This hymn, this good, old-fashioned Restoration hymn, provides us a pretty good overview of the early days of the Latter-day Saint church. It’s an anthem to the Prophet Joseph Smith, a synopsis of the Book of Mormon, of the prophets who all cobbled together to write down history and revelation alike and hide it up so it could be discovered in the Lord’s appointed time.
An angel from on high
The long, long silence broke;
Descending from the sky,
These gracious words he spoke:
Lo! in Cumorah’s lonely hill
A sacred record lies concealed.
The angel referred to in this first verse is the Angel Moroni, who in life was the last caretaker of a record which had been carefully passed along for nearly a thousand years. This record told the story of Lehi, a prophet in Jerusalem and a contemporary of Jeremiah, who was commanded by the Lord to remove his family and flee into the wilderness before the great city fell. Lehi’s family migrated and multiplied and fell in and out of faith and eventually split into factions–the Nephites and Lamanites–who eventually broke into a war that only ended after all the Nephites were dead.
Moroni was given the task of finishing the record after his father, Mormon, had abridged it. Moroni wrote the following near the end of the record:
“I, Moroni, do finish the record of my father, Mormon…my father also was killed by [the Lamanites], and I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people…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” (Mormon 8: 1-4).
Can’t you feel his despair? Can you even imagine being the last of your kinfolk, the last of your kind, having to live out the rest of your life in hiding because the Lord commanded you to keep a record safe? I cannot even imagine the unutterable loneliness of Moroni’s final days.
Sealed by Moroni’s hand,
It has for ages lain
To wait the Lord’s command,
From dust to speak again.
It shall again to light come forth
To usher in Christ’s reign on earth.
So what does this mean for us, exactly? All the sacrifices and bloodshed and heartache that were part of bringing this record of an ancient, long-dead people into our hands…what do we do with it?
Moroni gives us the answer in his final chapter.
“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them…
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:3-5).
We read the Book of Mormon. We pray to ask if it’s real and truly the word of God. Then we follow its words. This record is full of the teachings of ancient prophets, who prophesied of Christ before He was born and gave testament of his Ultimate Sacrifice, when the earth would rend and the heavens weep at His brutal death.
I know this book is real, that these words are real words from truly inspired people, but also that by following its teachings my life is more peaceful and more complete. This book, the Book of Mormon brings me to God and to Jesus Christ. I also believe this book brought about the beginning of a restoration of Christ’s church on the earth, and that He will come again to bring peace and healing to our weary world and build Zion again.
Lo! Israel filled with joy
Shall now be gathered home,
Their wealth and means employ
To build Jerusalem,
While Zion shall arise and shine
And fill the earth with truth divine.