President Ezra Taft Benson has repeatedly admonished us to make the Book of Mormon a lifetime study. Those who do, he says, will gain “spiritual and intellectual unity” in their lives. “There is,” he notes, “a difference between a convert who is built on the rock of Christ through the Book of Mormon and stays hold of that iron rod, and one who is not.”1
What is that difference? What advantages does one member of the Church have as a result of attending to the Book of Mormon that are denied another who has not studied that great book?
The answer, I believe, is that the Book of Mormon anchors our faith more solidly in Jesus Christ.
My father-in-law once attended a Protestant service during which the minister, in the course of his sermon, said, “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:25.)
My father-in-law approached the minister afterward and said, “I’m interested in that quote you used.”
The minister asked, “Are you a Mormon?”
“Yes, I am.”
The minister quickly retrieved a Book of Mormon and, thumbing through the pages, remarked: “There’s a lot of good stuff in here! I just don’t tell my congregation where it comes from.”
There is a lot of “good stuff” in the Book of Mormon—and a study of that material is one difference between a person whose faith is built on the rock of Christ and one whose faith is not.
While we were living in Arizona, my wife, Kristene, was asked by a neighbor who belonged to another faith to join her in studying the book of Isaiah a few times a week. After a few days, Kris explained how difficult it was to keep from interrupting their reading every verse or so to share the doctrines of the Restoration that help clarify that important book. Her fear was that she would dominate the discussion and appear overbearing.
One day the reading was from Isaiah 29, which contains the prophecy about the unlearned man and the book that would enable the deaf to hear and the blind to see. (See Isa. 29:18.) After reading the chapter, our neighbor asked my wife what she thought it meant. Unable to contain herself any longer, Kris explained the chapter from her LDS perspective. After the interpretation, our neighbor asked, “How do you know all that?” It was a wonderful invitation to teach.
It amazes me how much our understanding of the gospel comes from the Restoration. Consider how much richer our understanding of Jesus’ sermon about his “other sheep” (John 10:16) is now that we know the Savior visited the Nephites and told them, “Ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring.” (3 Ne. 15:21.)
Confused about why Elijah was taken into heaven in a chariot of fire? The answer is in 3 Nephi 28, which explains why people are translated and what translated bodies are like. Knowing that, one can easily see the connection between Elijah’s translation and his visit to the Mount of Transfiguration, where he delivered priesthood keys to Peter, James, and John (which was made possible because he had a body of flesh and bone, even though Jesus had yet to inaugurate the resurrection).
A knowledge and testimony of the Book of Mormon strengthens our allegiance to the doctrines of the Restoration and to Him whom those doctrines proclaim. I recently asked a returned mission president about the differences between investigators whose conversions heavily involved the Book of Mormon and those whose conversion did not. He said, “You can quote me! President Benson’s statement is true. In my mission, it was 50 percent in the door and 50 percent out the door, regarding the retention rate of converts whose primary interests were either social or the programs of the Church. But we didn’t have to worry about the activity of those who came into the Church with a love for the Book of Mormon.”
The plain and precious truth restored through the Book of Mormon (see 1 Ne. 13:34–36), as well as the clarity of its doctrinal presentations, gives Church members more of the rock of Christ to build their testimonies on. More “rock” means a stronger foundation, and a stronger foundation to one’s belief means increased strength to withstand trials. By joining its witness with that of the Bible, the Book of Mormon lays down a firm, almost unshakable foundation for faith in Christ.
Consider, for example, how the Book of Mormon strengthens the biblical testimony of the Lord’s atonement. The Apostle Paul testified that Christ was the “end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (Rom. 10:4.) Lehi echoed that doctrine, explaining that the Savior’s sacrifice answers the end of the law for “those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” (2 Ne. 2:7.)
Likewise, the Apostle John spoke of Jesus as the “propitiation for our sins.” (1 Jn. 4:10.) Alma’s witness explains this propitiation, using the synonym appease: “And now, the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins of the world, to bring about the plan of mercy, to appease the demands of justice, that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.” (Alma 42:15.)
Amulek amplified the concept by teaching that Jesus’ sacrifice initiated a plan of mercy that would overpower justice and enable us to have faith to repent. In this way, mercy can satisfy justice for the repentant, while those who exercise no faith unto repentance are exposed to all the demands of justice. (See Alma 34:14–16.)
Paul recorded that death and sin entered the world through Adam, and life entered the world through Christ. Lehi confirmed that doctrine by discussing the conditions before and after the Fall, the necessity of opposition, the wisdom of Adam’s fall, our freedom to choose between two enticing forces, the role of Satan, and Jesus’ role as the great mediator. (See 2 Ne. 2.)
Lehi, Jacob, Abinadi, Alma, Benjamin, Aaron, Amulek, Ammon—all spoke of the Fall and the Atonement. Their masterful discourses are invaluable, tying the doctrines of salvation together into what Amulek terms “the great plan of the Eternal God.” (Alma 34:9.)
Indeed, the story of Jesus is a two-continent story. Even his birth embraces both hemispheres. The scriptures teach that out of the mouth of multiple witnesses the Lord establishes his word. (See 2 Ne. 11:3.) The Book of Mormon strengthens our faith by multiplying witnesses. For a reader of both testaments, the five hundred who saw Jesus after His resurrection in the Old World (see 1 Cor. 15:6) are joined by the twenty-five hundred who both saw, heard, and touched the Master in the land Bountiful (see 3 Ne. 11:1–17; 3 Ne. 17:25). The raising of Tabitha by Peter (see Acts 9:36–41) is paralleled by the raising of Timothy by Nephi (see 3 Ne. 19:4).
