Lesson 1: The Keystone of Our Religion

Book of Mormon: Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual, (1999), 1–5


Purpose

To help class members understand how the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion and how abiding by its precepts helps us draw nearer to God.

Preparation

  1. 1.

    Read, ponder, and pray about the following scriptures: 1 Nephi 13:38–41; 19:23; 2 Nephi 25:21–22; 27:22; 29:6–9; Mormon 8:26–41; Ether 5:2–4; Moroni 1:4; 10:3–5; Doctrine and Covenants 10:45–46; 20:8–12; 84:54–58. Also study the introductory material to the Book of Mormon, including the title page, the introduction, the Testimony of Three Witnesses, the Testimony of Eight Witnesses, and the Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

  2. 2.

    Additional reading: “The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion” (Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, Nov. 1986, 4–7; see also Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 3–7).

  3. 3.

    Obtain a copy of the Book of Mormon Class Member Study Guide (35684) for each class member. (You should receive copies from the Sunday School presidency.)

  4. 4.

    In advance, ask one class member to prepare to summarize the Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith, another to prepare to summarize the Testimony of Three Witnesses, and a third to prepare to summarize the Testimony of Eight Witnesses.

  5. 5.

    If the following materials are available, prepare to use them during the lesson:

    1. a.

      The pictures 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).

    2. b.

      “For Our Day,” a four-minute segment of Book of Mormon Video Presentations (53911).

Suggestions for Lesson Development

Attention Activity

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

Draw a stone arch on the chalkboard:

keystone

Explain that when an arch such as this one is constructed correctly, it can remain standing even without any mortar between the stones.

  • What holds the arch together?

Write the word keystone on the center stone of the arch. Explain that the keystone of an arch holds the other stones in place. This lesson discusses the keystone of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Scripture Discussion and Application

Prayerfully select the scripture passages, questions, and other lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. Discuss how the selected scriptures apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share appropriate experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.

1. The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion.

Have class members turn to the introduction to the Book of Mormon, and invite a class member to read the sixth paragraph.

If you used the attention activity, write Book of Mormon on the chalkboard under the word keystone.

If you did not use the attention activity, write on the chalkboard Book of Mormon = keystone and explain that the keystone of an arch holds the other stones in place and prevents the arch from collapsing.

  • Why do you think Joseph Smith called the Book of Mormon the keystone of our religion?

    President Ezra Taft Benson explained, “Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 5; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 6).

  • Why does the Church “stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon”?

After discussing this question, have a class member read the following statement by President Benson: “There are three ways in which the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. It is the keystone in our witness of Christ. It is the keystone of our doctrine. It is the keystone of testimony” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 4; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 5).

Write on the chalkboard Witness of Christ.

  • Have class members turn to the title page of the Book of Mormon, and explain that this page was written by the prophet Moroni. According to the second paragraph, what are three purposes of the Book of Mormon? (To show the remnant of the house of Israel the great things the Lord has done for their fathers; to teach the covenants required by the Lord; and to convince all people that Jesus is the Christ, manifesting Himself to all nations.)

  • In 1982 the subtitle Another Testament of Jesus Christ was added to the title of the Book of Mormon. Why is it important to have this additional testament of the Savior? (See 1 Nephi 13:38–41; 2 Nephi 29:6–9.) Why is it important to declare to the world that the Book of Mormon testifies of Christ?

  • What have you learned from the Book of Mormon about Jesus Christ? How has the Book of Mormon strengthened your testimony of Jesus Christ?

Write on the chalkboard Doctrine.

  • In what ways is the Book of Mormon the “keystone of our doctrine”? (See D&C 10:45–46; 20:8–12.)

    President Benson stated: “The Lord Himself has stated that the Book of Mormon contains the ‘fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ’ (D&C 20:9). That does not mean it contains every teaching, every doctrine ever revealed. Rather, it means that in the Book of Mormon we will find the fulness of those doctrines required for our salvation. And they are taught plainly and simply so that even children can learn the ways of salvation and exaltation” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 4; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 6).

  • How has the Book of Mormon increased your understanding of important gospel doctrines?

Write on the chalkboard Testimony.

  • Why is the Book of Mormon fundamental to a testimony of the restored gospel?

  • What blessings come to those who receive a testimony of the Book of Mormon and follow its teachings? What must we do to gain a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon? (See Moroni 10:3–5.)

Invite class members to talk about how they came to know that the Book of Mormon is true.

2. Many witnesses have testified of the Book of Mormon.

If you are using the pictures of Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith and of Joseph Smith receiving the gold plates, display them now. Have the assigned class member summarize the events recorded in the Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Then explain that after Joseph Smith had finished translating the Book of Mormon, other people were privileged to see the plates. Have the assigned class members present their summaries of the Testimony of the Three Witnesses and the Testimony of the Eight Witnesses.

