The Book of Mormon: A Guide for the Old Testament


Gary J. Coleman

The Book of Mormon:

The Old Testament can be better understood and believed by gleaning further light and truth from the pages of the Book of Mormon, our second witness for some of the events, themes, prophecies, and teachings of the Old Testament. The prophet Mormon certified this idea and explained our Heavenly Father’s intent in bringing to light the Book of Mormon: “For behold, this [the Book of Mormon] is written for the intent that ye may believe that [the Bible]; and if ye believe that [the Bible] ye will believe this [the Book of Mormon]” (Morm. 7:9).

Old Testament Events

The Book of Mormon offers clarifying facts about and insights into a number of stories of the Old Testament and often “likens” or applies principles from them. For example, without Lehi’s discourse in 2 Nephi 2 [2 Ne. 2], we would understand much less about the Fall. Mormon’s observation that Satan “put it into the hearts of the people to build a tower sufficiently high that they might get to heaven” (Hel. 6:28) sweeps away much confusion of the biblical account. Jacob’s teaching that Abraham’s offering of his son Isaac is “a similitude of God and his Only Begotten Son” (Jacob 4:5) allows us to confidently ponder the Atonement as we carefully study the detail of this story. For readers of the conquest of Palestine by Joshua and the children of Israel who wonder how God could sanction this action, Nephi clearly teaches that the Canaanites were a grossly wicked people, ripe for destruction, who had rejected the word of God (see 1 Ne. 17:32–38). Nephi’s application of a principle from this story of conquest encourages us to consider: “Behold, the Lord esteemeth all flesh in one; he that is righteous is favored of the Lord” (1 Ne. 17:35). Readers of the Old Testament would be wise to consult “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion” as a resource to their study (History of the Church, 4:46). The chart on the following page summarizes many specific Old Testament events that are better understood after searching the Book of Mormon.

Old Testament Themes

An oft-repeated idea in the Old Testament is God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their posterity. When God confirmed this covenant with Jacob, He said, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Gen. 32:28). Thereafter, Jacob’s descendants became known as the children or house of Israel (see Bible Dictionary, “Israel,” 708).

The Book of Mormon was written to show us “what great things the Lord has done for [our] fathers; and that [we] may know the covenants of the Lord” (Book of Mormon title page, paragraph 2). The “fathers” mentioned here refer to Adam, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, Joseph, Lehi, Nephi, Jacob, King Benjamin, King Mosiah, Alma, and many others. They were of the house of Israel and were under the same covenants with God as members of the Church are today. The family of Jacob, whether in Old Testament or Book of Mormon lands, were the preachers of righteousness who have laid before us in the scriptures the doctrine of Christ, even faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Adam, Moses, Isaiah, Nephi, Mormon, Moroni, and many others have written in great detail and clarity of the eternal gospel and its beginning from the foundation of the earth. They wrote and testified of the Creation, the Fall, Lucifer, the redemption of all mankind through the Holy Messiah, salvation by grace, and the resurrection of the dead.

Another major emphasis of the Old Testament is the scattering and gathering of the house of Israel. Here again the Book of Mormon offers invaluable perspectives. One of the sons of Jacob (Israel) was Joseph, who was sold into Egypt. Joseph became a leader in the court of Pharaoh (see Gen. 37–41). To Joseph were born two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim (Gen. 41:50–52). The descendants of these two sons are “the fruitful bough” of the house of Israel “whose branches run over the wall” (Gen. 49:22), meaning they were scattered across the earth. As the Book of Mormon account opens, we are introduced to Lehi, “a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt” (Alma 10:3).

The story of Lehi and his family in the Book of Mormon is a record of a scattered remnant of the house of Israel. Yet the Book of Mormon introduces all of scattered Israel to the Restoration and latter-day prophets who preach the same gospel of Christ taught by ancient prophets. When the resurrected Christ spoke of the doctrine of the gathering of a covenant people to the Saints in the land of Bountiful (see 3 Ne. 20:25–31), He reminded them of the ancient covenant He, as Jehovah, had made with Abraham some 2,000 years before (see Gen. 12:1–3; Gen. 17:19–21; Gen. 22:18), to gather scattered Israel. In plainness and simplicity, the Book of Mormon testifies that the intent of all scripture is to invite Israel home. This is done in all ages through the great process of missionary work.

