Christendom views John the Revelator and the Book of Revelation in a unique light . . . the only scripture in the New Testament that sounds like the old, the only prophetic tome in the New Testament, the rest being letters from Apostles (like General Conference of its day) and witnesses of other events from scribe about the events surrounding Jesus Christ. In John’s expose, we view him sitting in a prison with a vision of the future that many people have taken seriously, many have used to predict nonsense, and many have scoffed and derided. It’s also been very difficult to unlock. But we know John’s audience–those of the future who would witness the return of the Messiah!
Moroni in the Book of Mormon occupies a similar real estate. He comes on the scene as a wanderer, an exile in his own right, alone and without friend or country. It’s in this environment he sets out to finish this record that his father has in essence finished, multiple times mind you. Had he not done so, the Book of Mormon would have ended at Mormon 7 with Mormon’s plea to the Lamanites, who he promised would receive his record far in the future by the hand of some converted Gentiles. Mormon’s audience is clear, it is his people, the Lehites. The record is intended for them.
Moroni has a different audience in mind. He’s focused squarely on the Gentiles . . . us. The Nephites, his people, are gone. They’re extinct. His only concern is for the future and the record he is entrusted to protect until a certain day. From Mormon 8:
15 For none can have power to bring it to light save it be given him of God; for God wills that it shall be done with an eye single to his glory, or the welfare of the ancient and long dispersed covenant people of the Lord.
16 And blessed be he that shall bring this thing to light; for it shall be brought out of darkness unto light, according to the word of God; yea, it shall be brought out of the earth, and it shall shine forth out of darkness, and come unto the knowledge of the people; and it shall be done by the power of God.
And what does he ask us to do first . . . search the prophecies of Isaiah. Oh those dreaded, frustrating, mysterious passages in Isaiah. Why oh why do we need to search those? Perhaps it gives us a key to understanding our fate as Gentiles, our role, and what we must do to ensure that we are on the right side of that role, one which has great promises on one hand, and will lead to utter destruction on the other. And when do these promises come forth? When there are all kinds of commotions in the land, pollutions, secret combinations, pride of church leaders, wars, rumors of wars, a misuse of tithing dollars, among other things. Oh, Moroni, what makes you think you know so much? Perhaps it’s because:
35 Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.
Yes, poor Moroni got to witness some terrible things, like WWII, 9/11, the rise of screwball politicians running during the 2016 campaign season. I almost feel sorry for him simply on those merits. But what is he most worried about? He’s worried about us, those that will READ his message, those that are part of the Holy Church of God . . . Gentiles, who have perverted the way of the Lord.
36 And I know that ye do walk in the pride of your hearts; and there are none save a few only who do not lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts, unto the wearing of very fine apparel, unto envying, and strifes, and malice, and persecutions, and all manner of iniquities; and your churches (or temples), yea, even every one, have become polluted because of the pride of your hearts.
37 For behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches (or temples or malls), more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.
38 O ye pollutions, ye hypocrites, ye teachers (or prophets, apostles, teachers, or shepherds), who sell yourselves for that which will canker, why have ye polluted the holy church of God? Why are ye ashamed to take upon you the name of Christ? Why do ye not think that greater is the value of an endless happiness than that misery which never dies—because of the praise of the world? (Are we more accepted by the world?)
39 Why do ye adorn yourselves with that which hath no life, and yet suffer the hungry, and the needy, and the naked, and the sick and the afflicted to pass by you, and notice them not (on temple square)?
40 Yea, why do ye build up your secret abominations to get gain, and cause that widows should mourn before the Lord, and also orphans to mourn before the Lord, and also the blood of their fathers and their husbands to cry unto the Lord from the ground, for vengeance upon your heads? (Emma Smith)
41 Behold, the sword of vengeance hangeth over you; and the time soon cometh that he avengeth the blood of the saints upon you, for he will not suffer their cries any longer.
If I were a Mormon or Latter-day Saint, I believe I would tremble indeed at these very haunting prophecies, despite promises of infallible prophets or good ships called Zion. I know I have taken certain liberties with interpreting these passages, but I stand by them. I believe they have a much different interpretation and explanation than we have traditionally given merit.
In Mormon 9 he lets us know that God’s kind of the same guy. We shouldn’t expect things to change a whole lot with respect to how he deals with man. The way he handled things with Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Joseph Smith. If things have changed, it’s because of unbelief, not because God has changed or that there is no God.
He sends a warning to those that say:
7 And again I speak unto you who deny the revelations of God, and say that they are done away, that there are no revelations, nor prophecies, nor gifts, nor healing, nor speaking with tongues, and the interpretation of tongues;
8 Behold I say unto you, he that denieth these things knoweth not the gospel of Christ; yea, he has not read the scriptures; if so, he does not understand them.
