Not long after my call to serve as one of the Twelve Apostles, I was summoned to the office of the President of our Quorum, President Ezra Taft Benson. He expressed deep concern that members of the Church did not fully appreciate the value of the Book of Mormon. With emotion in his voice, he read to me from the 84th section of the Doctrine and Covenants:
“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” (D&C 84:54–55).
By that time, President Benson had completely captured my attention. He then concluded his admonition:
“And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon” (D&C 84:57).
I shall never forget that lesson. Since then, President Howard W. Hunter, President Gordon B. Hinckley, and many other leaders of the Church have continued to extol the Book of Mormon to people throughout the world.
I would like to add my testimony of the divinity of this book. I have read it many times. I have also read much that has been written about it. Some authors have focused upon its stories, its people, or its vignettes of history. Others have been intrigued by its language structure or its records of weapons, geography, animal life, techniques of building, or systems of weights and measures.
Interesting as these matters may be, study of the Book of Mormon is most rewarding when one focuses on its primary purpose—to testify of Jesus Christ. By comparison, all other issues are incidental.
When you read the Book of Mormon, concentrate on the principal figure in the book—from its first chapter to the last—the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God. And look for a second undergirding theme: God will keep His covenants with the remnants of the house of Israel (see 3 Ne. 16:11–12; 3 Ne. 29:3; Morm. 5:20; Morm. 8:21; Morm. 9:37).
Its first book of Nephi—written some six centuries before the birth of Jesus—records that the prophet Lehi received a vision of the tree of life. His son Nephi prayed to know its meaning. In answer, he was given a remarkable vision. He beheld a virgin bearing a child in her arms. He envisioned the Redeemer of the world, His earthly ministry, and His Crucifixion. He saw 12 others who would follow the Holy One. And he foresaw the ongoing opposition to the work of God and of His Apostles.
Other great prophets mentioned in the Book of Mormon—in their own way and time—testified of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Among them were the brother of Jared, Zenock, Neum, and Zenos. Testimonies of Jesus Christ that predated His birth in Bethlehem were also recorded from King Benjamin, Abinadi, Alma the Elder, Alma the Younger, Amulek, the sons of Mosiah, Captain Moroni, the brothers Nephi and Lehi, and Samuel the Lamanite. In a seemingly endless sequence of prophetic proclamations—testimonies of “all the holy prophets” (Jacob 4:4) for “a great many thousand years before his coming” (Hel. 8:18)—the Book of Mormon makes the solemn declaration that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.
Most books contained in libraries of the world were authored for contemporary readers. And they were generally written for profit, with royalties accruing from successful sales.
Not so with the Book of Mormon. It was written anciently for our day. It reveals the endless Lordship of Jesus Christ in accounts of two ancient American dispensations, preserved for the benefit of us who live in this dispensation of the fulness of times. Certainly no royalties came to its authors. In fact, they paid dearly for their privilege of participation. What motivated them? Their devotion to God! The book’s four major writers—Nephi, Jacob, Mormon, and Moroni—were all eyewitnesses of the Lord, as was its martyred translator, the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Their writings centered upon the Lord, His mission, and His ministry. Jacob, for example, repeatedly referred to the Atonement and Resurrection of Christ. “Beloved brethren,” wrote Jacob, “be reconciled unto [God] through the atonement of Christ, his Only Begotten Son, and ye may obtain a resurrection, … and be presented as the first-fruits of Christ unto God. …
“And now, … why not speak of the atonement of Christ, and attain to a perfect knowledge of him,” and a “knowledge of a resurrection and the world to come?” (Jacob 4:11–12).
Jacob’s advice is priceless and timeless.
The Savior declared that the Book of Mormon contains “the fulness of [His] everlasting gospel” (D&C 27:5). How did He define the gospel? The resurrected Lord taught, “This is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me” (3 Ne. 27:13).
Then He amplified that one-sentence definition: “My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw all men unto me” (3 Ne. 27:14).
The Book of Mormon is the most important religious text to be revealed from God to man. Joseph Smith declared the Book of Mormon to be “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion” (History of the Church, 4:461). It is the only book that the Lord Himself has testified to be true (see D&C 17:6).
The crowning event of this sacred record is the personal ministry of the resurrected Lord to people of ancient America. He instructed the people. He taught them to pray, to repent, to be baptized, to partake of the sacrament, to know of His doctrine, to understand the importance of sacred ordinances and covenants, and to endure to the end.
The Book of Mormon is a gift from God to all humankind. He invites all “to come unto him and partake of his goodness,” and He denies “none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female” (2 Ne. 26:33).
Each individual who prayerfully studies the Book of Mormon can also receive a testimony of its divinity. In addition, this book can help with personal problems in a very real way. Do you want to get rid of a bad habit? Do you want to improve relationships in your family? Do you want to increase your spiritual capacity? Read the Book of Mormon! It will bring you closer to the Lord and His loving power. The Book of Mormon is true!