Still Sealed After All These Years

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.

Understanding the Book of Revelation

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.

6 Comments

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6 Responses to Still Sealed After All These Years

  1. mac

    “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.”

    I think McConkie made up a lot of stuff as he went along.

    His son, Joseph Fielding McConkie told my New Testament religion class at BYU that the Three Wisemen were the stake presidency of Jerusalem.

    What was his reference for that? Grandpa Smith (Joseph Fielding Smith) told them that at Sunday dinner years ago.

    Another direction I could go with this — since I don’t believe that JS actually had gold plates or that the Nephites even existed as the BoM states — is what was JS’s reason for including the “sealed portion” story? Along with all the other stuff he made up, why make that up?

    My best guess is that, like the second coming (which is always just around the corner), it gives the faithful something to look forward to. I’ve heard lessons where the teacher goes on and on about how great it will be in the millenium to have the scriptures of the Lost Tribes (as promised in the BoM), and the sealed portion of the BoM. “Won’t that be great?” Just another fairy tale to look forward to.

  2. Cinepro

    “Stake Presidency of Jerusalem”? You have got to be kidding! Then again, that isn’t the wackiest thing I’ve heard attributed to JFS…

  3. It’s already here…be part of the “miracle” at:

    http://www.thesealedportion.com/

  4. not only has the Sealed Portion been translated but see the divine plan to eliminate poverty and inequality in perpetuity.

  5. Sophocles

    I had a Book of Mormon professor at BYU who was obsessed with the Sealed Portion.
    .
    His take was that every prophet receives a vision of the entire history of the world. Moses and Lehi are two that mention this vision, and Lehi in particular mentions that vision coming in the form of a “heavenly book.” That book is the Sealed Portion. Mormon (or Moroni) was tasked with writing it down on the plates.
    .
    There are people on earth toady who have read the Sealed Portion. All of the prophets and apostles have, and so has anyone else who has had their calling and election made sure, including average rank & file members of the church. So it’s not a translation problem, it’s just something that’s revealed to people on an individual basis.
    .
    (Again, not sure how “doctrinal” all this is, but this guy really blew my mind during my freshman year at BYU.)
    .
    All the stuff you say about prophets #2-16 not having the stones to produce scripture like JS absolutely applies to the Book of Joseph, however. I mean, that would be almost as huge as the Sealed Portion, especially since all of Judeo-Christianity would benefit from it. And we have the scrolls! They’re just sitting there waiting to be translated.
    .
    Unfortunately, we can’t let regular Egyptologists translate them, because they’re likely to come up with something out in left field like the Book of Breathings. No, we need a true prophet who can replicate whatever technique JS used to give us the Book of Abraham, who can properly use the scrolls as a mnemonic or catalyst or whatever it is. When are they going to get around to this?

    • Cinepro

      Wow. That is quite a teacher.

      I’m most fascinated by the different reasons people come up with to explain the sudden cessation in revealed scripture after Joseph Smith’s death, even though we know there are unfinished translation projects. Lots of interesting theories out there!

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