One morning, several years ago, I had to acquire some materials for a research project I was working on. In company with two friends, I visited a small Salt Lake City bookstore operated by a well-known anti-Mormon couple. The woman, and co-proprietor of this establishment, was friendly and helpful. While there, I had the opportunity to witness and also participate in a most interesting conversation with this woman. During our conversation the question arose as to what, in her view, would constitute acceptable evidence in support of the Book of Mormon. She struggled with this question for several minutes, so we asked if some kind of ancient inscription would do. This would depend, she said. One of my companions then gave her a hypothetical scenario: Let’s suppose non-Mormon archaeologists found an inscription in highland Guatemala dating to the early sixth century B.C. with the name Nephi written in Reformed Egyptian. If verified, would such a find then constitute evidence for the Book of Mormon? Yet our kind host was unwilling to grant that even this would constitute such evidence, allowing only that, “it might be a topic of discussion.” as I left her store it was unclear what if anything would constitute such evidence.
In reflecting on this experience over the years I am reminded of the the Lord's words to a young Joseph Smith. No doubt eager to share the excitement of early sacred experiences with others, the Lord warned,
“Behold, if they will not believe my words, they would not believe you, my servant Joseph, if it were possible that you should show them all these things which I have committed unto you” (D&C 5:7).
The Scriptures compare Jesus Christ to a stone. For some, that stone is a "sanctuary"--a reliable source of peace and light to guide and protect those willing to follow the only reliable but narrow way. For others Christ and his teachings become a "stone of stumbling" or even a "rock of offense" (Isaiah 8:14; Matthew 21:42-44).
Today, the Book of Mormon fulfills a similar role. It too is a rock--a precious jewel that reflects the light of our Redeemer to the humble seeker of peace in a dark, confused, and troubled world. But it is a rock of offense and stumbling to the self-important, proud, and impatient.The world hates the Book of Mormon, as it hated Christ, because it forces all who learn of it to make a choice. It freely invites and even challenges us to do so.
"And if they are not the words of Christ, judge ye--for Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things, notwithstanding my weakness" (2 Nephi 33:11).
Our reactions to the Book of Mormon manifest what is in our hearts and that which we vainly seek to keep others from knowing. But in the end we can hide nothing from ourselves or from the Lord.
"And whoso knocketh, to him will he open; and the wise, and the learned, and they that are rich, who are puffed up because of their learning, and their wisdom, and their riches--yea they are they whom he despiseth; and save they shall cast these things away, and consider themselves fools before God, and come down in the depths of humility, he will not open unto them. But the things of the wise and the prudent shall be hid from them forever--yea, that happiness which is prepared for the Saints" (2 Nephi 9:42-43).