In order to understand the current position of the Community of Christ on the Book of Mormon, it's important to look at the role The Book of Mormon holds in the shared history of the Community of Christ and the LDS Church.
The Community of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints separated after the death of Joseph Smith. Both churches recognize him as the first latter-day prophet and church president until his death. One of the most important things Joseph Smith did in his lifetime was bringing forth the Book of Mormon as another witness of Jesus Christ. He considered it to be the word of God. In fact, according to Joseph Smith:
“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (History of the Church, 4:461.)
Joseph Smith considered the Book of Mormon to be:
- The most correct of any book on earth (including the Bible, which is correct only “as far as it is translated correctly,” see Articles of Faith 1:8).
- The keystone of our religion: It holds us together, and without it we would crumble.
- The most effective book for teaching the precepts that will get us nearer to God: It contains the profound gospel of Jesus Christ, taught plainly.
Joseph Smith also said:
“Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations and where is our religion? We have none” (History of the Church, 2:52).
“The Book of Mormon is true, just what it purports to be, and for this testimony I expect to give an account in the day of judgment” (Quoted by David Osborn, in “Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor, Mar. 15, 1892, p. 173).
According to Parley P. Pratt, an early apostle:
“While visiting with brother Joseph in Philadelphia [December 1839], a very large church was opened for him to preach in, and about three thousand people assembled to hear him. Brother Rigdon spoke first, and dwelt on the Gospel, illustrating his doctrine by the Bible. When he was through, brother Joseph arose like a lion about to roar; and being full of the Holy Ghost, spoke in great power, bearing testimony of the visions he had seen, the ministering of angels which he had enjoyed; and how he had found the plates of the Book of Mormon, and translated them by the gift and power of God. He commenced by saying: ‘If nobody else had the courage to testify of so glorious a message from Heaven, and of the finding of so glorious a record, he felt to do it in justice to the people, and leave the event with God.’” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 259–261).
Joseph Smith's position on the Book of Mormon was very definitive and bold. However, if you compare those quotes to recent quotes like these from the Community of Christ:
“While the Church affirms the Book of Mormon as scripture, and makes it available for study and use in various languages, we do not attempt to mandate the degree of belief or use” (Spencer M. Veazey, 2007, dismissing a proposal that the Book of Mormon's divinity should be reaffirmed. Andrew M. Shields, “Official Minutes of Business Session, Wednesday March 28, 2007,” in 2007 World Conference Thursday Bulletin, March 29, 2007. Community of Christ, 2007.).
“The proper use of the Book of Mormon as sacred scripture has been under wide discussion in the 1970s and beyond, in part because of long-standing questions about its historicity and in part because of perceived theological inadequacies, including matters of race and ethnicity” (W. Grant McMurray, 2001, “They Shall Blossom as the Rose: Native Americans and the Dream of Zion”).
“With other Christians, we affirm the Bible as the foundational scripture for the church. In addition, Community of Christ uses the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants as scripture. We do not use these sacred writings to replace the witness of the Bible or improve upon it, but because they confirm its message that Jesus Christ is the Living Word of God” (Community of Christ web site).
It becomes clear that the Community of Christ no longer defends the Book of Mormon as a necessary keystone of their religion, especially in contrast to the position of the LDS Church which shares its roots (see, for example, this recent affirmation by a current LDS apostle).
Therefore, from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, while it is true that the Community of Christ has not rejected the Book of Mormon wholesale, the Community of Christ has rejected the Book of Mormon by not standing up for its necessity, power, and divinity.