Literature: The Book of Mormon
And so it came to pass...
... That we have a trope entry on The Book of Mormon
, a book of scripture used by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
and its splinter groups alongside The Bible
and the canonized revelations of their founder Joseph Smith and a few other past leaders of the LDS Church. The Book of Mormon is the main piece of holy/'god-given' writ that distinguishes Mormonism from Catholicism and the various Protestant sects, and the unofficial name ("Mormon") of the religion derives its name from the book. The Mormons regard the book as divine scripture equal to the Bible in importance. In the 1980's the church added the subtitle of "Another Testament of Jesus Christ" to help clarify that the primary subject of the book is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The book claims to be an accumulation of the writings of a people descended from Israelites who immigrated to the Americas around 600 BC. The eponymous 'Mormon' and his son Moroni, the last prophet/scholars of their people, edited and compiled
the majority of the book from numerous existing texts, inscribing the final record on sheets of gold-colored metal or 'Golden Plates' in a script based on Egyptian Hieroglyphs. note
Moroni, one of the last survivors of his civilization
, buried the plates around AD 420 with the promise from God that they would one day be brought forth again.
Jospeh Smith, a young farmer in upstate New York, claimed that in 1820 Moroni appeared to him as an Angel and led him to where the plates were buried. Joseph Smith with the aid of an artifact also delivered with the plates called the "Urim and Thummim" was blessed with the power to translate the text into English and dictated the contents to a scribe. 'The Book Of Mormon' was published in 1830 and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was formed shortly thereafter under Joseph Smith's leadership. The claim of divine aid in bringing forth the book has made it a controversial subject ever since.
The book's actual contents don't get discussed much outside of Mormon circles - most non-Mormons find its origin story so outlandish that they dismiss the book as an obvious fabrication without the need to read its text.
There have been some changes to the text since the first edition. The earliest and most extensive changes were made by Smith himself in later editions. Modern editions after Joseph Smith's death have made minor changes in the text itself but have been mostly restricted to chapter headings, footnotes, and other study helps. Critics of the book have claimed that major revisions have been made to make the text more appealing to modern audiences.
In structure, the Book of Mormon resembles the 'historical books' of The Bible
, being divided into a number of books which largely form a narrative, which is punctuated by accounts of sermons and editorial commentary
. It begins with a few families in Jerusalem, follows their journey across the ocean to a new "promised land" in The Americas, and then tells the history of the nations founded by their descendants, with emphasis on the preaching of the prophets, the spiritual condition of the cultures, and various events like several major wars.
Also included is the visit of Jesus Christ
, who appears to the people after his resurrection, teaches them, and founds his church and a Utopia
. Unfortunately, this doesn't last
; after several centuries, the people become wicked and divided again, and eventually a whole nation is destroyed. At this point, the last few prophets (Mormon and Moroni, as already discussed) add their last comments and bury the book.
The narrative will switch between first hand transcribed accounts of the events and summations as done by Mormon to get to the heart of the story. Books are mostly named after their primary historical author but due to the vast number of individuals involved and the need to simplify this doesn't always hold true. As such the Book of Omni, only a few pages long, is actually minor contributions from a half dozen writers and Alma, the namesake of the longest book, is absent through the last third.
There are several dominant and recurring themes in the book. Some are theological, like the divinity of Christ, or that those blessed by God can sin and lose those blessings, while those who sin can repent and be blessed. Other themes involve the idea of liberty and choice, secret societies, and perhaps most prominently individual and national pride, which leads to the destruction of multiple nations.
Be aware that, being a religious text for Mormons, it's best to be cautious in editing the page.
This page is about the tropes used in the The Book of Mormon itself, not about determining whether the book is a fabrication or authentic.
For more information on the church itself and other historical details see Useful Notes
.Should not be mistaken with The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon provides examples of...
- An Aesop: There are many points where the author drops an anvil, and some of them fall hard!
- Baptism of babies (Whoever says that babies need to be baptized before the age of accountability doesn't understand the nature of the atonement.)
- Secret Combinations, aka secret societies (Any nation that supports them is in danger of God's wrath.)
- People saying that they don't need more scriptures, or that there aren't any ("O fools", don't think that God hasn't spoken to other nations, or that He won't speak again.)
- All There in the Manual: The Book of Mormon has a pronunciation guide, and the "Quad" (The Bible, The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price) has a Bible dictionary, maps, the Joseph Smith Translation, footnotes and references to similar verses and chapters.
- The footnotes and index are quite marvelous. Some non-LDS scholars use the footnotes and index published by the LDS church because of its completeness and quality.
- Of note is that the pronunciation guide was only developed in the 1970's, as beforehand different regions had different ways of reading the many different names. This isn't considered to be their "canon" name, only a way to unify the way the church pronounces it.
