The Book of Omni in the Book of Mormon is one of the more neglected scriptures we have. We tend to think of it as that short book by five different authors who had very little to say. But did they really not say much?
In the very first verse Omni, the son of Jarom, tells us that he was commanded by his father to write on the plates to preserve their genealogy. This tells us that they understood the importance of family and family history, and it is a reminder to preserve our own genealogy and history. Verse 2 tells us that Omni did much fighting to preserve his people, the Nephites, from falling into the hands of their enemies, the Lamanites. So freedom and liberty were as important to them as they should be to us in our day. Living the gospel requires freedom from oppression and the liberty to worship as we see fit.
The plates are passed to Amaron, Omni's son, and he tells us in verse 5 that the more wicked part of the Nephites were destroyed. Why? In verse 6, Amaron tells us,
"For the Lord would not suffer, after he had led them out of the land of Jerusalem and kept and preserved them from falling into the hands of their enemies, yea, he would not suffer that the words should not be verified, which he spake unto our fathers, saying that: Inasmuch as ye will not keep my commandments ye shall not prosper in the land."
This is the second part of the phrase that has played a prominent role throughout the Book of Mormon--that we prosper in the land only as we keep the commandments of the Lord, a statement that the Lord made to His prophets specifically about the promised lands of the Western Hemisphere, to which He led Lehi.
The record is passed to Chemish, brother of Amaron, and then to Chemish's son, Abinadom, who says that what has been written is sufficient and passes the record to his own son, Amaleki. Though Chemish and Abinadom had little to say, they kept the commandment to write at least a little on the plates to preserve the genealogy. It also shows that they placed importance on safeguarding the records and passing them on for the benefit of future generations.
Amaleki had the most to say and he refers to some important doctrines of the gospel. Verse 12 speaks of the following of the prophet and king, Mosiah, as being the same as following the Lord because it was the Lord who warned Mosiah to lead his people out of the land of Nephi. Verse 13 says,
"And it came to pass that he did according as the Lord had commanded him. And they departed out of the land into the wilderness, as many as would hearken unto the voice of the Lord; and they were led by many preachings and prophesyings. And they were admonished continually by the word of God; and they were led by the power of his arm, through the wilderness until they came down into the land which is called the land of Zarahemla."
In other words, follow the Lord, follow the prophet. Listen to the word of God and trust in His arm rather than the arm of the flesh. Basic teachings of the gospel as reiterated by Amaleki.
Amaleki then tells us briefly that Mosiah discovered the people of Zarahemla, who had come out of Jerusalem at the time that Zedekiah, king of Judah, was carried away captive into Babylon. Amaleki also mentions the Jaredites, though not by that name.
In verse 25, Amaleki pleads with "all men" to come unto God:
"And it came to pass that I began to be old; and, having no seed, and knowing king Benjamin to be a just man before the Lord, wherefore, I shall deliver up these plates unto him, exhorting all men to come unto God, the Holy One of Israel, and believe in prophesying, and in revelations, and in the ministering of angels, and in the gift of speaking with tongues, and in the gift of interpreting languages, and in all things which are good; for there is nothing which is good safe it comes from the Lord; and that which is evil cometh from the devil."In verse 26, he pleads that all will come unto Christ:
"And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved."In those two verses, Amaleki reminds us of some of the most important doctrines of the gospel and of their supreme importance in a very meaningful summary. Verse 25 reminds me of the 13th Article of Faith:
"We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul--We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."
Main Messages in Omni:
- Come unto God/Christ
- Duty to God, family, and community (i.e., in keeping the records, fighting for freedom, etc.)
Some of the gospel doctrines referred to in Omni, either implicitly or explicitly:
- Family, genealogy
- Commandments to preserve and pass on spiritual writings (teaching the gospel), as well as genealogy
- Keeping God's commandments leads to prosperity, while not keeping them leads to the Lord's judgments
- Follow the prophet, who speaks for the Lord
- Prophesying and revelation
- Ministering of angels
- Gifts of the Spirit (i.e., speaking with tongues and interpreting languages)
- Good comes from the Lord and evil comes from the devil
- Salvation and redemption
- Offering our souls to Christ (i.e., doing His will rather than our own)
- Fasting and prayer
- Enduring to the end