This article by Neal A. Maxwell was exerpted from the new book A Book of Mormon Treasury, containing gospel insights from General Authorities and religous educators. Read this article to enhance your study of the Book of Mormon as we begin the new course of study.
he Book of Mormon provides resounding and great answers to
designated as "the great question"—namely, is there really a redeeming
Christ? (Alma 34:5-6). The Book of Mormon with clarity and with evidence
says, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" Moreover, in its recurring theme, the book even declares
that "all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world,
unto man, are the typifying of [Christ]" (2 Nephi 11:4). How striking its
answers are, considering all that God might have chosen to tell us! He, before
whom all things—past, present, and future—are continually (see D&C
130:7), has chosen to tell us about the "gospel" (3 Nephi 27:13-14, 21; D&C
33:12; D&C 39:6; 76:40-41)—the transcending "good news," the resplendent
answers to "the great question."
Astoundingly, too, God, who has created "worlds without number" (Moses 1:33,
37-38; see Isaiah 45:18), has chosen to reassure us on this tiny "speck of
sand" that he "doeth not anything save it be for the bene fit of [this] world;
for he loveth [this] world" (2 Nephi 26:24); and "for behold, this is my work
and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man"
It should not surprise us that this glorious gospel message is more perfect
than any of its messengers, save Jesus only. Nor should it surprise us that the
gospel message is more comprehensive than the comprehension of any of its
bearers or hearers, save Jesus only.
Apparently translated by Joseph Smith at an average rate of eight or more of
its printed pages a day, the Book of Mormon's full sig nificance could not have
been immediately and fully savored by the Prophet Joseph. Given this average,
according to Professor Jack Welch, only one and a half days, for instance,
would have been spent translating all of the first five chapters of Mosiah, a
remarkable sermon about which books will be written.
Coming forth as the Book of Mormon did in Bible Belt and revival conditions
early in this dispensation, we of the Church have been slow to appreciate its
special relevance to the erosive conditions in our time, the latter part of
this dispensation. Questioning and doubting has grown rapidly on the part of
some scholars and even some clerics about the historicity of Jesus. Such,
however, was not the America of 1830. Demographically speaking, therefore, the
majority of the "ministry" of the Book of Mormon is occurring in a time of deep
uncertainty and unrest concerning "the great question"—the very question
which the Book of Mormon was created to answer!
Another strong impression is how the Book of Mormon foretells the latter-
day emergence of "other books" of scripture (1 Nephi 13:39), of which it is
one, "proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true, and that God does
inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well
as in generations of old" (D&C 20:11).
With regard to omissions from the precious Holy Bible, in just one chapter
of 1 Nephi, chapter 13, four phrases appear: taken away, four times;
taken out, once; kept back, twice; and taken away out of,
once. Eight indications of omissions because of transmission deficiencies
appear in one chapter! Moreover, as Nephi indicated, it was the "precious
things" which had been lost. You will recall that Joseph Smith's translation of
Luke 11:52 shows Jesus criticizing those, then, who had "taken away the key of
knowledge, the fulness of the scriptures" (Joseph Smith Translation, Luke
While we do not know precisely what was "kept back" or "taken away" (see 1
Nephi 13:40), logically there would be a heavy representation of such plain and
precious truths in the Restoration. Therefore, the "other books" provide
precisely that which God is most anxious to have "had again" among the children
of men, so that we might know the truth of things, in Jacob's felicitous
phrase, of "things as they really are" (Jacob 4:13).
The convergence of these "other books" of scripture with the precious Bible
is part of the rhythm of the Restoration. The rhythm would have been impossible
except for devoted and heroic individuals, including the Jewish prophets and
the Jewish people of antiquity who, in the words of the Book of Mormon,
had "travails," "labors," and "pains" to preserve the Bible for us. Lamentably,
as foreseen, for that contribution the Jews have been unthanked, as a people,
and instead have been "cursed," "hated," and made "game" of (see 2 Nephi 29:4-
5; 3 Nephi 29:4, 8). A much later expression of the rhythm of the Restoration
is symbolically reflected, too, in the graves of some Church members of the
1830s buried in Ohio and Indiana. Recently discovered, there is a trail of
testifying tombstones which display, in stone, replicas of both the Bible
and the Book of Mormon. These members felt doubly blessed and wanted the
world to know it.
