Lesson 5: Overview of the Book of Mormon

Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual, 2012


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. The writers of the Book of Mormon saw the latter days, and they included the accounts and teachings they knew would be of greatest benefit to us.

Suggestions for Teaching

The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith

Before class, place a Book of Mormon in a box and wrap it like a gift. Display the gift on a table in front of the class, and tell students that it is a valuable gift.

  • What are some of the most valuable gifts you have received?

  • What makes a gift valuable?

  • How do you feel when you give a gift that you consider valuable and the recipient accepts it with joy?

Invite a student to open the gift and show the other students what it contains.

  • Who gave us this gift?

  • Why do you feel this gift is valuable?

Display the picture Moroni Appears to Joseph Smith in His Room (62492; Gospel Art Book [2009], no. 91).

Angel Moroni appears to Joseph Smith in his room
  • What event is depicted in this picture?

  • How did this event contribute to the Restoration of the gospel?

Explain to students that they will now read the Prophet Joseph Smith’s own words about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Tell them that the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith that appears at the beginning of the Book of Mormon is taken from Joseph Smith—History in the Pearl of Great Price. As students complete the following activity, have them read from the Pearl of Great Price.

Assign students to work in pairs. Invite one student in each partnership to read Joseph Smith—History 1:30, 32–35, 42 silently. Ask the other student in each pair to read Joseph Smith—History 1:51–54, 59–60 silently. Explain that when they are finished reading, each partner should teach the other about what they have read.

After students have had sufficient time to read and discuss, ask:

  • How do you think it might have helped Joseph Smith to wait four years before he could take the gold plates home with him? (During that time Joseph was tutored by Moroni, and he matured in many ways. See Joseph Smith—History 1:54.)

  • In Joseph Smith’s account, what evidence do you see that the Lord preserved the Book of Mormon to come forth in the latter days?

  • In Joseph Smith’s account, what evidence do you see that the Book of Mormon came forth by the power of God?

A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon

To help students understand how the Book of Mormon was compiled, have them 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. As they read, have the rest of the class listen 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, beginning with the phrase “About this edition.” Explain that each edition of the Book of Mormon has included minor corrections of spelling and typesetting errors.)

Mormon Abridging the Plates

Display the picture Mormon Abridging the Plates (62520; Gospel Art Book, no. 73). Explain that many individuals preserved the records that eventually became the Book of Mormon. Write the following scripture references on the board. Ask students to study them silently, looking for some of the principles that helped the Book of Mormon writers determine what to include in their records. Invite students to share what they find. (You may want to write their responses on the board.)

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

Share your testimony that the Book of Mormon writers saw our day and wrote what would be of most help to us. Invite a student to read Mormon 8:35–38 aloud.

  • What problems did Moroni see among the people of our day?

  • Why is it important to know that Moroni and other Book of Mormon writers were aware of the problems we would face?

Invite a student to read the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson regarding how to study the Book of Mormon:

President Ezra Taft Benson

“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?’” (“The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 6).

Tell students that the people written about in the Book of Mormon faced problems much like our own. Although the Book of Mormon is an ancient document, its doctrines, histories, and stories are of great value today.

Ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson. (You may want to give each student a copy of the statement.) Have the class listen for blessings President Benson promised to those who begin a serious study of the Book of Mormon.

“It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called ‘the words of life’ (see D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance” (“The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” 7).

  • When have you experienced blessings from studying the Book of Mormon?

Share your testimony that the Book of Mormon gives us greater power to resist temptation, avoid deception, and stay on the strait and narrow path. Tell students about a time when you have received these blessings as a result of studying the Book of Mormon.

Before class, write the following list of questions and scriptures on the board:

Explain that in addition to the blessings already mentioned, the Book of Mormon contains answers to life’s most meaningful questions. Invite students to individually select one or two of the questions and search the accompanying scripture passages for answers. Give them a few minutes to find answers. You may want to walk around the classroom, giving help as needed.

  • How does the Book of Mormon answer the questions you chose?

Read the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. When he made this statement, he was speaking to seminary and institute teachers about the power of the scriptures to answer life’s most meaningful questions.

“If your students are acquainted with the revelations, there is no question—personal or social or political or occupational—that need go unanswered. Therein is contained the fullness of the everlasting gospel. Therein we find principles of truth that will resolve every confusion and every problem and every dilemma that will face the human family or any individual in it” (“Teach the Scriptures” [address to CES religious educators, Oct. 14, 1977], 3–4, si.lds.org).

Share how the Book of Mormon has blessed your life. Remind students of their goal to read the Book of Mormon daily and to read the entire Book of Mormon at least once this year.

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, the original manuscript was again 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 Book of Mormon Reference Companion, ed. Dennis Largey [2003], 124–25.)

President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote:

“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” (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 2:199–200; italics in original).