However, this peace would not last, and ultimately the entire Nephite nation would be annihilated by the Lamanites in a great battle that occurred ca. C.E. 400. The last Nephite prophet to write on the plates, Moroni, buried the record to protect them from being destroyed by the Lamanites, and the records remained hidden until they were uncovered by Joseph Smith.
THE BOOK OF MORMON TODAY
While certain aspects of the emergence of the Book of Mormon undoubtedly seem fantastic, such as angelic visitations, buried plates of gold, and so on, there are other factors found in the book, like the complex literary features characteristic of Hebrew writing, largely unknown in Joseph Smith's day, that support its authenticity. Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints funds ongoing research into the historicity of the account through linguistic, historical, archaeological, and other analyses, it is not the academic witness that is paramount to members of the LDS Church. A promise written by the last prophet, Moroni, in the final pages of the book summarizes the place of the book in Mormon spirituality.
Speaking of the Book of Mormon, Moroni says, "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things" (Moroni 10:4-5). Readers of the Book of Mormon are encouraged by its authors, and by members of the Mormon Church, to make its authenticity and truthfulness a matter of spiritual reflection and meditation because of the central role that the Book of Mormon plays in LDS doctrine and practice.
In the introduction to the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith is quoted saying that it is the "keystone" of the Mormon religion. If one were to believe in the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, he or she would also believe that its translator, Joseph Smith, was chosen as a prophet of God. Conversely, if one were to regard the Book of Mormon as inauthentic, he or she would necessarily disregard Joseph Smith as a true prophet of God and also the claims of the LDS church as the true church of Jesus Christ. The debate about these controversial doctrines of the LDS Church (i.e., modern-day prophets and Christian Scripture not found in the Bible), hinges on the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.
The powerful influence of the Book of Mormon on the worship of members of the LDS church can be seen in the way that the church proselytizes and how church services are conducted. Young LDS men and women, usually between the ages of 19 and 26, are encouraged by the church to serve full-time missions throughout the world. The message of these missionaries regards primarily the teachings of the Book of Mormon and how it compares to the Bible as another witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ. Little children who attend Sunday services at LDS meetinghouses hear stories from the Book of Mormon and are taught about the history of the Nephite and Lamanite people together with biblical stories and events. Mormon adolescents worldwide attend daily Church-sponsored classes called "seminary," in which they study the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and other doctrines of the LDS Church.
The Book of Mormon holds a unique place in contemporary discussion of religiosity and spirituality. For believers of the book's authenticity, the Book of Mormon serves as a foundation of faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God and the savior of the world, and in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as the "Lord's kingdom once again established on the earth" (Introduction to the Book of Mormon). For critics, it serves only as evidence of the imagination of Joseph Smith, that he was the literal author of the book (as opposed to its translator) and that all other doctrines of the LDS Church not found in the Bible are incorrect. Regardless of one's opinion of its authenticity, it must be recognized that the Book of Mormon has affected and continues to affect the spiritual and religious development of millions of people throughout the world, and stands as the centerpiece of one of the fastest-growing religions today.