“And When That Day Shall Come”

Brant Gardner

Narrative: Nephi dates this apostate world to the end of time by linking them to the coming of the Lord of Hosts. Of course the words of his people are restored prior to that time, but the overall context is that these are events pertaining to the last days, to the time of the triumphal entry of the Messiah predicted by Isaiah.

We must remember that Nephi is not prophesying an accurate historical chronology, but a condensed prophetic future. Thus it is true that the apostasy of the world precedes the final coming of the Savior, and it is true that the coming of the Book of Mormon also follows this apostate state of the world's religions. That much correlation is sufficient for Nephi.

Polemic: It is interesting that this conflation of future events is understandable from Nephi's perspective, but certainly not from Joseph Smith's perspective. Were Joseph uniquely penning this future history, we should expect that the chronology would be much more accurate. Certainly there are great numbers of very specifically recognizable historic events which would have been known to Joseph. with an eye to the known past, writing "ancient prophecy" is simple. However, one would expect that the compelling understanding of accomplished history would even more tightly dictate the form of the ancient prophecy. In this specific case, it is obvious that Nephi places the events in the time of the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecies. This makes perfect internal sense for Nephi's use of Isaiah both as foundational text and as referential text. It does not make sense, however, in Joseph's known world. These prophecies of Christ's coming with the attendant storms, tempests, and devouring fire, have no historical reference for Joseph.

For this to have been Joseph's unique invention he would be required to have a very sophisticated understanding of the Isaiah references, and then to include in a litany of known-to-be-fulfilled-prophecy a prophecy that is known not to have occurred. The violation of the chronology makes sense in an ancient prophecy, but not in a modern recasting of history.

Multidimensional Commentary on the Book of Mormon