A third significant subject presented in the Old Testament is the role of prophets. Prophets are called by God in all ages. Their duty is to teach the everlasting gospel, to cry repentance. They invite all to come to Christ and be saved in the kingdom of God. Whether from the watchtowers of the Old Testament (see Isa. 52:8; Jer. 6:17; Ezek. 3:17), those of the Book of Mormon (see Mosiah 2:8; Hel. 7:10–14), or today’s pulpits alive with latter-day testimony, prophets speak and the message of salvation is given. The Book of Mormon helps us understand how Old Testament prophets held the keys and authority of God and conducted their labors in preparing families for exaltation through the great plan of God (see JST, Gen. 14:25–40, Bible appendix; Alma 13:1–21). Righteous priesthood holders administer the gospel of Jesus Christ and establish the Church in every dispensation.

Old Testament Prophecies

Old Testament and Book of Mormon peoples wanted to know of future events. Book of Mormon prophet Jacob observed, “For I know that ye [his people] have searched much, many of you, to know of things to come” (2 Ne. 9:4). Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, and Malachi all noted their people’s fascination with soothsayers, astrologers, and divination (see Isa. 8:19; Jer. 27:9; Ezek. 12:24; Micah 5:12; Mal. 3:5). But their prophets wanted them to know about the Lord’s future work, particularly concerning the coming of Christ in the flesh, the last days, the Second Coming, and the Millennium. Both the Old Testament and Book of Mormon are filled with prophecies which overlap and help illuminate each other. Book of Mormon prophets frequently turned to Old Testament passages, even directly quoting from them, to teach of the future. The following chart summarizes where a student of Old Testament prophecy can turn in the Book of Mormon for further help.

Old Testament Teachings

There is no wide-ranging explanatory discussion of the plan of God in the Old Testament. Yet Book of Mormon prophets, who had much of the Old Testament on the plates of brass (see 1 Ne. 5:10–16), were well acquainted with the plan of God. How beautifully Jacob and Alma outline the central and saving role of the Savior in the plan! (see 2 Ne. 9:1–26; Alma 12:32–34). In fact, one of the roles of the Book of Mormon is to add to the Old Testament many precious insights into the great plan, particularly concerning Christ, who is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament (see 1 Ne. 17:30). The primary intent of ancient American prophets was to testify to future generations that “we knew of Christ, and we had a hope of his glory many hundreds of years before his coming; and not only we ourselves had a hope of his glory, but also all the holy prophets which were before us” (Jacob 4:4). The prophet Nephi said, “My soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ; for, for this end hath the law of Moses been given; and all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world, unto man, are the typifying of him” (2 Ne. 11:4). Nephi taught his people of Christ, primarily through the use of the types and symbols he found in the Old Testament. The following chart shows examples of teachings and symbols, some of which are given limited review in the Old Testament but are amplified in the Book of Mormon.

Conclusion

The scriptures have come from God through the inspired minds of those who spoke and wrote of eternal truths. Members of the Church today are children of the covenant, the people blessed of the Lord to have a fulness of the gospel and to have made sacred covenants with the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. Ours is a life in the kingdom of God on earth, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yet it is eternal life in the kingdom of God in heaven that our Savior continually invites us to obtain by following His righteous example. Thanks be to God the Father for the sacred records which testify of the great plan of happiness. The work, sacrifice, endurance, faith, hope, and joy of all the holy prophets—those in the Old Testament and in the Book of Mormon—were centered in the blessed Atonement of the Son of God. He is the Mediator and grantor of the blessings of the covenant between the people of God and our Heavenly Father. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is an essential study aid for more fully understanding the message of the Old Testament, our first and most enduring witness of Christ.

