The Book of Mormon peoples were led to the American continent as a land of promise reserved for the righteous. The Lord kept the continent hidden from all those except some He purposely led there. However, He also swore that should any people led to this promised land become sinful, when they had ripened in iniquity, He would sweep them off.
The Book of Mormon begins with the story of Lehi, a prophet who was preaching repentance in Jerusalem just before the Babylonian captivity. There were many prophets called to preach among the Jews at that time, and Lehi reports that Jeremiah had been imprisoned. The Lord warned Lehi that his life was in danger and to take his family into the wilderness. Lehi’s family and some others were led to America. After many years there, his descendants stumbled upon the ruins of an even more ancient society. King Mosiah translated their history from twenty-four metal plates, by the power of revelation. They called these more ancient people the “Jaredites.”
The abridgement of the Jaredite record is found in the Book of Ether in the Book of Mormon. Jared and his family and friends had sought special favors from God at the time the Tower of Babel was destroyed and the language of the people confounded. The Lord agreed not to confound their language and to lead them to a choice land:
And the Lord would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, but he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord God had preserved for a righteous people.
And he had sworn in his wrath unto the brother of Jared, that whoso should possess this land of promise, from that time henceforth and forever, should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them.
And now, we can behold the decrees of God concerning this land, that it is a land of promise; and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall serve God, or they shall be swept off when the fulness of his wrath shall come upon them. And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity.
For behold, this is a land which is choice above all other lands; wherefore he that doth possess it shall serve God or shall be swept off; for it is the everlasting decree of God. And it is not until the fulness of iniquity among the children of the land, that they are swept off.
The Jaredite record prophesied that there would be a “New Jerusalem” built in America, which would be (along with Jerusalem in Israel) one of two capitals from which Jesus would rule:
And now I, Moroni, proceed to finish my record concerning the destruction of the people of whom I have been writing. For behold, they rejected all the words of Ether; for he truly told them of all things, from the beginning of man; and that after the waters had receded from off the face of this land it became a choice land above all other lands, a chosen land of the Lord; wherefore the Lord would have that all men should serve him who dwell upon the face thereof; And that it was the place of the New Jerusalem, which should come down out of heaven, and the holy sanctuary of the Lord.
Behold, Ether saw the days of Christ, and he spake concerning a New Jerusalem upon this land. And he spake also concerning the house of Israel, and the Jerusalem from whence Lehi should come—after it should be destroyed it should be built up again, a holy city unto the Lord; wherefore, it could not be a new Jerusalem for it had been in a time of old; but it should be built up again, and become a holy city of the Lord; and it should be built unto the house of Israel. And that a New Jerusalem should be built up upon this land, unto the remnant of the seed of Joseph, for which things there has been a type (Ether 13:1-6).
The Book of Ether was abridged by Moroni, the last living soul of the descendants of Nephi, the birthright son of prophet Lehi. Called the Nephites, they arrived in America around 600 B.C. The descendants of Nephi were usually at war with the descendants of Nephi’s brother Laman, called the Lamanites. Around 400 A.D., when both peoples had become more wicked than any Israelite group had ever been, they set out to destroy each other. Moroni said,
I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people. But behold, they are gone, and I fulfil the commandment of my father (to finish and hide up the record). And whether they will slay me, I know not. Therefore I will write and hide up the records in the earth; and whither I go it mattereth not.
Moroni made a prediction concerning the Gentiles who would be led to America in the last days:
And this cometh unto you, O ye Gentiles, that ye may know the decrees of God—that ye may repent, and not continue in your iniquities until the fulness come, that ye may not bring down the fulness of the wrath of God upon you as the inhabitants of the land have hitherto done. Behold, this is a choice land, and whatsoever nation shall possess it shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ, who hath been manifested by the things which we have written (Ether 2:7-12).
The ancient inhabitants of America, those who were a branch of Israel, knew of the special nature of the North American continent. They saw the Gentiles upon the face of the continent in the last days through visions given them by Jesus Christ. An angel said to Nephi,
And it shall come to pass, that if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God in that day that he shall manifest himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks—
And harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God, they shall be numbered among the seed of thy father; yea, they shall be numbered among the house of Israel; and they shall be a blessed people upon the promised land forever; they shall be no more brought down into captivity; and the house of Israel shall no more be confounded (1 Nephi 14:1, 2).
