Book of Mormon Internal Evidence (14): Major Recurring Doctrinal Themes

Interspersed among alll of the geographical locations, the chronological systems, the military strategies, and complex literary components are the major recurring doctrinal themes. These themes are both inspired and inspiring.  

Come Unto Christ

 One of the central recurring doctrinal themes in the Book of Mormon is “come unto Christ.”  From the title page to the last chapter, the Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus as our Savior, Lord, and Redeemer. The Book of Mormon contains eighty-six names for and titles of Jesus.  There are 3925 references to Christ in 6607 verses.  This is 1.68 references per verse.  Interestingly, there are more references to Jesus in the Book of Mormon than in the New Testament. 

The Book of Mormon concludes with the plea: “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and lover 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 . . . . [T]hen are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ . . . “

Cycle of Prosperity, Pride, and Destruction

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The Nephite nation rose and fell several times because of the same cycle of pride. When the Nephites were righteous the Lord blessed them with peace and prosperity.  When they became prosperous, they became proud and wicked.  The Lord sent his servants, the prophets, to warn them, but they rejected the prophets. The Nephites then suffered the consequences of their sins and the judgments of God — death, destruction, war.   They were humbled by their adversity and afflictions.  Then they repented and turned to righteousness.  The Lord blessed them with peace and prosperity, and the cycle began again. This cycle is repeated multiple times throughout the Book of Mormon.

Bondage and Deliverance

Bondage and deliverance is a major recurring theme in the Old Testament and the New Testament. When we are in physical bondage or spiritual bondage, if we turn to the Lord, He will deliver us. This theme is repeated throughout the Book of Mormon,

Choice and Consequences, Agency and Accountability

A universal truth found in scripture is that God gives us commandments to bless our lives.  He also gives us free will and agency. He allows us to choose whether we will keep the commandments. But whether we do what’s right or whether we do what’s wrong, the consequences will follow. The consequences of our choices can lead to eternal life or everlasting death. (2 Ne. 10:23; 2 Ne. 2:27) This theme permeates the Book of Mormon. 

Journey to the Physical and Spiritual Promised Land

The Book of Mormon describes the Nephite’s journey to the promised land, literally and figuratively. If we keep the commandments, we will prosper and be led to a promised land. The physical Nephite journeys to the promised land symbolize our spiritual journey back to God.

Promised Blessings of Obedience

From the first verses to the final entries, the Book of Mormon prophets, through example and exhortation, described the supernal blessings of obedience. 

Consequences of Sin: Repent or Perish

In sharp contrast to the promised blessings of obedience, are the consequences of sin.  One of the Lord’s modes of operation (M.O.) is to give promises and warnings through his prophets. The proclamation to “repent or perish” is another pervasive theme throughout the Book of Mormon. We can perish physically and/or spiritually.

Agency & Accountability, Choice & Consequence 

A major theme of the Book of Mormon is that men are given free will to choose.  But whether they choose the right, or choose the wrong, the consequences will follow. There is no agency without accountability. There is no choice without consequences.  “Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves–to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.” (2 Ne. 10:23)

Material Wealth and Neglecting the Poor

Another ongoing theme in the Book of Mormon is the temptation to become rich and neglect the poor. (See: Jac. 2: 18-19; Mos. 12:29; Al. 5: 53; Al. 1:30; Al. 7:6; Al. 39:14; 3 Ne. 6:15)  King Benjamin devoted his inspired farewell speech to our sacred obligation to help the poor and needy.  After all, we are all beggars before God.  Repeatedly, as the Nephites became rich, they no longer shared with the poor and “began to be divided into classes” leading to their destruction. (4 Ne. 23-26; 3 Ne. 6:12-14; 2 Ne. 9:24-33)

Opposition and Warfare (Physical and Spiritual)

 The war chapters previously discussed are included in the Book of Mormon, not to demonstrate the strategic brilliance of the Nephites, but to guide us in our personal spiritual battles against sin and evil. The War in Heaven is not over. We have merely changed battle grounds. The war continues here and now.

Intellectual Pride

The Book of Mormon contains many accounts of the prophets confronting those filled with intellectual pride.   Alma’s confrontation with Zeezrom and with Korihor are a couple of examples. (See: Alma 10-11; 30) Intellectual pride is a deluded independence from God. Intellectual pride is more concerned with who is right instead of what is right. The Book of Mormon repeatedly condemns this type of pride. “When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God . . . But to be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” (2 Nephi 9: 30)

Interwoven Overlapping Profound Doctrinal Themes

There are dozens of other doctrinal themes that could be mentioned, including the restoration of the gospel, the gathering of Israel, the truthfulness of the Bible, the importance of the family, relationships between fathers and sons, and so on. 

The Book of Mormon contains an interwoven overlapping tapestry of profound doctrinal themes.  These doctrines are simple enough for the less educated to be inspired, and yet sophisticated enough to challenge theologians. 

These doctrinal themes were not the creation of an uneducated early nineteenth century farm boy. Joseph Smith had no formal training in theology. It is inconceivable to believe that Joseph Smith could kept track of all these interwoven profound and inspired doctrinal themes without notes, charts, re-reads, or re-writes while he orally dictated the text.    

Number 14 of 27 Articles.

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