Question: As per your excerpt from Endtime Prophecy, p 401-402, in last week’s email, is there evidence that could implicate today’s LDS ecclesiastical leaders in priestcraft and secret combinations?
Answer (by Rodolfo Vergara): Literary evidence indicates that the Book of Mormon was written to those Gentiles who “have care for the house of Israel” (Mormon 5:10) and specifically to those at the time the Lord’s “great and marvelous work” commences (3 Nephi 21:1-29; Mormon 3:17). In other words, to a specific group of people who witness these prophesied events come to pass “in the Lord’s own due time” (3 Nephi 20:29; Enos 1:16).
Such is indeed the case, as Book of Mormon writers are invested most in their own offspring. And because of Isaiah 49:22 that predicts the end-time mission of the spiritual kings and queens of the Gentiles—which scripture in Isaiah they quote more than any other (1 Nephi 21:22, 22:6, 2 Ne 6:6,10:9)—they knew it would be a group of Gentiles who would ultimately gather and restore their posterity (1 Nephi 15:13).
Now, why would they write a message to other groups, such as non-LDS religions or religious denominations, who know nothing concerning the Book of Mormon or their own birthright role to be saviors to the house of Israel (D&C 86:11; 103:9-10)? Though, the Book of Mormon does play a role in inviting all to come unto Christ (Moroni 10:32), when its authors speak in the first person—“I know your doing” (Mormon 8:35), or “O ye Gentiles” (2 Nephi 29:5, 3 Ne 30:1-2, Mor 1:17, 5:21, 2:11, 4:13, 8:23)—they are not speaking to an imaginary group of people who have never heard or read their words, but to their actual readers; in other words to us.
Therefore, as a “literary unit,” we must apply the Book of Mormon to ourselves, as difficult at times as this may be. Only then will the book fulfill its intended purpose (Mormon 8:5). In 2 Nephi 26:20-22, for example, the prophet Nephi is emphatic in his warning to the end-time Gentiles about the greatness of their stumbling block and secret combinations, which he further expounds on in 2 Nephi 28:10-11.
The Book of Helaman makes clear that secret combinations did not begin in the Church, yet eventually reached and led the righteous—even “the more part of them” to participate knowingly or unknowingly in secret combinations: “And it came to pass on the other hand, that the Nephites did build them up and support them, beginning at the more wicked part of them, until they had overspread all the land of the Nephites, and had seduced the more part of the righteous until they had come down to believe in their works and partake of their spoils, and to join with them in their secret murders and combinations” (Helaman 6:38). Why would Mormon choose to include this part of his peoples’ history in the record, when he couldn’t include even the hundredth part (Helaman 13:-14, 3 Nephi 26:6, Ether 15:33)?
In other words, there is no indication that these warnings are applied to any group of people other than its target audience—those who “have care for,” and a responsibility to, the seed of Lehi.