The Sealed Portion of the Book of Mormon is one of those seldom discussed bits of Mormon folklore that fascinates me. Other than a brief mention every four years in the Book of Mormon Gospel Doctrine class, the idea of this extra book of scripture rarely makes an appearance in LDS conversation. Ultimately, do any LDS really think the “Sealed Portion” is going to “come forth” in their lifetime (or within any definable time frame)? I doubt it.
Obviously, the “Sealed Portion” coming forth would be huge. But I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.
Different theories have been suggested for why we don’t have the sealed portion (or any other ancient scriptures) translated for us in our day by an LDS prophet. Bruce McConkie had this to say:
The Lord expects us to seek wisdom, to ponder his revealed truths, and to gain a knowledge of them by the power of his Spirit. Otherwise he would not have revealed them to us. He has withheld the sealed portion of the Book of Mormon from us because it is beyond our present ability to comprehend. We have not made that spiritual progression which qualifies us to understand its doctrines.
Other than the interesting implication that Moroni understood certain doctrines, painstakingly engraved them onto metal plates, lugged them to upper-state New York, and preserved them for no apparent good reason because it turned out that modern LDS weren’t spiritually able to “comprehend” them, it should be noted that Elder McConkie didn’t actually tell us how he figured out that this was the reason for the sealed portion being hidden. As far as I can tell, he was just making it up as he went along.
Here’s another possibility.
Whatever you believe about Joseph Smith and the abilities of his prophetic successors, I think it’s obvious that Joseph possessed some talent or gift from God that Prophets #2-16 haven’t. Over the years, the role of “Prophet” in the Church has become increasingly bureaucratic, to the point that I don’t think any GA would have the stones (or stone) to actually produce a scripture that claims to be a translation of an ancient document. I think Paul H. Dunn was probably the most qualified GA in the last 50 years to attempt such a task, but his fast-track to seerhood was unceremoniously derailed, and I don’t see anyone waiting in the wings.
Some might expect the “Sealed Portion” to be threatening to someone who has doubts about the historicity of the Book of Mormon such as myself. But I think it presents far more danger to those who believe. Especially the apologists. If you look at the intricate web of arguments and evidences woven to support belief in the Book of Mormon, it is easy to see how the Sealed Portion could be catastrophic to such a worldview, with so many opportunities for contradictory data to bring the whole house of cards crashing down.
As it is, people believe in the Book of Mormon, they love it, they read it, and even trained scholars find enough evidence to believe it. The Sealed Portion is only going to upset that apple-cart, so it best lay hidden.