Chapter 4: Plain and Precious Parts

Some time between the “record of the Jews” passing from the Jews to the Gentiles and its going forth as a “book” (the Bible) to all the nations of the Gentiles, “many plain and precious parts” and “many covenants” are “taken away” and “kept back” by “that great and abominable church” (1 Nephi 13:20–32). This results in the “fulness of the gospel,” as taught by the “twelve apostles of the Lamb,” being perverted or downgraded, “blinding [people’s] eyes” and “hardening [their] hearts,” so that many Gentiles “stumble,” giving Satan “great power over them” (ibid.).

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The Jews had faithfully done their part. It was because of “the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews, and their diligence unto me, in bringing forth salvation unto the Gentiles” (2 Nephi 29:5), that the Bible was able to go forth “in purity” from them to the Gentiles “according to the truth which is in God” (1 Nephi 13:25). But “after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church,” it lacked the convincing power to “make known the plain and precious things,” and more especially to “make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved” (1 Nephi 13:28, 40). To that end, “other books,” including the Book of Mormon, were divinely ordained to come forth, so that the Gentiles’ stumbling blocks might be removed (1 Nephi 13:35, 39–40).

Because the Book of Mormon was “translated by the gift and power of God,” it is today the “most correct book” of scripture we have (D&C 135:3; TPJS, 194). On the other hand, when a scriptural record is not translated by the gift and power of God, but by persons in a state of apostasy who lack understanding of the fulness of the gospel, then the results can be disastrous.

The Bible that has been published to the world in dozens of different languages suffers terribly from translation problems. I noticed this when translating the Book of Isaiah from the Hebrew Masoretic Text into modern English. Although I knew Hebrew fluently, I used the best Lexicons, Dictionaries, and Concordances available and compared twelve modern English translations of Isaiah word for word. (Brigham Young had said that if a man could translate the Bible better than the King James Version, he was under obligation to do so; Journal of Discourses, 14:226.) I found that while some modern translations of the Bible are close in meaning to the original, many are not.

Though it is true that since the founding of the State of Israel we have learned much more about the Hebrew language than the King James translators knew, I nevertheless found that each religious denomination translates the Bible according to its own theological position. Because Hebrew and Greek terms have multiple meanings, much of translation is also interpretation, depending on the context. While relatively late copies of the Old Testament, such as the Ben Asher Codex (800 A.D.), suffer from a few corruptions such as scribal errors, one can tell from their internal literary integrity that they are on the whole amazingly accurate, more so, for example, than the much earlier Dead Sea Scroll versions of biblical texts.

The Book of Mormon contains the plainest writing found in any scripture on such subjects as the atonement of Jesus Christ for transgression, the consequences of obedience and disobedience to the commandments of God, gospel ordinances such as baptism and the sacrament, and the events of the last days.

And yet, even though the Book of Mormon contains so many “plain and precious parts” as to constitute “the fulness of the gospel” (1 Nephi 19:3; D&C 20:8–9), it represents but the “lesser part” of what Jesus taught the Nephites (3 Nephi 26:8–11; cf. Mormon 8:12). Also not included are the things Nephi, Mormon, and Moroni were “forbidden” to write (1 Nephi 14:28; 3 Nephi 26:11; Ether 13:13).

Perhaps that is why the Lord said that through the Book of Mormon he would bring forth “much of my gospel” to the Gentiles (1 Nephi 13:34–35; emphasis added), certainly enough for us to gain salvation and, with due diligence, exaltation. On the other hand, the Lord showed the Brother of Jared, John, and others “all things,” things that were sealed up to come forth “in their purity” in his own due time to those who would “rend the veil” (1 Nephi 14:26–27; Ether 4:4–7, 15–16; D&C 93:6–18).

The Brass Plates evidently contain many plain and precious truths, such as the prophecies of Joseph, of which “there are not many greater” (2 Nephi 4:1–2), and the words of Zenock, Neum, and Zenos concerning the coming of Christ, the future of the Lord’s people Israel and of every nation, kindred, tongue, and people (1 Nephi 19:10–18). These prophecies very likely address especially the descendants of Joseph, who kept their own scriptural records, as demonstrated by the Brass Plates (cf. 2 Nephi 29:12).

Considering that there exist even more “plain and precious parts” of the word of God than are presently in our possession, we might ask, What have we done with what we have, so that some day, hopefully soon, we will receive more? Do we look forward to receiving yet “other books” that are now withheld, so that we might feast upon additional words of Christ? The Lord has told the Saints that “you have treated lightly the things you have received,” for which reason the “whole church is under condemnation” (D&C 84:54–55). President Ezra Taft Benson and others have reiterated these things in General Conference and encouraged Latter-day Saints to study the Book of Mormon.

In fact, the Book of Mormon itself responds to these pressing questions: “Come unto me, O ye Gentiles, and I will show you the greater things, the knowledge of which is hid up because of unbelief” (Ether 4:13; cf. 1 Nephi 13:40). No doubt, as we draw closer to Jesus by exploring the truths of the Book of Mormon, he will reveal even more plain and precious things to our understanding from both this and books yet to be revealed.