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This is an excerpt from The Book of Mormon Made Easier by David Ridges.
The title page, found at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, is a literal translation of Moroni’s last statement, last page, left-hand side of the plates. (See History of the Church, Volume 1, p. 71.) The title page is a fascinating example of non-punctuated near eastern languages.
In and of itself, it is a strong witness that the Book of Mormon is a translation of an ancient record. If you will take a look at the title page of your Book of Mormon (which begins with the words, “The Book of Mormon, an account written by the hand of Mormon upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi”), you will note that there are only two periods in the whole text, one at the end of each paragraph.
In near eastern languages, the words are all “run on,” that is to say, there aren’t any spaces between them and it is up to the reader to separate them. An example, in English, might be as follows: THISISANEXAMPLEOFASENTENCEINWHICHALLOF
Properly punctuated, with individual words separated by spaces, in English the above would read, “This is an example of a sentence in which all of the words run together, and the reader has to separate them in order to make sense out of them.”
It is interesting to note as you read the title page that Joseph Smith dictated the translation to his scribe, who then wrote it down. When it was taken to the printer, it was left up to the printer to punctuate it. In this case, the printer chose to use dashes to separate the various phrases, along with a few commas and an occasional semicolon.
For instance, if you read the last phrase of the first paragraph where it says, “The interpretation thereof by the gift of God,” you will sense the problem the printer faced in punctuating a translation from an ancient language. If it were normal English, it would need some additional words to make a proper English sentence out of it.
As it is, it is just there, as is the case with such ancient languages, one thought coming after the previous thought, in a manner typical of near eastern languages. This is what is known as an “internal witness.” It is a witness that the Book of Mormon was translated from an ancient language, whose origins were in the area of the Holy Land.
In fact, Nephi tells us that the language he used to write the record on his plates consisted of “the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians” (see 1 Nephi 1:2.). In other words, the origins of the language he used are found in the Near East.
The title page is Moroni’s last statement to us. In the first paragraph, he tells us to whom the Book of Mormon is addressed, namely, the Lamanites, the Jews and the Gentiles, in other words, to all people. It is not just another book; rather, it is “written by way of commandment.”
Thus, it is the revealed word of God to be brought forth to the world in the last days, translated by the gift of God.
Moroni instructs us that it is an abridgment (a shortened or condensed version) of the record of the Nephites as well as an abridgment of the record of the Jaredites (the book of Ether). In the second paragraph of the title page, he tells us that he had three major purposes in mind for us as he prepared the gold plates for Joseph Smith to translate, namely:
1. To show us, who are a remnant of Israel (who are descendants of Abraham) what great things the Lord did for our ancestors. Among other things, this reminds us who we are and what our potential really is when we follow Christ faithfully.
2. To testify to us of the vital role which covenants play in bringing us back to God. Nephi reminds us that covenants were taken away as “plain and precious things” (1 Nephi 13:26–29). They were removed from the gospel because of apostasy. You may recall also that covenants are only required for entrance into celestial glory and exaltation.
No covenants are required for entrance into terrestrial or telestial glory. Thus, when we make and keep covenants, we are qualifying to return to God and to live in His presence forever.
3. To convince all of us “that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations.” As stated above, the Book of Mormon mentions the Savior, one way or another, on average, every 1.7 verses. Every time we read from its sacred pages, we are giving the Holy Ghost many specific opportunities to bear direct witness to us that Jesus is the Christ and that His Atonement can be completely effective in our personal lives.
One could perhaps summarize the above-mentioned three major purposes of the Book of Mormon as follows: the Book of Mormon is a sacred, inspired volume of scripture in which the Savior teaches us about the history of His dealings with people in the past, about His desire to make covenants with us for our safety and well-being, and about the role of His Atonement in bringing peace and optimism into our lives.
This peace and optimism is emphasized in the last phrase of the title page wherein Moroni assures us that through the Atonement of Christ we “may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.”
Purchase The Book of Mormon Made Easier by David Ridges.