Words of Mormon — LeGrand Baker — Mormon’s outline of the Book of Mormon
Mormon was an amazing scholar, historian, and teacher. He had 1000 years of carefully documented stories, sermons, and correspondence from which he gathered two perfectly coherent, but different, renditions of Nephite history. In its surface text, it is a perfect sermon that teaches each of us about our relationship with the Saviour. In its subtext it is an equally perfect sermon that teaches us about our relationship with the Saviour in the Temple.
I would like to show you the outline of that subtextual sermon. This is essentially the same outline that appears in Who Shall Ascend into the Hill of the Lord, except that one has details that tend to obscure the intent of the outline (that was done deliberately). This version is much simpler and therefore more easily recognized.
The prophet Mormon followed the same principle: An examination of the subtextual outline of the entire Book of Mormon shows a carefully structured pattern. If one does a hopscotch across the pages of the book and only lands on the major sermons and on an occasional outstanding ecclesiastical event, the following is what one finds:
1) Nephi begins by describing his father’s sode experience in the Council in Heaven where Jehovah gives him his assignment.
2) Lehi and his family make the necessary preparations to fulfill their assignment.
3) They cross the chaotic waters they go to a new world.
4) Lehi teaches his sons about Adam and Eve and the Fall.
5) Nephi’s psalm (2 Nephi 4) asks why we have come here.
6) Jacob answers that question by teaching about the Atonement.
7) Nephi quotes much of the first part of Isaiah whose underlying message is that God is the God of this world and Satan is not.
8) Nephi teaches about faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost.
9) Jacob teaches about the importance of keeping covenants
10) Enos teaches that one must pray.
11) King Benjamin teaches his people about the importance of obedience. They make a covenant that they will obey, and they receive a new name.
12) Abinadi teaches Alma the gospel. He does this by explaining the Savior’s sacrifice; then we see Abinadi’s sacrifice also.
13) At the Waters of Mormon the people are baptized. But Alma’s prayer does not mention the remission of sins. This baptism seems to be the token of a covenant that the people will support each other, the church, and the kingdom.
14) When Alma and his followers are in the wilderness, they briefly live the law of consecration. 15) Alma 5 and 7: the prophet sums up many of the principles of the drama
16) Alma 12 and 13: teaches about the legitimacy of priesthood and kingship.
17) Alma 26 and 29: psalms about responsibilities of missionary work.
18) Alma 32 teaches how to partake of the fruit of the tree of life, and eventually how to become as a tree of life. (The tree of life is always an important part of the drama. If Alma 32 were not there the whole structure of the pattern would collapse.)
19) When Alma talks to his three sons,
19a) he teaches his oldest son he must keep sacred things sacred.
19b) he teaches the second that he must be true to the law of his own being.
19c) he tells the third about justice and mercy and the importance of the laws of chastity.
20) The war chapters are the dreary, lonely part. Mormon introduces it with a whole series of covenants and covenant names (There are always new names associated with new covenants).
20a) Captain Moroni tears off a piece of his coat (after that it is called “garment” so it is the outer of the two—there are always two).
20b) He writes a chiastic poem on it. The poem is a covenant, and he gives it the title of “Liberty.”
20c) At this point Mormon interrupts his narrative to insert the information thatthose who believe in Christ “took upon them, gladly, the name of Christ,” and are called Christians.
20d) Captain Moroni then identifies the land in terms of its geographical boundaries (measuring it and defining it as sacred space) and gives it the same name as the poem—“the land of liberty.”
20e) The people come and join in the covenant that they will keep the Lord’s commandments and he will preserve them in their Liberty.
20f) Shortly thereafter we are told that the sons of Helaman “entered into a covenant,” and “they called themselves Nephites” (Alma 53:16-17).
20g) It is in the context of these covenants that Helaman tells the story of their part of the war. The point being that all the boys who made and kept their covenants were protected—some were badly hurt, but they all survived.
21) After the war, Nephi, Lehi are baptized with fire and the Holy Ghost.
