The Book of Mormon is the story of a family that leaves Jerusalem around 600 B.C., crosses the ocean, and settles somewhere in the Americas. Unfortunately, many of us Westerners are extremely unfamiliar with ancient Jewish customs and culture. But as we familiarize ourselves with some of these things, The Book of Mormon comes to life in incredible ways. Ways that leave you no choice but to believe that Joseph Smith was either an evil literary genius or a true prophet of God. Let’s take a look at a few examples:
The righteous people of The Book of Mormon lived the Law of Moses during Old Testament times. The wicked were condemned for disobeying The Law of Moses, but it’s fascinating how that shows up in The Book of Mormon. It doesn’t just say, “they disobeyed the Law of Moses.” Instead, it gets incredibly specific.
Deuteronomy 18 in the Old Testament commands against witchcraft and sorceries. Alma 1:19 says, “For those who did not belong to their church did indulge themselves in sorceries…”
Deuteronomy 11 and 12 commands not to eat beasts of prey and commands not to drink animal blood.
-Jarom 1:6 in The Book of Mormon says the Lamanites “…loved murder and would drink the blood of beasts.”
-Enos 1:20, “…they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey…” 2 Nephi 5:24 also says, “…they did become an idle people, full of mischief and subtlety, and did seek in the wilderness for beasts of prey.”
Leviticus 19 commands not to cut off the hair on the sides of your head. It makes Enos 1:20 even more significant because it says the Lamanites were “wandering about in the wilderness with a short skin girdle about their loins and their heads shaven…”
The Law of Moses says that swine, or pigs, are unclean and shouldn’t be eaten. It makes sense then that the only verse in The Book of Mormon where it talks about pigs being eaten comes from the story of the brother of Jared, who lived well before Moses had revealed the Law of Moses.
Alma 7 prophecies that Jesus “shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers…” A lot of people mock this verse because Christ was born in Bethlehem, which is technically a 5-mile walk from Jerusalem. But anciently, the term “land of Jerusalem” (not city of Jerusalem, but land of Jerusalem) was a geographic umbrella term that included Jerusalem’s suburbs, including Bethlehem. What was once considered a silly “mistake” in Joseph’s fiction is now actually a cool little nugget suggesting the book’s authenticity.
In recent decades there’s been a surge of Jewish people emigrating back to their ancestral homeland in Jerusalem. I was recently talking to a fantastic Jewish friend of mine about this and he mentioned that because Israel is a “Holy Land,” when Jews would go there anciently, the Bible would use a Hebrew word meaning, “to go up.” When you left Israel, Hebrew uses a term meaning, “to go down.” So no matter where you were coming from, you always go up to Jerusalem, and down to anywhere else.
Now let’s see how The Book of Mormon talks about Jerusalem:
1 Nephi 4:4, “…they did follow me up until we came without the walls of Jerusalem.”
1 Nephi 7:15, “…if ye will return unto Jerusalem ye shall also perish with them. And now, if ye have choice, go up to the land, and remember the words which I speak unto you…”
1 Nephi 7:22 as they’re leaving Jerusalem, “…we did come down unto the tent of our father. And after I and my brethren and all the house of Ishmael had come down unto the tent of my father, they did give thanks…”
Either Joseph Smith was extraordinarily familiar with Jewish language and culture and went to painstaking lengths to intricately weave his knowledge throughout the book (without ever calling attention to it, mind you) OR this book is the real deal.
Once again I invite anyone curious about The Book of Mormon to read it, study it, and pray about it.