Chapter 4: The Book of Mormon Warns The Gentiles
When Nephite Prophets Used the Term Gentile, to Whom Did They Refer?
In prior chapters we concluded that the Book of Mormon contains a special message for those who have the gospel and also the privilege of self government. In this chapter we shall attempt to point out some of those warnings, but to do so, we must be able to determine when a warning is directed to that group, and who that group is. It is submitted that when the Nephite prophets used the term Gentile, they were referring mainly to Church members who live under the United States constitutional system of government. Let us determine if this is so. The title page of the Book of Mormon indicates that it is,
written to the Lamanites, . . . and also to Jew and Gentile.
We have no difficulty identifying Lamanites and Jews, but who are the Gentiles? Obviously they must be all those to whom the Book of Mormon is written who are neither Lamanite nor Jew. The title page further helps us to identify Gentiles by noting that the Book of Mormon is,
. . . to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile
Thus the prophet Joseph Smith and all others from Gentile nations who have been instrumental in bringing the Book of Mormon forth, are characterized as Gentiles by Book of Mormon prophets. Of course the term is also used in a broader sense to mean all members of Gentile nations from whence such Church members come. See for example Nephis account of his vision of the settling of America by those who came forth out of captivity from the Gentile Nations. (1 Ne. Chap. 13) [p. 20]
From this we can conclude that any Book of Mormon warnings, commandments and prophecies concerning Gentiles are applicable to Church members from Gentile nations who read that book, or who know or should know that it is the word of God. When Joseph Smith dedicated the Kirtland Temple in 1836 he said:
Now these words, O Lord, we have spoken before thee, concerning the revelations and commandments which thou hast given unto us, who are identified with the Gentiles. (D&C 109:60)
Unless the Gentiles Repent They Will Be Destroyed
Of special interest to us should be those prophecies which state that the Gentiles would become so wicked that unless we repent, we will suffer a destruction similar to that of the Nephites and Jaredites. Perhaps some Church members will want to apply such predictions exclusively to non-member Gentiles. Neither logic nor the wording of the scriptures justify this.
Reason says that those scriptures would serve little purpose if they applied only to those who never become aware of them. But aside from this, the prophets have in many instances made it very clear that the sins and punishments predicted, pertain to those who belong to the restored Church of Jesus Christ.
Those prophets who spoke most extensively to the Gentiles are the Lord, Nephi and Moroni. Jacob and Mormon also had some things to say to us. However in interpreting the meaning of the Lords warning contained in D&C 84:54-59, wherein He speaks of the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given, we must assume that He meant to include not only what He said personally, but what His inspired prophets said as well. They are all the words of the Lord.
Warnings referred to in more detail later include 3 Ne. 16:10, 13, 15 and D&C 101:39, 40. Apparently to make certain that Gentile readers of the Book of Mormon fully realize the fate which awaits us unless we repent, the Lord repeats Himself in much the same language in two other places. (See 3 Ne. 20:15, 16; 21:1 I- 14) Mormon uses similar words yet a third time. (Morm. 5:22-24) And finally the Lord instructs Mormon to list for the fourth time, essentially the same sins He mentions in the scripture quoted above. (Compare 3 Ne. 30:1, 2 with 3 Ne. 16:10) [p. 21]
Nephis Warning to the Gentiles
In the far reaching vision given to Nephi regarding this promised land, only a part of which he was permitted to record, he saw many things pertaining to the Gentiles. He saw that the Spirit of God worked upon Columbus and others and brought them here out of captivity; that they were white, and exceedingly fair and beautiful, like unto his people before they were slain; that they humbled themselves before the Lord and were delivered by His power out of the hands of all other nations; that they became a mighty Gentile nation; that they had the Bible and brought forth the Book of Mormon which they took to the Lamanites. (1 Ne. 13, 22) But then Nephi foresaw that this mighty Gentile nation along with all others, would become so proud and wicked that unless they repented they would be destroyed. (2 Ne. 27:1, 2) As did the Lord, Nephi accused the Gentiles of the sin of pride:
Because of pride, and because of false teachers, and false doctrines, their churches have become corrupted, and their churches are lifted up; because of pride they are puffed up. (2 Ne. 28:12)
