The Book of Mormon is designed to present the history, religion and conflicts of Jews who emigrated from Jerusalem to live in the Americas from 600 B.C. to 400 A.D. It purports to contain the words of God to these peoples through a variety of prophets and through a personal appearance of Jesus Christ to the Americas in 34 A.D.
Ether 13:6 speaks that a “New Jerusalem should be built upon this land [in the Americas].” And I Nephi 12:9 prophesies that 12 apostles will judge the Jews who have located in the Americas. Given this emphasis on the Americas, I assumed the Book of Mormon would have little to say about Jerusalem of old and the return of Jewry to the land of Israel.
The Book of Mormon contains 26 chapters of Scripture virtually word for word from the King James Version (Isa 2-14, 29, 48-54; Mal 3-4 and Matt 5-7). The Isaiah chapters in particular simply cannot be read without realizing they are referring to Jerusalem of old. So the Book of Mormon has embedded in it prophecies of the restoration of the original Jerusalem and of Christ’s reign centered there and extending to all the world. Given the Isaiah content, it is not surprising to find allusions to Israel’s restoration throughout the book.
Use of the King James Version
Before discussing this topic further, we need to pause and consider the implications of the KJV being found in the Book of Mormon. As Sis. St.Onge has noted (The Tidings, 2/12, pg. 79) the golden plates were supposedly written in a form of “revised Egyptian” which Joseph Smith was inspired to translate by the alleged angel Moroni in 1827. Isaiah was originally written in Hebrew (cf. the extensive findings of Isaiah in the Dead Sea Scrolls). Accordingly the Book of Mormon requires us to believe that the Isaiah chapters went from Hebrew to “revised Egyptian” to English and came out with all the peculiarities and phrasing of the KJV which was translated from Hebrew.
We have an example of a similar process when we see quotes from the Old Testament in the New Testament. Some of them are taken from the Greek version of the Old Testament (termed the Septuagint) and some from the Hebrew version. Both were in common use in New Testament times and it is evident that the apostles would use one or the other depending on the audience (some ecclesias were basically all Gentile and would be using the Greek Old Testament, while others were mainly Jewish and would be familiar with the Hebrew version). When the Greek Old Testament is used we consistently find it varies from our Old Testament because our Old Testament was translated from Hebrew. This readily demonstrates one can’t translate from one language to another without some alteration occurring. Thus one can’t go from Hebrew to “revised Egyptian” without alterations occurring. Accordingly there is no way Joseph Smith could go from “revised Egyptian” to English and have it come out identical to going from Hebrew to KJV English. Joseph Smith was evidently copying from the KJV and not translating some ancient language.
Extensive use of Isaiah
First and Second Nephi are the first books in the Book of Mormon. They are named after the most prominent son of Lehi (Lehi being the patriarchal leader of the Jews said to flee Jerusalem ahead of the final Babylonian invasions). These books contain 17 of the Isaiah chapters and have fairly clear prophecies of the ultimate restoration of Israel and Messiah’s reign.
Here are a few examples: “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, spake much unto them concerning these things: yea, I spake unto them concerning the restoration of the Jews in the latter days. And I did rehearse unto them the words of Isaiah, who spake concerning the restoration of the Jews, or of the house of Israel; and after they were restored they should no more be confounded, neither should they be scattered again” (I Nephi 15:19-20). The word “confounded” leads us to Isa 45:17 which is correctly seen to reference natural Israel. Some Bible headings and commentaries mistakenly apply these words to “the church” but the Book of Mormon gets it right.
A few chapters later (I Nephi 22), the same theme is developed: “all our brethren who are of the house of Israel” (v. 6 ), “shall be scattered among all nations and shall be hated of all men” (v. 5), but “he [the Lord God] will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance…and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer” (v. 12). With the exception that many Jews will return to the land in unbelief, Israel’s scattering, gathering and their eventual acceptance of Christ and conversion to the gospel is correctly stated.
The last chapter of Second Nephi (II Nephi 25) extends this same theme with some interesting details. It speaks of the Jews being carried to Babylon, but “they shall return again, and possess the land of Jerusalem”. The “Only begotten of the Father” will appear to them but “they will crucify him.” Subsequently, “Jerusalem shall be destroyed again…the Jews shall be scattered among all nations…until they shall be persuaded to believe in Christ…And the Lord will set his hand again the second time to restore his people from their lost and fallen state” (II Nephi 25:10-17). This passage is clear in that it is not speaking of the Jews who allegedly migrated to the Americas. It is also clear in saying that they will not be restored to Israel “until” they are converted, a point which is confirmed elsewhere in the book (e.g. 3 Nephi 20:30-33). However, Scripture teaches that a significant portion of the Jews return in unbelief (Ezek 36:24-25; Zech 13:1-2) and are not converted until they are delivered from a latter day catastrophic war (Zech 13:8-9).
