Elder Holland testifies of spiritual lessons in the Book of Mormon

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Council of the Twelve bore testimony of President Howard W. Hunter and of the Book of Mormon during a general session of the Church Educational System Book of Mormon Symposium at BYU.

Elder Holland spoke in the Marriott Center during the evening session on Aug. 9. The symposium for seminary and institute teachers and other workers in the Church Educational System continued through Aug. 11.Elder Holland, who said he knew nothing of his new calling as an apostle when he agreed to speak at the symposium, shared the experience and feelings he had when he was called and ordained by President Hunter on June 23.

Then he testified: "I feel it is part of my personal ministry to bear witness of the miracle that has happened and is happening in the life of Howard W. Hunter. I bear witness that he is, himself, a miracle - evidence of God's hand upon the prophets whom He calls and restores and sustains. Howard W. Hunter was foreordained in the councils of heaven before this world was, and he has been made, fashioned, molded into a prophet of God, as each of his predecessors have been and as each of his successors will be. He has not simply outlived others, nor has he gone through what he has gone through by accident. He is a man of velvet and steel, called of God."

He then added his testimony of the Book of Mormon as the keystone of the Church and of Joseph Smith as translator, not the author, of the sacred scripture. He related evidences that Joseph Smith's account concerning the coming forth of the Book of Mormon was the only believable one. He particularly cited the anguish the young Prophet experienced, as told by his mother, upon learning that Martin Harris had lost 116 pages of translated Book of Mormon transcript.

"Well, my goodness, that's an elaborate little side story," Elder Holland pointed out. "Talk about literary flair and a gift for fiction! Lucy Mack Smith gets a straight "A" right along with her son if this is all an imaginary venture, to say nothing of the terrific performances by Mr. And Mrs. Harris and the entire first generation of the Church. Unless, of course, there really were plates and there really was a translation process going on and there really had been a solemn covenant made with the Lord, and there really was an enemy who did not want that book to `come forth in this generation.' (See D&C 10:33.)

"Which is only to say what so many have said before: that if Joseph Smith - or anyone else, for that matter - created the Book of Mormon out of whole cloth, that to me is a far greater miracle than the proposition that he translated the book from ancient records with an endowment of divine power to do so."

Elder Holland then turned to the book itself to "focus on the most central and rewarding and important theme in the Book of Mormon - indeed the theme of the Book of Mormon - the declaration that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God."

First, he encouraged study of the first part of the book, translated from the small plates of Nephi to replace the 116 lost pages of manuscript.

"We do not know exactly what we missed in the 116 pages, but we do know that what we received on the small plates was the personal declarations of three great witnesses, three of the great doctrinal voices of the Book of Mormon, testifying that Jesus is the Christ. . . . As readers of the Book of Mormon, we have Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah to speak to us immediately as personal eye-witnesses of the pre-mortal Savior."

Next, Elder Holland pointed out that 86 percent by page count of the Book of Mormon "comes out of a period before Christ's personal appearance to the Nephites in his resurrected state.

"I am deeply moved by that simple little statistic. I am profoundly, powerfully touched by it. What faith! And what a way to teach us faith. You and I are expected to have faith in a Christ who has already come and lived and walked and talked and been crucified and resurrected."

But most of the people in the Book of Mormon "had not a Christ who had come in the flesh but only the trust and consummate hope of such a Christ who would come - far in the future and after most of them were dead."

Next, Elder Holland talked of angels, saying: "May I suggest to you that one of the things we need to teach our students and one of the things which will become more important in their lives the longer they live is the reality of angels, their work and their ministry. Obviously I speak here not alone of the angel Moroni but also of those more personal ministering angels who are with us and around us, empowered to help us and who do exactly that."

To provide evidence of angels and their works, Elder Holland cited numerous examples from the Book of Mormon where angels ministered unto prophets and the people.

Continuing, he referred to the Christ's visit to Nephites recorded in 3 Nephi. He specifically talked about the Savior's example and instructions on prayer.

"The praying Christ. That is the example to which we are to point others," Elder Holland explained. "The Christ of humility. The Christ of spiritual communion. The Christ who is dependent upon His Father. The Christ who asks for blessings upon others. The Christ who calls down the powers of heaven. The Christ who is one with the Father in at least one way that we may be united with Him as well - through prayer."

Concluding, Elder Holland said: "The final and ultimate appeal of the keystone of our religion and the most correct book ever written is to touch not the unclean thing, to be holy and without spot - to be pure. And that purity can come only through the blood of that Lamb who bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, the Lamb who was wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, the Lamb who was despised and afflicted, but whom we esteemed not. (See Mosiah 14.)"

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