The Book of Mormon is the scripture of the Americas. It is the testimony of a colony of Israelites that were led away from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. before the Babylonian invasion and destruction of the city. It is a fascinating book that gives us greater insight into the nature of the Abrahamic covenant with Israel and the extension of those blessings to Gentiles through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Book of Mormon cites some important Bible passages, particularly Isaiah, because of the importance they have to the understanding of ancient prophecies and how they relate to the last days. The Book of Mormon was written for us in this modern day, by ancient prophets who saw our time and foresaw the fulfillment of prophecies that will take place in our day.
In the recent headlines, it may be that we are seeing the fulfillment of an important Book of Mormon prophecy that links to Isaiah. For those who are unfamiliar with the Book of Mormon, this will take some background.
The Book of Mormon relates that small group of Israelites came to the ancient Americas around 600 B.C. There are archaeological discoveries that may corroborate this fact. These people split in to two rival groups shortly after their arrival. One group continued to observe Mosaic traditions while the other abandoned its Jewish heritage. The faction that held fast to the belief in the God of Abraham was called the Nephites. The other faction, the Lamanites, apparently intermarried with the indigenous peoples of the land, adopted their cultural and religious practices.
The patriarch of these people, Lehi, prophesied that despite their unfaithfulness, the Lord would preserve a remnant of his posterity and that they would, in the distant future, be the recipients of the blessings God intended for them. Over a period of a thousand years, these two factions fought with one another. When the Nephites followed God’s commandments, they were blessed. When they slackened in their observances, God withdrew his blessings from them. Around 400 A.D., a final conflict destroyed the Nephites, leaving only the Lamanites behind—the ones who had blended with the indigenous people of the land. This is a “remnant of Jacob” that still exists among the some of the first peoples of the Americas.
The Book of Mormon contains the account of Jesus Christ appearing to a group of these people around 34 A.D. In a series of appearances, the resurrected Jesus taught them his gospel, healed the sick, and taught them a way to live in peace. This they did for over two centuries afterward, before their descendants fell away. In those precious accounts of the Savior’s ministrations to them, Jesus taught them several passages from the prophets of the Old World. In some cases, his words provide clarity beyond what we get from the Bible. In particular, one passage from Isaiah may relate to what we are currently seeing in today’s headlines about the mass exodus from Mexico and Central America into the southern United States.
Most scholars believe that the geographic location for the events in the Book of Mormon took place in southern Mexico and Central America. It is probably not coincidental that the spread of Mormonism and belief in the Book of Mormon in this area has been widespread. For decades, and even to this day, the growth of the Church is astonishing among these people, many of whom are believed to be related to this “remnant of Jacob” and who received covenant promises made to Lehi the prophet. In essence, as God made a promised land for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he also extended those lands to a branch of Israel that would traverse a body of water to the everlasting hills (See Genesis 49:22-26).
Two chapters of the Savior’s appearance to the Nephites, recorded in the Third Book of Nephi, chapters 20 and 21, deal with the prophetic utterances of Isaiah, interpreted by none other than the Lord Jesus himself. These passages are too lengthy to include here, but he following bullet points and references speak of what is to occur. Many of these events have already occurred and were fulfilled by the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Other events are yet future. Some of them appear to be in the process of being fulfilled even now. Here are the key points:
- The remnant of Israel (which Jesus specifies as the descendants of Lehi in the Americas) will be scattered by the Gentiles who would come to Lehi’s land of promise.
- The Lord gives this land (the Americas) for the inheritance of Lehi’s posterity (Lamanites and Nephites).
- The gospel would be brought to the remnant of Israel in the Americas by the Gentiles.
- The Book of Mormon—a record of their fathers—would come forth from the Gentiles to the remnant of Israel in America).
- The people of the land would begin to believe in Christ because of this.
- The Gentiles nations would reject the Book of Mormon that comes forth to them, save for a relative few.
- Those who believe will gather together and be blessed.
- The remnant of Jacob in America (the descendants of Lehi who are intermingled with the indigenous people) will “...go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver”.
- The Lord promises the remnant of Jacob that “Thy hand shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries, and all thine enemies shall be cut off” (3 Nephi 20:11-17).
- The Lord will establish this people (the remnant of Jacob) in the land and fulfill the covenant with Jacob and they will build the New Jerusalem on this continent.
