What is The Book of Mormon?
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is a volume of scripture similar to the Bible. Like the Bible, it testifies of Jesus Christ and of His role as our Savior, Redeemer, Creator, Advocate, Judge and Friend. It contains prophecies regarding the coming of Jesus Christ that were given before His coming into the world. It also contains the witness of people who saw Him after His resurrection from the dead as well as the witness of those who believed in Him hundreds of years after His resurrection and ascension to heaven.
Like the Bible, The Book of Mormon was written by prophets whose role was to receive revelation from God and teach people according to that revelation. The first of these prophets was named Lehi. Lehi lived in Jerusalem around 600 B.C., about the same time as the Old Testament prophet Jeremiah. Like Jeremiah, Lehi was told by God to warn the people that unless they repented and changed from their evil ways, they would be taken captive and Jerusalem would be destroyed (1 Nephi 1:13). After the people of Jerusalem refused to listen to Lehi and even threatened to kill him, God commanded Lehi to take his family and leave Jerusalem (1 Nephi 2:1-2). Lehi was promised that he would be led to a new land that would be given to him for his inheritance (1 Nephi 2:20). Lehi obeyed the Lord, took his family and some tents, left his riches in Jerusalem and went into the wilderness.
Over the next years, Lehi and his family were slowly guided by the Lord to the ocean. God taught Lehi’s son, Nephi, who also became a prophet, how to build a ship to carry his family across the ocean (1 Nephi 17:7-11, 1 Nephi 18:1-4) . In this ship, Lehi, Nephi and their families were guided by God to the American continent. The Book of Mormon is primarily a record of the ministry of Lehi, Nephi and the prophets that descended from them. It covers a period of time from approximately 600 B.C. until 400 A.D. The book chronicles the righteousness and wickedness of the descendants of Lehi and shows the hand of God in blessing them when they are righteous or punishing them according to their wickedness.
In order to preserve the records over the hundreds of years that Lehi’s posterity would keep records in the Americas, God commanded that they write their records on metal plates (1 Nephi 19:1). Nephi first made plates out of gold, and as those plates were filled with writing, more plates were made. Around 400 A.D., about the time the record of The Book of Mormon ends, there were many separate plates that contained different pieces of the history of the people. God commanded a prophet named Mormon to take these records and compile the most sacred parts of those records into a single volume (Words of Mormon 1:2-8). Because of Mormon’s work in abridging the volumes that had been created over the 1000 years of history, the book bears his name. The book, however, is certainly not about Mormon but contains the prophecies of the prophets concerning Christ from the days of Lehi until the time of Mormon.
The crowning event of The Book of Mormon is the visitation of Christ to His people in the Americas after His resurrection. The people there had been promised that Christ would visit them, and accordingly, Christ appeared to the righteous people in the Americas. When Christ was teaching around Jerusalem during His mortal ministry, He mentioned His upcoming visit to these people when He taught that, “other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10: 16). During His visit to the Americas, Christ told the people that they were some of the “other sheep” that He had told His disciples in Jerusalem that He must visit (3 Nephi 15:21).
During His short ministry in the Americas, Christ instituted the sacrament as He had done at the Last Supper in Jerusalem before His crucifixion (3 Nephi 18:1-11). He taught the people how to pray (3 Nephi 13:5-15). He taught them how to baptize and gave men the authority to baptize those that believed in Him for the remission of their sins (3 Nephi 11:21-23). He also organized a church and called 12 disciples to teach the people according to the gospel of Christ (3 Nephi 12:1).
After Christ’s personal ministry in the Americas, the people enjoyed several generations of righteousness and peace. They followed the commandments of God and were blessed in all things. However, after four generations had lived in peace and righteousness, the people again began to be wicked and to forget the commandments and promises of God. They began to be proud and to follow the temptations of the devil. Prophets were again called to tell them to repent but they did not listen. Eventually, because of the peoples’ hard hearts and their unwillingness to come to God, God allowed them to destroy themselves, and they became almost extinct. Mormon, who abridged the records, and his son Moroni were the final prophets to live in this dark period. They concluded The Book of Mormon with their writings and their testimony of Christ. Before Moroni died, he placed the gold plates that contained the records in a stone box and buried them to keep them safe.
The Book of Mormon was brought forth in our day by a modern day prophet named Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith was visited by an angel named Moroni, the same that had buried the plates. Joseph Smith was told how and when to retrieve the plates from the stone box where they had been for hundreds of years. After receiving the gold plates from Moroni, Joseph Smith translated the book into English through the gift and power of God. Because of Joseph Smith, we now have this ancient record that we can read, handle and understand.
To help us know of the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon, Moroni gave us a promise from God and a way to know for ourselves if the book is true:
“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 invited all people to read the book, ponder its teachings in their hearts and then ask God if it is true or not. We are promised that if we do this, God will teach us personally of its truthfulness. Once we know that The Book of Mormon is true, we also know that Joseph Smith, its translator, was a true prophet and that he was called of God.
I have read The Book of Mormon many times in my life. I have often prayed to God to know if it is true, and without fail I have received the witness of the Holy Spirit that The Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know that when I have tried my best to follow the teachings that are in the book, my life has been blessed. My testimony of Jesus Christ has come primarily through the Spirit that is contained in The Book of Mormon. I know because of the book that Christ lived, that He atoned for my sins, and that He was resurrected. I know because of The Book of Mormon that I can repent and become a better person because of Jesus Christ.
Ezra T. Benson, a modern prophet, said, “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 Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 54). This quote sums up fairly well my feelings on the Book of Mormon. Ezra T. Benson was the prophet of the Lord when I was very young. He constantly taught the importance of the Book of Mormon and about the power and help it will give to people as they read and observe its teachings. I know that the book contains power. I know that if you will read it and seriously ponder its teachings that when you pray to ask God if it is true, He will tell you that it is true. I know that The Book of Mormon is true independently of any other person, and I know that the teachings in that book will bring light and happiness to those that read and follow them.
Jeffrey R. Holland, an apostle of the Lord, bears his testimony of the book.
Jeffrey R. Holland introduces The Book of Mormon
Some Favorite Scriptures
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