There are 18 thoughts on “The Doctrine of Resurrection in the Book of Mormon”.

  1. This was a thought-provoking article, so thanks very much.
    In part I you indicate that Sadoc’s disciples justified their disbelief in the resurrection because they refused to receive “any scripture other than the five books of Moses, which do not explicitly refer to the resurrection at all.” This is a true characterization of the five books of Moses that we have in the Bible today. However, it is not true at all of the version of the Book of Moses we have in the Pearl of Great Price. The PofGP version is full of references to the resurrection, immortality and an after-life, including Moses 1: 39, Moses 5: 10-11, Moses 6: 57-61, Moses 7: 38-39, Moses 7: 45-46, Moses 7: 56-57 and Moses 7: 62-64.
    It is interesting that much of what was expunged from the Book of Moses to create the Biblical Genesis involves the key doctrine of the resurrection. In Moses 5: 10-11, Adam and Eve summarized the gospel message they had received and the doctrine of resurrection was inextricably woven into that summary. Then, in verse 13, Satan came among Adam and Eve’s descendants and said “Believe it not.” What is the “it” to which Satan was referring? As you point out in your excellent article, when there is no prospect of an after-life it is much easier to persuade people to be “carnal, sensual and devilish” (still referring to verse 13).
    Satan’s lie in the Garden of Eden was “Ye shall not surely die.” His lie thereafter was, and is, “Ye shall not surely live.”

    • Thank you for these comments Mark. They provoke a whole lot more wonderful questions which I will ponder with you. For one thing, were these wilful omissions, were they just abbreviations of was our Pearl of Great Price version of the first book of Moses always something more detailed and separately written?

      • I think there’s no single answer to your question.
        Moses 1: 42 indicates that there were indeed parts of the Book of Moses that were intended to have restricted circulation. But Moses 1: 41 also indicates that there would be wilful omissions even from the parts that were widely circulated.
        It is interesting to see where Genesis and the Book of Moses overlap and where they do not. For example, Moses 1 has no counterpart in Genesis and clearly had restricted circulation per Moses 1: 42. On the other hand, Moses 2 through 5 overlap heavily with Genesis but with “holes” in the latter. Some of the key “holes” are the missing material on resurrection and the missing references to the redeeming Son of God. These seem to me more like wilful omissions than mere abbreviations.
        So what was on the brass plates: a righteously restricted version, a wickedly edited version, a righteously abbreviated version? Given that your article posits an initial lack of knowledge among the Nephites about the resurrection, that seems to point to a wilfully edited version. I have trouble seeing why righteous editors would want to abbreviate references to the resurrection and to Jesus Christ.

