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Faith is By Choice An LDS Faith Blog

Old Testament Support of LDS views, part 4 - Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, a Latter-day restoration

July 26, 2012
Moroni buries the plates, painting by Tom Lovell

4  And thou [Israel] shalt be brought down, and shalt speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.
(Isaiah 29:4)

The Lord here addresses Israel, shortly after the time of Isaiah, they were to incur the judgments of God and to be scattered.  This particular reference prophesies about how they will one day speak “out of the ground”.  The Book of Mormon perfectly fulfills this prophecy.  It’s a record of a branch of the house of Israel that once flourished on the American continent, but through their pride and wickedness they eventually were destroyed because of the judgments of the Lord. Moroni, their last prophet and record keeper, buried the record that was engraven on plates of gold, into the earth around 400 AD. The record lay safely buried on a hillside in Palmyra New York until it was revealed and given to Joseph Smith in 1829.

In the Book of Mormon is recorded an ancient prophecy given by Joseph who was sold into Egypt (the son of Jacob).  This prophecy is lost to the bible, but was known and recorded by Lehi in the Book of Mormon.  Lehi had learned that he and his people were descended from Manasseh and Ephraim, and were thus children of Joseph, so the teachings of Joseph were very relevant to them. In the prophecy, God tells Joseph of Egypt about his future seed (the Nephites) and about the future prophet Joseph Smith, and the translation of the Book of Mormon. 

18 ...behold, I will give unto him [Joseph Smith] that he shall write the writing of the fruit of thy loins, unto the fruit of thy loins...
19 And the words which he shall write shall be the words which are expedient in my wisdom should go forth unto the fruit of thy loins. And it shall be as if the fruit of thy loins had cried unto them from the dust; for I know their faith.
20  And they shall cry from the dust; yea, even repentance unto their brethren, even after many generations have gone by them. And it shall come to pass that their cry shall go, even according to the simpleness of their words.
21  Because of their faith their words shall proceed forth out of my mouth unto their brethren who are the fruit of thy loins; and the weakness of their words will I make strong in their faith, unto the remembering of my covenant which I made unto thy fathers.
(2 Nephi 3:19-21)

Moroni, in the final chapter of the record, also characterized himself “like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust”  Moroni 10:27.

Another bible verse that speaks clearly about a restoration of knowledge and truth in the latter-days, and specifically about the coming of the Book of Mormon is also found in Isaiah 29.

10  For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered.
11  And the vision of all is become unto you as the words of a book that is sealed, which men deliver to one that is learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I cannot; for it is sealed:
12  And the book is delivered to him that is not learned, saying, Read this, I pray thee: and he saith, I am not learned.
13  Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:
14  Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.
(Isaiah 29:10-14)

Here the prophet begins by speaking about the time we refer to as the great apostasy.  This is the time on the earth after the deaths of the original apostles of the Lord, when the world was plunged into a spiritual darkness.  Most history books even refer to this time as the dark ages.  After rejecting Christ and killing his holy apostles, the people were left to struggle without prophets and direct revelation from God.  The world was largely in darkness, people were generally oppressed and kept in ignorance, where false religion rose up and thrived.   

Through the ages, and to answer the prayers of many thousands of good and honest truth seekers, God began to prepare the way for a restoration of his truth to the earth.  Inspired men, risking their own lives, began to translate the bible into common languages.  The printing press brought the bible to the masses, and people (those who could read) began to learn for themselves about God and what had originally been taught.  

Events were guided by the hand of God to bring about the founding of a great and free nation on the choice land of the ancient Book of Mormon people.  Finally, the time was prepared for the coming forth of the sacred record of this once noble but fallen people.  The record was given to one who was “not learned”, Joseph Smith, a farm-boy living in upstate New York.

Joseph Smith was able to translate the Book of Mormon by direct revelation, the gift of God - through the means of some sacred instruments designed for that purpose, called “Urim and Thummim”, also known as “seer stones”, or “interpreters” in the Book of Mormon.  This sacred instrument is also biblical - our LDS bible dictionary gives this definition (in part):

Urim and Thummim: Hebrew term that means Lights and Perfections. An instrument prepared of God to assist man in obtaining revelation from the Lord and in translating languages.  See Ex. 28: 30; Lev. 8: 8; Num. 27: 21; Deut. 33: 8; 1 Sam. 28: 6; Ezra 2: 63; Neh. 7: 65; JS-H 1: 35...

Many prophets through time, including Adam, Abraham and Moses, have been given this instrument (there is more than one of these).  It was used by the priests of Israel in their temple worship.  Joseph Smith, a typical American farm boy and obviously not a scholar who could read ancient languages, would have needed miraculous help to translate an ancient buried record.  He, with the help of others who served as scribes for him, worked through the translation of the record.  He wrote about the experience in his personal history

One experience at the time is a literal fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy from Isaiah 29:10-14 quoted above.  Martin Harris, a man who was a friend to Joseph and was assisting him with the work, wrote of an experience he had after he had copied some of the characters from the gold plates along with Joseph’s translation of them. 

