Aloha! Sister Welch and I are very glad to be teaching here together among all of you. We love the students, colleagues, and administrators in this paradisical place of refuge. It is a joy to be part of this great hukilau, with us all pulling together on gospel cords of life that stretch out worldwide, gather us unto the welcoming arms of Jesus Christ, and binding us together eternally. After 40 years on the faculty of BYU in Provo, Jeannie and I are honored to arrive in the promised land of BYU–Hawaii.
Brothers and sisters, we testify that God cares about this world, and about your place in it. He is in the details as well as in the big plan of eternal life. As an embodied Go, He is in your space and time. He guards and regards the seasons of our individual and collective lives. We all recognize the importance of being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes we say timing is everything, and timing is important to God as he makes appearances among us, His children.
For example, it was no accident that Jesus, the lamb of God, was crucified the day before Passover when Passover lambs were being sacrificed all around Jerusalem. Jesus did not control the precise timing or the exact manner of his execution, yet somehow, in God’s providence, Jesus’s death worked out, as prophets had said it would.
Likewise, it was no accident that Elijah appeared in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836. That day also happened to fall on Passover. That was the Jewish holiday when families gathered and an empty place was set for Elijah for his foretold coming, which restored the power to bind families together forever.
So, let’s have some fun. Last week, on September 21, my colleagues and I at Book of Mormon Central celebrated what we call Moroni Day. On that important date in 1823,
Moroni appeared, four times in those early morning hours, to Joseph Smith. So, when I was asked that very week to speak to you today, the first impression that popped into my head was: It’s Moroni season. That would be a good time to talk about Moroni and his Day. And so, here’s my topic question for you: If we all were to commemorate Moroni Day, what might that celebration look like?
Well, for starters, September 21 would be a great day to celebrate the transition of young people from youth into adulthood. On that day in 1823, Joseph Smith was still only 17 years and nine months old. During Moroni’s first visit, he quoted the prophecy from Joel 2:28 that in the day of fulfillment “young men shall see visions,” and the next verse in Joel 2 continues, “and upon the young women will I pour out my spirit.” Surely Joseph and Emma Smith, as well as many of the youthful converts who have flocked to the Restored Church, then and now, have fulfilled that biblical prophecy. Three months later, Joseph would pass into today’s age of adulthood, ready to maturely assume its privileges and responsibilities.
As the string of annual Moroni Days continued for the next four September 21sts, Joseph was blessed with stewardship interviews with Moroni—as President Nelson has recently called them—of which Joseph kept his parents informed. So, our celebration of Moroni Day could be a time for us too to check in with our ecclesiastical leader and to confer with parents or advisors to plan and to learn more about what we hope to accomplish in the next 12 months. By the fifth and final Moroni Day, four full years later, Joseph and Emma had gotten married, and Joseph was awarded, as we might say, with a four-year degree, qualifying him in all ways for the work, having majored in Divine Scripture, with three minors in ancient history, heavenly communications, and adversarial combat.
Moreover, and I find this very interesting, in the 1820s, September 21 often fell within the most holy time on the Jewish calendar, a sacred time which began on the first day of the Jewish lunar month of Tishri. That time usually falls around the middle of our month of September. You see, in addition to commanding people to keep each weekly Sabbath Day holy, the Law of Moses also required the observance of certain annual holy days as well. Those specific days were super Sabbaths.
They were especially important to God. And Moroni—who faithfully served his father Mormon, throughout his life, as his research assistant and production editor—would certainly have known, for example, many distinctively Hebraic forms of speech—such as chiasmus, which Sister Welch has mentioned—as well as the calendrical demands of many parts of ancient Israelite law. Such things were fundamental to Nephite civilization. King Benjamin, for example, delivered his speech while his people dwelt in tents facing the temple, which indicates that they were observing the Feast of Tabernacles. Thus, it would not seem accidental that Moroni came, each of his five times to Joseph Smith, during the high holy Israelite season.
And as has been published in BMC’s KnoWhy #193, Moroni’s first visit, on September 21, 1823, came precisely on the day on which the
Feast of Tabernacles was being observed throughout the Jewish world that year. On that day, Israelites joyously remembered their dwelling as families in tents when they were delivered from Egypt and protected by the Lord.
It was also the preferred day when Israelite kings were crowned, the Heavenly King was praised, and the law was publicly read. What a great day for Moroni’s opening instructions!
Then, in 1824 and 1827—the second and fifth Moroni Days--September 21st on our Gregorian calendar coincided both of those years with
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year’s Day, the first day of Tishri. That Jewish holy day celebrated the renewal of God’s creation, righteous judgments and admonitions were given, covenants were renewed, and new beginnings were launched.
Sounds like things Moroni would have loved!
And most holy of all, Moroni’s third visit, on September 21, 1825, the middle one of Moroni’s five annual visits, came on the highpoint, the day on which
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, fell that year. Yom Kippur was the holiest of all days.
On that day, people fasted, repented, and the High Priest wore the name of Jehovah on his forehead and performed the once-a-year atonement and purification ordinances in the ancient Israelite temple.
One can hardly imagine a more remarkable series of holy days for Moroni’s profound visits! On those holy days, Moroni launched the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, whose teachings include these very themes. That sacred record offers more wonderful news about the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ, more about repentance and making covenants with Christ, more about God’s plan of redemption and happiness, and more about coming closer to God, than does any other book. Keeping in frequent contact with Joseph throughout the duration of the translation of the Book of Mormon, Moroni saw the project through to completion in 1829. The book that he unveiled guides people to the sweet fruit of the Tree of Life and to the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah.
In addition to gathering scattered Israel, the Book of Mormon’s Title Page addresses every nation, culture, language, and people. And so, we also gladly welcome a multicultural, worldwide, celebration on September 21. That date also marks the world’s
semi-annual equinox, when the daytimes and night times are both exactly 12 hours long.
This reminds me of Lehi’s axiom that there must needs be a counterbalancing opposition in all things (2 Nephi 2:11), allowing all people to choose between light and dark, between joy and eternal life through Jesus Christ on the one hand, or the captivity of Satan on the other hand.
For such reasons, in many religions around the world, the equinox is spiritually significant. That day, connected with the harvest season, teaches people that they will reap what they sow – both literally and figuratively. And in ancient Greek religion, the equinox was linked to Persephone’s annual departure from our upper world of light, back down into the underworld to become the wife of Hades, the god of the dead. Now on Moroni Day, Moroni reverses that unhappy tale as he returned as a divine messenger from the dark world of the dead to bring his message of light and life to all those in the world of the living.
So, what are you thinking? Are we ready to start celebrating Moroni Day? In 2023, that day will be Moroni’s 200th anniversary. Can you think of any bicentennial more worth celebrating worldwide than these five annual visits of the resurrected Moroni to Joseph Smith? When I mentioned the idea of “Moroni Day” to one church official here in Hawaii, he immediately said, “Moroni Day should be proclaimed a worldwide holiday!” And why not?
While celebrating Moroni Day might include virtual tours of the Hill Cumorah, artistic representations, and fabulous augmented reality programs, we would especially want to enshrine Moroni himself—who he was, what he did, and what he taught in the three final books of the Book of Mormon itself. Knowing what Moroni knew—for he had seen our day and many of our doings (Mormon 8:35)—and also knowing whom Moroni had seen—for he had seen the Three Nephites (Mormon 8:11) as well as the Lord Jesus Christ (Ether 12:39)—Moroni is perfectly qualified to introduce everyone in the world to the Book of Mormon, ushered forth by the gift and power of God.
So, because Moroni was an expert recordkeeper, Moroni Day could also be a day for focusing on our own recordkeeping. Who among us wouldn’t welcome encouragement and ideas about straightening up records of all kinds? Librarians, accountants, students, businesses, ward clerks, family historians, everyone, once a year, should be sure their records are organized and in order. Records have power, especially the scriptures and church records. Only after priesthood ordinances are recorded do they become binding, both in heaven and also in earth, as D&C 127:7 states. And Moroni was very concerned about the proper performance of priesthood ordinances. He left us, on his final pages, with the sacred words for ordaining priests, for blessing the sacrament, together with instructions for conducting congregational meetings and the proper rules for baptizing only those over the age of accountability.
Next, Moroni Day could well be a family day and, especially, a day to bond children and their father. Moroni dutifully continued to serve his father, Mormon, even after Mormon had died. I appreciate how he honored his father even more, now that my own father died six months ago. Moroni was born around 333 A.D., and he soon became his father’s right-hand assistant in producing the Book of Mormon.
How do we know that? Well, when Moroni entered the Book of Ether into his father’s record after the final Nephite battle, Moroni did that to fulfill the promise Mormon had made to his readers, back in Mosiah 28:19, that the Jaredite story would later be included. Moroni did not forget that promise. And, he needed no instructions about how to make plates, how to abridge those 24 Jaredite plates, or how to inscribe them. He must have known all that from working in his father’s shop, although now he was working under adverse conditions, and thus he was understandably self-conscious about how difficult it was for him to place those characters and finish that job.
And in addition, Moroni Day could also be a Singles Day. After all, Moroni spent 36 years alone, wandering widely to avoid being killed. It doesn’t appear that he ever married. He was left “alone” to write the sad tale of the destruction of his people (Mormon 8:3). He says he had no family, no kindred, no friends (8:5), and thus he especially cherished the companionship he enjoyed with his resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ. Singles everywhere can relate to the determination required of Moroni to carry forward, to complete the work that he had been given to do, and we can also appreciate the joy he must have felt upon its completion.
