In this three-part series, Gilbert W. Scharffs, a Latter-day Saint Institute of Religion instructor, lists what the Book of Mormon adds to our knowledge of the Savior. In last month’s article, he discussed the greater understanding we now have of the Lord’s atoning sacrifice, and the universal, physical resurrection and what they mean to mankind. Brother Scharffs’ list continues in this issue with the knowledge the Book of Mormon provides of the Lord’s all-embracing love.
8. The Lord’s love extends to all races and people. The Bible indicates that the Lord extends the gospel covenants to all nations, but the Book of Mormon resolves any confusion about whether the Lord loves one people above another. Nephi taught, “[The Lord] inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile” (2 Ne. 26:33).
9. The Savior’s influence is so great that it enlightens man’s conscience. Most people recognize that human beings have the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong, but many wonder what the conscience really is. Moroni recorded that his father, Mormon, taught, “The Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil” (Moro. 7:16). The fact that man’s conscience is enlightened by the Spirit of Christ gives a new dimension to the role of and office held by the Lord Jesus Christ.
10. To become committed followers of Christ, we must have the option to reject him. How difficult is it to choose something if there is no other choice available? Agency is crucial to true allegiance. Lehi said, “It must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things. If not so … righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery. …
“The Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other” (2 Ne. 2:11, 16).
11. The strength and freedom of America depends on its inhabitants serving Jesus Christ. One of the major themes of the Book of Mormon is that the inhabitants of the Americas must serve the Lord to prosper. Moroni explained that “whatsoever nation shall possess it [the promised land of the Book of Mormon peoples] shall be free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all nations under heaven, if they will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12).
The Book of Mormon shows us how rebellion against Christ’s teachings destroyed two earlier American civilizations. The modern-day people of this promised land must remember that, if they refuse to follow the Lord, they, too, will be destroyed.
12. The source of real freedom for any person or nation is Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon teaches this principle. King Benjamin taught, “Ye are born of [Christ] and have become his sons and his daughters.
“And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free.” (Mosiah 5:7–8.)
This kind of freedom comes through the Savior in two ways: (1) by our Redeemer overcoming the effects of the Fall (and death) so that we will live again, and (2) by our overcoming the enslaving effects of sin by accepting and following Christ. Lehi taught, “Wherefore, men are free … to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator.” (2 Ne. 2:27.)
13. Both the grace of Jesus Christ and good works (of which Christ is the primary model) are necessary to the plan of salvation. Latter-day Saints need not wonder about the emphasis many Christians put on grace, sometimes to the exclusion of good works. The Book of Mormon teaches that both are necessary. It mentions, for instance, the term grace thirty-two times. In speaking to his son Jacob, Lehi pointed out how critical grace is to salvation: “There is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life.” (2 Ne. 2:8.) Nephi also taught “that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Ne. 25:23.)
Relying upon the mercies of Christ, though, in no way lessens the importance of good works. Jesus Christ instructed his disciples in the Americas to do his works: “Ye know the things that ye must do in my church; for the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do. …
“Therefore, if ye do these things blessed are ye, for ye shall be lifted up at the last day.” (3 Ne. 27:21–22.)
In either case, Jesus Christ is at the center, whether we consider God’s grace—all that he has done for us that we cannot do for ourselves—or God’s works, which we must emulate.
14. The Book of Mormon affirms the basic accuracy of the Bible concerning Christ. The record of the Jews is under attack by many people. Not only do they dismiss the claims of the Bible concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, but many attack the authorship and historical accuracy of many of its books. Yet the Book of Mormon supports the authenticity of the Bible. It affirms the ministry and teachings of Christ as given in the Bible and even verifies that Isaiah, Malachi, and John wrote the books that appear under their names.
15. The God of the Old Testament is Jesus Christ. Christ’s power extends far beyond what most people realize. A great many people do not know that the God spoken of in the Old Testament is Jesus Christ. His name does not appear in today’s versions of that ancient record.
To the inhabitants of America, Jesus declared, “I am he that gave the law, and I am he who covenanted with my people Israel.” (3 Ne. 15:5.) Jacob taught that their forefathers in Palestine “believed in Christ and worshipped the Father in his name.” (Jacob 4:5.) Nephi taught, “The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” would be lifted on the cross. (1 Ne. 19:10.)
16. Jesus Christ’s premortal spirit looked similar to his mortal body. The debate on the nature of Jesus Christ before he acquired his mortal body is still unsettled among most Christians. Some even wonder whether Jesus Christ existed before his birth on earth. Yet, more than two thousand years before his mortal ministry, Christ appeared to a Book of Mormon prophet known as the brother of Jared and declared: “This body, which ye now behold, is the body of my spirit; … and even as I appear unto thee to be in the spirit will I appear unto my people in the flesh.” (Ether 3:16.)
Many of the prophets in the Old Testament who saw Jehovah used terms such as “face to face,” to describe him. The incident with the brother of Jared shows that these terms were not figurative. (See Ex. 33:11; Isa. 6:1.)
(To be concluded)