When we look at events described in the Book of Mormon as a series of types of the last days, they take on another meaning. The book comes alive as a teaching tool for our day, helping us avoid the pitfalls that caused others to perish. Such typological thinking has always permeated the thinking of the prophets, each building upon the inspired writings of those who preceded him.
Because Nephi’s principle of “liken[ing] all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning” (1 Nephi 19:23) applies to the historical content of the scriptures as well as their theological teachings, we have a great advantage in the Book of Mormon—even more than Nephi—to liken the scriptures to ourselves. In fact, we often have only to ask, Where does this situation exist today? Could a similar thing happen to us if events continued on their present course? Are we better than the Nephites, to think we would never do such a thing? And so forth.
We commonly draw a contrast between the Nephites and Mulekites to show what happens to one group of people who possess the scriptures and to others who don’t. The Zoramites, however, had the scriptures but their pride and conceit blinded them so that they used the scriptures merely as a crutch to support their supposed superiority over others. They believed they were a chosen people, who would be saved by a holy God, while others would perish (Alma 31:16–17, 28–29). They excommunicated and cast out the humble and poverty-stricken among them, considering them as but “dross” and “filthiness” (Alma 32:3).
Though the Book of Mormon records no interaction between the Nephites and other nations, it nonetheless frequently refers to the Gentiles of the last days. Given that Nephite prophets saw our day, the “less than a hundredth part” of their history they included in the Book of Mormon consisted of the kinds of things that might best serve as types of the last days. Upon closer examination, we find that the Zoramites indeed typify much that Jesus and others predicted about the Gentiles, particularly their ultimate separation into two distinct groups. I will summarize how this occurred among the Zoramites.
Alma notes that their “hearts were set upon gold, and upon silver, and upon all manner of fine goods” (Alma 31:24). In other words, they idolized their wealth and material possessions, which was a sure recipe for spiritual blindness. They despised the “foolish traditions of our brethren [the Nephites], which doth bind them down to a belief in Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, O God” (Alma 31:17). They thus considered that one sent from God could somehow detract from and not add to the glory of God. By saying, “thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ” (Alma 31:16), they put their own false revelations above the revelations of the holy prophets.
After Alma and Amulek had preached to the Zoramites about the coming of the Son of God, quoting Zenos, Zenock, and Moses, their rulers, priests and teachers found out privily who believed in the words of Alma and Amulek and banished them from their lands (Alma 35:3–6). These outcasts then joined the people of Ammon, who gave them new lands of inheritance (Alma 35:9, 14). Still not satisfied, the elitist Zoramites joined forces with the Lamanites and fought against the Nephites (Alma 35:10–13). In short, while one group of Zoramites hardened their hearts and experienced a complete cycle of apostasy (Alma 33:21; 34:31), the others humbled themselves, accepted the teachings of the prophets, and repented of their sins (Alma 32:6–8; 34:30–31, 38; 35:6).
Now observe what Jesus said about the Gentiles of the last days: “At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth . . . I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them . . . But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, saith the Father, behold they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel” (3 Nephi 16:10, 13).
And again, “It shall come to pass [at the time the Father performs a great and marvelous work] that whosoever will not believe in my words, who am Jesus Christ, which the Father shall cause him to bring forth unto the Gentiles, and shall give unto him power that he shall bring them forth unto the Gentiles, (it shall be done even as Moses said) they shall be cut off from among my people who are of the covenant . . . But if they will repent and hearken unto my words, and harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob, unto whom I have given this land for their inheritance” (3 Nephi 21:9, 11, 22).
Note the parallels between the Gentiles and Zoramites: having once received the fulness of the gospel, some apostatize and lift themselves up in pride above all other people (3 Nephi 16:10; 20:28; cf. Alma 31:8–25); God’s emissaries bring them the word of God (3 Nephi 21:9–11; 26:6–11; cf. Alma 31:5–7, 36–38); some receive God’s word and are numbered among his people (1 Nephi 14:1–2; 3 Nephi 16:13; cf. Alma 35:6–9); others reject it and are cut off (1 Nephi 22:19–20; 3 Nephi 21:9, 11; cf. Alma 35:10).
Nephi describes just such a separation among the Gentiles that will occur in the last days: “Wo be unto the Gentiles if it so be that they harden their hearts against the Lamb of God. For the time cometh, saith the Lamb of God, that I will work a great and a marvelous work among the children of men; a work which shall be everlasting, either on the one hand or on the other—either to the convincing of them unto peace and life eternal, or unto the deliverance of them to the hardness of their hearts and the blindness of their minds unto their being brought down into captivity, and also into destruction, both temporally and spiritually, according to the captivity of the devil” (1 Nephi 14:6–7).
Before Christ’s second coming, Nephi predicts, there will occur a “great division among the people” (2 Nephi 30:10; compare “an entire separation of the righteous and the wicked,” D&C 63:54).
One could superficially locate such events in the time of the Prophet Joseph Smith, but that is not their scriptural context. Rather than believe or search the scriptures, the Zoramites reinterpreted them to their own ends to make themselves look good. Whatever “destroyed their craft,” they opposed, regardless of the truth or the testimony of the prophets (Alma 35:3).