Moroni 10 – Why The Book of Mormon Matters – Big Picture

Moroni 10

The last chapter of the Book of Mormon is Moroni’s concluding remarks before he forever seals up the record with faith that one day it might be recovered for some benefit to future generations. I can’t emphasize this point enough. Through Moroni we have an example. No matter how pointless, desperate, or hopeless our individual lives might feel, there’s always a hope that whatever we leave behind as we leave this world might be of some benefit to future generations. I think we all want our lives to have some sort of impact. We should live them with hope that they might. Moroni provides such an example.

Verse three, Moroni repeats much of what’s found throughout the book, to remember God’s mercy in our history. Verse four, is an exhortation for the reader to pray about “these things”. I doubt “these things” means the book itself, but its contents and gospel. We should elevate the message over the delivery mechanism.

Verse 8 through 23 echo 1 Corinthians 12, Moroni emphasizes the need for a diversity of spiritual gifts that show up in individual members, that they all are gifts, one is not better than another, that we should rejoice in diversity at that “it is the same God who worketh all in all” (verse 8). What should show up in this diversity, however, what should underly it all faith, hope and charity (verse 20).

The chapter concludes with a reference to Isaiah and a call to the reader to “awake and arise from the dust” (verse 31), to “strengthen they stakes” to build up Zion. It’s a message of gathering all good things and for each of us individually to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.””” (verse 32).

My Thoughts on the Book of Mormon

This book of scripture loses a lot of resonance and importance outside of Latter Day Saint traditions (Mormonism and its knock-offs). Members of the church view it as sacred scripture, most accept it as a literal historical narrative that has come through us through divine and miraculous channels, just in the way Joseph Smith describes it. There is an enormous amount of apologetics trying to prove the Book of Mormon is empirically historical. I’m not sure anyone outside of Mormonism takes these claims seriously.

Efforts to find archeological evidence for a Jewish/Christian community somewhere in the American continent as a way to prove the Book of Mormon for me seems like wasted effort. I don’t think a Mormon faith should hinge on such a non-religious foundation and the book itself pushes hard against it.

The book is fundamentally a religious not a historical book. I think the book is best read as if it’s historical, but I don’t think it loses its power if at some future date, someone proves incontrovertibly the book was a product of Joseph Smith – some believe we’re already there, but I’m not sure that’s actually true. I suspect, just like the Bible, the further we move away from the Joseph Smith temporally, the more difficult it will be to prove things either way. Much of the Bible’s historical claims are equally as difficult in many ways but because the Bible comes from a fare more ancient period, its claims are harder to validate one way or the other.

There are remarkable, physics defying miracles described in both the Book of Mormon and the Bible that don’t seem to happen today (some people thing otherwise). Perhaps, miracles happened in ancient times that are no longer necessary. More likely, ancient people were more superstitious, less scientifically savvy and believed in and described things in ways that stretched events far beyond actual occurrences. Much of what is scriptural can be viewed as more mythical than historical.

None of that actually matters to faith, though. Does a story, myth or event motivate a person into more alignment with goodness and God? If yes, great.

It is my witness the Book of Mormon has done that for me. And for me that is enough.

Moroni 7-9: Final Sermons from Mormon

Moroni 7: Faith, Hope, and Charity

While reading scripture, I think it’s helpful to keep the teachings in context. We know that Moroni did not expect to be writing this book of scripture at all (see Moroni 1:1). By this point, his father Mormon had died in battle and he was alone, a former general of a civilization that no longer existed. In Moroni’s final words, he chose to focus on the organizational church (Moroni 1-6). In chapter 7, Moroni decides to quote earlier sermons from his father.

It’s difficult to make total sense of the sermon’s context in Moroni 7. It appears it was delivered in a time of peace and at least given to a people striving to live up to their Christian covenants. Given the horrors of war described in Mormon and soon to be described in Moroni 8 & 9, it’s a memory of a time and place for different from Moroni’s current situation. It’s a beautiful sermon entitled right up front by Moroni as a few words about “faith, hope, and charity” (Moroni 7:1).