The existing scriptures advise of more than twenty other books to come
forth1 (see 1 Nephi 19:10-16). One day, in fact, "all things shall be revealed
unto the children of men which ever have been . . . and which ever will be" (2
Nephi 27:11). Hence, the ninth article of faith is such an impressive
statement! My personal opinion, however, is that we will not get additional
scriptures until we learn to appreciate fully those we already have.
The "other books," particularly the Book of Mormon, fulfill—if
constitutional lawyers will forgive me—Nephi's "establishment
clause": "These last records . . . shall establish the truth of the
first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb" (1 Nephi 13:40). What the
latter- day seer, Joseph Smith, brought forth will actually aid some people in
accepting God's word which had already gone forth, namely the Bible (see 2
Nephi 3:11), by convincing them "that the records of the prophets and of the
twelve apostles of the Lamb are true" (1 Nephi 13:39). There is high drama
Meanwhile, even as the criticism of the Book of Mormon continues to
intensify, the book continues to testify and to diversify its displays of
interior consistency, conceptual richness, and its connections with
The plentitude of the Restoration followed as foreseen by Amos: "a famine in
the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the
words of the Lord" (Amos 8:11). The end of that famine was marked by the coming
of the Book of Mormon and the "other books."
Such books have been and are the Lord's means of preserving the spiritual
memory of centuries past. Without moral memory, spiritual tragedy soon
follows: "Now . . . there were many of the rising generation that . . . did not
believe what had been said concerning the resurrection of the dead, neither did
they believe concerning the coming of Christ" (Mosiah 26:1-2).
And on another occasion: "And at the time that Mosiah discovered them . . .
they had brought no records with them; and they denied the being of their
Creator" (Omni 1:17).
Belief in Deity and the Resurrection are usually the first to go.
Ironically, though we gratefully accept the Bible as the word of God, the very
process of its emergence has, alas, caused an unnecessary slackening of the
Christian faith on the part of some. Because available Bible sources are not
original but represent dated derivations and translations, "other books" of
scripture, which have come to us directly from ancient records and modern
revelations, are even more prized.
Paul, for instance, wrote his first epistle to the Corinthians about A.D.
56. We do not, of course, have that original parchment. Instead, the earliest
document involving the first epistle to the Corinthians was discovered in the
1930s and is dated to about A.D. 200. By compar ison, King Benjamin's sermon
was given in about 124 B.C. by a prophet. In the late fourth century A.D. it
was selected by another prophet—Mormon—to be a part of the Book of
Mormon. Benjamin's sermon was translated into English in A.D. 1829 by Joseph
Smith, another prophet. There was, therefore, an unbroken chain of a prophet-
originator, a prophet- editor, and a prophet- translator collaborating in a
Even so, some discount the Book of Mormon because they cannot see the plates
from which it was translated. Furthermore, they say that we do not know enough
about the process of translation. But Moroni's promise to serious readers, to
be discussed shortly, involves reading and praying over the book's substance,
not over the process of its production. We are "looking beyond the mark" (Jacob
4:14), therefore, when, figuratively speaking, we are more interested in the
physical dimensions of the cross than what was achieved thereon by Jesus. Or,
when we neglect Alma's words on faith because we are too fascinated by the
light- shielding hat reportedly used by Joseph Smith during some of the
translating of the Book of Mormon.2
Most of all, I have been especially struck in rereading and pondering the
Book of Mormon with how, for the serious reader, it provides a very, very
significant response to what might be called modern man's architectonic
needs—that is, our deep needs to discern some design, purpose, pattern, or
plan regarding human existence.
No less than fifteen times, the Book of Mormon uses the word plan in
connection with the plan of salvation or its components. The very use of the
word plan is itself striking. In bringing back this particular "plain
and precious" truth—namely, God not only lives but does have a plan for
mankind—the Book of Mormon is unusually relevant for our age and time.
Phrases about God's planning from the "foundation of the world" appear not at
all in the Old Testament but ten times in the New Testament and three times as
often in the other books.3 Foundation, of course, thus denotes a
creation overseen by a loving and planning God.
