Annotated Book of Mormon
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Alma Chapter 37

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Book of Mormon Annotations

Chapter 37

 

1 And now, my son Helaman, I command you that ye take the records which have been entrusted with me;

 

2 And I also command you that ye keep a record of this people, according as I have done, upon the plates of Nephi, and keep all these things sacred which I have kept, even as I have kept them; for it is for a wise purpose that they are kept.

Keep in mind that the plates of Nephi were abridged by Mormon on other plates and Mormon and Moroni carried this abridgement around for years, eventually depositing the plates in the Hill Cumorah. All this was apparently so that “they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon”. But, the plates were not necessary for the translation of the Book of Mormon. The Church says most accounts of the translation indicate, “Joseph placed either the interpreters or the seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument”
(Book of Mormon Translation).
And, “Joseph Smith soon turned to a method of translation that depended directly on the interpreters alone, so that the plates did not have to be viewed”
(article on BYU's site).

So why would the preservation of the plates be necessary?

Keep in mind that the Church’s translation essay glosses over the spectacles and seer stone used to translate the book. Apologists admit that after the 116 page manuscript was lost, “the remainder of the Book of Mormon was likely translated by way of the seer stone” (How a seer stone helped in the Book of Mormon translation). And, “After the loss of the 116 pages, contemporary accounts are very clear that Joseph continued the translation using his seer stone” (Joseph Smith used the same “rock in hat” seer stone for translating that he used for “money digging”).

3 And these plates of brass, which contain these engravings, which have the records of the holy scriptures upon them, which have the genealogy of our forefathers, even from the beginning—

Alma 37:3-4

So if it was prophesied that the plates of brass should be preserved and go forth to every nation, where are they now?

One group claims to have found them:
“With these five exceptions all the other chapters of this book [The Book of the Law of the Lord] were translated from the plates of Laban, taken from the house of Laban, in Jerusalem, in the days of Zedekiah, king of Judah”
(The Book of the Law of the Lord).

I wouldn’t be surprised if these folks encouraged us to not harden our heart against “The Book Of The Law Of The Lord” for “there are many that harden their hearts against the Holy Spirit, that it hath no place in them wherefore, they cast many things away which are written and esteem them as things of naught” (2 Ne 33:2).

4 Behold, it has been prophesied by our fathers, that they should be kept and handed down from one generation to another, and be kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, that they shall know of the mysteries contained thereon.

Annotation for Alma 37:3-4 above

5 And now behold, if they are kept they must retain their brightness; yea, and they will retain their brightness; yea, and also shall all the plates which do contain that which is holy writ.

 

6 Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.

 

7 And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls.

 

8 And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for behold, they have enlarged the memory of this people, yea, and convinced many of the error of their ways, and brought them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls.

 

9 Yea, I say unto you, were it not for these things that these records do contain, which are on these plates, Ammon and his brethren could not have convinced so many thousands of the Lamanites of the incorrect tradition of their fathers; yea, these records and their words brought them unto repentance; that is, they brought them to the knowledge of the Lord their God, and to rejoice in Jesus Christ their Redeemer.

 

10 And who knoweth but what they will be the means of bringing many thousands of them, yea, and also many thousands of our stiffnecked brethren, the Nephites, who are now hardening their hearts in sin and iniquities, to the knowledge of their Redeemer?

 

11 Now these mysteries are not yet fully made known unto me; therefore I shall forbear.

 

12 And it may suffice if I only say they are preserved for a wise purpose, which purpose is known unto God; for he doth counsel in wisdom over all his works, and his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.

 

13 O remember, remember, my son Helaman, how strict are the commandments of God. And he said: If ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land—but if ye keep not his commandments ye shall be cut off from his presence.

Prosperity gospel.

14 And now remember, my son, that God has entrusted you with these things, which are sacred, which he has kept sacred, and also which he will keep and preserve for a wise purpose in him, that he may show forth his power unto future generations.

