According to the testimony of Joseph Smith, on the night of September 21, 1823, Joseph Smith prayed to know God’s further will toward him. Steadily a light grew “as though the house was filled with consuming and unquenchable fire.” Moroni, a messenger sent from God, stood before him. In mortal life Moroni had been the last of ancient American prophets having authority from God and whose teachings were recorded for our time.
Moroni declared “that the time was at hand for the Gospel in all its fullness to be preached in power, unto all nations” and that Joseph was “to be an instrument in the hands of God” in that work. He quoted ancient prophets who had foreseen that this time would come. As Moroni stood before him Joseph was shown in vision “the place where the plates were deposited.”
Every September for four years, Joseph went to the Hill Cumorah and was taught by Moroni. In September 1827 Joseph met Moroni at the hill and received the gold plates. Twenty-one months later, having completed the translation, Joseph returned the plates to Moroni.
Joseph Smith Quotes
This messenger [Moroni] proclaimed himself to be an angel of God, sent to bring the joyful tidings that the covenant which God made with ancient Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that the preparatory work for the second coming of the Messiah was speedily to commence; that the time was at hand for the Gospel in all its fullness to be preached in power, unto all nations that a people might be prepared for the Millennial reign. I was informed that I was chosen to be an instrument in the hands of God to bring about some of His purposes in this glorious dispensation. (History of the Church, 4:536–37.)
Let us take the Book of Mormon, which a man took and hid in his field, securing it by his faith, to spring up in the last days, or in due time; let us behold it coming forth out of the ground, which is indeed accounted the least of all seeds, but behold it branching forth, yea, even towering, with lofty branches, and God-like majesty, until it, like the mustard seed, becomes the greatest of all herbs. And it is truth, and it has sprouted and come forth out of the earth, and righteousness begins to look down from heaven, and God is sending down His powers, gifts and angels, to lodge in the branches thereof. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith (1976), 98.)
Joseph Knight, Early Member of the Church[In] the forepart of September , I went to Rochester on business and returned by Palmyra to be there by the 22nd of September. . . . That night we went to bed and in the morning I got up and my horse and carriage were gone. . . . After a while he [Joseph Smith] came home [with] the horse. All came into the house to breakfast but nothing [was] said about where they had been. After breakfast Joseph called me into the other room. . . . He set his foot on the bed, leaned his head on his hand and said, . . . “It is ten times better than I expected.” Then he went on to tell length and width and thickness of the plates; and said he, “They appear to be gold.” (Reminiscenses of Joseph Knight, Church Archives. This manuscript written between 1833 and 1847 has been published in Dean Jessee, “Joseph Knight’s Recollection of Early Mormon History,” Brigham Young University Studies, fall 1976, 30–39.)
John A. Widtsoe, Apostle, 1921–1952
“The first visitation of Moroni came in answer to prayer. So came the First Vision. The Lord is ready to give, but he requires that his children ask. It would not be natural or wise to force blessings on anyone. The power of prayer is inestimable. One prays for little; usually much comes in answer. . . . The most marvelous part of the message to the young man, lying upon his wakeful pillow, was that he, Joseph Smith, was the chosen instrument in the hands of the Lord to inaugurate the great work planned for the last days of the world. It was astonishing! It was wonderful!” (Joseph Smith: Seeker after Truth, Prophet of God (1951), 32–33; paragraph divisions altered.)
What is The Book of Mormon?
The introduction to the book explains it as follows:
The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel.
The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon. The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. This group is known as the Jaredites. After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.
The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after His resurrection. It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.
After Mormon completed his writings, he delivered the account to his son Moroni, who added a few words of his own and hid up the plates in the Hill Cumorah. On September 21, 1823, the same Moroni, then a glorified, resurrected being, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and instructed him relative to the ancient record and its destined translation into the English language.
In due course the plates were delivered to Joseph Smith, who translated them by the gift and power of God. The record is now published in many languages as a new and additional witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and that all who will come unto Him and obey the laws and ordinances of His gospel may be saved.
Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”
In addition to Joseph Smith, the Lord provided for eleven others to see the gold plates for themselves and to be special witnesses of the truth and divinity of the Book of Mormon. Their written testimonies are included herewith as “The Testimony of Three Witnesses” and “The Testimony of Eight Witnesses.”
We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10:3–5.)
Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the Second Coming of the Messiah.
