Gospel Essentials:  The Book of Mormon and 

The Law of Moses


Nephi's return to Jerusalem was to obtain the plates of brass, expressly so that his people would have the commandments of God.  (1 Nephi 1:117-18)  This being old Testament times for Israelites, the Law of the day was the 'Law of Moses'.  


The Nephites abided by the Law, as did the Jews in Israel; however, God revealed the purpose of the Law to the Nephites, and they wrote and taught the meaning to their children. While prophets since Adam also testified of Christ, the type & shadow message of the Law was lost among the Jews.  


Understanding the purpose of 'The Law' was central to the Nephites understanding of Jesus Christ being the Messiah. Ultimately, they (Jews) thought that the tenets of  the Law itself (washings, animal sacrifices, dietary laws, etc.) would bring salvation. 


Lehi's family was apparently schooled with the same understanding of the Law of Moses, but early on in Nephi's life, he receives revelation regarding Jesus Christ, and understood the whole Law was given to teach about Christ.  


What does the Book of Mormon specifically say about the Law of Moses? (Compare this to twelve facts the New Testament shares on the Law of Moses.)


Twelve Facts the Book of Mormon teaches regarding the Law of Moses:


1.      The Law was given for disobedience:


Mosiah 1:110 Yet the Lord God saw that his people were a stiffnecked people, and he appointed unto them a law, even the law of Moses.

113 And yet they hardened their hearts, and understood not that the law of Moses availeth nothing, except it were through the atonement of his blood;


2.      One of the most important pieces of information given from the Book of Mormon is that the Law of Moses was given as a perfect type and shadow of Christ:


Alma 16:215 And behold, this is the whole meaning of the law; every whit pointing to that great and last sacrifice; and that great and last sacrifice will be the Son of God; yea, infinite and eternal; and thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; ('Whit' in Hebrew, means wholly, or completely)


By being a type/shadow, this means that the 613 aspects of the Law of Moses (rituals, washings, sacrifices, convocations, etc.,) were 613 perfect teaching tools as to Christ's purpose, life, and ministry.


3.      The Nephites were taught to keep the law according to the commandment, until after Christ was revealed to them:


Alma 14:75 But notwithstanding the Law of Moses, they did look forward to the coming of Christ, concerning that the Law of Moses was a type of his coming, and believing that they must keep those outward performances, until the time that he should be revealed unto them.


4.      The Nephites understood the Law of Moses' true purpose, and looked forward to it being fulfilled by Christ himself.


Mosiah 1:30 And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings, according to the law of Moses;


Jacob 3:6 And for this intent, we keep the law of Moses, it pointing our souls to him;…


2 Nephi 11:45 And notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law of Moses, and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ, until the law shall be fulfilled; for, for this end was the law given;


46 Wherefore, the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ, because of our faith;


49 Wherefore, we speak concerning the law, that our children may know the deadness of the law;


50 And they, by knowing the deadness of the law, may look forward unto that life which is in Christ, and know for what end the law was given.


5.      Abinadi was murdered, in part, for teaching that the law did not bring about salvation. He stated that the time would come when it would no longer be necessary to keep it.


Mosiah 7:84 And they said, We teach the Law of Moses.

85 And again, he said unto them, If ye teach the Law of Moses, why do ye not keep it? ...

91 And what know ye concerning the Law of Moses?

92 Doth salvation come by the Law of Moses? What say ye?

93 And they answered and said, that salvation did come by the Law of Moses.


Mosiah 8: 3 And now ye have said that salvation cometh by the Law of Moses.

4 I say unto you that it is expedient that ye should keep the Law of Moses as yet; but I say unto you, that the time shall come when it shall no more be expedient to keep the Law of Moses.

5 And moreover, I say unto you, that salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquites of his people, that they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law of Moses.

6 And now I say unto you, that it was expedient that there should be a law given to the children of Israel, yea, even a very strict law: for they were a stiff-necked people: quick to do iniquity, and slow to remember the Lord their God;

7 Therefore there was a law given them, yea, a law of performances and of ordinances, a law which they were to observe strictly, from day to day, to keep them in remembrance of God, and their duty towards him.

8 But behold, I say unto you, that all these things were types of things to come.



Abinadi differentiates the Law, from the Ten commandments, and later exhorts the people to keep these commandments.  Remember, the 10 commandments were given first.  Then over 600 sundry laws were given to govern every aspect of Israelite life, to teach them about the Messiah.


6.      Some misguided teachers lived in ancient America teaching that the right way was only The Law.


Jacob 5:9 And it came to pass that he came unto me; and on this wise did he speak unto me, saying: Brother Jacob, I have sought much opportunity that I might speak unto you: for I have heard and also know, that thou goest about much, preaching that which ye call the gospel, or the doctrine of Christ;

10 And ye have led away much of this people, that they pervert the right way of God, and keep not the law of Moses, which is the right way; and convert the law of Moses into the worship of a being, which ye say shall come many hundred years hence.

