An American farm boy gets a visit from an angel who tells him where to find an ancient record buried in the ground. A young Tibetan has a vision that leads him to a buried book written by an Indian saint.
Both young men, so the stories go, translate their respective sacred texts into a language their contemporaries can read. Both volumes are published widely and attract many true believers. But only one commands universal respect, writes Buddhist scholar Donald S. Lopez Jr. at the Huffington Post.
"The Tibetan Book of the Dead, sanctified by the sands of time and the lofty peaks of distant Tibet, has become a timeless spiritual classic; its rather dubious pedigree remains a tale untold," Lopez writes. "Yet the Book of Mormon, unearthed not so long ago from a more modest hill in upstate New York, is still an object of contempt in many Christian quarters in 2012."
The difference seems to be one of time and distance. Karma Lingpa, the Tibetan visionary, had his experience in the late 1300s, while Mormon founder Joseph Smith reported his angelic visitation less than 200 years ago.
"The further removed those origins are from the present, the thicker the patina of sanctity becomes," Lopez writes. "But assuming it were possible, just for a moment, to set aside the thorny question of divine inspiration, it is likely that the origins of all sacred texts would seem equally mundane."
Peggy Fletcher Stack
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