Moroni chapter 10 is just excellent in many ways, but I wonder if we are too quick to gloss over some important points.
We love Moroni 10:3-5 and even call it “Moroni’s promise,” and indeed it is a kind of promise. Note that Moroni wrote chapter 10 to a specific audience: “I write unto my brethren, the Lamanites…” (vs.1) The title page of the Book of Mormon says that it is “Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile…” so I think this ‘promise’ can also apply to anyone else in that same sense.
Typically, I see people focusing on verses 4 and 5 which deal with praying and receiving an answer.
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
What they tend to gloss over is the importance of verse 3 which contains additional conditions that must be met to ‘know the truth’ of the Book of Mormon.
“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.”
The first line is interesting, and I think I’ve read it wrong forever. Typically when I read “if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them” it sounded like Moroni was saying “if you read these things seeking for wisdom in God” but that isn’t what it says. I think what Moroni is saying here is that you’ll only be able to read these things if in God’s wisdom he makes that possible. That seems to speak to the sacred nature of even possessing these words in the first place.
Secondly, you’ll need to remember how merciful the Lord has been to his children going all the way back to the beginning. It is only possible to remember and consider these things if you know them first. Thus, a thorough knowledge of the Old and New Testament are essential because that is where we find this information. You’ll need to know and then remember how merciful God has been to understand why the Book of Mormon is important and to know if it is true.
With those considerations in place, you’ll need to ponder the words of the Book of Mormon in your heart. The word ‘ponder’ must not be looked over too quickly. Ponder doesn’t mean to just think about, it means “To weigh in the mind; to consider and compare the circumstances or consequences of an event, or the importance of the reasons for or against a decision.” One must approach the text with more than just curiosity; there must be a willingness to accept the implications if God reveals the truth.
Now we can move on to verse 4 where this is explained. Only after you have received all of these things do you ask God but with:
- a sincere heart
- real intent
- having faith in Christ
Only then is the truth made manifest by the power of the Holy Ghost. I think many people fail in their efforts because they jump straight to the end and pray to God for a simple yes or no. Ultimately, God is a merciful father, and I think that he can’t help but reward an honest seeker but if you’ve struggled with Moroni’s promise in your experience, perhaps a closer look and better preparation can yield the desired results.
We live in an age where we demand instant satisfaction to inquiries. We’ll Google something and accept the first reasonable answer we find, but God doesn’t work that way. Joseph Smith said it best, I think:
“The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity — thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart!” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 267-68)