Of the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Joseph Smith declared "a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." (See Introduction to the Book of Mormon.)
As we realize the uniqueness of the Book of Mormon and follow its teachings by studying and restudying it, we come to a deeper appreciation of the Prophet's declaration. We should also come to realize that the perfecting of the saints can be greatly enhanced by our reading the Book of Mormon and applying its teachings to our lives.The Book of Mormon, after all, was written for us. One of the unique aspects of the book is that it was written to a people some 2,400 to 1,500 years in the future. For example, Nephi wrote what are called his small plates in 570 B.C., but he addresssed them to people who would be living after A.D. 1830, some 2,400 years in the future. (2 Ne. 5:28.)
Mormon abridged the many other records of the Nephites sometime before A.D. 385, yet he addressed his work to a people who would live at least 1,445 years later. Moroni made his last recordings in A.D. 421, some 1,400 years before the Book of Mormon was translated in 1830.
As the years roll on, the time between the authors and the reading audience lengthens, but the messasge is still as remarkably pertinent today as it was when it was first written.
There were four major abridgers of the Book of Mormon, and they were well qualified to address the future because they had seen it. Nephi, the first major writer, was shown a vision of the nations and kingdoms of the Gentiles. (1 Ne. 13-14.) His vision included seeing the discovery of the Americas by a man moved upon by the Spirit of God; we know this man as Columbus.
Nephi also saw the remainder of the future of the earth's nations until the end of the world. He did not write all of what he was shown because he was told that the Apostle John of the meridian of time had been designated to describe this future period of time. (This was a clear confirmation of foreordination.) Nevertheless, Nephi was fully aware of the situations and conditions of the day in which the Book of Mormon would come forth.
Evidence of the knowledge of these things is shown in his later writings as he described the pride and false theories that would be and were prevalent among the many churches of that day, the secret combinations that would be and are in operation, and the priestcrafts that would and still do further stifle the people from coming to their God to obtain salvation in His kingdom. (2 N. 26:19-33.) Nephi also gave many other prophecies of the latter-day Gentiles.
Jacob, the second major writer, was not as explicit in noting that his writings were intended for the latter days as was Nephi; however, he did confirm that he had seen the future. He spoke of having seen the return of the Jews to Jerusalem and of the Gentiles in the latter days. (2 Ne. 6:9-13.) In the book that carries his name, he addressed his beloved brethren of the latter days, a further indication that he had seen the day when the Book of Mormon would come forth. (See Jacob 4:10-13, 17-18; 6:1,5.)
Mormon, the major abridger, did not speak of a specific vision of the latter days, but his writings certainly imply it. He spoke to all the latter-day groups of Israel: the Lamanites, the Jews, the rest of the tribes of Israel; to the Gentiles; and to all the ends of the earth. (Morm. 3:19-22 and 5:8-15.)
His warnings and admonitions to the reader indicate he knew of the future, and that could only have come to him through vision or revelation. (Morm. 8:22-24.)
It is only logical that Mormon would have been shown the day in which the Book of Mormon would come forth since he was the major contributor to the work. Furthermore, all the other three major contributors had also been shown that time period in vision.
Moroni, son of Mormon, and the final writer and abridger, was the last major writer of the plates designated to come forth at the beginning of the dispensation of the fulness of times. He made a direct, forthright statement that he had seen the day when the book would come forth, and this lends strong support to the idea that the others had had a similar experience. He declared:
"Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you. Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing." (Morm. 8:34-35.)
In further support that he had seen the latter days, he gave detailed descriptions of the day when the Book of Mormon would come forth. He described the saints as being the victims of secret organizations; the conditions of the churches, their leaders and teachers; conditions and acts of nature in foreign lands, and the moral status of the people. (Morm. 8:26-33.) He further described the pride and pollutions among the people and their love of money. (Morm. 8:36-37.) Moroni could not have known such definite characteristics and instructions except by vision or revelation, and the specific exactness of his wording supports the claim that he had seen it.
Since each of these major writers had seen the days when the Book of Mormon would come forth, they were qualified to address the readers - the people of our day - personally and specifically. Each writer seemed to have had a personal interest in us and our times; each periodically stopped what he was writing or abridging to give valuable insights and admonitions. These insights and admonitions are clearly comments to the latter-day readers.
For example, Nephi used the phrase, "I will show unto you" (1 Ne. 1:20) as he prepared the reader for what he was about to record. When he wanted to stop and draw a conclusion to make sure his reader would see the lesson to life in what he had written, he would introduce it with "thus we see." (1 Ne. 16:29.)
Jacob and Mormon followed a pattern similar to Nephi's, using the same introductory or concluding phrases. Moroni used a slight variation as he addressed various groups of people: 1 - the polluters, the hypocrites, and the false teachers (Morm. 8:38-41); 2 - those who did not believe in Christ (Morm. 9:1-6); 3 - those who denied revelation (Morm. 9:7-14); and 4 - those who imagined God could do no miracles. (Morm, 8:15-20.) Moroni then admonished them collectively concerning the work of the Lord and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in their day. (Morm. 9:21-37.)
As Moroni abridged the book of Ether, he regularly stopped to address the reader with "And now, we can behold," or "O, ye Gentiles." (Ether 2:9, 11.) He also spoke directly to the latter-day translator. (Ether 5.) In his concluding book that bears his name, Moroni wrote for the benefit of his brethren, the Lamanites, "in some future day." (Moro. 1:4; 10:1.)
Nephi taught us that the Lord gives "no commandment unto the children of men save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commanded them." (1 Ne. 3:7.) We are commanded to become perfect even as our Father in Heaven and Jesus are perfect. (3 Ne. 12:48; Matt. 4:48.) The Lord has provided the Book of Mormon to help us accomplish that commandment.