Lesson 4: “Remember the New Covenant, Even the Book of Mormon”

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (1999), 16–23


Purpose

To help class members recognize the Lord’s hand in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and to encourage them to study the Book of Mormon, follow its teachings, and share it with others.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Prayerfully study the following scriptures and other materials:

  2. 2.

    Review the material for this lesson in the Class Member Study Guide (35686). Plan ways to refer to the material during the lesson.

  3. 3.

    Ask a class member to prepare to summarize the account of Martin Harris losing the 116 pages of manuscript. Have that person refer to the section headings for D&C 3 and D&C 10 and to the first three paragraphs under “The Work of Translation” in Our Heritage, pages 7–8.

  4. 4.

    If the following pictures are available, prepare to use them during the lesson: Moroni Appears to Joseph Smith in His Room (62492; Gospel Art Picture Kit 404) and Joseph Smith Receives the Gold Plates (62012; Gospel Art Picture Kit 406).

Suggestions for Lesson Development

Attention Activity

As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.

Write the following phrases on the chalkboard. Ask class members if they know what these phrases say.

foreign languages Book of Mormon

Explain that you have written the phrase “The Book of Mormon” in Japanese, Russian, and Korean. Since its humble beginnings in this dispensation, the Book of Mormon has been a blessing in the lives of millions of people all over the world. This lesson discusses the miracle of the Book of Mormon and our responsibility to “flood the earth and [our] lives with the Book of Mormon” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 3; or Ensign, May 1989, 4).

Discussion and Application

Prayerfully select the lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. You may want to use two class periods to teach this lesson.

1. Joseph Smith’s preparation to receive and translate the Book of Mormon

  • In the three years after the First Vision, Joseph Smith suffered “severe persecution” but remained true to his testimony (Joseph Smith—History 1:27). How can we remain true to our testimonies even when we face persecution?

  • When Joseph was 17 years old, he was visited by Moroni. (If necessary, explain that Moroni was the last prophet to write in the Book of Mormon and had buried the gold plates in about A.D. 421.) What was Joseph praying for on the night Moroni appeared to him? (See Joseph Smith—History 1:28–29.) What can we learn from Joseph’s example when we feel “condemned for [our] weakness and imperfections”? (As appropriate, invite class members to tell how prayer has helped them when they have felt that they have disappointed God.)

Summarize Joseph Smith—History 1:30–59. Have class members read selected verses aloud. At appropriate times, display the picture of Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith and the picture of Joseph receiving the plates. You may also want to refer to map 1 on page 274 in this manual and page 29 in the Class Member Study Guide.

  • When Joseph Smith was first shown the gold plates, he was not prepared to receive and translate them. How did the Lord prepare Joseph to receive and translate the plates? (See Joseph Smith—History 1:33–35, 42, 44–46, 53–54.) How has the Lord prepared you (or how is He preparing you now) to fulfill your responsibilities? How can you prepare yourself to fulfill future responsibilities?

  • How did Joseph’s father respond when Joseph told him of Moroni’s visit? (See Joseph Smith—History 1:50.) What does this suggest about Joseph’s integrity and trustworthiness? Why is it important to support our family members in their efforts to follow the Lord? How can we better support family members and others as they follow the Lord?

2. The miracle of the Book of Mormon’s preservation

Explain that Satan tried to stop the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. He tempted men to try to steal the gold plates, and people continued to persecute Joseph Smith and his family (Joseph Smith—History 1:60–61.) However, the Lord thwarted all of Satan’s attempts to keep the Book of Mormon from coming forth.

One example of the miraculous preservation of the Book of Mormon occurred when one of Joseph Smith’s scribes, Martin Harris, lost 116 pages of the translated manuscript. Ask the assigned class member to summarize this account (see “Preparation,” item 3.) Then teach and discuss D&C 3 and D&C 10, which the Lord revealed after the pages were lost.