The Book of Mormon warns of Secret Societies
The Book of Mormon denounces secret combinations as “most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God.” They are also considered to be one of the signs that a people is ripe for the Lord’s vengeance, and according to the Book of Mormon, in the last days will be prevalent on the earth. Moroni also warns that the Gentiles of the latter day should repent of their sins and not allow that “murderous combinations get above you, which are built up to get power and gain.“ Moroni goes on to warn that anyone who builds up a secret combination “seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries; and it bringeth to pass the destruction of all people, for it is built up by the devil, who is the father of all lies.”
LDS prophet Ezra Taft Benson, speaking in general conference, reminded them that in the Book of Mormon, “secret combinations brought down both the Jaredite and the Nephite civilizations and [have] been and will yet be the cause of the fall of many nations.”
~1000 BC – Among Jaredites (Jared, Omer, Akish)
The oldest example of a secret combination in the Book of Mormon is the story of a son named Jared who rebels against his father Omer, who is Jaredite king of the land. Trying once and not succeeding to overthrow his father, Jared’s daughter tells him of the power of conspiracy and refers to ancient writings of “secret plans to obtain kingdoms and great glory“. She devises a plan to establish her father as ruler of the land. She tells him she can dance for Akish, a man of authority, and entice him. If he is pleased with her and desires to wed her he would have to agree to deliver the head of Jared’s father, King Omer. To fulfill Jared’s wish, Akish formed a circle of men who swore upon their lives that they would never divulge the secret, their plot, or their brethren. To join this secret group one had to perform a series of oaths administered by Akish. Moroni explains that these promises or covenants were “kept up by the power of the devil” through the ages. After finishing the account, Moroni tells of the effect the secret combination had upon the nation saying, “They have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking, and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.”
550 BC – Great & Abominable Church / Church of the Devil
Moroni, son of Mormon who each took part in compiling the historical record of the Nephite civilization around 400AD, says in Ether 8:18-19 that secret combinations are the “most abominable and wicked above all, in the sight of God?”
In 1 Nephi 13:5, Nephi, (~620BC-~550BC) son of Lehi and prophet for whom the Nehpites are named, said that the church of the devil is “most abominable above all” Is it possible that Nephi and Moroni were talking about the same thing?
The phrase “great and abominable church,” which appears in an apocalyptic vision received by the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi 1 in the sixth century B.C. (1 Ne. 13:6), refers to the church of the devil and is understood by Latter-day Saints to be equivalent to the “great whore that sitteth upon many waters” described in Revelation 17:1. This “whore of all the earth” is identified by Nephi’s brother Jacob as all those who are against God and who fight against Zion, in all periods of time (2 Ne. 10:16). Nephi did not write a detailed account of everything he saw in the vision, as this responsibility was reserved for John the apostle, who was to receive the same vision; however, Nephi repeatedly refers to its content and teachings, using various images and phrases (1 Ne. 13:4-9, 26-27, 34;14:1-4, 9-17).
Like John, Nephi and Jacob describe persecutions that evil people will inflict on God’s people, particularly in the last days. The angel who explained the vision to Nephi emphasized that this great and abominable church would take away from the Bible and “the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord” (1 Ne. 13:26), causing men to “stumble” and giving Satan “great power” over them (1 Ne. 13:29; D&C 86:3; Robinson, “Early Christianity,” p. 188). Though many Protestants, following the lead of Martin Luther, have linked this evil force described in Revelation 17 with the Roman Catholic church, the particular focus of these LDS and New Testament scriptures seems rather to be on earlier agents of apostasy in the Jewish and Christian traditions (see A. Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol. 6, pp. 1036-38, Nashville, Tenn., 1977).
When Nephi speaks typologically rather than historically, he identifies all the enemies of the Saints with the church of the devil (1 Ne. 14:9-10; 2 Ne. 10:16). They are those from all nations and all time periods who desire “to get gain, and…power over the flesh, and…to become popular in the eyes of the world,…who seek the lusts of the flesh and the things of the world, and to do all manner of iniquity” (1 Ne. 22:23). Other scriptural terms related to the great and abominable church include “Babylon” and the “great harlot” (Rev. 17:5; 1 Ne. 22:13; D&C 1:16). Images of pride, greed, and covenant abandonment are associated with these terms, in sharp contrast to the church of God. The scriptures are consistent in warning people to flee from the church of evil and find refuge in the church of God (Jer. 51:6; Rev. 18:4; 1 Ne. 20:20; D&C 133:14; see also P. Minear, “Babylon,” in Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 1:338, Nashville, Tenn., 1962). The Book of Mormon image of a great and abominable church complements the biblical images of Babylon and the harlot.
