Mormon Chapter 7
Mormon 7:8-9 Just before his death, the prophet Mormon writes to the latter-day Lamanites: Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus. For this is written for the intent that ye may believe that.
Let us consider for a moment the many contributions to the blood lines of the Lamanites who overcame the Nephites at the great and final battle at Cumorah. Their descendants would become part of the "Israelite" remnant which would inhabit the areas of North and Central America at the time of their discovery and settlement by Gentiles. These Book of Mormon remnants would initially be driven at the hands of the Gentiles, and later they would be taught the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is this group that is part of the intended latter-day audience for the Book of Mormon.
It is fundamental that there was a complete admixing of the blood lines of all of the Book of Mormon peoples, particularly during the century and a half following the Savior's appearance to the Nephites at Bountiful (see 4 Nephi 1:17 and the commentaries for Helaman 6:1-6 and 4 Nephi 1:36-38). Thus, these Lamanite remnants included descendants of Nephi and Jacob, Laman and Lemuel, Ishmael, Laban's servant Zoram, the descendants of Mulek, the descendants of the Phoenician sailors who likely crewed the ship or ships which brought Mulek to the New World, and the descendants of all of the native peoples who inhabited the Book of Mormon lands when Lehi and his party first arrived (this latter group would doubtless have included some with Jaredite blood).
Spencer W. Kimball taught:
The Lamanites are a mixture of many lines. Undoubtedly, there is in their veins the blood of Nephi, Joseph, and Jacob, as well as that of Laman, Lemuel, and Sam, and also that of the Mulekites of Judah. . . . The name "Indian" was given to the early possessors of the Americas by Columbus. As they intermarried with the invading European conquerors and nations were formed, they became Mexicans, Peruvians, Bolivians, Guatemalans, and others. But the correct name for all the descendants of Lehi and Ishmael is "Lamanites." This is an honorable name. It was the Lord who so designated them, and every descendant of Lehi should proudly say, "I am Lamanite, and I am proud of my heritage" ("The Lamanites: Their Burden-Our Burden," BYU Speeches of the Year. Provo: BYU Press, 1967, 1-3).
This chapter concludes the writings of the magnificent prophet Mormon. These ten verses are written to the people of the last days, and in them he summarizes what is most important to all of the Nephite prophet-writers. We have previously noted that this chapter, as well as the prior chapter were written by the prophet Mormon directly onto the plates of Mormon, and therefore come to us as an unabridged record.
1 And now, behold, I would speak somewhat unto the remnant of this people who are spared, if it so be that God may give unto them my words, that they may know of the things of their fathers; yea, I speak unto you, ye remnant of the house of Israel; and these are the words which I speak:
verse 1 Though Mormon is specifically addressing the latter-day "Lamanites," his message is applicable to all of scattered Israel of the latter days.
2 Know ye that ye are of the house of Israel.
verse 1 Joseph Fielding McConkie, Robert L. Millett, and Brent L. Top in their book Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon have made a most pertinent observation:
We sense a particular problem among many Latter-day Saints as this century draws to a close and as we draw nearer to the time when the Holy One of Israel will return to reign over his covenant people. There is evidenced frequently among young and old a lack of covenant consciousness, not necessarily in regard to covenants and ordinances required for salvation but rather in a lack of feeling appropriate kinship and identity with ancient Israel and with the fathers-Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-and of understanding and carrying out the responsibilities we have inherited from them.
In our democratic and egalitarian society, in a time when equality and brotherhood are all-important, perhaps we are losing a feel for what it means to be a covenant people, what it means to be a chosen people. Too many, even among the Latter-day Saints, cry out that such sentiments are parochial and primitive, that they lead to exclusivism and racism. Others contend that to emphasize Israel's chosen status is to denigrate and degrade others not designated as Israel.
Careful and prayerful study of the scriptures-especially the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon-will not only bring people to understand in their minds the origin and destiny of the descendants of Jacob but will also cause them to know in their hearts what it means to come to earth through a chosen lineage and what God would have them do to be a light to the world, particularly to so many who sit in spiritual darkness. The words of the Lord to ancient Israel should be received by modern Israel with sobriety and humility, but they must be received and believed if we are to realize our potential to become a holy people and a royal priesthood. Jehovah spoke millennia ago of "Israel, whom I have chosen" (Isaiah 44:1) and assured the Israelites that "you only have I known of all the families of the earth" (Amos 3:2) (volume 4, 237-38).
3 Know ye that ye must come unto repentance, or ye cannot be saved.
4 Know ye that ye must lay down your weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding of blood, and take them not again, save it be that God shall command you.
verse 4 Here is a concise reiteration of the ancient law of war. This law has been reiterated in modern revelation. The Lord's law of war is still very much in force:
Behold, this is the law I gave unto my servant Nephi, and thy fathers, Joseph, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham, and all mine ancient prophets and apostles. And again, this is the law that I gave unto mine ancients, that they should not go out unto battle against any nation, kindred, tongue, or people, save I, the Lord, commanded them. And if any nation, tongue, or people should proclaim war against them, they should first lift a standard of peace unto that people, nation, or tongue; and if that people did not accept the offering of peace, neither the second nor the third time, they should bring these testimonies before the Lord; then I, the Lord, would give unto them a commandment, and justify them in going out to battle against that nation, tongue, or people. And I, the Lord, would fight their battles, and their children's battles, and their children's children's, until they had avenged themselves on all their enemies, to the third and fourth generation (D&C 98:32-37).
5 Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God, and that he was slain by the Jews, and by the power of the Father he hath risen again, whereby he hath gained the victory over the grave; and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up.
verse 5 "your fathers" The word "fathers" here refers not just to Lehi, but also to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The covenants and blessings and responsibilities that devolve on any branch of the house of Israel devolve also on the Lamanites. Not only must latter-day Israel come to an awareness of their fathers, but they must recall the "knowledge of your fathers"-that is, their fathers' knowledge about Christ and his gospel.
