The Book of Mormon: For Our Day

KC Kernbook of mormon, church, Mormon 26 Comments

Ezra Taft Benson taught that “the Book of Mormon … was written for our day. The Nephites never had the book; neither did the Lamanites of ancient times. It was meant for us. … Each of the major writers of the Book of Mormon testified that he wrote for future generations. … If they saw our day and chose those things which would be of greatest worth to us, is not that how we should study the Book of Mormon? We should constantly ask ourselves, ‘Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?’ ” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 5; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 6).

This statement is usually interpreted quite liberally among church members; for example, an account of Nephite and Lamanite wars is teaching us to be nice to our neighbors. A lengthy discussion of plates and records teaches us to write in our journals. The story of converts being tossed into fires along with the scriptures teaches us how thankful we should be for the gospel.

These interpretations may suit the learning needs of a deacon’s quorum, but surely there is a more substantial interpretation that lays out in more direct terms just how the Book of Mormon is “for our day.”

Mormon tells us that not even 1/100th of the Nephite saga could be included in his record. Yet he was inspired to include what he did. Why? Moroni tells us:

“Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you. Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.” (Mormon 8:34–35)

I recently came across an interpretation of the Book of Mormon that sets forth the Book of Mormon narrative as a model or paradigm for the latter-days— i.e. the time from the beginning of the restoration until the end of the world.

Before I present the parallels of our time and the events of the Book of Mormon, I should first point that, as Bruce masterfully demonstrated in a previous post, the human mind can find patters in virtually anything.

By presenting this, I am in no mean trying to find chiasmus in “Green Eggs and Ham,” and I fully acknowledge that such an interpretation may be wholly unfounded and tenuous.

That said, the following exposition contains some very uncanny parallels that I feel are deserving of some attention. Some are more convincing than others, but I’ll let you be the judge. Sorry it’s so long, but hopefully it will be worth it.

So, here it is—the Book of Mormon, and Our Day:

A Visionary Patriarch
Lehi had a dream of wandering through a wasteland, encountering a tree, a spacious building, and obtaining information pertinent to his family and posterity.
Joseph Smith Sr.:
Joseph Smith Sr. had dreams that bear striking resemblance in form and purpose to Lehi’s dream.
A Charismatic Founding Leader Involved in Both Religious and Civic Governance
Nephi was at once the primary religious leader (prophet) as well as the king of the City of Nephi.
Joseph Smith Jr.:
Joseph was continually active in his prophetic roles, and also became involved in secular governmental affairs, most notably as mayor of Nauvoo and US Presidential candidate.
An Exodus and Reestablishment Into A New Land
Journey to Zarahemla:
Mosiah was warned to leaved the City of Nephi with all those that would follow him. They took their journey through the wilderness, and established themselves among the natives in Zarahemla.
Journey to Utah:
Brigham Young led the saints that would follow him across the plains, and established the community in the Salt Lake Valley, which involved interactions with the natives.
Revolutionary New Insights and Emphasis On the Atonement of Jesus Christ
King Benjamin:
King Benjamin’s notable address to the people of Zarahemla centered on the themes of the atonement of Christ, the assumption of a new name, and salvation through covenant.
John Taylor:
President Taylor’s most notable publication was Mediation and Atonement, which set forth the principles of the Atonement in unprecedented terms; also, John Taylor was instrumental in the early phases of temple constructions for the SLC, Manti, St. George, and Logan temples.
An Outreach to Foreign Converts and A Zionistic Centralization
Ammonite Converts:
Ammon and his missionary companions set out to preach the gospel to the Lamanites. Once converted, the converts (Ammonites/Anti-Nephi-Lehies) uproot themselves and migrate to the Nephite land of Jershon.
European Converts:
The church saw success in its missionary efforts in Europe. The model for new converts was to leave their homelands and “come to Zion.” Many flocked to America and established themselves there among the saints.
A Separation of Church and State
Alma and Nephihah:
Alma, who was at once the chief judge and the high priest, determines that it is no longer feasible to perform both duties at once. He appoints Nephihah to be the chief judge, and focuses solely on his spiritual ministry.
Heber Manning Wells:
First governor of the State of Utah. While the Utah territory had other secular governors prior to statehood, in the early phases of settlement, there was little distinction between legal and ecclesiastical authority, which of course changed after some time.
A Period of Strife and Warfare
Nephite-Lamanite Wars:
Beginning with Zerahemnah, and continuing through with Amalickiah, Ammoron, and Tubaloth, the latter part of the Book of Alma and early Helaman recount a scene of continuous warfare and one battle after the next.
World Wars 1 & 2:

The first half of the 20th century is scarred by global warfare.

An Expansion of the Church
Nephite Travels and Expansions:
In the post-war reconstruction phase, the Nephites travel, expand, and their influence is widened. Also, Nephi and Lehi start a preaching initiative among the Lamanites, but this time, the Lamanites stay in their own lands instead of centralizing in Jershon.
Worldwide Missionary Efforts:
Under David O. MacKay, the post-WWII era church saw great expansion within the United States as well as phenomenal growth overseas.
Convert Populations Begin to Exceed Original Members in Numbers and Righteousness
Flourishing Church Among the Lamanites:
The Nephites begin to decay in pride and disbelief. Meanwhile, the church among the Lamanites flourishes, and they become more righteous than the Nephites.
Non-US Church Membership Exceeds 50%:
While inactivity rates are a phenomenon worldwide, recent years has shown an increase in the internationalization of the Church, and the US members now find themselves a minority in the records of the Church.
Genesis of Non-Governmental Guerilla Strikes
Gadianton Robbers:
The Gadianton robbers are a military force that have no land-holding political ties. They hide in the hills and the mountains, and initiate surprise guerrilla attacks. Eventually their influence seeps into government positions as well.
Rise of Terrorism:
While terrorism is not a new invention of this decade, it has risen to public awareness, and terrorist organizations are becoming increasingly active and empowered.

It seems reasonable to assume that our current time is analogous with that time found in mid-Helaman. If this model is at all reliable, we might look to what comes next in an attempt to forecast the future. Let’s see what’s ahead:

  • The increase of the Church among the Lamanites (Helaman 6)
    • The Church, much like the business world, has its eyes on China and India. Missionaries are already in India, and who knows what’s behind the floodgates of China’s doors.
  • Increased Gadianton Activity (Helaman 6)
    • Political assassinations, corruption, intrigue…every political conspiracy theorists’ worst fears come true.
  • Samuel the Lamanite (Helaman 13-16)
    • A prophetic voice independent of the ecclesiastical hierarchy among the Nephites (Nephi was prophet) Most of the Nephites reject him (Even though his message is NOT at odd’s with Nephi’s teachings), and they will not hear his words. Will latter-day saints have ears to hear a voice of prophecy from anywhere but temple square? Or will we resort to throwing stones and shooting arrows?
  • Slippery Treasures (Helaman 13)
    • Samuel warns that their riches will become “slippery.” I can only imagine this is analogous to fiat money, to the federal reserve’s money printing splurges, to the credit crisis, inflation, … could Samuel have been… Ron Paul??? 😉
  • Gadianton Demise (3 Nephi 2-4)
    • After a great showdown where the Nephites abandoned their lands and centralized in Zarahemla (gathering of Israel?) the Gadianton robbers find themselves powerless. Their new leader, Zemnarihah is defeated at the Nephite leadership of Lachoneus
  • Societal Disintegration (3 Nephi 7)
    • Despite the Nephite success, it isn’t long before societal decay takes its toll. The nations essentially disassemble, and the society devolves into a loose collection of tribal factions. Given the current state of political turmoil in certain areas of the world, this scenario seems increasingly likely.
  • Jacob the Anti Christ
    • Jacob, a factional leader, rises to power, and “had given his voice against the prophets who testified of Jesus.” (3 Nephi 7:9) He doesn’t wreak too much havoc, but does recruit a good number of people, and escapes to the land northward with them. Is this a foreshadowing of the long prophesied Antichrist of the last days?
  • Cataclysmic Destruction (3 Nephi 8 )
    • The last days are said to be full of terrible natural disasters.
  • The Coming of Christ (3 Nephi 11)
    • At the zenith of all prophesies concerning the last days lies the foretelling of the Second Coming of Christ.
  • Zionist Utopia (4 Nephi)
    • Following the visit of Christ, the world lives in millennial bliss. Satan is bound, societal distinctions dissolve, and the law of consecration is lived in its fullness.
  • Burning the Vineyard for the last time. (Mormon, Moroni)
    • After a “short season” of wickedness once again poisoning the society, the civilizations are swept off the face of the earth, and Moroni signs off with nothing more than a reference to the afterlife:
      • “I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen.”