In the sermon, Mormon right up front expresses this teaching opportunity as a “gift of his calling unto me” given “by the grace of God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Moroni 7:2), which I think is the right way to approach this type of encounter with others. Every time we are in the same space with another person, consider it a gift of God. I think of that right now as my oldest daughter is contemplating a lift-off out of our house into the broader world. These encounters are precious. We should treat them as such.

In verse 3, Mormon addresses his audience as the “peaceable followers of Christ” which has added poignancy considering Mormon’s service as a war general from age 16 until his death in battle. Who are these peaceable followers of Christ? Nonetheless, they have “obtained a sufficient hope by which [they] can enter into the rest of the Lord…” Moroni 7:3. I think there must be a link there. Hope brings rest.

From verse 5-15, Mormon boils the gospel down to this – “by their works ye shall know them” (Mormon 7:5) and even more expansively, “all things which are good cometh of God”. (Mormon 7:12) I think we need to take this principle to heart in all that we do, as a way to break through walls and connect cross-culturally, cross-faith tradition, bi-partisan, find ways to build bridges. The gospel is less about specific beliefs and more about what we do and how we do it.

These verses also make the deep case that character does matter, “A man being evil cannot do that which is good, for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.” (Moroni 7:6). More poignantly, this sermon makes the case to judge righteously. “Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.” (Moroni 7:14).

To be a bit political for a moment, we can’t expect our political leaders, no matter what they say with their lips to lead well if they aren’t good within. But if they are good, we can expect goodness to flow out of them. What they say, how they say it and how they treat others matters. We should modify our politics accordingly.

The injunction to “lay hold upon every good thing” (Mormon 7:18), according to Mormon requires deep and abiding faith, “by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing.” (Mormon 7:25). Then Mormon ties faith to miracles, linked I think directly to the act of holding onto every good thing. I think as we open ourselves up, authentically with vulnerability, relationally with others, we can experience miracles and the visitation of angels, in all of their forms, however you choose to interpret that.

All of this gets boiled down to what the core of the gospel has always been about, “And the office of the ministry is to call men unto repentance, and to fulfil and to do the work of the covenants of the Father…” Moroni 7:31 Everything comes down to faith, repentance, and covenant.

Mormon 7 concludes by connecting faith with hope in Christ and to underly it all with the pure love of Christ, which is charity, which “suffers long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up… ” Moroni 7:45). He concludes the sermon with a plea to pray “with all the energy of heart” to be filled with this love. (Moroni 7:48).

Moroni 8: Don’t Baptize Young Children

Again, this chapter seems oddly out of place considering the hellscape both Mormon and Moroni were living within. But apparently, many among them were arguing about whether to baptize little children. I think within the context of deep mortality, where men, women and children were likely holding onto life by the bearest of threads, securing salvation through ritual must have been top of mind. In Thomas Hardy’s novel Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the heroine, in late night desperation baptizes her dying child. Mormon’s response to this impulse is that children “need no repentance, neither baptism.” (Moroni 8:10).

This chapter re-affirms baptism as a covenant to live a life of penitent concern for others, designed for those old enough to make this covenant and that underlying everything we do should be grace, hope, charity and faith. In that sense, baptism is not an item on a checklist, nor is the gospel about checklists (not that checklists aren’t helpful tools, but they are tools). We should learn not to get hung up with details.

Moroni 9: Society is Still Actually Falling Apart

The transition in Moroni 8 from baptism to the state of society feels a bit like when Hermione Granger to in Harry Potter said:

Now, if you two don’t mind, I’m going to bed before either of you come up with another clever idea to get us killed. Or worse, expelled.

https://www.definitions.net/definition/get

Yes, baptizing little children is not good, but there are plenty of far worse things to worry about, “Behold, the pride of this nation, or the people of the Nephites, hath proven their destruction except they should repent.” (Moroni 8:27)

And then it just gets worse from there, Moroni 9 goes into dark details of cannibalism, rape, murder, destruction, “O the depravity of my people! They are without order and without mercy.” Moroni 9:18. However, here’s the hope, the importance of our work:

And now behold, my beloved son, notwithstanding their hardness, let us labor diligently; for if we should cease to labor, we should be brought under condemnation; for we have a labor to perform whilst in this tabernacle of clay, that we may conquer the enemy of all righteousness, and rest our souls in the kingdom of God.