  • After the 116 pages of manuscript were lost, the Lord chastened Joseph for fearing man more than God (D&C 3:7.) Joseph lost his gift of translation for a time (D&C 3:14; 10:1–2.) In what way had Joseph feared man more than God? How might our actions sometimes show that we fear man more than God? (See D&C 30:1–2. One example is when we give in to peer pressure to do something wrong.) What can we do to overcome our fear of man? (For some answers to this question, see D&C 3:8; 10:5.)

  • How was the Lord’s love for Joseph Smith evident after the 116 manuscript pages were lost? (See D&C 3:8–10; 10:1–3.) What experiences have shown you that if you are faithful, God will be “with you in every time of trouble”? (D&C 3:8.) What experiences have shown you that “God is merciful”? (D&C 3:10).

  • What was the plan of those who had stolen the 116 manuscript pages? (See D&C 10:10–19, 29–33. If Joseph had retranslated the lost material, they would have altered the words in the manuscript. They would have compared the altered original to the retranslation, trying to show that the two versions contradicted each other.)

  • What had the Lord already done centuries earlier to defeat the plan of those who stole the manuscript pages? (See D&C 10:38–39; see also 1 Nephi 9:2–5; Words of Mormon 1:3–7. He had foreseen the loss of these pages. About 2,400 years earlier, He inspired Nephi, who was writing a secular history of the Nephites, to prepare a second set of records. The second set contained an account of the Nephites’ ministry during the same period of time and had greater doctrinal value than the first.)

  • What did the Lord instruct the Prophet to do to spoil the plan of those who had taken the manuscript? (See D&C 10:40–45. Joseph had translated the 116 manuscript pages from Nephi’s secular history. The Lord commanded him not to retranslate that material but to translate Nephi’s second set of records.)

  • What does the account of the lost manuscript pages teach about the Lord’s power? (As class members discuss this question, have them read D&C 3:1–3; 10:14, 43; and 1 Nephi 9:6.) How can this knowledge help us when we experience setbacks and disappointments?

  • Have class members read D&C 3:16, 19–20 and D&C 10:46–52, 60–66. What can we learn from these verses about the purposes of the Book of Mormon? How are these purposes being fulfilled today?

3. Witnesses of the Book of Mormon

  • As Joseph translated the Book of Mormon, he learned that the Lord would permit three witnesses and a few others to view the plates (see the references to these witnesses in 2 Nephi 27:12–14 and Ether 5:1–3.) Who were the Three Witnesses? (See “The Testimony of Three Witnesses,” Book of Mormon.) What were they commanded to do? (See D&C 5:11–15, 24–25; 17:3, 5.) Why was their testimony important? (See Ether 5:4; D&C 5:16–18; 17:4.)

Oliver Cowdery David Whitmer

The Three Witnesses. Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris.

Explain that in addition to the Three Witnesses, eight others were shown the gold plates (“The Testimony of Eight Witnesses,” Book of Mormon). All of the Three Witnesses and three of the Eight Witnesses later left the Church. Only a few returned, but none ever denied his testimony of what he saw.

In the last year of his life, David Whitmer published this testimony in response to false accusations:

“It is recorded in the American Encyclopaedia and the Encyclopaedia Britannica, that I, David Whitmer, have denied my testimony as one of the three witnesses to the divinity of the Book of Mormon, and that the other two witnesses, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, denied their testimony to that book. I will say once more to all mankind, that I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof. I also testify to the world, that neither Oliver Cowdery nor Martin Harris ever at any time denied their testimony. They both died reaffirming the truth of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon” (Address to All Believers in Christ [1887], 8; as quoted in B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:145).

Point out that the Savior is also a witness of the Book of Mormon. Read D&C 17:6 and D&C 19:26 with class members.

  • In what ways can we be witnesses of the Book of Mormon? (See Moroni 10:3–5. You may want to invite class members to share their testimonies of the Book of Mormon.)

Emphasize that the Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses testified of things that they saw and heard. Today millions of members of the Church testify of the Book of Mormon because they feel the witness of the Holy Ghost. While serving in the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“The strength of the Church is not in … its thousands of houses of worship across the world, nor in its universities. … The strength of this church lies in the hearts of its people, in the individual testimony and conviction of the truth of this work” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 73–74; or Ensign, July 1973, 49).

4. Our duty to “remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon”

  • In September 1832 the Prophet Joseph received a revelation in which the Lord said that “the whole church [was] under condemnation” (D&C 84:55.) Why was the Church under condemnation? (See D&C 84:54–56.) What did Church members need to do for the condemnation to be lifted? (See D&C 84:57–58, 60–62.)

Read the following statements by President Ezra Taft Benson:

“If the early Saints were rebuked for treating the Book of Mormon lightly, are we under any less condemnation if we do the same?” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 4; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 4–5).

“The Lord is not pleased with us in the manner of attention we’re giving the Book of Mormon, a new witness for Christ. We need it in our homes, we need it in our families. It was written for us today” (Church News, 9 Nov. 1986, 10).

  • What can we do to give more attention to the Book of Mormon in our personal lives, in our families, and in our Church assignments? What blessings come to us when we give proper attention to the Book of Mormon? How have you been blessed through your study of the Book of Mormon? (In addition to asking for class members’ comments, have them read the following quotation and the sixth paragraph of the introduction to the Book of Mormon; see also the third additional teaching idea.)

    President Ezra Taft Benson declared:

    “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 scriptures are called ‘the words of life’ (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance. … [You will also enjoy] increased love and harmony in the home, greater respect between parent and child, [and] increased spirituality and righteousness.”

    “These promises,” President Benson assured, “are not idle promises, but exactly what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he said the Book of Mormon will help us draw nearer to God” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 6; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 7).

  • The Savior has commanded us to bear testimony of the Book of Mormon across the earth (D&C 84:62; see also the following quotation). What can each of us do to further this effort?

    President Benson said: “The time is long overdue for a massive flooding of the earth with the Book of Mormon. … In this age of the electronic media and the mass distribution of the printed word, God will hold us accountable if we do not now move the Book of Mormon in a monumental way. We have the Book of Mormon, we have the members, we have the missionaries, we have the resources, and the world has the need. The time is now!” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1988, 4; or Ensign, Nov. 1988, 4–5).

Point out that the Book of Mormon, translated by a young prophet in humble circumstances, is now indeed flooding the earth. The Book of Mormon or selections from it have been published in more than 90 languages. More than 100 million copies have been printed.

Conclusion

Express appreciation for the Book of Mormon, and acknowledge the Lord’s hand in the coming forth of the book. Encourage class members to give greater attention to the Book of Mormon in their lives.

Bear testimony of the impact the Book of Mormon has had in your life.

Additional Teaching Ideas

You may want to use one or more of the following ideas to supplement the suggested lesson outline.

1. Biblical prophecies that Moroni quoted to Joseph Smith

As recorded in Joseph Smith—History 1:36–49, Moroni quoted the following biblical prophecies to Joseph Smith four times. Read each prophecy with class members and discuss its meaning and fulfillment.

  1. a.

    Malachi 3 (note that Moroni quoted only part of this chapter)

  2. b.

    Malachi 4 (see also Joseph Smith—History 1:37–39)

  3. c.

    Isaiah 11 (see also D&C 113:1–6)

  4. d.

    Acts 3:22–23

  5. e.

    Joel 2:28–32

2. The Doctrine and Covenants: an external witness of the Book of Mormon

President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “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” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1987, 105; or Ensign, May 1987, 83).

President Benson referred to 13 sections in the Doctrine and Covenants that testify of the Book of Mormon: D&C 1, 3, 5, 8, 10–11, 17–18, 20, 27, 42, 84, and 135. You may want to study these sections as you prepare to teach the lesson.

3. Drawing nearer to God through the Book of Mormon

The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “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” (History of the Church, 4:461).

President Ezra Taft Benson cited this quotation, then asked: “Is there not something deep in our hearts that longs to draw nearer to God, to be more like Him in our daily walk, to feel His presence with us constantly? If so, then the Book of Mormon will help us do so more than any other book” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 6; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 7).

