Overview of the Book of Mormon

Book of Mormon Teacher Resource Manual, (2004), 14–16


Introduction

In an address to Church Educational System teachers, Elder Boyd K. Packer, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, said:

“There is great value in presenting a brief but very carefully organized overview of the entire course at the very beginning. …

“Those few beginning periods, so brief an investment of time by comparison, make it possible for the students to locate themselves anywhere along the way. They have something of a feeling. They retain much more when they know how all of the pieces fit together, and the light of learning shines more brightly. The preview forms a framework and is more than worth the time and work invested in it” (The Great Plan of Happiness [address to religious educators at a symposium on the Doctrine and Covenants/Church history, Brigham Young University, 10 Aug. 1993], 2; or Charge to Religious Educators, 3rd ed. [1994], 113).

Take the time to develop and teach an introduction to and overview of the Book of Mormon. This will help your students understand the importance of the Book of Mormon and look forward to the materials they will read and learn during the school year. An introduction and overview will strengthen your own and your students’ understanding of the divine mission of Jesus Christ.

What Is the Book of Mormon?

The Book of Mormon is a record of three groups of people that were led by the Lord to the American continent, their promised land. The first group, the Jaredites, left the Old World at the time of the Tower of Babel to escape the confounding of the tongues. Their story is found in the book of Ether. The second group came with father Lehi from Jerusalem during the reign of King Zedekiah. Most of the Book of Mormon is a record of the Nephites and Lamanites, rival nations that descended from Lehi’s family. The third group, sometimes referred to as the Mulekites, arrived in the promised land a few years after Lehi, with a son of Zedekiah named Mulek. They later joined with the Nephites. The Book of Mormon depicts the struggles of these peoples and testifies of the role of Jesus Christ and His gospel in their temporal welfare and spiritual salvation.

The Book of Mormon is an inspired voice from the past with vital messages for today. President Ezra Taft Benson said: “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’ (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” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 6; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 7).

Why Should We Study the Book of Mormon?

Elder Boyd K. Packer taught:

“The Book of Mormon … affirms both the Old and the New Testaments. Here, more details of the doctrines of salvation, lost from them, are revealed.

“In its pages justice and mercy, the Fall and the Atonement, and mortal death and spiritual death are explained. You learn of the frailties and the consummate goodness of men and of peoples.

“You are taught of the still, small voice of personal revelation.

“You read of the appearance of the Lord to his other sheep. And you are promised that he will ‘manifest the truth of [this sacred book] unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost’ (Moroni 10:4)” (in Conference Report, Mar.–Apr. 1990, 50; or Ensign, May 1990, 38).

Both ancient and modern prophets have stressed the value of the scriptures in helping us come to know God. Jesus said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3). The Apostle Paul taught Timothy about the value of holy writings:

  • They are able to make one “wise unto salvation” (2 Timothy 3:15).

  • They are “given by inspiration of God” (v. 16).

  • They are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (v. 16).

  • They help the righteous become perfect and “throughly furnished unto all good works” (v. 17).

The prophet Mormon wrote:

“Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked—

“And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven” (Helaman 3:29–30).

The scriptures help us “divide asunder” (overcome) the lies and temptations of the devil and follow a course that will “land” us in (bring us to) the celestial kingdom.

The following doctrines, all taught in the Book of Mormon, show why a careful study of this book is not only meaningful but crucial:

  • The Book of Mormon was preserved by God to testify of Jesus Christ.

  • Angels have a mission to assist God in redeeming His children.

  • God will fulfill His promise to gather scattered Israel and will do so with power.

  • All must be spiritually born of God to be saved.

  • The Lord extends a hand of mercy to those who repent.

  • The only way to perfection is to come unto Christ.

  • The Lord will provide a land of promise for His faithful children.

  • The natural man is an enemy to God.

  • The devil will not support his children in the end.

Consider this challenge given by President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“I would like to urge every man and woman … and every boy and girl who is old enough to read to again read the Book of Mormon during this coming year. This was written for the convincing of the Jew and the Gentile that Jesus is the Christ. There is nothing we could do of greater importance than to have fortified in our individual lives an unshakable conviction that Jesus is the Christ, the living Son of the living God. That is the purpose of the coming forth of this remarkable and wonderful book. May I suggest that you read it again and take a pencil, a red one if you have one, and put a little check mark every time there is a reference to Jesus Christ in that book. And there will come to you a very real conviction as you do so that this is in very deed another witness for the Lord Jesus Christ” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 44).

