The Book of Mormon – Introduction and Testimonies of the Witnesses

Introduction

You can read the Introduction to the Book of Mormon here. The Introduction is…well, it’s an introduction, and I don’t want to spend a whole lot of time on it. I really want to start reading the Book of Mormon tomorrow.

One thing I really like about the Introduction, though is this:

“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.” (Joseph Smith, as quoted in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon)

I know that this statement is true. I know that the Book of Mormon will get nearer to God by reading this book, and then living in the way that it teaches us to live.

Through reading the Book of Mormon, I have been able to draw closer to God, know more about my Savior, and I have been able to feel their gentle guidance in my life.

The Testimony of the Three Witnesses

You can read the Testimony of the three witnesses here.

This witness is simple but powerful. Martin Harris, David Whitmer, and Oliver Cowdery witness that they saw the Book of Mormon in it’s original form – the golden plates.

003 The Golden Plates

The Golden Plates

I have no reason to doubt this witness. These men lived in the mid 1800s, and because of this witness, we remember them now. We remember them for their witness. If it wasn’t a true witness, why would they want to be remembered for it? Though I haven’t seen the golden plates, I have felt the power of the Book of Mormon in my life. And I’m glad that there have been witnesses of the Book of Mormon, physically. I’m grateful that we have their witness.

The Testimony of Eight Witnesses

You can read the testimony of the eight witnesses here.

Again, a powerful witness that these plates were both seen and even “hefted.”

“And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.” – Testimony of Eight Witnesses

And again a witness that would carry grave consequences for each of these eight men if it were not true.

***

Even though it is interesting and nice to read these witnesses, I will say that for me, these witnesses don’t really convince me of the truth of the Book of Mormon. It is the Book of Mormon, itself, that has done all of the convincing.

The Testimony of Joseph Smith

You can read the testimony of Joseph Smith here.

I’m always surprised by how much I like reading the front matter of the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith’s testimony tells of how he found out about the Book of Mormon – through a visitation from the angel Moroni – who was the last of the authors of the Book of Mormon.

I grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was baptized when I was eight. I have always had the Book of Mormon in my life, and I know this story.

Today, the thought came to me – Joseph Smith was 17 when he first was visited by Moroni. I have a 17 year old daughter.

I was struck by these paragraphs:

“I shortly after arose from my bed, and, as usual, went to the necessary labors of the day; but, in attempting to work as at other times, I found my strength so exhausted as to render me entirely unable. My father, who was laboring along with me, discovered something to be wrong with me, and told me to go home. I started with the intention of going to the house; but, in attempting to cross the fence out of the field where we were, my strength entirely failed me, and I fell helpless on the ground, and for a time was quite unconscious of anything.

“The first thing that I can recollect was a voice speaking unto me, calling me by name. I looked up, and beheld the same messenger standing over my head, surrounded by light as before. He then again related unto me all that he had related to me the previous night, and commanded me to go to my father and tell him of the vision and commandments which I had received.

“I obeyed; I returned to my father in the field, and rehearsed the whole matter to him. He replied to me that it was of God, and told me to go and do as commanded by the messenger. I left the field, and went to the place where the messenger had told me the plates were deposited; and owing to the distinctness of the vision which I had had concerning it, I knew the place the instant that I arrived there.” – The Testimony of Joseph Smith

I found this so striking because I have a 17 year old daughter. She is good, she is kind. She is a hard worker. I trust her.

Because she is my daughter, and because she has been my daughter for 17 years, I know her. Yes, there have been times when I have “discovered something to be wrong” with her – just like Joseph Smith Sr. felt about his son – whom he had known and raised for 17 years.

I can totally relate to Joseph Smith Sr. I can imagine myself saying, “Tiger, do you feel okay? You seem to be tired. Maybe you’re getting sick. Why don’t you go and lie down and get some rest.”

I can see that.

Joseph Smith didn’t object. He headed home, where he saw the Angel Moroni for a fourth time. This time, the angel told Joseph to tell his dad.

I can imagine that Joseph Smith might have felt a little bit of trepidation when telling his father, but ultimately still telling him what had happened.

And I can imagine what my response would be – “It’s of God, you need to do what the angel has instructed you to do.”

This is very touching to read as a parent. It is also quite compelling.

I can’t imagine why Joseph Smith would lie about seeing God, the Father, and this Son Jesus Christ. I can’t imagine why, 3 years later, Joseph Smith would then lie about seeing an Angel and receiving a commandment at his hand. I can’t imagine why Joseph would then wait 4 more years before finally obtaining the plates. It only makes sense to me if it is true.

In any case, as I’ve said before, ultimately, I feel a testimony of the Book of Mormon through its words. We have modern testimonies – and they are comforting, but their testimony isn’t meant to be our testimony.

Their testimony is meant to inspire us to get a testimony of our own.

And we can get one as we begin to study, ponder, and pray about the words of the Book of Mormon.

***
Tomorrow we begin! We will read 1 Nephi 1. I think that I will also post a reading chart either later today or in tomorrow’s post. Join me if you would like!

Advertisements

The Book of Mormon – Title Page

I admit that usually, I like to skip ahead of all of the front matter of the Book of Mormon, and just start reading from 1 Nephi. However, there is a value to the front matter, so that’s what I’ll be studying today.

This is the first thing that you’ll see when you open up a book of Mormon.

IMG_2060

It would be easy to just skip over this page, but take a moment to read and think about it. The Book of Mormon – Is Another Testament of Jesus Christ. We know a lot about the Book of Mormon just from this title page.

The subtitle – Another Testament of Jesus Christ – was added in 1982. So, we not only have the Old Testament and the New Testament, but we also have Another Testament– The Book of Mormon.

I believe in Jesus Christ. I know that the Book of Mormon is an integral part of my relationship with the Savior.

I’m sorry that there are times when I skip ahead of the Title pages of the Book of Mormon. What a good reminder of what it is.

The next page is the title page that was written by Moroni. This title page is a pithy synopsis of what the Book of Mormon actually is.

What is the Book of Mormon?

  1. An abridgement of the record of the people of Nephi and the Lamanites.

    Who are these people? We will come to find out more about them within the pages of the book. All we know at this point is that this book is an abridgment of a record that was kept by them.

  2. A small abridgment of the people of Jared. They were not contemporaries of the Nephites and Lamanites, but this record was found and then abridged and included in the Book of Mormon.

    Moroni explains that these people were scattered during the time that the Lord confounded the languages at Babel.

Who is the intended audience of the Book of Mormon?

  1. This book is written to the Lamanites who are a remnant of the House of Israel.
  2. Written to the Jew and to the Gentile. (Jew being a member of the House of Israel. Essentially, this Book is written to everyone on this earth.)

How was the Book of Mormon written?

  1. The Book of Mormon was written by way of commandment. When we read the Book of Mormon, we will see when the authors received the command to write their experiences and testimonies.

    This Book is not just a history. It is a gift from God. He commanded that it be written. The Book of Mormon is evidence of God’s love and mercy for all of us. We need this book! It teaches us and testifies of Christ, His doctrine, and His gospel.

  2. The Book of Mormon was written by the spirit of prophecy and revelation.

    It is important to note that Joseph Smith did NOT write the Book of Mormon. He translated it. The Book of Mormon was already written. And the authors of the Book of Mormon – the ancient Nephites and prophets who wrote these records – wrote not only according to God’s commands, but with the Spirit.

  3. The Book of Mormon, after it was written and abridged by ancient prophets, was stored up and sealed to come forth at a later date. It would need to be hid up to keep it from being destroyed.

    Those who wrote the Book of Mormon did not know the purposes of God. They simply obeyed the command to write.

    God intended for these records to come forth during a time on the earth when it would be needed.

  4. The Book of Mormon was translated through the power of God. Joseph Smith did not know the language of the Book of Mormon (reformed Egyptian). Joseph Smith had only a 6th grade education. He could neither write the Book of Mormon or translate it without the gift of God.

What is the purpose of the Book of Mormon?

