'By these things we know'

Information on this page is excerpted from an address that Monte S. Nyman delivered at the 1991 Sydney B. Sperry Symposium on the Book of Mormon at BYU. The information is used with the permission of Brother Nyman, director of Book of Mormon Research for BYU's Religious Studies Center. He is teaching at the BYU Jerusalem Center during 1992.

"The importance of the Book of Mormon for interpreting the doctrine of the Church was declared by the Lord at the time of the organization of the Church," Brother Nyman said. "In a series of revelations, . . . the contents of the Book of Mormon, its purposes, and the effect upon the Church collectively and individually were outlined. (D&C 20:5-16.) These revelations were compiled and published as one revelation under the date of April 6, 1830. In these revelations . . . the Lord stated: "By these things [the Book of MormonT we know" (D&C 20:17) and then gave [more thanT 20 statements concerning doctrines that were definitely taught in the newly translated scripture." (D&C 20:17-36.)Following is a brief overview of those doctrines and major references to them. The items presented are not purported to cover all the doctrines taught in the Book of Mormon and the Bible.

" . . . there is a God. . . ." (D&C 20:17.)The existence of God is shown in the Book of Mormon through accounts of two incidents of an encounter with an antichrist: Sherem (Jacob 7), and Korihor (Alma 30). In both cases, a prophet of God gives convincing evidence that there is a Supreme Creator. In another incident, Aaron, a missionary among the Lamanites, taught the agnostic Lamanite king to pray, showing there is a God. (Alma 22:7-18.) Nephi, son of Lehi, boldly testified: "For if there be no Christ there be no God; and if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation. But there is a God, and he is Christ, and he cometh in the fulness of his own time." (2 Ne. 11:7.) Near the end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni spoke to those who do not believe in Christ, and testified that they would know of a surety that there is a Christ but under a consciousness of guilt. (Mormon 9:1-5.)

"[God isT infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God. . . . " (D&C 20:17.)The attributes of God are verified throughout the Book of Mormon. He is an immortal being. His nature, as stated by Samuel the Lamanite, is "of that righteousness which is in our great and eternal Head." (Hel. 13:38.) His attributes are further described by Ammon as a God who "has all power, all wisdom, and all understanding; he comprehendeth all things, and he is a merciful being, even unto salvation." (Alma 26:35.) These five qualities illustrate facets of His infinite and eternal nature. His unchangeableness is verified by the Brother of Jared, who called him "a God of truth, and canst not lie." (Ether 3:12.) Further amplification of these and other attributes of God and Christ are throughout the Book of Mormon.

"[God isT the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them." (D&C 20:17.)Father Lehi testified, " . . . there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are." (2 Ne. 2:14.) Jacob wrote that the "earth was created by the power of [God'sT word." (Jacob 4:9.) King Benjamin informed his subjects that to obtain salvation they must "believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth." (Mosiah 4:9.) These three references are only some of many similar testimonies. When Jesus spoke to the Nephites after His crucifixion and resurrection, He informed them, "I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are." (3 Ne. 9:15; see also Hel. 14:12.) The Creator God spoken of in these passages is Jesus Christ. This same doctrine is taught in the New Testament (John 1:10; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2), as well as in the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 76:24) and in the Pearl of Great Price (Moses 1:31-33). The Book of Mormon verifies the creation and the Creator.

"[GodT created man, male and female, after his own image and in his own likeness. . . ." (D&C 20:18.)This concept is the teaching of the first chapter of Genesis. It illustrates that one of the purposes of the Book of Mormon, as stated in (D&C 20:11) is to prove the holy scriptures are true. The Book of Mormon has many references sustaining the creation of man in God's image. Among them: Lehi bore testimony that God "created our first parents, and the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the air, and in fine, all things which are created." (2 Ne. 2:15.) Nephi bore witness that the Lord God "created all men." (2 Ne. 29:7.) Jacob recorded that God "created all flesh." (Jacob 2:21.)

