Thursday, September 23, 2010

Joseph Was Trained by Moroni

When scholars and theorists regarding the Book of Mormon, specifically the geographical information, often forget just how this record came to us and by whom. Joseph, an untrained and unschooled boy of 17 was visited by an angel with whom he had many conversations over the years.

And lest we forget, Moroni was the last of the Nephi prophets. He lived during the last portion and early quarter of the 300s and 400s A.D. He lived among the Nephites. He wrote the last several chapters of the Book of Mormon on the gold plates. He witnessed all that happened during these many years, and learned from his father about the Nephites and lands dating back to about the first part of the 300s A.D. He obviously would have read the entire Nephite history available to him after he obtained all the records.

Moroni knew and understood the language of the Nephites. He knew and understood Reformed Egyptian and Hebrew. He knew and understood the history of the Nephite nation and its 1000 year existence in the Land of Promise. He knew and understood the Jaredite civilization, having read all of Ether’s record and that record handed down over the centuries to Ether, from the Brother of Jared onward. Moroni read the Ether records covering the creation of the Earth to the Flood, which he chose not to translate into his record of what we know have as the book of Ether.

No man in modern history knew as much about the Nephites, Lamanites, Mulekites and Jaredites as Moroni. And Moroni taught Joseph Smith much about this history, the Nephite customs, and daily life. Joseph Smith’s mother records that Joseph used to tell them stories about the Nephites in their family gatherings. No mortal man on the face of the earth in modern history knew as much about these ancient people, their lives, history, success and failures as Joseph Smith. Not Hugh B. Nibley, not John L. Sorenson, not Joseph L. Allen, not Hilton, Meldrum, May, Potter, Wellington, Aston, Pate, Goble, Olive, Hansen, Hauck, Curtis, Palmer, Hunter, Ferguson, Ainsworth, or the many others, including myself, who have endeavored to promote one theory or another about the location of the Land of Promise.

Joseph knew more than them all, and Moroni knew more than Joseph.

It is impossible to determine the number of “interviews” Joseph had with Moroni, but twenty-two visits are often identified between 1823 and 1829. During this time Moroni displayed amazing patience. He wrote the last portion of the book, he knew the language and the culture of the Nephite record keepers, he knew the Lord. But “line upon line; here a little, and there a little,” Moroni instructed Joseph in how to perform his task, helping as the young Prophet persevered in learning his role. As Joseph read Moroni’s words “when we write we behold our weakness” (Ether 12:25), he must have empathized and yet felt reassured when he realized that his angelic instructor had at one time experienced deep frustrations relative to his own literary ability. No doubt the next verse furnished great comfort: “Fools mock, but … my grace is sufficient for the meek.” (Ether 12:26).

The plates were in Joseph’s possession for about twenty-one months. Joseph wrote: “By the wisdom of God, they remained safe in my hands, until I had accomplished by them what was required at my hand. When, according to arrangements, the messenger called for them, I delivered them up to him.” These six years of advanced training were anything but ordinary, for his tutors were celestial beings who taught eternal truths that would never change or become obsolete. Whereas much of man’s formal education is tentative, wrong, or outdated within a few years of graduation, Joseph said of his own education: “Could you gaze into heaven five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever was written on the subject.”

This was the quality of the heavenly instruction Joseph Smith enjoyed.

How is it that so many have written that Joseph, or the ancient Nephite prophets, either did not know for certain what they wrote about, or that they wrote in ambiguous prose that requires an educated man of today to understand and interpret to the rest of us?

The words of the Book of Mormon are clear, concise, and completely understandable. They were written by ancient prophets who lived at the time and thoroughly knew that of which they wrote. Their words were translated by an individual who had been tutored by an angel, and received constant confirmation from the Spirit as to what he wrote.

Until someone comes along better trained than Joseph, who was taught by Moroni, who lived and understood the Nephites and earlier prophets, I think it prudent that the Book of Mormon scriptural record is where we ought to “hang our hat” regarding any and all geographical understanding of the Land of Promise.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Sorry for the typing error. The second sentence of the first paragraph should have read: "Joseph, an untrained and unschooled boy of 17 was visited by an angel with whom he had many conversations over the years."

    As is shown later on in the post, the visits of Moroni took place between 1823 and 1829 when I stated: "It is impossible to determine the number of “interviews” Joseph had with Moroni, but twenty-two visits are often identified between 1823 and 1829."

    To be technically correct, Joseph turned 18 on December 23, 1823---his first vision with the angel Moron was on September 23, 1823--making him closer to 18 than 17 (exactly three months before turning 18).

    But thank you for pointing this out. 14 is not 17. Sometimes my fingers get away from me.

  3. P.S. I took the liberty of changing the actual article to read 17 instead of 14 in case any of those critics happen upon the article and do not read the comments.

  4. Del,

    If you like.. you can delete these comments and then no one will ever know. :-)