  1. To show the remnant of the House of Israel what great thing the Lord has done for their fathers.

    This book, remember, is another testament of Jesus Christ!

  2. To remind the House of Israel of their covenants with God – they are not cast off forever.
  3. To convince the Jew and the Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God. 

***

Well, now that I’ve studied this first page, I’m more excited than ever to crack into the Book of Mormon.

I could spend so much time going through this Title Page. I could find support in the Book of Mormon for everything Moroni wrote. I could point out the precious truths listed here. But the thing is – that’s what The Book of Mormon is supposed to do!

 

So – we will simply go on. Tomorrow we will study the Introduction. Then…The Book of Mormon!!!

The Vision of the Tree of Life and Success (1 Nephi 8)

The vision of the Tree of Life is a great allegory that can help us to learn to overcome adversity and obstacles. It can be found in 1 Nephi 8.

Here are a few points that Lehi’s landmark Vision teaches us about successfully overcoming obstacles and adversity – about enduring and making it.

One – Listen

“And it came to pass that I beckoned unto them; and I also did say unto them with a loud voice that they should come unto me, and partake of the fruit, which was desirable above all other fruit.

And it came to pass that they did come unto me and partake of the fruit also.” – 1 Nephi 8:15-16

Listen! Be humble! Listen to those who know, who have experienced what we want. We live in 2016. We have an advantage. We have 10,000 years of recorded history to inform us. We don’t really need to experiment. We can listen to those who have gone before. We can learn from their mistakes and their triumphs. They know what it takes to overcome and achieve.

Two – Hold to the Rod

“And I beheld a rod of iron, and it extended along the bank of the river, and led to the tree by which I stood.” – 1 Nephi 8:19

The Rod of Iron, or the Word of God will lead to the tree. The Lord has given us His word and His wisdom. This will empower us only if we choose to let it empower us! If not, then it is simply a rod – an inanimate object. Our faith is what gives His word power in our lives.

“For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.” – 1 Nephi 10:19

We must choose to hold fast to the iron rod – and press forward. It will give us stability and strength. But if we don’t press forward, if we don’t hold fast, then it’s just an iron rod. Catch a hold of it and do something.

Three – If we Get Distracted, then We Will Fail
The path is strait and narrow. Take a moment to remind yourself of the definition of “strait.” (Hint: NOT straight). In other words, this path is “narrow and narrow.”

As mentioned in the previous point, we have the Iron Rod – and that will anchor us, if we choose to grasp a hold of it. But we can’t be tempted into letting go – because the path is narrow. Any kind of distraction may lead to perilous results.

Often, I have thought about the idea of living “on the edge.” There are many people who want to be as far from that edge as possible. However, it is probably wise to note that being a safe distance from “the edge” isn’t possible. Especially if the way is strait and narrow. We don’t have time for distractions – no matter how innocent they seem.

I know this so incredibly personally. I’m constantly distracted, then I wonder why on earth I’m so far from my original position (let alone destination).

Four – We WILL Face Difficult Adversity, Blindingly Difficult

“And it came to pass that they did come forth, and commence in the path which led to the tree.

And it came to pass that there arose a mist of darkness; yea, even an exceedingly great mist of darkness, insomuch that they who had commenced in the path did lose their way, that they wandered off and were lost.” – 1 Nephi 8:19

So – notice, these mists of darkness aren’t in some far corner. They are directly on the path! They appear in our lives, after we have commenced. After we have begun trying.

We start on the way with a vision of our desired goal – the Tree of Life (and its fruit). But then, we get into the “trenches,” and at times a mist of darkness surrounds us.

To those who steadfastly hold to the rod, their vision helps them through this mist of darkness. Now, I don’t mean their immediate vision – it is dark! The vision, and the hope that they had from the outset. I suppose that this is what is meant by “visionary.” We don’t get bogged down by temporary difficulties.

For those who lack vision, they wander off and are lost. Even though they know that the rod leads to the tree of life! Crazy! Don’t get distracted! And don’t choose to be blinded by the temporary mists of darkness and adversities that are simply part of the path.

