Chapter 14 The Book Of Mormon

ARTICLE 8 -- * * * * We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.


What is the Book of Mormon? -- The Book of Mormon is a divinely inspired record, made by the prophets of the ancient peoples who inhabited the American continent for centuries before and after the time of Christ, which record has been translated in the present generation through the gift of God and by His special appointment. The authorized and inspired translator of these sacred scriptures, through whose instrumentality they have been given to the world in modern language, is Joseph Smith, whose first acquaintance with the plates received mention in our first chapter. As stated, during the night of September 21-22, 1823, Joseph Smith received, in answer to fervent prayer, a visitation from a resurrected personage FN who gave his name as Moroni. Subsequent revelations showed him to be the last of a long line of prophets whose translated writings constitute the Book of Mormon; by him the ancient records had been closed; by him the engraved plates had been deposited in the earth; and through his ministration they were brought into the possession of the latter-day prophet and seer whose work of translation is before us.

On the occasion of his first visit to Joseph Smith, Moroni told of the existence of the record, which, he said, was engraved on plates of gold, at that time lying buried in the side of a hill near Joseph's home. The hill, which was known by one division of the ancient peoples as Cumorah, by another as Ramah, is situated near Palmyra in the State of New York. The precise spot where the plates lay was shown to Joseph in vision; and he had no difficulty in finding it on the day following the visitation referred to. Joseph Smith's statement of Moroni's declaration concerning the plates is as follows: "He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former-inhabitants of this continent, and the source from which they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants; Also, that there were two stones in silver bows -- and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim -- deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted 'seers' in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book." FN

Joseph found a large stone at the indicated spot on the hill Cumorah; beneath the stone was a box, also of stone; the lid of this he raised by means of a lever; then he saw within the box the plates and the breastplate with the Urim and Thummim, as described by the angel. As he was about to remove the contents of the box, Moroni again appeared before him and forbade him taking the sacred things at that time, saying that four years must pass before they would be committed to his personal care; and that, in the meantime, Joseph would be required to visit the place at yearly intervals. This the youthful revelator did, receiving on each occasion additional instruction concerning the record and God's purposes with regard to it. On September 22, 1827, Joseph received from the angel Moroni the plates and the Urim and Thummim with the breastplate. He was instructed to guard them with strict care, and was promised that if he used his best efforts to protect them they would be preserved inviolate in his hands, and that on the completion of the labor of translation Moroni would visit him again and receive the plates.

The reason prompting the caution regarding Joseph's care of the plates and other objects soon appeared, for in the course of his short journey homeward with the sacred relics he was attacked; but by divine aid he was enabled to withstand his assailants and finally reached his home with the plates and other articles unharmed. These assaults were but the beginning of a siege of persecution, which was relentlessly waged against him as long as the plates remained in his custody. News that he had the plates in his possession soon spread; and numerous attempts, many of them violent, were made to wrest them from his hands. But they were preserved; and, slowly, with many hindrances incident to persecution by the wicked, and to the conditions of his own poverty, which made it necessary for him to toil and left little leisure for the appointed labor, Joseph proceeded with the translation; and in 1830 the Book of Mormon was first published to the world.

The Title page of the Book of Mormon -- Our best answer to the question -- What is the Book of Mormon? -- is found on the title page to the volume. Thereon we read:



An Account Written by



Taken from the Plates of Nephi

Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites -- Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile -- Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation -- Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed -- To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof -- Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile -- The interpretation thereof by the gift of God.

An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven -- Which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever -- And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations -- And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things Of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.

This combined title and preface is a translation from the last page of the plates, and was presumably written by Moroni, who, as before stated, sealed and hid up the record in former days. FN

Main Divisions of the Book -- From the title page, we learn that in the Book of Mormon we have to deal with the histories of two nations, who flourished in America as the descendants of small colonies brought hither from the eastern continent by divine direction. Of these we may conveniently speak as the Nephites and the Jaredites.

