Last week an LDS acquaintance told me she will be speaking this coming Sunday in her ward about the Book of Mormon. That got me thinking "What if I were asked to speak in church about the Book of Mormon and how it has effected me and my life? What would I want to say? What could I say?" So I parked myself in front of the screen here as time permitted over the last 3 days, and managed to hunt and peck out the following.
My first encounter with the Book of Mormon occurred over 51 years ago on a rainy day when I could find nothing more exciting to do than browse thru the stacks of a library. I checked the book out and began reading it. The words testimony and witness were not part of my regular vocabulary back then. I simply knew the book I was reading was a true account of God’s dealings with some people who had lived a long time ago, and that it contained messages that made good sense and appealed to me. Now I’m not an easy person to put something over on, as a few politicians have found out the hard way. But as I read the story of how Joseph Smith saw and was spoken to by both God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus the Christ, again, it made perfect sense to me. For a while, the tricky part was finding the Church that it belonged to.
The Book of Mormon is replete with messages surely selected by God to help bring about the immortality and eternal life of all of us. I’d like to share some of those messages that have had profound influence on me.
The most important message to me in the Book of Mormon is that In our premortal state, Jesus Christ became our foreordained Savior in the Father’s plan of salvation. (See
Mosiah 4:6–7; Alma 34:9.) He is the captain of our salvation and the only means through whom we can return to our Father in Heaven to gain that fulness of joy of immortality and eternal life.
For me the most effective speaker about the Book of Mormon among Church General Authorities was President Ezra Taft Benson. While Prophet and President of the Church, Ezra Taft Benson testified that The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ through two basic means. First, he stated, it tells in a plain manner of Christ and His gospel. I think most Latter-day Saints who have seriously read the Book of Mormon would agree that it has helped them draw closer to Christ, and that it has been a catalyst for change for the better in their lives. As a witness for the divinity and mission of Jesus Christ and our covenant relationship to him, it shows us how to become more like Christ. To bring men to Christ and to be reconciled to him. It teaches us things that we must do to live with God some day.
But President Benson called attention to another way in which the Book of Mormon brings men to Christ. Secondly, the Prophet said, the Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It stands as a warning to our generations as it exposes the enemies of Christ and of righteousness so effectively. That may sound daft at first, but in order to more fully emulate Christ. a person needs to know not only how to BE, but also how NOT TO BE. Or put another way, what to BECOME, and also what NOT TO BECOME. The Book of Mormon is a great teacher in that respect.
The Book of Mormon is replete with commandments with which we need to comply in order to prepare ourselves for the blessings of immortality and eternal life. In that connection, the Prophet Joseph Smith once stated, He [the Lord] never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of His law and ordinances. And in the Book of Mormon we learn from Nephi that the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men, save He shall prepare a way that they may accomplish the thing which He commandeth them. The Book of Mormon relates many good examples of obedience to commandments of the Lord that not only brought great blessings to the faithful, but also contributed greatly to the gospel going forth to various peoples in the world. And the Book of Mormon also documents the agonies and ultimate demise of two once great civilizations on the American continent due to disobedience to the Lord’s guidance and commandments. No other written testament so clearly illustrates the fact that when men and nations walk in the fear of God and in obedience to His commandments, they prosper and grow, but when they disregard Him and His word, there comes a decay that, unless arrested by righteousness, leads to impotence and death. The Book of Mormon is an affirmation of the Old Testament proverb: Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people ( Proverbs 14:34). And I want to interject here that To keep God’s commandments requires a specific knowledge of what those commandments are. So how do we LDSs measure up, we who have far greater understanding of God’s commandments, have the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, have the priesthood, have the Holy Ghost, and consequently have greater incentive as well as greater responsibility to do the things God has asked or commanded us to do? And I have to remind myself often enough that God’s commandments are not just some kind of smorgasbord of divine rules from which I can just pick and choose. And again, To keep God’s commandments requires a specific knowledge of what those commandments are.
From the Book of Mormon I have learned that America is a choice land, foreordained to be a land of liberty, (See 2 Ne. 1:5.) and will be a blessed land unto the righteous forever and is the base from which God will continue to direct the worldwide latter-day operations of His kingdom. (See 2 Ne. 1:7.) I have always been thrilled by the brief account of the discovery and colonizing of America thru the power of God. (See 1 Nephi 13) But I note the Book of Mormon warns us that those inhabitants of this land who do not serve God will eventually be swept off from the land. In fact, Moroni spelled that out in 3 consecutive verses in the Book of Ether. (See Ether 2:8,9,10) The Book of Mormon warns us of certain threats to our modern American nation and commands us to guard against those threats and to protect the freedoms we have. In that connection, I recall President Benson telling us that The Book of Mormon contains no conspiracy theories. It contains conspiracy fact.
It is clear in the Book of Mormon that the Lord will fulfill His covenants that he has made with His faithful, regardless of Lucifer’s efforts to thwart Him. But if I understand Moroni correctly, He does not absolve Latter-day Saints from their responsibility of doing everything within their power to protect America’s freedom. In fact, we are advised in D&C134:1 that He holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them [governments] both in making laws and administering them.
Another of the great messages of the Book of Mormon is that freedom, upon which our free agency is dependent, is hard to come by. And we are warned, especially by the Lord thru Moroni in Ether Chapter 8, that once freedom is obtained, it must not be lost.
If we as Latter-day Saints think that this warning is directed just against our gentile neighbors, we should ask ourselves how they could be responsible for this divine mandate when they don’t even know it exists. This means that the burden is on US much more than it is on our fellow citizens, which is fair enough. The ball is clearly in our court.
We also learn from the Book of Mormon that Lucifer is the enemy of all righteousness and seeks to bring about the misery of all mankind. (See 2 Ne. 2:18, 27; Mosiah 4:14.) The Lord has warned us thru Moroni and Nephi that this nation is beset by secret combinations like those in ancient America that sought and acquired great wealth and control of government at the expense of the righteous. In the October 1988 General Conference, President Benson told us that Secret combinations lusting for power, gain, and glory are flourishing. A secret combination that seeks to overthrow the freedom of all lands, nations, and countries is increasing its evil influence and control over America and the entire world. (See Ether 8:18–25, 2 Nephi 26:22) But in the Book of Mormon we learn that God will provide strength for the righteous and the means of escape; and eventually and finally truth will triumph. (See 1 Ne. 22:15–23.) But we need to keep in mind the commandments given us thru Moroni that we awake to a sense of the awful situation caused by the secret combinations and suffer not that they get above us. (See Ether 8: 23-24) Again, that puts the ball squarely in our court.The Book of Mormon also serves as a warning about the deceptions of atheists and agnostics who make non-belief their religion and attack faith and belief. In that connection, President Packer’s article in the August 2010 Ensign magazine tells us they are now organized, they pursue political power, we will be hearing more from them, and much of their attack is indirect in mocking the faithful, in mocking religion. I highly recommend a careful study of that entire article .
And very importantly, We learn that God will give rewards to each according to the deeds done in the flesh. (See Alma 5:15.)
A couple more gems of wisdom about the Book of Mormon:
President Hinkley once stated that The Book of Mormon narrative is a chronicle of nations long since gone. But in its descriptions of the problems of today’s society, it is as current as the morning newspaper and much more definitive, inspired, and inspiring concerning the solutions of those problems.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.
I testify that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. Jesus is the Christ. Joseph Smith was His prophet. Thomas Monson is His prophet now. And that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true.