Ether Chapter 5
Ether 5:2-4 Moroni's prophecy of the three Book of Mormon witnesses
1 And now I, Moroni, have written the words which were commanded me, according to my memory; and I have told you the things which I have sealed up; therefore touch them not in order that ye may translate; for that thing is forbidden you, except by and by it shall be wisdom in God.
verse 1 "according to my memory" President Wilford Woodruff taught that prophets have had divine assistance in recalling the words of the Lord's revelations which they are called upon to write (see Mosiah 17:4; John 14:26). President Woodruff wrote: "Whenever I heard Joseph Smith preach, teach, or prophesy, I always felt it my duty to write it; I felt uneasy and could not eat, drink, or sleep until I did write; and my mind has been so exercised upon this subject that when I heard Joseph Smith teach and had no pencil or paper, I would go home and sit down and write the whole sermon, almost word for word and sentence by sentence as it was delivered, and when I had written it, it was taken from me, I remembered it no more. This was the gift of God to me" (Matthias F. Cowley, Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors, 476-77).
"therefore touch them not . . ." Moroni gives instruction directly to the prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph is not to try to unseal that sealed portion of the plates of Mormon.
2 And behold, ye may be privileged that ye may show the plates unto those who shall assist to bring forth this work;
3 And unto three shall they be shown by the power of God; wherefore they shall know of a surety that these things are true.
4 And in the mouth of three witnesses shall these things be established; and the testimony of three, and this work, in the which shall be shown forth the power of God and also his word, of which the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost bear record-and all this shall stand as a testimony against the world at the last day.
verses 2-4 It was probably in translating these verses that Joseph Smith learned that there would be three witness to the Book of Mormon plates which would be shown the plates "by the power of God" (see also 2 Nephi 11:3; 2 Nephi 27:12). These verses were also probably the "trigger" for Joseph's receiving section 17 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
"all this shall stand as a testimony against the world at the last day" The Book of Mormon is more than just another religious book. By the book shall the world be judged.
5 And if it so be that they repent and come unto the Father in the name of Jesus, they shall be received into the kingdom of God.
verse 5 It would seem that the antecedent for the pronoun "they" in this verse is "the world" in the previous verse.
6 And now, if I have no authority for these things, judge ye; for ye shall know that I have authority when ye shall see me, and we shall stand before God at the last day. Amen.
verse 6 In this poignant verse, Moroni says, in effect, "Each of you reading the Book of Mormon may decide whether what I have said is true. Go ahead decide now, because when you are brought before the judgment bar of God, you will learn that they are true.