Church News viewpoint: A most sacred record

At age 23, lay preacher Parley P. Pratt was travelling from Ohio to New York when he met a Baptist deacon who told him of a very strange book. The book, the traveller was told, was originally written on plates of gold or brass by a branch of the tribes of Israel and was later discovered and translated by a young man living in Palmyra, New York. Intrigued with the record, Parley decided he would go to the man’s home and see the book for himself.

“I opened it with eagerness, and read its title page,” he wrote in his autobiography. “I then read the testimony of several witnesses in relation to the manner of its being found and translated. After this I commenced its contents by course. I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.

“As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I know and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists.”

Parley P. Pratt’s introduction to the Book of Mormon ignited a life of dedicated service to the Lord and an unwavering testimony of the gospel being restored to the earth.

More than 186 years after the first printing of the Book of Mormon in March of 1830, it continues to stand as a witness of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Translated in more than 110 languages, the record is available to more people than ever before in locales around the world.

Since Joseph Smith completed the translation of the Book of Mormon through the gift and power of God, millions of people — like Parley P. Pratt — have gained a testimony as they tested the promise found in the introduction that “a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book,” and have responded to the invitation to “all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true.”

Each prophet called after Joseph Smith has testified of the truthfulness of the book and encouraged Church members — and non-members alike — to read from its pages.

President Thomas S. Monson is a great example of teaching lessons taken from the Book of Mormon. President Monson’s life exemplifies the teachings of King Benjamin who taught, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God,” (Mosiah 2:17). President Monson is a living witness of the truthfulness of the teachings found within the pages of the Book of Mormon.

In President Ezra Taft Benson’s sermons he often said the Book of Mormon is the “keystone of our religion,” and encouraged Church members to read from and receive the Book of Mormon in faith.

“We must first read it and gain a testimony for ourselves,” President Benson said in the 1984 October general conference. “Men may deceive each other, but God does not deceive men. Therefore, the Book of Mormon sets forth the best test for determining its truthfulness — namely, read it and then ask God if it is true. …

“The Book of Mormon is for both member and nonmember. Combined with the Spirit of the Lord, the Book of Mormon is the greatest single tool which God has given us to convert the world.”

No matter a person’s age or circumstance, the introduction promises “those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost.” A testimony of the Book of Mormon comes to all who sincerely desire one.

Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service states, “The Book of Mormon is powerful evidence of the divinity of Christ. It is also proof of the Restoration through the Prophet Joseph Smith. An essential part of conversion is receiving a witness from the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true.”

Although the sacred book is an important tool in missionary work, nothing can replace the power that comes into the life of an individual who gains a testimony of the truthfulness of the book and then continually makes the study of the Book of Mormon a priority in his or her life.

“Its appeal is as timeless as truth, as universal as mankind,” wrote President Gordon B. Hinckley. “It is the only book that contains within its covers a promise that by divine power the reader may know with certainty of its truth. … The Book of Mormon narrative is a chronicle of nations long since gone. But in its descriptions of the problems of today’s society, it is as current as the morning newspaper and much more definitive, inspired and inspiring concerning the solutions of those problems. ...

“Without reservation I promise you that if each of you will [read the Book of Mormon], regardless of how many times you previously may have read the Book of Mormon, there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God” (“A Testimony Vibrant and True,” Ensign, August 2005).

After gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon, it is through consistently studying from its pages that individuals are able to strengthen their faith, find solutions to their problems and become disciples of Christ — especially in a time when Satan is constantly trying to corrode Christ’s teachings.

May we, like Parley P. Pratt, use our testimony of the Book of Mormon as a springboard and foundation to a lifetime of service and discipleship.

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