The Primary Purpose of the Book of Mormon
by Raymond C. Treat
If you were to ask several Book of Mormon believers the question, "What is the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon?" Most, if not all, would answer, "to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ." This is a purpose of the Book of Mormon but not the primary purpose.
The primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is to restore a knowledge of the covenants to the seed of Lehi-the Lamanites-who are a remnant of the house of Israel. (Lamanites in this sense is a term which includes other Book of Mormon tribes because they became Lamanites spiritually [D&C 3:10e]).
The title page of the Book of Mormon, which was written by Moroni, plainly reveals the primary purpose through the Hebrew style of writing in parallel thoughts.
A written to the Lamanites which are
a remnant of the house of Israel;
B and also to Jew and Gentile ...
A' to show unto the remnant of the
house of Israel ... that they
may know the covenants of the
B ' and also to the convincing of the
Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the
Christ ... [emphasis added]
This is a Hebrew poetry style called alternating parallelism (see Recent Book of Mormon Developments, vol. 2, 1992:14). Once the poetry style has been identified, the structure of the poetry tells us how the parts fit together. A fits with A' to give us the primary purpose. Notice that A' says the remnant, referring to the Lamanites. B goes with B' to give us the secondary purpose.
The secondary purpose tells us that the Book of Mormon is for everyone, because everyone is either a Jew or a Gentile. The primary purpose tells us that the Book of Mormon is to restore a knowledge of the covenants to the Lamanites. This is the primary purpose not only because A comes before B but because the Book of Mormon is the Lamanites' history, and God covenanted with their fathers that their testimonies would come to their seed in the last days.
Suffice it to say, the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is to restore a knowledge of the covenants to the Lamanites. Is it possible that the Restoration Movement has suffered because we have treated the Book of Mormon lightly (D&C 83:8) and that our eyes have therefore been blinded to the primary purpose because of the incorrect tradition (D&C 90:6c) of putting B before A?
Putting B before A takes our eyes off two things, the covenants and the Lamanites.
There is abundant evidence in the Book of Mormon about the importance of the covenants. Not only did Moroni begin the Book of Mormon with this subject in the title page but he also ended the book with this subject. In the last verse of the Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:31, Moroni says farewell. Therefore, the verse just before that is the last verse with information other than that dealing with Moroni's farewell:
If ye by the grace of God are perfect in
Christ and deny not his power,
Then are ye sanctified in Christ by the
grace of God through the shedding
of the blood of Christ,
Which is in the covenant of the Father
unto the remission of your sins
That ye become holy without spot [emphasis added]. Moroni 10:30
An entire article could be written about how the contents of this verse center around the subject of our covenant. Perfection and sanctification in Christ are received as a result of our covenant relationship.
Just to show that ending the Book of Mormon with the subject of the covenant was not accidental, look at Moroni's first ending. Moroni's father Mormon wrote the first three chapters of his own book and after his death Moroni finished it by writing chapter four. It is obvious from the context of this chapter that Moroni thought this was the last he would be able to write:
... and may God the Father remember
the covenant which he hath
made with the house of Israel;
And may he bless them for ever,
through faith on the name of Jesus
Christ. Amen [emphasis added]. Mormon 4:103
According to ancient Hebrew law two or three witnesses were necessary to establish evidence in a trial; therefore, Moroni gave us three witnesses that the Lord intended the Book of Mormon to begin and end with the same subject.
In Second Nephi 12:42-43 we find that the primary purpose of the Restoration Movement is associated with covenants:
But behold, there shall be many at
that day when I shall proceed to
do a marvelous work among them,
That I may remember my covenants
which I have made unto the
children of men,
That I may set my hand again the
second time to recover my people
which are of the house of Israel;
And also that I may remember the
promises which I have made unto
And also unto thy father... [emphasis added]
From this reference we learn that the Lord is going to do a marvelous work that he may remember his covenants. As we see from these words of Nephi, the term "marvelous work" refers to the Restoration Movement:
And after that our seed is scattered,
The Lord God will proceed to do a
marvelous work among the Gentiles
which shall be of great worth unto
And it shall also be of worth unto the
And not only unto the Gentiles but
unto all the house of Israel,
Unto the making known of the covenants
of the Father of heaven unto
"In thy seed shall all the kindreds of
the earth be blessed" [emphasis added]. 1 Nephi 7:17,19-20
Notice the similarity of this reference to the title page. Nephi says first that the marvelous work shall be of great worth unto our seed (who we now call the Lamanites Therefore the Lamanites are mentioned first. Then, as in the title page, he mentions everyone else, Gentiles and all the house of Israel.
