Unit 1: Day 3, Title Page, Introduction, and Testimonies of Witnesses

Book of Mormon Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students, (2012), 6–9


Introduction

Imagine that a friend asked you why members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints need the Book of Mormon if we already have the Bible. (Perhaps you have already had this experience!) What would you say to your friend?

The Book of Mormon begins with a title page and an introduction that explain the purpose of this sacred book, including the effect it can have on our testimony and relationship to God. The opening pages of the Book of Mormon also contain the testimonies of witnesses who saw the gold plates from which the book was translated and bore testimony of its divine origin.

As you complete this lesson, think about how you can gain the most from your study of the Book of Mormon this year and how the Book of Mormon can help you develop a greater testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ and His restored gospel.

The Title Page

Joseph Smith with plates

The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that the ancient prophet Moroni included the title page of the Book of Mormon on the gold plates: “The title-page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf, on the left hand side of the collection or book of plates, which contained the record which has been translated, … and … said title page is not by any means a modern composition, either of mine or of any other man who has lived or does live in this generation” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 60–61).

As you read the first paragraph on the title page, look for words and phrases Moroni used to testify of the Lord’s involvement in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon.

  1. journal icon1.

    In your scripture study journal, explain why it is important to you to know how involved the Lord was in the writing and translation of the Book of Mormon.

As you read the second paragraph on the title page, look for what the three main purposes Moroni gave for the Book of Mormon being written. (You may want to mark these in your scriptures.) The “house of Israel” refers to those who are descendants of Jacob as well as those who are covenant members of the Lord’s church (see Bible Dictionary, “Israel”). Additionally, the phrase “Jew and Gentile” includes all of Heavenly Father’s children. In the second paragraph, personalize the message of the title page by substituting your name for “the remnant of the House of Israel” and for “the Jew and Gentile.”

  1. journal icon2.

    In your scripture study journal, explain how knowing these purposes of the Book of Mormon help you understand its importance.

President Ezra Taft Benson said the following about the “major mission” or purpose of the Book of Mormon:

“The major mission of the Book of Mormon, as recorded on its title page, is ‘to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.’

“The honest seeker after truth can gain the testimony that Jesus is the Christ as he prayerfully ponders the inspired words of the Book of Mormon.

“Over one-half of all the verses in the Book of Mormon refer to our Lord. Some form of Christ’s name is mentioned more frequently per verse in the Book of Mormon than even in the New Testament” (“Come unto Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 83).

As its title page proclaims, the Book of Mormon is a witness that Jesus is the Christ. As you study the Book of Mormon this year, focus on what you learn about Jesus Christ and ask Heavenly Father in prayer to confirm what you are learning through the power of the Holy Ghost.

The Introduction to the Book of Mormon

Have you ever wondered how an arch in a bridge or a building is able to keep from falling with no support underneath it? When an arch is constructed, the two sides are built up with supports to hold them. The space at the top of the arch is then carefully measured, and a stone, called the “keystone,” is cut to fit it exactly. When the keystone is put in place, the arch can stand without outside support. Imagine what would happen to the arch if the keystone was removed.

arch

Turn to the introduction to the Book of Mormon and read the sixth paragraph, which begins “Concerning this record …” As you read this paragraph, look for three significant principles the Prophet Joseph Smith taught concerning the Book of Mormon.

President Ezra Taft Benson explained more about how the Book of Mormon acts as the keystone of our religion. As you read the quotation, underline phrases or statements that could help you describe to someone else the central role the Book of Mormon plays in our religion.

“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.

“The Book of Mormon is the keystone in our witness of Jesus Christ, who is Himself the cornerstone of everything we do. It bears witness of His reality with power and clarity. …

“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. …

“Finally, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of testimony. 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. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church. But in like manner, if the Book of Mormon be true—and millions have now testified that they have the witness of the Spirit that it is indeed true—then one must accept the claims of the Restoration and all that accompanies it” (“The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 5–6).

  1. journal icon3.

    Read the eighth paragraph of the introduction to the Book of Mormon, which begins “We invite all men everywhere … ,” and identify how you can know the Book of Mormon is true. After you have read the paragraph, complete the following sentence in your scripture study journal: As we read, ponder, and pray, the Holy Ghost will …

Just as the keystone supports the other stones in an arch, a testimony of the Book of Mormon strengthens our testimonies of other important principles of the gospel. Read the ninth paragraph of the introduction, which begins “Those who gain this divine witness … ,” and underline three additional truths you will gain a witness of as you follow the counsel in the eighth paragraph. As we read, ponder, and pray about the Book of Mormon, the Holy Ghost will witness that it is true, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom on earth.

  1. journal icon4.

    In your scripture study journal, explain why the Book of Mormon is called the keystone of our religion.

The Testimonies of the Witnesses

Imagine you are a judge trying to determine the truth about what happened in a dispute between two parties. What value would there be of having a witness to what happened? What greater value would there be of having many witnesses?

whitnesses

Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Martin Harris

The Lord showed several witnesses the gold plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon. Read “The Testimony of Three Witnesses,” and mark three or four phrases they used to testify of the plates and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Then read “The Testimony of the Eight Witnesses.” Notice the differences in the experiences of the two groups, as shown in the table below.

Three Witnesses

Eight Witnesses

  1. 1.

    An angel showed them the plates, the Urim and Thummim, the breastplate, the Liahona, and the sword of Laban.

  1. 1.

    Joseph Smith showed them the plates.

  1. 2.

    The voice of God declared the divinity of the record.

  1. 2.

    They handled (“hefted”) the gold plates.

  1. journal icon5.

    Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: Why is it important that there were other witnesses of the gold plates in addition to Joseph Smith?

  2. journal icon6.

    In your scripture study journal, write your own testimony regarding the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith, and the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. If you feel you do not yet have your own testimony, write what you will do to develop a testimony of the Book of Mormon this year. To strengthen your testimony, share your feelings about what you wrote with one of your parents or another family member or friend.

  1. journal icon7.

    Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:

    I have studied the “Introductory Materials in the Book of Mormon” lesson and completed it on (date).

    Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: