The people who kept the record now known as the Book of Mormon were Jews who left Jerusalem around 600 A.D., having been warned of the coming destruction and present danger in the city. Lehi was a prophet whose life was threatened by the wicked and unbelieving citizens. God led him, with his family and a few others, to the Americas, where God could preserve a branch of Israel. These people began to call themselves Nephites after a son of Lehi who was stalwart in the gospel and a good leader. Their nemesis was the “Lamanites,” descendants of an older brother who rebelled against the truth.
Most of the time, the Nephites were more righteous than the Lamanites, but sometimes that was reversed, as in the case of Samuel the Lamanite, sent to prophesy to the wicked Nephites that a Savior was soon to be born back in their homeland. They had been keeping the Law of Moses to that point, but their many prophets had always foretold that a Messiah would come, and they prophesied of Him by name, teaching that the Law of Moses was not adequate for salvation. Salvation could only come through Christ.
The Nephites and Lamanites received a sign of Christ’s birth, as foretold by Samuel:
And behold, he said unto them: 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; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is born.
And behold, there shall a new star arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you. And behold this is not all, there shall be many signs and wonders in heaven (Book of Mormon, Helaman 14:2-6).
Samuel also foretold certain events that would prove to the Nephites and Lamanites that Christ had been killed:
Yea, at the time that he shall yield up the ghost there shall be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours, and the earth shall shake and tremble; and the rocks which are upon the face of this earth, which are both above the earth and beneath, which ye know at this time are solid, or the more part of it is one solid mass, shall be broken up;
Yea, they shall be rent in twain, and shall ever after be found in seams and in cracks, and in broken fragments upon the face of the whole earth, yea, both above the earth and beneath.
And behold, there shall be great tempests, and there shall be many mountains laid low, like unto a valley, and there shall be many places which are now called valleys which shall become mountains, whose height is great. And many highways shall be broken up, and many cities shall become desolate.
And many graves shall be opened, and shall yield up many of their dead; and many saints shall appear unto many. And behold, thus hath the angel spoken unto me; for he said unto me that there should be thunderings and lightnings for the space of many hours. And he said unto me that while the thunder and the lightning lasted, and the tempest, that these things should be, and that darkness should cover the face of the whole earth for the space of three days.
And the angel said unto me that many shall see greater things than these, to the intent that they might believe that these signs and these wonders should come to pass upon all the face of this land, to the intent that there should be no cause for unbelief among the children of men—(Helaman 14:14, 15, 21-28).
These things did come to pass, and whole cities were destroyed, along with the more wicked part of the people. The entire face of the land was changed. The thick darkness, during which no fire could be lit and no light seen, lasted three whole days, and thus we may assume that Christ was in the grave for three full days, making a Friday crucifixion impossible, and verifying the idea that Christ was crucified on Thursday.
Christ Ministers to the Book of Mormon Peoples
Some time after this great destruction about 2500 of the righteous were gathered at a temple, when Christ appeared. He healed and taught them, and He organized His Church among them in the same fashion that He had organized His Church in the Holy Land. The Book of Mormon peoples, however, were more righteous than Christ’s followers in the Holy Land, and so He was able to trust them with more knowledge concerning His work. This thrilling account in the Book of Mormon is wonderful to read.
When Christ first descended from heaven to reveal Himself to the Book of Mormon peoples, He said,
And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning (3 Nephi 11:11).
The Book of Mormon is a second witness that Jesus is the Christ, that He was crucified and rose from the dead, the first fruits of the resurrection. He has taken upon Himself the sins of the world, and all our sorrows, that He might succor us in our distress. His grace is sufficient to nurture and help us in any situation we might find ourselves. The biblical account is true, as is the Book of Mormon account that adds its witness to that truth.