The Nephite Nation was the later, and in point of the fulness of the records, the more important. The progenitors of this people were led from Jerusalem in the year 600 B.C., by Lehi, a Jewish prophet of the tribe of Manasseh. His immediate family, at the time of their departure from Jerusalem, comprised his wife Sariah, and their sons Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi; at a later stage of the history daughters are mentioned, but whether any of these were born before the family exodus we are not told. Beside his own household, the colony of Lehi included Zoram and Ishmael, the latter an Israelite of the tribe of Ephraim. FN Ishmael, with his family, joined Lehi's company in the wilderness, and his descendants were numbered with the nation of whom we are speaking. It appears that the company journeyed somewhat east of south, keeping near the borders of the Red Sea; then, changing their course to the eastward, crossed the peninsula of Arabia; and there, on the shores of the Arabian Sea, built and provisioned a vessel in which they committed themselves to divine care upon the waters. It is believed that their voyage must have carried them eastward across the Indian Ocean, then over the Pacific to the western coast of America, whereon they landed about 590 B.C. The landing place is not described in the book itself with such detail as to warrant definite conclusions.

The people established themselves on what to them was the land of promise; many children were born, and in the course of a few generations a numerous posterity held possession of the land. After the death of Lehi a division occurred, some of the people accepting as their leader, Nephi, who had been duly appointed to the prophetic office; while the rest proclaimed Laman, the eldest of Lehi's sons, as their chief. Thenceforth the divided people were known as Nephites and Lamanites respectively. At times they observed toward each other a semblance of friendly relations; but generally they were opposed, the Lamanites manifesting implacable hatred and hostility toward their Nephite kindred. The Nephites advanced in the arts of civilization, built large cities, and established prosperous commonwealths; yet they often fell into transgression, and the Lord chastened them by permitting their hereditary enemies to be victorious. It is traditionally believed that they spread northward, occupying a considerable area in Central America, and then expanded eastward and northward over part of what is now the United States of America. The Lamanites, while increasing in numbers, fell under the curse of divine displeasure; they became dark in skin and benighted in spirit, forgot the God of their fathers, lived a wild nomadic life, and degenerated into the fallen state in which the American Indians -- their lineal descendants -- were found by those who rediscovered the western continent in later times.

The final struggles between Nephites and Lamanites were waged in the vicinity of the Hill Cumorah, in what is now the State of New York, resulting in the destruction of the Nephites as a nation, about 400 A.D. The last Nephite representative was Moroni, who, wandering for safety from place to place, daily expecting death from the victorious Lamanites, wrote the concluding parts of the Book of Mormon, and hid the record in Cumorah. It was this same Moroni who, as a resurrected being, gave the records into the hands of Joseph Smith in the present dispensation.

The Jaredite Nation -- Of the two nations whose histories constitute the Book of Mormon, the first in order of time consisted of the people of Jared, who followed their leader from the Tower of Babel at the time of the confusion of tongues. Their history was written on twenty-four plates of gold by Ether, the last of their prophets, who, foreseeing the destruction of his people because of their wickedness, hid away the historic plates. They were afterward found, about B.C. 122, by an expedition sent out by King Limhi, a Nephite ruler. The record engraved on these plates was subsequently abridged by Moroni, and the condensed account was attached by him to the Book of Mormon record; it appears in the modern translation under the name of the Book of Ether.

The first and chief prophet of the Jaredites is not specified by name in the record as we have it; he is known only as the brother of Jared. Of his people we learn that, amidst the confusion of Babel, Jared and his brother importuned the Lord that they and their associates be spared from the impending disruption. Their prayer was heard, and the Lord led them with a considerable company, who, like themselves, were free from the taint of idolatry, away from their homes, promising to conduct them to a land choice above all other lands. Their course of travel is not given with exactness; we learn only that they reached the ocean and there constructed eight vessels, called barges, in which they set out upon the waters. These vessels were small and dark within; but the Lord made certain stones luminous, and these gave light to the imprisoned voyagers. After a passage of three hundred and forty-four days, the colony landed on the American shores.

