Lesson 5

Overview of the Book of Mormon

“Lesson 5: Overview of the Book of Mormon,” 2017 Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual (2017)


Introduction

This lesson provides an overview of the Book of Mormon. Students will study Joseph Smith’s testimony regarding the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. They will also learn how the book was compiled and abridged under heavenly direction.

Suggestions for Teaching

Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith

Display a copy of the Book of Mormon. Explain to students that they will likely have opportunities throughout their lives to share the Book of Mormon with others.

  • What information about the Book of Mormon might be helpful for you to be able to explain as you share the Book of Mormon with others?

As students respond, write questions such as the following on the board: What is the Book of Mormon about? Who wrote it? Why should we read it?

Invite students to look for answers to these questions as they study the Book of Mormon during today’s lesson. Explain that at the end of the lesson they will have the chance to role-play teaching another person about the Book of Mormon.

The Angel Moroni Appears to Joseph Smith

To prepare students to identify a truth about the Book of Mormon that they could share with others, display the picture Moroni Appears to Joseph Smith in His Room (Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 91; see also lds.org/media-library). Invite one or more students to summarize how Joseph Smith obtained the golden plates, from which he translated the Book of Mormon.

Invite students to turn to “Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” located in the introductory material at the beginning of the Book of Mormon. Ask a student to read aloud paragraphs six through eight (paragraph six begins with the phrase “he called me by name”). Invite the class to follow along, looking for what Joseph Smith learned about himself and about the Book of Mormon during his first encounter with Moroni.

  • What did Joseph learn about himself?

  • What did Joseph learn about the Book of Mormon? (After students respond, you may want to invite them to consider marking the following truth in their scriptures: The Book of Mormon contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.)

To help students understand this truth, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994):

President Ezra Taft Benson

“The Lord Himself has stated that the Book of Mormon contains the ‘fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ’ (D&C 20:9). That does not mean it contains every teaching, every doctrine ever revealed. Rather, it means that in the Book of Mormon we will find the fulness of those doctrines required for our salvation. And they are taught plainly and simply so that even children can learn the ways of salvation and exaltation” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign or Liahona, Oct. 2011, 55).

Ask students to turn to the introduction to the Book of Mormon, and invite several students to take turns reading aloud from the first five paragraphs. Invite the class to follow along and look for additional information that might be important to explain when teaching someone about the Book of Mormon. You may want to invite students to consider marking what they find.

  • What information in these paragraphs might be important to explain when teaching someone about the Book of Mormon? Why do you think this information might be important to explain?

You may want to point out that the Book of Mormon does not claim to give a history of all the peoples who lived anciently in the Western Hemisphere. It is primarily a record only of the Nephites and Lamanites and the people of Jared. There may have been other people who inhabited the continents in the Western Hemisphere before, during, and after the events recorded in the Book of Mormon.

A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon

Invite students to turn to the contents page of the Book of Mormon. Point out that like the Bible, the Book of Mormon consists of smaller books. Each of these smaller books is named after a prophet or record keeper who recorded important events, teachings, prophecies, and revelations.

Hold up a copy of the Book of Mormon.

  • Considering that this book contains the teachings of many different prophets and record keepers, as well as those of the Savior Himself, why is it called the Book of Mormon?

Mormon Abridging the Plates

Display the picture Mormon Abridging the Plates (Gospel Art Book, no. 73; see also lds.org/media-library). Help students understand that the Book of Mormon is named after Mormon because he was responsible for abridging (or condensing) and compiling many records into the narrative found in the Book of Mormon.

To help students understand how the Book of Mormon was compiled, invite them to turn to “A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon” in the introductory pages of the Book of Mormon. Invite four students to take turns reading items 1–4 aloud. Ask the rest of the class to follow along and look for ways each set of plates is important to the Book of Mormon. The appendix to this manual includes an illustration titled “The Plates and Their Relationship to the Published Book of Mormon.” This illustration may help students visualize the plates discussed in “A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon.” (If you feel it would be helpful as part of this discussion, point out the final paragraph of the brief explanation. Explain that each edition of the Book of Mormon has included minor corrections of spelling and typesetting errors.)

  • If you were responsible for writing, abridging, and compiling an important spiritual record of your people for future generations, how would you know what to include in the record and what to leave out of it?

Write the following scripture references on the board. Ask students to study them silently, looking for what Book of Mormon writers chose to include and emphasize in their records and why they chose to include those truths.

