Cover image via Gospel Media Library.

Three times President Nelson has invited you and the rest of the Church to prepare for the upcoming April General Conference. His invitations suggest, request, encourage, and entreat each of us to study the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It seems a safe assumption that three invitations to the same event means it is really, really, really important, perhaps a test of our individual and collective obedience. A good place to celebrate the Restoration is in family home evening. Hopefully a couple of the ideas that follow will fit your needs and augment your preparation.

ACTIVITY ONE:

Celebrate an aspect of the Restoration by reading Joseph’s account of the First Vision. The six-minute video, “Ask of God,” is a First Vision experience and appropriate for all ages. President Nelson suggests teaching children that “Just as [God] listened to Joseph’s prayer in 1820, He listens to you and yearns to speak with you through the Spirit.” Family members can answer President Nelson’s question: “How have the events that followed the First Vision made a difference for me and my loved ones?”

ACTIVITY TWO:

Celebrate an aspect of the Restoration by teaching your family how to remember the order of the books of the Book of Mormon. The fifteen books can be represented with three hands. The four books of Nephi are on hands one and three, first two fingers on the left. First and Second Nephi are followed by J E J—Jacob, Enos, Jarom. Third and Fourth Nephi are followed by M E M—Mormon, Ether, Moroni. The middle hand is remembered with the first letters of Oh, We, Made, A, Hand—Omni, Words of Mormon, Mosiah, Alma, Helaman. (I saw this many years ago on a handout prepared by Margot Butler.)

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ACTIVITY THREE:

Celebrate an aspect of the Restoration by teaching your family that restore means to return something to how it was originally. (Young children may need to know that restoration is a form of restore.) In advance, study 1 Nephi 13: 24-42 and choose which verses you want to read with your family, and draw two identical pencil drawings of a house on two pieces of paper. (Use free clipart drawing below or draw your own. Do not let family members see the second copy.)

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Begin the lesson by showing your family the drawing of the house. Invite them to erase or add something to your original. (When I did it, one person erased the door, another erased the sun, another added a garage, another drew a dog, another erased the chimney.) After the drawing has been changed, explain that “plain and precious” truths and “covenants of the Lord” were taken from the Bible or changed as copies of copies of copies were handwritten over thousands of years. Tell family members that there is still much truth in the Bible but not as much as when it was first written. Read with your family the verses you selected from 1 Nephi 13. Show the second drawing of the house and say, “The Book of Mormon restores truths that were removed from or added to the Bible.”

ACTIVITY FOUR:

Celebrate an aspect of the Restoration by giving your family one example of a plain and precious truth that was taken from the Bible. Explain that the word plan is not found in the Bible. Without the Book of Mormon we would not know that God has “a great and eternal plan” (2 Nephi 11:5). Plan is found 47 times in the Book of Mormon and is known by five names that help define God’s purposes. (The numbers show how many times each name of the plan is found in the Book of Mormon.)

The Plan of Salvation (4)
The Plan of Happiness (2)
The Plan of Mercy (3)
The Plan of Redemption (17)
The Plan of Deliverance from Death (1)

The prophet Jacob said it best: “O how great the plan of our God” (2 Nephi  9:13)!

ACTIVITY FIVE:

Teach your family about Oliver Cowdery who was Joseph Smith’s main scribe for the Book of Mormon. Oliver wrote the words of the Book of Mormon as Joseph read them out loud to him. Joseph and Oliver finished the manuscript of 604 pages in 65 working days. After it was finished, Joseph began to worry that something might happen to the manuscript because the first 116 pages had been lost or stolen. So he asked Oliver to write it again, which he did. Oliver wrote the Book of Mormon in longhand almost two times. The second copy is called the printer’s copy. The Church has 28% of the original manuscript and 72% of the printer’s copy, which with a couple of exceptions is all that is known to exist. (Images of Oliver Cowdery and an original manuscript page from churchofjesuschrist.org.)

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ACTIVITY SIX:

Celebrate an aspect of the Restoration by explaining the process by which the gold plates became the Book of Mormon.

