Reflections on Reading the Book of Mormon

A couple of days ago I finished reading the Book of Mormon, which I had started in October based on President Nelson’s challenge.

About a year ago I recall opining that the Book of Mormon peoples had a more complete version of the creation narrative, a narrative which was neutered by the Deuteronomists and then corrupted during the Babylonian captivity. At that time I was wondering if the fullness of that creation narrative, which we see in accounts canonized in the Pearl of Great Price and the temple endowment, could have been contained in the initial manuscript pages that have been lost.

During this reading, however, I realized the fullness of the creation narrative can be found scattered throughout the extant Book of Mormon, included as asides during doctrinal discussions about the purpose of this life and the need for a Redeemer.

Saving the 60 Billion

According to some estimates, roughly 60 billion humans have lived on this earth, including the ~7 billion that are alive at the moment.

If God’s plan includes offering redemption to all His children, how are the bulk of the 60 billion to be saved? As many cultures are lost to memory, we cannot do the work entirely by means of searching out the records. There must needs be a way to learn the identities of those memory has forgotten.

Reviewing the ministry of Jesus Christ in America, I was struck by the mention of the ministry the three disciples of Christ would perform in this world:

Therefore, great and marvelous works shall be wrought by them, before the great and coming day when all people must surely stand before the judgment-seat of Christ;

Yea even among the Gentiles shall there be a great and marvelous work wrought by them, before that judgment day. (3 Nephi 28: 31-32)

Despite scattered stories of how unknown individuals assisted people 1, there has not yet been a great and marvelous work wrought by them to our knowledge. It seems to me that helping reveal the names and relationships of lost humanity would appropriately be a great and marvelous work to prepare for the judgment day.

Children of Abinadom

One of the delights in reading the Book of Mormon in company with millions of others was the synergy of insights. One sister explored for us what it meant that Laban had command of his fifty, yea even his ten thousand. Laban, she argued, was clearly a key military leader. Had he not been rendered unable to report, the armies of Jerusalem would have scoured the wilderness and eradicated Lehi and his family. On the other hand, the recent predations of Babylon and Assyria in the early reign of Zedekiah meant that the quality of remaining leadership in Jerusalem was sketchy.

Another sister put forward the assertion that Abinadi was likely the brother (or at least close kin) to Amaleki, the final writer in the small plates of Nephi. Amaleki’s father was Abinadom, a name with strong similarity to Abinadi. Abinadi appears to have been an age peer to Amaleki. Of interest, Abish appears to have been a generation after Abinadi. This sister sent me a story of Amaleki and Abinadi as brothers, the ending revealing her conjectured link between Abinadi and Abish.

Secret Combinations

Now that I know more about what occurred in Nauvoo and earlier Church history, it struck me how the burnings and rapes and murders and betrayals in the Book of Mormon were parallels to the challenges faced by the Saints during Joseph’s lifetime. Had the Book of Mormon appeared in 1844, that would have appeared to be derivative. But as the Book of Mormon manuscript was completed in 1829, it raises the spectre that some of the challenges faced by Saints may have been inspired as critics perused the Book of Mormon.

Certainly the corruptions in Nauvoo from 1841 through 1844 resemble the secret combinations described in the Book of Mormon.

Of course “secret combinations” are rife in our day. But I found it illuminating that the Book of Mormon would have provided Joseph and his peers a context for understanding the persecutions of their day.

Saints and Ministry

In light of the recent changes to focus on ministry and step back from calling ourselves by the name of a man (wonderful though Mormon was), it is interesting to see the language the Book of Mormon uses for believers in Christ and the work of succoring those around us.

Glancing through the Book of Mormon, the term “shepherd” refers exclusively to the Savior (though there are times when shepherd is mentioned as metaphor implying Christ less directly). Thus a reading of the Book of Mormon would not support use of “shepherd” or “shepherding” for us to use in our work with one another.

Ministry, on the other hand, is continually mentioned, as in “the work of the ministry.”

Obviously the Book of Mormon itself never refers to believers as “Mormons.” There are only two “Mormons” in the Book of Mormon: the prophet/general Mormon and his father, who was also named Mormon.

I’d be interested in hearing more of the insights you have had, reading through the Book of Mormon this fall.

Notes:

  1. One such story (cited in Church manuals) tells of a man who visited residents of the valley of Heywood, pointing out scriptures in the Bible, days before John Morgan arrived in the valley, guided by a dream he had dreamed years earlier, before his baptism, see https://sites.google.com/site/johnhamiltonmorganfamily/sacred-experiences.
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About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

One thought on “Reflections on Reading the Book of Mormon

  1. Wonderful insight on the terms shepherding and ministring. Words have subtle meanings in scripture and I love how these meanings are simple but profound when pondered.

    I will share my insights when I finish the book later on this year, but in my last reading I focused on creating a list of all the characters of the Book of Mormon, named and non-named. I was very pleased with the experience, because I discovered new heroes, new characters that were instrumental in the narratives but that are never named.

    For example, ‘The servant of Helaman’ is a key character, who by his own spied on the Gadianton Robbers, learned of their secret ways, and cleverly gained the trust of Kishkumen and saved Helaman’s life by killing Kishkumen prior to him reaching Helaman.

    Many times, dissenters from the Nephites stir up the Lamanites to anger against the Nephites. The wars in Alma start in great part because of dissentions from the Church after new Priests and Teachers are called throughout the land. Amalickiah is one of these dissatisfied members who dislike the new leaders chosen by Helaman (the Elder), and he capitalizes on their anger to conspire to become king.

    After ‘flattering’ these dissenters in Alma 46, he begins his plan, but soon Moroni brings his armies against them, and many of this initial group return back to the fold because they began to doubt the justice of the cause of Amalickiah. His response is to get an even smaller group of people, abandon those doubting his claims, and go with this smaller group to the Lamanites

    These small groups of people, unnamed characters of Priests and Teachers, dissenters and individuals, help shape the story. Many of these I never had before ‘seen’ them in the narrative, and now that I do I realize how much more complex the story becomes, and how actions of ‘run of the mill’ members made a tremendous inpact in the years following.

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