“God of Israel, God of the Whole Earth”

Brant Gardner

One of the points emphasized in Nephite preaching was the Messiah’s death. This doctrine was unusual, for the Messiah was Yahweh, and Yahweh was God. Thus, they preached the death and resurrection of their God. Jesus stands in their midst and proclaims that he is the Messiah—therefore, the one who has died and been resurrected. He displays his wounds, making them witnesses to his death. (His presence is obvious proof of his resurrection.) This aspect of his New World mission is important because the Nephites would not have known him as a mortal.

In the Old World, Jesus’s death was known, and his display of his wounds verified that it was indeed he who was again alive. In a contrasting parallel, in the New World he was obviously alive, while the wounds showed that he had truly died.

Culture: In the Book of Mormon, the Atoning Messiah’s mission was denied many times, even when the people retained some belief in the Mosaic law and in the Triumphant Messiah. The Lamanites apparently had no understanding of the Atoning Messiah. However, the understanding of life coming through a dying god was a widespread belief in Mesoamerica (as it was in other parts of the world). In Aztec belief, the current world was created through the death of two gods at Teotihuacan. The idea that life came from death lay behind the terrible practice of human sacrifice. All of these beliefs existed prior to the coming of the Messiah, so they were not distorted remembrances of that visit. However, because the people were familiar with the concept, they were able to receive the message if other conditions were favorable to faith.

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