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The Book of Mormon is a book of scripture used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and some other related groups, alongside The Bible and several other books, although its central role has led it to be dubbed the 'keystone' of the Mormon faith, which derives its nickname from the book.

There are several views as to its origins. According to the LDS viewpoint, the Book of Mormon was written by ancient prophets much like the Bible, although somewhere in the Americas. These prophetic records were collected and edited by the eponymous Mormon, with some additions by his son Moroni, who buried them in the ground. Centuries later, Moroni, as an angel, appeared to Joseph Smith, who Latter Day Saints believe translated the book by divine means, and that this forms evidence for the authenticity of the LDS message. Detractors reject this account, seeing it either as fraud, the product of Smith's imagination, or claim that he copied from other authors and/or incorporated popular beliefs of the time.

Debate on this issue can swiftly become a Flame War, often in the broader context of LDS religious claims, with most debate focused upon theology or external evidences. There is also a very interesting analysis by Orson Scott Card, who, as a writer, focuses on the story itself and not on external evidences, and comes to the conclusion that it was not written by Joseph Smith or any other 19th century American author, due to the conspicuous absence of 19th century American literary tropes in the text. [1] However, many LDS would point to a personal spiritual experience as their grounds for believing in the book.

With this background, the contents of the book itself tend to be less discussed.

In structure, the Book of Mormon resembles the 'historical books' of The Bible, being divided into a number of books which largely form a narrative, which is punctuated by accounts of sermons and editorial commentary. It begins with a few families in Jerusalem, follows their journey to a new "promised land", and then tells the history of the nations founded by their descendents, with emphasis on the preaching of the prophets, the spiritual condition of the cultures, and various events like several major wars. Also included is the visit of Jesus Christ, who appears to the people after his resurrection, teaches them, and founds his church and a Utopia. Unfortunately, after several centuries, this doesn't last, the people become wicked and divided again, and eventually a whole nation is destroyed. At this point, the last few prophets add their last comments and bury the book.

There are several dominant and recurring themes in the book. Some are theological, like the divinity of Christ, or that those blessed by God can sin and lose those blessings, while those who sin can repent and be blessed. Other themes involve the idea of liberty and choice, secret societies, and perhaps most prominently individual and national pride, which leads to the destruction of multiple nations.

As mentioned, a number of people are likely to have strong opinions one way or the other about this book, so due attention should be paid to the Rule of Cautious Editing Judgement.

See also Mormonism.


The Book of Mormon provides examples of...

