Inseparable Witnesses of Jesus Christ


John M. Madsen
The Doctrine and Covenants testifies of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and both majestically witness of the Savior.

Inseparable Witnesses of Jesus Christ

The Doctrine and Covenants and the Book of Mormon are inseparable, powerful witnesses of the divinity of Jesus Christ and His great latter-day work. These two volumes of scripture fulfill, at least in part, a promise of the Lord to Enoch: “And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth” (Moses 7:62). After quoting this scripture in a conference talk, President Ezra Taft Benson said that “the Book of Mormon has come forth out of the earth, filled with truth” and that the Doctrine and Covenants is filled with “revelation after revelation from the heavens” (“The Gift of Modern Revelation,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 79–80).

Much can be learned regarding the importance of the Book of Mormon by reading the revelations contained in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Ties between the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants

While delivering his glorious message of a book “written upon gold plates,” the angel Moroni said that “the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it” (JS—H 1:34). After outlining the means by which the book was to be translated, Moroni began quoting prophecies of the Old and New Testaments. He first quoted from the third chapter of Malachi, and then the fourth chapter. Doctrine and Covenants section 2 contains a brief account of this visitation.

Then in the summer of 1828 the Prophet Joseph Smith received two additional revelations in connection with the translation of the Book of Mormon: sections 3 and 10 have to do with the 116 pages of manuscript entrusted to Martin Harris that he might “carry the writings home and show them” (History of the Church, 1:21).

In February 1829 Joseph Smith Sr. came to visit his son. He was fully aware of all that had transpired: the vision of the Father and the Son to young Joseph, the promise spoken by the Lord that “the fullness of the Gospel should at some future time be made known” (History of the Church, 4:536), the appearances of the angel Moroni, the receipt of the gold plates, the work of translation, the loss of 116 pages of manuscript, and the taking away and return of the plates and the Urim and Thummim. On this occasion, the Prophet Joseph inquired of the Lord in behalf of his father and received section 4, which begins, “Now behold, a marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men.” The translation of the Book of Mormon was part of and essential to the accomplishment of the Lord’s marvelous latter-day work.

In March 1829 Martin Harris was deeply repentant and sorrowful over losing the 116 pages of translation, and he again journeyed to Harmony, Pennsylvania. He pleaded with Joseph to inquire of the Lord in his behalf. Once again the Prophet received another revelation, section 5, wherein Martin Harris was called to witness of the gold plates if he would repent and humble himself before the Lord.

In April 1829 Oliver Cowdery, hearing that Joseph had received the plates, journeyed to Harmony, Pennsylvania, and immediately became involved in the work of translation, assisting Joseph as a scribe (see History of the Church, 1:32–33). During this month, sections 6, 8, and 9 were given as questions arose from the translation of the Book of Mormon.

Section 13 is another wonderful example of revelation to the Prophet in answer to questions encountered while translating the Book of Mormon. Said Joseph: “We still continued the work of translation, when, in the ensuing month (May, 1829), we on a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying:

“Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins” (JS—H 1:68–69; emphasis added in v. 68; see also D&C 13).

This heavenly messenger, who identified himself as “John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament,” further explained to Joseph and Oliver “that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchizedek, which Priesthood he said would in due time be conferred on us” (History of the Church, 1:40). Thus the coming forth of the Book of Mormon not only resulted in numerous revelations contained in the Doctrine and Covenants, but also was the catalyst for the restoration of the holy Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, preparatory to the reestablishment of the Church and kingdom of God in these latter days.

Sections 14–20 all further illustrate the relationship between the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants.

Teachings about the Book of Mormon’s Importance

A little over a year and a half after the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon and the organization of the Church, the Lord revealed His “preface” to the Doctrine and Covenants, as contained in section 1. In this revealed preface, the Lord testified that the Prophet Joseph Smith was given power to translate the Book of Mormon “through the mercy of God, by the power of God” (D&C 1:29).

In section 3, the Lord stated some of His purposes for bringing forth the Book of Mormon:

“Inasmuch as the knowledge of a Savior has come unto the world, through the testimony of the Jews, even so shall the knowledge of a Savior come unto my people—

“And to the Nephites, … through the testimony of their fathers—

“And this testimony shall come to the knowledge of the Lamanites. …

And for this very purpose are these plates preserved, which contain these records—that the promises of the Lord might be fulfilled, which he made to his people;

“And that the Lamanites might come to the knowledge of their fathers, and that they might know the promises of the Lord, and that they may believe the gospel and rely upon the merits of Jesus Christ, and be glorified through faith in his name, and that through their repentance they might be saved” (D&C 3:16–20; emphasis added).

In section 5 the Lord has much to say about the Book of Mormon’s importance in the Restoration of the gospel. The Lord reminded Joseph that “you have a gift to translate the plates; and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you; and I have commanded that you should pretend to no other gift until my purpose is fulfilled in this; for I will grant unto you no other gift until it [the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon] is finished” (D&C 5:4; emphasis added). The Lord made it clear to His servant Joseph Smith that the Book of Mormon had to be translated and made available before His great latter-day work proceeded.

