With the beginning of a new year and the annual change in the Church curriculum comes the opportunity to renew our study of the Book of Mormon. Also, there comes to mind classic prophetic declarations about this ancient sacred writing.
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that "the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, the keystone of our religion, and that a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 94.)President Ezra Taft Benson taught us:
"The Book of Mormon brings men to Christ. . . . It tells in a plain manner of Christ and His gospel. It testifies of His divinity and of the necessity for a Redeemer and the need of our putting trust in Him." (Ensign, June 1988, p. 3.) "Every Latter-day Saint should make the study of this book a lifetime pursuit, otherwise, he is placing his soul in jeopardy and neglecting that which could give spiritual and intellectual unity to his whole life." (Ensign, November 1986, p. 4.)
Even though many have read the Book of Mormon once or twice and have a general familiarity with its history and some of its teachings, it is another matter to discuss and understand its doctrines and principles. Remember, it is not biographical, geographical or historical in the full sense of any of those fields, but it contains elements of each. The Book of Mormon is, rather, primarily a witness of the message and mission of Christ. It provides the foundation for gospel understanding. It will give clearer meaning and understanding to the Bible. It is a prerequisite to unlock the meaning of all the works of scriptures.
How does one acquire such an understanding? Such understanding comes only to the sincere and diligent individual who strives daily to apply the gospel truths learned. As the years advance, one's needs change. Likewise, life's experiences can teach and broaden our souls. There is, then, a continuing necessity for divine direction and inspiration. The Book of Mormon is a sacred resource that can be drawn upon to meet the ongoing challenges of life. For those who seem to be on a plateau and not moving forward, they should heed the counsel of President Marion G. Romney, who said: "One cannot honestly study the scriptures without learning gospel principles because the scriptures have been written to preserve principles for our benefit.
"Learning the gospel from the written word, however, is not enough. It must also be lived. As a matter of fact, getting a knowledge of the gospel and living it are interdependent. They go hand in hand. One cannot fully learn the gospel without living it. A knowledge of the gospel comes by degrees: one learns a little, obeys that which he learns; learns a little more and obeys that. This cycle continues in an endless round. Such is the pattern by which one can move on to a full knowledge of the gospel." (Ensign, September 1980, p. 4.)
President Gordon B. Hinckley has described the Book of Mormon as one of the cornerstones of our faith. Of this he said, "
ItT . . . speaks as a voice from the dust with words of ancient prophets declaring the divinity and reality of the Savior of mankind. The evidence for its truth, for its validity in a world prone to demand evidence, lies not in archaeology or anthropology, though these may be helpful to some. It lies not in word research or historical analysis, though these may be confirmatory. The evidence for its truth lies in reading it. It is a book of God." (Ensign, November 1984, pp. 51-52.)
Further, President Hinckley has written: "Brothers and sisters, without reservation I promise you that if you will prayerfully read the Book of Mormon, regardless of how many times you previously have read it, there will come into your hearts an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord. There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and there will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God." (Ensign, June 1988, p. 6.)
As you begin your new study of the Book of Mormon this year, make it one of discovery, one of increased understanding and revelation, and one of learning to apply and live the principles of goodness, life and salvation. Invite the Spirit of the Lord so that your study will be an ongoing spiritual adventure in coming to believe, follow, and know Jesus Christ.