That he meant to include Church members in his condemnation seems apparent from his reference to those in Zion who are at ease, and lulled away into carnal security; who cry Zion prospereth, all is well; who hearken unto the precepts of men and become angry at the truth. (See 2 Ne. 28)
So sweeping are his predictions regarding our destruction that he feels called upon to warn the reader against assuming that the Gentiles are utterly destroyed; (2 Ne. 30:1) for says he:
. . . as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord. (2 Ne. 30:2)
Nephi prophesied, as did the Lord, that a great day of decision would come for the Gentiles when they would either repent and be granted peace and everlasting life, or be brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually. (1 Ne. 14:6, 7) [p. 22]
Moronis Warnings to the Gentiles
While Mormon is the principal author of the Book of Mormon, it was his son, Moroni who has served as the connecting link between his civilization and our own. He it was who personally delivered the plates to the prophet Joseph Smith for translation. He it was who alone, and under the most dangerous and difficult circumstances, protected and completed the precious record that we might have it. Can we imagine his loneliness and suffering during those long years when he was hiding from his enemies and, without help, painstakingly translated, abridged and engraved on the plates the Jaredite history? We Gentiles owe that man a great debt and it is important that we hear what he has to tell us. While he was yet in the flesh, the Lord permitted him to see our day. He recorded what he saw.
Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you.
I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not . . . why have ye polluted the holy church of God? . . . (Read Mormon 8:34-38)
Who but Church members can pollute the holy church of God? Let us mention two other warnings issued to the Gentiles by Moroni. The first is found in Ether 2:8-12 where he states four different times in as many verses that those who occupy this chosen land of promise must either serve God or be swept off. In doing so he singles out the Gentiles. The other warning we mention is Ether 8:23-24, dealing with secret combinations. While assuring us that they will be among us, we can prevent them from overthrowing and destroying us, provided of course we act in time.
Each of Us Will Be Confronted Before the Bar of God by Nephi and Moroni
Every person who knows the Book of Mormon to be the word of God should be aware that eventually he will face a heavenly tribunal which will demand an accounting of what he did about the knowledge contained therein. Both Nephi and Moroni warn us of this confrontation. [p. 23] We quote Nephi first.
And now, my beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth, hearken unto these words and believe in Christ . . .
And if they are not the words of Christ, judge yefor Christ will show unto you, with power and great glory, that they are his words, at the last day; and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar; and ye shall know that I have been commanded of him to write these things,..
And you that will not partake of the goodness of God, and respect the words of the Jews, and also my words, and the words which shall proceed forth out of the mouth of the Lamb of God, behold, I bid you an everlasting farewell, for these words shall condemn you at the last day. (2 Ne. 33:10, 11, 14)
Moronis valediction and warning is equally specific.
And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust? (Moro. 10:27)
With the Lord and the other Book of Mormon prophets calling from the dust for us to repent, and with the Lord and our living prophet now reminding us of that message, the time to determine what that repentance must consist of is now upon us. [p. 24]
Words of Ezra Taft Benson
An important test I use in passing judgment upon an act of government is this: If it were up to me as an individual to punish my neighbor for violating a given law, would it offend my conscience to do so? Since my conscience will never permit me to physically punish my fellow man unless he has done something evil, or unless he has failed to do something which I have a moral right to require of him to do, I will never knowingly authorize my agent, the government, to do this on my behalf.
I realize that when I give my consent to the adoption of a law, I specifically instruct the policethe governmentto take either the life, liberty, or property of anyone who disobeys that law. Furthermore, I tell them that if anyone resists the enforcement of the law, they are to use any means necessaryyes, even putting the lawbreaker to death or putting him in jailto overcome such resistance. These are extreme measures but unless laws are enforced, anarchy results. (Ezra Taft Benson, An Enemy Hath Done This, p. 132) [p. 25]