The greater part of the Book of Mormon was written before Christ’s coming. It begins about 600 BC during the reign of King Zedekiah. The Bible ends its narrative in about 400 BC. The Book of Mormon gives the prophetic word of God during the period of time which is called the “intertestamental period”, a term used to refer to a period of time between the writings of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian New Testament texts. Traditionally, it is considered to be a roughly four hundred year period, spanning the ministry of Malachi (c. 420 BC), the last of the Old Testament prophets, and the appearance of John the Baptist in the early 1st century AD. It is known by members of the Protestant community as the “400 Silent Years” because it is believed to have been a span where God revealed nothing new to his people.
The Book of Mormon is especially relevant because it shows that God was not “silent” during those 400 years prior to Christ’s coming. A continuing line of prophets bore witness of the coming of a Messiah through obedience to the sacrificial rites of the law of Moses. The following scripture was written sometime between 399-361 BC
“Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was. And after this manner did they teach them.” (Jarom 1:11)
The next 200 years pass quickly in the Book of Mormon. Even though our current Book of Mormon is an abridgment, it is evident that God spoke to his prophets during this period. There were periods of wickedness and righteousness among the Nephites, the ones who kept the records, yet we know that they had prophets who continued to teach them. Undoubtedly the more complete record would be replete with the testimony of prophets. The records were handed down father to son to brother. Amaleki, one of the later prophets during this period, bore the following fervent testimony of Jesus.
And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved.” (Omni 1:26)
A very concentrated portion of the Book of Mormon covers the 130 years before Christ’s birth. It is rich in the testimony of Jesus born by prophets and other religious leaders. The gospel of Jesus Christ is taught with clarity and truth. It shows that the people continued to keep the Law of Moses as means to point their hearts and minds to Christ.
“Yea, and they did keep the law of Moses; for it was expedient that they should keep the law of Moses as yet, for it was not all fulfilled. But notwithstanding the law of Moses, they did look forward to the coming of Christ, considering that the law of Moses was a type of his coming, and believing that they must keep those outward performances until the time that he should be revealed unto them. Now they did not suppose that salvation came by the law of Moses; but the law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ; and thus they did retain a through faith, unto eternal salvation, relying upon the spirit of prophecy, which spake of those things to come.” (Alma 25:15-16)
The Book of Mormon shows how merciful God is as He continues to communicate to His children through his prophets during this time. He was preparing a people for the coming of his Son. Why would this occur only among the Book of Mormon people? One answer might be that they were free from the oppression of foreign governments and entanglements. They were also free from the reign of tyrannical kings. About 93 BC the form of government among the Nephites peacefully changed from a reign of kings to a democracy with elected leaders. This could possibly be the first democratic government in recorded history. The political leaders in the Book of Mormon were often their spiritual leaders. Freedom of religion was paramount. Indeed wars were fought to protect religious liberty.
Their religious freedom was essential for the prophetic word to be taught without hindrances. Although their government was corrupt at times, prophets could still preach the truth, testify, call people to repentance and expose corruption. It appears that God had preserved a people and a government to whom he could reveal his truths during this intertestamental period.
How grateful I am the testimony of these Book of Mormon prophets! I feel like Alma did at one point when he exclaimed:
“O THAT I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people! Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth.” (Alma 29:1-2)
I hope those who read this blog will read the Book of Mormon and gain a testimony of its truthfulness by sincerely praying about it with real intent. I know that “If ye ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Moroni 10:4)