  2. I realize that I’m submitting this comment about a month after this article was published. I tend to be a tortoise in my Book of Mormon studies, but I feel some aspects of this article warrant further discussion.
    The two short verses authored by Abinadom in the Book of Omni suggest that he was a man of few words (see Omni 1:10-11). Happily, the words of his son Amaleki provide some of the context that we need to more fully understand Abinadom’s brief words. Amaleki “was born in the days of Mosiah” (Omni 1:23). This means that Amaleki and Benjamin (who later became king) were contemporaries—they were both born in the days of Mosiah. It also means that their fathers, Abinadom and Mosiah, were contemporaries. Realizing this, we can see that much of Amaleki’s entry describes events that took place during Abinadom’s adult life. As a member of Mosiah’s generation, Abinadom would have been among the obedient adult Nephites who, when Mosiah was “warned of the Lord that he should flee out of the land of Nephi,” were willing to hearken “unto the voice of the Lord [and] depart out of the land with him, into the wilderness” (Omni 1:12).
    Therefore, Abinadom was with Mosiah as “they were led by many preachings and prophesyings. And they were admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla” (Omni 1:13). It is in this context, then, a context filled with ongoing revelation and prophesy, that we must read Abinadom’s brief testimony. This context makes it clear that Abinadom was well aware of—and followed—many revelations and prophesies received in his own day.
    Abinadom’s brief words mention the large plates, saying, “the record of this people is engraven upon plates which is had by the kings, according to the generations; and I know of no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy; wherefore, that which is sufficient is written” (Omni 1:11, emphasis added). With these words, Abinadom assures us that all the revelation of which he has knowledge “has been written.” It’s easy to reconcile this assurance with the fact that Abinadom knew of “many preachings and prophesyings” received in his own day. His words tell us that he is confident that these recent revelations received during his lifetime had, by the time he made his entry in the Book of Omni, been duly recorded upon the large plates.
    Perhaps Mosiah’s righteous followers were so numerous that Mosiah didn’t know Abinadom personally. We know, however, that the two were both record keepers. Abinadom kept the small plates of Nephi, while Mosiah kept the large plates. Although Mosiah was in charge of the large plates, it’s not clear that he always wrote on them personally. Three generations earlier, Jarom noted that the large plates contained “the writings of the kings, or those which they caused to be written” (Jarom 1:14). If the practice of sometimes delegating to others the actual work of engraving on plates continued in Abinadom’s day, it’s not out of the question that Abinadom, who had the requisite skills, had some role in writing down on the large plates a portion of the revelations received by Mosiah.
    In any event, Amaleki’s account of the events of his father Abinadom’s life helps to clarify that Abinadom was very much aware of, and valued, “many preachings and prophesyings” that took place as he and the other obedient subjects of Mosiah were “admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm” (Omni 1:13). Abinadom certainly did not live during a time when revelation was scarce among the Nephites. Because of revelation, Abinadom was convinced to move his family from the land of Nephi into an unknown wilderness, from which they were led by revelation to the land of Zarahemla. These historical facts strongly suggest that Abinadom knew of and obeyed many revelations received in his own day—and Abinadom’s brief words suggest that he also knew that these revelations had been duly recorded on the large plates.
    On a separate note, it seems illogical to draw an inference of partial apostasy from the fact that a specific word is missing from certain accounts in the Book of Mormon. In the absence of other clear evidence, the failure to use a specific word has little significance. Our entire Book of Mormon, to say nothing of the abbreviated accounts on the latter part of the small plates, is a limited record. We’re often told that it doesn’t contain a “hundredth part” of what it might (see Jacob 3:13, Words of Mormon 1:5, Helaman 3:14, 3 Nephi 5:8, 3 Nephi 26:6, and Ether 15:33). Jacob and Jarom both lament the fact that the small plates are so small (Jacob 7:27, Jarom 1:14). Other small plate record keepers had little room for laments, but both Amaron and Chemish note that their words are few (see Omni 1: 4 and 9).
    In addition, Book of Mormon record keepers, teachers and historians often use synonymous words and phrases to refer to a principle. For instance, the book of Third Nephi doesn’t include any form of the word atonement. Nevertheless, we can rest assured that the Lord, whose teachings are quoted in this book, Nephi the son of Nephi, who initially kept the record, and Mormon, who abridged the record, all believed firmly in the Atonement. Third Nephi relates many evidences of the reality of the Atonement despite the absence of any form of this word. Similarly, the word resurrection isn’t found among Savior’s words quoted in Third Nephi. Of course we shouldn’t infer from this that the risen Lord doesn’t believe in a physical resurrection. It only means that the use of this word wasn’t essential to the portion of his message quoted in our Book of Mormon.
    Because the absence of the word resurrection across the 28 pages that quote the Savior can’t be a sign of partial apostasy, we should be cautious about reading too much into the absence of the same word from 8 pages covering over three centuries of history or from 13 pages that quote only one of many sermons given by king Benjamin and others in his day (see Words of Mormon 1:17-18).
    (In fairness, I should mention that Mormon’s summary of the many things Christ taught that are not quoted in our Book of Mormon does use the word resurrection [see 3 Nephi 26:3-7].)

    • Clifford,
      I am happy to discuss because I have found that I learn more in the questioning process. In my experience, the revelation is in the questions. I have some comments that respond to you post, but I have not responded to everything you have said. In part that is because I agree with most of what you have written.
      I accept that Mosiah 1 was warned of the Lord to leave the Land/City of Nephi. That is what the scriptures say. That does not mean that everyone in the party received similar revelation or that they were happy about the move. Two attempts to return within a generation suggest otherwise. Those attempts suggest not everyone agreed with their king when he directed their departure from the Land/City of Nephi, but they either had no physical choice or felt they had no alternative because of the politics or because they did not want to stay behind alone.
      Because we do not know for sure who Abinadi was, we do not know if he was a member of Zeniff’s party and if he was, if he went back to Nephi in accordance with revelation which he received. Many people received revelation even in the dark ages which our missionaries teach was a universal age of apostasy.
      If Abinadom was a member of a priestly class, then it is to be expected that he was familiar with the “preachings and prophesyings” which were had among the Nephites.
      My suggestion that there was an apostasy of sorts between Jacob and Mosiah 1/Benjamin is not premised on the absence of the word “resurrection” in our translation of the small plates of Nephi. In larger part it responds to the words of Omni (“I…am a wicked man” Omni 1:1) and Abinadom (who wrote of much war and contention, and said that he knew of “no revelation save that which has been written, neither prophecy” Omni 1:10,11). I think we discount their words too much because we subliminally think there was an unbroken line of obedient priesthood authority from Nephi to Moroni. It is odd that there is no record of an institutionalised church before Alma 1 if this people had become large as they must have done.
      I like your observation that the word resurrection is not used in the account of the Saviour’s visit. But I wonder how much they needed to talk about the doctrine when He was there with them. For people who have not seen a resurrected being, the hope of a resurrection is a powerful motivator and it is unlikely it would be left unused.

  3. This was a fantastic article. I actually first listened to it as a podcast, but wanted to pass on my sincere thanks to the author for sharing these insights.
    I was most deeply impressed by the suggestion that the Lord generally gave only that light and knowledge that the various prophets diligently sought. If they didn’t inquire, He didn’t volunteer it. I wonder how general this principle is. I don’t think I have been seeking as diligently in my life as I should.

