Some time ago I heard a story (I don’t know where or if it is even true) about when some modern day church leaders were at the Hill Cumorah and found a cavern with many records in it. The first time they saw it the Sword of Laban lay on a table in its sheath and then the second time they saw it the sword was on the table unsheathed. I have also noticed that the Sword of Laban was passed down through all the Book of Mormon prophets and when Joseph got the plates it was there too. My question is, what is the significance of the Sword of Laban — is there any? Also, did that story really happen and do you know where I can find it if it did?
The modern day church leaders that you refer to were Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. It is recorded that on two occasions they entered a room in the Hill Cumorah and saw what you describe. The quotation from the Journal of Discourses is as follows:
“The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: ‘This sword will never be sheathed again until The Kingdoms of this world become the Kingdom of our God and his Christ'” (JD 19:38).
Concerning any significance attached to the Sword of Laban beyond the arresting significance associated with the inscription that Joseph and Oliver saw on it, we would suggest the following:
During Nephite times the Sword of Laban apparently was a symbol of kingly authority, as it was given, along with the sacred records, to each succeeding Nephite king. The Sword of Laban was included in the various relics that were given to Joseph Smith, along with the plates of the Book of Mormon. The Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon were promised a view of the Sword of Laban, along with the breastplate and the Urim and Thummim. (D&C 17:1)
There is a treatise in the “Journal of Book of Mormon Studies” entitled, “The Sword of Laban as a Symbol of Divine Authority and Kingship.” The abstract to that paper includes the statement: “The sword of Laban as it is associated with Joseph Smith came to be an additional witness of his authority and of the divine sanction for his work.”