We Mormons have mightily claimed these gifts. Some of it has been claimed in vain, where policies and creeds are substituted for revelation, and MTC language lessons are substituted for the gift of tongues. My friends, I marvel that there have attempts to grasp so hard at the lack of such things by redefining them. I believe that we are moving even beyond such claims. We have opened up a new chapter with such statements as these from Elder Oaks, or when he was being asked about heavenly visions or experiences at a youth fireside talk in Washington State:
I’ve never had an experience like that and I don’t know anyone among the 1st Presidency or Quorum of the 12 who’ve had that kind of experience. Yet everyone of us knows of a certainty the things that Alma knew. But it’s just that unless the Lord chooses to do it another way, as he sometimes does; for millions and millions of His children the testimony settles upon us gradually. Like so much dust on the windowsill or so much dew on the grass. One day you didn’t have it and another day you did and you don’t know which day it happened. That’s the way I got my testimony. And then I knew it was true when it continued to grow.
I believe that this message is subtly claiming that there are no miracles these days. Is God a changing God? Does he change how he reveals himself to man? If we do not get Alma-the-Younger kinds of experiences is it because God has now decided to be a gradualist? Or is it because of our own unbelief?
Moroni tells us that he is writing these things and warning us of these things to rid his garments of our blood–from the things he sees us doing in vision. Then he ends his sermon and we have our first Moroni ending.
But there is HOPE . . .
At some point, while slogging it out in the swamps of Louisiana, or traversing the steppes of Colorado, Moroni decided that he probably ended on a rather negative note. So what does he do? He goes and abridges the record of the Jaredites for us FROM MEMORY. Oh how, nice. Just what I need, a record of a Shim begatting a Shil who kills a Com who married a Rue and slays a Shiz who rises up on his hands after getting his head chopped off. Why, Moroni . . . what did that profit?
Okay, so I guess he’s providing context. And it’s brief, only a few chapters, but on the bookends of these crazy Jaredite genealogies, we get some of the best sermons and stories on faith that have ever been written. And more is promised from these crazy Jaredites . . . once we repent. I guess there is some very powerful doctrine there, and since we’ve been given a little taste from the Brother of Jared and Ether, I’m optimistic about what else that may be there.
6 For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.
7 And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.
Well, do we have these things? We certainly do not, and if that’s the case, then we have some iniquity to consider. We are not clean before the Lord. Our good ship Zion stinketh. But if we do repent, our evidence of our repentance will be have the possession of the fullness of these things. That’s a worthy goal, I’d say.
That’s the message of hope. Some of us will get it. We will rend the veil of unbelief. We will be shown greater things. And when the fullness of this record gets to come forth, we may know that it’s a key sign that things are heating up in the Lord’s great work of establishing Zion. One wonders that this record will come forth by some other means, and when it does, we can point to the rather hasty abridgment in the Book of Mormon an say, aha! There is is!
In Ether 12 we are given several keys to claiming our blessings as Gentiles and repenting of our wickedness. It’s always been my favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon personally, and now I see it in a whole new light. Moroni is helping us! Things are ending much better than we got in Mormon 9. There is hope!
Moroni’s Dying Notes
At some point, once again, after hiking the Rocky Mountains or canoeing the Great Lakes, Moroni has more to say in his own self-titled record. One can almost tell he is telling us just one or two more things before we leave his influence and he passes into that good night. There’s no theme. His entire record is quite choppy. Chapters 1-5 have a particular goal in mind, however, and those I will list here:
- Moroni is giving this book to his brethren, the Lamanites–those that will see and convert into the far future. I marvel at this because they are basically cliff notes on church operation. Why would they need that? Could it be that by the time they get these things that they will need some guidance because the Gentiles will have corrupted things so much? I wonder.
- Disciples who are touched by Christ get the power to bestow the Holy Ghost – Moroni 2
- The nature of church organization – Moroni 3 – The disciples (those touched by Christ, he notes very clearly here) can call teachers and priests and they can teach repentance as well as the gospel of the remission of sins, which includes . . .
- The Sacrament – Prayers in Moroni 4 and 5
- Baptizing the Repentant and having church – Moroni in 6 discusses that the repentant must be baptized AFTER THEY REPENTED! I wonder if we have the sacrament and baptism backwards? Hmmm. Worthiness is noted by a broken heart and a contrite spirit and that they had truly repented of all their sins! That’s a big requirement! THEN they receive the baptism of fire, and then and only then, are they numbered in the church of God. “7 And they were strict to observe that there should be no iniquity among them; and whoso was found to commit iniquity, and three witnesses of the church did condemn them before the elders, and if they repented not, and confessed not, their names were blotted out, and they were not numbered among the people of Christ.” I’m not sure this is quite how we do it today, which is more like a tribunal of elders with no witnesses. On the other hand, as oft as they repented and sought forgiveness, with real intent, they were forgiven. There’s no mention of handbook punishment timelines and the such.
Memoirs from Dear Old Dad
Moroni now decides, probably after rock-climbing down in Moab, to leave us with some memoirs from his father. I think the key thing here is to ask ourselves why he included them?
