Let’s start out with a promise from a Prophet about our studies in the Book of Mormon this year:

“My dear brothers and sisters, I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions—every day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open, and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be immunized against the evils of the day…”

Now that is a great promise!  And I trust it to be true.

You can also find it on any of these platforms by searching for Meridian Magazine-Come Follow Me.

Maurine and Scot Proctor have taught Book of Mormon for many years in Institute and have spent extensive time in the Arabian peninsula, following Lehi’s trail. They are the creators of a foundation that has sponsored a multi-year archaeological study of the best candidate for Nephi’s Bountiful in Oman. They have written a book on the Book of Mormon, as well as immersed themselves in the culture, history, and geography. of the scripture.

Join our study group and let’s delve into the scriptures in a way that is inspiring, expanding and joyful.

Maurine

Scot, I was reading a very short notice this past week in a local newspaper that was just over 300 words long.  This is not a well-known national periodical, in fact, it’s quite obscure—but the notice I read is probably the most important thing ever published in the news.  The paper was The Wayne Sentinel and the date was Friday, March 26, 1830.  This was the first announcement that The Book of Mormon was now available to the world.

Scot

Hello dear listeners!  We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this is Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me Podcast and we are just beginning our new year of studying the Book of Mormon together.  We’re so excited to give you some wonderful stories from Church History; great insights from the ancient world, some inspiration and some motivation that will help the Book of Mormon come alive for you this year.

Maurine

Let’s start out with a promise from a Prophet about our studies in the Book of Mormon this year:

“My dear brothers and sisters, I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions—every day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open, and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be immunized against the evils of the day…”

Scot

Now that is a great promise!  And I trust it to be true. And I want to add a second witness to President Nelson from Elder Gary Stevenson of the Twelve:

“As you strive to follow the teachings you find [in the Book of Mormon], your joy will expand, your understanding will increase, and the answers you seek to the many challenges mortality presents will be opened to you. As you look to the book, you look to the Lord.”

We live in tumultuous and extremely challenging times.  We have these powerful promises that we will have personal revelation and direction in our lives to meet those challenges.

Maurine

And I love how we will be immunized against the evils of the day.  We all certainly need that! So, let’s start out our year of intensive study in the Book of Mormon with those promises in mind—and let’s trust those promises.

You know, Scot, everything about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon can be deemed miraculous.  We are talking about angels and buried plates of gold and miraculous stones that bring things to light through the power of God. We’re talking about a young man with a very limited education who, as the weak and simple, is called upon to bring forth this great work.

Now, I think many know some of the basics of this miraculous season from September 21, 1823 when the existence of the record was first made known to Joseph, to March 26, 1830 when that newspaper announcement was published, but let’s talk about some of those miracles and blessings from the heavens.

I think one of the tender mercies that was extended to the Prophet Joseph during this season was the close relationship he developed with the Angel Moroni.  We know of at least 22 visits to Joseph from Moroni—and there were likely many more than that. Can you imagine having an angel as one of your very best friends—especially at a time when most everyone around you was turning against you and ridiculing you?

Scot

And, Maurine, we only have a brief record of each of Moroni’s visits to Joseph!  I’ll give you an example with some context. The first visits of Moroni came on Sunday night, September 21, 1823 and into the morning hours of Monday, September 22 in that snug little Smith cabin in Manchester Township, New York.  We have in the 1838 account published in the Pearl of Great Price some wonderful details from these first three visits of the Angel Moroni to Joseph.

Now, as you know, I’m curious about everything so I once type scripted all the things that we have record of from those visits of Moroni that night.  I typed out all the scriptures and expanded upon some of the descriptions and tried to recreate a text of what Moroni said to Joseph. I then carefully and slowly read aloud all the words that I’d written.  It took me 17 ½ minutes to read it. And there were three visits (that basically used the exact same text with some small additions). That makes a total of no less that 52 ½ minutes of conversation and teaching.