  • An Aesop: There are many points where the author drops an anvil, and some of them fall hard!
    • Baptism of babies (Whoever says that babies need to be baptized before the age of accountability doesn't understand the nature of the atonement.)
    • Secret Combinations (Any nation that supports them is in danger of God's wrath.)
    • People saying that they don't need, or there isn't any more, scriptures ("O fools" don't think that God hasn't spoken to other nations, or that He won't speak again).
    • You can't know good without knowing evil (or joy without misery, or …).
  • All There in the Manual: The Book of Mormon has a pronunciation guide, and the "Quad" (The Bible, The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price) has a Bible dictionary, maps, the Joseph Smith Translation, footnotes and references to similar verses and chapters
  • Anachronic Order: The first two books were written by Nephi in a history of his people long towards the end of his life, from there to Words Of Mormon were written by modern record keepers as mostly a contemporary history. The Book of Mosiah was largely split into three timeframes among different cultures, their stories merging together at the end. Then the Book of Ether was a recounting of a story that happened long before the beginning of the book.
  • Anachronism Stew: References to the likes of steel, concrete, horses, and other animals are seen by detractors as anachronistic. Fan responses vary, although some believe that the translation was not literal, but the Nephites using old-world names for new-world animals and plants.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: The Gadianton Robbers, whose organization was based on what the Book of Mormon calls "Secret Combinations" that have existed a lot longer than the name of the society. This lead to the downfall of two great civilizations, and the record-keepers preach against it.
  • Angst Coma: Alma the Younger's Heel Face Turn. After getting up to a lot of anti-church mischief, he goes into a "deep sleep" and has visions of angels and hears the voice of God. When he wakes up, he has had a change of heart.
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted hard. The Nephites tend to wear some sort of armor while the Lamanites usually don't, and this is usually mentioned right behind divine assistance as being instrumental in their victories.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence:
    • Alma the Younger, long after repenting of his earlier actions against the church.
    • Same with Nephi the son of Helaman. He disappears right before the sign of Jesus's birth.
    • The Three Nephites definitely count too.
  • Avenging the Villain: King Ammoron, brother and successor to Amalickiah, seeks to avenge his death. Likewise Shiz, although in that case whether any side can be termed good is hard to tell.
  • The Atoner: Alma the Younger most famously, but the Sons of Mosiah also.
  • Author Filibuster: While Mormon typically stays on-topic in his abridgment, there are a couple of spots where he puts in his own thoughts. The last book, written by Moroni, is essentially one long example of this trope. In his defense, he had seen his entire country slaughtered around him, and spent the last twenty years of his life on the run, so he had a lot to get off his chest.
  • Badass Normal: A number of people carry out righteous smiting aided by the power of God. Teancum, the Nephite special forces captain, doesn't seem to have any divine assistance, but still manages to infiltrate the enemy camp and assassinate the enemy leader. Twice. Sadly, he doesn't get out the second time.
  • Badass Preacher: Prophets often had other professions. Sometimes these professions were in the army.
  • Batman Gambit:
    • Moroni uses one to rescue Nephite prisoners of war from the city of Gid.
    • This was a favorite tactic of Nephite armies during the latter war chapters in Alma: March past an occupied city with a small army, draw the enemy out into what they think is an easy victory, have the larger army re-take the city while it's virtually unguarded.
  • Breather Episode: After about a century of nearly nonstop warfare between the Nephites and Lamanites, culminating in natural disasters that wipe out multiple cities, Jesus visits briefly and everyone gets along fine for the next 200 years or so.
  • Bullet Dodges You: As Samuel the Lamanite preaches of Christ's birth, Nephites shoot arrows and throw rocks at him for at least 20 minutes without managing to hit him once.
  • Catch Phrase: "It came to pass" is used 1298 times.
  • Comforting the Widow: Amalickiah arranges the murder of the king of the Lamanites then goes to console the Queen. Shortly thereafter they are married. Presumably she never finds out what really happened. A more cynical interpretation is that the Queen realized Amalickiah had control of the Army, and that therefor marrying him was the best option left to her.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Abinadi gets burned to death by wicked King Noah, but not before his teaching convinces Alma (Senior) to repent, while Noah later suffers the same fate.
  • Downer Ending: Everybody dies. Twice.
  • Drunk on the Dark Side: By the end of the Jaredites' final war, all the participants are caught in a Hopeless War that neither side can win, but they go on because they are "drunken with anger, as with wine." In other words, they've gotten so used to fighting and killing, that they can't do anything else by this point.
  • Endless Daytime: As a sign of Jesus Christ's birth, the Sun sets but it doesn't become dark.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: No matter how big of a jerk they are, nobody in the Book of Mormon breaks an oath. Nobody. Sometimes to the point of Honor Before Reason.
    • At least, not deliberately. Giddianhi the robber threatens the Nephites with destruction unless they join his robber band, and swears to spare or destroy them according to the decision they make. Neither happens because the Nephites end up destroying the robber band instead.
    • Well, almost nobody. King Laman broke an oath when he made war on King Limhi's people, but he was justified, because he thought the daughters of his people were kidnapped.
  • A Father to His Men: Helaman refers to his 'stripling' warriors as his sons, while they call him father.
  • Film of the Book: The first part, at least, though many would rather pretend it doesn't exist.
  • Flash Back: Large parts of the book of Mosiah are a flashback, making the chronology quite confusing. Also Ether.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The destruction of the Nephites and its timing is predicted in the first book, and that prediction is repeated throughout.
  • Foreshadowing: The Book of Ether begins with a genealogy of the kings from reverse order (A is the son of B, B is the son of C...) and then proceeded to tell the story of those people in chronological order. Granted most of them were talked about very briefly as the book condenses about 25 generations into about 12 chapters.
  • Heel Face Turn: Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah went about trying to destroy the church of God. Then an angel appeared and rebuked them all, putting Alma in an Angst Coma until he repented.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • Nephi has a brief one when he learns that his descendants will form a great nation that will end up being destroyed due to their wickedness.
    • Mormon also has one as he mourns the utter destruction of the Nephites when it need not have happened.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Alma and Amulek.
    • Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah.
  • History Repeats: The book of Ether, in which the destruction of the Jaredites recapitulates the destruction of the Nephites. Though the Jaredites were actually destroyed first, their account appears in the narrative after the destruction of the Nephites.
  • Insane Troll Logic: The anti-Christ Korihor preaches that there is no God. How does he know there is no God? Why, an angel of God visited him with a message from God, telling him to preach that there is no God!
  • Last of His Kind: Moroni from the Nephites, Coriantumr from the Jaredites.
  • Les Collaborateurs: The Kingmen, who stage a coup and cooperate with the invading Lamanites.
  • Literal Genie: Two people asked for demanded signs that Jesus existed. One ended up dying shortly thereafter, the other got turned dumb and had to go from house to house, begging. Then he got ran over.
  • The Messiah: The book of Third Nephi features a visit by the trope namer.
  • Missing Episode: Joseph Smith's scribe Martin Harris lost the only copy of the 116-Page Manuscript that would have been the actual start of The Book of Mormon.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: The pronunciation and sometimes even the spelling is largely up to the interpretation of the translators. Modern editions offer a guide, but this is mostly for church unity and doesn't claim to be the original pronunication.
  • Rousing Speech: Captain Moroni rallying his people to defend themselves from the Lamanite army. [1]
  • Selective Obliviousness: Laman and Lemuel don't seem to understand that they should stop messing with Nephi even after an angel appears in front of them and tells them to knock it off.
  • Soiled City on a Hill: The city of Ammonihah, after killing all the members of the church there.
    • More broadly, the Jaredite and Nephite nations.
  • Turn the Other Cheek / Honor Before Reason: The Anti-Nephi-Lehites prefer to be killed rather than defend themselves. Also counts as an entire people of Badass Pacifist.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Amalickiah loses it after his initial attacks against the city of Ammonihah and Noah utterly fail thanks to Moroni's spending the past four years building up the cities' defenses.
  • Violence Is the Only Option: After repeated attempts to obtain the Brass Plates by other means, Nephi kills Laban because he was specifically told by God to do it. As in, God had to go out of His way specifically to persuade Nephi that killing Laban is the only reasonable option left. Made even more notable by the fact that is the one time Nephi flat-out argued with God over a course of action. He REALLY didn't want to kill Laban.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: The Three Nephites.
  • Whole-Episode Flashback: The book of Ether, occurring thousands of years prior to 'current' events.

Notes

  1. Among others, he specifically discusses Call a Rabbit a Smeerp, Info Dump, and Author Appeal.
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