- Anachronic Order: The first two books were written by Nephi in a history of his people long towards the end of his life, from there to Words Of Mormon were written by modern record keepers as mostly a contemporary history. The Book of Mosiah was largely split into three timeframes among different cultures, their stories merging together at the end. Then the Book of Ether was a recounting of a story that happened long before the beginning of the book.
- Anachronism Stew: There are animals and plants mentioned in the book for which there is little, if any, archaeological evidence that they were present in the Americas before contact with Europeans. Critics of the book see these as obvious errors on Joseph Smith's part. Believers have various theories to account for them, including possible name-loaning (calling a tapir or deer a horse), or just believe the evidence hasn't been found yet.
- Ancient Conspiracy: The Gadianton Robbers, whose organization was based on what the Book of Mormon calls "Secret Combinations" that have existed a lot longer than the name of the society. This lead to the downfall of two great civilizations, and the record-keepers preach against it.
- Angst Coma: Alma the Younger's Heel-Face Turn. After getting up to a lot of anti-church mischief, he goes into a "deep sleep" and has visions of angels and hears the voice of God. When he wakes up, he has had a change of heart.
- Antiquated Linguistics: The book's language mimics the Jacobean English found in the King James Bible, which was written almost 200 years prior.
- Armor Is Useless: Averted. The Nephites tend to wear some sort of armor while the Lamanites usually don't, and this is usually mentioned right behind divine assistance as being instrumental in their victories.
- That is, during Capt. Moroni's time, at least.
- Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence:
- Alma the Younger, long after repenting of his earlier actions against the church.
- Same with Nephi the son of Helaman. He disappears right before the sign of Jesus's birth.
- The Three Nephites definitely count too.
- Asshole Victim: Many men, Korihor, Nehor, King Noah, and an entire city of Ammonihah are this. Also borders Too Dumb to Live
- Avenging the Villain: King Ammoron, brother and successor to Amalickiah, seeks to avenge his death. Likewise Shiz, although in that case whether any side can be termed good is hard to tell.
- The Atoner: Alma the Younger most famously, but the Sons of Mosiah also.
- Author Filibuster: While Mormon typically stays on-topic in his abridgment, there are a couple of spots where he puts in his own thoughts. The last book, written by Moroni, is essentially one long example of this trope. In his defense, the abridgement of the history was done, he had seen his entire country slaughtered around him and spent the last twenty years of his life on the run, so he had a lot to get off his chest.
- Badass Creed: Captain Moroni's oath that he emblazoned on his flag; "In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children."
- Badass Normal: A number of people carry out righteous smiting aided by the power of God. Teancum, the Nephite special forces captain, doesn't seem to have any divine assistance, but still manages to infiltrate the enemy camp and assassinate the enemy leader. Twice. Sadly, he doesn't get out the second time.
- Badass Pacifist: The entire people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi make an oath to never use weapons or fight their enemies (due largely to having a very bloody past before conversion), and every man, woman and child keeps it while an army bears down on them. Their lack of resistance is so complete that most of a Lamanite army attacking them actually converts after seeing they won't fight back.
- Badass Preacher: Prophets often had other professions. Sometimes these professions were in the army.
- Batman Gambit:
- Moroni uses one to rescue Nephite prisoners of war from the city of Gid.
- This was a favorite tactic of Nephite armies during the latter war chapters in Alma: March past an occupied city with a small army, draw the enemy out into what they think is an easy victory, have the larger army re-take the city while it's virtually unguarded.
- Blood Knight: The Lamanites were this after Nephi left his brothers. At the end of the book nearly the entire Nephite population seem to be this. The same with the Jaredites at the end of the book of Ether.
- Breather Episode: After about a century of nearly nonstop warfare between the Nephites and Lamanites, culminating in natural disasters that wipe out multiple cities, Jesus visits briefly and everyone gets along fine for the next 200 years or so.
- Bullet Dodges You: As Samuel the Lamanite preaches of Christ's birth, Nephites shoot arrows and throw rocks at him for at least 20 minutes without managing to hit him once because he is protected by the power of God.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Laman has serious issues with his father. Then we have King Limhi who kinda did this to King Noah.
- Canon Welding: There are some references made to events that happened in Jerusalem/Israel at the same time, made evident through the prophets. It also explicitly says that the line in John 10:16 "And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." is at least partly in reference to the Nephites and Lamanites.
- Cain and Abel: In the first Book of Nephi, Laman (the eldest brother) and Lemuel (the second oldest) antagonize their younger brother Nephi, to the point that they try to kill him or leave him to die in the desert. When they do reach the Americas and their father Lehi dies, Laman gets fed up with Nephi thinking he has authority over him and tries to murder him. The Lord warns Nephi, so he takes his family and they separate themselves from the now-named Lamanites.