Abinadi was put to death because he said "Christ was the God, the Father of all things . . . [whoT should take upon him the image of man, and it should be the image after which man was created in the beginning." (Mosiah 7:27.) Moroni testified that God created Adam (Mormon 9:11-12), and the Brother of Jared was told by the Lord Himself that "man have I created after the body of my spirit" (Ether 3:16).

"And [the LordT gave unto them [Adam and EveT commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship." (D&C 20:19.)This statement implies Adam and Eve had their agency as to whether or not they kept the commandments. The Book of Mormon illustrates the significance of agency in the keeping of commandments. As Lehi explained to his son Jacob, "to bring about his eternal purposes in the end of man, after he had created our first parents, . . . it must needs be that there was an opposition; . . . " (2 Ne. 2:15.) Lehi further declared: "Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; . . . " (2 Ne. 2:27.)

"By the transgression of these holy laws man became sensual and devilish, and became fallen man." (D&C 20:20.)The Book of Mormon is replete with the teachings of man's fallen state. Among the references: Lehi taught that "all mankind were in a lost and fallen state." (1 Ne. 10:6.) Later he told Jacob that the Lord "showed unto all men that they were lost." (2 Ne. 2:21.) Lehi told Jacob of the purpose of the fall in the famous statement: "Adam fell that men might be; and men are that they might have joy." (2 Ne. 2:25.) An angel of the Lord told King Benjamin that "the natural [fallenT man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam. . . . " (Mosiah 3:19.) Abinadi testified that the wicked "are carnal and devilish, . . . " (Mosiah 16:3-4.) The Brother of Jared confessed that because of the fall mankind's natures have become evil continually. (Ether 3:2.) Man is born innocent (D&C 93:38) but becomes good or evil, as illustrated in the above references.

The Book of Mormon testifies that the fall is literal but also purposeful. As Alma taught Zeezrom, "this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead." (Alma 12:24.) The fall of man is a misunderstood and controversial concept in the religious world, but it is clarified in the Book of Mormon.

" . . . the almighty God gave his Only Begotten Son, as it is written in those scriptures which have been given of him." (D&C 20:21.)The Book of Mormon references that describe the giving of the Only Begotten Son or the Atonement, declare that the Atonement prepared the way "from the fall of men, and salvation is free" (2 Ne. 2:4), and it "prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster . . . death and hell. . . ." (Alma 2 Ne. 10.) The Book of Mormon teaches also that "the Atonement bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead; and the resurrection of the dead bringeth back men into the presence of God." (Alma 42:23.)

"He [ChristT suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them." (D&C 20:22.)The temptations of Christ, as revealed in the Nephite record, were part of His mission. Alma bore testimony: "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people" (Alma 7:11.)

"[The SaviorT was crucified, died, and rose again the third day; . . ." (D&C 20:23.)The Book of Mormon gives a second witness of this through Christ's appearance to the Nephites. They heard the Father bear witness of Him, saw Him descend and personally testify of having drunk of the bitter cup of the Atonement. At His invitation, they felt the wounds in His body, "and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets that should come." (3 Ne. 11:14.) The Book of Mormon also bears record that there were others on the American continent who were resurrected at this time (3 Ne. 23:7-13), just as there had been in Jerusalem. (Matt. 27:52-53.)

Many Book of Mormon prophets before the time of Christ testified of the coming resurrection. Samuel the Lamanite (Hel. 14:25), Alma (Alma 40:16-23), Amulek (Alma 11:40-45), Abinadi (Mosiah 15:20-26); and Jacob (2 Ne. 9:10-13) were among Nephite prophets who foretold the resurrection. Through these prophets, the Book of Mormon defines the resurrection, which the Bible doesn't do; gives the order of the resurrection in more detail than the Bible, and verifies what is taught in the Bible. The doctrine of the resurrection is significantly enhanced in the Book of Mormon.

