What I know now that I didn’t know before President Nelson’s Book of Mormon challenge

Ancient prophets who lived on the American continent wrote the records of their people on plates of ore. These writings contained the teachings of the prophets and the account of Jesus Christ's visit to the Americas after His Resurrection. A prophet named Mormon made a shorter account of the writings on gold plates, and his son, Moroni, buried the plates in a hill. The resurrected Moroni gave the plates to Joseph Smith, who translated the writing on the plates with the help of Heavenly Father. The translation is called the Book of Mormon. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Replica of Book of Mormon plates that silversmith Gordon Andrus made as they are displayed in “The Heavens Are Opened” exhibit at the Museum of Church History and Art. Credit: Welden C. Andersen, Intellectual Reserve, Inc., Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Sister Valerie Johnson, a missionary in the Florida Jacksonville Mission from March 2013-September 2014, poses for a photo with a pamphlet in Waycross, Georgia.

President Russell M. Nelson’s invitation to the women of the Church to read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year is one that I am excited about. Every time I read this book of scripture, I learn something new. I’m eager to see what new insights I’ll gain before the year is out, especially as I turn my focus in my reading to Jesus Christ.

One of the things I like to do with anything I read is ask why the authors wrote what they did, and ask for whom they wrote it.

In the scripture that served as a theme for my mission — 2 Nephi 25:26 — Nephi explains the purpose of keeping a record. “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”

A common theme I see in the Book of Mormon is that its writers used the records and scriptures to teach their children. Those same scriptures and records are now used to teach all of us. They point to the idea that when something is written down, it can’t be changed by the frailties of human memory. King Benjamin credits the records of the people of Nephi for their knowledge of the Lord’s commandments in Mosiah 1:2-6.

But this wasn’t the only reason the writers and record keepers wrote their accounts. It was a commandment given to them, which was passed down from Nephi, who was commanded to keep two sets of plates in 1 Nephi 9, to Mormon, who was commanded by Ammaron, “… ye shall engrave on the plates of Nephi all the things that ye have observed concerning this people” (Mormon 1:3-4).

This commandment to keep an accurate record is so important that when Christ ministered to the people in the Americas after He was resurrected, He told the prophet Nephi to “bring forth the record which ye have kept” (3 Nephi 23:7-14). When He discovered that a prophecy of Samuel the Lamanite had not been recorded, He saw to it that Nephi corrected this omission.

To date, the Book of Mormon has been fully translated into 82 languages and partially translated in 25 more.
To date, the Book of Mormon has been fully translated into 82 languages and partially translated in 25 more. | Credit: IRI

While most of us likely aren’t writing scripture, it seems clear to me that our spiritual experiences must be recorded so we can remember them and our children and others can learn from them. This could be through journals, but also through our Facebook posts or blogs. Doing so allows the Spirit to testify of truth (2 Nephi 32:3).

It’s clear from Nephi that he wanted to write to his children and teach them to come unto God (1 Nephi 6:4), but as I kept searching the Book of Mormon, another audience caught my attention.

The book of Enos describes how Enos cries unto God to preserve the records for the Lamanites (Enos 1:16). Similarly, Mormon devoted some of his own writing to speak specifically to the descendants of the Lamanites, “… that they may know of the things of their fathers” (Mormon 7:1). Moroni, as well, recorded, “I write a few more things, that perhaps they may be of worth unto my brethren, the Lamanites, in some future day, according to the will of the Lord” (Moroni 1:4).

While I might never know how it feels to witness an entire portion of my family turn against the Lord like Nephi and Jacob did, or be attacked for my belief in Jesus Christ like Mormon and Moroni were, I have seen several people in my life leave the Church and become antagonistic towards it. And it still hurts to watch friends and family turn their backs on something I know to be so precious, vital and true.

These men and prophets who recorded and compiled the Book of Mormon had the same concerns I do about those who have either never heard of the gospel or those who have fallen away from it. But they created something that will testify of truth through the Spirit if they ask the Lord in faith for that witness, out of love for the Lamanites and all of God’s children.

President Nelson promised that to those who follow his invitation and prayerfully study the Book of Mormon, the heavens will be opened and “The Lord will bless you with increased inspiration and revelation.”

From what I have learned while reading this book of scripture before, I know this to be true.

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