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Publication TypeEncyclopedia Entry
Year of Publication1992
AuthorsRasmussen, Ellis T.
Secondary AuthorsLudlow, Daniel H.
Secondary TitleEncyclopedia of Mormonism
Place PublishedNew York
KeywordsDeuteronomy (Book); Five Books of Moses; Law of Moses
Citation Key9481

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Author: Rasmussen, Ellis T.

Deuteronomy (Greek for "duplication of the law") is the fifth book of the Old Testament. Latter-day Saints have specific interests in this work. It distinctively teaches that those who inherit a Promised Land do so on condition that they remain faithful to the Lord, pure in heart, generous to the poor, and devoted to God's Law. In a formula that appears several times, the people are promised that they will receive blessings for obedience to God and punishment for disobedience (Deut. 27-30). Book of Mormon prophets taught similar doctrines, and they also indicated that such principles were divinely given long before Moses. Latter-day scriptures are replete with deuteronomic teachings. Significantly, Jesus Christ quoted Deuteronomy regularly.

JESUS' USE OF DEUTERONOMY. When Satan tempted Jesus, saying that if he were the Son of God he would turn stones to bread, leap from the temple's pinnacle to test God's care, and gain worldly kingdoms and glory by worshiping Satan, the Savior responded with quotations from Deuteronomy (Matt. 4:1-10; cf. Deut. 8:3;6:16, 13). He cited Deuteronomy regarding the law of witnesses and levirate marriage (John 8:17; Luke 20:28; cf. Deut. 19:15;25:5). Twice he quoted the law on loving God (Deut. 6:4-5), calling it "the first and great commandment" (Matt. 22:35-38; cf. Luke 10:25-27). Many of Jesus' teachings admonishing good and warning against evil reiterate the deuteronomic principle of human action and divine response. Indeed, the Book of Mormon teaches that the premortal Jesus gave the Law of Moses (3 Ne. 11:14;12:17-18;15:4-6).

DEUTERONOMIC TEACHINGS IN THE BOOK OF MORMON. The Jerusalem emigrants who became a Book of Mormon people retained a copy of the five books of Moses on plates of brass (1 Ne. 4:38;5:11-16). They were taught the Law of Moses and were promised security and happiness if they obeyed it (e.g., 2 Ne. 1:16-20). Retention of their Promised Land depended upon continued obedience (e.g., 1 Ne. 2:20-23;4:14;7:13;14:1-2; cf. Deut. 18:9-13). Just as deuteronomic teachings were a stimulus for righteous commitment in King Josiah's Jerusalem (2 Kgs. 23:2-8), so were they in the Book of Mormon (e.g., 1 Ne. 17:33-38; 2 Ne. 5:10; Omni 1:2; Mosiah 1:1-7; Alma 8:17). Certain summary statements in the Book of Mormon may also reflect deuteronomic law (e.g., Alma 58:40; Hel. 3:20;6:34;15:5; 3 Ne. 25:4). Further, the prophecy of God's raising up a prophet in Deuteronomy 18:15-19is declared by the Book of Mormon to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ (1 Ne. 22:20; 3 Ne. 20:23; cf. John 6:14; Acts 3:22;7:37).

Book of Mormon writers observed that the prophet Alma 2 may have been taken up by God as Moses was, reflecting a possible variant in their copy of Deuteronomy 34:5-6: "The scriptures saith the Lord took Moses unto himself" (Alma 45:19).

The book of Ether describes a people from the time of "the great tower" of Babel (Ether 1:3), with whom God covenanted that they could escape the fate of the wicked and be blessed in their land of promise if they would serve him in righteousness. This account from an epoch long before Moses is nevertheless in harmony with deuteronomic principles (Ether 2:6-10;7:23;9:20;10:28;11:6). When their descendants became wicked, they destroyed each other in successive wars (Ether 11:13, 20-21;15:19).

DEUTERONOMIC IDEAS IN OTHER LDS SCRIPTURES. As recorded in the Pearl of Great Price, Adam and Eve were taught about choices and consequences in the beginning (Moses 3:15-17;4:8-9, 22-25, 28). Generations of their descendants taught others righteousness and warned them about wickedness (Moses 6:22-23;7:10, 15, 17-18). Noah taught the same doctrines; and the deluge followed rejection of his divine counsel (Moses 8:16-20).

The Doctrine and Covenants contains scores of passages about keeping the commandments of God (e.g., D&C 5:22;6:6, 9, 37;8:5;11:6, 9, 18, 20). Those who keep them are promised blessings (e.g., D&C 14:7;63:23;76:52-55;89:18-21;93:19-20). Violators, of course, will suffer negative consequences (e.g., D&C 10:56;18:46;56:2-3). Thus, so-called deuteronomic precepts persist as divinely ordained principles. [See also Covenants in Biblical Times; Law of Moses; Obedience; Old Testament.]


Nibley, Hugh. "How to Get Rich." CWHN, Vol. 9, pp. 178-201.

Rasmussen, Ellis T. "The Unchanging Gospel of Two Testaments." Ensign 3 (Oct. 1973):34-35.

Sperry, Sidney B. The Spirit of the Old Testament. 2nd ed., chaps. 5, 12, 13. Salt Lake City, 1970.