I have read The Book of Mormon dozens of times. In conjunction with The Holy Bible, the scriptures help me to understand what life is all about, and how I can become more connected to Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon’s teachings have shaped my life.

So, what does The Book of Mormon teach? The Book of Mormon is about people who lived in the Americas between 2,000BC and 400AD. They sometimes followed God, but other times forgot the faith of their fathers and lost their way. After Christ’s life in the Bible, He visited and taught the Book of Mormon people. The book ultimately ends in tragedy as, after a long period of righteousness after Christ’s visit, the people fell into wickedness and war.

If you are not familiar with The Book of Mormon, you may be surprised to read how similar its teachings are to The Bible, and also some ways in which it provides a unique testimony of Christ. If you believe the Bible, you believe many of the same things as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  We believe the Bible and The Book of Mormon are both correct books written under the inspiration of God.

To someone who has never read the The Book of Mormon, it makes sense to be wary of a “new” volume of scripture.  For that reason, I’ll give a more detailed synopsis of The Book of Mormon here so you can become familiar with it.

A More Detailed Synopsis of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ

The Book of Mormon is not written in strict chronological order of events because the records of different prophets were included at different times, but this synopsis will bring the record back into chronological order for simplicity.

The Book of Mormon narrative begins at the Tower of Babel, which is an event also included in the Bible.  The people were wicked, so The Lord caused them to all speak different languages so that they would break up into smaller families and not come together for wickedness. There was a small group of righteous people called the Jaredites whose language was not confounded for their righteousness.

One of the Jaredite leaders was instructed by the Holy Ghost as to how to build their ships, but was unsure of how to get light in them. He prayed and asked God to touch stones to make them glow with light so they could see in their darkened ships during the journey. He saw the finger of the Lord touch the stones.

The Jaredites successfully crossed the ocean and landed in the Americas (precise location unknown). Although the Jaredite people are righteous for a time and live in peace, after many generations, the people forget the faith of their fathers that allowed them to come to the land. They become wicked and selfish, and eventually wars break out among them. The record of the Jaredites ends in catastrophic tragedy. The people go to war one with another and the people is almost entirely destroyed.

The last remaining Jaredite in the book is named Coriantumr, who “began to repent of the evil which he had done; he began to remember the words which had been spoken by the mouth of all the prophets, and he saw them that they were fulfilled thus far, every whit” (Ether 15:3).

The Jaredites were not the only people to come to the Americas. Approximately 600BC, Nephi and his family also came via ship to the Americas.

Nephi’s father was a prophet in Jerusalem. The people largely rejected his teachings. The Book of Mormon says: “…the Jews … were angry with him; yea, even as with the prophets of old, whom they had cast out, and stoned, and slain; and they also sought his life, that they might take it away. But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Nephi 1:20).

An artist’s interpretation of Nephi and his family leaving Jerusalem (Used with permission)

Nephi and his family left Jerusalem into the wilderness by the Red Sea, but returned to Jerusalem to obtain a holy book of scripture from a wicked and rich man named Laban. Nephi and his brothers were unsure how to obtain the record, but the Holy Ghost instructed them in what to do.

In a vision, God showed Nephi that the world would be saved by Jesus Christ, who would yet be born hundreds of years later. Nephi wrote:

I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record. And I, Nephi, saw that he was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world. And after he was slain I saw the multitudes of the earth, that they were gathered together to fight against the apostles of the Lamb; for thus were the twelve called by the angel of the Lord.

1 Nephi 11:18-34

After years in the wilderness, Nephi made a ship according to the feelings and thoughts he had after prayer on the subject, and they boarded the ship to come to the land which was promised them–in the Americas.

After arriving in the Americas, Nephi’s father died, and tensions between Nephi who was righteous, and some of his brothers who were wicked, began to rise. Eventually, the family split up, creating the Nephites (those who were initially more righteous) and the Lamanites (who were generally more wicked).

Much of The Book of Mormon focuses on the generations of these two groups. Long after Nephi dies, the Nephites and Lamanites continue battle one another.

The Nephites were not always righteous. A key teaching of The Book of Mormon is the “pride cycle,” to which we are all susceptible. The people would be righteous and follow the words of the prophets, and the Lord would bless them. Over time, they would become prideful and feel that they did not need the Lord because they had what they needed. This would lead them to fight one with another and become wicked, so God would punish them until they repented and became righteous again.