The fate of the great and abominable church is described in both ancient and modern scriptures (Jer. 51:37; Rev. 18:21; 1 Ne. 14:15-16;22:14; D&C 1:16): Though the nations of the earth will gather together against them, “the covenant people of the Lord, who were scattered upon all the face of the earth” are promised redemption even if it requires power sent down from heaven, as if by fire (1 Ne. 14:14;22:17). When Jesus Christ returns, he will claim his own and reject those who have opposed him (Mal. 4:1-3; 2 Thes. 2:6-10; 1 Ne. 22:23-26). As the Savior institutes his millennial reign, great will be the fall of Babylon, the harlot, and the great and abominable church (Rev. 18; 2 Ne. 28:18), for every knee will bow and every tongue confess, with thankfulness, that Jesus is the Christ (Isa. 45:23; Mosiah 27:31).
The Gadianton Robbers
When all of the trappings of propaganda and pretense have been pulled aside, the exposed hard-core structure of modern communism is amazingly similar to the ancient Book of Mormon record of secret societies such as the Gadiantons. In the ancient American civilization there was no word which struck greater terror to the hearts of the people than the name of the Gadiantons. It was a secret political party which operated as a murder cult. Its object was to infiltrate legitimate government, plant its officers in high places, and then seize power and live off the spoils appropriated from the people. (It would start out as a small group of “dissenters” and by using secret oaths with the threat of death for defectors (Hel. 11:25-26) it would gradually gain a choke hold on the political and economic life of whole civilizations.)
The object of the Gadiantons, like modern communists, was to destroy the existing government and set up a ruthless criminal dictatorship over the whole land.
The society was founded around 52 BC or 51 BC by Nephite supporters of Paanchi, an unsuccessful candidate for the position of chief judge. Paanchi had been executed for treason when he refused to accept the election of his brother Pahoran II to the judgment seat and tried to incite a revolution, and one of his supporters, Kishkumen, assassinated Pahoran in retaliation. Kishkumen and his associates entered into a pact to keep the assassin’s identity a secret.
A man named Gadianton became the leader of Kishkumen’s secret group. He arranged for Kishkumen to assassinate Chief Judge Helaman II, promising that if he, Gadianton, were made chief judge he would appoint the other members of the band to positions of authority. Kishkumen was apprehended and killed by one of Helaman’s servants, and Gadianton and his followers, fearing the same fate, fled into the wilderness.
Prophets and leaders of the LDS church have continually warned against the conspiracy of our day:
- Oct. 1986: “From the Book of Mormon we see the evils of secret combinations portrayed in graphic and chilling reality. . . .
“We should constantly ask ourselves, ‘Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?‘” (Conference Report, Oct. 1986, Ensign, Nov. 1986, pp. 6-7; also The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 59.)
- April 1989: “Secret combinations . . . are built up to get power, gain, and glory of the world. (See Hel. 7:5; Ether 8:9, 16, 22-23; Moses 5:31.) . . . Secret combinations brought down both the Jaredite and the Nephite civilizations and [have] been and will yet be the cause of the fall of many nations. (See Ether 8:18-25.)” (Conference Report, Oct. 1989, Ensign, May 1989, p. 6.)
- Jan. 1988: “The situation in the world will continue to degenerate unless we read and heed the words of God and quit building up and upholding secret combinations, which the Book of Mormon tells us proved the downfall of ancient civilizations.” (“The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1988, p. 5.)
- April 1986: “Our nation will continue to degenerate unless we read and heed the words of the God of this land, Jesus Christ, and quit building up and upholding the secret combinations which the Book of Mormon tells us proved the downfall of both previous American civilizations.” (“The Book of Mormon Is the Word of God,” Regional Representative Seminar, Friday, April 4, 1986, pp. 3-4; as quoted in The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 61.)
- Oct. 1988: “Wickedness is rapidly expanding in every segment of our society. (See D&C 1:14- 16; 84:49-53.) It is more highly organized, more cleverly disguised, and more powerfully promoted than ever before. Secret combinations lusting for power, gain, and glory are flourishing. A secret combination that seeks to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries is increasing its evil influence and control over America and the entire world. (See Ether 8:18-25.)” (Conference Report, Oct. 1988, Ensign, Nov. 1988, p. 87; italics added.)
- April 1987: “Secret combinations flourished because, as Helaman tells us, the Gadianton robbers ‘had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils’ (Helaman 6:38).” (Conference Report, April 1987, Ensign, May 1987, p. 4; italics added.)
Moroni’s Urgent Appeal
- In a General Conference of the Church, President Ezra Taft Benson said: “One of the most urgent, heart-stirring appeals made by Moroni as he closed the Book of Mormon was addressed to the gentile nations of the last days. He foresaw the rise of a great world-wide secret combination among the gentiles which ‘seeketh to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries.’ (Ether 8:25.)” (Conference Report, Oct. 1961, Improvement Era, Dec. 1961, p. 953; as quoted inGod, Family, Country, p. 348.)
For more than thirty years, the modern prophet Ezra Taft Benson echoed the ancient prophet Moroni’s warning that “each gentile nation of the last days [must] purge itself of this gigantic criminal conspiracy which would seek to rule the world.” (Ibid.)
- The modern prophet Benson continued: “Moroni seemed greatly exercised lest in our day we might not be able to recognize the startling fact that the same secret societies which destroyed the Jaredites and decimated numerous kingdoms of both Nephites and Lamanites would be precisely the same form of criminal conspiracy which would rise up among the gentile nations in this day. . . .
“Moroni described how the secret combination would take over a country and then fight the work of God, persecute the righteous, and murder those who resisted. Moroni therefore proceeded to describe the workings of the ancient secret combinations so that modern man could recognize this great political conspiracy in the last days. (See Ether 8:23-25.) (Conference Report, Oct. 1961,Improvement Era, Dec. 1961, p. 954; as quoted in God, Family, Country, p. 349.)
“Today the Christian constitutionalist mourns for his country. He sees the spiritual and political faith of his fathers betrayed by wolves in sheep’s clothing. He sees the forces of evil increasing in strength and momentum under the leadership of Satan, the arch-enemy of freedom. He sees the wicked honored and the valiant abused. He senses that his own generation faces Gethsemanes and Valley Forges that may yet rival or surpass the trials of the early Apostles and the men of ’76. And this gives him cause to reflect on the most basic of fundamentals—the reason for our existence. Once we understand that fundamental, the purpose for mortality, we may more easily chart a correct course in the perilous seas that are engulfing our nation.” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 397.)
- In the April 1972 General Conference of the Church, President Benson stated: “Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon was the ‘keystone of our religion’ and the ‘most correct’ book on earth. (DHC, vol. 6, p. 56.) This most correct book on earth states that the downfall of two great American civilizations came as a result of secret conspiracies whose desire was to overthrow the freedom of the people. ‘And they have caused the destruction of this people of whom I am now speaking,’ says Moroni, ‘and also the destruction of the people of Nephi.’ (Ether 8:21.)
“Now undoubtedly Moroni could have pointed out many factors that led to the destruction of the people, but notice how he singled out the secret combinations, just as the Church today could point out many threats to peace, prosperity and the spread of God’s work, but it has singled out as the greatest threat the Godless conspiracy. There is no conspiracy theory in the Book of Mormon—it is a conspiracy fact.” (Conference Report, April 1972, Ensign, July 1972, p. 60; as quoted in God, Family, Country, pp. 321-322.)
- Ether 8:22. President Benson has emphasized over and over the ancient prophet Moroni’s warning that “whatsoever nation shall uphold such secret combinations . . . until they shall spread over the nation, behold, they shall be destroyed.” (See, for example, God, Family, Country, pp. 322 & 349; and An Enemy Hath Done This, pp. 331 & 333.)
- Our Prophet says we are “building up and upholding” this great world-wide conspiracy; that we have been “seduced . . . to believe its words,” and that it is “flourishing” and “increasing its evil influence and control over America and the entire world.” (See section 1 above.)
- President Benson cites President J. Reuben Clark’s warning that, “‘we stand in danger of losing our liberties, and that once lost, only blood will bring them back; and once lost, we of this church will, in order to keep the Church going forward, have more sacrifices to make and more persecutions to endure than we have yet known. . . .’ (CR, April 1944, p. 116.) He also stated that if the conspiracy ‘comes here it will probably come in its full vigor and there will be a lot of vacant places among those who guide and direct, not only this government, but also this Church of ours.‘ (CR, April 1952, p. 80.) (Conference Report, April 1972, Ensign, July 1972, p. 61; as quoted in God, Family, Country, p. 323; quoted also in The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 107; again on pp. 658-659.)
