Chapter 3: The Message of the Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon does not begin with Christ’s visit to the American Continent. It begins in Jerusalem some six-hundred years before Christ's birth in Jerusalem (the Book of Ether, which talks about those who came from the Tower of Babel is actually near the end of the Book of Mormon). The Book of Mormon begins about the time that Jeremiah was cast into prison.
A prophet, contemporary with Jeremiah, by the name of Lehi, was commanded by the Lord to flee from Jerusalem, lest he be killed by the people for telling them of their many iniquities.
Always when the Lord’s chosen people were ripe for destruction, He sends His prophets to cry repentance to them, as a last warning before they are to be destroyed. He sent Lehi and many other prophets to Jerusalem because of His great love for them, giving them a last chance to repent.
But as has happened many other times, the people did not repent. Hence, Lehi, as commanded by God, fled into the wilderness. He and his family (especially his prophet son Nephi), along with several others, were in the wilderness for eight years. Eventually they built a ship, as designed by God, and sailed to America.
The Book of Mormon itself was written by prophets of God and was abridged by Mormon, a prophet whose son Moroni finished the record shortly after 400 A.D. Thus, the Book of Mormon covers a period of time in America of about 1,000 years (not counting the group which came from the Tower of Babel).
The Book of Mormon was written on gold plates and was buried until it was brought forth in the 19th century by the modern day prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith translated the gold plates by the power of God into what in known today as the Book of Mormon.
No other book in the world has a promise in it such as the Book of Mormon:
- 4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
Eleven men (three on one occasion and eight on another) testified they saw the gold plates and bore testimony to the world they did so. All were fair, honest and credible witnesses, and did so at great personal sacrifice. Not once did any of them deny their testimony. Their testimonies appear in the front part of the Book of Mormon.
The significance of the Book of Mormon is that it boldly proclaims to the world that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that it is only by His grace that we are able to be saved, after all we can do.
The Book of Mormon unfolds many of the mysteries of God, some of which were lost to the world in the translation and coming forth of the Bible. The Book of Mormon was not translated by scholars but was translated by a prophet of God by the power of God.
Christ himself proclaimed, “As your Lord and your God liveth it is true”.
The Book of Mormon tells of the greatness of God, His goodness and long suffering toward mankind. It tells of his matchless power, His wisdom and His patience. It also tells of the priceless atonement of Jesus Christ which was prepared from the foundation of the world, thereby salvation might come to those that put their trust in the Lord, who are diligent in keeping His commandments and continue in the faith even unto death.
It tells how a man can be purified from the sins of the world, how he can be sanctified by the Holy Ghost and how he can gain such godly attributes as charity, faith, humility, meekness, lowliness of heart and hope.
Speaking of the atonement of Christ, and the resurrection of all men, the Book of Mormon says:
- "7 Wherefore, it must needs be an infinite atonement -- save it should be an infinite atonement this corruption could not put on incorruption. Wherefore, the first judgment which came upon man must needs have remained to an endless duration. And if so, this flesh must have laid down to rot and to crumble to its mother earth, to rise no more.
8 O the wisdom of God, his mercy and grace! For behold, if the flesh should rise no more our spirits must become subject to that angel who fell from before the presence of the Eternal God, and became the devil, to rise no more.
9 And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; yea, to that being who beguiled our first parents, who transformeth himself nigh unto an angel of light, and stirreth up the children of men unto secret combinations of murder and all manner of secret works of darkness.
10 O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that
monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.
2 Nephi 9:7-10
The Book of Mormon in no uncertain terms proclaims to the world that Jesus is the Christ, the Divine Son of God the Father. The great truths of the Book of Mormon are the words of Christ, as delivered to His prophets anciently in the New World.
If someone steadfastly believes in Christ, and wishes to follow Him, and craves all truth about the Savior, he or she will recognize the Book of Mormon as the word of God by the power of the Holy Ghost (see Moroni 10:4-5 quoted above).
For those who think they can enter into God's Kingdom by believing only part of the word of God, and can reject the rest of it, the prophet Nephi, the son of Lehi previously mentioned, makes this comment:
- 28 O that cunning plan of the evil one! O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.
29 But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.
2 Nephi 9:28
Christ is the God of the whole world. He states in the Book of Mormon:
- 7 Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
8 Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also.
