I wish to expound upon one small verse found in the Book of Mormon. The verse reads as follows:
"And it came to pass that I did deliver the plates unto my brother Chemish" (Omni 1:8).
When I was in seminary my teacher thought this was one of the most pointless verses in the book. For a while I agreed with him on the matter, but after a couple years I began thinking about this. There are some famous short verses found in the scriptures that are not often considered pointless though short. I wish to comment on a couple of these.
First example is, "Jesus wept," (John 11:35). This verse is the absolute shortest verse in all of the Standard Works and is full of important meaning. Jesus wept. What does that tell us about Jesus Christ? I have before written something on this matter:
'While reading the [scriptures] I have come to realize something. Christ, as far as emotions are concerned, is quite similar to us. I understand he is a perfect being and all, but the scriptures say, "the wrath of the Lord," and, "he wept, and the multitude bear record of it," and, "I, the Lord, am well pleased."'
The Lord, like us has emotions and feelings. He can laugh or cry or be angry. That is a characteristic of Christ that I feel is important to understand.
My second example is Luke 17:32, "Remember Lot's wife." Not only is this verse an important one to understand, but it is so important that an apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, gave an hour long devotional dedicated to this. Why do we need to remember Lot's wife? In the words of Elder Holland, as no one can say better, "Apparently what was wrong with Lot’s wife was that she wasn’t just looking back; in her heart she wanted to go back." We need to remember that hope is in the future. With faith and hope in the Lord we must move forward and not look back.
I'd suggest listening to this talk by Elder Holland. To watch the video of his talk, click here. To read the text of his talk, click here.
And now we get back to the verse I want to focus on. "And it came to pass that I did deliver the plates unto my brother Chemish." Mormon, the man who abridged the plates and put this verse in there, had to of had a reason to do so. As was written many times, the plates were small, and everything on the plates had to have some significance. So why this seemingly pointless verse about who has the plates? The answer can actually be found in the Book of Mormon. I will give some scriptural references.
1 Nephi 3:12 - "And he desired of Laban the records which were engraven upon the plates of brass, which contained the genealogy of my father."
Jarom 1:1 - "Now behold, I, Jarom, write a few words according to the commandment of my father, Enos, that our genealogy may be kept."
2 Nephi 3:4 - "For behold, thou art the fruit of my loins; and I am a descendant of Joseph who was carried captive into Egypt."
Mormon 1:5 - "And I, Mormon, being a descendant of Nephi, (and my father's name was Mormon) I remembered the things which Ammaron commanded me."
Alma 10:2-3 - "I am Amulek; I am the son of Giddonah, who was the son of Ishmael, who was a descendant of Aminadi; and it was that same Aminadi who interpreted the writing which was upon the wall of the temple, which was written by the finger of God. And Aminadi was a descendant of Nephi, who was the son of Lehi, who came out of the land of Jerusalem, who was a descendant of Manasseh, who was the son of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by the hands of his brethren."
And so now we can answer just what it is that Amaron, son of Omni, son of Jarom, son of Enos, son of Jacob, brother of Nephi, son of Lehi, was getting at when he said he was handing the plates to his brother Chemish. It all comes down to genealogy! This was important to these people. Nephi writes that his father was desirous for the genealogy in the brass plates. Jarom writes that it was a commandments handed down to record the genealogy. Amulek was able to trace his genealogy all the way back to Lehi, who could that trace it back to Joseph of Egypt. Zarahemla, not listed above, had his genealogy memorized back to the time they left the tower of Babel.
Jacob wrote, "I cannot write but a little of my words, because of the difficulty of engraving our words upon plates." They literally had to engrave their words into the metal plates. This took time and effort, meaning everything they wrote down had to be of utmost importance to them. Considering how many prophets in the Book of Mormon wrote of their genealogy emphasizes the importance of it. Why is this so important? Jacob continues his words by saying, "Now in this thing we do rejoice; and we labor diligently to engraven these words upon plates, hoping that our beloved brethren and our children will receive them with thankful hearts, and look upon them that they may learn with joy and not with sorrow, neither with contempt, concerning their first parents" (Jacob 4:1-3).
Genealogy bring joy to the younger generations. Knowing who you are and where you come from is always something people strive for. It was important to these prophets because the generations after them would then know who they are, where they are from, what their 'first parents' were like. Knowing who you are is important. Consider genealogy when reading this quote my Thomas S. Monson:
"Some are young people who don't know who they are, what they can be or even want to be. They are afraid, but they don't know of what. They are angry, but they don't know at whom. They are rejected and they don't know why. All they want is to be somebody" (Pathways To Perfection).
This, I feel, is much like what Jacob was saying. He wrote his genealogy, and commanded his posterity to do the same, so that they would know who they are. When they know who they are they then know who they can become and what they can do.
Going back to the joy of knowing your genealogy, it was touched upon in an interview by Larry King on CNN with President Gordon B. Hinckley, in 2004. Here is an excerpt from that interview:
KING: One of the things that the Mormon Church is famous for worldwide is its expertise in genealogy - it may be the number one - looking back and telling people where they came from and why.
And tonight before we went on, President Hinckley presented me with - I can't believe this - the genealogy of my own family. The arrival of my mother and my father at Ellis Island in 1907 and 1923. The papers they filled out at Ellis Island.
How do you do this?
HINCKLEY: Well, we have a ...
KING: I'm so honored by it. I can't tell you what this means to me.
HINCKLEY: We have a tremendous family history resource, perhaps the greatest in the world in many respects. And we have some very dedicated and very able people.
And sometime ago, they went to work on your genealogy. And when they heard that we were going to be on this show, they finished it off in a hurry and brought to me, so that I can make a presentation to you.
And I'm pleased and happy to do so.
KING: I'm pleased and honored to accept it.
To read the full transcript click here.
Larry King was presented with his genealogy, both from his mother and father's side. This brought joy to him to have this information on his parents and other predecessors.
So now, in closing this thought, I want to go back to the original verse that started it all. "And it came to pass that I did deliver the plates unto my brother Chemish." This short verse is most wonderful. Like all the other great and famous verses in the scriptures, this one was put there for a reason.