Biblical Prophecies of the Book of Mormon
The role of the Book of Mormon in the Lord's work is so vital that the Lord inspired biblical prophets to prophesy of its eventual coming.
Enoch foresaw the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. His prophesy is not contained in the Bible but is preserved for us in the JST-Genesis and in the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. The Lord promised Enoch: "Righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead . . . and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a . . . New Jerusalem" (Moses 7:62). We understand that the righteousness to be sent from heaven includes revelations and priesthood keys given to the prophet Joseph Smith as part of the restoration, and the truth sent forth out of the earth to be the Book of Mormon (Mormon 8:16). Similar prophecies of truth springing from the earth are found in Psalm 85:9-11 and Isaiah 45:8.
Because the Nephites and Lamanites were descendants of ancient Joseph, Latter-day Saints also see a foreshadowing of the Book of Mormon peoples in the final blessing the patriarch Jacob gave his son Joseph. Joseph was told that he would be "a fruitful bough," or have many descendants, some of whom would "run over the wall" by a "well," referring to Lehi and his descendants crossing the ocean to journey to the promised land (Genesis 49:22; Genesis 49:26).
Through Joseph Smith's inspired revision of the Bible, we have access to prophecies made by ancient Joseph when he was in Egypt. He prophesied that a "choice seer" (Joseph Smith) would be raised up by the Lord to bring forth records. These writings would testify of the truth of the biblical records already available to the world and restore many plain and precious truths that had been taken out of the Bible. The Bible and the Book of Mormon would then "grow together" to confound false doctrines, lay down contention, establish peace among their descendants, and bring the people to the knowledge of the Lord's covenants (JST Genesis 50:25-36).
Through the writings of Nephi in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 26:15-16), we have added insight into the writings of Isaiah (Isaiah 29:3-4). We learn in Nephi's writings that Isaiah saw the peculiar circumstances under which the Book of Mormon would be preserved and come forth. He knew that the Nephites would be annihilated, "even that they are not." He also knew that they would "speak out of the ground, and [their] speech shall be low out of the dust, and [their] voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and [their] speech shall whisper out of the dust." "Familiar spirit" is a metaphor that Isaiah used to describe how someone might speak words of truth "as if it were from the dead."
In addition, Isaiah prophesied an event that occurred during the translation of the Book of Mormon: "And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed: And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned" (Isaiah 29:11-12). This prophecy was fulfilled when Martin Harris took some of the characters ("the words of a book") from the gold plates to show them to Professor Charles Anthon (the "learned"), "a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments." After Professor Anthon rejected Harris's story of the divine origin of the characters he had examined, he requested of Harris "that if [he] would bring the plates to him he would translate them." Harris told Anthon that a "part of the plates were sealed," and Anthon replied, "I cannot read a sealed book" (JS-H 1:62-65). In the more complete account of this incident, found in the Book of Mormon, to the man "not learned" (Joseph Smith) the Lord would say, "The learned shall not read them, for they have rejected them . . . wherefore thou shalt read [translate] the words which I shall give unto thee" (2 Nephi 27:2).
Isaiah further saw that the book would come forth as a part of a "marvellous work and a wonder" in a day of apostasy. It would cause "the wisdom of . . . wise men" to perish and the "understanding of . . . prudent men" to be hid (Isaiah 29:13-14). Ears formerly confounded by conflicting interpretations of the Bible would "hear the words of the book," and eyes formerly blinded to the fulness of gospel truth would "see out of obscurity, and out of darkness." Meek people would increase their joy in the Lord and the poor in spirit would "rejoice in the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 29:18-19). Those who "erred in spirit [would] come to understanding, and they that murmured [would] learn doctrine" (Isaiah 29:24).
Ezekiel foresaw that God would prepare two witnesses (the Bible and Book of Mormon) to gather scattered Israelites back into full fellowship with him and back to the lands their forefathers had possessed (Ezekiel 37:15-28). He combined two writing boards ("sticks") to illustrate their common role and identified them as Judah's and Joseph's records (Ezekiel 37:15-20). After the records of Judah and Joseph had been joined, God would then gather "the children of Israel from among the [Gentiles] . . . and bring them into their own land: and . . . make them one nation . . . and they shall be no more two nations" (Ezekiel 37:21-22).
Jesus, in the Old World, also testified of Book of Mormon peoples when he told Judean disciples that he must visit other sheep who would hear his voice (John 10:14-16). When he visited Lehi's descendants after his resurrection, he told them that they were the "other sheep" to whom he had referred (3 Nephi 15:21). The record they made of his teachings provides another vital witness of Christ and his gospel (3 Nephi 11-28).
The last biblical witness is that of John the Revelator, who saw another angel "fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth" (Revelation 14:6-7). Latter-day Saints identify this angel as Moroni, caretaker of Joseph's records and holder of "the keys of the record of the stick of Ephraim" (D&C 27:5). Moroni heralded the restoration and prepared Joseph Smith for his role in bringing forth God's great latter-day work.
These many references to the Book of Mormon in the Bible show the major role it would play in God's work of gathering his children back to him and back to their lands of inheritance.