How Is the Book of Mormon Organized?

The Book of Mormon is a collection of books. The greater part of its pages are an abridgment written by the hand of Mormon. Mormon was a prophet-leader who abridged sacred Nephite records, and it is from him that the Book of Mormon receives its name. In total there are fifteen books in the Book of Mormon. The “Main Sources for the Book of Mormon” chart in the appendix (p. 279) may be helpful in understanding how the Book of Mormon is organized. (See also A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon in the introduction to the Book of Mormon.)

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

  • The Book of Mormon was preserved for our day to give us power over temptation, guide us in our daily lives, and help us come to Jesus Christ.

Suggestions for Teaching

video iconBook of Mormon Video presentation 1, “For Our Day” (12:12), can be used to introduce the Book of Mormon (see Book of Mormon Video Guide for teaching suggestion).

Book of Mormon Overview. The Book of Mormon was preserved for our day to give us power over temptation, guide us in our daily lives, and help us come to Jesus Christ. (30–35 minutes)

Place a Book of Mormon in a box and wrap it. Display the box on a table in front of the class and tell students that it is a valuable gift. Ask:

  • 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 is valuable to you and the person receives it with a caring attitude? an uncaring attitude?

Have a student open the gift and look inside without allowing the others to see. Ask the student if the gift inside is valuable. Take the Book of Mormon out of the box and show it to the class. Ask:

  • Who gave us this gift?

  • What makes this gift valuable?

  • Why might a person not be willing to receive this gift?

Invite students to join you in opening this gift from the Lord to discover its value.

Show students the chart on page 279. (You could use an overhead, make handouts, or use the version in “Introductory Pages to the Book of Mormon” in the student study guide.) Have students open their copies of the Book of Mormon to the table of contents and use the chart to help them mark the books by source.

Have students name some of their favorite stories or teachings from the Book of Mormon and tell why they like them.

Tell students that this year they will be studying about real people with real challenges and problems. Ask students to consider the following questions:

  • Have you ever been asked to accomplish something that seemed impossible? (This year they will read how the brother of Jared provided light for the vessels that carried his people across the ocean to a promised land.)

  • Have you ever been treated unfairly by your brothers or sisters? (They will learn how Nephi struggled with this problem and how the Lord helped him through it.)

  • Have you ever been confronted by bullies? (They will discover how Alma and his people trusted in the Lord even though the Amulonites treated them unfairly and threatened to kill them.)

  • Are people today tempted to break the law of chastity? (They will learn about how Alma’s son Corianton had to experience the serious consequences of his sins.)

Tell students that the Book of Mormon Saints faced problems much like our own. Remind them that although the Book of Mormon speaks as a voice from the past, its doctrines, histories, and stories are of great value today. The Book of Mormon was written for our day and for our benefit. Invite students to read the following verses and answer the accompanying questions:

  • Helaman 5:12. What does the Book of Mormon teach about combating Satan and having power over temptation?

  • 2 Nephi 32:3. What does the Book of Mormon teach about receiving guidance in our daily lives?

  • Moroni 10:32–33. What does the Book of Mormon teach about coming unto Jesus Christ?

  • What evidence do these teachings provide that the Book of Mormon was organized and preserved for our day?

Tell students that, like gifts in boxes, the Book of Mormon can only be discovered and understood as it is opened, carefully examined, and cherished. Have a student read the following statement by President Joseph Fielding Smith, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve:

“What a sad reflection it is that the Lord, knowing the end from the beginning, predicted that even after the Book of Mormon was published and presented to the world, many of those who had entered into covenant with him in the waters of baptism would think so little of the Book of Mormon, that they would pay no heed to its teachings, and by their indifference and lack of faith, the great blessings which the Lord has in store for the faithful have to be withheld” (Answers to Gospel Questions, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., 5 vols. [1957–66], 4:141).

Ask: What is the relationship between people’s attitudes toward the Book of Mormon and their ability to understand its teachings? Encourage students to approach their study of the Book of Mormon with sincere effort and a prayerful attitude.