“3 And he also taught them concerning the records which were engraven on the plates of brass, saying: My sons, I would that ye should remember that were it not for these plates, which contain these records and these commandments, we must have suffered in ignorance, even at this present time, not knowing the mysteries of God.
4 For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings, and teach them to his children, that thereby they could teach them to their children, and so fulfilling the commandments of God, even down to this present time.
5 I say unto you, my sons, were it not for these things, which have been kept and preserved by the hand of God, that we might read and understand of his mysteries, and have his commandments always before our eyes, that even our fathers would have dwindled in unbelief, and we should have been like unto our brethren, the Lamanites, who know nothing concerning these things, or even do not believe them when they are taught them, because of the traditions of their fathers, which are not correct.”
I love what the Book of Mormon has to say about the importance of scriptures and scriptural memory. More than any other book of scripture, the Book of Mormon painfully illustrates the consequences when a people lose the scriptures or become scripturally illiterate.
Even a righteous man like Lehi could not have successfully maintained the teachings of Christ among his people without a written record. For the things that are believed in one generation become merely lived in the next and then disbelieved and ultimately rejected. It doesn’t take much time at all for critical values and beliefs to fall out of vogue. We see this repeatedly in the Book of Mormon with the Lamanites and Mulekites most particularly. And without a scriptural memory, most of the Lamanites reject the scriptural truths even when they are taught.
For centuries, scriptures were a precious commodity–so precious that God commanded Nephi to kill Laban to secure the plates. Time and again, God’s insistence on getting the plates is validated in the history that transpires. Fortunately, in our day scriptures are widely available to us. Yet, as Elder Christofferson noted in conference a few years ago: “Today the Bible and other scripture are readily at hand, yet there is a growing scriptural illiteracy because people will not open the books. Consequently they have forgotten things their grandparents knew.” It is no wonder that we keep moving further and further away from the eternal truths contained in the scriptures.