But Joseph says:  “After this third visit, he again ascended into heaven as before, and I was again left to ponder on the strangeness of what I had just experienced; when almost immediately after the heavenly messenger had ascended from me for the third time, the cock crowed, and I found that day was approaching, so that our interviews must have occupied the whole of that night.” (Joseph Smith History 1:47)

Maurine

That’s breathtaking.  Joseph gives us 16 words in his account that infer the rest of the story:  “He (Moroni) quoted many other passages of scripture, and offered many explanations which cannot be mentioned here.” (Joseph Smith History 1:41).  There’s the main part of the record right there!

And we have another detailed account given by Oliver Cowdery who spent so much time with Joseph.

Scot

That’s right, Oliver says a most insightful thing about Joseph—and I love to see this process:

“On the evening of the 21st of September, 1823, previous to retiring to rest, our brother’s mind was unusually wrought up on the subject which had so long agitated his mind—his heart was drawn out in fervent prayer, and his whole soul was so lost to every thing of a temporal nature, that earth, to him, had lost its claims, and all he desired was to be prepared in heart to commune with some kind messenger who could communicate to him the desired information of his acceptance with God.

Maurine

“At length the family retired,” Oliver records, “and he, as usual, bent his way, though in silence, where others might have rested their weary frames “locked fast in sleep’s embrace;” but repose had fled, and accustomed slumber had spread her refreshing hand over others beside him he continued still to pray—his heart, though once hard and obdurate, was softened, and that mind which had often flitted, like the ‘wild bird of passage,’ had settled upon a determined basis not to be decoyed or driven from its purpose.”

Oh, isn’t that so often how our prayers are—flitting about like a wild bird of passage?  I know mine are that way at times.

“Dear Heavenly Father, I am so desirous to know thy will concerning this most important issue in my life.  [Oh my, I wonder if I turned the crockpot setting on High or Warm for the meat for tomorrow—I think I forgot to put in the pepper…] and Oh, what is the guidance thou wouldst give me on this thing that weighs upon me so much? [Oh my goodness, tomorrow’s Tuesday and we have that article due that evening—I forgot all about that—which reminds me, I didn’t call Vickey to see how she is doing and that was on my list again today] And now, what was I just praying about?”

Have you ever had such a prayer?

Scot

All too often that happens—and I do try to get to the point where earth has lost its claims and my heart is softened and I am determined to not be decoyed or driven from my purpose.  It’s very hard—but worth the wrestle.

Joseph was directed to a nearby hill—about three miles from their farm—and there, because of a vision that was shown to him by Moroni—has was able to find the plates as directed.

Isn’t it so significant to note that the Fall Equinox that year started on Tuesday, September 23—the very day after these first visits—which marked the beginning of the harvest—The harvest of souls.

We also know from Oliver Cowdery’s various letters to the Messenger and Advocate, an early Church periodical, that Moroni gave Joseph at least 48 other scriptural verses to Joseph in those visits that we don’t have record of in the 1838 canonized account!  

Maurine, was there a theme that emerges from all these dozens of scriptures references to Joseph from Moroni?

Maurine

There certainly is!  

Moroni carefully outlines the rolling forth of the Gospel in these latter days, the mission of the Prophet Joseph, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the destructions that await the wicked, the spreading forth of the Kingdom of God on the earth by revelation, visions and prophecy, the pre-millennial and millennial earth—AND he talks about all this in relationship to the covenants that God has made with His sons and daughters—that He has not forgotten them, that this is the great work of the Lord before the winding up scenes.  It’s all quite spectacular.

Oliver gives us these many references in addition to what Joseph tells us.  We will let you come to the podcast notes at latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast so that you can study these verses with your family or study buddies.  Moroni gives many verses from the Psalms, from Isaiah, from Deuteronomy and a number of verses from Jeremiah.

