The Book of Mormon: The Keystone of Mormon Doctrine

The October 2011 Ensign magazine was a special issue, dedicated entirely to the topic of the Book of Mormon. LDS apostle Todd Christofferson’s article explained how to study the Book of Mormon and quoted past LDS prophet Ezra Taft Benson’s top three reasons that people should make study of the Book of Mormon “a lifetime pursuit.”

  • First, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion—the keystone of our witness of Jesus Christ, of our doctrine, and of our testimony.
  • Second, the Book of Mormon was written for our day.
  • Third, the Book of Mormon helps us draw nearer to God. (28)

Later on in the magazine, Ezra Taft Benson’s 1986 General Conference address, where he originally provided those reasons, is reprinted in its entirety. In his address, the Mormon prophet explained and clarified what he meant when he said the Book of Mormon is the keystone of the Mormon religion and the keystone of Mormon doctrine. He said,

“There are three great reasons why Latter-day Saints should make the study of the Book of Mormon a lifetime pursuit.

“The first is that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. …A keystone is the central stone in an arch. It holds all the other stones in place, and if removed, the arch crumbles.”

Continuing, Mr. Benson said that that Book of Mormon is the keystone of Mormon doctrine and reiterated that the Book of Mormon contains “the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Mr. Benson explained,

“That does not mean it contains every teaching, every doctrine ever revealed. Rather, it means that in the Book of Mormon we will find the fulness of those doctrines required for our salvation. And they are taught plainly and simply so that even children can learn the ways of salvation and exaltation.” (55)

Mr. Benson’s explanation is puzzling in light of the fact that the Book of Mormon never mentions many very important doctrines related to the Mormon idea of exaltation. Mr. Benson himself pointed out,

“The coming forth of the Book of Mormon preceded the restoration of the priesthood. It was published just a few days before the Church was organized. The Saints were given the Book of Mormon to read before they were given the revelations outlining such great doctrines as the three degrees of glory, celestial marriage, or work for the dead.” (53-54)

Indeed, the Book of Mormon is silent on both the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods. Is the priesthood, then, not a doctrine required for the exaltation of men and women?

Celestial marriage – marriage for time and eternity – is also not found in the Book of Mormon. Is eternal marriage, then, not a requirement for Mormon exaltation?

The Book of Mormon does not talk about the LDS doctrine of baptism for the dead. Does that mean that those who died without being baptized by someone with the “proper [LDS] authority” may attain exaltation without it?

Mr. Benson didn’t mention Mormon temples, but the Book of Mormon does not contain the important Mormon doctrine that makes temple participation and ordinances a requirement for exaltation.

Indeed, there are many additional important and unique LDS doctrines that are not found in the Book of Mormon. Some, perhaps, would not be considered “requirements” for exaltation. These missing Mormon teachings are things like the doctrine of the pre-existence (pre-mortality), the three degrees of glory, the doctrine of eternal progression, the doctrine of a plurality of Gods, and the doctrine of the “Church of the Firstborn.”

If the Book of Mormon contains the “fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” which is clearly defined by a Mormon prophet as “those doctrines required for our salvation…and exaltation,” why do Mormon leaders insist that extra-Book of Mormon doctrines are required for exaltation? A few can be found in the current LDS study guide and teacher’s manual, Gospel Principles. This book lists fifteen “Requirements for Exaltation”; among them:

“3. Brethren must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and magnify their callings in the priesthood.

“4. We must receive the temple endowment.

“5. We must be married for eternity, either in this life or in the next.” (278)

Was the LDS prophet wrong when he spoke about the fullness of the gospel in the Book of Mormon? Why is there such a glaring discrepancy between Ezra Taft Benson’s General Conference address and the teachings of the Mormon Church?

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

This entry was posted in Book of Mormon, Mormon Scripture and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to The Book of Mormon: The Keystone of Mormon Doctrine

  1. Mike R says:

    I think the keystone of Mormon doctrine is whatever the Mormon hierarchy decides to
    call it. Today’s “requirements” for exaltation could change tomorrow, some being dumped
    some being added. I guess people have to choose between embracing what Jesus gave His
    original apostles to preach to the world, and what Mormonism’s modern day apostles preach.
    I’m sticking with the New Testament , Jesus is met therein and He is able—-Heb.7:25

  2. daBland says:

    “Mr. Benson’s explanation is puzzling in light of the fact that the Book of Mormon never mentions many very important doctrines related to the Mormon idea of exaltation. Mr. Benson himself pointed out,

    “The coming forth of the Book of Mormon preceded the restoration of the priesthood. It was published just a few days before the Church was organized. The Saints were given the Book of Mormon to read before they were given the revelations outlining such great doctrines as the three degrees of glory, celestial marriage, or work for the dead.” (53-54)

    President Benson was making the point that necessary doctrines for salvation are in the Book of Mormon—the doctrine distinguishes between salvation and exaltation. Exaltation is what we are given when we make further covenants with the Lord in the temple. Baptism is the necessary ordinance and following covenant we make with the Savior for salvation.