  4. Excellent article. I’ve listened to the mp3 several times and I’m finding much to continue thinking about.
    I appreciate the coverage of the small plates and their contents. In my own study this year, I began to believe that the small plates were never widely known among the Nephites.
    Mormon notes the command given him by Ammaron (Mormon 1):
    “3 … go to the land Antum, unto a hill which shall be called Shim; and there have I deposited unto the Lord all the sacred engravings concerning this people.
    4 And behold, ye shall take the plates of Nephi unto yourself, and the remainder shall ye leave in the place where they are…”
    The small plates were among the gathered sacred records, but Mormon was only to take the “the plates of Nephi” to add to them, and (being busy leading the armies) apparently didn’t spend much time with the records he was told to leave behind.
    When he decides to create his own record, he records (Words of Mormon):
    “3 … after I had made an abridgment from the plates of Nephi, down to the reign of this king Benjamin, of whom Amaleki spake, I searched among the records which had been delivered into my hands, and I found these plates…”
    I take three points from this verse: first, that when Benjamin received the small plates from Amaleki, the receipt was recorded in the large plates, which is what leads Mormon to search for them in Ammaron’s collection. Second, that the small plates were judged a “sacred record” by Benjamin, and were preserved and passed on by to Mosiah, Alma, etc. as part of the larger trust, through to Mormon’s day. Third, that Mormon was so intrigued by the mention of the small plates when he read that entry in the large plates, that he searched for them, and was so pleased by their contents he broke Ammaron’s charge and added them to his own record.
    I’ve wondered lately about the scribes between Omni and Amaleki. Why was Chemish not chosen by his father Omni – or was he? Did Chemish turn his father down? Why did Amaron deliver them to Chemish instead of one of his own children (if any)? Is there a difference between “conferring” (Omni to Amaron) and “delivering” (Amaron to Chemish) the records?
    Chemish and his son Abinadom strike me as unenthusiastic recordkeepers – to me, the latter makes plain he holds the kings’ record in higher regard – but it’s Chemish’s grandson who lives to see Benjamin’s day and to entrust the plates to him. Which, from your article, appears to be intriguing timing.
    Thank you for providing much to consider in my gospel study.

    • Thank you for your comments. They are also thought provoking and it all helps us concentrate and study the scriptures more meaningfully

  5. I would suggest that the Nephite’s didn’t have the sealing power necessary to perform work for the dead prior to Christ’s ministry; indeed 3rd Nephi had to be given the power directly from the Lord, and he was too busy to do any of it.
    Secondarily, until Christ’s resurrection I don’t know that anyone was authorized to do work for the dead until Christ could bridge the gap, as it were. So it is not surprising that the doctrine was clouded; it was merely an academic exercise at best. We see the same thing with the doctrine of translation: hugely important to Enoch’s church but pretty much academic for us today; and consequently we know very little about it.

    • In the economy of heaven, there may not have been much point giving ordinances and sealing power related to the dead if the gospel was not yet able to be preached to them…

  6. Interesting that you should say that.
    It turns out that until the resurrection of Christ, redemption for for the dead remained a sacred secret known, but not taught openly. Alma the Younger, for instance, taught this doctrine in the following form:
    He encounters an angel who pronounces judgement on him and he dies in his sins
    He remains in this death like state for either two or three days (who does that remind you of?)
    He goes to Hell
    He is tormented with the pains of a damned soul which he describes as “eternal torment”
    He repents and is redeemed (while dead! Imagine that)
    He is raised
    He tells us that this all happened “that they may foresee that he will come, and that he remembereth every creature of his creating, he will make himself manifest unto all.” (that is Helaman 27:30).
    I think Alma is trying to tell us something here.
    Thanks,
    Mark Clifford

  7. Outstanding article. Note that there is an exactly matching hiatus in any mention of baptism: Nephi and Jacob mention it, then there is no mention at all of baptism in the Book of Mormon until Alma (the elder) re-institutes it in the wilderness. I’ve written several blog posts on this subject, as well as Alma’s creation of a ‘church of anticipation’ (not unlike John the Baptist), and the curious way in which Mosiah — king and prophet — defers to Alma and ends up pretty much handing over all ecclesiastical authority to Alma when Alma (a repentant ‘wicked’ priest, no less) and his followers show up in Zarahemla. In effect, Mosiah and ‘his priests’ do what Herod Antipas and Caiaphas refused to do — accept the forerunner of the Messiah.

  8. By “redemption of the dead” I mean temple work, not redemption in general, which he discusses at length.

  9. I concur with your conclusion that the Nephites didn’t, generally, know as much about the Plan of Salvation as we do today. Given our present understanding, (and there may be much more still to be revealed), we overestimate how much the ancients knew, even the great prophets, because they rarely had the whole picture. Over and over, a doctrine is presented in the BOM, yet chapters later, the same doctrine comes as a wonderful surprise to a later writer. The various writers rarely had all the earlier revelations, and thus these doctrines had to be revealed anew, over and over again. The fate of the dead was a revelation to Alma the Younger, yet he seemingly knew nothing about redemption for the dead.

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