It's taken more time to write about this reconstruction, because it is perhaps a more sensitive subject, and more complex, than any I have written before about Mormonism or Christianity, yes, even more so than Jesus or Joseph Smith (which might be an indication that something is off-kilter). The Salt Lake City based Latter-day Saints take the Book of Mormon very seriously as a holy text, as scripture revealed by God, similar to the Bible, and perhaps even more important than the Bible. The Book of Mormon is one thing that makes them unique, their own testament of the divinity of "Jesus Christ," which they believe is also evidence of the unique prophethood of Joseph Smith and the divinity of the church he organized as God's "true church." But I think the truth may be much more nuanced.
Who was Joseph Smith Jr. (1805-1844)? He's been quite an enigma both within and outside of Mormonism since his death. Many Mormons see him as a deeply gifted prophet of God, in the tradition of the Old Testament prophets like Isaiah, Ezekiel, and even Moses. He recorded and published new scripture, the Book of Mormon, just like ancient prophets. Many Mormons revere him as someone who restored Christianity in its purity, even the original Christian church and true gospel of Jesus. They believe he received true priesthood authority from God to perform real saving rituals, ordinances, and act as a "high priest" to bring others into the presence of God.
The God we are referring to is often known in Mormonism (and more generally in Christianity) as "God the Father," "Heavenly Father," or just "the Father."
I will begin to offer a reconstruction of the Mormon narrative, which also applies in many ways to Christianity in general.
Language often constructs our perception of reality. As the philosopher William H. Gass once said, "The true alchemists do not change lead into gold; they change the world into words." Or so they try.
Two readers posted comments recently on my article about Joseph Smith as tertön and the Book of Mormon as terma. They were both similar in questioning the idea that the Book of Mormon may not be a historical text.
"The [mystical] visions are not ends in themselves but means to an ineffable religious experience that exceeds normal concepts. They will be conditioned by the particular religious tradition of the mystic. A Jewish visionary will see visions of the seven heavens because his religious imagination is stocked with these particular symbols. Buddhists see various images of Buddhas and bodhisattvas; Christians visualize the Virgin Mary [or Jesus]. It is a mistake for the visionary to see these mental apparitions as objective or as anything more than a symbol of transcendence."
Sophia von Klingnau was a nun who lived in a convent in Klingnau, Switzerland, sometime in the 13th or 14th century. Her writings were published in the Schwesterbücher (Sister Books).
As I add new translations to the BHT, I thought it would be good to also publish a blog post noting each specific addition, so that readers may get those updates. The following is a translation today of 2 Peter 1:19-21, which concerns the scriptures and prophetic revelation and interpretation of the Word.