The Book of Mormon lays further and heavy emphasis on how the gospel, in
fact, has been with mankind from Adam on down. Only six pages into the book, we
read of the testifying words of all the prophets "since the world began" (1
Nephi 3:20); five pages later, a recitation notes the words of the "holy
prophets, from the beginning" (1 Nephi 5:13). This one verse represents
many: "For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of
the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the
prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not
spoken more or less concerning these things?" (Mosiah 13:33; see also 2 Nephi
It seems probable that there will be some additional discoveries of ancient
records pertaining to the Old and New Testaments, further shrinking the time
between the origination of those scriptures and the earliest available
documentation. However, this shrinking will not automatically lead to an
enlarging of the faith—at least of some. Future discoveries of
ancient documents that may "throw greater views upon [His] gospel" (D&C 10:45)
may also focus on portions of Jesus' gospel which existed before Jesus'
mortal ministry. Unfortunately, a few may unjustifiably use such discoveries to
diminish the divinity of the Redeemer, inferring that Jesus is therefore not
the originator, as previously thought. However, the restored gospel, including
the Book of Mormon, gives us such a clear reading of the spiritual history of
mankind, showing God's "tender mercies" (see 1 Nephi 1:20; Ether 6:12) from
Adam on down. There is thus no need for us to be anxious about finding a
reliable portion of Christ's gospel before Christ's mortal ministry. The gospel
was preached and known from the beginning (see Moses 5:58-59).
The detailed, interior correlation of the Book of Mormon—indeed of all
true scripture—is marvelous to behold. Centuries before Christ's birth,
King Benjamin prophesied: "And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning"
The resurrected Jesus introduced Himself to the Nephites with strikingly
similar words centuries later: "Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I
created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with
the Father from the beginning" (3 Nephi 9:15).
But back to God's enfolding plan: Alma, after a discussion of the Fall,
declared it was "expedient that man should know concerning the things whereof
[God] had appointed unto them; therefore [God] sent angels to converse with
them . . . and [make] known unto them the plan of redemption, which had been
prepared from the foundation of the world" (Alma 12:28-30). This is the very
process which was followed, of course, in North America in the first half of
the nineteenth century through angelic visitations to Joseph Smith.
At the center of this architectonic responsiveness, with its related
dispensational emphasis, is the Book of Mormon's steady, Christian core. Jacob
wrote, "We knew of Christ . . . many hundred years before his coming; . . .
also all the holy prophets which were before us. Behold, they believed in
Christ and worshipped the Father in his name, . . . [keeping] the law of Moses,
it pointing our souls to him" (Jacob 4:4-5). Jacob was emphatic: "None of the
prophets have written . . . save they have spoken concerning this Christ"
God witnesses to us in so many ways: "Yea, and all things denote there is a
God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and
its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do
witness that there is a Supreme Creator" (Alma 30:44; see also Moses 6:63).
A believing British scientist has observed that our planet is especially
situated: "Just a bit nearer to the sun, and Planet Earth's seas would soon be
boiling; just a little farther out, and the whole world would become a frozen
wilderness." This scientist noted: "If our orbit happened to be the wrong
shape, . . . then we should alternately freeze like Mars and fry like Venus
once a year. Fortunately for us, our planet's orbit is very nearly a circle."
"The 21 percent of oxygen is another critical figure. Animals would have
difficulty breathing if the oxygen content fell very far below that value. But
an oxygen level much higher than this would also be disastrous, since the extra
oxygen would act as a fire- raising material. Forests and grasslands would
flare up every time lightning struck during a dry spell, and life on earth
would become extremely hazardous."5
When, therefore, we know the affirmative answers to "the great question," we
can, in Amulek's phrase, "live in thanksgiving daily" (Alma 34:38) with
gratitude for the many special conditions which make daily life on this earth
God's encompassing purposes are set forth to the very end of the Book of
Mormon. Moroni urged a precise method of study and verification which, if
followed, will show among other things how merciful the Lord has been unto
mankind "from the creation of Adam" (Moroni 10:3). Foretelling can be
convincing too, along with remembering, in showing the sweep of God's
love. "Telling them of things which must shortly come, that they might know and
remember at the time of their coming that they had been made known unto them
beforehand, to the intent that they might believe" (Helaman 16:5; see also
Every age needs this architectonic message, but none more desperately than
our age, which is preoccupied with skepticism and hedonism: "For how knoweth a
man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is
far from the thoughts and intents of his heart?" (Mosiah 5:13).
If, however, one gets too caught up in the warfare in the Book of Mormon, or
if he is too preoccupied with the process of the book's emergence, such
transcendent truths as the foregoing can easily be overlooked.
