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As stated in its title page, the Book of Mormon has been written for everyone. Jack R. Christianson and K. Douglas Bassett rivet their readers to this point. With convincing testimony, inspiring experiences and wisely placed commentary from modern prophets, Christianson and Bassett gallantly promote the Book of Mormon’s purposes. Written for our day, it was designed to bring us to Jesus Christ so that we may know His covenants and understand that we are not cast off forever. Christianson suspects that too many members of the church have become “hurried tourists” in their Book of Mormon study (as coined by Elder Neal A. Maxwell), not fully comprehending the significance of the book’s teachings (11). For me, Life Lessons from the Book of Mormon hit squarely home.
Because the Book of Mormon is our focus for Sunday school study church-wide, Christianson and Basset’s book would make a wonderful supplement for any teacher of any level. The book was a refreshing read because it took me back to my seminary days as the authors shared powerful personal experiences that kept me engaged and learning. It has been some time since I read a doctrinal commentary replete with such motivating, thought-provoking and inspiring stories. Just as the Book of Mormon has been written for everyone, Life Lessons from the Book of Mormon has also been written for everyone – youth, adults, students, teachers and the new convert.
Both Basset and Christianson currently teach Institute and have issued previous publications. Their “life lessons” address topics such as Satan’s chains, the faces of pride, changing weaknesses to strengths, dealing with adversity, supporting church leaders and maintaining spiritual pace. Each topic is artfully supported by examples from the Book of Mormon. The subjects speak to the challenges the Lord knew we would face in latter-days.
In true irony, I found myself humbled this weekend as I hurried through the chapter entitled “Maintaining Spiritual Pace” in an attempt to finish the book and crank out a review. With so many things going on I was feeling exhausted from the daily grind, weary of the relentless list of things to do and the lack of time to simply stop and think. In my haste, I stopped short at this story, recounted by Bassett.
“I am reminded of…an elderly man who rested by the side of a much-traveled path. A much younger man stopped for a minute next to the old gentleman. In the course of conversation the younger man asked, How has life in America changed most?’ The old man replied simply, Speed.’ Pausing for a moment to think, he continued, It’s killing us. You have to make a part of your life in which you slow down. The world won’t do it for you'” (223).
Bassett goes on, “Once again, we can look to the Book of Mormon for evidence of the need for an appropriate spiritual pace to our lives” (223). He then explains in detail the Book of Mormon story of Zeniff and his people. Zeniff introduces himself as “over-zealous” (See Mosiah 9:3) meaning he did not take time to inquire of the Lord or his leaders before gathering a group of Nephites to travel back to the land of Nephi and live adjacent to the Lamanites. This decision brought much bitterness, death and sorrow to his people for several generations.
Bassett continues, “I am convinced that if Satan can’t influence us to sin outright, the next best thing he can do is fill our lives with so much clutter that he becomes our silent partner, so silent that too often we are unaware of his influence in speeding up the pace of our lives and camouflaging our priorities” (221).
Stress, demands of the clock, pressure to compete, worry, fear of failure, academics, and many other things, as mentioned by Bassett, can distance us from recognizing the whisperings of the still, small voice. He reminds those of us who are strong, committed servants of the Lord, that even we can “run too fast in the Kingdom”. Sometimes we run so fast with our church work and other noble endeavors that we don’t realize we have neglected time to respond to or hear the whisperings of the spirit! President McKay said that whisperings come “when we are relaxed and not under pressure of appointments” (221).
I poured over this chapter with great interest and some regret. I felt he was speaking to me – expounding a “life lesson” that was hitting me right between the eyes. “There is a pace to living that allows the Lord to be our guide as we keep the commandments. It is ironic to me that so many of us may be able to answer all the temple recommend questions in a positive way and be worthy to enter the temple, yet the very pace of our lives distances us from the daily companionship of that Spirit we so desire” (219).
The Book of Mormon is meant to warn us of the Adversary’s snares. None of us are completely immune to his tactics. I was grateful to be reminded of a poignant personal weakness, as expressly and familiarly stated in the Book of Mormon.
“And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order” (Mosiah 4:27).
The Book of Mormon Brings Us to God
Christianson and Bassett stick closely to the truths found in the Book of Mormon, constantly reminding us that each principle is meant to bring us to God. The Book of Mormon is a unique and powerful witness of Christ, incomparable in its clarity. Prophets of our day have expressed concern about the condemnation the church is under because we have not used the Book of Mormon as we should. President Benson suggested that our homes are not as strong as they could be, our families may be corrupted by worldly trends and teachings, our missionaries are not as effective, our church classes are not as Spirit filled, and our nation continues to degenerate because of the neglect of this great book.
President Benson taught, “Every Latter-day Saint should make the study of this book a lifetime pursuit. Otherwise he is placing his soul in jeopardy and neglecting that which could give spiritual and intellectual unity to his whole life. There is a difference between a convert who is built on the rock of Christ through the Book of Mormon and stays hold of that iron rod, and one who is not” (33-34). Bassett probes us further, “Why are not a greater number of members seriously and carefully reading this marvelous work?” (258)
Life Lessons from the Book of Mormon is a hands-on read that melds easily into daily living, a book with real tools that will help us combat the darkness of life and inspire true study within the pages of this ancient record.
Personally, I am grateful to Christianson and Bassett for facilitating my own little epiphany, and for the renewed conviction I now have to let the truths of the Book of Mormon bring me ever closer to the Lord.