Here they became a flourishing nation; but, giving way in time to internal dissensions, they divided into factions, which warred with one another until the people were totally destroyed. This destruction, which occurred near the Hill Ramah, afterward known among the Nephites as Cumorah, probably took place at about the time of Lehi's landing, near 590 B.C. The last representative of the illfated race was Coriantumr, the king, concerning whom Ether had prophesied that he should survive all his subjects and live to see another people in possession of the land. This prediction was fulfilled in that the king, whose people had been exterminated, came, in the course of his solitary wanderings, to a region occupied by the people of Mulek, who are to be mentioned here as the third ancient colony of emigrants from the eastern continent.

Mulek was the son of Zedekiah, king of Judah, an infant at the time of his brothers' violent deaths and his father's cruel torture at the hands of the king of Babylon. FN Eleven years after Lehi's departure from Jerusalem, another colony was led from the city, amongst whom was Mulek. The colony took his name, probably on account of his recognized rights of leadership by virtue of lineage. The Book of Mormon record concerning Mulek and his people is scant; we learn, however, that the colony was brought across the waters to a landing, probably on the northern part of the American continent. The descendants of this colony were discovered by the Nephites under Mosiah; they had grown numerous, but, having had no scriptures for their guidance had fallen into a condition of spiritual darkness. They joined the Nephites and their history is merged into that of the greater nation. FN The Nephites gave to a part of North America the name Land of Mulek.


The plates of the Book of Mormon as delivered by the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith, according to the description given by the latter-day prophet, were, as far as he knew, of gold, of uniform size, each about seven inches wide by eight inches long, and in thickness a little less than that of ordinary sheet tin. They were fastened together by three rings running through the plates near one edge; together they formed a book nearly six inches in thickness, but not all has been translated, a part having been sealed. Both sides of the plates were engraved with small characters, described by those who examined them as of curious workmanship, with the appearance of ancient origin.

Three classes of plates are mentioned on the title page of the Book of Mormon:

1. The Plates of Nephi, which, as will be shown, were of two kinds: (a) the larger plates; (b) the smaller plates.

2. The Plates of Mormon, containing an abridgment from the plates of Nephi, with additions made by Mormon and his son Moroni.

3. The Plates of Ether, containing the history of the Jaredites.

To these may be added another set of plates, as being mentioned in the Book of Mormon, and in point of time the oldest of all:

4. The Brass Plates of Laban, brought by Lehi's people from Jerusalem, and containing Jewish scriptures and genealogies, many extracts from which appear in the Nephite records. We have now to consider more particularly the plates of Nephi and Mormon's abridgment thereof.

The Plates of Nephi are so named from the fact that they were prepared and their record was begun by Nephi, son of Lehi. These plates were of two kinds, FN which may be distinguished as the larger plates and the smaller plates. Nephi began his labors as a recorder by engraving on his plates a historical account of his people from the time his father left Jerusalem. This account recited the story of their wanderings, their prosperity and distress, the reigns of their kings and the wars and contentions of the people,; the record was in the nature of a secular history. These plates were handed from one recorder to another throughout the generations of the Nephite people, so that, at the time of their abridgment by Mormon, the record covered a period of about a thousand years, dating from 600 B.C., the time of Lehi's exodus from Jerusalem. Although these plates bore the name of the first of the writers thereon, the separate work of each recorder is known in general by his specific name, so that the record is made up of several distinct books.

By command of the Lord, Nephi made other plates, upon which he recorded particularly what may be called in a broad sense the ecclesiastical history of his people, citing only such instances of other events as seemed necessary to the proper sequence of the narrative. "I have received a commandment of the Lord," says Nephi, "that I should make these plates, for the special purpose that there should be an account engraven of the ministry of my people." FN The object of this double line of history was unknown to Nephi; it was enough for him that the Lord required the labor; that it was for a wise purpose will be shown.

