Quite reasonably, the current “Introduction” to the Book of Mormon begins, “The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible.” And so it is. Both volumes were written by prophets, they are divided into smaller books generally named for their authors, they use similar language, and they witness of Christ. Most importantly, they are both the word of God, given to us for guidance, testimony, and judgment. To highlight these similarities, the official LDS editions are presented in a nearly identical format, with double columns of individual verses and extensive cross-references. “If you like the Bible,” we tell our friends and neighbors, “you’ll like the Book of Mormon. They have the same spirit about them.”
Yet in slightly more detailed conversations, we are likely to point out some significant differences as well. Parts of the Bible seem to be missing, the oldest manuscripts are still only copies of copies, and even careful translations can sometimes introduce errors or distortions. The distance between our English Book of Mormon and its ancient text is quite small by comparison. The original record—an abridgment written by Mormon and Moroni themselves, —was buried for 1400 years and then given directly to Joseph Smith, who translated the gold plates “by the gift and power of God.”
All of this is both true and familiar. But when we read the Book of Mormon closely, it is evident that there are still more distinctions. The Bible is more of a library than a single book, and there are tremendous differences in genre. Just within the Old Testament, we find the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, the law code of Leviticus, the visions of Ezekiel and Daniel, the poetry of the Psalms, the narrative of Joshua through Kings, and the proverbs of, well, Proverbs.