9 And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.
10 Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written.
11 For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
2 Nephi 29:7-11
A witness of this truth is that as Christ was preaching in the new world, He taught the people the well-known “Sermon on the Mount”, much like he had taught it to His followers in the old world. Of course this is not all of what the Savior told His fold in the new world; He taught then many other things, some of which were so sacred they could not be written.
The Nephi before mentioned states:
- 26 Yea, wo be unto him that hearkeneth unto the precepts of men, and denieth the power of God, and the gift of the Holy Ghost!
27 Yea, wo be unto him that saith: We have received, and we need no more!
28 And in fine, wo unto all those who tremble, and are angry because of the truth of God! For behold, he that is built upon the rock receiveth it with gladness; and he that is built upon a sandy foundation trembleth lest he shall fall.
29 Wo be unto him that shall say: We have received the word of God, and we need no more of the word of God, for we have enough!
30 For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a
little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.
2 Nephi 28:26-30
Of course the Bible has not been taken away from the Earth, but the saving truths found in the Book of Mormon and the messages of the living prophets who guide the LDS church; have clarified many teachings in the Bible and have added many truths to the Bible. Remember, the LDS church is not led by scholars, it is led by prophets.
Without direct revelation from Deity to a living prophet, even today, man’s wisdom is only confusion and fable, worshipping the creations of his own mind, worshipping his own wisdom instead of the true and living God. Having a living prophet on the earth, to insure the doctrines of the church do not drift into falsehoods, cannot be emphasized enough!!
- We have the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants; but all these books, without the living oracles and a constant stream of revelation from the Lord, would not lead any people into the Celestial Kingdom of God. This may seem a strange declaration to make, but strange as it may sound, it is nevertheless true.
Of course, these records are all of infinite value. They cannot be too highly prized, nor can they be too closely studied. But in and of themselves, with all the light that they give, they are insufficient to guide the children of men and to lead them into the presence of God. To be thus led requires a living Priesthood and constant revelation from God to the people according to the circumstances in which they may be placed.
President George Q. Cannon; Gospel Truth, sel. Jerreld L. Newquist, 2 vols. (1974), 1:323
And from a different perspective:
- It is different with us (the LDS church) than with the world; we have a main channel through which to receive our light, knowledge and blessings. … You may take the smartest men that talent and learning ever made and put them in the church of God, and they never can get ahead of their leader. Their wisdom would be turned into folly. Why? Because they are not called to lead.
If a man has never learned a letter of a book, if the Lord calls upon him to lead the church and kingdom of God, he will give him power to do it. We have had these lessons laid before us day after day, calling upon us to be united, and our hearts to become as the heart of one man, that our prayers and works may be centered to one point in carrying out the counsel of our head.
The Lord will lead [the President of the Church] where he wants him to go. We know God is with him, and has led him all the time. … It requires [the prophet] to tell us what is right and what is wrong in many things, because that is his place and calling. ... A perfect channel exists between the Lord and him, through which he obtains wisdom, which is diffused through other channels to the people. That we know. We have got to learn to bring this knowledge into practice.
President Wilford Woodruff; Deseret News, December 16, 1857, 324–25
God is not an author of confusion. Mankind does not have the wisdom to discover God's holy ways unaided. The Book of Mormon sheds light on many of the teachings of the Savior which are not in the Bible, or are not clear in the Bible. Thus it is a companion to the Bible.
But living prophets are just as important as the Book of Mormon. In fact, if the LDS church lost its living prophets, who receive continual revelation from God, the church itself would quickly deteriorate into being led by false doctrines.
- And be it known that whenever a people believe the canon of scripture is complete; whenever they try to feed themselves spiritually upon the prophetic word of the past alone; whenever they are without [living] prophets and apostles to give them the living word; whenever they cease to receive new revelations—then they are no longer capable of interpreting and understanding past revelations. The prophecies of the past can only be understood by living prophets who are endowed with power from on high and whose minds are enlightened by the same Holy Spirit who authored the ancient word.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie; The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [1979–81], 1:275–76
Chapter 1: The History of the Book of Mormon
Chapter 2: An Overview of the Book of Mormon
Chapter 4: The Fruit of the Book of Mormon