We can’t become so overcome by our obstacles that we flee them. We know where we want to be. Those who let go of the rod are only being guided by their emotions (fear), rather than keeping their senses and remembering that the only way is through.

Remember the wisdom of the poet:

“He says that the best way out is always through.
And I agree to that, or in so far
As I can see no way out but through.” – Robert Frost

Five – Fear Motivated “Success” will usually end up in a very late-term (and tragic) Failure
So, there is a group of people who make it to the tree of life. We read about them:

” And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward, and they came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.

And after they had partaken of the fruit of the tree they did cast their eyes about as if they were ashamed.

And after they had tasted of the fruit they were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” – 1 Nephi 8:24-25, 28

This is so interesting to me. Because, it seems like they succeed! They make it to the tree of life! They partake of this sweet fruit! They held on to the rod. They weren’t blinded by mists of darkness. They weren’t distracted while treading the strait and narrow.

However, the way I interpret this success is that they were driven and motivated by fear. What will people think if I don’t partake of the fruit? What will people think if I don’t go on a mission? What will my family and friends think if I don’t get married in the temple? What will people think of me if I fail?

According to this interpretation, then their success is also shrouded in their pride/their ego. If we let our success be wrapped up with our ego, then we will eventually self-destruct. This is especially tragic because it often happens after we have reached that pinnacle of supposed success.

These people sabotaged themselves by listening to the voices of that silly building. Then those people who had tasted the sweet fruit doubted their own work and accomplishments. Their ego led to thoughts of penetrating shame – causing them to leave the tree (which they had fought for)!

Fear isn’t really a great motivator. It might get us where we want to be, but it is still there once we arrive. Then, it will banish us from our success faster than the climb we took to get there. Get rid of fear. Get rid of ego. Get rid of pride! Let our vision be our motivation!!!

Six – The Pride of the World is Idiotic. Don’t Listen to It!!!
This is closely related to point five, but I think it deserves its own point.

“And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.

And it was filled with people, both old and young, both male and female; and their manner of dress was exceedingly fine; and they were in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit.” – 1 Nephi 8:26-27

The people in the great and spacious building have not partaken of the fruit of the tree of life.

So they are laughing and mocking those who have partaken of it, but they DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT IT TASTES LIKE!!!!!! This is actually kind of insane, right? They have no idea what they are talking about, so why does their opinion even matter?

I think that this happens to us in so many ways. My husband and I started a business recently. It can be really easy to listen to people say things that might dissuade us from our path, but, more often than not, they haven’t gone down the path, so how on earth am I supposed to listen to them!?

If we have our vision – (the tree of life) and we know where we want to go, it makes absolutely NO logical sense to give the mocking, know-it-all, voices of those in the Great and Spacious building – even a fraction of a second of our attention. They simply have no idea what they are talking about. Honestly, I can’t believe I’ve spent so much time on this topic because it is so silly. Yet we always seem to get so caught up in it.

The Key – Press on and Hold Fast

“But, to be short in writing, behold, he saw other multitudes pressing forward; and they came and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press their way forward, continually holding fast to the rod of iron, until they came forth and fell down and partook of the fruit of the tree.” – 1 Nephi 8:30

It’s not fancy or sexy or whatever. The solution is really simple. Just keep pressing forward. Hold Fast. We know that the path and the iron rod will lead us to our goal. We must simply hold fast to truth and the wisdom that will support us on our journey to our desired destination. There are no shortcuts. There’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s not easy, but its entirely possible.

The Righteous Path is a Joyful One

“Many times did the Lamanites attempt to encircle them about by night, but in these attempts they did lose many prisoners.

And many times did they attempt to administer of their wine to the Nephites, that they might destroy them with poison or with drunkenness.

But behold, the Nephites were not slow to remember the Lord their God in this their time of affliction. They could not be taken in their snares; yea, they would not partake of their wine, save they had first given to some of the Lamanite prisoners.” – Alma 55:29-32

Still in the thick of the war chapters, I have come to a kind of conclusion.

We see the Lamanites and their anxious reactions to the stresses of war.