- Catch Phrase: "It came to pass" is used 1,404 times, roughly 1 out of every 5 verses start with this phase.
- Colony Ship: At least three cases:
- The first are the barges built by the Jaredites centuries before Lehi's time.
- The ship that Nephi built to bring his family across the sea to the Promised Land.
- Not seen, but there was one to bring the Mulekites over to Zarahemla from Jerusalem.
- Comforting the Widow: Amalickiah arranges the murder of the king of the Lamanites then goes to console the Queen. Shortly thereafter they are married. Presumably she never finds out what really happened. A more cynical interpretation is that the Queen realized Amalickiah had control of the Army, and that therefor marrying him was the best option left to her.
- The Coup: Several
- In the Book of Alma, Amalakiah attempts one in Zarahemla but if rebuffed and goes over to the Lamanites. There he engineers a string of coups that puts him, first, in charge of all the Lamanite armies, and then over the Lamanite kingdom.
- Later in that book, the chief judge Pahoran is briefly driven out of Zarahemla by the king-men. He calls Captain Moroni to put down the usurpers.
- In the Book of Helaman a coup is attempted against the newly elected Chief Judge by one of his opponents, but he is quickly caught and executed. Then his followers assassinate the new judge anyway.
- Later Nephi, son of Helaman, prophetically identifies the murderer of another chief judge, who killed him in an attempt to claim the position for himself.
- Another one occurs in 3 Nephi when a conspiracy overthrows the government but any attempt to take over quickly devolves into chaos.
- Daddy's Little Villain: Jared's attempt to overthrow his father the king has just failed. Jared's daughter suggests a plan for a successful overthrow: Jared's friend Akish would kill the king in exchange for her hand in marriage. The plan gets Jared the throne and Akish married to Jared's daughter. Later, Akish murders Jared and takes the kingdom for himself. (The account doesn't reveal how Jared's daughter feels about the events that made her queen.)
- Death Seeker: Moroni in the end. He's a bit more moderate than most examples as he doesn't really angst about it, but it's pretty clear that with his entire people annihilated he doesn't have anything to live for after he finishes his father's work.
- Doomed Moral Victor: Abinadi gets burned to death by wicked King Noah, but not before his teaching convinces Alma (Senior) to repent, while Noah later suffers the same fate.
- Downer Ending: Everybody dies. Twice.
- Drunk on the Dark Side: By the end of the Jaredites' final war, all the participants are caught in a Hopeless War that neither side can win, but they go on because they are "drunken with anger, as with wine." In other words, they've gotten so used to fighting and killing, that they can't do anything else by this point.
- Endless Daytime: As a sign of Jesus Christ's birth, the Sun sets but it doesn't become dark.
- Even Evil Has Standards: No matter how big of a jerk they are, nobody in the Book of Mormon breaks an oath. Nobody. Sometimes to the point of Honor Before Reason.
- At least, not deliberately. Giddianhi the robber threatens the Nephites with destruction unless they join his robber band, and swears to spare or destroy them according to the decision they make. Neither happens because the Nephites end up destroying the robber band instead.
- Well, almost nobody. King Laman broke an oath when he made war on King Limhi's people, but he was justified, because he thought the daughters of his people were kidnapped.
- The Evil Prince: Frequently in Jaredite history, the king is overthrown and locked up by one of his sons. This might be to prevent the king from passing the kingdom to the son of his old age, as Jaredite kings tend to do.
- A Father to His Men: Helaman refers to his 'stripling' warriors as his sons, while they call him father.
- Film of the Book: The first part, at least, though many would rather pretend it doesn't exist.
- Flashback: Large parts of the book of Mosiah are a flashback, making the chronology quite confusing. Also Ether.
- Fling a Light into the Future: The reason the records of the Nephites were compiled and hidden until Moroni led Joseph Smith to them.
- Foregone Conclusion: The destruction of the Nephites and its timing is predicted in the first book, and that prediction is repeated throughout.
- Foreshadowing: The Book of Ether begins with a genealogy of the kings from reverse order (A is the son of B, B is the son of C...) and then proceeded to tell the story of those people in chronological order. Granted most of them were talked about very briefly as the book condenses about 25 generations into about 12 chapters.
- Healing Hands: Given that Christ himself shows up, one of the first things he does is invite the people forward so he could heal them of their injuries.
- Heel-Face Turn:
- Alma the Younger and the sons of Mosiah went about trying to destroy the church of God. Then an angel appeared and rebuked them all, putting Alma in an Angst Coma until he repented.