    I can understand how that can be puzzling because it is very different from mainstream evangelical Christianity. In the Old Testament it speaks of different degrees of glory–not in dept–much like the Book of Mormon–because first things are first…faith in Jesus Christ, and one baptism is the first step. And this is an important point because the issue then becomes about authority. One baptism…interested to know how this specific language translates for many of you.

  3. Rick B says:

    I see some major problems with the LDS and Mr Benson teaching the BoM is the most important book you can read.
    1. Major problem is, LDS Prophet and president J.F.S does not agree with Mr Benson. Is Mr Benson aware of this taught by Mr Smith?

    Doctrines of Salvation vol 3, pg 198-199 J.F.S. teaches,

    In my judgment their is no book on earth yet come to man as important as the book known as the Doctrine and Covenants, with all due respect to the Book of Mormon, and the Bible, and the pearl of great price, which we say are our standards in Doctrine. The book of Doctrine and Covenants to us stands in a peculiar position above them all.

    I am going to tell you why. When I say that, do not for a moment think I do not value the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and the Pearl of Great Price, just as much as any man that lives; I think I do. I do not know of anybody who has read them more, and I appreciate them; they are wonderful; they contain doctrine and revelation and commandments that we should heed; but the Bible is a history containing the doctrine and commandments given to the people anciently. that applies also to the Book of Mormon. It is the doctrine and history and commandments of the people who dwelt upon this continent anciently.

    But this Doctrine and Covenants contains the word of God to those who dwell here now. It is our book. It belongs to the Latter Day Saints.

    Sadly these to so called men of God and speaking for God cannot agree. But even sadder is there is more to come. Did Mr Benson forget what He taught when he said this? Cont.

  4. Rick B says:

    Part 1.
    Mr Benson said the 14 fundamentals of following the brethren. This was the SECOND:

    The Living Prophet is More Vital to Us Than The Standard Works.

    Under the issue of the Second Fundamental Mr Benson quotes this

    President Wilford Woodruff tells of an interesting incident that occurred in the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith:
    I will refer to a certain meeting I attended in the town of Kirtland in my early days. At that meeting some remarks were made that have been made here today, with regard to the living oracles and with regard to the written word of God. The same principle was presented, although not as extensively as it has been here, when a leading man in the Church got up and talked upon the subject, and said: “You have got the word of God before you here in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and Doctrine and Covenants; you have the written word of God, and you who give revelations should give revelations according to those books, as what is written in those books is the word of God. We should confine ourselves to them.
    When he concluded, Brother Joseph turned to Brother Brigham Young and said, “Brother Brigham, I want you to take the stand and tell us your views with regard to the living oracles and the written word of God.” Brother Brigham took the stand, and he took the Bible, and laid it down; he took the Book of Mormon, and laid it down; and he took the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and laid it down before him, and he said: “There is the written word of God to us, concerning the work of God from the beginning of the world, almost, to our day.

    Cont.

  5. Rick B says:

    Part 2 Cont,

    And now,” said he, “when compared with the living oracles those books are nothing to me; those books do not convey the word of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation. I would rather have the living oracles than all the writing in the books.” That was the course he pursued. When he was through, Brother Joseph said to the congregation: “Brother Brigham has told you the word of the Lord, and he has told you the truth.” [in Conference Report, October 1897, pp. 18-19)

    Wow, Mr Benson seems to have forgotten what he taught when he taught this. I will post more thoughts later so I dont over whelm people with a lot of reading.

