The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon, named after Mormon (A.D. 310-385), the chief "editor" of the record, is a collection of ancient sacred records describing God's dealings with three groups of people He led to the New World. Two of these groups (The Jaredites and the Nephites) kept records, the third (Mulekites) did not. These records appear combined in the Book of Mormon as a collection of 15 books.
The Jaredites came from the the tower of Babel at the time of the confounding of languages around 2350 B.C. Their civilization lasted over 2000 years. Their record is told in the Book of Ether. The Nephites are a branch of the House of Israel. They came to the Americas from Jerusalem around 600 B.C. They divided into two groups (Nephites and Lamanites) shortly after their arrival in the New World. The Nephites were the more righteous group and their story is contained in the other 14 books making up the Book of Mormon. Contained in the Nephite record is the account of Christ's visit to them after His resurrection, and of 200 years of a peaceful, loving existence after this extraordinary ministry. They were destroyed as a people by the Lamanites in A.D. 385 because of their eventual departure from God and Christ, and their willful disobedience.
The Mulekites did not keep records, but they are briefly mentioned in some of the Nephite records. They also were of the House of Israel and came to the New World around 586 B.C. Mulek was the son of King Zedekiah of Judah. The Mulekites, as a people, eventually merged with the Nephites around 200 B.C.
The purposes of the Book of Mormon are:
To tell the descendants of Lehi about their heritage as part of the House of Israel;
To bear witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God;
To warn the inhabitants of the Land of Promise (the Americas) to be faithful to God and serve Him, or be destroyed;
To reveal that the New Jerusalem (Zion) spoken of in the Bible is to be built in the Land of Promise
Some Questions and Answers about The Book of Mormon
Q. How did we get the Book of Mormon?
A. Mormon abridged a thousand years of history in the records of the Nephites and Jaredites and gave this abridgement to his son Moroni to finish around A.D. 385. Moroni did so and hid the records as directed by God sometime after A.D. 420. In 1827 the angel Moroni gave it to Joseph Smith Jr. Joseph translated this record by the gift and power of God using holy instruments called the Urim and Thummim (as found in the Old Testament). The Book of Mormon was then first published in 1830.
Does this story sound unbelievable to you? Then do you also disbelieve that God spoke to Moses through a burning bush, or that an angel of the Lord appeared unto Mary and told her of the coming birth of the Son of God, or that a host of angels sang to shepherds in a field near Bethlehem, or that Peter walked on water until his faith failed, or that Joshua marched around Jericho until the walls of the city fell, or that Daniel interpreted the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar or escaped a den of lions unharmed, or that Shadrach (Hananiah), Meshach (Mishael), and Abednego (Azariah) stood safely in the midst of a burning furnace that consumed their guards? The power of God is infinite! His works and miracles span eternity.
Q. Why read the Book of Mormon?
A. It contains the words of Christ and confirms His identity as the Only Begotten Son of God. This additional testimony of Christ the Messiah is necessary for the restoration of the House of Israel, and will be instrumental in convincing the Israelites that Jesus is indeed the Messiah. It contains "many plain and precious truths" not found elsewhere, including some which have been removed from the Bible during its many translations throughout history (up to and including the King James version). It contains firsthand accounts of the ministry of the resurrected Jesus and gives additional insights into the principles of the gospel. It contains prophecies about the restoration of the House of Israel not found elsewhere.
Q. Doesn't the Bible end with a warning that no man should add to it?
A. First, the Book of Mormon is a separate book from the Bible. It is not an addition to it. Second, and more importantly, no, the Bible does not end with this warning! The Bible, as a complete compilation of books, did not exist when John the Revelator closed the Book of Revelations with that warning! The Book of Revelations does end with this warning, and many books in the Old Testament contain similar warnings! These warnings were meant to apply only to the single books of the Bible in which they appear. It should also be noted that the Book of Revelation was written before some of the other books in the New Testament!
Q. I am a Christian, and I believe in the Bible. Is there anything in the Bible that refers to Israelites in the Americas, the Book of Mormon, or to any kind of visitation of Christ in the Americas?
A. Yes to all three questions! First, the Book of Ezekiel contains prophecies describing the records of two branches of the House of Israel:
The word of the Lord came again unto me, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions; then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand. And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying,Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?
Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand. � Ezekiel 37:15-19
This passage in Ezekiel goes on to describe the restoration of the House of Israel by the hand of God. The prophecy indicates that the "sticks" (books) of Judah (Old Testament of the Bible) and of Ephraim, son of Joseph (the Book of Mormon) will be used together as part of this great work.
The Book of Genesis refers to a branch of the lineage of Joseph (son of Jacob) as going "over the wall":
Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall. � Genesis 49:22
The Book of Isaiah indicates that the seed of Joseph (son of Jacob) would inhabit a land across the sea (the sea is the same as "the wall" referred to in Genesis):
...they wandered through the wilderness: her branches are stretched out, they are gone over the sea. � Isaiah 16:8
Second, Isaiah also contains a prophecy concerning the Book of Mormon itself in Chapter 29. This chapter refers to a "voice coming out of the ground" (the records translated by Joseph Smith Jr. were from plates hidden in the ground). This chapter goes on to describe an account that actually happened during the translation of these records:
And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned. � Isaiah 29:11,12
In 1828, Joseph Smith Jr. copied onto paper some of the characters inscribed on the gold plates. He gave this paper to Martin Harris, a friend and assistant to Smith during the translation, who took them to a professor for his evaluation. Here is Martin Harris' account of this event as found in The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint, Volume 1, p. 19:
"I went to the city of New York and presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Professor Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments. Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those which were not yet translated, and he said that they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic, and he said that they were the true characters. He gave me a certificate certifying to the people of Palmyra [New York] that they were the true characters, and that the translation of such of them as had been translated was also correct. I took the certificate and put it into my pocket, and was just leaving the house, when Mr. Anthon called me back, and asked me how the young man [Joseph Smith, Jr.] found out that there were gold plates in the place where he found them. I answered that an angel of God had revealed it unto him.
"He then said to me, 'Let me see that certificate.' I accordingly took it out of my pocket and gave it to him, when he took it and tore it to pieces, saying that there was no such thing now as ministering of angels, and that if I would bring the plates to him, he would translate them. I informed him that part of the plates were sealed, and that I was forbidden to bring them. He replied, 'I cannot read a sealed book.' I left him and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation."
Thus, Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled regarding the "learned man" (Professor Anthon) who said he "cannot read a sealed book", and also the prophecy of an "unlearned man" (Joseph Smith, Jr., who originally lamented to the Lord that he was not learned when he was instructed to translate the records).
Third, Jesus mentioned to His disciples that He would minister to another people apart from the Jews and Gentiles of the Old World:
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. � John 10:16
For an on-line version of the Book of Mormon, go to Scripture Search.
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