Mormon's Abridgment -- In the course of time the records that had accumulated passed into the hands of Mormon, FN who undertook to make an abridgment of these extensive works, upon plates made with his own hands. FN By such a course a record was prepared more concise and more nearly uniform in style, language, and treatment than could possibly have been the case with the varied writings of so many authors as had contributed to the great history during the many centuries of its growth. Mormon recognizes and testifies to the inspiration of God by which he was moved to undertake the great labor. FN In preparing this shorter history, Mormon preserved the division of the record into books according to the arrangement of the originals; and thus, though the language may be that of Mormon, except in cases of quotations from the plates of Nephi, which are indeed numerous, we find the Books of Nephi, the Book of Alma, the Book of Helaman, etc., the form of speech known as the first person being generally preserved.

When Mormon, in the course of his work of abridging the voluminous records, had reached the time of King Benjamin's reign, he was deeply impressed with the account engraved on the smaller plates of Nephi -- the history of God's dealings with the people during the period of about four centuries, extending from the time of Lehi's exodus from Jerusalem down to the time of King Benjamin. This record, comprising so much of prophecy concerning the mission of the Savior, was regarded by Mormon with great reverence. Of these plates he attempted no transcript, but included the originals with his own abridgment of the larger plates, making of the two one book. The record as compiled by Mormon contained, therefore, a double account of the descendants of Lehi for the first four hundred years of their history -- the brief secular history condensed from the larger plates, and the full text on the smaller plates. In solemn language, and with an emphasis that subsequent events have shown to be significant, Mormon declares the hidden wisdom of the Lord's purpose in this duplication: "And I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will." FN

The Lord's Purpose in the matter of preparing and preserving the smaller plates as testified of by Mormon and also by Nephi, FN is rendered plain from certain circumstances in this latter-day dispensation attending the translation of the records by Joseph Smith. After the prophet had prepared a translation of the first part of the writings of Mormon, the manuscript was won from his custody through the unrighteous solicitations of Martin Harris, to whom he considered himself indebted for material assistance while he was devoting his time to the work. This manuscript, in all one hundred and sixteen pages, was never returned to Joseph; but, through the dark schemes of evil powers, it fell into the hands of enemies, who straightway laid a wicked plan to ridicule the translator and thwart the purposes of God. This design was that the conspirators wait until Joseph had retranslated the missing matter, when the stolen manuscript, which in the meantime had been altered so that the words were made to express the contrary of the true record, would be set forth as a proof that the prophet was unable to translate the same passages twice alike. But the Lord's wisdom interposed to bring to naught these dark designs.

Having chastened the prophet by depriving him for a season of his gift to translate, as also of the custody of the sacred records, and this for his dereliction in permitting the writings to pass into unappointed hands, the Lord graciously restored His penitent servant to favor, and revealed to him the designs of his enemies, FN at the same time showing how these evil machinations should be made to fail. Joseph was instructed not to attempt a retranslation of that part of Mormon's abridgment, the first translation of which had been stolen; but instead, to translate from the plates of Nephi the record of the same period -- the set of smaller plates which Mormon had incorporated with his own writings. The translation so made was therefore published as the record of Nephi, and not as the writing of Mormon; and thus no second translation was made of the parts from which the stolen manuscript had been prepared.

The Translation of the Book of Mormon was effected through the power of God manifested in the bestowal of the gift of revelation. The book professes not to be dependent upon the wisdom or learning of man; its translator was not versed in linguistics; his qualifications were of a different and of a more efficient order. With the plates, Joseph Smith received from the angel other sacred treasures, including a breastplate, to which were attached the Urim and Thummim, FN called by the Nephites `Interpreters', and by the use of these he was enabled to translate the ancient records into our modern tongue. The details of the work of translation have not been recorded, beyond the statement that the translator examined the engraved characters by means of the sacred instruments, and then dictated to the scribe the English sentences.

Joseph began his work with the plates by patiently copying a number of characters, adding his translation to some of the pages thus prepared. The prophet's first assistant in the labor, Martin Harris, obtained permission to take away some of these transcripts, with the purpose of submitting them to the examination of men learned in ancient languages. He placed some of the sheets before Professor Charles Anthon, of Columbia College, who, after examination, certified that the characters were in general of the ancient Egyptian order, and that the accompanying translations appeared to be correct. Hearing how this ancient record came into Joseph's hands, Professor Anthon requested Mr. Harris to bring the original book for examination, stating that he would undertake the translation of the work; then, learning that a part of the book was sealed, he remarked, "I cannot read a sealed book"; and thus unwittingly did this man fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah concerning the coming forth of the volume: "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." FN Another linguist, a Doctor Mitchell, of New York, having examined the characters, gave concerning them a testimony in all important respects corresponding to that of Professor Anthon.