Seducing the Righteous
- 2 Timothy 3:13. President Ezra Taft Benson has said of this verse: “The Apostle Paul saw our day. He . . . warned that ‘evil men and seducers would wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived’ (2 Timothy 3:13).” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 88; italics added.)
- Mark 13:22. “For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect.” (Italics added.)
- Matthew 24:24. “For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.”
President Benson has said of this verse: There is a conspiracy of evil. The source of it all is Satan and his hosts. He has a great power over men to ‘lead them captive at his will, even as many as would not hearken‘ to the voice of the Lord (Moses 4:4). His evil influence may be manifest through governments; through false educational, political, economic, religious, and social philosophies; through secret societies and organizations; and through myriads of other forms. His power and influence are so great that, if possible, he would deceive the very elect (see Matthew 24:24). (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 404.)
- Helaman 6:38. The Modern Prophet Ezra Taft Benson, quoting the Book of Mormon Prophet Helaman, has noted that secret combinations flourish because they are able to seduce “the more part of the righteous” to “believe in their works and partake of their spoils.” (Conference Report, April 1987, Ensign, May 1987, p. 4.)
This seduction happens by deception. And the greatest deceptions were not among the Nephites, but are among us today. President Benson has said: “We are going through . . . the greatest propaganda campaign of all time. We cannot believe all we read.” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 302; see also p. 90.)
- President Benson has said: “It is from within the Church that the greatest hindrance comes. And so, it seems, it has been. Now the question arises, will we stick with the kingdom and can we avoid being deceived? Certainly this is an important question, for the Lord has said that in the last days the ‘devil will rage in the hearts of men’ (2 Nephi 28:20), and if it were possible he ‘shall deceive the very elect‘ (see Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:22).” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, pp. 406-407.)
We Must Awake
- Ether 8:24. The modern Prophet Benson and the ancient Prophet Moroni speak to us in unison: “Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this secret combination which shall be among you.” (See God, Family, Country, pp. 322 & 349; italics added.)
- The Prophet has said: If you use the scriptures as a guide, you know what the Book of Mormon has to say regarding murderous conspiracies in the last day and how we are to awake to our awful situation today (see Ether 8:18-25). I find certain elements in the Church do not like to read the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants so much—they have too much to say about freedom.” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 81; see also p. 42.)
The Prophet continues: The Book of Mormon warns us that when we see these murderous conspiracies in our midst, we should awaken to our awful situation (see Ether 8:24). Now, why should we awaken if the Lord is going to take care of us anyway? Let us suppose that it is too late to save freedom. It is still accounted unto us for righteousness’ sake to stand up and fight. Some Book of Mormon prophets knew of the final desolate end of their nations, but they still fought on, and they saved some souls, including their own, by so doing. For, after all, the purpose of life is to prove ourselves, and the final victory will be for freedom.” (Ibid., p. 660.)
President Benson has warned: “Our complacency as a nation is shocking—yes, almost unbelievable! We are a prosperous nation. Our people have high-paying jobs. Our incomes are high. Our standard of living is at an unprecedented level. We do not like to be disturbed as we enjoy our comfortable complacency. We live in the soft present and feel the future is secure. We do not worry about history. We seem oblivious to the causes of the rise and fall of nations. We are blind to the hard fact that nations usually sow the seeds of their own destruction while enjoying unprecedented prosperity.
“I say to you with all the fervor of my soul: We are sowing the seeds of our own destruction in America and much of the free world today. It is my sober warning to you today that if the trends of the past continue, we will lose that which is as priceless as life itself—our freedom, our liberty, our right to act as free men. It can happen here. It is happening here. . . .
“The sad and shocking story of what has happened in America in recent years must be told. Our people must have the facts. There is safety in an informed public. There is real danger in a complacent, uninformed citizenry. This is our real danger today. Yes, the truth must be told even at the risk of destroying, in large measure, the influence of men who are widely respected and loved by the American people. The stakes are high. Freedom and survival is the issue.“ (Ibid., p. 582.)
“The fight for freedom is God’s fight. . . . When a man stands for freedom he stands with God. And as long as he stands for freedom he stands with God. And were he to stand alone he would still stand with God—the best company and the greatest power in or out of this world. Any man will be eternally vindicated and rewarded for his stand for freedom.” (Ibid., p. 656.)
- WATCH: Book of Mormon Geography in North America