Recently, I read The Emmaus Code, a book written by a Protestant Christian author about types and symbols of Christ in the Old Testament. The author did an admirable job of rounding up a variety of things which point to the coming of Christ. Yet, what surprised me most was the author’s suggestion that these images and metaphors were not understood fully by the Prophets of old and that it wasn’t until the coming of Christ that their meaning was revealed. Even though he rightfully pointed to the fact that Christ infuses the whole of the Old Testament, he did not believe that those who came before truly knew Christ.
As Mormons, it is easy to forgot how shocking and revolutionary some of the claims in the Book of Mormon are. It is easy to fall into the trap of seeing the Book as merely a collection of powerful but utterly conventional stories and sermons on Christ. But the scandalous insight at the core of the Book of Mormon is precisely what it reveals about Jesus Christ and knowledge of him long before his coming.
It is scandalous that Nephi saw the Birth of Christ hundreds of years before his birth, that Mosiah named Mary by name, that Abinadi and Alma bore witness that Christ would be crucified on the Cross. And it is even more ground shaking when the Brother of Jared pierces the veil and encounters the pre-mortal Christ centuries before his birth.
Of course, as Mormons we are blessed with additional scripture featuring similar accounts. The Books of Moses and Abraham reveal a similar insight–prophets of old knew of Christ and his Gospel, but no volume of scripture can match the Book of Mormon for the sheer scope and power of its witness.
In a world fast losing sight of Christ and his atonement, we should not let this core revelation of the Book of Mormon become commonplace.
I particularly love Nephi’s (III) declaration of this truth in Helaman 8:
“And now behold, Moses did not only testify of these things, but also all the holy prophets, from his days even to the days of Abraham.Yea, and behold, Abraham saw of his coming, and was filled with gladness and did rejoice. Yea, and behold I say unto you, that Abraham not only knew of these things, but there were many before the days of Abraham who were called by the order of God; yea, even after the order of his Son; and this that it should be shown unto the people, a great many thousand years before his coming, that even redemption should come unto them.
And now I would that ye should know, that even since the days of Abraham there have been many prophets that have testified these things; yea, behold, the prophet Zenos did testify boldly; for the which he was slain. And behold, also Zenock, and also Ezias, and also Isaiah, and Jeremiah, (Jeremiah being that same prophet who testified of the destruction of Jerusalem) and now we know that Jerusalem was destroyed according to the words of Jeremiah. O then why not the Son of God come, according to his prophecy?”
As we begin studying the Book of Mormon again this year in Sunday School, may we approach it with fresh eyes and realize that it is truly a marvelous work and a wonder. Because of this scandalous insight, we can know that Christ truly is the Lord of the whole earth, the long promised Messiah, and the God of Israel. Because of this insight, we need not solely point to shadows and figures. We can surely preach, prophecy, and testify of Christ along with the choir of angels and the Prophets of Old.