Joseph Smith taught something remarkable: “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” (History of the Church, 4:461).
The Book of Mormon is indeed amazing! It provides priceless lessons on spiritual change, the process of repentance, the role of prophets, the availability of revelation, caring for the poor, esteem for God, the power of the devil, the destructiveness of hatred, the vital role of records, and the process of spiritual change.
Surprisingly, the keystone scripture does NOT provide the distinctive doctrines for which Latter-day Saints are famous. There is not a hint of the three degrees of glory. There is very little detail about activity in the spirit world. Work for the dead is largely absent. While cherishing family connections, the book does not declare that families are forever. Even the doctrine of the godhead is not plainly taught (See The Nephite Understanding of God in Vol. 1 of Second Witness by Brant Gardner).
So, how is the Book of Mormon the keystone of our restoration religion if it does not contain most of our distinctive doctrines?
I believe the answer is that the book consistently and powerfully testifies to a wavering, worried world that there is one who is mighty to save.
The Book of Mormon opens with stunning revelations to Lehi (1 Nephi 1). Within a few chapters, Lehi (1 Nephi 8) and Nephi (1 Nephi 11) have wonderfully detailed revelations about the life, ministry, and sacrifice of the Son of God. By page 27 of this book, an angel is teaching us that “the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved” (1 Nephi 13:40).
The foundation character of the Book of Mormon concludes his ministry with this magnificent testimony: “But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love” (2 Nephi 1:15). Before he died, Lehi gave a beautiful and insightful sermon on the atonement of the Redeemer (2 Nephi 2).
Almost immediately after his father’s departure, the Nephi’s magnificent psalm (2 Nephi 4) powerfully teaches us our complete dependence on the Lord. This is one of the great passages in all of scripture! It is a sweet gift from God.
Then Jacob testifies of the Redeemer with powerful language: “O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell . . . O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it. . . . come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness” (2 Nephi 9:10, 20, 51).
The Book of Mormon is clear about salvation! “There is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved” (2 Nephi 25:20).
The Book of Mormon is littered with testimonies of Jesus! When I undertook to gather my favorite passages of redemptiveness in the Book of Mormon, I ended up with almost 40,000 words of magnificent testimony!
King Benjamin teaches his people how to become sons and daughters of Christ with the practical lessons that we all need.
Ammon teaches the path to power in ministry as he testifies of God:
“Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel. Who could have supposed that our God would have been so merciful as to have snatched us from our awful, sinful, and polluted state?” (Alma 26:16-17).
Alma tells his startling story of conversion in beautiful poetry and powerful theology (Alma 36). The brother of Jared teaches us the pattern for entering the presence of Jehovah (Ether 3).
And then, as if these glorious testimonies of Jesus were not enough, Jesus Himself appears to the people of the ancient Americas to teach, love, heal, and bless.
The Book of Mormon invites us to pray for the transformative love that comes from Jesus (Moroni 7:47-8) and to live His miracles. “Have miracles ceased? Behold I say unto you, Nay; neither have angels ceased to minister unto the children of men” (Moroni 7:29).
The message of the Book of Mormon is clear. Jesus is real, present, and redemptive. May we “[rely] alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and the finisher of [our]faith (Moroni 6:4). May we be uplifted and renewed in our appreciation of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, by the Book of Mormon’s unrelenting testimony of Him. May we be refined in our discipleship by the example and teachings of inspired Book of Mormon prophets.
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. (Moroni 10:32)
The Book of Mormon has changed my life. I have learned the process of repentance from Alma (especially Alma 36 and Mosiah 27) and the brother of Jared (Ether 3). I have been filled with awe at the atonement of Jesus Christ taught in remarkable chapters in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 2, 9, Mosiah 3-5, Alma 34, 36, 42, 3 Nephi 27). I have been enlarged in my understanding of the grace and goodness of God through the testimony of Ammon (Alma 26).
I have been amazed by God’s readiness to participate in our lives as demonstrated from beginning to end in the Book of Mormon. This great book teaches us that God wants to participate in His children’s lives! I am everlastingly grateful for this gift of God to those of us living in the latter days!
As we study the Book of Mormon and are warmed by the testimonies of Jesus and directed in our discipleship, we will get nearer and nearer to God. That is the promise and power of the Book of Mormon.
Invitation to Share Gratitude!
This season, consider a holiday gift that will help you build the spirit of gratitude in your family and among the people you love. God’s Trophies is a heartwarming children’s tale about Rupert learning gratitude for all of God’s creations. Rupert’s whimsical adventure also
teaches children that they are each God’s most beloved creation. Wonderful illustrations accompany the joyful story. This book would make an excellent holiday gift for any special people in your life. For the holiday season, I am offering five copies of God’s Trophies—a $65 value—for $25 with free shipping in the US.
To get this special offer, go to Etsy.