  • Why was it important to have witnesses of the gold plates? (See Ether 5:2–4.) How do you think having additional witnesses helped the Prophet Joseph Smith?

  • What other witnesses do we have that the Book of Mormon is true?

If you are using the video presentation “For Our Day,” show it now.

3. The Book of Mormon was written for our day.

Point out that although the Book of Mormon is an ancient document, it was written and preserved for our day (2 Nephi 25:21–22; 27:22; Mormon 8:34–35; Moroni 1:4).

  • Read with class members Mormon 8:26–41. Explain that these verses contain a prophecy about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. What conditions did Moroni foresee would exist in the world when the Book of Mormon was again brought forth? (Write class members’ responses on the chalkboard. Answers may include those in the list below.) How are these conditions evident in the world today?

    1. a.

      “The power of God shall be denied” (verse 28).

    2. b.

      “There shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth” (verse 31).

    3. c.

      People will “lift themselves up in the pride of their hearts” (verse 36).

    4. d.

      People will “love money … more than [they] love the poor and the needy” (verse 37).

    5. e.

      People will be “ashamed to take upon [themselves] the name of Christ” (verse 38).

  • In what ways can the teachings of ancient prophets be a source of help to us? How might knowing that the Book of Mormon was written for our day influence the way we study it? (See 1 Nephi 19:23.)

    President Benson taught: “The Book of Mormon … was written for our day. The Nephites never had the book; neither did the Lamanites of ancient times. It was meant for us. … Each of the major writers of the Book of Mormon testified that he wrote for future generations. … If they saw our day and chose those things which would be of greatest worth to us, is not that how we should study the Book of Mormon? We should constantly ask ourselves, ‘Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 5; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 6).

4. The Book of Mormon can bring us nearer to God.

Have a class member again read the sixth paragraph of the introduction to the Book of Mormon.

  • What are precepts? (Commandments or principles.) How can the precepts of the Book of Mormon bring us nearer to God?

  • If we do not study the Book of Mormon, what will be the consequences to us, individually and as a church? (See D&C 84:54–58.)

  • What changes and blessings have come into your life when you have studied and pondered the Book of Mormon regularly?

Conclusion

Read or have a class member read the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson:

“The moment you begin a serious study of [the Book of Mormon, 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. … When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 6; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 7).

Encourage class members to experience the fulfillment of these promises for themselves by studying the Book of Mormon this year.

As directed by the Spirit, testify of the truths discussed during the lesson.

Give each class member a study guide. Encourage class members to use these study guides as they study the scriptures in preparation for class each week.

Additional Teaching Ideas

The following material supplements the suggested lesson outline. You may want to use one or both of these ideas as part of the lesson.

1. The importance of the Book of Mormon in the Restoration of the gospel

List the following phrases on the chalkboard without the accompanying numbers:

  1. 6.

    Temple work for the dead begins.

  1. 3.

    The Melchizedek Priesthood is restored.

  1. 5.

    Apostles are called.

  1. 1.

    Joseph Smith receives the First Vision.

  1. 4.

    The Church is organized.

  1. 2.

    The Book of Mormon comes forth.

Ask class members to identify the order in which these events occurred (the numbers to the left of the events indicate their correct order; add these numbers to the chalkboard as class members identify the proper order of events). Then read or have a class member read the following comment by President Ezra Taft Benson:

“A … powerful testimony to the importance of the Book of Mormon is to note where the Lord placed its coming forth in the timetable of the unfolding Restoration. The only thing that preceded it was the First Vision. …

“Think of that in terms of what it implies. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon preceded the restoration of the priesthood. It was published just a few days before the Church was organized. The Saints were given the Book of Mormon to read before they were given the revelations outlining such great doctrines as the three degrees of glory, celestial marriage, or work for the dead. It came before priesthood quorums and Church organization. Doesn’t this tell us something about how the Lord views this sacred work?” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 3; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 4).

2. Sharing the Book of Mormon

Consult with the bishopric and the ward mission leader about how members can obtain copies of the Book of Mormon to share with nonmember friends and acquaintances.

In class, suggest that a class goal this year should be to share the Book of Mormon with nonmember friends and acquaintances. Explain to class members how they may obtain copies of the Book of Mormon, and encourage each class member to give a copy to at least one friend or acquaintance during the year.

Several times during the year, as the Spirit directs, ask class members if any of them have yet shared a copy of the Book of Mormon. Invite class members who have done this to briefly describe the experience. Continue to encourage class members to share the Book of Mormon with others.