Moroni 9:6

The Book of Mormon is deeply concerned with justice, mercy, grace and works. None of these principles are in tension, they are all intertwined. It’s through grace we work, we find mercy only in a just world. There is a deep need within us to be useful, connected and at work for the benefit of others. Let us all labor diligently, no matter how desperate or dim we find our circumstances.

Moroni 1-6

These six chapters are among the shortest in the Book of Mormon. These really tiny little nuggets of chapters weren’t even going to be written. Moroni had finished what I imagine and to be a monumental task to summarize the history of the people of Jared, thinking he was finished with the record, “but I have not yet perished” (Moroni 1:1).

Moroni was a general in the civil wars described in the final records recorded by his father Mormon. His people had been wiped out or absorbed. Moroni was among the lone survivors. The Lamanites were on a cultural genocidal rampage “and because of their hatred they put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ. And I, Moroni will not deny the Christ; (Moroni 1:2).

What’s interesting here, even though Mormon described the civil wars to be between the Lamanites and Nephites, it seems here that the Christian identity and not the Nephite identity was at the heart of the conflict. This makes sense given that in 4 Nephi, the Lamanite and Nephite populations had dissolved into a single group for two hundred years – intermixing and inter-marrying, organized around Christian principles after Jesus visit. Eventually, class conflict, pride, and tribalism produced the civil wars that ended what’s identified as the Nephite population but I question that framing.

Some speculation here – the Nephites were likely those who remained Christian, not necessarily those literal descendants from Nephi, while others had fallen out of the Christian tradition taken on the older Lamanite tribal identities. The Nephites ended up no more righteous than the Lamanites but likely continued to maintain their Christian identities, using it as a marker and justification for their own self regard in ways that are counter to the spirit of what Christianity is supposed to be doing.

Moroni was among the sole survivors who tried to live the spirit of the Christian message while remaining loyal to the culturally identifying group he was born into. He could tried to assimilate, repudiating his Christian/Nephite identity, but he chose to remain true to his covenants and so wandered in isolation.

In this desperate state, expecting to be captured and killed, but finding some additional and unexpected time and space, he decided to write down some of what he felt were among the most precious truths that would someday, he hoped, be of benefit to the descendants of those people who would hunt him down and murder him if given the chance. What are Moroni’s most precious truths?

In the next few chapters, Moroni details the structures of the functioning church Jesus had set up 400 years earlier. In chapter 2, he describes the manner in which Jesus gave the disciples power to invoke the Holy Ghost through the laying hands upon heads. In chapter three, he describes the manner of ordaining priests and teachers who are called “to preach repentance and remission of sins through Jesus Christ, by the endurance of faith on his name to the end.” Moroni 3:3. Once again, the core purpose of a Christian church is to guide the individual into a lifetime of repentance, faith, and service to others. That’s it. That’s the gospel.

In Chapters 4 and 5 Moroni gives us the sacramental prayers word for word. Finally (at least for this Sunday school lesson, Moroni continues on for four additional chapters), in Chapter 6, Moroni describes the purpose of weekly church.

And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls. And they did meet together oft to partake of the bread and wine, in remembrance of the Lord Jesus.

Moroni 6:5-6

These weekly meetings, the regular habits we build up, to come together, to practice our virtues. To recommit each week to really think of the life of Jesus, a life of consecrated service and sacrifice. Moroni having survived a brutal civil war, wandering alone, cutoff from community, holding onto his faith, reminds us how precious these simple things are, the weekly meetings that we too often take for granted, that become routine events in our lives, that we sit through habitually. We need to hold onto them with greater care and attentiveness, allowing the regular rituals to work deeper into our hearts, to purify our souls and put us in greater concern and care for others. If that’s not happening, church isn’t happening.