What Unique Doctrines Did the Lord Reveal through the Book of Mormon?
March 29, 2017
KnoWhy #293
Reading Scriptures Outisde the Temple via lds.org
Reading Scriptures Outisde the Temple via lds.org
“But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins—and not to the bringing forth my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them.”

2 Nephi 3:11

The Know

In a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1829, at the request of Martin Harris, the Lord declared to Joseph that “this generation shall have my word through you” (Doctrine and Covenants 5:10). The revelation was given in the context of the translation of the Book of Mormon, which represented God’s “words that are given through [Joseph]” (Doctrine and Covenants 5:11). The Book of Mormon represents a great outpouring of truth delivered to the world through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

The Book of Mormon restores plain and precious truths that were lost over the centuries. The prophet Nephi saw in a vision that many parts of the gospel that were “plain and most precious” and “the covenants of the Lord” would be lost and “taken away” (1 Nephi 13:26) from those original writings. The Lord had foreseen this and prepared the way for the Book of Mormon to restore and “make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away” (1 Nephi 13:40).

The Godhead

Image by Renáta Sedmáková via Adobe Stock

Image by Renáta Sedmáková via Adobe Stock

Some of the many “plain and precious things” that were restored through Joseph Smith by way of the Book of Mormon include truths about the Godhead. The Book of Mormon affirms the unity of the Godhead (see 3 Nephi 11:27), while, at the same time, emphasizing that its three members are separate and unique, each bearing record of the others.1 Some specific examples include:

  • The Pre-Mortal Christ: Jesus Christ appeared, millennia before his birth, to the brother of Jared and explained, “Behold, this body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; and man have I created after the body of my spirit; and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh” (Ether 3:16).2
  • The Resurrected Christ:  The Book of Mormon provides further insight into the character and personality of the resurrected Jesus Christ. In 3 Nephi, Jesus as a resurrected being spends much time interacting with mortal people.3
  • The Holy Ghost: In Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life, he was guided by the “Spirit of the Lord.” Although he was a personage of Spirit, Nephi “beheld that he was in the form of a man … and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another” (1 Nephi 11:11).4

The Plan of Salvation

Other “plain and precious truths” found clearly taught in the Book of Mormon pertain to God’s plan for his children. The phrase “plan of salvation,” and other similar phrases found in the Book of Mormon, are not found in the Bible. The Book of Mormon teaches that God had a plan prepared for the salvation and exaltation of mankind since before the foundation of the world (Alma 12:25).5

Painting of the Plan of Salvation by Clair Hamaker

Painting of the Plan of Salvation by Clair Hamaker

  • Premortal Foreordination to Priesthood: Alma 13:3–10 explains that those who are appointed to callings in the priesthood were “called and prepared from the foundation of the world according to the foreknowledge of God.”6
  • The Fall: In 2 Nephi 2, Lehi taught that if Adam and Eve didn’t partake of the forbidden fruit, all creation would have “remained in the same state in which they were after they were created,” unable to progress, and that Adam and Eve would have had no posterity. Lehi declared, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25).7
  • Agency: The principle that individuals have the power to act for themselves is an integral theme throughout the Book of Mormon.8 Lehi taught that “men are free according to the flesh … to choose liberty and eternal life … or to choose captivity and death” (2 Nephi 2:27).9
  • The Atonement: One inspiring example of how the Book of Mormon illuminates our understanding of the Atonement is the declaration in Alma 7:11–13 that Jesus took upon Himself not only our sins but also our pains, sicknesses, and infirmities, so that He would “according to the flesh know how to succor his people.” 10
  • The Afterlife: The Book of Mormon explains in greater clarity what will happen to mortals after they die. Alma explained that our spirits, after we die, will remain in a state of either happiness or darkness and fear until the resurrection (see Alma 40:9–15). In the resurrection, “every limb and joint shall be restored to its body … all things shall be restored to their proper and perfect frame” (v. 23). All will be resurrected (2 Nephi 9:22).11

Additional Examples

Many additional examples of the “plain and precious things” restored through Joseph Smith by way of the Book of Mormon could be listed here. Without being exhaustive, here are just a few more:

  • Unambiguous Prophecies of Christ: For example, King Benjamin declared that the Messiah “shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God … and his mother shall be called Mary” (Mosiah 3:5–10).12
  • The Gathering of Israel to Two Locations: The Book of Mormon is unique in ancient scripture in providing details regarding two gathering places for Israel: in the ancient holy land, and in the Americas.13
  • Church Organization: The Book of Mormon became a handbook of instructions for organizing the Church in its earliest days. Moroni, for example, taught regarding the manner of bestowing the Holy Ghost (Moroni 2:2), ordaining to the priesthood (Moroni 3:1–3), administering the sacrament (Moroni 4, 5), and many other church governing principles.14

The Why

Image by Book of Mormon Central

Image by Book of Mormon Central

Elder LeGrand Richards declared, regarding the Prophet Joseph Smith, “As far as our records show, he has given us more revealed truth than any prophet who has ever lived upon the face of the earth.”15 Much of this revealed truth in the earliest years of the Restoration came through Joseph’s translation of the Book of Mormon.

The Book of Mormon preserves an ancient prophecy by the biblical patriarch Joseph, concerning the coming forth of God’s word to his posterity in the latter days. The Lord declared to ancient Joseph: “But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins” (2 Nephi 3:11).

The latter-day Joseph would bring forth and translate the words of ancient Joseph’s descendants, the Nephites, and convince many of their truthfulness. In so doing, he would restore many of the “plain and precious things” of the gospel that had been taken away.

Modern readers who familiarize themselves with the unique doctrines that the Book of Mormon has restored to the world in these latter days can better appreciate the Lord’s mercy and love for His children. Additionally, they can more fully understand in what ways the Lord fulfilled His promise that “this generation shall have my word through” Joseph Smith.

Further Reading

Clyde J. Williams, “Plain and Precious Truths Restored,” Ensign, October 2006.

John A. Tvedtnes, “The Role of the Book of Mormon in the Restoration of the Church,” in The Most Correct Book: Insights from a Book of Mormon Scholar (Salt Lake City, UT: Cornerstone, 1999), 291–316.

Joseph Fielding McConkie, “A Comparison of Book of Mormon, Bible, and Traditional Teachings on the Doctrines of Salvation,” in The Keystone Scripture, ed. Paul R. Cheesman, S. Kent Brown, and Charles D. Tate Jr., The Book of Mormon Symposium Series, Volume 1 (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1988), 73–91.

Gilbert W. Scharffs, “Unique Insights on Christ from the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, December 1988.

Bruce R. McConkie, “This Generation Shall Have My Word through You,” Ensign, June 1980.