Chapter 9: The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion

The churches website links to 2 videos related to this lesson.  Both videos are of ETB speaking, the first is a mere 45 seconds long and on how the Book of Mormon reveals the enemies of Christ.  The second video is of ETB speaking in the October conference and is the basis for this lesson.  The entire video is 29 minutes, which makes it too long to effectively use in class (that and the halting speech might make it difficult to listen to for very long for some).  However, this speech is good to review before preparing this lesson.

This is really a 2 part lesson (see the next lesson Chapter 10: Flooding the Earth and Our Lives with the Book of Mormon), so many of the points are setting up for a more detailed look at how to study the Book of Mormon which should be covered then.

This lesson reverts back to the normal pattern of these lessons, with a more involved introduction as opposed to the last lesson, where the introduction was minimal.

I often look for a different opening for these lessons, however, this lesson has 5 quotes in the introduction from talks that ETB gave that are very powerful and I plan on reading 3 of them and discussing their implications today.

As always, quotes from the lesson manual are italicized.  My timing of this lesson will  be much more balanced than in previous lessons, although the introduction and first section could very well put me behind, and that would be fine as the last section can be summarized quickly.

From the Life of Ezra Taft Benson

I will summarize the 1st two paragraphs in perhaps 2 sentences in order to get to the quotes that follow quickly.  However, the comparison between President Snow’s emphasis on tithing and ETB’s focus on the Book of Mormon could lead to a discussion on how each President of the Church tends to return to a theme over the course of their presidency.  For a good list of what each President of the church has focused on, see this link from LeadingLDS.

In his first general conference address as President of the Church, President Benson shared one reason for the urgency of this message. “Unless we read the Book of Mormon and give heed to its teachings,” he warned, “the Lord has stated in section 84 of the Doctrine and Covenants that the whole Church is under condemnation: ‘And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all’ [D&C 84:56]. The Lord continues: ‘And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written’ [D&C 84:57].

So we risk condemnation unless we read and give heed to its teachings.  Do we see evidence of this today?  Or more simply stated, we should read it because we are commanded to read it, if for no other reason!

“Now we not only need to say more about the Book of Mormon, but we need to do more with it. Why? The Lord answers: ‘That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion’ [D&C 84:58]. We have felt that scourge and judgment!

“… The Book of Mormon has not been, nor is it yet, the center of our personal study, family teaching, preaching, and missionary work. Of this we must repent.”

How do we do more with the Book of Mormon?  I am thinking he is not asking us to use it to level tables or as a door stop.  Nor is it doing anyone any good if it is being used as a dust collector.

“We have not been using the Book of Mormon as we should. Our homes are not as strong unless we are using it to bring our children to Christ. Our families may be corrupted by worldly trends and teachings unless we know how to use the book to expose and combat falsehoods. … Our missionaries are not as effective unless they are [teaching] with it. Social, ethical, cultural, or educational converts will not survive under the heat of the day unless their taproots go down to the fulness of the gospel which the Book of Mormon contains. Our Church classes are not as Spirit-filled unless we hold it up as a standard.”

“I bless you with increased understanding of the Book of Mormon. I promise you that from this moment forward, if we will daily sup from its pages and abide by its precepts, God will pour out upon each child of Zion and the Church a blessing hitherto unknown—and we will plead to the Lord that He will begin to lift the condemnation—the scourge and judgment. Of this I bear solemn witness.”

Promises of blessings for those that read daily.  Not everyone responds to the risk of condemnation, some respond to promise of blessings.  As we read daily we will be blessed in ways that are difficult to quantify.   Recently, I talked on Personal Revelation and used Elder Bednar’s example of 2 ways light works.  The first being a light switch turned on immediately floods a room with light but a sunrise slowly turns the darkness into light, just a little at a time.  However, in most cases, the sunlight on a clear day will be far brighter than a light in a room.  I will refer to this story in how we will receive the blessing of understanding as we do a little each day to study the Book of Mormon.  When we first pick it up, we will be utterly confused by the words of Isaiah, but we will get something out of it.  The next time we read it, we’ll get just a little more, until one day, we see the bigger picture.  Not only do we know the story behind King Benjamin’s address, but we understand completely the gospel reasons behind his words.  This is what ETB was trying to get the church to do as a whole, read daily which would naturally increase our understanding.  If we understood the reasons more completely, we’d be more inclined to act, to magnify our callings (as teachers, leaders, parents, etc).  With more people driven to action, the church would prosper.  It almost always starts with the little things.

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

How important is the Book of Mormon? Joseph Smith called it “the keystone of our religion.” (History of the Church, 4:461.) “Take away the Book of Mormon and the revelations,” he said, “and where is our religion? We have none.” (History of the Church, 2:52.)

What is a Keystone?

(From Wikipedia - Keystone)

(From Wikipedia – Keystone)

A keystone is the central stone in an arch. It holds all the other stones in place, and if removed, the arch crumbles.

… 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 Lord himself  has borne witness:

  1. that it is true (D&C 17:6),
  2. that it contains the truth and His words (D&C 19:26),
  3. that it was translated by power from on high (D&C 20:8),
  4. that it contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (D&C 20:9; 42:12),
  5. that it was given by inspiration and confirmed by the ministering of angels (D&C 20:10),
  6. that it gives evidence that the holy scriptures are true (D&C 20:11),
  7. that those who receive it in faith shall receive eternal life (D&C 20:14)

What is the difference between a cornerstone and a keystone?  In Ephisian 2:20 we read that Christ is the chief cornerstone of the church.  In a building, the corner stone is the first stone laid and from it, the positioning of the building is set.  The Keystone is part of the arch over the doorway.  So while Christ is the cornerstone of the church, or the building, the keystone is a vital part of the doorway, or the way into Christ’s church.

