The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Christ
For most of us who have grown up in the Church, the Book of Mormon has become a symbol for all of us–for our lives, the way we live, the things that we do in the real world. Joseph Smith was more succinct: “I told the brethren 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 any other book” (Introduction to the Book of Mormon).
For some of us, the Book of Mormon lends itself to fascinating pages of wars and rumors of wars, techniques of building fortresses and other buildings; treks across the ocean to new lands; the intrigue of family relationships and kingdoms transferring from one son to the next; the names of animals that inhabited the American continent at the time Lehi’s family stepped onto this land blessed; the many poetic devises, including Chiasmus, used by the prophets in their writings and another testament that Joseph Smith did not write Book of Mormon...But the most important truth–yes, even testimony–that we should capture from reading, studying, and pondering the Book of Mormon is this: That Jesus is the Christ (See Elder Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, “A Testimony of the Book of Mormon,” November 1999) and that the Book of Mormon is “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.”
President Benson said, “A second powerful testimony to the importance of the Book of Mormon is to note where the Lord placed its comings forth in the timetable of the unfolding Restoration. The only thing that preceded it was the First Vision. In that marvelous manifestation, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned the true nature of God and that God had a work for him to do. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon was the next thing to follow” (A Witness and a Warning, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988, pp. 15–22).
What other spiritual concepts can we learn from reading the Book of Mormon? Let me discuss a mere few.
The Book of Mormon converts people. It changes lives. It propels people to do things differently than they had been doing them. It instills in them the feelings of peace and happiness. And most, importantly, it allows them to “come unto Christ.” One family whose life the Book of Mormon changed was the Portales family in La Unión, Chile. Sister Portales was a single mother with six children and housekeeper/nanny to the branch president. He asked us to teach her so we did. One of Sister Portales’ biggest challenges was that she could not read, and her children could barely read because they did not go to school often because they were poor. But read they did, slowly but surely. Often, we would stop by to read with them and to help them with certain passages of the Book of Mormon. Her young boys plodded along in the Book of Mormon, word by word, sentence by sentence, verse by verse, and concept by concept. Soon, the entire Portales family knew the gospel was true and testified of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. They had heard the words. The words had penetrated their hearts. They wanted to “come unto Christ.” Thus, they were baptized and confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And happy were they.
Through the Book of Mormon we become intimately acquainted with the Savior. Because of the prophet Nephi’s words, we are there when He visits the Nephites. Through Mormon, we see Jesus descend from Heaven. “...behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them” (3 Nephi 11:8-11).
We hear His voice speak to the people of the Book of Mormon:
“And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:
“Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
“And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning. (3 Nephi 11:8 - 11)
“Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.”
And we feel of the power and majesty of the Savior and the emotional connection the Nephites had with Him and ultimately a testimony that would last two centuries:
“And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come.
“And when they had all gone forth and had witnessed for themselves, they did cry out with one accord, saying:
“Hosanna! Blessed be the name of the Most High God! And they did fall down at the feet of Jesus, and did worship him (3 Nephi 11:14 - 17).
We, too, can feel of His love for all of us, especially the little children. We, too, can feel the "prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet”—all through the Atonement of Christ.
We learn of the attributes of God—In 2 Nephi, chapter 9, Jacob, Nephi’s brother, discusses with us the attributes of God. We learn that God is wise. We also learn that he is just, merciful, and good. Additionally, we learn…”How great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it.
“And he cometh into the world that he may save all men if they will hearken unto his voice; for behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature, both men, women, and children, who belong to the family of Adam” (2 Nephi 9:20-21).
We learn of the atonement of Christ—Because of His love for us, He provided a way for all of us to return to Him and the Father. We know that “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). Jacob teaches “And the Messiah cometh in the fullness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law at the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given” (2 Nephi 2:25-26).
We learn why we need to come unto Christ. At the very beginning of the Book of Mormon, Nephi is extremely succinct in telling us why he is writing on the plates: “For the fullness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved” (1 Nephi 6:4 (bold mine). Then at the end, in verse 32 of Chapter 10, the third to the last verse, Moroni reiterates the plea: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God” (Moroni 10:32).
We learn of the Plan of Happiness—This plan of happiness or the plan of salvation allows us—if we are obedient to the laws and commandments of God—to return to our Father in Heaven as families. But we also know that the path toward the Plan of Happiness is strewn with obstacles. Lehi’s dream shows us of the mists of darkness and the great and spacious building wherein people mock us at every turn. Yet, Nephi says, “And we heeded them not…” We also know that the path is narrow. Consider Jacob’s words: “Behold, the way for man is narrow, but it lieth in a straight course before him, and the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel; and he employeth no servant there; and there is none other way save it be by the gate; for he cannot be deceived, for the Lord God is his name” (2 Nephi 9:41). The fact that the “Holy One of Israel” is the one at the gate is consoling. I know He loves me enough to be there to help me understand the true Plan of Happiness, but I must be obedient to His teachings.
We learn what kind of people we ought to be—It has been obvious from the beginning. When asked what manner of men ought you to be, the answer was very simple, yet profound: “Yea, even as I.” Throughout His ministry, He taught about being kind to the poor, helping those who need help, lifting the burdens of others, and willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light;
“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—(Mosiah 18:8-9). Part of the Plan of Happiness is our ability to know good from evil. In fact, Lehi in speaking to his son Jacob says “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11).
Once again, trough divine inspiration, Mormon helps us understand the succinct differences between good and evil:
“But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God”
“Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil” (Moroni 7:12-14).
“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil” (Moroni 7:16).
We learn of His love for us and of the blessings that come to us because of our obedience to the commandments of God. I know all of you have felt the love of our Heavenly Father and His Son, yes even their “tender mercies.” When we are obedient, happiness tends to extend to our very soul. It is when we do things not conducive to the spirit is when we feel overwhelmed or not worthy. This is the time when we need to repent and “come unto Christ” and bask in the spiritual awareness that will come. Moroni tells us that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ must be our foundation: “I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6).
Like many prophets of old, and recently President Boyd K. Packer, I, too, bear witness that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book upon the face of the earth. Like you, I have read the Book of Mormon promise:
“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:3- 6).
I know that Book of Mormon is true. I have read it. I have studied it. I have prayed about it. And the Holy Ghost testified of its truthfulness to me. I urge all to read and study and pray about the Book of Mormon.