Someone who has been reading in the Book of Mormon had some questions. He submitted them to me and asked that I answer what I could. These are the answers I have sent him. I don’t believe I have the answer to all questions, but what I can answer, I will. Perhaps you have also had some of these same questions. I know I have.
1. If genealogy was so important to keep record of, why are some names not mentioned in the writings?
The Book of Mormon is a carefully crafted compilation of gospel teachings the Lord instructed his prophet (Mormon) to cobble together from all the records of his ancestors. These records were a thousand years of history from the time Lehi left Jerusalem to the time of the destruction of Mormon’s people, the Nephites.
Mormon had all the government records of the reign of all the kings, as well as the writings of all the prophets who had kept the sacred records of the preachings and sermons of God’s servants through that whole time. It was Mormon’s job to tell their basic story, emphasizing God’s role in trying to save his children from their own destruction.
As much as we have in the Book of Mormon, it is still only one third of what he actually wrote. The other two thirds are still sealed. We are being proved by the Lord. When we have proven our obedience, and the time is right in his eyes, he will give us the other two thirds of the book. But even then, the contents of the book focus only on the doctrines of Christ.
Remember that the Book of Mormon was written specifically for our day. Whether the prophets wrote each and ever person’s names in their record is insignificant compared with the doctrine we needed to receive from those prophets. In the records of the Church individual names are rarely important, unless a source needs to be quoted. It is the doctrine that is vital to our spiritual survival. The Book of Mormon is a spiritual survival kit for the last days. The stories he included are only those stories we need to know about to help us with similar situations and lessons in our time. He was very selective in what he chose to include from the vast stores of records at his disposal.
Yes, family histories are important. Genealogy is important. But they were not important to our spiritual well being in the last days. The only names we are given are those who were required to be included to move the story along or to understand the doctrine. Even our current genealogies are kept apart and separate from our doctrinal writings.
2. What is the name of King Noah’s father?
Here are the scriptural references that give the names of the three generations of kings while these people were away from the land of Zarahemla.
1 I, Zeniff, having been taught in all the language of the Nephites, and having had a knowledge of the land of Nephi, or of the land of our fathers’ first inheritance, and having been sent as a spy among the Lamanites that I might spy out their forces, that our army might come upon them and destroy them—but when I saw that which was good among them I was desirous that they should not be destroyed.
1 And now it came to pass that Zeniff conferred the kingdom upon Noah, one of his sons; therefore Noah began to reign in his stead; and he did not walk in the ways of his father.
Mosiah 19:26 – When Noah was put to death by his own people they turned to his son for leadership.
26 And also Limhi, being the son of the king, having the kingdom conferred upon him by the people, made oath unto the king of the Lamanites that his people should pay tribute unto him, even one half of all they possessed.
As to the name of the brother of Jared, that is something that has to be gotten from modern revelation. In the Jaredite record, Jared is the leader of the people. His righteous brother is often referred to, but not by name. A couple of things need to be born in mind about this issue. The first is that we are talking about a record that goes all the way back to the tower of Babel, shortly after the flood. They may have had the custom of only referring to the head of the family in their records. There is some evidence for this in the records in the Bible. Look at the huge household of Abraham, for example. He had hundreds of people under his care, and we barely know the names of his sons and his wife. And we only know those names because of the part they played in the covenant making process and the importance of them because of their lineage and the nations who descended from them. If not for these factors, we probably would have never known their names either.
The following is copied from one of the lesson manuals of the Church.
Elder George Reynolds (1842–1909) of the Presidency of the Seventy related the following account, which shows that the name of the brother of Jared was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith:
Elder George Reynolds
“While residing in Kirtland Elder Reynolds Cahoon had a son born to him. One day when President Joseph Smith was passing his door he called the Prophet in and asked him to bless and name the baby. Joseph did so and gave the boy the name of Mahonri Moriancumer. When he had finished the blessing he laid the child on the bed, and turning to Elder Cahoon he said, the name I have given your son is the name of the brother of Jared; the Lord has just shown [or revealed] it to me. Elder William F. Cahoon, who was standing near heard the Prophet make this statement to his father; and this was the first time the name of the brother of Jared was known in the Church in this dispensation” (George Reynolds, “The Jaredites,” Juvenile Instructor, May 1, 1892, 282).
3. Why do we never know what was written on the pointer of the Liahona?
We were not given that information because it is not important for our temporal or spiritual salvation in the latter days. Only those things that were pertinent to our salvation were included in the record we were given.
4. How did Nephi break his bow?
There are a hundred ways he could have broken his bow, none of which have anything to do with the story, other than the fact that his breaking it caused the unbelief of this brothers and relatives to display itself. If they had all remained faithful I doubt his breaking his bow would have even been included in the record at all. It was the lessons taught to us because he broke his bow that got that story included in the book of scripture. That is my opinion.
5. Did God send dragons to perish the people who hardened their hearts?
The fiery flying serpents referred to are not dragons, because dragons as we understand them don’t exist. The description of the snakes was probably a reference to their speed and the pain or burning sensation of their bite. If they had given a name to the serpents it wouldn’t have done us any good when it comes to identifying them. They didn’t use a classification system of identifying animals like we do today, and every culture would have referred to the same animals with their own names and descriptions. For this reason, it was common to refer to things and places with descriptive names.
6. Are disciples and Apostles the same thing?
I might ask if a prophet today and an apostle are the same thing? The senior apostle is ordained as the prophet to the earth, but he is still an apostle. In fact, all apostles are ordained as prophets, seers, and revelators. Only the senior apostle can exercise all the keys of the apostleship and is responsible for delegating to the other apostles which keys they are allowed to exercise.
The 12 Apostles in Jerusalem were called to a specific priesthood calling of the apostleship. There can only be one quorum of such at a time. It is a priesthood government “thing.” So when the Savior needed the same governing body in the America’s, he called them Disciples, but they served the same purpose as those in Jerusalem for their own people. The Lord also told them they were subject to the priesthood authority of the original 12 Apostles. In Mormon 3:18-19 Mormon tells us the Nephites will be judged by the 12 Disciples Jesus chose, but that they, in turn, would be judged by the 12 Apostles.
18 Yea, behold, I write unto all the ends of the earth; yea, unto you, twelve tribes of Israel, who shall be judged according to your works by the twelve whom Jesus chose to be his disciples in the land of Jerusalem.
19 And I write also unto the remnant of this people, who shall also be judged by the twelve whom Jesus chose in this land; and they shall be judged by the other twelve whom Jesus chose in the land of Jerusalem.
7. Where are the three Nephites who didn’t taste of death? And where is John the Beloved?
The three Nephite Disciples who wanted to continue preaching the gospel and were granted to stay until the Savior returns are still doing the Lord’s work. We do not know where they are or how they are doing that work, but they have made occasional documented (and undocumented) appearances. John the Beloved, who was exiled to the isle of Patmos, and who wrote the book of Revelation in the New Testament was also granted to live until the Savior returns. We have no knowledge of his duties nor his whereabouts. We only know that the condition of these disciples of Christ was that they continue to preach to the people until the Savior returns. It is up to the Lord to send them where he wants and to do his will. Unless it affects our personal salvation, it is really none of our concern where or how the Lord utilizes these special servants.