After complete spiritual immersion for several days, Mormon and Moroni said little as they knelt across from each other in prayer to ask the living God for guidance in record compilation. Physically weak from fasting and spiritual effort, the Holy Spirit had made them of one mind and heart. I can imagine a secluded spot at the mouth of a cave where the records were kept. They had each experienced several heavenly visitations and had reached a point where revelation streamed unimpeded. The Holy Spirit, the mind of God, the binding force of oneness and eternity was with them and guided every action including this prayer that would change us forever. The same spirit buoyed them up and removed from them the concerns of the world that could have so easily distracted them from us.
Who would not be distracted? They were forced to witness the implosion of their entire civilization. They knew the tragedy could have been avoided if the people had only turned to the Savior who had extended his arm to them day and night until the end. I suspect that left out of the record were several passages that could have been titled, “Mormon’s Lamentations.” Having known first hand of heavenly goodness and power, the frustration of watching a turning away from the one source of all happiness had to be consuming.
In quiet seclusion, they knelt at the cave entrance and prayed in a way that had become as familiar to them as any other activity of their lives. Like Moses, Nephi, Abraham, Alma and others, they called upon the name of God in the same manner as many who had gone before. They had the records and knew the pattern by which and through whom the disclosure of holy things would come. They had grown accustomed to the intense spirit and light that accompanied each revelation, yet it never felt mundane. Each instance elicited wonder and euphoria which caused them to attempt what they would always view as insufficient effort in praising God for the Holy Spirit. On this particular day in front of the cave, the answer to their question about compilation came as a vision of the latter days. As part of a particularly intense description of the vision received, Moroni tells us,
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 8:35)
With the vision still fresh, and out of overwhelming love for us, they walked back into the cave to compile then to protect the precious message that would show us the way to Jesus whom they had seen and loved perfectly. There were many exclusions, and what was left was both sufficient and descriptive enough to be used as pattern for the holiness that would show us the way to seek the Lord Jesus and stand in his presence.
The perfect, efficient simplicity of the Book of Mormon could hardly have fallen into worse cultural hands than ours. Instead of taking it at face value, accepting its invitation to seek the one true God, and follow the patterns that will lead us to him, we write talks, books, commentary, curriculum and teach lessons all designed to ‘organize’ that which is already, wonderfully ordered, though not in the way we are used to ordering.
Our cultural tendency is to taxonomize information into bullet points and checklists. Though helpful in some cases, the box checking process tends to become its own end instead of the means that it should be. Consider temple marriage. Many parents are relieved and delighted when their children marry in the temple. There is a sense of let-off when this important box is checked, and for many, a temple marriage is the highest event that can possibly occur in this life.
The Book of Mormon does not directly mention temple marriage. The highest, culminating event for a Nephite or Lamanite would have been to commune with God in his presence, be ministered to by him and to receive his ministry. That is also the unheralded purpose of the temple. Besides being a preparation for an after-life event, it is a pattern for veil removal, here. We learn the way of seeking, asking and knocking that will allow us to enter into God’s presence. The temple is the means to the same end the Book of Mormon demonstrates..
And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of them, may be and abide in you forever. Amen. (Ether 12:41)
And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved. (Omni 1:26)
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. (Moroni 10:32)
Though peace, happiness, love, hope and other natural inevitabilities of seeking Christ occur, they are not the culminating event. As stated by Nephi,
And now I, Nephi, write more of the words of Isaiah, for my soul delighteth in his words. For I will liken his words unto my people, and I will send them forth unto all my children, for he verily saw my Redeemer, even as I have seen him. And my brother, Jacob, also has seen him as I have seen him; wherefore, I will send their words forth unto my children to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three, God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words (2Nephi 11:2-3).
Though we have made strides as a church in properly prioritizing and internalizing the Book of Mormon, we are certainly not where we ought to be. The Lord’s rebuke found in Doctrine and Covenants 84, “And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon (D&C 84:57),” was still in force over a century later when Ezra Taft Benson repeated the charge against the saints. The charge is still in force today. The Book of Mormon was written for our day. Everything included in it was included because of the vision received by my Mormon and Moroni. They saw wayward Christianity, Islam, the internet, China, prosperity, anti mormons, war, ease of travel, corruption, poverty, medicine, pride, and mental illness, and compiled based on implications of these things to us.
They knew we would need to be shown the how and the why of personal revelation, so they gave us 1Nephi. They knew we would need humility so that we could understand our need for the Savior so they gave us King Benjamin’s discourse. They knew we would need to take the gospel into different and hostile lands, so they gave us the accounts of Ammon, Aaron and others. As Elder Christofferson points out,
The Book of Mormon contains the account of a man named Nehor. It is easy to understand why Mormon, in abridging a thousand years of Nephite records, thought it important to include something about this man and the enduring influence of his doctrine. Mormon was seeking to warn us, knowing that this philosophy would surface again in our day. (2011 October General Conference, The Divine Gift of Repentance, Sat. Afternoon Session – D. Todd Christofferson)
Mormon and Moroni saw our attraction to secular humanism and moral relativism and gave us the accounts of Nehor and Korihor. They saw our perfunctory temple worship and gave us the account of the Brother of Jared to show us how to part the veil and what to expect on the other side. They knew that all happiness in this life flows from Jesus Christ and so gave us Moroni 7. What should be chilling to all of us is the fact that they saw vast corruption and secret combinations. Their prescribed remedy is complete elimination of all “robbers” which, like the Nephites of old, we cannot stomach.
We appropriately speak of the miraculous coming forth of the Book of Mormon, yet we seem to ignore it’s at least as miraculous compilation. It is far superior to the Scout Handbook as a guide to the six critical years for young men between ages 12 and 18. It is the ultimate missionary guide. It is superior to It is superior to every other gospel offering with the exception of direct revelation. Substituting anything else in any venture is a move toward inferior communion. Elder Holland says as much in the preface to Christ and the New Covenant, “Whenever possible I would rather the reader focus directly on the Book of Mormon language than on someone else’s thinking about it” (Preface, Christ and the New Covenant).
I was both delighted and disappointed one Sunday morning to find my mission-preparing son studying from Preach My Gospel. The delight is understandable. The disappointment came from what I knew was his neglect of the Book of Mormon. Every concept, point, suggestion, and pattern for great missionary work from Preach My Gospel is taught purely in the Book of Mormon.
There is no substitute for complete, intense, consistent immersion into the Book of Mormon. No prepared material will bring us closer to God. No prepared material will better prepare us for what is coming.