- The Holy Ghost will be poured out upon the Gentiles who believe and they will be numbered with the House of Israel.
- When the Gentiles harden their hearts and reject the Restoration, particularly the Book of Mormon, the Lord will cause the people of the land to become a “scourge” to them.
- The Lord will gather the righteous with the remnant of Jacob and manifest himself to them in person.
- The conversion of the remnant of Jacob in the Americas (this has been happening for several decades now) is the sign that these things are about to be fulfilled.
- The remnant of Jacob will build the New Jerusalem on this land, assisted by the converted Gentiles (latter-day saints).
- The Lord will appear to and direct the remnant of Israel to guide this work.
A photo appeared in the press several days ago of trains coming from Mexico and Central America with hundreds of children riding on top of them, coming to America. It brought back memories of the pictures of the modern day exodus of Jews to the newly created nation of Israel following World War II. Those pictures show hundreds of Jews standing on the decks of ships, eagerly heading to their promised land. The Book of Mormon tells us that America is the land of promise for the remnant of Jacob who are among the indigenous people of the land.
They are coming here by the thousands daily. No one can stave off this migration. They are mostly children, teens, and young adults. About 80 percent of them are male. Are they the “young lions” who are coming? If so, no earthly government will have power to stop the influx of Lehi’s posterity. God has given this land to them. It belongs to them. We Gentiles are the squatters on it. If our society does not repent and keep God’s commandments, the young lions will be a scourge unto us.
What is a scourge? The dictionary says it’s a source of widespread dreadful affliction and devastation such as that caused by pestilence or war. There are already health concerns with this huge immigrant invasion. Could they bring diseases into our country that we thought we had eradicated? Could there be epidemics? Will they grow resentful and violent because our government is cramming them into refugee camps in several states?
There is an enormous humanitarian challenge ahead of us, and responding to this situation is, in some measure, a test of our compassion and humanity? The Lord is no respecter of persons. He is no respecter of national boundaries, either. He honors righteousness and he keeps covenants. Are the covenants made to the remnant of Jacob are being fulfilled before our very eyes?
The greatest test for us as Americans and as latter-day saints in this crisis is having to choose between two principles: justice and mercy. Justice demands that the law be enforced and a punishment affixed. There are many “law and order” Americans who are demanding that we send back these "criminals" who are merely children. The apostle Paul, seeking to turn “law-abiding” believer into saints challenged his hearers. He told them that, when they put their trust in the law, then they are obligated to keep the whole law themselves. Since no one can keep the law of God perfectly, we need mercy. Paul challenged them to seek for mercy and rely upon it. The sacrifice of Jesus' own life was the payment for the law. In effect, when we demand justice and penalties, we reject the belief that Jesus died and fulfilled the demands of the law. What we need is mercy, not justice.
Fellow latter-day saint Glenn Beck has been hammered by many of his former supporters who now call him a traitor. Why do they call him this? He is sending food and toys to these “criminals”--children who languish in what now amount to refugee camps. The Bible teaches us that, since we all are sinners desperately in need of God's mercy, we should be merciful ourselves. When we demand justice for others, we demand that we be judged by the law. Wouldn't you rather be judged by mercy instead of justice?
There are amazing ironies at play here. The first peoples of the Americas were pushed off their lands, threatened by diseases, and decimated by a wave of immigrants hundreds of years ago. History now repeats as the children of the first people come in waves which we cannot control. The “young lions” are coming and, depending on how we treat them, we may expect justice or mercy at their hands in the not too distant future. Will they bring a scourge? Will they prove to be the undoing of a wicked nation that has abandoned God, embraced evil in every form, and rejected the servants of God who bear the prophetic mantle?
How we react to this crisis is one of the things that will reveal what we truly are inside and play a role in the outcome of where we will stand. Will we stand with God and the remnant of Jacob on this promised land? Or will we fight against the remnant of Jacob whom God is calling to its rightful inheritance? All this is coming to pass in preparation for the gathering of the elect and the building up of the New Jerusalem in the future. Knowing these things, can we latter-day saints act with anything but compassion and kindness to these brethren whom God is calling for his own purposes?
If you would like more on this subject, please read these two articles I produced for LDSLIberty.com.