Today the word translate means to express the meaning of words in another language, for example from English to Portuguese. This kind of translation is a scholarly task. The translator has to know both languages extremely well. However, in Book of Mormon times, translate described a revelatory process. A clear example is when King Limhi asked Ammon if he knew someone who could translate. Ammon answered: “I can assuredly tell thee, O king, of a man that can translate the records; for he has wherewith that he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded…. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer” (Mosiah 8:13, italics added).

In Old Testament times, God gave seers (prophets) interpreters called Urim and Thummim. (See Exodus 28:30, Leviticus 8:8, Deuteronomy 33:8, Ezra 2:63, Nehemiah 7:65). In the Book of Mormon both Mosiah (Mosiah 28:20) and the Brother of Jared (Ether 3:22-28) used Urim and Thummim. In Doctrine and Covenants 10:1, the Lord said to Joseph, “You had power given unto you to translate by the means of the Urim and Thummim.” Interestingly, this was the Urim and Thummim “which were given to the brother of Jared upon the mount” (D&C 17:1).

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(Photo of seer stone: Josephsmithpapers.org)

“According to witnesses of the translation, when Joseph looked into the instruments, the words of scripture appeared in English. One instrument, called in the Book of Mormon the ‘interpreters,’ is better known to Latter-day Saints today as the ‘Urim and Thummim…. The other instrument, which Joseph Smith discovered in the ground years before he retrieved the gold plates, was a small oval stone, or ‘seer stone.’ As a young man during the 1820s, Joseph Smith, like others in his day, used a seer stone to look for lost objects and buried treasure. As Joseph grew to understand his prophetic calling, he learned that he could use this stone for the higher purpose of translating scripture”(churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/book-of-mormon-translation?lang=eng).

Describing how the future seer would translate, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “Wherefore thou shalt read the words which I shall give unto thee…. When thou hast read the words…. The Lord shall say unto him that shall read the words” (2 Nephi 27:20-24, italics added). Joseph didn’t translate from one language to another, he looked at the words written in English on the Urim and Thummim or seer stone and read them out loud to Oliver Cowdery.

Reading words on a seer stone may be likened to reading words on a cellphone. It is hard to read a text message on your phone when there is too much or too little light. Similarly, Joseph found it easier to read the words when he put the seer stone into a hat. (See churchofjesuschrist.org/study/history/saints-v1/06-the-gift-and-power-of-god?lang=eng).

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Image from LDS Living.

ACTIVITY SEVEN:

Celebrate an aspect of the Restoration by teaching about wordprint. Your style of writing, your choice of vocabulary, and the way you arrange words and phrases is your wordprint. It is distinctly yours. A wordprint is like a fingerprint in that every person’s is unique. No one’s is the same. Computers can identify wordprints. Even if you try to disguise your writing, computers can figure out it is you. If Joseph Smith had written the Book of Mormon, it would all be in his unique wordprint. Experts using computers have found over 24 wordprints in the Book of Mormon, which means that at least 24 different persons wrote in the Book of Mormon. Wordprint studies show the possibility that the same person wrote 1 Nephi and Alma are 1 in 15 trillion. One of the researchers called this “statistical overkill” (en.fairmormon.org/Book_of_Mormon/Wordprint_studies#endnote_hilton3).

When I typed the 268,163 words in the Book of Mormon, I found 5,612 different words, and 1,558 are used just one time, not including proper nouns. I looked up each of the 1,558 words and kept a graph showing who said each word. For example, Abinadi spoke 19 words no other writer in the Book of Mormon used. These words are: beguile, cuts, disowned, endlessly, faggots, gnash, goes, hot, insects, lashed, persists, pester, pretend, pretendeth, scorch, shearer, shone, thistle, valued. Words in bold type are especially interesting because they are used only one time in all scripture—not in the Old Testament, New Testament, Doctrine and Covenants, or Pearl of Great Price—just one time in the Book of Mormon.