Arrangement of the Book of Mormon -- The Book of Mormon comprises fifteen separate parts, which with a single exception are called books, and are distinguished by the names of their principal authors. Of these, the first six books, viz., First and Second Nephi, Jacob, Enos, Jarom, and Omni, are literal translations from corresponding portions of the smaller plates of Nephi. The body of the volume, from the book of Mosiah to Mormon, chapter 7, inclusive, is the translation of Mormon's abridgment of the larger plates of Nephi. Between the books of Omni and Mosiah, the "Words of Mormon" occur, connecting the record of Nephi, as engraved on the smaller plates, with Mormon's abridgment of the larger plates for the periods following. The Words of Mormon may be regarded as a brief explanation of the preceding portions of the work and a preface of the parts then to follow. The last part of the Book of Mormon, from the beginning of Mormon, chapter 8, to the end of the volume, is in the language of Moroni, son of Mormon, who first proceeds to finish the record of his father, and then adds an abridgment of a set of plates which contained an account of the Jaredites; this appears as the book of Ether.

At the time of Moroni's writing he stood alone -- the sole surviving representative of his people, excepting the many who had identified themselves with the Lamanites. The last of the fratricidal wars between Nephites and Lamanites had resulted in the annihilation of the former as a people; and Moroni supposed that his abridgment of the book of Ether would be his last literary work; but, finding himself miraculously preserved at the conclusion of that undertaking, he added the part known to us as the book of Moroni, containing accounts of procedure in ordination, baptism, and administration of the sacrament, and a record of certain utterances and writings of his father Mormon.

The Genuineness of the Book of Mormon will appear as the result of impartial investigation into the circumstances attending its coming forth. The fanciful theories of its origin, advanced by prejudiced opponents, are in general too inconsistent, and in most instances too thoroughly puerile, to merit serious consideration. Assumptions that the Book of Mormon is the production of a single author or of men working in collusion, a work of fiction, or in any manner a modern composition, are their own refutation. FN The sacred character of the plates forbade their display as a means of gratifying personal curiosity; nevertheless a number of reputable witnesses examined them, and these men have given to the world their solemn testimony of the facts. In June, 1829, the prophecies respecting the witnesses by whose testimony the word of God as set forth in the Book of Mormon was to be established, FN saw its fulfilment in a manifestation of divine power, demonstrating the genuineness of the record to three men, whose affirmations accompany all editions of the book.


BE IT KNOWN unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.



The testimony so declared was never revoked, nor even modified by any one of the witnesses whose names are subscribed to the foregoing, FN though all of them withdrew from the Church, and developed feelings amounting almost to hatred toward Joseph Smith. To the last of their lives they maintained the same solemn declaration of the angelic visit, and of the testimony that had been implanted in their hearts. Shortly after the witnessing of the plates by the three, other eight persons were permitted to see and handle the ancient records; and in this also was prophecy fulfilled, in that it was of old declared, that beside the three, "God sendeth more witnesses," FN whose testimony would be added to that of the three. Joseph Smith showed the plates to the eight whose names are attached to the following certificate, presumably in July, 1829.


BE IT KNOWN unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of the work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, and that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.









Three of the eight witnesses died out of the Church, yet not one of the whole number ever was known to deny his testimony concerning the Book of Mormon. FN

Here, then, are proofs of varied kinds regarding the reliability of this volume. The translator gives simple and circumstantial account of the bringing forth of the ancient plates, and avers that the translation was effected by the power of God; learned linguists pronounce the engraved characters genuine; eleven men of honest report, beside the translator, make solemn affirmation as to the appearance of the plates; and the nature of the book FN itself sustains the claim that it is nothing other than a translation of ancient records. FN