[Additional verses given to us through Oliver Cowdery:

1 Corinthians 1:27-29

Isaiah 29:14

Psalm 100:1-2

Psalm 107:1-7

Psalm 146:10

Isaiah 1:7; 23-24

Deuteronomy 32:23-24

Isaiah 1:25-26

Then he repeats Psalm 107:7

Isaiah 2:1-4 (of course this eludes to the great work of building temples)

Isaiah 4:5,6

Jeremiah 31:27-28

Jeremiah 31:32-33

Jeremiah 30:18-21

Jeremiah 31: 1,8

Jeremiah 50:4-5

Jeremiah 31:9

Jeremiah 31:6

Isaiah 11:15-16 (this is repeated in the visit)

Jeremiah 16:16

Deuteronomy 32:43

Matthew 19:30

And Revelation 6: 12-13.

Scot

Again, that’s 48 more verses of scriptural text than we had before—that we know of!

I’ve copied all these verses into a notepad on my phone and combined them with the passages that Joseph recorded that he received.  You really can learn so much about Joseph’s mission from these very specific passages as we’ve just mentioned—it’s a great lesson in heavenly planning all laid out before our eyes.

Maurine

I think it’s so important to note, Scot, that 17 ½ year-old Joseph was not allowed to obtain the Gold Plates for four years but he was directed to return to the hill each year to receive more instruction, training and guidance.  It was during this time that he was being prepared and tutored each year by his dear angel friend, Moroni. Here’s a question: If you had an appointment with an angel to come back on the same night each year, September 22, what time would you get there?

Scot

I think I would arrive right at midnight so I could get in as much teaching as possible.  And we learn from Lucy Mack Smith, Joseph’s Mother, some of the things Joseph was obtaining:

“From this time forth Joseph continued to receive instructions from time to time, and every evening we gathered our children together and gave our time up to the discussion of those things which he instructed to us. I think that we presented the most peculiar aspect of any family that ever lived upon the earth, all seated in a circle, father, mother, sons, and daughters, listening in breathless anxiety to the religious teachings of a boy eighteen years of age who had never read the Bible through by course in his life. For Joseph was less inclined to the study of books than any child we had, but much more given to reflection and deep study.

“We were convinced that God was about to bring to light something that we might stay our minds upon, something that would give us a more perfect knowledge of the plan of salvation and the redemption of the human family than anything which had been taught us heretofore, and we rejoiced in it with exceeding great joy. The sweetest union and happiness pervaded our house. No jar nor discord disturbed our peace, and tranquility reigned in our midst.

Maurine

Lucy continues:  “In the course of our evening conversations, Joseph gave us some of the most amusing recitals which could be imagined. He would describe the ancient inhabitants of this continent, their dress, their manner of traveling, the animals which they rode, the cities that they built, and the structure of their buildings with every particular, their mode of warfare, and their religious worship as specifically as though he had spent his life with them.”

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to witness all of this in the Smith home.  Thank goodness Lucy Mack Smith wrote her biography of herself and her son so that we could have these amazing details.

Scot

Now, let’s talk briefly about the translation process.  First of all, isn’t it amazing that the Lord would choose this uneducated farm boy to bring forth this great work of the Book of Mormon?  I love how the Lord knows who we are from the pre-mortal realms such that He can say, “Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments…and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets—The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones..” (See D&C 1:17-19)

Maurine

So, for this young Joseph, the Lord provided means to translate in the form of a Urim and Thummim and a Seer Stone.  These are artifacts of ancient origin that are able, by miraculous means, to bring forth a translation of this otherwise undecipherable language.  In the very Title Page of the Book of Mormon, Mormon inscribes how this work will come forth in these latter days: “To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof.”  Let’s just look in on the translation process for a moment.

Emma Hale Smith, Joseph’s wife, was there from the beginning.  She records: “The larger part of this labor was done [in] my presence and where I could see and know what was being done…During no part of it [the work of translation] did Joseph have any manuscript or book of any kind from which to read or dictate except the metallic plates which I knew he had…”

Scot

Emma then gives us this amazing insight about her husband, “Joseph Smith could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon…The Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity—I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe [Joseph] would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion read to him.  This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.”

Maurine

One day in the translation process working with Emma he said, “Emma, did Jerusalem have a wall around it?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Oh,” Joseph said with relief, “I was afraid I had been deceived.”

