Friday, September 9, 2011

What is the Book of Mormon?


From the beginning of time, God has established a pattern of speaking to His children on the earth. He reveals his secrets to his servants the prophets1 that we, the children of God, may know to what source to look for a remission of our sins.2 This pattern of working through prophets is seen among the ancient children of Israel in the Old Testament and among both Jew and Gentile in the New Testament. As God loves all His children and is no respecter of persons,3 He also called prophets in the ancient Americas who recorded His word and preserved it for us in a miraculous record called the Book of Mormon.4

In the centuries preceding Christ’s birth, the Holy Land was just as much of a territorial battlefield as it is today. Jerusalem was constantly being conquered or destroyed, with its inhabitants being carried away captive. Each time, the Lord’s prophets preached faith and repentance, urging people to live the commandments of God and the Law of Moses, and prophesying that if they did not repent, Jerusalem would be conquered or destroyed. One of these such prophets was Lehi, who lived in Jerusalem about 600 BC. As Lehi “went forth among the people, and began to prophesy and to declare unto them concerning the things which he had both seen and heard . . . the Jews did mock him because of the things which he testified of them.” Lehi continued to preach unto them repentance and the people became so angry that, “they also sought his life, that they might take it away.”5

However, being warned by God of the evil intent of the people, Lehi took his family and a small group of others and fled Jerusalem. God led Lehi’s family through the desert and eventually to the sea where they built a ship and, under the direction of God, sailed to the “promised land,”6 known today as the Americas.

Once in the Americas, Lehi’s children divided in a power struggle, making two main groups: the Nephites who were righteous and obedient to the commandments of God, and the Lamanites who were bitter and wicked. The people explored, settled, grew, and started civilizations that waxed and waned and warred. Over the next thousand years God continued to call prophets among them as He has among all His children since the creation of the earth. Each prophet taught the gospel of Jesus Christ and preached faith, hope, charity, repentance, baptism, the Holy Ghost, and the blessings of obedience. They taught of the great plan of God, of the purpose of life, and of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Of his own calling and purpose as a prophet, Lehi’s son Nephi wrote:

“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade out children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

. . .

“And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophesies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”7


While the Book of Mormon does contain a small part of the histories of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and also tells of two other groups of people who made their way to the Americas, the focus of the Book of Mormon is Jesus Christ and His dealings with them. The Book of Mormon does contain wars; mysteries; intrigue; the rise and fall of governments, economies, and great civilizations; antichrists; miracles; angels; and a continuous cycle of prosperity, pride, sin, downfall, humility, repentance, and prosperity. But more importantly the pages of the Book of Mormon contain the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As stated in the introduction to the Book of Mormon, “The crowing event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after his resurrection.
It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.”8 Jesus Christ, as He had told His disciples in Jerusalem, visited His “other sheep”9 to work miracles among them,10 teach them His doctrine,11 testify of the truthfulness of the words of the prophets who had come before,12 and to organize his Church and call twelve to lead.13

Eventually, “wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole land, insomuch that the Lord did take away his beloved disciples, and the work of miracles and of healing did cease because of the iniquity of the people.”14 At that time, the prophet-historian Mormon was put in charge of all the sacred records kept by the people since Lehi and his family left Jerusalem and, under the direction of the Lord, compiled and abridged the teachings that were most important and pertinent and helpful to us in our day, creating a volume of holy writ expressly for us in the latter days. The title page of the Book of Mormon states that the Book of Mormon was “written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile . . .”15 thus the audience of the Book of Mormon includes everyone on the earth. Because Mormon is responsible for the compilation and abridgement of the teachings, the record is known as the Book of Mormon. However in an effort to alleviate confusion concerning the focus and purpose of the Book of Mormon, the real name is the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

Mormon passed the record, engraved on gold plates, to his son Moroni who added a few final words of his own, including his testimony of the truthfulness of that which was written on the plates. Like his father, Moroni saw our day and knew that the things which were written in the Book of Mormon would bless the lives of those who lived in the latter-days. Wrote Moroni, “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.”16 He buried the gold plates in a hill to be preserved and come forth at a time the Lord saw fit to restore the fullness of His gospel. As Paul described it, “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.”17

Moroni’s final words contain an admonition and exhortation to all those who read the Book of Mormon:

“And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.

“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.

“And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.”18 19

The Book of Mormon is the word of God, a truth confirmed by the Savior Himself.20 It does not replace the Bible, but rather complements, upholds, and testifies of the sacred things written in the Bible. Any person on the earth can know of the truthfulness of the things contained in the Book of Mormon as directed by Moroni. I testify that those who do so will feel a familiarity and comfort with what they are learning as though they once knew the things they are reading. And I testify that those who do will notice a level peace and light come into their lives never before noticed and unattainable through any other means.

I challenge each of you to give the Book of Mormon a shot. Any questionable thing you may have heard about the Book of Mormon will be cleared up as you search its pages and gain a better understanding of the doctrines of Jesus Christ. Do you want to get a hold of a copy of the Book of Mormon? Ask your LDS neighbor or co-worker, follow this link, or ask me, I’d love to get you a copy. (And it’s free.)

I love the Book of Mormon. I love the stories and the people and I love the clarity with which the doctrines are taught. I love the deeper understanding of the Atonement that the Book of Mormon provides. I know that Jesus is the Christ. I know that He lived and died for us and that He lives again. The Book of Mormon and what it represents has shaped my life to what it is today.

The Book of Mormon is true, read it.

Jeremy

1.       See Amos 3:7
.
2.       See 2 Nephi 25:26.
3.       See Acts 10:34.
4.       God also calls prophets in our day, beginning with Joseph Smith in 1820. Thomas S. Monson is the Lord’s prophet on the earth today.
5.       1 Nephi 1:19-20.
6.       1 Nephi 18:23.
7.       2 Nephi 25:23,26.
8.       Introduction to the Book of Mormon.
9.       John 10:16; see also 3 Nephi 15:21-24. To the ancient inhabitants of the Americas, Jesus Christ explains that the Jews did not understand what Christ meant when He said, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them also I must bring.” The Jews thought He meant the Gentiles when, in fact, He meant the inhabitants of the Americas and even others (see 3 Nephi 16:1-3).
10.   See 3 Nephi 17:6-25.
11.   See 3 Nephi 9-28; C.f. manner of baptism 11:23-28; contention 11:29; the Gospel, i.e. faith, repentance, baptism, Holy Ghost 11:32-38; the Sermon on the Mount 12-14; the ordinance of the sacrament 18:1-12; the importance of and manner in which to pray 18:18-21; meeting together as a church 18:23-24; tithing 24:8-11; name of the church 27:3-11; the purpose of Christ’s mortal life and the Atonement 27:13-17.
12.   See 3 Nephi 20:24.
13.   See 3 Nephi 12:1.
14.   Mormon 1:13.
15.   Title Page of the Book of Mormon.
16.   Mormon 8:35.
17.   Ephesians 1:10.
18.   Moroni 10:2-6.
19.   The Introduction to the Book of Mormon reiterates the promise given by Moroni: “We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10:3–5.)
     “ Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah.”
20.   President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “This gift [The Book of Mormon] was prepared by the hand of the Lord over a period of more than a thousand years, then hidden up by Him so that it would be preserved in its purity for our generation. Perhaps there is nothing that testifies more clearly of the importance of this modern book of scripture than what the Lord Himself has said about it.
     “By His own mouth He has borne witness (1) that it is true (D&C 17:6), (2) that it contains the truth and His words (D&C 19:26), (3) that it was translated by power from on high (D&C 20:8), (4) that it contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (D&C 20:9D&C 42:12), (5) that it was given by inspiration and confirmed by the ministering of angels (D&C 20:10), (6) that it gives evidence that the holy scriptures are true (D&C 20:11), and (7) that those who receive it in faith shall receive eternal life (D&C 20:14).” (“The Book of Mormon—The Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Nov 1986, 4.)