"[The resurrected SaviorT ascended into heaven, to sit down on the right hand of the Father, to reign with almighty power according to the will of the Father." (D&C 20:24.)As a resurrected being, He testified that He was "the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth." (3 Ne. 11:14.) As the Creator, "the life and the light of the world," and "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end" (3 Ne. 9:15-18), He had reigned over the world prior to His earthly ministry. Mormon testified of people standing before the "judgment-seat of Christ" (Mormon 3:20.) Moroni declared he would see people "before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead." (Moroni 10:34.)

" . . . as many as would believe and be baptized in his holy name, and endure in faith to the end, should be saved." (D&C 20:25.)The Savior, in defining His doctrine to the Nephites, said that "whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God." (3 Ne. 11:33.) Four hundred years later, Moroni quoted Jesus Christ: "And he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mormon 9:23.) The Book of Mormon teaches that baptism is required for entrance into the kingdom of God.

"Not only those who believed after he came in the meridian to time, in the flesh, but all those from the beginning, even as many as were before he came, . . . should have eternal life." (D&C 20:26.)The principle of baptism has always been a requirement for salvation. It was initiated with Adam. (Moses 6:64-65.) Nephi taught the principle about 550 B.C. (2 Ne. 31.) Alma outlined the covenant between God and man at baptism when he organized the Church of Christ about 150 B.C. (Mosiah 18:8-10.) Every other basic principle of the gospel was likewise taught in Old Testament times. The Book of Mormon reveals that the principles of God are eternal.

" . . . the holy prophets . . . spake as they were inspired by the gift of the Holy Ghost, who truly testified of him in all things, . . ." (D&C 20:26.)The Book of Mormon is record of prophets. In the opening chapter, Lehi was called to be a prophet and lead the righteous out of Jerusalem. (1 Ne. 1:5-18; 2:1-3.) The Lord told Nephi he would be "a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren." (1 Ne. 2:19-22.) He was to be the Lord's spokesman. Other prophets were designated. Jacob carried on in his brother's stead. (Jacob 1:17.) King Benjamin was assisted by prophets in establishing peace in the land. (Words of Mormon 1:18.) Abinadi prophesied among the apostate Nephites. (Mosiah 11:20.) Alma was an instrument in the Lord's hands in bringing many to a knowledge of the truth. (Mosiah 23:10.) The list could go on: Alma the younger; Amulek; Helaman; Nephi, son of Nephi. The Book of Mormon also shows that those Nephites who believed in their words obtained salvation, as Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants declares.

Nephi testified that the mysteries of God were revealed to his father, Lehi, and at all times by "the power of the Holy Ghost which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him." (1 Ne. 10:17.) Nephi later detailed the role of the Holy Ghost as he spoke concerning the doctrine of Christ. He spoke of those who were baptized receiving the Holy Ghost and of the baptism of the Holy Ghost that would enable them to speak with the tongues of angels or to speak the words of Christ by revelation. (2 Ne. 31:12-21; 33:1-2.) The mysteries of God, declared Lehi, would be unfolded "by the power of the Holy Ghost." (1 Ne. 10:19.) There are frequent references to the gift of the Holy Ghost throughout the Book of Mormon.

"And we know that all men must repent and believe on the name of Jesus Christ, and worship the Father in his name, and endure in faith on his name to the end, or they cannot be saved in the kingdom of God." (D&C 20:29.)These same principles are outlined by Nephi as the doctrine of Christ that will bring salvation. (2 Ne. 31:13-21.) Nephi taught this doctrine in the Old Testament period before the advent of Christ and the supposed introduction of the higher law. Jesus later gave the same gospel to the Nephites as His doctrine and His gospel. (3 Ne. 11:30-31; 27:9-27.)