1 Nephi 6:4–6

2 Nephi 25:23, 26

Words of Mormon 1:4–8

Mormon 8:1, 34–35

  • What did Book of Mormon writers choose to include and emphasize in their records? Why did they emphasize those truths? (Students may state a number of truths, including the following: Book of Mormon writers recorded prophecies, teachings, and testimonies of Jesus Christ to persuade others to believe in Him. The Lord guided Book of Mormon writers through revelation to write what would be of most help to us. Using students’ words, write these truths on the board.)

  • How might understanding these truths help you as you study the Book of Mormon?

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) regarding how to study the Book of Mormon:

President Ezra Taft Benson

“Mormon wrote near the end of the Nephite civilization. Under the inspiration of God, who sees all things from the beginning, he abridged centuries of records, choosing the stories, speeches, and events that would be most helpful to us.

“Each of the major writers of the Book of Mormon testified that he wrote for future generations. …

“If they saw our day, and chose those things which would be of greatest worth to us, is not that how we should study the Book of Mormon? We should constantly ask ourselves, ‘Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?’” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” 55–56).

Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency. Ask students to listen for the promise that President Eyring made to seminary instructors and their students.

President Henry B. Eyring

“I will make you this promise about reading the Book of Mormon: You will be drawn to it as you understand that the Lord has embedded in it His message to you. Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni knew that, and those who put it together put in messages for you. I hope you have confidence that the book was written for your students. There are simple, direct messages for them that will tell them how to change. That is what the book is about. It is a testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Atonement and how it may work in their lives. You will have an experience this year feeling the change that comes by the power of the Atonement because of studying this book” (Henry B. Eyring, “The Book of Mormon Will Change Your Life,” Ensign, Feb. 2004, 11).

  • According to President Eyring, what will happen as we study the Book of Mormon and look for the messages the Lord has placed in it for us?

Consider inviting students to share a passage from the Book of Mormon that has particular significance for them. You might also share a passage, as well as your testimony of the truths written on the board.

Remind students of the goals you invited them to set to read the Book of Mormon daily and to read the entire Book of Mormon at least once this year.

Refer to the questions you wrote on the board at the beginning of the lesson. Invite students to consider what they have learned that would be helpful in answering those questions and in teaching others about the Book of Mormon.

Divide students into pairs. Invite each pair to role-play a situation in which one student shares the Book of Mormon with the other. Encourage students to share their testimonies of the Book of Mormon and invite the person they are teaching to study the Book of Mormon and ask God whether it is true (see Moroni 10:3–5). When students have finished this role play, invite students to switch roles and participate in another role play.

After students have finished their second role play, consider inviting two students to come to the front of the class and role-play a situation in which they present the Book of Mormon to you. (You could pretend to be someone who knows nothing about the Book of Mormon.)

When the students have finished the role play, thank them and invite them to be seated. Ask the rest of the class whether there is anything else they might have shared in this role play.

You may want to conclude by sharing your testimony of the Book of Mormon.

Commentary and Background Information

A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon. “About this edition”

There are two manuscripts of the Book of Mormon: the original manuscript and the printer’s manuscript. A small portion of the typesetting for the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon was based on the original manuscript, and the rest was based on the printer’s manuscript, which was a copy of the original manuscript. When Joseph Smith prepared the 1840 edition of the Book of Mormon, he used the original manuscript to correct accidental mistakes and deletions that occurred in the 1830 edition. For the 1981 edition, prepublication manuscripts such as the printer’s manuscript and a portion of the original manuscript were consulted to restore the original wording in about 20 places. Any mistakes in the Book of Mormon are the mistakes of men, and the changes are made simply to restore the Book of Mormon to its original meaning and intent. (See Dennis L. Largey, ed., Book of Mormon Reference Companion [2003], 124–25.)

President Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) wrote:

President Joseph Fielding Smith

“There were bound to be some typographical errors in the first edition [of the Book of Mormon], and perhaps an omission of a word or two. Those who have published books under the most careful and favorable circumstances, have, to their dismay, found errors, typographical and mechanical, some of which occurred after the final examination of proof has been made.

“… A careful check of the list of changes … shows there is not one change or addition that is not in full harmony with the original text. Changes have been made in punctuation and a few other minor matters that needed correction, but never has any alteration or addition changed a single original thought. As it appears to us, the changes … are such that make the text clearer and indicate that they were omitted. I am sure that the mistakes or omissions in the first edition were in large measure the fault of the compositor or the printer. Many of these mistakes which were in the first proofs were caught by the Prophet Joseph Smith himself, and he made the corrections” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr. [1958], 2:199–200; italics in original).