Now, I know that I’ve never experienced a physical war. I can appreciate the fact that I can’t appreciate the stress of war. Still, we can learn a powerful lesson by comparing the righteous Nephites and the wicked Lamanites.

How we react to stress can tell us a lot about ourselves and our spiritual standing with God.

The wicked react to stress with fear. This is usually a rather irrational and overly-emotional response. Most often it includes poor choices that might actually worsen their situation.

The righteous, blessed with the Spirit, are comforted during stressful times. They are able to detach from their emotions, and then make smart and educated decisions. The righteous, through the comfort of the Holy Ghost, are blessed with a hopeful response to stress. They will understand that stress and afflictions aren’t causes to mourn, but are opportunities to experience the Atonement, and that their afflictions will be consecrated for their gain.

This hope results in joy – even in the midst of trial. I believe that this hope and joy enables the righteous to then make the critical decisions that will lead to their success.

The righteous path my not be the easy one, but it is the joyful one.

Inequality of Humankind: A Result of Sin and Wickedness (Alma 28:12-14)

Every once in a while in the Book of Mormon, Mormon (the prophet who abridged this record) gives us an insight. One of these commentaries is included in the book of Alma.

We read:

“While many thousands of others truly mourn for the loss of their kindred, yet they rejoice and exult in the hope, and even know, according to the promises of the Lord, that they are raised to dwell at the right hand of God, in a state of never-ending happiness.

And thus we see how great the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression, and the power of the devil, which comes by the cunning plans which he hath devised to ensnare the hearts of men.

And thus we see the great call of diligence of men to labor in the vineyards of the Lord; and thus we see the great reason of sorrow, and also of rejoicing—sorrow because of death and destruction among men, and joy because of the light of Christ unto life.” – Alma 28:12-14

Mormon sums up a few things in this part of the abridgment and helps us to draw a few conclusions.

We can compare and contrast the lives of these people: The Lamanites (who would not convert to the gospel) and the People of Ammon (who were originally Lamanites and then were converted and covenanted with God).

Compare – How are they the same?
They are all Lamanites. They have lived together for hundreds of years. They have shared a common tradition and belief – even hatred of the Nephites for about 500 years. They all live in the same general area. They are related to one another.

Contrast – How are they different?
The Lamanites have clung to the incorrect and wicked traditions of their fathers. They have continued on in sin. They don’t really respect one another. They plunder and steal, they murder, rob, and live lascivious lives. They don’t believe in God.

The People of Ammon – used to have this tradition in their lives, also. They grew up hating the Nephites, feeling wronged. They started their lives without believing in God, and also committed all manner of sins.

However, when they heard the gospel message, they accepted it. They covenanted with God. They kept the commandments and were living vastly different lives.

The Inequality of Man

Mormon concludes (and helps us to conclude) that the inequality of man is because of sin and transgression. Why is this so? Well, read if you past posts and the Book of Mormon, then this fact becomes fairly obvious. But to sum it up – When we sin and transgress the laws of God, we hand ourselves over to the devil. He wants to destroy us. He wants us to be miserable.

Having lost our right mind, we then may start to things that will drive us apart. Divisions, inequalities, a lack of charity and love for one another accompanies the wicked mindset. Inequality then becomes the norm. And it is all just sad.

Sorrow and Rejoicing

Mormon also helps us to see the reasons of sorrow and rejoicing.

Sorrow comes of death and destruction. It comes because people have turned their hearts and lives over to wickedness and selfishness. Not only does sorrow come to the damned, but the followers of Christ feel sorrow over their brothers and sisters who have chosen this life.

Rejoicing – This comes, as Mormon teaches, because of the light of Christ unto life. Life. Joy. Fewer problems. More solutions. Love. Equality. Peace.

Joy.

We have so much sorrow in this world. While we can’t escape all of our pain during this life, there is a “fix” that is everlasting – the Gospel. The Savior came to this world to redeem us from death and hell. He offers us light, life, peace, and rest. We can have joy, if we will simply give up our wicked desires, put our wills on the altar of the Lord, and serve Him.