Wherefore, I, Lehi, prophesy according to the workings of the Spirit which is in me, that there shall none come into this land save they shall be brought by the hand of the Lord. Wherefore, this land is consecrated unto him whom he shall bring. And if it so be that they shall serve him according to the commandments which he hath given, it shall be a land of liberty unto them; wherefore, they shall never be brought down into captivity; if so, it shall be because of iniquity; for if iniquity shall abound cursed shall be the land for their sakes, but unto the righteous it shall be blessed forever (2 Nephi 1:6, 7).
Lehi’s son Jacob prophesied,
And this land shall be a land of liberty unto the Gentiles, and there shall be no kings upon the land, who shall raise up unto the Gentiles. And I will fortify this land against all other nations. And he that fighteth against Zion shall perish, saith God. For he that raiseth up a king against me shall perish, for I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king, and I will be a light unto them forever, that hear my words (2 Nephi 10:11-14).
The freedom guaranteed to the Gentiles on the American continent would create an environment wherein it would be possible to bring forth the Book of Mormon to the Gentiles:
But behold, I prophesy unto you concerning the last days; concerning the days when the Lord God shall bring these things forth unto the children of men. After my seed and the seed of my brethren (referring to the Lamanites among the American Indians) shall have dwindled in unbelief, and shall have been smitten by the Gentiles; yea, after the Lord God shall have camped against them round about, and shall have laid siege against them with a mount, and raised forts against them; and after they shall have been brought down low in the dust, even that they are not, yet the words of the righteous shall be written, and the prayers of the faithful shall be heard, and all those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not be forgotten.
For those who shall be destroyed shall speak unto them out of the ground, and their speech shall be low out of the dust, and their voice shall be as one that hath a familiar spirit; for the Lord God will give unto him power, that he may whisper concerning them, even as it were out of the ground; and their speech shall whisper out of the dust. For thus saith the Lord God: They shall write the things which shall be done among them, and they shall be written and sealed up in a book, and those who have dwindled in unbelief shall not have them, for they seek to destroy the things of God (2 Nephi 26:14-17).
And the Gentiles are lifted up in the pride of their eyes, and have stumbled, because of the greatness of their stumbling block, that they have built up many churches; nevertheless, they put down the power and miracles of God, and preach up unto themselves their own wisdom and their own learning, that they may get gain and grind upon the face of the poor. And there are many churches built up which cause envyings, and strifes, and malice. And there are also secret combinations, even as in times of old, according to the combinations of the devil, for he is the founder of all these things; yea, the founder of murder, and works of darkness; yea, and he leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever (2 Nephi 26:20-22).
The coming forth of the Book of Mormon in America (from whence it would be carried to the whole earth, first to the Gentiles and then to the Jews) would signify the beginning of the “fullness of times,” the preparation period leading to the Second Coming of Christ:
And now behold, I say unto you that when the Lord shall see fit, in his wisdom, that these sayings shall come unto the Gentiles according to his word, then ye may know that the covenant which the Father hath made with the children of Israel, concerning their restoration to the lands of their inheritance, is already beginning to be fulfilled. And ye may know that the words of the Lord, which have been spoken by the holy prophets, shall all be fulfilled; and ye need not say that the Lord delays his coming unto the children of Israel.
And ye need not imagine in your hearts that the words which have been spoken are vain, for behold, the Lord will remember his covenant which he hath made unto his people of the house of Israel. And when ye shall see these sayings coming forth among you, then ye need not any longer spurn at the doings of the Lord, for the sword of his justice is in his right hand; and behold, at that day, if ye shall spurn at his doings he will cause that it shall soon overtake you (3 Nephi 29:1-4).
And no one need say they shall not come, for they surely shall, for the Lord hath spoken it; for out of the earth shall they come, by the hand of the Lord, and none can stay it; and it shall come in a day when it shall be said that miracles are done away; and it shall come even as if one should speak from the dead. And it shall come in a day when the blood of saints shall cry unto the Lord, because of secret combinations and the works of darkness.
Yea, it shall come in a day when the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts; yea, even in a day when leaders of churches and teachers shall rise in the pride of their hearts, even to the envying of them who belong to their churches. Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be heard of fires, and tempests, and vapors of smoke in foreign lands; And there shall also be heard of wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in divers places.
Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations; when there shall be many who will say, Do this, or do that, and it mattereth not, for the Lord will uphold such at the last day. But wo unto such, for they are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity. Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins (Mormon 8:26-32).
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 (Mormon 8:34, 35).