There are a few "preface" type parts of The Book of Mormon that weren't part of the plates hidden by Moroni. They are written by Joseph Smith and others in preparation for publishing. They are included by way of explanation, introduction and witness. Since most of you have probably never read The Book of Mormon, I thought it would be good to start with them. All direct quotes from The Book of Mormon will be in a different font and color than the words I write, just for clarity. They will also be linked to the LDS.org Book of Mormon webpages, so you can go read them for yourself, in their full context.
In the title page, Mormon shows his humility and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in Our Heavenly Father. He gives them full credit for inspiring him to continue and abridge the record of his people. He also prophesies of how the record will someday be hidden up to protect it, then revealed to the world.
The Book of Ether is introduced as part of the record, but he explains that the book was an abridgement of another record, from another prophet.
From a purely historical standpoint, the Book of Mormon is a record of a family and their posterity. The family of the prophet Lehi, his wife Sariah and their 4 sons (Laman, Lemuel, Sam and Nephi), beginning in Jerusalem around 600bc. While the others are mentioned, the key players are Lehi, Laman and Nephi.
Lehi was a prophet who taught the people of Jerusalem and his family. Like most prophets who speak too plainly about bad tidings to come, he wasn’t very well received by the people… or two of his sons.
Laman was the oldest, but didn’t care much for the revelations his father went on and on about. I think it’s interesting though that as much as he whined and complained about his father, he had enough respect for him to do what his father asked of him; even when it didn’t seem to make much sense.
This would change though, since Laman would become the patriarch of the people of the family who turn away from God, so much so that they were willing to kill any Nephite on sight.
That brings us to Nephi, the consummate “good son”. Nephi didn’t just want to listen and obey his father, he wanted a deep, personal understanding of what his father taught. When his father taught something new, Nephi went to Our Heavenly Father in prayer, so that he too could receive the revelation first hand.
Nephi’s faith helped carry the family through many trials and hardships, even while Laman and Lemuel seemed to make it their goal to make things worse. Nephi would become the patriarch of the part of the family who accepted Christ and looked forward to the day the prophesies of the Messiah would come to pass.
From a more spiritual and scriptural standpoint, The Book of Mormon teaches us the Gospel of Jesus Christ, some of those points begin with the title page.
Prophesy and revelation are common themes in The Book of Mormon. Revelation to Lehi is the reason the family left their comfortable lives in Jerusalem in the first place. It leads them through the wilderness and across the ocean. Those are some pretty huge leaps of faith, especially considering only 2 or 3 of them bothered to pray to Our Heavenly Father to find out if Lehi was speaking truth, or just had a wander lust bigger than the wilderness and ocean put together.
Finally (around 440a.d.) the lasts of the Nephites (the prophet Moroni) hid the plates of Mormon in a hill in what is now upstate New York. He hid it so the Lamanites wouldn’t find it, and destroy it. He was told that there would come a day when it would be found (again, through revelation), interpreted and published so the people of the future would have that record.
Like the Old and New Testaments, the records that became The Book of Mormon were not written for the people of the day and age in which they were written. They were written for the people who would come later (namely, us). They were written to teach, inspire, motivate and warn believers and non believers alike. However, we can’t be taught, inspired or motivated if the words are left collecting dust (dust doesn’t need to be taught, inspired or motivated). We can’t heed the warnings if they remain locked between the pages of a closed book (or unopened website).
For further explanation of what The Book of Mormon is, please read the Introduction. I chose not to do a separate article on it because it explains it a lot better than I could.
So let’s dive boldly and unabashedly into the lives and times of this amazing family! Let’s learn of their trials, tribulations, joys and pains… as we learn about our own lives and and the answers to those ultimate questions…
Who are we?
Why are we here?
Where are we going when this life is over?
And some other ultimate questions to life, the universe and everything that can’t be answered with “42”.
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