As he translated, Joseph would often spell the more difficult and foreign names to the scribe out loud so that he got the translation correct.

As he was translating, the words would appear in English through the Urim and Thummim or through the Seer Stone which he possessed, and those words would remain visible until he had dictated them correctly and the scribe had written them. 

And Scot, how long do we estimate it took to translate the record?

Scot

All told, our best estimates are between 63 and 70 very long days.  This fact alone is miraculous and it reminds me of an assignment that Hugh Nibley used to give his students in his Book of Mormon classes:

“Since Joseph Smith was younger than most of you and not nearly so experienced or well-educated as any of you at the time he copyrighted the Book of Mormon, it should not be too much to ask you to hand in by the end of the semester (which will give you more time than he had) a paper of, say, five to six hundred pages in length. Call it a sacred book if you will, and give it the form of a history. Tell of a community of wandering Jews in ancient times; have all sorts of characters in your story, and involve them in all sorts of public and private vicissitudes; give them names–hundreds of them–pretending that they are real Hebrew and Egyptian names of circa 600 b.c.; be lavish with cultural and technical details–manners and customs, arts and industries, political and religious institutions, rites, and traditions, include long and complicated military and economic histories; have your narrative cover a thousand years without any large gaps; keep a number of interrelated local histories going at once; feel free to introduce religious controversy and philosophical discussion, but always in a plausible setting; observe the appropriate literary conventions and explain the derivation and transmission of your varied historical materials.”

Maurine

Dr. Nibley’s assignment continued: 

“Above all, do not ever contradict yourself! For now we come to the really hard part of this little assignment. You and I know that you are making this all up–we have our little joke–but just the same you are going to be required to have your paper published when you finish it, not as fiction or romance, but as a true history! After you have handed it in you may make no changes in it (in this class we always use the first edition of the Book of Mormon); what is more, you are to invite any and all scholars to read and criticize your work freely, explaining to them that it is a sacred book on a par with the Bible. If they seem over-skeptical, you might tell them that you translated the book from original records by the aid of the Urim and Thummim–they will love that! Further to allay their misgivings, you might tell them that the original manuscript was on golden plates, and that you got the plates from an angel. Now go to work and good luck!

“To date no student has carried out this assignment, which, of course, was not meant seriously. But why not? If anybody could write the Book of Mormon, as we have been so often assured, it is high time that somebody, some devoted and learned minister of the gospel, let us say, performed the invaluable public service of showing the world that it can be done.”

Scot

When Joseph finally had the manuscript ready this would become a 592-page book and Joseph would ask for 5,000 copies to be published.  This was a staggering job for a Western New York community of about 1,800 inhabitants—but the Lord had also prepared a man by the name of Egbert Bratt Grandin, a newspaper man and a printer—and another man, John Gilbert, a typesetter and copy editor, both of whom would play a critical role in bringing forth the Book of Mormon.  The details of these men and the amazing stories of this time period will be talked about in our Podcasts next year when we delve into Church History and the Doctrine and Covenants.

We certainly have the richest, most glorious legacy and history imaginable.

Maurine

As we begin our studies of the Book of Mormon, let’s look for a moment at the Title Page.  Joseph specifically recorded a most interesting note about the Title Page:

“I wish to mention here that 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, the language of the whole running the same as all Hebrew writing in general; and that 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.”

So, as you look at the physical composition of the Title Page, clearly written by Moroni in two different time periods—you are looking at an ancient graphic design—an ancient composition.  

Scot

And Moroni clearly outlines three purposes of the Book of Mormon, one that we are very familiar with and two of which we often skip over.  Let’s review those three things:

1) To show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers.

This is always a critical part of the Lord’s Kingdom on the earth—that we remember and know that the Lord cares for and is with those who choose to follow Him.  One of the main reasons we are to keep a personal journal is to document the hand of the Lord in our lives—and this sacred record is no different—the Lord wants to have documented the great things He has done for His people.

Maurine

2)  That they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever.