The marvelous work will be of great worth because it will restore a knowledge of the covenants. So we see that not only is the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon to restore a knowledge of the covenants to the Lamanites but that this is also the primary purpose of the Restoration Movement.
Hebrews 9:14-17 establishes the importance of the covenant by telling us that Jesus Christ came to die so that we could have a covenant:
How much more shall the blood of
Christ ... purge your conscience
from dead works to serve the
And for this cause he is the mediator
of the new covenant, that by
means of death for the redemption
of the transgressions that
were under the first covenant
They which are called might receive
the promise of eternal inheritance;
For where a covenant is, there must
also of necessity be the death of
For a covenant is of force after the
victim is dead,
Otherwise it is of no strength at all
while the victim liveth.
If Jesus Christ is the most important figure in the word of God, and he is, and if he came to die so we could have a covenant, and he did, then the covenant must be the most important subject in the word of God.
Once we understand this we can appreciate more fully how important it is to recognize the A part of the title page poetry as the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon and concentrate on the fulfillment of this purpose before trying to convince the rest of the world, which is the B part. To concentrate on the B part is to ignore the covenant, and to ignore the covenant is to be without the power of God, and without the power of God we will not be able to accomplish either purpose.
The covenant relationship, which is a relationship of total consecration in which you "die" to self and give all to the Lord, is the key to receiving the power of God, or in other words, the endowment.
One of the steps in making an ancient Hebrew covenant is the exchange of weapons belts, meaning you will defend the life of the other person even to the losing of your own life, if necessary. This is a type and shadow for the kind of covenant relationship the Lord wants to have with us spiritually. If we give the Lord our weapons belt, then he will give us his, and his weapons belt contains all the power we will need to accomplish the Lord's purposes.
The Book of Mormon is an accurate history of real people with real descendants. Book of Mormon believers have been nurturing incorrect traditions about Book of Mormon geography for several generations. These have helped to cloud our vision concerning the location of the Lamanites. Certainly Book of Mormon descendants cover a large area, especially because of the extensive migrations made from the homeland. Nevertheless, most of the people stayed home. This is where we can expect to find the largest concentration of Book of Mormon descendants.
There should be no doubt whatsoever in the minds of anyone conversant with Book of Mormon archaeology and geography that the Book of Mormon homeland is known today as Mesoamerica (see Recent Book of Mormon Developments, vol. 2,1992:121-124). Mesoamerica is an archaeological term for the area which includes southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize (formerly British Honduras) and the western parts of Honduras and El Salvador.
The largest Indian group in Mesoamerica, the Maya, has an estimated population of over four million. The Maya are located primarily in Guatemala, the Yucatan peninsula and Belize. This is the area inhabited by the Nephites, Lamanites, Mulekites and even some Jaredites during Book of Mormon times.
It is safe to say that the estimated 29 Mayan languages still spoken are spoken by the direct descendants of the Nephites, Lamanites and Mulekites (see Recent Book of Mormon Developments, vol. 2,1992:133-136).
It is also safe to say that we as a people have ignored the main population of Lamanites until very recently. Although some work is being done, we are all under obligation to ask the Lord what he wants each of us to do about our Book of Mormon stewardship in the work of restoring a knowledge of the covenants of the Lord to the Lamanites.
The idea that the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon is to restore a knowledge of the covenants to the remnant of the house of Israel, primarily Lamanites, is not new with this article but it is an idea that needs to be kept uppermost in our thinking.
We need to ponder, study and pray over the implications of the message of the Book of Mormon title page. We need first to insure that we have a personal covenant restored to us before we can assist in restoring it to others.
The message to restore the covenant is not going to go away. The title "Book of Mormon" symbolically means "Book of the Restoration of the Covenant" (see Recent Book of Mormon Developments, vol. 2, 1992:44-45). God's covenants are going to be fulfilled.
The success of our future, as Book of Mormon believers, will depend on our willingness to put first things first. A always comes before B. Fm~
This article taken from the Zarahemla Record, issue 61 May/June 1992.