I recently read the book of Omni in my scripture study. Normally, I sort of skim over this book because I have never found much sustenance in it. This time, I decided to take a deeper look into Omni to figure out why it’s included in the Book of Mormon.
We start off with Omni telling us that his father commanded him to write the plates. Then, Amaron, Chemish, Abinadom, and Amaleki repeat that commandment—each adding a little bit to the plates. We end with a succinct testimony from Amaleki just before he tells us that the plates are full and he’s about to die, so he concludes the writing. There is some peace and some war and a brief history of Mosiah within the writing, but what strikes me, more than any of that, is the importance of following the commandments. Recording the history of your people on metal plates is no small commandment. Yet, all five of the writers decide to follow the commandment and record what they can and what they think is important. I know that I have many times where I know there is a commandment I should follow, but it just seems simpler to ignore it.
I’m sure that some of these writers probably thought it might be simpler to ignore the commandment. Chemish actually tells us in verse 9 that he’s only adding his name because that’s the manner of record keeping, and it’s a commandment. But still, he wrote his part. I actually find Chemish’s verse very intriguing. He was handed the plates from his brother. It seems like his role is as a witness to the words, and despite the difficulty of writing, he does add his name before he hands them onto his son. I like his writing because it tells me that commandments are passed through both writing and through example. He has written the commandments, but he has also shown his son (the next writer) that it is important to follow this command. What would his son have thought had Chemish simply gotten the plates from his brother and then handed them to his son—telling, but not showing his son, that recording the history was a commandment. We are meant to read and follow commandments, but we’re also meant to be examples of the believers and live the commandments so that others will see our actions as witnesses of the truth of the commandments.
Finally, I think the whole existence of the Book of Omni speaks to how most of us feel in our callings within the Church—like a daunting task is awaiting you and you don’t really know if you’re going to do it right or well, but you do it anyway. I love what Omni says that shows his human weaknesses, “But behold, I of myself am a wicked man, and I have not kept the statutes and the commandments of the Lord as I ought to have done.” Here he is, telling us that he doesn’t really feel sure that he’s the right man for this calling. Yet, he fulfills it as best he knows. That’s what I find so beautiful. We are all trying to fulfill our callings and follow the commandments as best we know how. Even the writers of the Book of Mormon were pretty sure they weren’t qualified to be keeping the record of their people, yet they did it anyway. We are inadequate and fallible humans, keeping records, serving in callings, and trying to live the best way we know how. The beauty of the gospel is that despite this, if we do our best, the spirit will make up for what we lack. Perhaps the writers of Omni felt that their part was lacking. We know that they did not feel worthy of their calling. However, as with all verses of the Book of Mormon, the Spirit testifies of its truthfulness, despite the human frailties contained within the writing.
I found quite a bit of insight into the Book of Omni simply by taking time to think about the “why” of the book. I challenge you to do the same with a section of scripture that you tend to skim over. I promise that as you do so, the Spirit will testify to you of the importance of that section; it is there for a reason.