2  The Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ and brings us nearer to God.

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.”

Do we remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon? In the Bible we have the Old Testament and the New Testament. The word testament is the English rendering of a Greek word that can also be translated as covenant. Is this what the Lord meant when He called the Book of Mormon the “new covenant”? It is indeed another testament or witness of Jesus. This is one of the reasons why we have recently added the words “Another Testament of Jesus Christ” to the title of the Book of Mormon. …

Part of the covenant we make when we take the sacrament is that we’ll always remember him.  I don’t believe we will be asked specifically if we read the scriptures when we stand before God on the day of Judgement, but we’ll be asked how well we did with the two great commandments and the covenants we made with him, including the sacrament.  How will we respond?  Will it be, I always remembered you, except when I forgot to read?  or didn’t have time?  or it was too late?

Our beloved brother, President Marion G. Romney, … who knows of himself of the power that resides in this book, testified of the blessings that can come into the lives of those who will read and study the Book of Mormon. He said:

“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (Ensign, May 1980, p. 67).

These promises—increased love and harmony in the home, greater respect between parent and child, increased spirituality and righteousness—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

3 – The Book of Mormon teaches true doctrine, confounds false doctrine, and exposes the enemies of Christ.

Elder Hollands talk on Safety for the Soul adds testimony to this concept (see other resources below).  I will reference this talk in the discussions associated with this section.

As far as preaching the gospel is concerned, the Book of Mormon contains the clearest, most concise, and complete explanation. There is no other record to compare with it. In what record do you get such a complete understanding of the nature of the Fall, the nature of physical and spiritual death, the doctrine of the Atonement, the doctrine of justice and mercy as it relates to the Atonement, and the principles and ordinances of the gospel? The Book of Mormon contains the most comprehensive account of these fundamental doctrines.

Why is the Bible not as clear or complete?  (Unlike the Bible, which passed through generations of copyists, translators, and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text, the Book of Mormon came from writer to reader in just one inspired step of translation.)

We … should know the Book of Mormon better than any other book. Not only should we know what history and faith-promoting stories it contains, but we should understand its teachings. If we really do our homework and approach the Book of Mormon doctrinally, we can expose the errors and find the truths to combat many of the current false theories and philosophies of men.

The Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ. It confounds false doctrines and lays down contention. (See 2 Ne. 3:12.) It fortifies the humble followers of Christ against the evil designs, strategies, and doctrines of the devil in our day. The type of apostates in the Book of Mormon are similar to the type we have today. God, with his infinite foreknowledge, so molded the Book of Mormon that we might see the error and know how to combat false educational, political, religious, and philosophical concepts of our time.

How well do we know the Book of Mormon compared to other books we read?  I worry when people can quote more out of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings than they can out of the Bible or Book of Mormon.

Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.  This is a fairly common saying and in the Book of Mormon, we not only get doctrine, but real examples of how the teachings, inspiration, and revelations from the Lord can help discern truth and expose false and misleading teachings.  The stories of Sherem and Zeezrom are included in the Book of Mormon for this very purpose.

4 – The Doctrine and Covenants is the binding link between the Book of Mormon and the continuing work of the Restoration.

This section really is making the point, that we need to go beyond merely reading the scriptures, and start to study, or feasting on them.  To do this we need to understand their history and background.

The Doctrine and Covenants is a glorious book of scripture given directly to our generation. It contains the will of the Lord for us in these last days that precede the second coming of Christ. It contains many truths and doctrines not fully revealed in other scripture. Like the Book of Mormon, it will strengthen those who carefully and prayerfully study from its pages.

Do we, as Saints of the Most High God, treasure the word He has preserved for us at so great a cost? Are we using these books of latter-day revelation to bless our lives and resist the powers of the evil one? This is the purpose for which they were given. How can we not stand condemned before the Lord if we treat them lightly by letting them do no more than gather dust on our shelves?

My beloved brothers and sisters, I bear my solemn witness that these books contain the mind and the will of the Lord for us in these days of trial and tribulation. They stand with the Bible to give witness of the Lord and His work. These books contain the voice of the Lord to us in these latter days. May we turn to them with full purpose of heart and use them in the way the Lord wishes them to be used.

This lesson must be ended with a challenge to read and study the Book of Mormon more diligently.  For those already doing so, they must ask themselves, can they do More with the Book of Mormon (from the quote in the introduction)?  (We need to use the understanding of the Gospel we get from our reading when we teach our families,  perform our church callings, or share the Gospel with others).

 

Other Resources:

Howard W. Hunter gave a great talk on studying the Scriptures which can be found here.  (Preview of next week)

Modern leaders still stress the importance, here D. Todd Chistofferson talks about the Blessings of Scriptures.  I have used this talk previously.  (Useful next week as well)

A 1998 talk given to students at Ricks by David Bednar can be found here.  The importance of reading the scriptures daily (and the source for my comment on the covenants we make as we take the sacrament)

Even in our last conference we are instructed to read the Book of Mormon daily.  Here is Kevin Pearson’s talk, Stay by the Tree, which adds testimony to the importance of Scripture study.  (This talk was used in our Priesthood lesson last week and will be referenced throughout our discussion this week.)

Nearly all the leaders have testified regarding the Book of Mormon at various times, some of the more outstanding examples are here:

Additional questions for use with the lesson can be found on LeadingLDS, located here.

Free, Printable Book of Mormon Reading schedules can be found here.

 

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