This post is a summary of the article ““Believe All the Words”: A Key to Spiritual Outpouring” by Mark Campbell in Volume 51 of Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship.
An introduction to the Interpreting Interpreter series is available at https://interpreterfoundation.org/interpreting-interpreter-on-abstracting-thought/.
Campbell identifies nine examples of a pattern in the Book of Mormon that suggests that belief in “all the words” given by God or his prophets prepares the way for further revelation. In terms of scripture, this intertextual pattern appears to be unique to the Book of Mormon, and is reinforced by the words of both ancient and modern prophets.
In this article, Mark Campbell highlights nine Book of Mormon examples that he feels demonstrates both a narrative and doctrinal pattern, one where a willingness to believe “all the words” that one has or is about to receive from God can result in further spiritual outpouring. These examples help to further demonstrate the intertextuality of the Book of Mormon, with some appearing to be quotations, allusions, or references to other examples. This pattern also doesn’t appear to be present in other books of scripture, though it is reinforced in many cases by prophetic teaching.
Although Campbell is careful to note that “belief” shouldn’t be equated with being “naively credulous”, he presents the pattern as a useful prototype for those seeking further revelation from God. Campbell places this pattern alongside other noted narrative and doctrinal patterns within the Book of Mormon, including patterns of remembrance, the law of witnesses, the formula of the gospel, and the “type-scene” of spiritual exchange.
The nine examples include (click the numbers at the start of each example to go to Campbell’s corresponding commentary):
1. 1 Nephi 2:16, where Nephi states that he believed all the words of his father, which presages further revelation from the Lord in 1 Nephi 2:19-24.
2. 1 Nephi 11:5, where Nephi’s vision of the tree of life is preceded by his statement to the angel that he believes all the words of his father.
3. Mosiah 5:2, with the people of King Benjamin saying that they believed all the words he spoke to them, which preceded a further spiritual outpouring in Mosiah 5:2-7.
4. Mosiah 17:4, where Alma the Elder believes the words of Abinadi, and proceeds to write all the words Abinadi spoke. After this act, Alma received priesthood authority to baptize, ordain priests, and administer the church, as described in Mosiah 18:13,18.
5. Alma 15:7, with a repentant Zeezrom saying that he believed all the words taught by Alma the Younger, prior to his healing and missionary service, as described in Alma 15:10-12.
6. Alma 18:33, where King Lamoni tells Ammon twice that he will believe or does believe all his words (“all thy words” or “all these things”) prior to his powerful spiritual experience in Alma 18:41-43 and Alma 19:12-13.
7. Alma 19:9, where Lamoni’s wife says that she believes that “it shall be according as [Ammon] has said," prior to her own spiritual manifestation as described later in Alma 19.
8. Alma 22:11, where Lamoni’s father says that Ammon should “tell [him] concerning all these things, and I will believe thy words," which precedes a spiritual outpouring in Alma 22:15-18.
9. Ether 3:12, with the Brother of Jared using different but functionally equivalent phrasing to indicate that he believes the words that the Lord will speak, which preceded a further theophany in Ether 3:6-28.
In addition to these examples, Campbell cites two additional passages that he sees as echoing aspects of the pattern. These are Enos’ statement that “God could not lie,” and Helaman’s statement that he “believe[s] all the words” spoken by his father Alma, which doesn’t appear to have accompanied a divine manifestation.
Though this pattern occurs frequently, Campbell notes that it doesn’t apply to every divine manifestation. Alma the Younger and Saul both received a manifestation while in a state of disbelief. Despite reinforcement from prophets both ancient and modern on the importance of belief in God’s word, this pattern has no obvious parallel outside the Book of Mormon (though Campbell sees Joseph Smith’s First Vision as a possible exception).
Campbell suggests that the Book of Mormon provides an explanation of how belief can lead to further revelation. Alma the Younger indicates that the “mysteries of God” are imparted “according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him," and, because of this the “greater portion of the word” is given to those who don’t harden their hearts to the lesser portion. Mormon makes a similar promise when he says “if it so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.”
For Campbell, this belief need not be blind or thoughtless. Nephi himself admitted that some of God’s words were difficult to understand (and perhaps accept). Mormon’s injunction to “judge, that ye may know good from evil” suggests that reason plays a role in evaluating spiritual truth, alongside the Spirit of Christ. According to Campbell:
“Here, then, is a formula for dealing with situations where a prophet’s words are hard to understand or accept. The formula is simple: open-minded inquiry, faith in God’s ability to reveal, and continued obedience to His commandments.”
Campbell’s work emphasizes an important principle, one that can extend to both the temporal and spiritual aspects of our lives: if you want more, understand and respect and value what you already have. Doing that won’t guarantee that more comes, but it will certainly prepare you for when it heads your way. Campbell’s pattern also deepens in significance when we consider that “belief” is more than just intellectual assent—it’s putting something into action in your life (read: “living by”). It stands to reason that God might be hesitant to give someone more light and knowledge when that knowledge wouldn’t actually change that person’s life in any meaningful way. Striving to live by all of God’s words, rather than picking and choosing the ones that are most convenient, can signal to God that we want revelation, that we’re ready for it, and sharing it with us will be worth his time. Campbell has given me at least nine opportunities to remember that when I read through the Book of Mormon.