So what do you all think? Is this nothing more than a scriptural inkblot test? Or is there some substance to both the retrospective and the prospective parallelism found in this analysis? If nothing else, does it give you a better gauge to determine how much longer to you have to “procrastinate the day of your repentance?” 🙂

Comments 26

  1. KC,

    Where your analogy falls apart (and I hate to use that fairly harsh term, my apologies) is that the Lamanites were descendants of Lehi. Who are our “Lamanites” today?

    As far as the comparisons are concerned, I’m glad that some are realizing that a comparison between todays’ “terrorism” is that of the Gadianton Robbers in Helaman and 3 Nephi, and NOT the Alma war chapters. What we learn from the account against the Gadianton Robbers (as perfectly stated in 3 Nephi 3:20-21) is that we shouldn’t be going into Robber land to get them. Let them come to us. 🙂

  2. The Lamanites were their brothers and their kinfolk. WWII was fought between European powers, all Caucasians speaking indoeuropean languages, and their colonies (including the big English colony), with Japan as the outlier.

    Today, we have our interior cultural wars still.

    Nice work.

  3. KC….great analogy. I also find Joseph Smith White Horse Prophecy quite informative.

    As I grow older I come to appreciate Ezra Taft Benson as a prophet.

    I think the BoM is inspired and there is so much in it that we can learn from.

    Dan….I liked the comment about not going into the lands to get them. However, if I were a general I dont know if I would use the BoM as my military handbook. hehehe

  4. Dan,
    As with most analogies, this one does disintegrate when applied in certain areas.

    I think a more plausible analogy for Nephites/Lamanites is those in the covenant and those who are not. Although even that doesn’t apply well when we consider the conversion of the Lamanites and the church among them.

    In anycase, I don’t think its worth getting hung up on the lineages… even the Scriptures tell us that lineages are essentially symbolic when viewed in terms of a covenant:

    Galatians 3:29: “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

  5. Just throwing this out there as an initial reaction, but does anyone see any significant doctrinal correspondences based on this model? I mean, should we start beefing up on Helaman 3-6 just in case?

    But behold, a hundredth part of the proceedings of this people, yea, the account of the Lamanites and of the Nephites, and their wars, and contentions, and dissensions, and their preaching, and their prophecies, and their shipping and their building of ships, and their building of temples, and of synagogues and their sanctuaries, and their righteousness, and their wickedness, and their murders, and their robbings, and their plundering, and all manner of abominations and whoredoms, cannot be contained in this work.

  6. I enjoyed your comparisons. I have long agreed with your theory that the BoM is a microscope for our day. If I may add a couple of more items to the comparisons:

    1.Ether 8:22-26: ….Wherefore, O ye Gentiles, it is wisdom in God that these things should be shown unto you, that thereby ye may repent of your sins, and suffer not that these murderous combinations shall get above you, which are built up for power and gain….Whoso buildeth it up (secret combinations)seeketh to over throw the freedom of all lands, nations and countries….Wherefore, I, Moroni am commanded to write these things that …Satan may have no power upon the hearts of the children of men…

    Anecdotal comment: When 9/11 happened, I was in Boston and had just been at the WTC the week before on business. I remember watching the TV in shock, when the Prime Minster of Israel spoke and quoted, “These terrorists seek to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries” I had just read Ether 8:22-26 as part of my personal study and recognized the quote.

