Foreword to the 1952 Edition
The Book of Mormon, the most interesting piece of literature in the Church, is essentially an account of three migrations from Asiatic lands to America.
The Jaredites reached here about the time of the confusion of tongues; another group arrived under the leadership of the Prophet Lehi at the time of Zedekiah, king of Israel; the third, under Mulek, arrived about the same time.
While the story of these peoples in their adopted homeland is told sufficiently well in the Book of Mormon to give the reader a good understanding of the achievements and their general philosophies, very little is said about the lives of the peoples before they began their westward journey. That makes Dr. Nibley's book doubly interesting.
The author has tried, after long and careful research, to tell the story of the people of Jared, their manner of life, and their reasons for leaving their Asiatic home to settle in the new land, now known as America. From countless sources Dr. Nibley has drawn material which, woven together, describes an early people, who, in search for God's truth, left their homes for the then unknown world. This study has been done in such a manner as to make real and understandable these early peoples, and to make them living persons to those of this day, thousands of years removed.
Dr. Nibley has done the same thing for the people who left their homes under the leadership of the Prophet Lehi and of Mulek many years later. The cultural life of Lehi's home is described in almost minute detail. Dr. Nibley answers questions which are only lightly touched upon in the Book of Mormon: Who was Lehi? What was his standing in Jerusalem? Where was his home? What caused him to move away and seek a home across the great ocean? The answers to these questions give life to these persons, who without this help would remain in the shadows. This work by Dr. Nibley also confirms the Book of Mormon story, answers the causes of migration, and explains on the basis of historical evidence why certain things mentioned in the Book of Mormon did occur.
The study of the Jaredites, of Lehi in the Desert, and of Mulek covers a territory of historical research not formerly invaded by modern scholars.
The book could not have been written except with vast acquaintance with sources of historical learning. It has been written also under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. Almost the best thing about the book is that it becomes a testimony to the truth of the claims of Joseph Smith that he was divinely inspired in the translation of the Book of Mormon as well as in his work of restoring the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Evidences for the Book of Mormon are increasing every day. For this reason this book, which becomes a powerful witness of the Book of Mormon, becomes also doubly precious to the leaders of the latter-day faith.
Dr. Nibley and the publishers should be congratulated upon bringing the articles which ran originally in The Improvement Era into book form.
John A. Widtsoe