11 And now, behold, I, Sherem, declare unto you, that this is blasphemy; for no man knoweth of such things: for he can not tell of things to come….  (Jacob then straightens out the issue …13 But behold, the Lord God poured in his Spirit into my soul, insomuch that I did confound him in all his words.)


7.      The writers of Book of Mormon's chapters understood the truth regarding The Law of Moses:


Alma 14:76 Now they did not suppose that salvation came by the Law of Moses; but the Law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ;


Alma 16:4 And they were strict in observing the ordinances of God, according to the Law of Moses; for they were taught to keep the Law of Moses, until it should be fulfilled;


Alma 16:214 And then shall there be, or it is expedient there should be, a stop to the shedding of blood; then shall the Law of Moses be fulfilled; yea, it shall all be fulfilled; every jot and tittle, and none shall have passed away.


8.      After the SIGN of Christ's BIRTH in America, some people thought (incorrectly) that the Law was fulfilled at that time. They were incorrect in timing:


3 Nephi 1:28 And thus the people began again to have peace in the land; and there were no contentions, save it were a few that began to preach, endeavoring to prove by the scriptures, that it was no more expedient to observe the Law of Moses.


29 Now in this thing they did err, having not understood the scriptures.


30 But it came to pass that they soon became converted, and were convinced of the error which they were in, for it was made known unto them that the law was not yet fulfilled, and that it must be fulfilled in every whit;


31 Yea, the word came unto them that it must be fulfilled; yea, that one jot or tittle should not pass away, till it should all be fulfilled;


9.      Christ announced at His appearance to the Nephites after his death and resurrection, that the Law was then fulfilled:


3 Nephi 4:47 And as many as have received me, to them have I given to become the sons of God; and even so will I to as many as shall believe on my name, for behold, by me redemption cometh, and in me is the Law of Moses fulfilled.


10.    After Christ's announcement, some still misunderstood, and Christ explained to the people why they were not required to keep the Law anymore:


3 Nephi 7:3 And it came to pass that when Jesus had said these words, he perceived that there were some among them who marveled, and wondered what he would concerning the Law of Moses; for they understood not the saying, that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.


4 And he said unto them, Marvel not that I said unto you, that old things had passed away, and that all things had become new.


5 Behold, I say unto you, that the law is fulfilled that was given unto Moses.


6 Behold, I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel; therefore, the law in me is fulfilled, for I have come to fulfill the law; therefore, it hath an end.


7 Behold, I do not destroy the prophets, for as many as have not been fulfilled in me, verily, I say unto you, shall all be fulfilled.


11.    Finally, the Nephites (after Christ's ministry) understood the purpose had been fulfilled, and did not keep the Law of Moses anymore:


4 Nephi  1:13 And they did not walk any more after the performances and ordinances of the Law of Moses, but they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God, continuing in fasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft, both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord.


12.    One of the three major purposes of the Book of Mormon is to restore Jews, Gods ancient covenant people, to a knowledge of the truth.  (See Moroni's preface to the Book of Mormon).  What does the Book of Mormon do, but to simply teach the truth about the purpose of the Law?  Perhaps this will be the ultimate light unto the Jews coming to a knowledge of the Truth, understanding that the Law was a type and shadow.


3 Nephi 7:28 That these sayings which ye shall write, shall be kept, and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fullness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth, because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer.



Moses taught the people that the law was simply to point them towards Christ.  God gave the Israelites every opportunity to ready themselves for the coming of the Messiah and to understand his purpose:  he gave them a plan by which every aspect of their lives were governed by this type and shadow.  The type and shadow was the Law of Moses.  But when the purpose of the Law was satisfied (life & death of Christ), there wasn't a reason to keep it anymore.  (They were commanded to remember it, however.  Christ shares Malachi's words with the Nephites, telling the Nephites to remember the Law that was given in Horeb)


At the time of Christ's ministry, telling Jews that 'keeping the Law was no longer necessary' would sound as foreign as telling a latter-day saint today that Baptism was no longer necessary.  But the point of the Law was that it would serve as the schoomaster (as Paul stated) until Christ, and that it would have an end in Christ.


I'll save a discussion of Paul's ministry for a later handout, but the majority of Paul's writings were ultimately the convincing of a nation that the Law of Moses pointed to Christ, and was not the end in itself.


Understanding the purpose of the Law was the major difference between Israelites in America and Israelites in Jerusalem at the Time of Christ's life.


To sum it up, the Nephites understood that the Law pointed toward Christ, and when Christ came to them, they glorified him. 


Unfortunately, the Jews missed the point of the Law.  And when Christ came to them, they crucified him.


Read other papers on the Law of Moses:


The New Testament and the Law of Moses


Did Paul REALLY Practice the Law of Moses