This chapter provides instructions to the translator of the text regarding witnesses. A film entitled “A Day for the Eternities” addresses this time period in the translation process. I find the placement of this chapter interesting, because of the timeline of historical events and the timing in which Joseph Smith would have come across this set of instructions. He mostly likely was found with Oliver Cowdery in the Peter and Mary Whitmer home at Fayette, New York, as their guests.
In verse 1, Moroni reminds the reader and Joseph (the translator) that: “… I have told you the things which I have sealed up; therefore touch them not in order that ye may translate; for that thing is forbidden you, except by and by it shall be wisdom in God.”
The footnote on the verse goes back to the previous chapter and the most detailed description we have of the things that were revealed unto the Brother of Jared. And there is a promise as well:
6 For the Lord said unto me: They shall not go forth unto the Gentiles until the day that they shall repent of their iniquity, and become clean before the Lord.
7 And in that day that they shall exercise faith in me, saith the Lord, even as the brother of Jared did, that they may become sanctified in me, then will I manifest unto them the things which the brother of Jared saw, even to the unfolding unto them all my revelations, saith Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of the heavens and of the earth, and all things that in them are.Ether 4:6-7 (emphasis added)
So even though there is a section of the Book of Mormon that is still sealed, Christ can show unto anyone these very same things to those that will exercise faith in seeking Him. Repentance is required. Becoming clean before the Lord is required.
The last two verse of this chapter re-emphasis the point of repentance. For a long time, I have misunderstood the essence of this principle. My efforts to repent were trite and more vain repetitions, which I sensed God did not want, but which I wrongly supposed that I had no need of repentance. Now I see it differently, and I cannot say what has changed in my approach. Only I know that I am in grave need of the refining influence of repentance, for I have much to change that I am powerless to do on my own.
How simple is this injunction though: “And if it so be that they repent and come unto the Father in the name of Jesus, they shall be received into the kingdom of God.” (vs. 6) There is no complicated list of qualifications for admission into the kingdom of God. Only two things are required: 1) repent and 2) come unto the Father in the name of Jesus.
The final verse of this chapter is one that demonstrates that Moroni is speaking from a position of clear knowledge of events as they pertain to the end of the world. “…for ye shall know that I have authority when ye shall see me, and we shall stand before God at the last day.” (vs. 6, emphasis added) This is not a conditional statement, but rather a future reality.
Moroni doesn’t have permission to reveal unto us anything of events that had been shown him of the last days or the end of times, but this statement is fact: that we shall stand before God and Moroni will be there as a witness of the truth.
I thought I was done with this chapter, but then I was brought to consider “the parable of the tares of the field” found in Matthew 13:36–43. Verse 41 has resonated with me since my morning prayers of yesterday: “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;” (emphasis added).
The feeling that I have as I contemplate this is one of complete peace. Why? Back to my prayers.
Strangely, I’ve found this obscure teaching from Joseph Smith that assimilates the work of the three witnesses to the parable of leaven found in this same chapter of Matthew, bringing this study full circle again. (Only the Spirit of the Lord can do something like this.)