Old Testament Events and Related Book of Mormon References

Old Testament Event

Old Testament Reference

Related Book of Mormon Reference

The Creation of the earth and mankind

Gen. 1–2; Moses 2–3

2 Ne. 2:11–15; Jacob 2:21; Mosiah 4:9; Morm. 9:17

The Fall of Adam and Eve

Gen. 3; Moses 4

2 Ne. 2:14–25; Alma 12:20–24

Cain and secret combinations

Gen. 4; Moses 5:18–32

Hel. 6:26–30; Ether 8:15–16

Noah and the Flood

Gen. 7

Alma 10:22; Ether 6:7

The Tower of Babel

Gen. 11

Hel. 6:28; Ether 1:33–43

Melchizedek and Abraham

Gen. 14:18–20

Alma 13:14–19

Abraham circumcises his household

Gen. 15; Lev. 12

Moro. 8:8

Moses and the parting of the Red Sea

Ex. 14

1 Ne. 4:2–3; 1 Ne. 17:23–27; Mosiah 7:19

Moses brings forth water from a rock in the wilderness

Ex. 17; Num. 20

1 Ne. 17:29; 2 Ne. 25:20

Moses receives the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai

Ex. 19–20

Mosiah 12:33–36

Moses is transfigured

Ex. 34:29–35

Mosiah 13:5

Moses and the brazen serpent

Num. 21

1 Ne. 17:41–42; 2 Ne. 25:20; Alma 33:19–21; Hel. 8:14–15

What happened to Moses at the end of his ministry

Deut. 34

Alma 45:19

The conquest of the promised land by Joshua and the children of Israel

Josh. 1–10

1 Ne. 17:32–38

David marries many wives

1 Sam. 25:42–43; 2 Sam. 5:13; 2 Sam. 11:27

Jacob 2:23–31; Jacob 4:14–18

Solomon marries many wives

1 Kgs. 11:1–3

Jacob 2:23–31; Jacob 4:14–18

Jeremiah cast into prison

Jer. 37

1 Ne. 7:14

Destruction of Jerusalem by Babylonians

Jer. 52:12–15; 2 Kgs. 24–25

1 Ne. 1:4, 13; 1 Ne. 7:13–15; 2 Ne. 1:4; 2 Ne. 6:8; Omni 1:15–18; Hel. 8:20

Isaiah sees Jesus Christ

Isa. 6

2 Ne. 11:2

Old Testament Teachings and Related Book of Mormon References

Old Testament Teaching

Old Testament Reference

Related Book of Mormon Reference

Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, is Jesus Christ

Gen. 4:4; Gen. 7:1; Gen. 12:1; Gen. 28:13; Ex. 3:4–6; Ex. 14:30

1 Ne. 17:30; 2 Ne. 10:2–3; Moro. 10:34

Ancient patriarchs entered the rest of God

Gen. 4–5, Gen. 11–12

Alma 13:1–20

The Ten Commandments

Ex. 20

Mosiah 13:12–26

God gives power over the weather to some of His prophets

1 Kgs. 17:1

Hel. 10:4–11; Hel. 11:4–5

Moses and many other Old Testament prophets taught of Christ

Deut. 18:15–19; five books of Moses; writings of Isaiah and Jeremiah

3 Ne. 20:23–24; Hel. 8:11–22; Mosiah 13:33–35

The purpose of the law of Moses was to lead people to Christ

Ex. 20Lev. 27

Jacob 4:4–6; 2 Ne. 25:23–30; Mosiah 3:14; Mosiah 13:27–35; Alma 25:15–16; Alma 34:10–14; 3 Ne. 9:17; 3 Ne. 12:17; 3 Ne. 15:2–9