This pattern of righteousness, pride, wickedness, and repentance is repeated many times in the Book of Mormon to highlight its central message: when we fall into sin and pride, we must repent and return to the Savior Jesus Christ.

Many prophets taught the people. Two key prophets were Alma, and his son by the same name. The father Alma was an important person in the king’s court. The king brought the prophet Abinadi to trial for teaching of repentance and Jesus Christ. Abinadi taught the Ten Commandments and that the people should worship only God.

The king rejected Abinadi and burned him to death. Abinadi prophesied that the king would receive the same fate. Alma believed Abinadi and ran away from the king’s court to teach the righteous people who came to visit him in the wilderness. There, the church began to grow again.

Alma’s son did not accept his father’s faith and was wicked when he was young, but he was visited by an angel and changed his ways. He became an important missionary to the Lamanites along with his friends, the four sons of Mosiah. They spread the gospel throughout many civilizations.

For many generations, the prophets and missionaries in The Book of Mormon taught the people to repent before Christ came to the world, but the people frequently did not believe.  In approximately 5BC, Samuel the Lamanite preached to the people from atop the city wall that Christ would be born in Jerusalem in only a few years, yet the people largely rejected his words.

Just as signs and wonders were seen in the heavens when Christ was born in Bethlehem, so too were the signs seen in the Americas to the Book of Mormon people.  When Christ was killed, the whole earth mourned.

An artist’s interpretation of when Jesus Christ visited the people in the Americas (Used with permission)

The people in the Book of Mormon were visited by the resurrected Savior.  He appeared to the people, called 12 apostles in the Americas just as he had in Jerusalem, healed the children and the sick, and loved the people.

That same Jesus Christ who walked the Road to Emmaus, appeared at an empty tomb, and who ascended the mount, also visited His people in the Americas.  This is the crowning event of The Book of Mormon.

For 300 years after the Savior left the Americas, the people were righteous and lived in peace.  Ultimately, however, The Book of Mormon ends in tragedy.  Just as in the Bible where Paul and the other apostles struggled to keep the church strong and unified toward the end of the story, the same thing happened in the Americas. 

In the end, the Nephites become even more wicked than the Lamanites, and the two groups come together in a massive battle that largely ends their civilizations. Only a few remain.

Even though Jesus Christ is taught in the Book of Mormon to be the only means by which we can receive salvation, the book is given the name “The Book of Mormon” because it is the prophet Mormon’s account of the people–very much like “The Book of Luke” and “The Book of Matthew” are not actually about Luke and Matthew, but are their testimonies of Christ. Mormon’s name appears on the cover because he compiled all of the writings of the prophets’ records he had and put them together in one volume. The book’s subtitle clearly tells that the book is “Another Witness of Jesus Christ.”

Moroni, the son of Mormon, is the last surviving prophet in the book. He includes letters from his father correcting the doctrines which were being perverted by the people.

The book ends with Moroni’s testimony of Jesus Christ which the people had rejected: “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God” (Moroni 10:32).

This painting depicts Moroni, the last prophet in the book and the son of Mormon. After writing his last words, he buried the book to hide it from the wicked people.

What Value Does The Book of Mormon Offer Believers of the Bible?

An example may be the best way to show how The Book of Mormon complements the Bible.  In Numbers 21, Moses raises a brass serpent to save the people from death.  He promises the people that if they merely look at the brass serpent raised above the city, they would be healed.  The Bible account ends there.

The Book of Mormon also includes a prophetic account of the same event; however, it adds one crucial detail which, if not included, almost entirely takes the meaning from the prophet’s teaching.  The Book of Mormon adds, “The labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished” (1 Nephi 17:41).

Without the Book of Mormon account of this story, the reader would not see the important punch line, that many of the people died because they took lightly the prophet’s simple warning to look to the serpent.  The serpent represented Jesus Christ and the story taught that if people took Him for granted, they would perish.  Without The Book of Mormon, that important Bible story is not understood.

I feel that my faith is strengthened as I study The Book of Mormon.  When I study it regularly and spend time learning of Christ through its pages, I just feel stronger.  I have more faith, more confidence that good will prevail in the end, and a greater ability to trust in God’s timeline.  I have found the following quote to accurately summarize what I have gained from the book.

There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path… you will find life in greater and greater abundance.

Ezra Taft Benson (Former President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)