Page). I thought that what we now look at as the Words of Mormon were, in fact, a portion of Mormon’s epilogue combined with a bit of a prior chapter of Mosiah that we did not have in totality (because of the loss of the 116 pages).
But as I read through the tail end of the chapter today, I could not find any spot that seemed to be a logical break between Mormon’s summation and the return to his editing from earlier in the plates. What I thought was a potent evidence for the validity of the Book of Mormon now leaves me wondering what exactly was up here. Is there a break and I am just missing it? Do we switch to Mosiah about the time Mormon stops talking about the small plates? Or is this summation contained in the epilogue of Mormon (and why would he include it)?
The blessing of a spiritual testimony is that it can be benefitted by the arguments that can be made on behalf of the Book of Mormon, but are not hurt when, like today, one of those arguments (and the underlying passage) doesn’t seem to make sense. It is also aided that experience demonstrates that these things that don’t make sense now generally end up making sense later. But even then we don’t learn anything if we cling to arguments that don’t seem valid or are not persuasive.