Something that makes The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently referred to as the Mormon church) distinct from other Christian denominations is having the Book of Mormon as scripture. While some use the Book of Mormon to say that Mormons are not Christian, the fact is that the Book of Mormon’s purpose to to testify of Jesus Christ. Accounts of conversions and miracles abound throughout the pages of the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Mormon story reaches its pinnacle of testimony in its account of Jesus Christ’s visit to the American people. Because witnessing of the Savior is the central purpose of the Book of Mormon, signs of both Christ’s birth and death are given in the Book of Mormon.
You may be wondering what the ancient people in the Americas have to do with Jesus Christ. Because Jesus Christ came to redeem the world, those outside of the Holy Land are not exempt from his influence. We learn in the Book of Mormon from prophets that Christ was prophesied to visit those lands and minister to His people there. Because prophecies of Christ were recorded in the Book of Mormon, the people were also entitled to signs of His coming.
Signs of Jesus Christ’s Birth
One of the Lord’s prophets in the Book of Mormon is Samuel the Lamanite. He was sent to warn the Nephite people, who were at that time very wicked, about the coming of Jesus Christ. In his sermon, Samuel delivers many warnings contingent on the Nephites’ repentance, and he also gives several prophecies regarding Christ’s birth.
Samuel visited the Nephites about five years before Christ was going to be born. Samuel said,
Behold, I give unto you a sign; for five years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name. And behold, this will I give unto you for a sign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day. Therefore, there shall be one day and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; . . . And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never beheld. (Helaman 14:3 – 5)
These signs became very important to the righteous people at this time. Not only did these promises sustain their faith, but the realization of these signs actually saved the lives of the believers (see 3 Nephi 1:8 – 21).
Signs of Christ’s Death
Samuel the Lamanite also foretold signs of the death of Jesus Christ. This time would be one of great destruction.
But behold, as I said unto you concerning another sign, a sign of his death, behold, in that day that he shall suffer death the sun shall be darkened and refuse to give his light unto you; and also the moon and the stars; and there shall be no light upon the face of this land, even from the time that he shall suffer death, for the space of three days, to the time that he shall rise again from the dead. (Helaman 14: 20)
Samuel goes on to prophesy of earthquakes, tempests, and fire that would destroy cities and those who did not believe. These events would happen in darkness and would continue for the three days that Christ’s body lay in the tomb. (See Helaman 14:21 – 27.) The purpose of these signs is “to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men” (Helaman 14:28). Following the realization of these signs, Jesus Christ would visit the Nephite and Lamanite peoples in all His glory. You can read more about how these signs were manifested in 3 Nephi chapters 8 through 10.
Why Signs Are Important
We have read accounts of those who unrighteously ask for grand signs like those prophesied of in the Book of Mormon. Heavenly Father prefers we not ask for signs when the witness of the Holy Ghost would suffice. Sometimes, though, He offers signs to His people to signify major events, like the birth and death of His son, and also to prove to His people that He keeps His promises. The Church of Jesus Christ says that “[signs] remind the children of God of covenants the Lord has made with them. Signs may also bear witness of a divine calling or indicate the Lord’s disapproval” (“Signs,” lds.org)
The fact that the Book of Mormon gave signs of both Christ’s birth and death are important because they prove that the Book of Mormon really does witness of the Savior. Heavenly Father ensured that His people all over the globe would know that His Son would come to redeem them. No one was excluded from that knowledge and the blessings that come from that knowledge. We can take comfort in knowing that God will give us every opportunity to learn of and accept His gospel.
I’ve read the Book of Mormon through several times, and each time I’m increasingly grateful for this testament of Jesus Christ. The signs given in the Book of Mormon prove that God keeps His promises, and these accounts solidify my faith in the promises that He makes today. The Book of Mormon also prophesied of Christ’s Second Coming, and because I know that God has fulfilled His promises before, I know that He will continue to do so. We should be so excited that the Book of Mormon contains signs of Christ’s birth and death, because it goes to prove that the miracle of Jesus Christ extends to all people.