Thoughts on Lesson 4

The Keystone of Our Religion

I would like to discuss one of the most significant gifts given to the world in modern times. The gift I am thinking of is more important than any of the inventions and technological revolutions. This is a gift of greater value to mankind than even the many wonderful advances we have seen in modern medicine. It is of greater worth to mankind than the development of flight or space travel. I speak of the gift of the Book of Mormon.

This gift 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 of 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 20:9; 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).

A second powerful testimony to the importance of the Book of Mormon is to note where the Lord placed its coming 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.

Think of that in terms of what it implies. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon preceded the restoration of the priesthood. It was published just a few days before the Church was organized. The Saints were given the Book of Mormon to read before they were given the revelations outlining such great doctrines as the three degrees of glory, celestial marriage, or work for the dead. It came before priesthood quorums and Church organization. Doesn't this tell us something about how the Lord views this sacred work?

Once we realize how the Lord feels about this book, it should not surprise us that He also gives us solemn warnings about how we receive it. After indicating that those who receive the Book of Mormon with faith, working righteousness, will receive a crown of eternal glory (see D&C 20:14), the Lord follows with this warning: "But those who harden their hearts in unbelief, and reject it, it shall turn to their own condemnation." (D&C 20:15.)

In 1829, the Lord warned the Saints that they are not to trifle with sacred things. (See D&C 6:12.) Surely the Book of Mormon is a sacred thing, and yet many trifle with it, or in other words, take it lightly, treat it as though it is of little importance.

In 1832, as some early missionaries returned from their fields of labor, the Lord reproved them for treating the Book of Mormon lightly. As a result of that attitude, He said, their minds had been darkened. Not only had treating this sacred book lightly brought a loss of light to themselves, it had also brought the whole Church under condemnation, even all the children of Zion. And then the Lord said, "And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon." (D&C 84:54-57.)

Do we remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon? In the Bible we have the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word testament is the English rendering of a Greek word that can also be translated as covenant. Is this what the Lord meant when He called the Book of Mormon the "new covenant"? It is indeed another testament or witness of Jesus. This is one of the reasons why we have recently added the words Another Testament of Jesus Christ to the title of the Book of Mormon.

It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called "the words of life" (see D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.

This is my prayer, that the Book of Mormon may become the keystone of our lives.

B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Vol. 1, 134-138.

WITNESSES TO THE DIVINE ORIGIN OF THE BOOK OF MORMON

According to the statement of Lucy Smith, it was the day following [their] arrival from Palmyra that the three witnesses obtained their view of the plates; but neither in her work nor in any of our annals is the date of the occurrence given.

"Joseph, Oliver and David, repaired to a grove, a short distance from the house, where they commenced calling upon the Lord, and continued in earnest supplication, until he permitted an angel to come down from his presence and declare to them that all Joseph testified of concerning the plates was true. When they returned to the house, it was between three and four o'clock in the afternoon. Mrs. Whitmer, Mr. Smith and myself were sitting in a bedroom at the time. On coming in Joseph threw himself down beside me, and exclaimed: 'Father, mother, you do not know how happy I am; the Lord has now caused the plates to be shown to three more besides myself. They have seen an angel, who has testified to them, and they will have to bear witness to the truth of what I have said, for now they know for themselves that I do not go about to deceive the people, and I feel as if I was relieved of a burden which was almost too heavy for me to bear, and it rejoices my soul, that I am not any longer to be entirely alone in the work.' Upon this Martin Harris came in: He seemed almost overcome with joy, and testified boldly to what he had both seen and heard. And so did David and Oliver, adding, that no tongue could express the joy of their hearts, and the greatness of the things which they had both seen and heard."
The Prophet's own account of the circumstances attendant upon the revelation to the three witnesses is both interesting and important. The Prophet in his history says:
"Not many days after the above commandment was given, we four, viz., Martin Harris, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and myself, agreed to retire into the woods and try to obtain by fervent and humble prayer, the fulfillment of the promises given in the revelation, that they should have a view of the plates, etc. We accordingly made choice of a piece of woods convenient to Mr. Whitmer's house, to which we retired, and having knelt down we began to pray in much faith to Almighty God to bestow upon us a realization of these promises. According to previous arrangements, I commenced by vocal prayer to our heavenly Father, and was followed by each of the rest in succession. We did not, however, obtain any answer or manifestation of the divine favor in our behalf. We again observed the same order of prayer, each calling on and praying fervently to God in rotation, but with the same result as before. Upon this, our second failure, Martin Harris proposed that he should withdraw himself from us, believing, as he expressed himself, that his presence was the cause of our not obtaining what we wished for; he accordingly withdrew from us, and we knelt down again, and had not been many minutes engaged in prayer, when presently we beheld a light above us in the air of exceeding brightness; and, behold, an angel stood before us; in his hands he held the plates which we had been praying for these to have a view of. He turned over the leaves one by one, so that we could see them and discover the engravings thereon distinctly. He then addressed himself to David Whitmer, and said, 'David, blessed is the Lord, and he that keeps his commandments.' When immediately afterwards, we heard a voice from out of the bright light above us, saying: 'These plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct, and I command you to bear record of what you now see and hear.'

"I now left David and Oliver, and went in pursuit of Martin Harris, whom I found at a considerable distance fervently engaged in prayer. He soon told me, however, that he had not yet prevailed with the Lord, and earnestly requested me to join him in prayer, that he also might realize the same blessings which we had just received. We accordingly joined in prayer, and ultimately obtained our desires, for before we had finished, the same vision was opened to our view, at least it was again to me, and I once more beheld and heard the same things, whilst at the same moment Martin Harris cried out, apparently in ecstasy of joy, "Tis enough; mine eyes have beheld!' and jumping up, he shouted hosannah, blessing God and otherwise rejoiced exceedingly."

As a result of this revelation, given under such remarkable circumstances and demonstrations of the power of God, the three witnesses published their (testimonies), which appeared at the end of the first edition (of the Book of Mormon), and following the title page of all subsequent editions.
Comments and feedback can be sent to feedback@ldsliving.com