The theme of Moroni 7, I believe, is discernment. I sense that Moroni was concerned about many of the Gentiles who would be led astray and that “in many instances do err because they are taught by the precepts of men.” Mormon’s lecture is to a people that have been born again. Think about that. These are people who are truly converted but are looking for more . . . to enter into the “rest” of the Lord, or in other words, their calling and election being made sure. And to these people, the qualifying elect, he is warning them about not being deceived! That’s quite alarming when you consider the nature of most Latter-day Saints today, most of which are probably not at such a level of spiritual preparedness, and the assurances they are given about following the right path by the well-intentions of leaders, misplaced as they may be. Perhaps we should listen to Moroni and be wiser. Perhaps we should be more careful.
- Judge between good and evil – This one is simple, but not so simple. Do men do good works? If they do they must be of God. But we need to define what “good” “works” are. That which is good, comes of God, and that which comes of God “inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God.” The subtext for me here is what is NOT included. There are no discussion of church office, keys, or having the right dress or haircut, or appeals to the infallibility of a man. So perhaps this is one of the many ways that “we do err.” So simply, we need to judge whether a person is inviting us to serve God. So . . .
- How do we serve God? – We do things that invite others to do good, primarily to persuade men to believe in Christ. Anybody who undertakes this mission, offices and authority notwithstanding, does so by the “power and gift of Christ,” So when a message is given that entices us to do such a thing, we can know it is of God. What that does not mean is that whatever comes our of the mouth of that servant of God is “good” or of God. In this we must be wise. Judge the message, not the messenger. That’s the only thing that can be judged as a “good fountain.” None are good but Christ. He is the only thing that is “good,” so let us judge accordingly. We are the fruit, and Christ is the fountain. No men are fountains. So how is the goodness delivered?
- Good is delivered through angels – If a person lays hold with enough determination to exercise faith in Christ, that person may become a delivery system for God, a prophet, if you will. The messengers are angels. So a prophet is a prophet, not by calling of men, or ordination, but by calling of God through his messengers, through angels, and it can happen in “divers ways“. And the things that follow include miracles, calls to repentance, and they will manifest faith, hope, and charity, charity being the greatest of these. If a man have not charity, he is not “good.”
Next, Moroni gives us his father’s take on infant baptism in Moroni 8. We have taken that to believe that Mormon is warning us about the fact that in the future Catholics and some Protestants baptize children. But I think he is only using this as an example of why this came about among his people. There are a billion other false doctrines that have arisen among the Gentiles, some are much more heinous. His bigger concern, in my opinion is on how God’s people can apostatize from the truth. It usually starts with “that which grieveth me exceedingly; for it grieveth me that there should disputations rise among you.” When we do have disputations we should consult the Lord, who will set us right, as the Lord did with Mormon, and they were then instructed to go about and correct those errors. We also have a wonderful and concise rendition of the gospel as included at the end of chapter 8, which I think also inspired its inclusion.
Finally, Moroni gives us his father’s lament in chapter 9. I believe this was included for a couple of reasons 1) to help us understand what happens when a people who once had the spirit of the Lord cease listening to the Lord–they are left with total depravity, and 2) to help us recognize that this will come among our own people when they reject the fullness of the gospel, as predicted in 3 Nephi 16:10. It’s his final warning of what will happen to us Gentiles if we don’t repent.
Bon Voyage, see you in 1823
Of all the endings that came before, Moroni know this was the last one, for he was commanded to seal them up in chapter 10. Either he was being hunted by Lamanites, or he was going to get translated (we assume he died), or he was getting old and tired of wandering. In either case, the record was finished . . . his life’s work, mind you, which only comprise a few chapters if you look at it. But now it is time.
We are all familiar with Moroni’s promise as Mormons and even more so if we served missions. It is the promise that has gained many a convert. Moroni points us back chapter 7 and 8 in his exhortation to judge that which is good as coming from Christ. And those good things will have many gifts that will follow: teaching, healing, tongues, ministry of angels, prophesies, working mighty miracles. We need to watch and pray and see that those that we heed today produce such fruit. If they do not, they are not on the Lord’s errand. But better yet, Moroni invites us to qualify so that we can have them ourselves.
32 Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
33 And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
Moroni’s challenge was never simply one of just knowing if the “book is true.” It was exhortation to repent of our wickedness, both individually, and as a church that God once called “the only true and living church upon the face of the earth in which I am well-pleased” but is now called polluted. It’s an exhortation to the fullness of the gospel, to know God’s goodness, to follow that goodness, and to become prophets ourselves, so that we can be sanctified. Reading Moroni is a manual partly, of how to do this, probably in a more succinct way than anywhere else in scripture, and he is zeroed in on that necessity for us. It was a mission that didn’t stand fulfilled until his delivery of the record to Joseph Smith in which the promises made in verse 31 could eventually be fulfilled . . . most likely by his brethren, the Lamanites:
31 And awake, and arise from the dust, O Jerusalem; yea, and put on thy beautiful garments, O daughter of Zion; and strengthen thy stakes and enlarge thy borders forever, that thou mayest no more be confounded, that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled.