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Nine Moons » Blog Archive : The Book of Mormon and Mercy » The Book of Mormon and Mercy

The Book of Mormon and Mercy

Rusty - August 26, 2004

Joseph Smith says in Lectures on Faith that in order to have faith in God unto salvation, three ideas must be present in our minds:

1) The idea that God exists.
2) That the course we are living is in line with God’s will.
3) A correct understanding of His attributes and characteristics. Namely, omnipotence, omniscience, love, justice, mercy, he changes not, he cannot lie, no respecter of persons, etc.

For the purpose of this post I am going to assume numbers 1 and 2. The third one is a bit more intriguing to me because it seems to require a great deal of knowledge. JS goes on to explain exactly why we need to understand and believe that God has each characteristic.

I would like to posit that the attribute of Mercy might just be the most important one for us to understand, as it pertains to our life and salvation. Here’s why: none of the others motivate me to repent of my sins. Even his love doesn’t motivate me unless there is something in it for me (as cynical as that sounds, could we honestly say that we’d repent if there was no hope of us being forgiven?)

In this light, my study of the Book of Mormon has changed. First of all, I now see that one of the major underlying causes of sin is not understanding God’s characteristics (1 Ne. 2:12, 1 Ne. 3:31, Alma 9:5, and countless others). Conversely, understanding his attributes and characteristics will lead us to keep his commandments, repent, and on to salvation.

Enter: Mercy.

If God’s mercy were his most important message, then shouldn’t it be plastered all throughout the BOM? Yes. Yes it should. And is it ever. The word mercy (or any of it’s many forms) appears some 150 or so times in the BOM. All the other attributes combined might equal this. Of course the numbers only indicate a larger message.

First chapter of the Book of Mormon: 1 Ne. 1:20 Nephi prefaces the BOM by saying that, “…I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance.” So he is setting the stage, he is beginning this great book by telling us that he is going to show us the Lord’s mercy.

Last chapter of the Book of Mormon: Moroni 10:3 This is a very familiar scripture, especially to those who served missions trying to convince investigators to read and pray about the BOM. There is some interesting wording here, however, that is easy to miss, especially in the context of wanting someone to read the BOM and pray about it. It says, “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” (emphasis added). He is admonishing us to ponder “it” in our hearts, “how merciful the Lord has been”. All of those instances of mercy that we read about in the BOM, ponder them, and ask if the Lord is truly that merciful.

So Nephi begins by saying that the book is going to be full of instances of the Lord’s mercy. Moroni ends it by admonishing us to look through the whole book at all those instances and ask if that truly was the case. So what are some of those instances? I’ll select a couple among the copious examples.

1 Ne. 8:8 After many hours in darkness, what is it Lehi prays for? “…mercy…according to the multitude of his tender mercies.”

Alma 32:22 Immediately after Alma gives his definition of faith, what does he implore us to do with that faith? To “remember, that God is merciful unto all who believe on his name.”

That same chapter is about faith and the parable of the seed. The next chapter, verse 23 he desires we plant “this word” in our hearts. What word? Verses 4-13 Zenos teaches that the Lord is merciful, and specifically in vs. 11, 13 the “Lord is merciful because of [God’s] Son” THAT is the word that Alma wants us to plant in our hearts.

I have a hard time believing that there is a more important message in the Book of Mormon: that the Lord is merciful and he is willing to forgive us if we would repent. THAT is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


  1. Great post!

    Obviously there are many specific places in the BOM that mercy is talked about and it’s importance shown. I also find it interesting that in so many general ways His mercy is also shown.

    The examples that come to my mind are all the times that he shows his mercy to the people. The rich, pride, sin, repent, blessings cycle shows his continued mercy. Everytime they (and we) repent his mercy is there to forgive us.

    I’ve always liked the phrase…”We don’t want God’s justice, we want his mercy”.
    don | Email | Homepage | 08.26.04 – 2:25 am | #

    I love 1 Nephi 1:14, particularly the phrase where Lehi praises God, saying: “because thou art merciful, thou wilt not suffer those who come unto thee that they shall perish!”
    danithew | Email | Homepage | 08.26.04 – 12:09 pm | #

    Great post. I have always felt like you do about this topic, especially in regard to the Book of Mormon. Remember when Pres. Benson said we should read the BOM? He said something to the effect that if we did, a blessing hitherto unknown would come to the church. I think that blessing is the recent emphasis on the grace and mercy of the Savior, something that wasn’t publically taught a great deal before Pres. Benson’s time.
    It might interest you to know that Elder Gene R. Cook wrote an article in the Ensign in which he interpreted Moroni’s promise largely as you did in your post.
    Braden | Email | Homepage | 08.30.04 – 9:32 am | #

    This is definitely my favorite post of yours so far. What a truly “awe”-some concept, that of God’s mercy! And how moving (as in “moving to action”), to find it so frequently included in the Book of Mormon.

    In a related vein, I’d like to mention one of the most significant messages I have gained recently in reading the Old Testament: the importance of record-keeping, that we might understand God and His attributes as well as remember his mercies unto the children of men.

    Both King Josiah and the prophet Ezra, in their separate time periods, were examples of those who understood the importance of spiritual records — they brought “books of the law” (the scriptures) back within reach of their people and emphasized their importance, which helped lead to the eradication of idolatrous practices (King Josiah) and repentance and covenant renewal among the people(Ezra).

    (continued in next comment)
    Amy | Email | Homepage | 08.30.04 – 10:22 am | #

    In Judges 2:10,19 it says the children of Israel “knew not the Lord” after a mere one generation. I wonder if part of the reason was that they weren’t “reading their scriptures.” The Mulekites had not only corrupted their language but actually denied the being of their Creator because “they had brought no record with them” (Omni 1:17).

    Nephi, on the other hand, gave his all to obtaining the brass plates because he knew his children “could not keep the commandments of the Lord… save they should have the law” (1 Ne. 4:15). He even drew upon the scriptures to rally enthusiasm among his brothers in going back to Jerusalem for the plates: “Let us be strong like unto Moses… the Lord is able to deliver us, even as our fathers, and to destroy Laban, even as the Egyptians” (1 Ne. 4:2-3).

    (continued next comment)
    Amy | Email | Homepage | 08.30.04 – 10:23 am | #

    Obviously, record-keeping and record-reading help us remember how merciful the Lord has been in the past, thus moving us to draw upon his mercies in the present. It’s no wonder President Kimball emphasized journal writing the way he did, huh?

    (sorry to take up 3 comments — it doesn’t let me do LONG ones!)
    Amy | Email | Homepage | 08.30.04 – 10:24 am | #

    The link to the very insightful Gene R. Cook talk is:

    http://library.lds.org/nxt/ gatew…$fn=default.htm

    Thanks Braden.
    Rusty | Email | Homepage | 09.03.04 – 11:00 am | #

    Great comments–Do you have your own blog? If you do, will you let me know so I can read it?
    Braden | Email | Homepage | 09.03.04 – 11:56 am | #

    I love that quote, too. Pres. Faust, in General Conference a few years back said something like, “I confess that when I pray, it is for the Lord’s mercy, not his justice.” I thought that was powerful.
    Braden | Email | Homepage | 09.03.04 – 12:00 pm | #

    Comment by Comment Restore — November 28, 2005 @ 12:33 am

  2. I find great wisdom and love of the gospel in these early post ,maybe you should return to your roots .,the world is so full of good and love,but good and love do not make good headline news.

    Comment by marv thompson — May 19, 2011 @ 9:51 pm

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