 

15 And now behold, I tell you by the spirit of prophecy, that if ye transgress the commandments of God, behold, these things which are sacred shall be taken away from you by the power of God, and ye shall be delivered up unto Satan, that he may sift you as chaff before the wind.

 

16 But if ye keep the commandments of God, and do with these things which are sacred according to that which the Lord doth command you, (for you must appeal unto the Lord for all things whatsoever ye must do with them) behold, no power of earth or hell can take them from you, for God is powerful to the fulfilling of all his words.

 

17 For he will fulfil all his promises which he shall make unto you, for he has fulfilled his promises which he has made unto our fathers.

 

18 For he promised unto them that he would preserve these things for a wise purpose in him, that he might show forth his power unto future generations.

 

19 And now behold, one purpose hath he fulfilled, even to the restoration of many thousands of the Lamanites to the knowledge of the truth; and he hath shown forth his power in them, and he will also still show forth his power in them unto future generations; therefore they shall be preserved.

 

20 Therefore I command you, my son Helaman, that ye be diligent in fulfilling all my words, and that ye be diligent in keeping the commandments of God as they are written.

 

21 And now, I will speak unto you concerning those twenty-four plates, that ye keep them, that the mysteries and the works of darkness, and their secret works, or the secret works of those people who have been destroyed, may be made manifest unto this people; yea, all their murders, and robbings, and their plunderings, and all their wickedness and abominations, may be made manifest unto this people; yea, and that ye preserve these interpreters.

 

22 For behold, the Lord saw that his people began to work in darkness, yea, work secret murders and abominations; therefore the Lord said, if they did not repent they should be destroyed from off the face of the earth.

 

23 And the Lord said: I will prepare unto my servant Gazelem, a stone, which shall shine forth in darkness unto light, that I may discover unto my people who serve me, that I may discover unto them the works of their brethren, yea, their secret works, their works of darkness, and their wickedness and abominations.

 

24 And now, my son, these interpreters were prepared that the word of God might be fulfilled, which he spake, saying:

 

25 I will bring forth out of darkness unto light all their secret works and their abominations; and except they repent I will destroy them from off the face of the earth; and I will bring to light all their secrets and abominations, unto every nation that shall hereafter possess the land.

 

26 And now, my son, we see that they did not repent; therefore they have been destroyed, and thus far the word of God has been fulfilled; yea, their secret abominations have been brought out of darkness and made known unto us.

 

27 And now, my son, I command you that ye retain all their oaths, and their covenants, and their agreements in their secret abominations; yea, and all their signs and their wonders ye shall keep from this people, that they know them not, lest peradventure they should fall into darkness also and be destroyed.

 

28 For behold, there is a curse upon all this land, that destruction shall come upon all those workers of darkness, according to the power of God, when they are fully ripe; therefore I desire that this people might not be destroyed.

 

29 Therefore ye shall keep these secret plans of their oaths and their covenants from this people, and only their wickedness and their murders and their abominations shall ye make known unto them; and ye shall teach them to abhor such wickedness and abominations and murders; and ye shall also teach them that these people were destroyed on account of their wickedness and abominations and their murders.

 

30 For behold, they murdered all the prophets of the Lord who came among them to declare unto them concerning their iniquities; and the blood of those whom they murdered did cry unto the Lord their God for vengeance upon those who were their murderers; and thus the judgments of God did come upon these workers of darkness and secret combinations.

 

31 Yea, and cursed be the land forever and ever unto those workers of darkness and secret combinations, even unto destruction, except they repent before they are fully ripe.

 

32 And now, my son, remember the words which I have spoken unto you; trust not those secret plans unto this people, but teach them an everlasting hatred against sin and iniquity.

 

33 Preach unto them repentance, and faith on the Lord Jesus Christ; teach them to humble themselves and to be meek and lowly in heart; teach them to withstand every temptation of the devil, with their faith on the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

34 Teach them to never be weary of good works, but to be meek and lowly in heart; for such shall find rest to their souls.

 

35 O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God.

 

36 Yea, and cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord; yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever.