4. “Translated by the gift and power of God” (D&C 135:3)

Joseph Smith completed the translation of the Book of Mormon in about 65 working days (“I Have a Question,” Ensign, Jan. 1988, 46–47). Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve commented on the speed of this process:

“One able LDS translator in Japan, surrounded by reference books, language dictionaries, and translator colleagues ready to help if needed, indicated that he considered an output of one careful, final page a day to be productive. And he is retranslating from earlier Japanese to modern Japanese! More than 50 able English scholars labored for seven years, using previous translations, to produce the King James Version of the Bible, averaging about one precious page per day. The Prophet Joseph Smith would sometimes produce 10 pages per day! (see the bulletin Insights: An Ancient Window [Provo, Utah: Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies (F.A.R.M.S.), Feb. 1986], 1).

“A second marvel of the Book of Mormon translation process is that from what we know, rarely would Joseph go back, review, or revise what had already been done. There was a steady flow in the translation. …

“Emma Smith said of the inspired process: ‘After meals, or after interruptions, [Joseph] would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him’ (“Last Testimony of Sister Emma,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Oct. 1879, 290). One who has dictated and been interrupted must usually resume by inquiring ‘Now, where were we?’ Not so with the Prophet!

“If one were manufacturing a text, he would constantly need to cross-check himself, to edit, and to revise for consistency. Had the Prophet dictated and revised extensively, there would be more evidence of it. But there was no need to revise divinely supplied text. Whatever the details of the translation process, we are discussing a process that was truly astonishing!” (“By the Gift and Power of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1997, 39–40).

As the Book of Mormon is translated into many languages today, miracles continue. Relate the following story shared by Priscilla Sampson-Davis, a member of the Church in Ghana:

“About two years after my baptism, I had a vision. … I saw that I was at a sacrament meeting, and somebody in white apparel came and stood in front of the stand and called me. I came forward and stood by him, and then he asked me to turn around and look at the faces of the people, to see if they were all enjoying the service. I looked, and I said I couldn’t see any difference in their faces. Then the man in white asked me to look carefully. I saw that some of those in the congregation had bent down their heads. The man asked me why those people were not joining in the singing. I told him that they couldn’t read English, and so they couldn’t sing, so they bent down their heads. He asked me if I wouldn’t like to help my sisters and brothers … so that they too could join in singing praises to our Heavenly Father. Though I could speak Fante [the dialect spoken by the people], I couldn’t write it well. But I didn’t say no; I said that I would try, that I would do my best. Then the vision passed away. Immediately I got up and took a paper and pencil and started translating the song ‘Redeemer of Israel’ into Fante.”

Sister Sampson-Davis translated the hymns, some missionary pamphlets, and the Gospel Principles manual. Then, under assignment, she assisted in the translation of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. She observed: “It says in the scriptures that in the last days people will hear the gospel in their [own] tongues. This is what the Lord wanted me to do, and it is by his grace that I do it” (“An Instrument in His Hands,” in “All Are Alike unto God,” ed. E. Dale LeBaron [1990], 40–42).

5. “Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength” (D&C 10:4)

  • As Joseph faced the immense work of translating the Book of Mormon, what counsel did the Lord give him? (See D&C 10:4–5.) How can this counsel help us as we face difficult tasks or responsibilities?

6. Video presentations

If the videocassette Teachings from the Doctrine and Covenants and Church History (53933) is available, consider showing “The Works and Designs of God.” This 13-minute segment is about the story of the lost 116 pages of manuscript. Use the presentation to emphasize that “the works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught” (D&C 3:1.) To discuss this principle, use the questions in the second section of this lesson.

If Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Video Presentations (53912) is available, consider showing “Parley P. Pratt Finds the Book of Mormon,” an 11-minute segment. After showing the presentation, ask the following questions:

  • Do you find as much joy from reading the Book of Mormon as Parley P. Pratt did when he first read it? What can you do to make the Book of Mormon a more central part of your life? (You may want to suggest that class members ponder these questions silently.)

  • How have you seen President Benson’s promises fulfilled?