    2. The struggle Capt. Moroni had with the people at home who would not defend their land or their freedom. This partisanship nearly caused the collapse of their government.

  7. We could take this model and apply to just about any culture at any time and find strong parallels. Until you can use an ancient writing to accurately predict the future, this is nothing more than post hoc reasoning.

  8. KC,

    That’s why I felt that saying that your analogy “falls apart” was too harsh, but I couldn’t think of another better word or phrase. You’re analysis here starts with portraying Joseph Smith as the start of modern times and comparing him to Lehi. If you get that technical of a comparison, then you have to find some way to account for the fact that the Lamanites are there as a constant reminder for the Nephites to be good. That was one of the reasons why the Lord kept them around. It is one of the main plots of the Book of Mormon. That’s why I ask, “Who are our Lamanites today?”

    Stephen Wellington,

    I wouldn’t use the Book of Mormon as a guide to military strategies or foreign policy, except in an abstract way, that more applies to my personal Christianity than prophetic things. For example, someone recently commented on my blog that Iran and Russia are Gog and Magog from Ezekiel 38. This is a common belief among many right-wing Christians, and it bespeaks of a terrible foreign policy that will basically make that prophecy be self-fulfilling. That’s the trouble with prophecy and why it is generally very vague. But that’s for another time.

  9. Interesting analogy, but I would have to say that the Book of Mormon was written more for Joseph Smith’s day more than our day today.

    The main themes in the Book of Mormon had more to do with what was going on during Joseph Smith’s time. Disputes between democracy vs kings, being attacked by savage natives, particularly Native Americans(sorry, I don’t think terrorists draw a good parallel) questions about the origin of Native Americans, the question regarding church authority, proper baptism, frontierism, stories of buried Native American gold, etc. These were things that weighed heavily on the minds of people in those days.

    If the Book of Mormon was written for today, it would include topics like stem cell research, global warming, cloning, the internet, etc. Many of the topics in the Book of Mormon that were such hot button issues are really non issues today. We now know where Native Americans came from through archeology and DNA research. There is no more frontierism. People today are more skeptical and need a much more scientific explanation.

    So we have prophets today to help us navigate thorough the new medias and technologies that appear and publish new “for the strength of youth” pamphlets, that is fine, but I do not believe that the Book of Mormon was actually written for OUR day.

  10. Joe,
    Fully acknowledging that the content of the table could be written off as “nothing more than post hoc reasoning,” I did dedicate the entire second part of the post to plausible predictions for the future…

    Of course, the future hasn’t happened yet, so even those could just as easily be dismissed as the parallels from the past, but I did make an effort to be prospective as well as retrospective. Did you miss that? Or am I missing something?

  11. As an aside, Stephen (#4), I think there’s no doubt that the text of the White Horse Prophecy was written long after Joseph’s death and then ascribed to him. The author of the prophecy lived in later 19th century Utah and introduces many anachronisms that betray the fact that he wasn’t who he pretended to be.

  12. Hi Bruce — Nice to see you too. Don’t want to thread-jack, but I’ll say that the reason I was gone was because a couple of projects sucked up all my time for the past 2 months. They’re finally done and I can breathe again.

    Meanwhile, I really like this idea, KC. However, I think that the Book of Mormon was not only not designed for “Nephite times,” it was also not designed for our times. It was designed for Joseph Smith’s times and it was particularly meaningful in the 1830s and 1840s. Briefly, I think that the most important lesson Mormons can take away from the Book of Mormon is that the canon doesn’t have to be closed. Unlike Evangelicals and fundamentalist Muslims, people don’t have to be slaves to the words of out-of-date scripture. There can be new scriptures that speak to our time, the way the Book of Mormon spoke to people in the 19th century.