"I went to the city of New York, and presented the characters which had been translated, with the translation thereof, to Professor Charles Anthon, a gentleman celebrated for his literary attainments. Professor Anthon stated that the translation was correct, more so than any he had before seen translated from the Egyptian. I then showed him those which were not yet translated, and he said that they were Egyptian, Chaldaic, Assyriac, and Arabic; and he said they were true characters. He gave me a certificate, certifying to the people of Palmyra that they were true characters, and that the translation of such of them as had been translated was also correct. I took the certificate and put it into my pocket, and was just leaving the house, when Mr. Anthon called me back, and asked me how the young man found out that there were gold plates in the place where he found them. I answered that an angel of God had revealed it unto him.

"He then said to me, 'Let me see that certificate.' I accordingly took it out of my pocket and gave it to him, when he took it and tore it to pieces, saying that there was no such thing now as ministering of angels, and that if I would bring the plates to him he would translate them. I informed him that part of the plates were sealed, and that I was forbidden to bring them. He replied, 'I cannot read a sealed book.' I left him and went to Dr. Mitchell, who sanctioned what Professor Anthon had said respecting both the characters and the translation."

(JS-History 1:64-65)

In the Book of Isaiah, we find at least one other prophetic verse that points to the prophet Joseph Smith.  It is this one:

Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
So shall he sprinkle [gather] many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.
(Isaiah 52:13-15)

This verse relates to a servant who is instrumental in the latter-day gathering of the Lord’s people from many nations.  He shall be both extolled (spoken highly of, or placed in high esteem) and marred (persecuted, spoken poorly of).  Kings and the important rulers and magistrates of the world will not know what to make of him and what they learn through him.  The Book of Mormon tells of the personal visitation of the Lord Jesus Christ to the Nephites in America shortly after his death and resurrection.  Jesus actually hinted to his disciples in Jerusalem that he would go and visit “other sheep” which were “not of this fold” (John 10:16).

Among many other teachings he gives the Nephites, he quotes the above verses from Isaiah 52, and then teaches them that Isaiah was speaking about the future events related the Book of Mormon coming forth.  He further says:

9  For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them; and there shall be among them those who will not believe it, although a man shall declare it unto them.
10  But behold, the life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.
11  Therefore it shall come to pass that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant.
(3 Nephi 21:9-11)

In the writings of Ezekiel we have this clear reference to two future records which will come forth and help to support each other and unite the Lord's people.

16 Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
17  And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
18  And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?
19  Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.
(Ezekiel 37:16-19)

The stick of Judah (the Bible) thus is to become one with the stick of Joseph (the Book of Mormon).  Lehi and the other groups in the Book of Mormon were descended from Joseph through Ephraim and Menassah.  The prophecy is clear that these records will one day work together, and become one single record.  They will be instrumental in the latter-day gathering of Israel as Ezekiel continues:

21 And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:
22  And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all:
(Ezekiel 37:21-22)

Another Old Testament scripture that points to a great latter-day church and kingdom being raised up is the classic message of Daniel to King Nebuchadnezzar in the interpretation of the king’s dream (Daniel 2).

Daniel tells the king that in his dream he saw the various earthly kingdoms represented by the great figure with a head of gold, belly and arms of silver, thighs of brass, etc.. All the various parts represent the future earthly kingdoms that will come, and their various strengths.  He is told that the head of gold represented his own empire (Babylonian).  Perhaps also represented would be the Medes and Persians, the Greek and Roman empires, the British empire, and so on.  Daniel tells the king:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
(Daniel 2:44-45)

Latter-day Saints see the establishment of the latter-day church, the restoration of sacred priesthood authority, the calling of latter-day prophets and apostles, the coming forth of new scriptures, and the building of temples around the world, all as a beginning of the fulfillment of this prophecy.  The establishment of the great kingdom by God himself has begun.  

From the prophet Malachi we have this prophecy:

1  Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.
2  But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fullers' soap:
3  And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness.
(Malachi 3:1-3)

This prophecy speaks of a messenger, who will prepare the way of the Lord.  The Savior himself identified this messenger to be John the Baptist, "For this is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee" (Matthew 11:10).  John was the messenger sent to prepare the way before the coming of the Lord. However, the scripture in Malachi mght have a dual meaning. A carfeul reading shows that the timing here is not exactly that of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.  It speaks of the Lord coming "suddenly" to the temple, and purifying the sons of Levi (ie. those who hold the priesthood of God).  Is it not speaking of the dramatic events that will precede the second coming of the Lord? 

He also referred to John as Elias "And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come" (Matthew 11:14).  From Luke we read that John went forth "before him in the spirit and power of Elias... to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." (Luke 1:17).  The term Elias is used here and in other scriptures as a title for one who prepares the way before the Lord.  He is to lay the groundwork, so that the people to whom the Lord comes are in a condition of repentance and readiness to be taught by him.  Just as John the Baptist served this purpose prior to the first coming of the Lord, so another must prepare the way before his second coming. Who then is the “messenger” spoken of by Malachi? Is it not the great prophet of the restoration, Joseph Smith?