Even the title page6 declares, among other things, that the Book of Mormon
was to advise posterity "what great things the Lord hath done for their
fathers." The very lack of such a spiritual memory once led to a decline of
ancient Israel: "There arose another generation after them, which knew not the
Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel" (Judges 2:10).
Why was it so difficult for a whole people—or for Laman and
Lemuel—to maintain faith? Because they were uninformed and unbelieving as
to "the dealings of that God who had created them" (1 Nephi 2:12; 2 Nephi
1:10). Many efforts were made: "I, Nephi, did teach my brethren these
things; . . . I did read many things to them, which were engraven upon the
plates of brass, that they might know concerning the doings of the Lord in
other lands, among people of old" (1 Nephi 19:22).
The prophetic emphasis on the Book of Mormon, therefore, is so pertinent!
Even the criticisms of the book will end up having their usefulness in God's
further plans. Granted, the great answers in the book will not now be accepted
by disbelievers. Such people would not believe the Lord's words—whether
coming through Paul or Joseph Smith—even if they had an original Pauline
parchment or direct access to the gold plates. The Lord once comforted Joseph
Smith by saying such individuals "will not believe my words . . . if [shown]
all these things" (D&C 5:7).
Thus, some decry the Book of Mormon. However, for those who have ears to
hear, it represents an informing but haunting "cry from the dust" (2 Nephi
3:20). It is the voice of a fallen people sent to lift us. Described as
a "whisper out of the dust" (2 Nephi 26:16) from "those who have slumbered" (2
Nephi 27:9), this sound from the dust is the choral cry of many anguished
voices with but a single, simple message. Their spiritual struggles span a few
centuries but concern the message of the ages—the gospel of Jesus Christ!
The peoples of the Book of Mormon were not on the center stage of secular
history. Instead, theirs was a comparatively little theater. Yet it featured
history's largest message.
Not pleasing to those who crave other kinds of history, the Book of Mormon
is pleasing to those who genuinely seek answers to "the great question" (Alma
34:5). Contrary to the sad conclusion now reached by many, the Book of Mormon
declares to us again and again that the universe is not comprised of what has
been called "godless geometric space." 7
Granted, too, usually the "learned shall not read [these things], for they
have rejected them" (2 Nephi 27:20). This is not solely a reference to
Professor Anthon, since the plural pronoun they is used. The reference
suggests a mind- set of most of the learned of the world, who, by and large,
do not take the Book of Mormon seriously. Even when they read it, they do not
really read it, except with a mind- set which excludes miracles,
including the miracle of the book's coming forth by the "gift and power of
God." Their flawed approach diverts them from scrutinizing the substance.
Sometimes, as has been said, certain mortals are so afraid of being "taken in,"
they cannot be "taken out" of their mind- sets.8
How dependent mankind is, therefore, upon emancipating revelation: "Behold,
great and marvelous are the works of the Lord. How unsearchable are the depths
of the mysteries of him; and it is impos sible that man should find out all his
ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore,
brethren, despise not the revelations of God" (Jacob 4:8).
Now to Moroni's promise, which is a promise that rests on a premise, a
promise with several parts. The reader is (1) to read and ponder, (2) while
remembering God's mercies to mankind from Adam until now, and (3) to pray in
the name of Christ and ask God with real intent if the book is true, (4) while
having faith in Christ, then (5) God will manifest the truth of the book. The
reverse approach, scanning while doubting, is the flip side of Moroni's
methodology and produces flippant conclusions. Moroni's process of verification
is surely not followed by many readers or reviewers of this book. This leads to
misapprehension—like mistakenly labeling rumor with her thousand tongues
as the gift of tongues!
Therefore, we should not be deluded into thinking that these "other books"
will be welcomed, especially by those whose sense of sufficiency is expressed
thus: "There cannot be any more" such books and "we need no more" such books (2
Nephi 29:3, 6).
Another strong impression from my rereading is how the Book of Mormon
peoples, though Christians, were tied, until Jesus came, much more strictly to
the preexilic law of Moses than we in the Church have fully appreciated. "And,
notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look
forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled" (2
People back then were thus to "look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in
him to come as though he already was" (Jarom 1:11). Moses indeed prophesied of
the Messiah, but not all of his words are in the treasured Old Testament.