"and also in him is the sting of death swallowed up" In what way does a belief in the Savior and in his atoning death mitigate one's fear of death? The Lord revealed to Joseph Smith what we may call the "law of mourning": "Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection. And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them; And they that die not in me, wo unto them, for their death is bitter" (D&C 42:45-47). This is not to say that the death of a righteous man who understands the Lord's atonement will be free of physical pain and some emotional travail. But the Lord's revealed love and comfort will remove that haunting fear of death that surely exists among the unrighteous.
6 And he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead, whereby man must be raised to stand before his judgment-seat.
7 And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end.
verse 7 "hath it given unto him to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom" It is true that our concerted efforts are necessary to "earn" sufficient spiritual gifts and qualify for the blessings of the atonement, but ultimately exaltation is a gift that we have not really earned.
"unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God" Rodney Turner (Studies in Scripture, volume seven, 1 Nephi to Alma 29) has suggested the following explanation for the concept of "one God": "The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost constitute the one God. This 'one God' is not a triune god-three in one-but three individual personages bound together by the common bonds of light, truth, and eternal priesthood. Indeed, in the ultimate sense, the 'one God' is the sum of all the Gods that were, are, and ever will be. In the abstract, the 'one God' may be defined as all of the attributes and powers of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" (245).
8 Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you, not only in this record but also in the record which shall come unto the Gentiles from the Jews, which record shall come from the Gentiles unto you.
verse 8 "This record" is the Book of Mormon. "The record which shall come unto the Gentiles from the Jews" is the Bible.
A valid purpose of the Book of Mormon is to function as a witness for the truths in the Bible. It does this by providing many confirmatory, "alternate manuscripts," Bible quotations (largely taken from the plates of brass and predominantly from the prophet Isaiah), and by giving independent accounts of several biblical events. President Heber J. Grant said, "All my life I have been finding additional evidence that the . . . Book of Mormon is the greatest witness for the truth of the Bible that has ever been published" (Improvement Era, November 1936, 660).
9 For behold, this is written for the intent that ye may believe that; and if ye believe that ye will believe this also; and if ye believe this ye will know concerning your fathers, and also the marvelous works which were wrought by the power of God among them.
verse 9 The two "this's" are the Book of Mormon, and the two "that's" refer to the Bible. The verse implies that the Book of Mormon was written in part for the purpose of strengthening our belief in and our appreciation for the Bible. How does the Book of Mormon accomplish this? After all, we have learned in 1 Nephi 13:28-29 that "many plain and precious things" have been removed from the Bible by the great and abominable church, and thus the Bible we have today is imperfect and incomplete. Does this knowledge actually help in our understanding of and our appreciation for the Bible? I will defer the answer for a moment.
Modern scripture teaches us that the Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the gospel (D&C 20:9). It may be acknowledged that there are certain deficiencies in the Book of Mormon relative to specifics of the gospel doctrines as we understand them in this dispensation. For example, we cannot go to the Book of Mormon to find a clear explanation of the three degrees of glory or the temple ordinances or celestial marriage. However, in the Book of Mormon many things are made clear that one might not understand after studying only the Bible. The Book of Mormon, for example, contains correct explanations of the divinity, the mission, and the atonement of Christ. The Book of Mormon restores many of the Lord's covenants. It provides us with the words of the baptismal prayer, along with instructions concerning the meaning and proper mode of baptism (Mosiah 18; 3 Nephi 11; Moroni 6) and of confirmation (Moroni 2). It has preserved for us from ancient times the words of the sacrament prayers (Moroni 4-5), and the book makes the Lord's covenants to the house of Israel understood. It also teaches the necessity of priesthood authority and the manner of ordination (Moroni 3).
Back to the question then. Does the Book of Mormon augment our appreciation for the Bible? Without the restored gospel and the Book of Mormon, one may come to regard the Bible, because of its deficiencies, as simply confusing and difficult to understand. Armed with a knowledge of the principles of the restored gospel and a knowledge as to why the Bible has deficiencies, we are better able to understand the Bible and appreciate it for what it is.
10 And ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant; and if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment. Amen.
verse 10 "the first covenant" This is the Lord's covenant with Abraham: "Thy seed . . . shall bear this ministry and Priesthood unto all nations. . . . And in thy seed . . . shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal" (Abraham 2:9-10). This is the promise of godhood to the house of Israel, and thus it applies to Lamanites today as it does to all Israel.
For the convenience of the reader, we will again review the tenets of the covenant the Lord made with Abraham. They include:
1. Abraham will become the "father of many nations" (Genesis 17:19), and his posterity will be exceedingly numerous-even "as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is upon the seashore (Genesis 17:2; Genesis 22:17-18).
2. The posterity of Abraham will be blessed with certain lands as an eternal inheritance. This was the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:8) extending from the Nile River to the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18).
3. Abraham's posterity will prove to be a blessing to all families of the earth (Genesis 12:3). They will do this by bearing the priesthood and preaching the gospel to them. Thus, will every family have the opportunity, through the posterity of Abraham, to enjoy the blessings of the gospel, which include the "blessings of salvation, even of life eternal" (Abraham 2:9-11).
4. All of these blessings of the gospel and the priesthood will be offered to all of Abraham's mortal posterity. These covenants were renewed with Isaac (Genesis 26:1-4; Genesis 26:24) and again with Jacob (Genesis 28; 35:9-13; 48:3-4).
"if it so be that ye . . . are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost" For an explanation of the concept of baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, see Baptism, the Ordinance that Brings Spiritual Growth in Ye Shall Know of the Doctrine, volume 1, chapter 18.