Evidence #400 | April 10, 2023

Prophecy-Driven Narratives

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Scripture Central


Several of the Book of Mormon’s major narratives seem to have been designed, at least in part, to emphasize the fulfillment of prophetic declarations.

John W. Welch has described the Book of Mormon as

prophetic in every sense of the word. It is written by prophets and about prophets. It was foreseen by prophets and foresees our day. It is a book brought forth by prophetic gifts for prophetic purposes. It speaks forth in a clarion voice of warning with words of counsel to those who would survive the last days.1

On some level or another, most readers notice these recurring prophetic themes throughout the text. What may not be so apparent is that some of the Book of Mormon’s major narratives seem to have been designed, at least in part, to emphasize the fulfillment of its prophetic declarations. When this pattern is recognized, it becomes clear that prophecy plays a fundamental—rather than an incidental—role in shaping the structure and content of the Book of Mormon. The following summaries offer only a brief sampling of important prophetic fulfillments in the text.

Nephi’s Prophecies

Nephi shaped much of his first book based on a prophecy given to him by the Lord when his family first left Jerusalem. The Lord declared that “inasmuch as thy brethren shall rebel against thee, they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord, And inasmuch as thou shalt keep my commandments, thou shalt be made a ruler and a teacher over thy brethren” (1 Nephi 2:22). Over and over again, Nephi recorded the rebellion of his brothers, as well as his efforts to teach and instruct them.2 After Lehi’s group reached the promised land, Nephi made sure to report that the Lord’s prophecy had been fulfilled (see 2 Nephi 5:19).

"Ye Shall Have My Words" by Judith Mehr

Nephi also recorded visions about his future descendants, including their wars, the Savior’s ministry among them, their generations of peace, and their ultimate destruction (see 1 Nephi 12). In addition, Nephi summarized Zenos’s prophecies about the calamities that would occur at the time of Christ’s death (1 Nephi 19:10–16). When Mormon was searching among the Nephite records, he discovered these prophecies in Nephi’s set of small plates. Because they contained “the prophecies of the coming of Christ,” Mormon found them to be valuable and included them in his own record (see Words of Mormon 1:4).

What readers may not realize is how important Nephi’s writings were in shaping the rest of Mormon’s abridgment. According to Steven L. Olsen, “Nephi’s prophecies became so crucial to [Mormon’s] literary purpose that he consciously structured a major portion of his narrative in order to document their literal and complete fulfillment.”3 Olsen suggested that Mormon did this “in order to draw attention to the close correspondence between prophecy and scriptural history.”4

Abinadi’s Prophecies

During Abinadi’s trial before King Noah and his priests, Abinadi made a number of prophetic declarations that Mormon made sure to record in detail.5 For instance, Abinadi predicted that the Nephites “shall be brought into bondage, and shall be smitten on the cheek” (Mosiah 12:2). Mormon then recorded two exodus stories, the first involving the people of Limhi (Mosiah 19–22) and the second following the converts who followed Alma (Mosiah 23–24). It’s notable that the major obstacle in each story is that the people came into bondage, just as Abinadi prophesied.

Samuel’s Prophecies

The prophecies given by Samuel the Lamanite, which themselves relied heavily upon the words of past prophets,6 played an important role during the years immediately preceding Christ’s second coming. Not only did Samuel’s prophecies provide very specific signs of Christ’s death, but they also gave a specific time and sign of His birth.7 A disputation about the timing of Samuel’s prophecy provides the major narrative in 3 Nephi 1. Then, in 3 Nephi 8–10, Mormon repeatedly highlighted the fulfillment of the signs of Christ’s death. Samuel’s prophecies were so important to the Nephite historical record that Jesus Himself made sure that their fulfillment was accurately recorded (see 3 Nephi 23:9).

Samuel the Lamanite, by Briana Shawcroft. 


Mormon’s statements repeatedly show that he was aware of these prophecies and their fulfillments. On one occasion he remarked, “And the power of the evil one was wrought upon all the face of the land, even unto the fulfilling of all the words of Abinadi, and also Samuel the Lamanite” (Mormon 1:19). On another he noted that when the people were on the brink of destruction they “began to remember the prophecies of Alma, and also the words of Mosiah” (Helaman 4:21). Likewise, Moroni reported that the Jaredite destruction transpired according to “the words which had been spoken by the mouth of all the prophets” and that they had been “fulfilled thus far, every whit” (Ether 15:3).

The intimate awareness of these prophecies manifested by the major Nephite authors and editors, as well as their conscientious structuring of narratives to emphasize key prophetic fulfillments, demonstrates an important aspect of the Book of Mormon’s narrative complexity. 

John Hilton III, “Abinadi’s Legacy: Tracing His Influence through the Book of Mormon,” in Abinadi: He Came Among Them in Disguise, ed. Shon D. Hopkin (Salt Lake City and Provo, UT: Deseret Book and BYU Religious Studies Center, 2018), 93–116.

Shon Hopkin and John Hilton III, “Samuel’s Reliance on Biblical Language,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 24 (2015): 31–52.

Steven L. Olsen, “Prophecy and History: Structuring the Abridgment of the Nephite Records,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 15, no. 1 (2006): 18–29, 70–71.

John W. Welch, “Getting through Isaiah with the Help of the Nephite Prophetic View,” in Isaiah in the Book of Mormon, ed. Donald W. Parry and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: FARMS, 1998), 19–45.

Prophecy-Driven Narratives
Book of Mormon

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