 

37 Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good; yea, when thou liest down at night lie down unto the Lord, that he may watch over you in your sleep; and when thou risest in the morning let thy heart be full of thanks unto God; and if ye do these things, ye shall be lifted up at the last day.

 

38 And now, my son, I have somewhat to say concerning the thing which our fathers call a ball, or director—or our fathers called it Liahona, which is, being interpreted, a compass; and the Lord prepared it.

The term “compass” seems anachronistic:

  • Earliest records show a spoon shaped compass made of lodestone or magnetite ore, referred to as a “South-pointer” dating back to sometime during the Han Dynasty (2nd century B.C.E. to 2nd century CE), though not used for navigation or direction finding at that time.
  • An early form was invented in China in 271 C.E
  • The earliest reference to a magnetic device as a direction finder is recorded in a Song dynasty book dated to 1040-1044 C.E.
  • In the Arab world, the earliest reference comes in The Book of the Merchants’ Treasure, written by one Baylak al-Kibjaki in Cairo about 1282. Since the author describes having witnessed the use of a compass on a ship trip some forty years earlier, some scholars are inclined to antedate its first appearance accordingly. There is also a slightly earlier non-Mediterranean Muslim reference to an iron fish-like compass in a Persian talebook from 1232
    (“Compass” by New World Encyclopedia).

Richard Packham describes the problem like this:

It would be analogous to the passage in Washington’s fraudulent journal, where he looks into the future in America, and says: “There will come a time when every man will possess a wonderful device somewhat like a typewriter, yet it will have a picture before it, and the words typed by the typewriter will appear in the picture, and can be sent around the world…” How could Washington explain what a computer is by comparing it to a typewriter, when there was no such thing as a typewriter in his day, and therefore the word “typewriter” did not exist?

39 And behold, there cannot any man work after the manner of so curious a workmanship. And behold, it was prepared to show unto our fathers the course which they should travel in the wilderness.

 

40 And it did work for them according to their faith in God; therefore, if they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.

 

41 Nevertheless, because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey;

 

42 Therefore, they tarried in the wilderness, or did not travel a direct course, and were afflicted with hunger and thirst, because of their transgressions.

 

43 And now, my son, I would that ye should understand that these things are not without a shadow; for as our fathers were slothful to give heed to this compass (now these things were temporal) they did not prosper; even so it is with things which are spiritual.

Alma 37:43-44

 

The term “compass” seems anachronistic:

  • Earliest records show a spoon shaped compass made of lodestone or magnetite ore, referred to as a “South-pointer” dating back to sometime during the Han Dynasty (2nd century B.C.E. to 2nd century CE), though not used for navigation or direction finding at that time.
  • An early form was invented in China in 271 C.E
  • The earliest reference to a magnetic device as a direction finder is recorded in a Song dynasty book dated to 1040-1044 C.E.
  • In the Arab world, the earliest reference comes in The Book of the Merchants’ Treasure, written by one Baylak al-Kibjaki in Cairo about 1282. Since the author describes having witnessed the use of a compass on a ship trip some forty years earlier, some scholars are inclined to antedate its first appearance accordingly. There is also a slightly earlier non-Mediterranean Muslim reference to an iron fish-like compass in a Persian talebook from 1232
    (“Compass” by New World Encyclopedia).

Richard Packham describes the problem like this:

It would be analogous to the passage in Washington’s fraudulent journal, where he looks into the future in America, and says: “There will come a time when every man will possess a wonderful device somewhat like a typewriter, yet it will have a picture before it, and the words typed by the typewriter will appear in the picture, and can be sent around the world…” How could Washington explain what a computer is by comparing it to a typewriter, when there was no such thing as a typewriter in his day, and therefore the word “typewriter” did not exist?

44 For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ, which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss, as it was for our fathers to give heed to this compass, which would point unto them a straight course to the promised land.

Annotation for Alma 37:43-44 above

45 And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.

 

46 O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.

 

47 And now, my son, see that ye take care of these sacred things, yea, see that ye look to God and live. Go unto this people and declare the word, and be sober. My son, farewell.

 

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