22) Nephi is given the sealing power—“even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word “ (Helaman 10:5).
23) Samuel the Lamanite tells the people that the Savior is coming, and urges them to getready to see him.
24) In three days of darkness, the world is cleansed of its unrighteousness (this maps to the temple drama where Jehovah restores the king to his throne after he has been in the Underworld for three days).
25) The Savior comes to his temple just as the king does in the drama.
26) The Savior organizes his church and kingdom, and teaches the people how to keep their covenants (these events map to the seventh day of the drama).
27) Then in Fourth Nephi the people do keep their covenants and live the law of consecration (this maps to the eighth day of the ancient Israelite temple drama). In the symbolism, they had returned to the Garden to enjoy the blessings of the eating freely of the fruit of the tree of life (3 Nephi 20:5-9), and the promised millennial reign.
28) The book of Ether is the counterbalance of that story. It shows the destructive consequences when people do not keep their covenants with God.
29) The Book of Mormon’s crescendo is repeated three times near the end of the book. There the reader is taught one must have faith, hope, and charity in order to enter the presence of God (Ether 12:28,39; Moroni 7; and Moroni 10:20-21).
30) Then Moroni reviews the entire drama and in the last verse he says, “I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, … before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah.” —————————
Now, I would like to review some of the chapters we have just lightly skipped over to look at the brilliance of the surface-text sermon. It will illustrate Mormon’s care in creating the power of the surface text and its testimony of the Saviour and the living gospel. It is this surface text that has converted millions of people, and it is still the greatest missionary tract of our time.
15 Yea, he that truly humbleth himself, and repenteth of his sins, and endureth to the end, the same shall be blessed….
40 And thus, if ye will not nourish the word, looking forward with an eye of faith to the fruit thereof, ye can never pluck of the fruit of the tree of life…..
41 But if ye will nourish the word, yea, nourish the tree as it beginneth to grow, by your faith with great diligence, and with patience, looking forward to the fruit thereof, it shall take root; and behold it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life….
43 Then, my brethren, ye shall reap the rewards of your faith, and your diligence, and patience, and long-suffering, waiting for the tree to bring forth fruit unto you (Alma 33:15, 40-43).
3 Do ye remember to have read what Zenos, the prophet of old, has said concerning prayer or worship?…
4 For he said: Thou art merciful, O God, for thou hast heard my prayer, even when I was in the wilderness; yea, thou wast merciful when I prayed concerning those who were mine enemies, and thou didst turn them to me….
23 And now, my brethren, I desire that ye shall plant this word in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son. And even all this can ye do if ye will. Amen (Alma 34:3-4, 23).
Amulek arose and began to teach them, saying:
8 And now, behold, I will testify unto you of myself that these things are true. Behold, I say unto you, that I do know that Christ shall come among the children of men, to take upon him the transgressions of his people, and that he shall atone for the sins of the world; for the Lord God hath spoken it….
14 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law, every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God, yea, infinite and eternal.
15 And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance….
32 For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors….
40 And now my beloved brethren, I would exhort you to have patience, and that ye bear with all manner of afflictions; that ye do not revile against those who do cast you out because of your exceeding poverty, lest ye become sinners like unto them;
41 But that ye have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions (Alma 33: 8-41).
Now Mormon does what the master-teacher always does. After reciting this prolonged and powerful sermon, we shows what the sermon means in terms of what we must do to live by its principles— we must bless and be blessed by others.
1 Now it came to pass that after Amulek had made an end of these words, they withdrew themselves from the multitude and came over into the land of Jershon….
5 Now their rulers and their priests and their teachers did not let the people know concerning their desires; therefore they found out privily the minds of all the people.
6 And it came to pass that after they had found out the minds of all the people, those who were in favor of the words which had been spoken by Alma and his brethren were cast out of the land; and they were many; and they came over also into the land of Jershon.
7 And it came to pass that Alma and his brethren did minister unto them (Alma 35:1-7).