Joseph's Coat and Moroni's Covenant of Liberty
In the biblical account, after Joseph's brothers sell him into slavery, they kill a goat, dip Joseph's coat in the blood of the animal, and send the coat to their father, Jacob, to make him think that Joseph has been killed by a wild beast (see Genesis 37:31-33). Later we read that Joseph refused the advances of Potiphar's wife in order to remain faithful to God but was nevertheless falsely accused and imprisoned (see Genesis 39).
It is interesting that, in the book of Alma, Moroni directly associates his covenant of liberty with certain key elements of the Joseph story. This is seen when Moroni warns that he and his fellow Nephites must "keep the commandments of God, or our garments shall be rent by our brethren, and we be cast into prison, or be sold, or be slain" (Alma 46:23).
The rent coat or garment was an essential part of Moroni's covenant of liberty. Moroni rent his coat and rallied the people; then the people rent their garments "in token, or as a covenant, that they would not forsake the Lord their God; or, in other words, if they should transgress the commandments of God, or fall into transgression, and be ashamed to take upon them the name of Christ, the Lord should rend them even as they had rent their garments" (Alma 46:21).
Moroni's rent garment is clearly symbolic of Joseph's coat, which was "rent by his brethren into many pieces" (Alma 46:23). In Genesis, when Jacob sees Joseph's bloodstained coat, he assumes that "an evil beast hath devoured him" and concludes, "Joseph is without doubt rent in pieces" (Genesis 37:33). Although the Genesis account, unlike the Alma account, does not explicitly state that the coat was rent or torn, a version of this episode preserved in the Book of Jasher (a 13th-century collection of Jewish stories from an earlier period) does specifically state that Joseph's brothers "took Joseph's coat and tore it."1
The Book of Jasher also relates that after Joseph's brothers tore the coat and dipped it in blood, they "trampled it in the dust and sent it to their father."2 While this detail is not found in the Bible, it may reflect a tradition familiar to Moroni at the time he administered the Nephite covenant of liberty.
Moroni prayed that the faithful Nephites would not be "trodden down and destroyed" by their enemies (Alma 46:18). When the people accepted the covenant of liberty, "they cast their garments at the feet of Moroni, saying: We covenant with our God, that we shall be destroyed . . . if we shall fall into transgression; yea, he [God] may cast us at the feet of our enemies, even as we have cast our garments at thy feet to be trodden under foot, if we shall fall into transgression" (Alma 46:22). The significance of this covenant for the Nephite nation is likely reflected in the fact that Mormon later refers to the Nephites in their times of wickedness as being "trodden down" (Helaman 4:20; see Mormon 5:6).
It seems clear that Moroni knew about and utilized elements of the Joseph story that are no longer, or never were, in our Bible but were preserved either through Nephite oral tradition or on the plates of brass. Significantly, some of these nonbiblical traditions appear to have also been preserved in Jewish traditions found in the Book of Jasher, a source available in Hebrew but not published in English until 1840, 10 years after the first edition of the Book of Mormon. !