Also in section 5, verses 5–16 [D&C 5:5–16], the Lord explained why the Book of Mormon is so important in the establishment of His kingdom on the earth. In these verses, the Lord repeatedly used the phrase my words to refer to the Book of Mormon, which was soon to come forth, “through” the Prophet Joseph Smith (see also 3 Ne. 21:9–11). The Lord declared that if the children of men “will not believe my words [contained in the Book of Mormon], they would not believe you, my servant Joseph” (D&C 5:7; emphasis added).

These few verses of scripture illustrate the great truth declared by the Prophet Joseph that “the Book of Mormon [is] … the keystone of our religion” (History of the Church, 4:461). A witness of the divinity and truthfulness of the Book of Mormon confirms that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith is a true prophet, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as organized by the Prophet Joseph, is true. With such a witness of the Spirit, courageous souls from all the nations of the earth are embracing the restored gospel (see D&C 5:16).

In Doctrine and Covenants 6:9 [D&C 6:9], the Lord instructed Oliver Cowdery to “assist to bring forth my work.” Oliver Cowdery was indeed instrumental in bringing forth the Book of Mormon, which contained the “fulness of the gospel” (see D&C 20:8–9; D&C 27:5; D&C 42:12; D&C 135:3). The Lord would send forth His servants with this record in their hands to “work a marvelous work among the children of men, unto the convincing of many of their sins, that they may come unto repentance, and that they may come unto the kingdom of my Father” (D&C 18:44).

Section 17 of the Doctrine and Covenants contains one of the most clear and powerful of all recorded testimonies of the Book of Mormon. The Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the Book of Mormon is “Another Testament,” declares that “my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., … has translated the book [of Mormon], even that part which I have commanded him, and as your Lord and your God liveth it is true” (D&C 17:5–6).

Who can read or hear this testimony and ever wonder how the Lord regards the Book of Mormon? It is a serious thing to hear or to read and ponder these words, for they are sufficient to condemn us if we should ever reject the Book of Mormon or be unfaithful to the cause of Christ and His kingdom (see D&C 5:15, 18).

In June 1829 the Lord declared to Oliver Cowdery, the Prophet’s scribe, this powerful testimony to the truthfulness and importance of the Book of Mormon: “Behold, I have manifested unto you, by my Spirit in many instances, that the things which you have written are true.

“And … I give unto you a commandment, that you rely upon the things which are written;

“For in them are all things written concerning the foundation of my church, my gospel, and my rock.

“Wherefore, if you shall build up my church, upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you” (D&C 18:2–5; emphasis added). Thus, the Book of Mormon contains the fundamental teachings of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, as the Lord Himself testified.

Section 20 contains extensive discussion of the Book of Mormon. It is significant that the revelation to formally organize the Church was not given until the Book of Mormon was translated and published. After confirming that Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were duly called of God and authorized to organize and give leadership to His Church, the Lord declared the following:

“[God] gave him [the Prophet Joseph Smith] power from on high, by the means which were before prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon;

“Which contains a record of a fallen people, and the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also;

“Which was given by inspiration, and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels, and is declared unto the world by them [the Three Witnesses]—

“Proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old;

“Thereby showing that he is the same God yesterday, today, and forever. …

“Therefore, having so great witnesses [Joseph Smith, the Three Witnesses, the Eight Witnesses, and even those who compiled the Book of Mormon], by them shall the world be judged, even as many as shall hereafter come to a knowledge of this work [the Book of Mormon].

“And those who receive it in faith, and work righteousness, shall receive a crown of eternal life” (D&C 20:8–14).

In section 84 the Lord made another significant reference and gave a sobering warning with regard to the Book of Mormon. To the Saints in 1832 the Lord said:

“And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—

“Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.

“And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.

“And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written” (D&C 84:54–57; emphasis added).

On several occasions President Ezra Taft Benson challenged members of the Church to study, use, and abide by the precepts of the Book of Mormon to free themselves from that same condemnation pronounced upon the early Latter-day Saints (see A Witness and a Warning [1988], 6–8).

Conclusion

Truly the Lord has much to say about the Book of Mormon in the Doctrine and Covenants. These two volumes of scripture are indeed inseparable and powerful witnesses of the divinity of Christ and of His great latter-day work. President Benson explained the important relationship of these two sacred books:

“Excluding the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants is by far the greatest external witness and evidence which we have from the Lord that the Book of Mormon is true. …

“The Doctrine and Covenants is the binding link between the Book of Mormon and the continuing work of the Restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith and his successors. …

“The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ. The Doctrine and Covenants brings men to Christ’s kingdom, …

“The Book of Mormon is the ‘keystone’ of our religion, and the Doctrine and Covenants is the capstone, with continuing latter-day revelation. The Lord has placed His stamp of approval on both the keystone and the capstone” (“The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants,” Ensign, May 1987, 83).

[illustrations] Right: Detail from Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann; above right: Detail from Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail, by Greg K. Olsen

[illustration] Painting by Del Parson

[illustration] Moroni Visits Joseph Smith, by Dale Kilbourn

[illustration] Joseph Smith Translating the Book of Mormon, by Del Parson

[illustration] Painting by Robert T. Barrett