Millions of people have felt an increase of peace, joy, and happiness as they have studied the Book of Mormon.
From the courage of Nephi to the determination of Abinadi… from the heroics of Teancum to the loving pleading of Alma… and from the vision of Lehi to the promise of Moroni… it is difficult to think of another book more instrumental in bringing people to Jesus Christ.
What is perhaps most surprising about this phenomenon, is that the Book of Mormon is not a happy story… The Book of Mormon is a tragedy.
Consider the circumstances in Jerusalem six hundred years before the coming of Christ.
The ten tribes in the north had been lost. Their last king, Hoshea, carried away with his kingdom by the Assyrian Empire. The last righteous king of Judah, Josiah, had been slain at Megiddo. His first son reigned only about three months before he was carried away by the Egyptians. They took another of Josiah’s sons, Eliakim, and changed his name to Jehoiakim, and put him on the throne of Judah. Both he, and his son Jehoiachin, believed Egypt would save them from the growing power in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Of course, prophets were sent to remind Judah that protection did not come from other nations, it came from the Lord. However, such prophets were ignored or attacked, or both.
Feeling confident in worldly powers, Judah stood up to Nebuchadnezzar. This proved to be foolish. Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin and a large portion of Judah away to Babylon (including Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael – who were given the names Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego).
Nebuchadnezzar found another son of Josiah, Mattaniah, renamed him Zedekiah, and put him on the throne of Judah with the understanding there would be no further resistance to the will of Babylon.
With the fresh understanding that Egypt could not save them, the Lord again sent prophets to Judah in the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, King of Judah. Among these prophets was a man named Lehi.
Tragically, he was rejected by people who should have known better.
After an arduous journey, Lehi and his family arrived in a precious land of promise, free from the troubles of Egypt and Babylon, and the misguided threat of wayward Judah. Here, with the consequences of unrepentance fresh in their minds, they would have an opportunity to be better.
Of course, shortly after Lehi’s death, Nephi and those who believed in the Lord were forced to flee for their lives from their brethren, who had tragically not learned from the past.
As generations passed, even the descendants of the Nephites had difficulty learning from the mistakes of their forebearers. War, betrayal, and pride continued to plague the people for centuries.
At last, the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, arrived and established peace and justice. For a time, it seemed as though the people had finally learned from the mistakes of those who had gone before them. But inevitably… pride, envy, wrath, and war came back among the people.
In the end, Mormon (for whom the Book of Mormon is named), made a desperate effort to encourage his people to remember those who had gone before and the peace and happiness that could be had again if only they returned to Jesus.
They would not.
Left with no hope for his own nation, Mormon gathered the histories, prophecies, and promises of his people, and compiled them so that they could give someone else a chance.
His son, Moroni, took his work and fled for his life, the lone survivor of a people filled with potential. To compound the tragedy, Moroni added another sad detail to the record of his father. His people had discovered the records of another people who had also started with great potential but rather shunned Christ and his prophets in favor of self-destruction.
The Nephites had not only done the same thing – BUT THEY HAD KNOWN BETTER.
How can a book with such a tragic conclusion bring happiness?
Certainly, the voices from the dust of Cumorah bring a sobering message… but they also bring something more: hope.
The dying hope of Mormon, the hope of Helaman, the hope of Alma, the hope of Mosiah, the hope of Benjamin, the hope of Jacob and Enos, and the hope of Moroni, is expressed at the end of the book:
“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moroni 10:3-5)
They want YOU to REMEMBER what their people did not. They want YOU to PRAY when their people did not. They want YOU to KNOW the truth that their people did not know.
The reason that the Book of Mormon brings so much happiness in spite of its tragedy is that YOU CAN FINISH THE STORY. Good can triumph over evil when YOU accept JESUS CHRIST and his Gospel that He preserved in the pages of the Book of Mormon.
- Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: Book of Mormon 2020, December 30-January 5.
- “The Last Words of Moroni” -Elder Mark E. Petersen, October 1978
- “Journey to Higher Ground” -Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, October 2005
- “A Legacy of Testimony” -Elder Henry B. Eyring, April 1996