Recall the walk of the resurrected Jesus with two disciples on the road to
Emmaus? Their walk probably covered about twelve kilometers and provided ample
time for Jesus' recitation of not merely three or four, but many prophecies by
Moses and others concerning Christ's mortal ministry (Luke 24:27).
Scriptures attesting to Jesus' divinity are vital in any age. Otherwise, as
the Book of Mormon prophesies, He will be considered a mere man (Mosiah 3:9) or
a person of "naught" (1 Nephi 19:9). Over the decades, what has been called
the "dilution of Christianity from within"9 has resulted in a number of
theologians not only diminishing their regard for Christ but likewise regarding
the Resurrection as merely "a symbolic expression for the renewal of life for
the disciple."10 Once again we see the supernal importance of the "other books"
of scripture: they reinforce the reality of the Resurrection, especially the
Book of Mormon's additional gospel with its report of the visitation of and
instruction by the resurrected Jesus. The resurrection of many others occurred
and, by Jesus' pointed instruction, was made record of (see 3 Nephi 23:6-
Thus the Book of Mormon resoundingly, richly, and grandly answers the "great
question." Granted, in our day, the post- Christian era, many who are
preoccupied are not even asking that great question anymore, regarding
Christianity "not as untrue or even as unthinkable, but simply irrelevant,"11
just like some in Benjamin and Mosiah's times (see Mosiah 28:1-2; Omni
If the answer to the "great question" were "no," there would quickly come a
wrenching surge of what Professor Hugh Nibley has called the "terrible
Even the historical, political, and geographical setting of the emergence of
the Book of Mormon was special. President Brigham Young boldly declared: "Could
that book have been brought forth and published to the world under any other
government but the Government of the United States? No. [God] has governed and
controlled the settling of this continent. He led our fathers from Europe to
this land . . . and inspired the guaranteed freedom in our Government, though
that guarantee is too often disregarded." 12
In the midst of this continually unfolding drama, a few members of the
Church, alas, desert the cause; they are like one who abandons
an oasis to search for water in the desert. Some of these few will doubtless
become critics, and they will be welcomed into the "great and spacious
building." Henceforth, however, so far as their theological accommodations are
concerned, they are in a spacious but third- rate hotel. All dressed up, as
the Book of Mormon says, "exceedingly fine" (1 Nephi 8:27), they have no place
to go except—one day, hopefully, home.
The great answers to the "great question" repeatedly focus us, therefore, on
the reality of the "great and last sacrifice." "This is the whole meaning of
the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great
and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal" (Alma
34:14). These great answers reaffirm that mortal melancholy need not be,
however frequently and poignantly expressed.
Furthermore, what we receive in the Book of Mormon is not a mere assemblage
of aphorisms, nor is it merely a few individuals offering their philosophical
opinions. Instead, we receive the cumulative witness of prophetic individuals,
especially those who were eyewitnesses of Jesus, including Lehi, Nephi, Jacob,
Alma, the brother of Jared, Mormon, and Moroni. The biblical account of the
five hundred brothers and sisters witnessing the resurrected Jesus (1
Corinthians 15:6) is joined by the witnessing throng of twenty- five hundred
in the land of Bountiful (3 Nephi 17:25). All of these are thus added to the
burgeoning cloud of witnesses about whom the Apostle Paul wrote (Hebrews
The Book of Mormon might have been another kind of book, of course. It could
have been chiefly concerned with the ebb and flow of governmental history; that
is, "Princes come and princes go, an hour of pomp, an hour of show." Such would
not have offset, however, the many despairing books and the literature of
lamentation so much of which we have already, each reminiscent in one way or
another of the hopelessness of these lines from Shelley:
. . . Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, . . .