  13. >>> Fully acknowledging that the content of the table could be written off as “nothing more than post hoc reasoning,” I did dedicate the entire second part of the post to plausible predictions for the future…

    KC, I’m going to keep your list of predictions handy and check them off as they come. 😉

  14. With last week’s ruling of the California Supreme court (and many, many others before that), I would add lawyers and judges bringing about the destruction of society to your list.

  15. HAMESY!!! It’s great to see you back mate. Thanks for the info about the White Horse Prophecy…most of the stuff I have read show that it is unreliable and unconfirmed though the character of the men is not in doubt. It was recorded 10 years after the event and the line “the constitution will hang by a thread” has been used by many GA’s since.

    Here are a couple of summative lines:

    It cannot be said that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints accepts the White Horse Prophecy as official or binding…It is true that there is language in the so-called prophecy that is found elsewhere in historically verifiable records. The prophecy that contains the concept of the constitution of the US being challenged and then saved by the Elders of the Church is accepted as a prophecy of Joseph Smith. There is evidence that he repeated it more than once and it was commonly understood and accepted.

    BYU Studies, Vol. 19, No. 3, p. 391-392 has shown that this could be something Joseph might have said.

    Again…this is why I said I found it informative….note I didnt say I found it to be historical or accurate…similar to how some people may feel about the pseudoepigraphical material.

  16. Nice, very nice. Thanks for posting.

    I do disagree with the Gadianton robber description.

    What does one do about the Gadianton robbers already assassinating Pahoran, trying to usurp the judgment seat, being on the up in the beginning of Helaman–before the expansion of the Church to the Lamanites–and the Gadianton robbers’ pretty much complete takeover of the government at the same time/ a little afterwards the expansion of the Church (Helaman 7)?

  17. I remember being taught this way back when I was a freshmen in high school before anyone talked about terrorists. We were taught that the Lamanites were the enemy that everyone thinks is going to kill you and is afraid of, today the Communists, when the real danger was the enemy that was unseen or behind the seen, which is the secret combinations. At the time we were told, organized crime, gangs, and terrorists.

  18. Great blog! I wanted to add a little bit more on Gadiantons. The Gadiantons were “very cunning in their works” and dealt with “secret combinations”. Helaman 7:4-6 says:

    4 “And seeing the people in a state of such awful wickedness, and those Gadianton robbers filling the judgment-seats—having usurped the power and authority of the land; laying aside the commandments of God, and not in the least right before him; doing no justice unto the children of men;
    5 “Condemning the righteous because of their righteousness; letting the guilty and the wicked go unpunished because of their money; and moreover to be held in office at the head of government, to rule and do according to their wills, that they might get gain and glory of the world, and, moreover, that they might the more easily commit adultery, and steal, and kill, and do according to their own wills—
    6 “Now this great iniquity had come upon the Nephites, in the space of not many years;”

    Anybody wanna dispute the possibility/probability that this is happening RIGHT NOW in our own government with the Obama administration and many others involved behind the scenes?
    Sorry guys, but the Book of Mormon wasn’t just for the people in Joseph Smith’s day. The title page itself says that the Book of Mormon “…is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites–Written TO THE LAMANITES (emphasis mine), who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and ALSO to JEW AND GENTILE (emphasis mine).”

  19. Actually, you are wrong.  “Lamanites” were primarily the BOM’s “Gentiles” of the Bible.  The term “Lamanite” only in selected instances were refering to those who were specifically descendents of Lehi.  The rest of the time “Lamanite” referred to anyone non-Nephite.  This was always the actual meaning of the term, contrary to anti-mormon claims, which is a primarily reason why the BOM Intro didn’t need to be changed.

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