A few other totals for your interest: Alma the son of Alma—used 271 unique words; Amulek—used 20 unique words; Ether—used 62 unique words; Helaman son of Alma—used 167 unique words; Isaiah—used 297 unique words; Jacob—used 76 unique words; King Benjamin—used 41 unique words; King Limhi—used 23 unique words; Moroni—used 51 unique words; Nephi son of Lehi—used 140 unique words; Samuel the Lamanite—used 16 unique words. 

To me this is another remarkable evidence that Joseph Smith did not compose the Book of Mormon or use his own vocabulary. There are too many wordprints and unique vocabularies verifying that many individuals wrote the Book of Mormon. (You can find complete lists in my book, The Book of Mormon Is True Evidences and Insights to Strengthen Your Testimony, Covenant Communications, 2015.)

(If you are interested in checking my work, and I know I have made mistakes, the search feature in the Gospel Library is programmed to show words in headnotes, Bible Dictionary, index to the triple combination, etc., rather than just in scripture. This makes it difficult to get a reliable number of how many times a certain word is found in scripture. The Church program also counts words repeated in a verse as one no matter how many times it appears in that verse. I use a program created by the Church in 2005 on CD-ROM. Yes, it’s old but better for people like me who count things.)

ACTIVITY EIGHT:

Celebrate an aspect of the Restoration by showing how consistent the doctrine is throughout the Book of Mormon. From cover-to-cover the doctrine is the same. If Joseph Smith composed the Book of Mormon, how could he in 65 working days have kept the doctrine of Jesus Christ constant prophet to prophet throughout a book of one thousand years of history?

I tallied the number of times six doctrinal keys words are found throughout the Book of Mormon and where. As I did this I saw an additional point of interest. The name Holy Ghost, the word baptize in any of its forms, and the word resurrection are not found in the Old Testament, not once. Nor are they found in the book of Ether, except where Moroni inserts commentary. This is interesting because the book of Ether starts at the same time the Old Testament records the account of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:9.

Consistent doctrine tally:

  • The words baptism, baptize, baptized, baptizing are found 145 times from 1 Nephi to Moroni.
  • The word covenant is found 100 times from 1 Nephi to Moroni.
  • The name Holy Ghost is found 94 times from 1 Nephi to Moroni.
  • The word mercy is found 84 times from 1 Nephi to Moroni.
  • The words prophet/prophets are found 187 times from 1 Nephi to Moroni.
  • The word resurrection is found 81 times from 2 Nephi to Moroni. (See The Book of Mormon Is True, 229-232.)

ACTIVITY NINE:

Tell your family that they have received three invitations to the same event. The first came on October 6, 2019, the second on January 1, 2020, and the third on February 26, 2020. The invitations tell why the event is important and ask us to come to the event prepared. 

Ask: Does anyone know what the event is?
Yes. April General Conference.
Ask: Who sent the invitations?
Yes. President Russell M. Nelson.

President Nelson’s invitations have gone worldwide. Everyone is invited. It seems immensely important to come prepared for April conference. He said: “Immerse yourself in the light of the Restoration.” (According to ages in your family you may need to demonstrate what “immerse” means.)

As you read these invitations as a family, you could make lists of things President Nelson wants us to know, ways he wants us to prepare, ways we can prepare as individuals, and ways we can prepare as a family. Preparing by the Spirit for this Restoration-focused general conference generates enthusiasm and anticipation.

First Invitation, General Conference October 6, 2019:

In the springtime of the year 2020, it will be exactly 200 years since Joseph Smith experienced the theophany that we know as the First Vision. God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph, a 14-year-old youth. That event marked the onset of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness, precisely as foretold in the Holy Bible.

Then came a succession of visits from heavenly messengers, including Moroni, John the Baptist, and the early Apostles Peter, James, and John. Others followed, including Moses, Elias, and Elijah. Each brought divine authority to bless God’s children on the earth once again.

Miraculously, we have also received the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, a companion scripture to the Holy Bible. The revelations published in the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price have also greatly enriched our understanding of God’s commandments and eternal truth.