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.13
Because the editing of the Book of Mormon, with its gospel of hope, occurred
under divine direction, it has a focus which is essentially spiritual. Yet some
still criticize the Book of Mormon for not being what it was never intended to
be, as if one could justifiably criticize the phone directory for lack of a
Some verses in the Book of Mormon are of tremendous salvational
significance, others less so. The book of Ether has a verse about lineage
history: "And Jared had four sons" (and names them) (Ether 6:14). However,
Ether also contains another verse of tremendous salvational significance:
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto
men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men
that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and
have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them" (Ether
We read of a battle "when . . . they slept upon their swords . . . were
drunken with anger, even as a man who is drunken with wine. . . . And when the
night came there were thirty and two of the people of Shiz, and twenty and
seven of the people of Coriantumr" (Ether 15:20-26). Such, however, is of a
much lower spiritual significance for the development of our discipleship than
are these next lines. In all of scripture, these constitute the most complete
delineation of Jesus' requirement that we become as little children (see
Matthew 18:3): ". . . and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble,
patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit
to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father" (Mosiah
One reason to "search the scriptures" is to discover these sudden luxuriant
meadows of meaning, these green pastures to nourish us in our individual times
of need. The Book of Mormon surely has its share and more of these. Immediately
after words about economic conditions in the now vanished city of Helam, we
encounter an enduring and bracing truth: "Nevertheless the Lord seeth fit to
chasten his people; yea, he trieth their patience and their faith" (Mosiah
23:20-21; see also D&C 98:12; Abraham 3:25).
Similarly, the Book of Mormon provides us with insights we may not yet be
ready to manage fully. Astonishingly, Alma includes our pains, sicknesses, and
infirmities, along with our sins, as being among that which Jesus would
also "take upon him" (Alma 7:11-12). It was part of the perfecting of Christ's
mercy by His experiencing "according to the flesh." Nephi in exclaiming "O how
great the plan of our God" (2 Nephi 9:13) also declared how Jesus would
suffer "the pains of all . . . men, women, and children, who belong to the
family of Adam" (2 Nephi 9:21). The soul trembles at those implications. One
comes away weeping from such verses, deepened in his adoration of our
Given such richness, it is unsurprising that the prophets urge us to read
the Book of Mormon. In closing his writings to those who do not respect (1) the
words of the Jews (the Bible), (2) his words (as found in the Book of Mormon),
and (3) also the words from Jesus (from the future New Testament), Nephi said
simply, "I bid you an everlasting farewell" (2 Nephi 33:14).
Mormon is equally emphatic regarding this interactiveness between the Bible
and the Book of Mormon (see Mormon 7:8-9). The interactiveness and cross-
supportiveness of holy scripture was attested to by Jesus: "For had ye believed
Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his
writings, how shall ye believe my words?" (John 5:46-47).
Meanwhile, from those who say, "We have enough, from them shall be taken
away even that which they have" (2 Nephi 28:30). Obviously, this refers not to
the physical loss of the Bible, which may still be on the bookshelf or may be
used as a bookend, but to a sad loss of conviction concerning it on the part
When we "search the scriptures," the luminosity of various verses in the
various books is focused, laserlike. This illumination arcs and then converges,
even though we are dealing with different authors, people, places, and
times: "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" (2 Nephi 29:8).
Believing, however, is not a matter of accessing antiquity with all its
evidence, though we welcome such evidence. Nor is it dependent upon
accumulating welcomed historical evidence either. Rather, it is a matter of
believing in Jesus' words. Real faith, like real humility, is
developed "because of the word"—and not because of surrounding
circumstances (Alma 32:13-14)!
How fitting it is that it should be so! The test is focused on the message,
not on the messengers; on principles, not on process; on doctrines, not on
plot. The emphasis is on belief, per se, "because of the word." As Jesus
told Thomas on the Eastern Hemisphere, "Blessed are they that have not seen,
and yet have believed" (John 20:29). He proclaimed to the Nephites: "More
blessed are they who shall believe in your words because that ye shall testify
that ye have seen me" (3 Nephi 12:2).
True faith therefore, is brought about by overwhelming and intimi dating
divine intervention. The Lord, the Book of Mormon tells us, is a shepherd with
a mild and pleasant voice (see Helaman 5:30-31; 3 Nephi 11:3)—not a
shouting and scolding sheepherder. Others may, if they choose, demand
a "voiceprint" of the "voice of the Lord," but even if so supplied, they would
not like His doctrines anyway (see John 6:66). The things of the Spirit are to
be "sought by faith"; and they are not to be seen through slit- eyed
Without real faith, individuals sooner or later find one thing or another to
stumble over (Romans 9:32). After all, it is a very difficult thing to show the
proud things which they "never had supposed," especially things they do not
really want to know. When Jesus was speaking about Himself as the bread of
life, a powerful doctrine laden with life- changing implications, there was
murmuring. Jesus asked them, "Doth this offend you?" (John 6:61). "Blessed is
he, whosoever shall not be offended in me" (Luke 7:23).