Next, realizing all that Moroni saw in vision, September 21 could well be a Reality Check Day for us. On that day, we would do well to revisit the things Moroni saw, long ago, that would be happening in our world today. Moroni wanted to warn and help us in facing such problems as: people claiming that miracles are done away, saying that there is no life after death, and denying the powers of God. He warned of secret combinations and coalitions working behind closed doors; and that churches will become lifted up in pride and envy, and will twist the translation of the holy word of God.
He said the Book of Mormon would come forth in a day of wildfires, smoke, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, wars, war mongering and rumors of wars. It will be, he said, at a time when there are great pollutions on the face of the earth; murders, robbing, lying, fraud, deception, sex trafficking and sexual perversions, for at that time, many will say, do whatever you want, it matters not, for God upholds everyone (see Mormon 8:26-40).
But more than being a theater of fear, Moroni would want his day to be a Day of Solutions. His solutions come in the form of twenty-two imperatives, that’s one commandment for each letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Coming at the end of Moroni’s first farewell in Mormon 9, verses 27-31, Moroni’s admonitions are well worth bill-boarding, tweeting, Facebooking, and blogging about, especially today. His injunctions are well worth embracing:
1. Despise not.
2. Wonder not.
3. Hearken unto the words of the Lord.
4. Ask the Father in the name of Jesus Christ for whatever ye shall stand in need.
5. Doubt not.
6. Be believing.
7. Begin as in times of old.
8. Come unto the Lord with all your heart.
9. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before God.
10. Be wise in the days of your probation.
11. Strip yourselves of all uncleanness.
12. Ask not to consume uncleanness on your lusts.
13. Ask with a firmness unshaken that ye will yield to no temptation.
14. Serve the true and living God.
15. See that ye are not baptized unworthily.
16. See that ye partake not of the sacrament of Christ unworthily.
17. See that ye do all things in worthiness.
18. Do all things in the name of Jesus Christ, the son of the living God.
19. Endure to the end.
20. Condemn me [or others] not because of mine [or their] imperfections.
21. Condemn not my father [Mormon] or those who have written before him.
22. Give thanks that God has made manifest our imperfections, that ye may be wiser than we have been.
In addition, I would also think of Moroni Day as Day of Exhortation. In Moroni 10, his very last chapter, Moroni passionately opens up his heart and expresses the things about which he feels most strongly. Speaking by way of exhortation (10:2), here are his four balanced couplets:
The first pair: I would exhort you to remember God’s mercy to you from the creation down to today (10:3), and then in tight succession after that comes his most famous exhortation, I would exhort you to ask God in the name of Christ if these things are not true (10:4).
His second pair: I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God (10:7), and I exhort you that ye deny not the gifts of God (10:8).
His third pair: I would exhort you that ye remember that every good gift cometh of Christ (10:18), and I would exhort you to remember that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (10:19).
And his final pair: I would exhort you to remember these things, for ye shall see me at the bar of God (10:27); and thus, I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift, and touch not the evil gift [or any] unclean thing. (10:28)
I assure you that Moroni’s exhortations are valuable to you in Come Follow Me lessons, in missionary work, in personal growth, and in teaching the gospel everywhere. In celebrating Moroni Day, let us take Moroni as our guide.
In the end, Moroni Day could be a great Day of Invitation and a Day of Testimony Bearing.
And so, today, I invite each of you today to share, with someone, something about Moroni that impresses you and spurs you to righteous action and happiness. Will you do that? Help your friends remember the many tender mercies that God has extended to them. By being in that grateful frame of mind and spirit, they can then be confident that God will be merciful still, and will answer their prayers, as they ask in the name of Jesus Christ, if these things are not true. And, with Moroni, you can add your witness and bear your testimony to them that God will indeed manifest the truths of these things unto them by the power of the Holy Ghost.
You see, when Moroni buried up the plates, normal practice would have called for him to seal the record with three seals. All alone, Moroni called instead upon the only other witnesses he had, namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, to authenticate the truthfulness of this holy testament or covenant of Jesus Christ.
So, for Moroni Day, let’s help Moroni sound his jubilant trumpet, as he heralds the dawning of a brighter day. The Book of Mormon, which Moroni brought, is in a class by itself. It declares and delivers, most clearly and beautifully, to the world today, the power and atoning love of Jesus Christ.
May we all remember the truths exuberantly expressed by Parley P. Pratt in his great Moroni Day anthem,
“The Morning Breaks.” The fulness of the Gospel, indeed, now comes in, with Israel’s rays of truth at hand. Jehovah verily speaks, his mighty arm made bare, his covenant people to receive. Angels from heaven, and truth from earth, have truly met and record borne, and Zion’s light is bursting forth. Majestic, it rises on the world.”
Sisters and brothers, knowing these things to be true, I humbly bear my witness to you, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.