The keys and offices of the priesthood have been restored, including the offices of Apostle, Seventy, patriarch, high priest, elder, bishop, priest, teacher, and deacon. And women who love the Lord serve valiantly in the Relief Society, Primary, Young Women, Sunday School, and other Church callings—all vital parts of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in its fulness.

Thus, the year 2020 will be designated as a bicentennial year. General conference next April will be different from any previous conference. In the next six months, I hope that every member and every family will prepare for a unique conference that will commemorate the very foundations of the restored gospel.

You may wish to begin your preparation by reading afresh Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price. Our course of study for next year in Come, Follow Me is the Book of Mormon. You may wish to ponder important questions such as, “How would my life be different if my knowledge gained from the Book of Mormon were suddenly taken away?” or “How have the events that followed the First Vision made a difference for me and my loved ones?” Also, with the Book of Mormon videos now becoming available, you may wish to incorporate them in your individual and family study.

Select your own questions. Design your own plan. Immerse yourself in the glorious light of the Restoration. As you do, general conference next April will be not only memorable; it will be unforgettable.

Now in closing, I leave with you my love and my blessing that each of you may become happier and holier with each passing day. Meanwhile, please be assured that revelation continues in the Church and will continue under the Lord’s direction until “the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”3

Second Invitation January 1, 2020

When I spoke during last October’s general conference, I designated 2020 as a bicentennial period commemorating 200 years since God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph Smith in a vision. That singular event in human history initiated the Restoration of the Lord’s gospel—an unfolding Restoration that continues today. How blessed we are to live in the light of that vision. With that vision came new understanding about the nature of God our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. 

God loves all of His children and has a vision for each of us. Just as He listened to Joseph’s prayer in 1820, He listens to you and yearns to speak with you through the Spirit. Heavenly Father wants you. We want you. This is going to be an important year.

We invite you to be a major part in sharing the message of the ongoing Restoration of the Savior’s gospel. We will share more about this soon, but you can start today by acting on the invitations I extended to you at last general conference to immerse yourself in the glorious light of the Restoration.

What does that look like? You may wish to begin your preparation by reading afresh Joseph Smith’s account of the First Vision as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price. Or ponder important questions such as “How would my life be different if my knowledge gained from the Book of Mormon were suddenly taken away?” or “How have the events that followed the First Vision made a difference for me and my loved ones?”

Select your own questions. Design your own plan. Act on any of these invitations to prepare yourself for sharing the important messages of the ongoing Restoration. As you seek Jesus Christ in these efforts, God will prepare you to receive further light. It is your personal preparation that will help April’s general conference become for you not only memorable but unforgettable. The time to act is now. This is a hinge point in the history of the Church, and your part is vital. 

I testify that Jesus Christ lives. He leads this Church today. God is trusting us, all of us, to play an important role in the Restoration of His gospel.

Third Invitation, 26 February 2020

In the scriptures, there are very few sacred instances in which the voice of God the Father has been heard.  So, when He says something, we really need to listen.  Repeatedly, He has personally introduced His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, with a specific charge to “Hear Him!

Have you ever stopped to ask, “Why?”  Why is our Heavenly Father so insistent—and consistent—in His plea that we should hear His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ? Jesus answered this question Himself.  He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.”

Our Father loves us and yearns for each one of us to choose to return to His holy presence.  He pleads with us to listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, whom the Father anointed and appointed as our Mediator, Savior, and Redeemer.

In this special year as we commemorate the 200th anniversary of the First Vision, I invite you to think deeply and often about this key question: How do you hear Him?  I also invite you to take steps to hear Him better and more often.  Throughout this year, we will focus in a special way on the historic event that took place in the Sacred Grove.

I invite you to be proactive and look for opportunities to share your feelings about the Lord Jesus Christ with your family and friends, including inviting your friends to join you in worshiping Him on Easter Sunday.

Now, as one of the Lord’s special witnesses, I bless you in your efforts to get on and stay on His covenant path, and strive with all your heart, might, mind and soul to Hear Him!