"And we know that justification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true." (D&C 20:30.)The doctrine of justification is that a person has met the requirements to receive the effects of the Atonement in his or her personal life and is forgiven of past sins. In Book of Mormon terminology, he or she is "guiltless before God." (See Mosiah 4:25-26; Mormon 7:7.) This condition is attained through faith, repentance and baptism of water and the Spirit. (3 Ne. 27:16; Moroni 6:4; 8:25-26.) The recipient is justified because of the grace of Jesus Christ in atoning for the sins of all mankind. (2 Ne. 9:21.) While these terms are used in the New Testament (Romans 4:25; 5:1), it is the Book of Mormon that makes them more understandable.

"And we know also, that sanctification through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is just and true, to all those who love and serve God with all their mights, minds, and strength. (D&C 20:31.)The Book of Mormon teaches that sanctification is a condition that is attained through the reception of the Holy Ghost. (3 Ne. 27:20.) To be sanctified is to be made pure or holy and is a process that develops from fasting, prayer, humility, faith, and yielding one's heart to God. (Hel. 3:35.) Through the proper use of the priesthood and the gift of the Holy Ghost, a person is sanctified and cannot "look upon sin save it were with abhorrence." (Alma 13:12.) The Book of Mormon gives examples individuals who attainted this condition: Nephi (2 Ne. 4:15-35); General Moroni (Alma 48:17); Ammon, and the other sons of Mosiah, and Alma and his sons (Alma 48:18); and Helaman and his brethren (Alma 48:19.)

The Book of Mormon also testifies that there were "many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God." (Alma 13:12.) Sanctification is the requirement to come into the presence of the Lord for no unclean thing can dwell with Him. (3 Ne. 27:19.)

" . . . there is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God." (D&C 20:32.)The Book of Mormon testifies that people may lose their opportunity to return to the celestial kingdom, such as the people of Ammonihah who were so warned by Alma that they "after having been such a highly favored people of the Lord, . . . having been visited by the Spirit of God; having conversed with angels, and having been spoken unto by the voice of the Lord; and having the spirit of prophecy, and the spirit of revelation, and also many gifts, . . . should transgress contrary to the light and knowledge which they do have, . . . and it would be far more tolerable for the Lamanites than for them." (Alma 9:20-23. ) Where much is given, much is required. (Luke 12:48.) Other Book of Mormon references verify what Alma taught the people of Ammonihah. (Mosiah 4:11-12; Alma 4:13-14.)

"Therefore, let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation." (D&C 20:33.)This warning could be addressed to the individual members of the Church or to the Church collectively. In the Nephite record, it seems to be a collective warning. Alma reigned as chief judge to preach to the Church members "seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them." (Alma 4:19.) The Zoramites had fallen into apostasy and Alma headed a mission to save their souls. (Alma 31.) The Lord provided inspired leaders to help people remain faithful but "Satan had great power . . . tempting them to seek for power, and authority, and riches, and the vain things of the world." (3 Ne. 6:15.)

"Yea, and even let those who are sanctified take heed also." (D&C 20:34.)King Benjamin seemed to have described sons of perdition when he spoke of those who "should transgress and go contrary to that which has been spoken. . . . Therefore, if a man repenteth not, and remaineth and dieth an enemy to God, the demands of divine justice do awaken his immortal soul to a lively sense of his own guilt, . . . And now I say unto you, that mercy hath no claim on that man; therefore his final doom is to endure a never-ending torment." (Mosiah 2:36-39.)

"We know that these things are true and according to the revelations of John, neither adding to nor diminishing from the prophecy of his book, the holy scriptures, or the revelations of God which shall come hereafter by the gift of the Holy Ghost, the voice of God, or the ministering of angels. (D&C 20:35.)Many people today refer to Revelation 22:18-19 as a refutation of the Book of Mormon because they claim it is adding to the Bible. While the Book of Mormon clarifies and interprets the Bible, it does not add to the principles of the gospel but is a second witness to the truthfulness of what the Bible teaches. It confirms the doctrines and the gospel of Jesus Christ laid down in the Bible.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed