In his latest volume, Dr. Paul R. Cheesman of the Brigham Young University faculty presents Joseph Smith’s teachings about the Book of Mormon and the events surrounding its coming forth. He treats some interesting and little-known facts about its translation, the heavenly messengers sent in connection with the book, and the manuscript copies of the translation.
In one section of Joseph Smith’s comments concerning the Book of Mormon, the author quotes:
“I wish to mention here that the title page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates … and that said title page is not by any means a modern composition, either of mine or of any other man who has lived or does live in this generation.” (Documentary History of the Church 1:71.)
Joseph Smith also described the accuracy of the Book of Mormon. After spending the day meeting with the Council of the Twelve, he wrote, “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 by any other book.” (DHC 4:461.)
Land by land, site by site, LaMar C. Berrett takes his readers through the world of the Bible and reports on modern and traditional history of hundreds of important sites.
For example, in his section on Jerusalem, he details 38 major locations in both Old Testament and New Testament history. Although descriptions include vital biblical sites in Cyprus, Egypt, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey, the largest section focuses on the geography of Israel.
Since only 55 percent of the Bible’s 475 place names have been identified with certainty, Brother Berrett has used both the history and tradition associated with each site to inform the reader. Other features of the book include a chart of Paul’s missionary journeys, chronology dovetailing political kingdoms with the lives of religious leaders, and a glossary of unusual terms (adytum—the innermost sanctuary or shrine in an ancient temple; kaffiyeh—an Arab headdress; and moshav—a cooperative group of farms in Israel) common to this interesting and important part of the world.
“… let me briefly recall the great reaffirmation I experienced in my prison years. It is that, however tough the going gets, God never deserts us if we put our trust in him and try to do his will.”
That is the conclusion reached by a Latter-day Saint soldier who spent seven years as a prisoner-of-war in Hanoi prison camps—seven years during which he taught religion in a self-initiated “school,” discussed the principles of the gospel with fellow prisoners, and helped compile a Latter-day Saint hymnbook from memory.
Among the first prisoners to be released by the North Vietnamese (Ensign, April 1973), Brother Larry Chesley says that although he lost a great deal during his years of captivity, his was a learning experience. Much of what he learned and explains in his book has value and application for members of the Church.
One chapter, for instance, tells how the spirit of brotherhood among the prisoners made them eager to help each other.
“With so many willing to give, one minor problem was how to be a gracious receiver. There’s an art to this, and having been taught all our lives to be independent it wasn’t easy to learn it,” he explains.
Brother Chesley credits much of his ability to endure and survive his imprisonment to the Church and the help of other men in the camp. Speaking about one of his fellow prisoners who was also a Latter-day Saint, Brother Chesley says, “His sorrows were my own, his joys mine too, and vice versa. It was a testimony to me of what the gospel could do for the world in terms of love and friendship.
“Because of our unity, because we kept faith with each other, we could recover our spirit,” he adds, speaking about the spirit of the largest group of prisoners living together in one room.
The gospel was an ever-important factor to Brother Chesley during his captivity.
“When times were at their toughest … I believe most of us pondered then upon the great suffering of Christ,” he relates. “Everything is relative. What we were enduring for our country was more than most have been asked to do, yet it was so little compared with what Christ endured for us.”
Why is virtue so important? In their most recent book, Elder Mark E. Petersen of the Council of the Twelve and his wife, Emma, give four basic reasons:
First, we are the literal offspring of God.
“What is your destiny?” they ask. “As a child of God, as one of the race of the Gods, you have as your destiny the great opportunity of becoming like him sometime. But only those who prove themselves will ever reach that goal.”
Second, our bodies house spirits that are literally “part God.” We have an obligation to keep them clean and pure.
Third, we are “partners with God in his creative effort,” the Petersens add, and “We are commanded to become like God. In other words, we are expected to become like our Father in his family life, his eternal family life. We are his representatives in bringing new life into this world. Knowing what it all means, dare we bring new life into this world in any way other than the Lord’s way, which is through clean and wholesome procreation within legal marriage?”
They remind readers that “for us, procreation must come only in his way—never outside of marriage, never as a part of lust, never in an effort to make the sex act a means of entertainment. Always it must be in righteousness as God would have it.”
Fourth, our bodies need to be respected because they are “essential to our eternal progression.”
The authors explain: “They deserve a clean beginning, a respectable birth and parentage. We will take these bodies—these same bodies which we now have—into the resurrection, and on into eternity. Will we be proud of them?”
The book follows the problems of a girl named Judy, who is concerned with the reality of Christ and the Church’s teachings on morality.
“We cannot come halfway with [Jesus], for he severely condemns insincerity. We must come to him with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind. We must not only turn from sin, but we must make reconciliation wherever that is necessary, and then for the rest of our lives keep his laws and statutes.”
The authors also discuss such related topics as philosophies on evolution, the Latter-day Saint concept of God and our relationship to him, attempts of clergymen to change God’s laws of morality, counsel from Church leaders throughout the past century concerning chastity, venereal disease, the Church’s view on abortion, the LDS concept of parenthood, and the eternal perspective of marriage.
In Oaths, Covenants and Promises, Brother Robert M. Tripp selects comments by General Authorities on the theme of our covenants with God. Organized topically, his comments examine the covenants of baptism, the receiving of the Holy Ghost, the priesthood, marriage and the family, the Sabbath, the sacrament, and other ordinances and blessings restored to Latter-day Saints.
In the section about the sacrament, Brother Tripp quotes President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency from a conference talk he gave about its importance:
“… partaking of the sacrament is not to be a mere passive experience. We are not to remember the Lord’s suffering and death only as we may remember some purely secular historical event. Participating in the sacrament service is meant to be a vital and a spiritualizing experience. … And we are not only to partake of the emblems of the sacrament in remembrance of the Redeemer, testifying that we do always remember him, but we are also thereby to witness unto the Father that we are willing to take upon us the name of his Son and that we will keep his commandments. This amounts to a virtual renewal of the covenant of baptism. …”