Old Testament Prophecies and Related Book of Mormon References

Old Testament Prophecy

Old Testament Reference

Related Book of Mormon Reference

Through Abraham’s seed would come a blessing for all nations

Gen. 12:3

1 Ne. 15:18; 3 Ne. 20:25–27

God would raise up two prophets: Moses and Joseph Smith

JST, Gen. 50:24–38

2 Ne. 3:3–22

The Bible and the Book of Mormon would become one in the hand of the Lord

JST, Gen. 50:24–38; Ezek. 37:15–17

1 Ne. 13:39–40; 2 Ne. 3:11–12; 2 Ne. 29:8–14

Jesus Christ would be rejected by the Jews

Ps. 118:22–23

Jacob 4:14–18

Prophecies of the latter days, Isaiah’s day, Christ’s day, and the Millennium

Isa. 2–24

2 Ne. 12–27:2 (a quote of Isaiah’s writings from the plates of brass)

The words of the Book of Mormon will help gather Israel

Isa. 5:26

2 Ne. 29:2–3

The gathering of Israel in the last days

Isa. 11:4–12

2 Ne. 25:17; 2 Ne. 29:1; 2 Ne. 30:3–18

God will teach His people “line upon line”

Isa. 28:9–13

2 Ne. 28:29–31

The coming forth of the Book of Mormon

Isa. 29

2 Ne. 26:15–17; 2 Ne. 27:2–35; 2 Ne. 28:9–16; 3 Ne. 21:9

A prophet would prepare the way for Christ

Isa. 40:3

1 Ne. 10:7–8

Scattered Israel will be gathered by the power of Christ in the last days

Isa. 48–49

1 Ne. 20–22 (a quote of Isaiah’s writings from the plates of brass)

The Gentiles will help gather Israel in the last days

Isa. 49:22–26

2 Ne. 6

Christ would suffer for His people

Isa. 50–52:2

2 Ne. 7–8

Israel will be redeemed in the last days through prophets and missionary work; Christ shall reign upon the earth

Isa. 52

1 Ne. 22:10–12; Mosiah 12:21–24; Mosiah 15:13–19, 29–31; 3 Ne. 16:11–20; 3 Ne. 20:30–45; 3 Ne. 21:8, 26–29

Christ would suffer for the sins of the world

Isa. 53

Mosiah 14:1–15:12

Israel will be gathered in mercy and tenderness in the last days

Isa. 54

3 Ne. 22

Christ will make an everlasting covenant with all who will come to Him

Isa. 55:1–3

2 Ne. 26:24–28; Moro. 10:31–32

God will fight Israel’s battles in the last days

Micah 4:11–13; Micah 5:8–15

3 Ne. 16:7–15; 3 Ne. 20:16–21; 3 Ne. 21:12–21

The wicked will be destroyed at the Second Coming when Christ will judge the nations

Mal. 3–4

3 Ne. 24:1–26:2 (a quote of Malachi’s writings)

Symbols of Christ’s Ministry and Related Book of Mormon References

Symbols of Christ’s Ministry

Old Testament Reference

Related Book of Mormon Reference

Sacrifices pointed to Christ

Gen. 4

2 Ne. 2:7; 3 Ne. 9:19–20

Melchizedek

Ps. 110:4

Alma 13:2, 14–16

Abraham and Isaac

Gen. 22

Jacob 4:5

The Passover lamb

Ex. 12

Alma 34:10–14

The blood of the covenant

Ex. 24:8

Mosiah 3:18

Water from a rock

Num. 20

2 Ne. 25:20

Brazen serpent

Num. 21

2 Ne. 25:20

More on this topic: See Victor L. Ludlow, “Unlocking Old Testament Prophecy,”Ensign, Oct. 1990, 58–63; Robert L. Millet, “The Plates of Brass: A Witness of Christ,”Ensign, Jan. 1988, 26–29; Glenn L. Pearson, “The Book of Mormon as a Witness of the Old Testament,”Ensign, June 1986, 14–18.

[illustration] Noah’s Preaching Scorned, by Harry Anderson

[illustration] Moses Parting the Sea, by Robert T. Barrett

[illustration] Joseph Smith Receiving the Plates, by Kenneth Riley

[illustration] Sacrifice of Isaac, by Jerry Harston