  6. Mike R says:

    Rick, you brought some good points . It seems that Brigham Young was faithful to his
    mentor, Joseph Smith, and took what Smith told the audience seriously . Brigham felt
    that his sermons were trustworthy spiritual guidance, as a “living oracle” this is only
    natural he would feel that way. It probably accounts for the reason that he did’nt seem
    to use the Book of Mormon that much in his sermons , if this was the case it would go
    against what many Mormon leaders are saying in recent years about the place that
    the Book of Mormon should occupy in the lives of faithful Mormons today. What’s
    as strange is that some of B.Y. ‘s important teachings are now left behind , relegated to
    the “dead prophets” section of Mormon history , and the Book of Mormon joins the Bible
    as only distant reminders of what were once sources of where the “requirements for
    eternal life” were taught but are now insufficient to provide enough truth to get a person
    safely to heaven and eternal life. All this behavior coming supposedly from officers in
    the Church Jesus established who seem to feel the need to reveal new requirements for
    eternal life , and these officers have exhibited this behavior since 1830 . Yet people who
    embrace what Jesus’original apostles taught concerning how eternal life is attained do not
    have to fear being left behind by rejecting any requirements promoted by so-called modern
    day apostles . Jesus gave us sufficient truth to reconcile sinful man to his Creator, this truth
    is in the New Testament for all to embrace.

  7. SR says:

    daBland writes:
    President Benson was making the point that necessary doctrines for salvation are in the Book of Mormon—the doctrine distinguishes between salvation and exaltation

    The necessary doctrine for salvation was given on the cross by Jesus Christ’s death and is found in the Bible. The Book of Mormon adds nothing, at all, to the doctrine of salvation. You’re right in saying that first faith in Christ means salvation — but really, that’s it. That’s the only means by which we achieve salvation. That’s the gospel — that’s all of it, and it’s found in the Bible. Nothing else was or is ever needed.

    Yes, I’m speaking simply. But you know what? It IS that simple. Period.

  8. Mike R says:

    daBland, welcome. If I’m understanding you correctly , you’re saying that Mr. Benson is
    making a difference between “salvation” and “exaltation”, i.e. the necessary doctrines of
    salvation are in the BM but not enough of the requirements for exaltation are in the BM.
    Is this what you’re saying ? When I read of Mormons going on missions in 1830 preaching
    the gospel , that since they were using the BM/Bible then they were giving truths enough
    for their audience to know what’s necessary for eternal life . Yet years later more requirements
    are preached which included Temple marriage, etc . , then years later additional requirements
    such as abstaining from coffee was the gospel being preached for eternal life . There have been
    more requirements but I think you see my point. Are you ok with this behavior ? I tend to
    think that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not complicated, not a elaborate system where the
    “requirements” vacillate so much . Yet since 1830 this has been the m.o. of Mormon prophets.
    Did you notice the quote that Sharon cited from Mr. Benson where he stated the BM teachings ,
    ” are taught plainly and simply so that even children can learn the ways of salvation AND
    EXALTATION.” Care to share your comments?

  9. Rick B says:

    Well I can see by the lack of LDS replies that they either cannot answer this topic, or they dont want to “correct” us even though they feel we are wrong, not contending for the faith as Jude tells us to, shows you dont have much of a faith and no real Love of Jesus in your life.

    That is just one more of the problems I was talking about when I said I see major problems and will lay them out. Well aside from No real love, here is one more.

    The Bible tells us that God cannot Lie, Titus 1:2 In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

    And it is Impossible for God to Lie. Hebrews 6:18 That by two immutable things, in which [it was] impossible for God to lie,

    Then The Bible tells us that God Places His Word Above His Name, and we know how serious God takes His name, if He takes His name so serious that it is mentioned over and over not to take His name in Vein, and people died from it, How much more serious does He take His word if He tells us He does.

    Psalm 138:2 I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

    Now Jude says, Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort [you] that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

    The Faith was Delivered ONCE. God did not and would not allow His word to fall away and (Cont)

  10. Rick B says:

    Cont,
    Be delivered more than once. If He allowed that then we have serious problems. That means God Lied and the Bible says He Cannot. Then He Did not place His word above His name, since He did not care enough to keep His word from Failing. Then According to JS, in the D and C, JS and Sidney R, were COMMANDED to “Correct” Gods word, that was why and How we got the J.S.B and that supposedly fell into corruption and the LDS dont for the most part use it since it is fallen to the apostate (RLDS, AND FLDS) Churches. So these are just a few more issues that I have in saying the BoM is better and filled with more accurate ways of salvation. More to come later.

