Thursday, September 25, 2008

Book Review: Why I Believe the Book of Mormon

This book caught my eye one morning as I did my weekly grocery shopping at Walmart. I didn't recognize the name of the author, Tony Decker, but thought it might be worth looking at.

He claimed to have over 300 evidences of the validity of the Book of Mormon, classifying these into internal, expternal, and spiritual categories. After a short preface indicating these categories he goes right into things he's termed as evidence.

He starts at the beginning, 1 Nephi, and prints certain scriptures that mean something to him, then gives little comments underneath. There are no chapters, nor does he follow any sequence of events other than the timeline of the Book of Mormon. Early on I knew if I were going to make any semblance of the scattered evidences, I'd need to find a system of my own.

So I did. Grabbing my trusty Post-Its tags I began placing them on pages where I felt there were viable evidences, ones that those who'd never read the book before would have a hard time explaining away.

By the time I finished the book I almost had 40. Out of "more than 300."

I realize these are all external evidences. I focused mainly on these because this is where my own studies are taking me right now.

This is not to demean Mr. Decker's other evidences. After reading through most of his book I came to realize if one all ready has a testimony of the Book of Mormon, most of what he'd given would only help to strengthen one's testimony if studied and pondered with the influence of the Holy Spirit. They could and even would come to be internal and spiritual evidences, just as he indicated.

I did find his occasional references to what Joseph Smith could have possibly known or not known to become a bit tiresome. The flow of his book would have run smoother without his obviously biased opinions in some points. After all, though these evidences were a strong witness to him, as can be seen by his enthusiasm, it would not be to someone else. Especially if they had never read the Book of Mormon themselves.

I also wished he'd given more references to where he'd found some of his external evidences. While he did give references to some (such as John A. Tvedtnes,'s "Book of Mormon Names Attested In Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions," Journal of Book of Mormon Studies), and others are easy to research online (like Chiasmus, a form of Hebrew poetry), most of his external evidences were left without the sources of the information he obtained.

About 1/4 into the book I began to wonder who this man was. Did he teach religion at a university? Was he a member of the Quorum of the Seventy? Is there anything beyond being an avid supporter of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon that qualifies him to write this book? I still don't have an answer to that, but perhaps it doesn't really matter.

There are some genuinely concrete evidences in there, ones which I've marked and plan to study up on. Beyond that if would I recommend the book? Perhaps. If one all ready has a testimony of the truth of the Book of Mormon, loves to read, and wants to see what another member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feels about the book. Otherwise I'd say, save your money for something a bit more organized and referenced.

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