“Upon the Face of the Whole Earth”

Brant Gardner

Mormon relates that the birth sign confirms for many the validity of other signs about the Atoning Messiah’s prospective visit to the New World. To do so, he uses the formula of “the whole earth from the west to the east, both in the land north and in the land south,” with the latter part of the phrase modifying “the whole earth.” Listing the directions has no more specific meaning than indicating that the sign was visible in all the land. Of course, “whole earth” meant only the Nephites’ whole earth—or known lands. (See commentary accompanying Helaman 3:8.) I interpret it to mean a regionalized phenomenon, but one sufficiently widespread that it was visible in all Nephite lands. The posited volcanic eruption would fit this description.

Second Witness: Analytical & Contextual Commentary on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 5