Latter-day Saints are blessed to have not only the biblical accounts of Jesus’ birth in Matthew and Luke, but also the account found in the Book of Mormon. We know that early Book of Mormon prophets knew that Jesus would be born precisely 600 years from the time that Lehi left Jerusalem:
2 Nephi 25:19 For according to the words of the prophets, the Messiah cometh in six hundred years from the time that my father left Jerusalem; and according to the words of the prophets, and also the word of the angel of God, his name shall be Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Nephi knew centuries before it happened that Jesus would be born of Mary, a virgin from Nazareth.
1 Nephi 11:13 –20 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white. 14 And it came to pass that I saw the heavens• open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou? 15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins. 16 And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God? 17 And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things. 18 And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin• whom thou seest is the mother• of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh. 19 And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look! 20 And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
This is more specific than any prophecy that we have in the present Old Testament.
The Nephites looked forward to the coming of Christ throughout the whole of the Book of Mormon. Right at the beginning of 1 Nephi Nephi speaks of his father’s vision in which Lehi was shown the coming of the Messiah. Nephi and King Benjamin both saw the Saviour’s birth, ministry and crucifixion. Abinadi taught that all the prophets who ever prophesied, from the beginning of the world onward testified of the coming of the Messiah.
In about 6 BC a brave Lamanite prophet called Samuel was sent among the Nephites to preach repentance and the coming of the Lord. The Nephites were offended that a Lamanite should come and tell them to repent. We do not know Samuel’s background other than that he was a Lamanite but we do know that at this period in Book of Mormon history many Lamanites had been converted.
Helaman 5: 18-19 And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi did preach unto the Lamanites with such great power and authority, for they had power and authority given unto them that they might speak, and they also had what they should speak given unto them— 19 Therefore they did speak unto the great astonishment of the Lamanites, to the convincing them, insomuch that there were eight thousand of the Lamanites who were in the land of Zarahemla and round about baptized unto repentance, and were convinced of the wickedness of the traditions of their fathers.
300 Lamanites were converted after witnessing Nephi and Lehi miraculously encircled by fire in a Lamanite prison. These 300 converted many more Lamanites through their testimonies.
The Nephites rejected Samuel’s message and he was about to return to his own land when the voice of the Lord instructed him to return and prophesy whatsoever things should come into his heart. Samuel climbed upon the city’s wall and after prophesying of God’s impending judgements, he prophesied of signs and wonders that would occur at the birth and death of the Saviour.
After Samuel finished preaching, those who believed were baptized. Others became even more angry and tried to kill Samuel. When it became apparent that Samuel was protected and could not be harmed many more believed and were baptised.
At the appointed time, which was 600 years from Lehi’s departure from Jerusalem, the sign of Christ’s birth was given.
Imagine the joy the believers must have felt when the prophesied sign of the Lord Jesus Christ’s birth was fulfilled! And yet some would still not believe, even though they had seen the signs of His birth. President Joseph F. Smith cautioned, “Show me Latter-day Saints who have to feed upon miracles, signs and visions in order to keep them steadfast in the Church, and I will show you members of the Church who are not in good standing before God, and who are walking in slippery paths. It is not by marvelous manifestations unto us that we shall be established in the truth, but it is by humility and faithful obedience to the commandments and laws of God”
How blessed we are to have another testament of Jesus Christ – the Book of Mormon.
According to President Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon is the keystone in our witness of Jesus Christ, who is Himself the cornerstone of everything we do. It bears witness of His reality with power and clarity. Unlike the Bible, which passed through generations of copyists, translators, and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text, the Book of Mormon came from writer to reader in just one inspired step of translation. Therefore, its testimony of the Master is clear, undiluted, and full of power” (“The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Nov., 1986, 5).