Admittedly passages such as Ezek 20:33-44, which is speaking of the Jews who are still dispersed at the return of Christ, does speak of first conversion then restoration to the land. But when all the verses respecting the latter day restoration of Israel are put together, the picture is fully revealed: some return in unbelief to be converted later and some don’t return until they are converted. This point is significant in regard to the claim that the Book of Mormon is “the most correct of any book on earth” (quoting from the words of Joseph Smith in the “Introduction”). The reader has a choice: one can take either the Book of Mormon or the Bible, but not both. Writing at the same time and in the midst of the same environment of religious revival (Middle America in the 1840’s) Bro. John Thomas made a point that the Jews would initially return to Israel in a state of unbelief (Elpis Israel, p. 441, 1973 edition). He had it correct where Joseph Smith had it wrong.
The two Jerusalems
Ether is the second to last book of the Book of Mormon. Similar to earlier sections, it speaks very directly about the restoration of Jerusalem in Israel. It also speaks of new Jerusalem to be built in America. So we have a rather succinct presentation of the two Jerusalems.
“Ether spake also concerning the house of Israel, and the Jerusalem from whence Lehi should come-after it should be destroyed it should be built up again, a holy city unto the Lord; wherefore, it could not be a new Jerusalem for it had been in a time of old; but it should be built up again, and become a holy city of the Lord…and that a New Jerusalem should be built up upon this land [in the Americas], unto the remnant of the seed of Joseph…and blessed are they who dwell therein, for it is they whose garments are white through the blood of the Lamb…and then also cometh the Jerusalem of old; and the inhabitants thereof, blessed are they, for they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb; and they are they who were scattered and gathered in from the four quarters of the earth.. and are partakers of the fulfilling of the covenant which God made with their father, Abraham” (Ether 13:5-11). Here, then, is a well defined expression of the two Jerusalems, one in America and one in the Holy land.
We felt that to this point, Ether’s writing was reasonably plain and we read further hoping to see an elaboration of a new world order with two Jerusalems both occupied by redeemed people. However we were disappointed to read: “And I was about to write more, but I am forbidden” (13:13). This is typical of the Book of Mormon. It says little about the future of the earth.
In the Bible, the restoration of Israel to the Promised Land is closely associated with the establishment of Christ’s reign over all the earth. Scripture refers to it as the Kingdom of God and reveals it follows the resurrection, judgment and glorification of the faithful believers (Isa 11:4,11; Matt 19:28; 25:21,34; 2Tim 4:1; Rev 2:26-27, etc.).
Rev 20:2-7 speaks of this period as lasting a thousand years during which time the adversaries of Christ are greatly restrained (depicted in Rev 20 as the binding of “the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan” all of which terms are used in Revelation in the symbolic portrayal of various institutions and dogmas in opposition to the truth and to true believers).
Given the extensive quotes from Isaiah and the expectation of the return of Jewry to Israel, one would expect the Book of Mormon to reference the Millennium and provide details regarding the Kingdom of God. Other than the material in the Isaiah quotes, it does not. The only relevant reference we could find comes from I Neph 22:25-26 which reads: “And he gathereth his children from the four quarters of the earth…and because of the righteousness of his people, Satan has no power: wherefore, he cannot be loosed for the space of many years; for he hath no power over the hearts of the people, for they dwell in righteousness, and the Holy One of Israel reigneth.” Such a statement begs clarification: Who are these righteous people? resurrected saints? regathered Jews? a mortal population? But there is no further elaboration or reference to the millennial age.
On the other hand, chapter summaries, added in the past 50 years, plainly reference the millennium. The summary for 2 Nephi 12 [which is basically a repeat of Isaiah 2] reads: “Isaiah sees the latter-day temple, gathering of Israel, and millennial judgment and peace”; the introduction to 2 Nephi 14 [Isaiah 4] has: “Zion and her daughters shall be redeemed and cleansed in the millennial day”; 2 Nephi 21 [Isa. 11] chapter summary reads: “The knowledge of God shall cover the earth in the Millennium (sic) — the Lord shall raise an ensign and gather Israel.”
As was noted in the earlier articles by Sis. St. Onge, Mormons believe in continuing revelation. This helps them correct the mistakes and clarify the quandaries in the Book of Mormon. No doubt these chapter summaries reflect the clarification of Mormon doctrine which they feel has recently been revealed and which fills in some major gaps.
As we consider more carefully this supposedly inspired and ultimately “correct” book, the more comfortable we are with the conclusion that the book of Revelation completes God’s revealing of His word down to this present era. As we are warned in Rev 22:18-19: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life. And out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
Next: Extraordinary distortions regarding God and Jesus
Don Styles (Ann Arbor, MI)