As if all this were not enough, the splendid Book of Mormon advises that a
third scriptural witness is yet to come from the lost tribes (see 2 Nephi 29:12-
14). Its coming is likely to be even more dramatic than the coming forth of the
second testament. Those who doubt or disdain the second testament of Christ
will not accept the third either. But believers will then possess a triumphant
triad of truth (see 2 Nephi 29:12-13). Were it not for the Book of Mormon, we
would not even know about the third set of records!
We do not know when and how this will occur, but we are safe in assuming
that the third book will have the same fundamental focus as the Book of
Mormon: "that . . . their seed [too] . . . may be brought to a knowledge of me,
their Redeemer" (3 Nephi 16:4). If there is a title page in that third set of
sacred records, it is not likely to differ in purpose from the title page in
the Book of Mormon, except for its focus on still other peoples who likewise
received a personal visit from the resurrected Jesus (see 3 Nephi 15:20-24;
Thus in the dispensation of the fulness of times there is not only
a "welding together" (D&C 128:18) of the keys of all the dispensations but
there will also be a "welding together" of all the sacred books of scripture
given by the Lord over the sweep of human history. Then, as prophesied, "my
word also shall be gathered in one" (2 Nephi 29:14). Then there will be one
fold, one shepherd, and one stunning scriptural witness for the Christ!
Given all the foregoing, it is touching that a jailed Joseph Smith, during
his last mortal night, 26 June 1844, bore "a powerful testimony to the guards
of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the
Gospel, the administration of angels"14 (see Alma 12:28-30). The guards
apparently did not hearken then any more than most of the world hearkens now.
Heeded or unheeded, however, the Book of Mormon has a further rendezvous to
keep: "Wherefore, these things shall go from generation to generation as long
as the earth shall stand; and they shall go according to the will and pleasure
of God; and the nations who shall possess them shall be judged of them
according to the words which are written" (2 Nephi 25:22).
For my part, I am glad the book will be with us "as long as the earth shall
stand." I need and want additional time. For me, towers, courtyards, and wings
await inspection. My tour of it has never been completed. Some rooms I have yet
to enter, and there are more flaming fireplaces waiting to warm me. Even the
rooms I have glimpsed contain further furnishings and rich detail yet to be
savored. There are panels inlaid with incredible insights and design and decor
dating from Eden. There are also sumptuous banquet tables painstakingly
prepared by predecessors which await all of us. Yet, we as Church members
sometimes behave like hurried tourists, scarcely venturing beyond the entry
hall to the mansion.
May we come to feel as a whole people beckoned beyond the entry hall. May we
go inside far enough to hear clearly the whispered truths from those who
have "slumbered," which whisperings will awaken in us individually the life of
discipleship as never before.
1. Wars of the Lord, Jasher, more from Samuel, the Acts of Solomon, the book
of Nathan, Shemaiah, Ahijah, Iddo, Jehu, the Sayings of the Seers, at least two
epistles of Paul, books of Enoch, Ezias, Adam's Book of Remembrance, and Gad
the Seer. Thus we are dealing with over twenty missing books. We also have
certain prophecies from Jacob, or Israel, and extensive prophecies by Joseph in
Egypt, only a portion of which we have (see 2 Nephi 3:1-25; 4:1-3; Joseph Smith
Translation, Genesis 50:24-37; Alma 46:24-26).
2. Furthermore, too few people are inclined to follow the counsel of Moroni
regarding the book's substance: "Condemn me not because of mine imperfection,
neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written
before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you
our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been" (Mormon
3. Twenty- two times in the Book of Mormon, ten times in the Doctrine and
Covenants, and three times in the Pearl of Great Price.
4. Alan Hayward, God Is (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1980), 62- 63.
5. Hayward, God Is, 68.
6. Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph
Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 7.
7. Michael Harrington, The Politics at God's Funeral: The Spiritual
Crisis of Western Civilization (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston,
8. C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle (New York: Collier, 1970), 148.
9. Harrington, Politics, 153.
10. Harrington, Politics, 164.
11. Penelope Fitzgerald, The Knox Brothers (New York: Coward, McCann
& Geoghegen, 1977), 106- 7.
12. Brigham Young, in Journal of Discourses (London: Latter- day
Saints' Book Depot, 1854-86), 8:67.
13. Percy Bysshe Shelley, "Ozymandias," Norton Anthology of English
Literature (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1986), 2:691.
14. Smith, Teachings, 383.