The people in Ammonihah rejected and ridiculed Alma and his message, but they were astonished at the words of Amulek, “seeing there was more than one witness who testified of the things whereof they were accused.” (Alma 10:12.) Similarly, people throughout the world today who read the Book of Mormon are astonished by its teachings, which clarify and confirm the cherished truths in the holy Bible. The Book of Mormon is God’s astonishing second witness.
In Jesus’ day, many of his disciples fell away after he delivered the “bread of life” sermon. (See John 6:22–66.) The impressive display of power the day before, when he had fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fishes, was not enough to sustain their discipleship. Without the witness of the Holy Ghost that Jesus was the Messiah, their faith failed when the Lord started to teach them “hard” and fundamental doctrine. After the people began to murmur, Jesus turned to the Twelve and said, “Will ye also go away?”
Peter replied: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. … We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:67–69.) Peter’s faith was built on the rock; that of the multitude was not. Faced with a similar temptation to turn our backs upon the gospel, we can find strength in the Book of Mormon. The spirit that permeates that great book and the doctrines it teaches enables us to say, as Peter did, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” Who else has the words of life?
Many throughout the Church testify of ways in which the Book of Mormon has helped them stay true to the gospel. One of my students shared with me the following letter she had received from her sister:
“It came as an incredible shock to me one day to find my testimony gone. I was studying in Paris at the age of nineteen. Culture shock, [lack] of familiar faces, places, and habits all took their toll. Discussions with ‘intellectual’ associates left me grappling for words to support my religious beliefs. The Church seemed narrow and naive in the wake of the wide, wide world I was discovering.
“It was after many long, lonely weeks that I sat down one afternoon in my little Paris room and opened the Book of Mormon. Alma 32 says that the beginning of faith is desire. Did I desire to believe? I turned to 3 Nephi and began to read the account of the resurrected Christ visiting the Nephites. Suddenly I was struck with the realization that no man could have written this from his own mind. A rush of hope and light came pouring back into my hungry spirit! The Book of Mormon could not be explained away. It had a divine origin.
“I mark that point as a profound beginning in my life. The testimony I have now has its roots in the warmth and hope of that moment. Twelve years have passed, during which time I have married in the temple, had five beautiful children, and served in many Church callings. I wonder where life would have taken me had I not reopened that wonderful book. I have heard it said that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book ever written. To me it was a lifesaver. I have a deep testimony of its truthfulness and of the existence of a loving God who speaks to prophets and all who will listen.”2
On several occasions I have invited a good friend of mine into my Book of Mormon classes to share his conversion story. During his youth he attended his family’s church and was part of its boys’ club. Discouraged because of the disparity between what his church friends did on Sunday and what they did during the week, he decided to quit the group. One evening while he was praying, the voice of the Spirit told him to read the Book of Mormon. At that point, his only knowledge of Mormons had come from a high school history lesson. He obtained a copy of the Book of Mormon from the library, read it, and received a spiritual confirmation that it was true. His next step was to investigate the church connected with the book, so he again went to the public library, this time to read about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All he found was anti-Mormon material. This presented him with a major dilemma. The Book of Mormon was true, but the Church was called a cult! Still believing the book to be true, he decided to go to an LDS Church meeting despite what he had read. He was relieved to find that the same spirit he felt in the Book of Mormon was also present in the Church’s meetings. His testimony of the Book of Mormon gave him the strength to sift through the derogatory material he had read in the library and to join the Church.
President Benson has been persistent in calling our attention to the Book of Mormon. When the prophet Enoch was called to preach in his day, the Lord said to him, “Anoint thine eyes with clay, and wash them, and thou shalt see.” (Moses 6:35.) Enoch did so and then beheld “things which were not visible to the natural eye; and from thenceforth came the saying abroad in the land: A seer hath the Lord raised up unto his people.” (Moses 6:36.) Seers are able to see things that are not visible to the natural eye. Acting as revelators, they reveal what they see to the people. It is thus significant that President Ezra Taft Benson, the Lord’s prophet, seer, and revelator in our day, has put so much emphasis on the Book of Mormon.
Many times a warning voice is sounded prior to a testing period. Those who hearken find safety. Earlier in the twentieth century, President Heber J. Grant spoke over and over again about the Word of Wisdom. His warning voice preceded by decades the increased substance abuse and addiction that now so challenge us. Perhaps the Lord, through President Benson, is trying to encourage as many as will listen to build their lives on the rock of Christ, to strengthen their faith so as to withstand not only the dangerous storms of today, but also the fierce hurricanes of the future. President Benson has said:
“The Book of Mormon will change your life. It will fortify you against the evils of our day. It will bring a spirituality into your life that no other book will. … A [person] who knows and loves the Book of Mormon, who has read it several times, who has an abiding testimony of its truthfulness, and who applies its teachings will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”3
I am convinced that President Benson’s promise is true. When I became a member of the Church at age twenty-one, I had a testimony that the Church was true, but I had not read the Book of Mormon. Three days before I got on the plane to serve my mission in Ireland, I felt a great emptiness. I was quite puzzled and prayed to know the cause of this distress. The answer was very clear: Read the Book of Mormon.
I read it from cover to cover in one month. Then I knelt by my bed in a little upstairs room in Dublin, Ireland, and reported to the Lord that I had now read the Book of Mormon and desired a testimony of it so that I could be a better witness of the Restoration. After a period of time, the sweet warmth of the Holy Ghost witnessed to my soul that the Book of Mormon was true.
Because of the Book of Mormon, the roots of my conversion are planted deep in my soul, where they are watered by the words of life I find in that book, which is indeed a marvelous work and a wonder.