- Zeezrom, formerly an evil lawyer trying to catch Alma and Amulek in their words, has his conscience pricked by the word of God. He repents and eventually joins Alma and Amulek in preaching the gospel.
- Lamoni, his father, and all the Lamanites who were converted and became the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi.
- Heel-Face Revolving Door: The Nephites and Lamanites repeatedly. However...
- Heroic BSOD:
- Nephi has a brief one when he learns that his descendants will form a great nation that will end up being destroyed due to their wickedness.
- Mormon also has one as he mourns the utter destruction of the Nephites when it need not have happened.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Alma and Amulek.
- Alma the Younger and the Sons of Mosiah.
- History Repeats: The book of Ether, in which the destruction of the Jaredites recapitulates the destruction of the Nephites. Though the Jaredites were actually destroyed first, their account appears in the narrative after the destruction of the Nephites.
- Hopeless War: As mentioned above, the Nephite and Jaredite nations both end this way.
- Hypocrite: The Zoramites were this: Have a synagouge, preach about God (over 100 times with the same prayer), and never talk about him an entire week. They don't bother helping their poor and gorge themselves in their wealth.
- Insane Troll Logic: The anti-Christ Korihor preaches that there is no God. How does he know there is no God? Why, an angel of God visited him with a message from God, telling him to preach that there is no God!
- Last of His Kind: Moroni from the Nephites, Coriantumr from the Jaredites.
- Les Collaborateurs: The Kingmen, who stage a coup and cooperate with the invading Lamanites.
- Literal Genie: Two people demanded signs that Jesus existed. One ended up dying shortly thereafter, the other got turned dumb and had to go from house to house, begging. Then he got ran over.
- Magic Compass: The Liahona.
- Missing Episode: Joseph Smith's scribe Martin Harris lost the only copy of the 116-Page Manuscript that would have been the actual start of The Book of Mormon.
- Most of the plates were sealed with a band, preventing Smith from translating them. What was published as the Book of Mormon is only a fraction of what was written on the plates.
- No Pronunciation Guide: The pronunciation and sometimes even the spelling is largely up to the interpretation of the translators. Modern editions offer a guide, but this is mostly for church unity and doesn't claim to be the original pronunication. For instance, beforehand some called Amulek "A-Mew-lek" rather than "Amu-lek" (like amulet).
- Rousing Speech: Captain Moroni rallying his people to defend themselves from the Lamanite army. 
- Selective Obliviousness: Laman and Lemuel don't seem to understand that they should stop messing with Nephi even after an angel appears in front of them and tells them to knock it off.
- Soiled City on a Hill: The city of Ammonihah, after killing all the members of the church there.
- More broadly, the Jaredite and Nephite nations.
- The Needs of the Many: The reasoning given to justify the murder of Laban: "It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief." (1 Nephi 4:2)
- The Starscream: Amalickiah did this to the King of the Lamanites by againing his trust. After receiving it, he kills him to gain the armies of the Lamanites and take the deceased king's wife.
- The Unnamed: Mormon states that God told him not to write the names of the Three Nephites.
- Thou Shalt Not Kill: The Anti-Nephi-Lehites, repentant Lamanites, took up an oath to never go to war or kill again, burying their weapons in the ground. They held to this so strongly that when assaulted by other Lamanites they were willingly cut down; that dedication impressed the Lamanite army so much that they stopped attacking and many even joined with them.
- Turn the Other Cheek / Honor Before Reason: The Anti-Nephi-Lehites prefer to be killed rather than defend themselves. Also counts as an entire people of Badass Pacifist.
- Villainous Breakdown: Amalickiah loses it after his initial attacks against the city of Ammonihah and Noah utterly fail thanks to Moroni's spending the past four years building up the cities' defenses.
- Violence Is the Only Option: After repeated attempts to obtain the Brass Plates by other means, Nephi kills Laban because he was specifically told by God to do it. As in, God had to go out of His way specifically to persuade Nephi that killing Laban is the only reasonable option left. Made even more notable by the fact that is the one time Nephi flat-out argued with God over a course of action. He REALLY didn't want to kill Laban.
- May also be a rather sad bit of Foreshadowing. Only a few years later, Nephi was leading his people in wars against his brothers. He had to get used to killing people.
- War Is Hell: And there's the results of them. After the major battle between the Nephites and Lamanites in the Book of Alma, some men grew bitter due to the result of it.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: Nine of the Nephite disciples decide their highest wish is to die once their service is over and go to heaven. The Three Nephites receive the promise that they will live until Christ's second coming. Their story includes a Shout-Out to John the Revelator.
- Whole Episode Flashback: The book of Ether, occurring thousands of years prior to 'current' events.