  11. Mike R says:

    I find it interesting that the gospel Mormons spread to those they met on their missionary
    travels consisted of the points Mr Benson mentioned : First , the BM is the keystone of our
    religion—the keystone of our witness of Jesus Christ, of our doctrine and of our testimony.
    Second, the BM was written for our day. Third, the BM helps us draw nearer to God.
    This message Mormons preached in 1830 was the above points, it was their gospel . What new
    converts learned about receiving salvation , about being reconciled to God , about the
    requirements that were necessary to attain eternal life with God was this gospel that these
    Mormons proudly preached to all who would listen. Yet when I see what Mormon leaders
    have come to preach as the requirements for receiving eternal life it is considerably different
    now. It’s almost like someone advertising a product as the best product on the market , the best
    quality possible, then a year later the same product is now advertised as “new and improved” .
    We might expect this from man-made products, but when it comes to the Gospel of Jesus
    Christ , the good news that He directed His original apostles to preach in their travels, this
    behavior is rather disconcerting . It seems that the gospel that Mormon prophets announced
    in their original preaching had to be revised, instead of the ” restored” gospel it was a” revised”
    gospel , as additional requirements for eternal life were added to it by Mormon leaders. This
    became a new and improved version .But when it comes to the gospel of Jesus Christ , His
    saving truths , this has been available for 2000 years now it has proven efficient ever since .
    Rom 10:9-13

  12. WWJD says:

    “In the Old Testament it speaks of different degrees of glory–not in dept–much like the Book of Mormon–” ~daBland
    The jews believed in 3 heavens, which are spoken of in the OT, not 3 degrees of glory. 1st heaven-the sky, 2nd heaven-space, 3rd heaven-where God is. http://carm.org/what-does-it-mean-when-bible-refers-third-heaven

  13. WWJD says:

    “because first things are first…faith in Jesus Christ, and one baptism is the first step.”~daBland
    1st comes recognition of self as a sinner in need of forgiveness of sins in order to be reconciled to a Holy God. 2nd comes faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior who died for our sins so that we are forgiven of sin. 3rd comes repentance. 4th comes Baptism which is symbolic of the previous steps. We go into the water (buried with Christ) as a sinner and come out of the water (raised with Christ) washed clean of our sins.

  14. WWJD says:

    “And this is an important point because the issue then becomes about authority. One baptism…interested to know how this specific language translates for many of you.”~daBland
    Authority is of no issue. Christ is THE authority. The Son, Jesus Christ, is God’s full and final revelation to mankind. The Son, Jesus Christ, is above all.
    Hebrews 1:1-4
    God’s Final Word: His Son
    1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
    Galatians 3:26-27
    26 You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. NIV

  15. Mike R says:

    WWJD, you made some great comments !

  16. Mike R says:

    One Mormon apostle boldly proclaims that , ” the everlasting gospel could not be
    discovered through reading the Bible alone….” [ apostle LeGrand Richards]
    The answer to this supposed problem was the Book of Mormon , at least in the early 1830’s.
    The Book of Mormon is said to clarify the Bible, hence Mormonism claims that the Book of
    Mormon contains the , ” fullness of the everlasting gospel ” . Thus Mormons traveled over
    the land preaching this everlasting gospel. Later it is claimed that baptism for the dead is the
    most glorious of all subjects belonging to the everlasting gospel. Yet is the contention by many
    that this doctrine is not clearly practiced by those followers of Jesus described in the Book of
    Mormon. So it seems that Mormon leaders have revised their “everlasting gospel” to include
    this new doctrine, a doctrine that was not preached as part of Jesus’ gospel in the early 1830’s.
    So were the people getting the “fullness” of the everlasting gospel then? Or just a partial gospel?
    It seems that the safe course to follow here is to put our trust in the gospel that Jesus gave His
    original apostles to spread in their travels , a gospel that is simple and clear [1Cor15:1-4] , the
    gospel proclaimed by Mormon apostles is seen to be changed at will by these men; with doctrines
    being added to it or even doctrines being taken from it . The Book of Mormon contains the
    fullness of the everlasting gospel ? Perhaps Mormons could say that at one time , but that was
    a long time ago .

  17. Mike R says:

    ” the Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record
    of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the America’s and contains, as does the Bible,
    the fullness of the everlasting gospel. ”

    That is the statement in the introduction that greets me when I open my copy of the Book
    of Mormon. It seems that this statement about the Bible did’nt last to long, and come to think
    about it , it’s sort of like the Book of Mormon also as neither of these records are now sufficient
    sources to find enough of the requirements to receive eternal life , since Mormon prophets
    claimed to “restore” the gospel that Jesus’ original apostles preached in the New Testament
    what they claimed to restore soon had to be revised , so the Book of Mormon joined the Bible
    as not containing enough of the requirements to allow a person to receive eternal life with
    God in heaven. I’m sticking with the true gospel , it’s changed lives for 2000 years now because
    it is sufficient —1 Jn 5:11-13, 20

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