Unit 1: Day 4, Overview of the Book of Mormon

“Unit 1: Day 4, Overview of the Book of Mormon,” Book of Mormon Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2012), 9–11

“Unit 1: Day 4,” Book of Mormon Study Guide, 9–11

Unit 1: Day 4

Overview of the Book of Mormon


The Prophet Joseph Smith described the events surrounding the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. By studying his account, your testimony of his prophetic calling and of the Book of Mormon’s divine role in the Restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ can deepen. This lesson will also help you become more familiar with how the Book of Mormon was written anciently. The prophets Mormon and Moroni testified of the Lord’s direction as they wrote and compiled the writings of many other prophets on the gold plates. As you study, look for evidence of the Lord’s hand in bringing forth the Book of Mormon and for the role the Book of Mormon can have in guiding your life.

“Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith”

How would you answer the question “How did your Church get the Book of Mormon?”

The “Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” found in the introductory materials at the beginning of the Book of Mormon, contains excerpts from Joseph Smith—History, found in the Pearl of Great Price. It describes the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in the Prophet’s own words. You are encouraged to read his entire account from Joseph Smith—History during your daily scripture study.

Because “Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith” does not include verse numbers, this lesson will reference Joseph Smith—History to make it easier for you to find the reading assignments. As you study the Prophet Joseph’s testimony, look for evidence that the Book of Mormon came forth by the power of God.

Read Joseph Smith—History 1:29–35, 42–43, and underline details of Moroni’s visit to Joseph Smith that you would include if you were explaining these events to someone else. In Joseph Smith—History 1:34, what did Moroni say was contained on the gold plates?

  1. Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal: What one thing in Joseph Smith—History 1:29–35, 42–43 would you want to emphasize if you were sharing this account with someone else? Why is it significant to you?

  2. Read Joseph Smith—History 1:51–54, and record your thoughts about the following questions in your scripture study journal: What did Joseph Smith learn during his yearly visits with the angel Moroni? Why do you think it was important for Joseph to have this four-year period of instruction before obtaining and translating the plates?

After a season of preparation and instruction, Joseph Smith was given the plates in 1827 and the responsibility to translate them by the gift and power of God. Read Joseph Smith—History 1:59–60, and identify the charge he was given concerning the gold plates.

“A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon”

Mormon Abridging the Plates

To understand how the Book of Mormon is organized, read “A Brief Explanation about the Book of Mormon,” which is found after “Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.” Compare what you read with the illustration found at the end of this lesson, which illustrates how the different sets of plates fit together to make up the Book of Mormon record.

Many individuals served as record keepers during the history of the Nephites and Lamanites, beginning with Lehi and concluding over 1,000 years later with the prophet-historian Mormon and his son Moroni. Mormon was directed by the Lord to abridge the writings of these ancient prophets and the 1,000-year history of his people. His abridgement was recorded on the plates of Mormon, also known as the gold plates. Following Mormon’s death, his son Moroni finished the record and the plates were hidden until they were given to the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Helaman 3:13–15 is one of several passages where Mormon described making an abridgement of the Nephite records. As you read it, notice that there was much more written than Mormon and Moroni were able to include on the gold plates.

Read Words of Mormon 1:9 and Mormon 8:34–35. Highlight words or phrases that describe how the Lord helped and directed Mormon and Moroni as they compiled the Book of Mormon record.

  1. Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: If you were Mormon or Moroni and had the responsibility to condense the volumes of prophetic writings into a single record, how would you decide what to include in your abridgement?

From these verses we can see that the Book of Mormon writers saw our day and wrote what would be of most help to us. You may want to note this in your scriptures by Mormon 8:35.

President Ezra Taft Benson testified that the Book of Mormon “was written for our day” and explained how knowing this can help us as we study the Book of Mormon:

“The Nephites never had the book; neither did the Lamanites of ancient times. It was meant for us. Mormon wrote near the end of the Nephite civilization. Under the inspiration of God, who sees all things from the beginning, he abridged centuries of records, choosing the stories, speeches, and events that would be most helpful to us. …

“If they saw our day, and chose those things which would be of greatest worth to us, is not that how we should study the Book of Mormon? We should constantly ask ourselves, ‘Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?’” (“The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 6).

Asking these types of questions as you study will help you discover the principles and doctrines the Lord knew would be the greatest help to you in your life.

Think about your life right now. Reflect on questions you have or situations you are facing that you would like to receive some direction about from God. Write one or two of them in your personal journal (not your scripture study journal that you show to your teacher). During your study of the Book of Mormon each day, look for principles that offer guidance and counsel related to these situations.

President Gordon B. Hinckley

Regarding daily scripture study, President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “You may think you are too busy. Ten or fifteen minutes a day with the scriptures, and particularly with the Book of Mormon, can give you marvelous understanding of the great eternal truths which have been preserved by the power of the Almighty for the blessing of His children. As you read … , you will draw closer to Him who is the author of our salvation” (“Rise to the Stature of the Divine within You,” Ensign, Nov. 1989, 97).

  1. Ponder what goal you could set that would help you get the most from your reading of the Book of Mormon this year. Record your goal in your scripture study journal. You might want to establish regular times to evaluate your progress.

  2. Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:

    I have studied the “Overview of the Book of Mormon” lesson and completed it on (date).

    Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher:

    plates diagram