When I first began this series of articles on Jesus Christ in the Book of Mormon (a book of companion scripture to the Bible), I anticipated being done by July. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which church is often inadvertently referred to as the “Mormon Church”), who accepts the Book of Mormon as scripture, it didn’t take long to realize I would have to skip a great many mentions of Jesus Christ in order to do so. Even bypassing tremendous numbers of verses, I am already into August. I have decided to skip over large portions of the book—amazing portions you really need to just read on your own—to introduce the most important section of the Book of Mormon. This section delivers a message so powerful any Christian should be thrilled to learn what it is. Signs of Jesus Christ’s birth were given to a group of people on the American continent in ancient times. In addition, Jesus Christ himself visited the American continent after His death and resurrection, but we will talk more about that later.
Jesus Appeared in the Americas
Why does it matter? It tells us that Jesus Christ is not just the Savior of a small group of people in the Holy Lands. He is the Savior of the entire world. It provides the second witness which the Bible and Jewish law both require in order for something to be deemed true. It is a powerful testimony of the Savior’s love for mankind. It is interesting to me that some people don’t want this to be true. If they think it isn’t possible, they seem to be suggesting Jesus could not come to another group of people if He chose to do so. We know, of course, that Jesus can do anything. Could it be that He didn’t want to? That would suggest Jesus Christ was a respecter of persons, who only cared about a very small portion of the world. No, the truth is that He could do any righteous thing He wanted to do. Mormons celebrate every opportunity to hear more of Jesus’ teachings. Who can say they wouldn’t wish for more?
The Book of Mormon begins with the record of a prophet named Lehi who lived in the Holy Lands just prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 600 B.C. His life was in danger, as were the lives of other prophets. God instructed Lehi to take his family and a few others into the wilderness. They were led to the ocean, where Jesus taught Lehi’s son Nephi how to build a ship that carried the family across the ocean. Jesus knows how to do anything!
Book of Mormon History
Lehi had six sons. Two of them, the oldest, were rebellious and turned away from God. They were angry when an angel revealed that their younger brother Nephi had been chosen to rule over them when their father was dead because Nephi was more righteous than they were. In those days, the oldest son had seniority, but the oldest son was not righteous. After Lehi and his wife died, Nephi and those who followed him were in grave danger from the two oldest boys and their followers, who wanted to kill them. They moved away, but over the generations to come, the two sides were often at war. The Lamanites, who followed the wicked older brothers, continued to want to kill the Nephites, who followed Nephi. The Nephites continually tried to convert the Lamanites. Sometimes they were successful. Sometimes Nephites left the church and joined the Lamanites.
The Nephites knew of Christ’s birth despite being on another continent without modern communication tools. The prophets had offered signs of his birth to the people and a prophet named Samuel, who was a Lamanite during the time when the Lamanites were valiant, had stood on a city wall to announce the coming of Christ to the Nephites, who were wicked at that time. He told them that in about five years, there would come a night when there was no darkness. For a day, a night, and the next day, it would look as though it were one day, with no darkness in between. They would see the sun rise and set, but in their area, this would not impact the light. A new star would also appear in the sky. He explained the importance of believing his message: “And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall believe on the Son of God, the same shall have everlasting life” (Helaman 14:3).
However, the wicked people, ignoring the lack of a specific date, announced that if the events did not occur on the exact date they chose, those who had believed Samuel would be killed. They were understandably anxious, not because they didn’t think those signs would occur, but because God had not given them a specific date—the Lamanites had merely chosen it at random. Their prophet went off to pray to God and was assured that the promised sign would come that very night; the night the Lamanites had set as the last day they would wait before destroying the believers.
The signs did occur and the believers were saved. Many people were converted as well, accepting the Savior as the Son of God and believing the other prophecies about Him as well, including that He would come to visit them.
Read about Samuel the Lamanite in the Book of Mormon.
The next article will explore the signs that were given to tell them Jesus had died.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.