As we read and study the Book of Mormon this year, let us take special note of this particular purpose in the book itself.  The word covenant itself is mentioned 60 times in the Book of Mormon and 143 times in the companion volume of the Doctrine and Covenants. 

Psalm 105 in the Old Testament (or the Old Covenant) records:

8 He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word which he commanded to a thousand generations.

9 Which covenant he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac;

10 And confirmed the same unto Jacob… (Psalm 105:8-10)

God never forgets His covenants with His children and the Book of Mormon is given so that WE will not forget these sacred covenants with Him.

Scot

And, of course, we are most familiar with the third purpose of the Book of Mormon from the Title Page:

3) To the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.

Let’s take this last purpose very personally and let the teachings and testimony of Jesus Christ that permeate the Book of Mormon settle into our hearts and spirits in this coming year of study.  Let us take every opportunity this coming year of study to learn more about and draw closer to Jesus Christ.

“Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you,” He promises. “Seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” (D&C 88:63)  I love that promise—I know this to be true in my own life. The Lord is always good on His promises.

Maurine

Scot, I love this concise paragraph in the introduction to the Book of Mormon:

“The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after His resurrection.  It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.”

Let us note this pattern:  The Book of Mormon is about a people who were living in a troubled world, they are promised that one day the Lord Jesus Christ will come to them. They carefully prepare for His coming and then He comes as promised.  Does this pattern have application to us today?

We certainly live in a troubled world.  We have been promised that the Lord Jesus Christ will return to the earth in His glorious Second Coming.  We are carefully preparing to meet Him—and He will come. Of this we can be assured.

Scot

Maurine, when the Book of Mormon was about to be published, the Lord provided that three special witnesses were called and given heavenly manifestations that they might know the truthfulness of these things.  Eight more men were called to be witnesses and actually see, touch and heft the gold plates. All eleven men gave their signatures and their reputations and their sacred honor to testifying of the Book of Mormon and its divine origin.

We too can be witnesses of the Book of Mormon. There are a number of ways we can do this—in our homes, in our Church callings, on our full-time missions, amongst our friends and extended families, in our social networks.

Maurine

In fact, we’ve thought it would be a fun idea to give you, our listeners, an opportunity to bear your testimony and witness of the Book of Mormon to the world.  If any of you desire, you can write your own experiences, witnesses or testimonies of the Book of Mormon and send it to [email protected] and we will publish some of these on Meridian.  We cannot publish all of them—but Meridian does go out to all 50 states and to more than 220 countries and territories—and we have thousands of readers who are not of our faith.  Here is your chance to be a witness to all the world of the Book of Mormon.  

Scot

You might ponder about these questions:  When did the Spirit testify to you of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon? How has the Book of Mormon changed your life?   What would life be like without the Book of Mormon? How has the Book of Mormon helped you draw nearer to Jesus Christ? Again, we will not be able to publish all these—but take the opportunity to carefully and thoughtfully write your testimony and witness of the Book of Mormon and then send it with your name and where you’re from to [email protected].  Join with the other eleven witnesses in sharing your personal testimony of this great work!

Maurine

President Ezra Taft Benson, who loved and revered the Book of Mormon so much testified of God’s own witnesses of the work:

“By His own mouth He 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 20:9D&C 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), and
(7) that those who receive it in faith shall receive eternal life (D&C 20:14).

That is so powerful.

Scot

And the Prophet Joseph wrote this powerful and familiar witness:

“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

Let us trust these promises and witnesses of the Prophet Joseph, of President Benson, of Elder Stevenson and President Russell M. Nelson as we study, ponder and immerse ourselves in the Book of Mormon this coming year of study.  We’re so happy to be doing this together!

Maurine

We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this has been Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me Podcast on the first lesson of the Book of Mormon.  Thanks so much to Paul Cardall for the music “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” that opens and closes each podcast. Next week the lesson will be:  “I Will Go and Do” and includes readings in 1 Nephi chapters 1-7. Please spread the word about this podcast to your family, friends, ward members and associates.  Send them to latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast That’s latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast

Scot

See you next time and Happy New Year!