In his latest message to the Church-at-large — perhaps rendered all the more powerful by virtue of its brevity — President Thomas S. Monson at last April’s general conference spoke urgently about the Book of Mormon and “the critical need we have as members of this Church to study, ponder and apply its teachings in our lives.”
“The importance of having a firm and sure testimony of the Book of Mormon cannot be overstated,” the Church president declared.
A testimony of the Savior and His gospel will protect us from the sin and wickedness so prevalent today, President Monson counseled, and “will see us through to safety.”
“If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so,” he implored. “If you will read it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, the Holy Ghost will manifest its truth to you. If it is true — and I solemnly testify that it is—then Joseph Smith was a prophet who saw God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.”
President Monson did not speak in the recently concluded general conference. But as though to underscore the importance of his words, two of his associates in the leadership of the Church made reference in their own October conference addresses to his admonition.
Consider the words of President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency: “I have read the Book of Mormon every day for more than 50 years. So perhaps I could reasonably have thought that President Monson’s words were for someone else. Yet, like many of you, I felt the prophet’s encouragement and his promise invite me to make a greater effort. Many of you have done what I did: prayed with increased intent, pondered scripture more intently, and tried harder to serve the Lord and others for Him.
“The happy result for me, and for many of you, has been what the prophet promised. Those of us who took his inspired counsel to heart have heard the Spirit more distinctly. We have found a greater power to resist temptation and have felt greater faith in a resurrected Jesus Christ, in His gospel, and in His living Church.”
President Russell M. Nelson, president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said he has tried to follow President Monson’s counsel in the months following the April conference.
“Among other things,” he said, “I’ve made lists of what the Book of Mormon is, what it affirms, what it refutes, what it fulfills, what it clarifies and what it reveals. Looking at the Book of Mormon through those lenses has been an insightful and inspiring exercise! I recommend it to each of you.”
President Nelson further said: “We need to feel, deep in ‘the inmost part’ of our hearts, that the Book of Mormon is unequivocally the word of God. We must feel it so deeply that we would never want to live even one day without it. I might paraphrase President Brigham Young in saying, ‘I wish I had the voice of seven thunders to wake up the people’ to the truth and power of the Book of Mormon.”
Of course, President Monson is only the latest in a line of prophets, seers and revelators who have enjoined us to make a study of the Book of Mormon a routine part of our daily lives.
In an August 2005 “First Presidency Message” in the Ensign, a now-famous challenge came from President Gordon B. Hinckley to the Latter-day Saints to read or re-read the Book of Mormon by the end of that year.
“Without reservation,” he said, “I promise you that if each of you will observe this simple program, 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 hallmark of the ministry of President Ezra Taft Benson was his repeated testimony that “the Book of Mormon is the word of God” and his admonition to Church members to be more diligent and earnest in their study and promulgation of this volume of scripture.
“Now, we have not been using the Book of Mormon as we should,” he admonished in the April 1975 general conference, a message he repeated frequently after he became president of the Church in 1985. “Our homes are not as strong unless we are using it to bring our children to Christ. Our missionaries are not as effective unless they are ‘hissing forth’ with it. Our Church classes are not as Spirit-filled unless we hold it up as a standard. And our nation will continue to degenerate unless we read and heed the words of the God of this land, Jesus Christ.”
In recent days, we have observed some interesting events pertaining to the Book of Mormon.
In August, historians at the Church History Department announced the acquisition of additional fragments of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon handwritten by scribes as the Prophet Joseph Smith dictated from the Nephite record an English translation that came to him “by the gift and power of God.”
In September, it was announced that the Church had recently purchased the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon from the Community of Christ in Independence, Missouri.
And in October, Church-service missionaries at the Church History Department said they had recently acquired the testimony handwritten in Italian by Vincenzo Di Francesca. He was a young Christian minister who found a soiled copy of the Book of Mormon with its title page missing, read the copy and gained a witness of its truthfulness many years before learning the name of the book or finding the Church.
These remarkable news stories remind us of the priceless treasure we have in the Book of Mormon. May we read, ponder, teach from, cherish and pray about it as prophets of God have exhorted us to do.