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Prophecy in the Book of Mormon

The Book of Mormon reports prophecies made during a thousand-year period concerning the future of the nephites and lamanites, the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, his visit to the Western Hemisphere, the future restoration of the gospel to the gentiles, and related events of the last days. While this record includes the fulfillment of some prophecies, Latter-day Saints see fulfillment of other prophecies in the restoration of the gospel through the Prophet Joseph smith and expect yet others to be fulfilled in the future.

Messianic prophecies include the number of years until Jesus’ birth (1 Ne. 10:4; Hel. 14:2), conditions surrounding his birth (1 Ne. 11:13—21), his mother’s identity (Mosiah 3:8), the manner and location of his baptism by John the Baptist (1 Ne. 10:7—10), his miracles and teachings (1 Ne. 11:28—31), and his atonement, resurrection, and second coming. Prophets foretold details concerning Christ’s crucifixion and his atoning sacrifice, one stating that “blood cometh from every pore, so great shall be his anguish for the wickedness and the abominations of his people” (Mosiah 3:7). Furthermore, he would rise on the third day (2 Ne. 25:13) and appear to many (Alma 16:20). Samuel the lamanite prophesied specific signs of Christ’s birth and death to be experienced among Book of Mormon peoples (Hel. 14).

During his visit to the Americas, the risen Jesus attested to the authenticity of these prophecies by stating that “the scriptures concerning my coming are fulfilled” (3 Ne. 9:16). Later, he reminded Nephi3 of a prophecy of his resurrection, the fulfillment of which had not been recorded. The details were promptly added to Nephite records (3 Ne. 23:6—13; cf. Hel. 14:25).

The Book of Mormon relates the fulfillment of other prophecies foretelling events among Book of Mormon peoples. Besides many Messianic prophecies, examples include Alma2 prophesying that the Nephites, dwindling in unbelief, would eventually become extinct (Alma 45:9—14; Morm. 6:11—15) and Abinadi forecasting the destiny of his captors and their descendants (Mosiah 11:20—25; 17:15—18). Other prophecies anticipated more immediate events. For example, on the eve of Jesus’ birth, when lives of believers were threatened by unbelievers, Nephi3 received divine assurance that “on the morrow” the signs of Christ’s birth would be seen (3 Ne. 1:9—15).

Book of Mormon prophets also forecast events of the latter days. They foretold the European exploration of America (1 Ne. 13:12—15), the American Revolution (1 Ne. 13:16—19), and the gathering of Israel (1 Ne. 22; 3 Ne. 20—22). They warned of deceptive practices among religionists, including priestcraft, secret combinations, and neglect of the poor. They foretold the impact of the Book of Mormon on latter-day people and the destruction of the wicked. The prophecies of Moroni2 included admonitions addressed to those who would live in the last days: “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, . . . behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing” (Morm. 8:35).

Under inspiration, prophets in the Book of Mormon frequently quoted previous prophets in support of their teachings. They warned that in rejecting the living prophet’s witness, their hearers were rejecting the testimonies of such revered prophets as Isaiah, Moses, and Zenos (Hel. 8:11—20).

Prophesying falsely was viewed as a crime among the Nephites (W of M 1:15—16). Agreement with past prophets was a test of a prophet’s authenticity. For instance, during a debate, Jacob exposed Sherem as a false prophet by showing that his testimony contradicted previous prophecy. Jacob then demonstrated that his own teachings agreed with former prophets, thus sealing Sherem’s conviction as a false prophet (Jacob 7:9—12).

Prophecy sometimes came in dreams or visions after pondering and prayer. Lehi and Nephi1 were caught up in the Spirit (1 Ne. 1:7—8, 11:1). King Benjamin and Samuel the Lamanite were visited by angels (Mosiah 3:2; Hel. 13:7). Prophecy was delivered variously, as in a psalm by Nephi1 (2 Ne. 4:20—35), in Zenos’ allegory (Jacob 5), or in Jacob’s chastisements (2 Ne. 9:30—38).

Besides their service to God, as his messengers, prophets served as religious leaders (Alma1), kings (Benjamin; Mosiah2), military leaders (Helaman1), and historians (Nephi3). They were also social and moral critics of their society. Jacob denounced wickedness among his people not only because of its effects on that generation but also for wounds inflicted on the next (Jacob 2—3). Samuel the Lamanite foretold dire future consequences of the Nephites’ lifestyle, criticizing their state of degradation (Hel. 13).

The presence of prophets and of contemporary prophecies were important to the Book of Mormon people. Mormon testified, “I also know that as many things as have been prophesied concerning us . . . have been fulfilled, and as many as go beyond this day must surely come to pass” (W of M 1:4).


Nibley, Hugh W. The Prophetic Book of Mormon. In CWHN 8. Salt Lake City, 1989. Parsons, Robert E. “The Prophecies of the Prophets.” In First Nephi, the Doctrinal Foundation, ed. M. Nyman and C. Tate, Jr. Provo, Utah, 1988.

Camille Fronk