The Book of Mormon is a compilation of accounts written over the span of thousands of years that tells of three groups of people who were driven from their homeland due to religious persecution. Eventually, all three groups found refuge somewhere in the Americas: the people of Lehi--who split into the Nephites and Lamanites, the people of Zarahemla--who eventually joined the Nephites, and the Jaredites--who we read about briefly in the book of Ether. Comprised of books written by ancient prophets, the purpose of The Book of Mormon is to testify of Jesus Christ. The book was translated by Joseph Smith Jr. in 1830 and is available free to anyone who wants to read it. (Details at the end.)
I've read The Book of Mormon before, but one of the things that struck me this time as I read more rapidly than usual was the different voices that came through in the many books. You can tell especially in the first seven books (1 Nephi through Words of Mormon) that each author has his own pacing, his own way of describing things, and special words and themes he uses more frequently. For example, Nephi focused a lot on his trust in the Lord to be obedient to his commandments. His faith was unwavering as he was led time and again to do things he never would have done except that he was commanded to do so. His absolute trust in the Lord was apparent in all his writing. Nephi tells us that his people are a branch broken off from the twelve tribes of Israel.
After the first six books, we are introduced to Mormon, who abridged most of the remainder of the book from other records. Born around AD 311, Mormon served as narrator to tie together the stories found in the book. He includes many passages of direct quotes from other prophets through the years, such as King Benjamin, King Mosiah, Alma, Samuel, and many others.
After Mormon dies, his son, Moroni, takes over. Moroni includes a brief glimpse into a more ancient record he has access to that tells of another group of people, the Jaredites, who lived and died many centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ. His abridgment is taken from a record written by Ether, the prophet who witnessed the destruction of the Jaredite nation.
This action/adventure book has it all: wars, journeys, intrigue, angels, destruction, salvation, and love. A few of my favorite stories include the following:
- Nephi's wife faces down his bully brothers to plead for his life.
- King Benjamin teaches his people to love and serve each other if they want to serve God.
- Ammon and his fellow missionaries give up 16 years of their lives to bring a message of salvation to their enemies.
- The people of Ammon suffer death rather than lift a sword against their enemies.
- The mothers of the stripling warriors under Helaman's care imbue their children with so much faith that they cannot be destroyed in battle.
- God loved the world so much that he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to atone for the sins of everyone who ever has and ever will live on earth.
The entire book points to a single event in 3 Nephi when Jesus Christ visits these people on the American continent. Over the course of several chapters, he teaches the people as he did in Israel. He tells them, "Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world" (3 Ne. 11: 10). He ministered to them, healing their sick, blessing their children, and allowing them to feel the nail prints in his hands and in his feet. He showed them, and they testify to us, that he lived again after he died, that he still lives, and that he atoned for our sins. That we, through him, can live again.
This book changed my life once again.
You can get a free copy of The Book of Mormon or read it online here.
A few of my favorite scriptures from this book (how can I choose?):
1 Ne 3:7 I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, . . .
2 Ne. 25:26 We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, . . .
2 Ne. 32:3 . . . feast upon the words of Christ . . .
Mos. 28: 3 . . . they could not bear that any human soul should perish; . . .
Alma 14:26 O Lord, give us strength according to our faith which is in Christ, even unto deliverance.
3 Ne. 11:10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
3 Ne. 17:17 . . . no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father.
3 Ne. 17:21-24 . . . and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
Mormon 7:5 . . . believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, . . . in him is the sting of death swallowed up.
Moroni 10:32 . . . come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; . . .