Sarah Jane Weaver: What I learned from President Nelson about accepting prophetic invitations and the Book of Mormon

President Nelson invited us to ponder three questions: ‘What would your life be like without the Book of Mormon? What would you not know? What would you not have?’

In his April 2017 general conference address, President Thomas S. Monson invited members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to “prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day.”

During a time of “great trouble and wickedness,” President Monson called studying, pondering and applying the teachings of the Book of Mormon a “critical need.”

“The importance of having a firm and sure testimony of the Book of Mormon cannot be overstated,” he said.

His promise was profound: Study of the Book of Mormon would position us “to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear and to receive heaven’s help in our lives.”

I made a commitment to respond to President Monson’s invitation — for a few weeks. But then the busyness of life took hold. We were studying the Doctrine and Covenants that year in Sunday School. I told myself I already had a firm testimony of the Book of Mormon and quoted its passages often in my work and Church responsibilities. I was struggling to get my teenagers through junior high and high school — and seminary — and barely managed to find a spiritual thought for weekly family home evening. Certainly, I thought, the Lord would understand if I responded to President Monson’s invitation at my own pace — and in my own time.

Then I listened as President Russell M. Nelson spoke in general conference six months later. At the time he was serving as president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

He addressed President Monson’s invitation. He shared photographs of himself and of an 8-year-old boy named Riley — taken without either of their knowledge. President Nelson was sitting on his porch immersed in the Book of Mormon. Riley was reading the Book of Mormon with the help of an “I Am a Child of God” bookmark.

“Since President Monson’s challenge six months ago, I have tried to follow his counsel,” President Nelson said. “Among other things, I have 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 these lenses has been an insightful and inspiring exercise. I recommend it to each of you.”

My heart sank.

President Nelson — who had read the Book of Mormon countless times by this time in his ministry — had responded to the invitation with intention. Why hadn’t I made study of the Book of Mormon a “critical need” for me?

In addition to his own personal study, President Nelson had invited his brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to consider three related questions:

First, what would your life be like without the Book of Mormon? Second, what would you not know? And third, what would you not have?

“Immersing ourselves regularly in the truths of the Book of Mormon can be a life-changing experience,” he said.

“When I think of the Book of Mormon, I think of the word ‘power.’ The truths of the Book of Mormon have the power to heal, comfort, restore, succor, strengthen, console and cheer our souls.

“My dear brothers and sisters, I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions — every day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be immunized against the evils of the day, even the gripping plague of pornography and other mind-numbing addictions.

“Whenever I hear anyone, including myself, say, ‘I know the Book of Mormon is true,’ I want to exclaim, ‘That’s nice, but it is not enough.’ We need to feel, deep in ‘the inmost part’ of our hearts (see Alma 13:27), 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.”

President Monson’s promises six months earlier had been equally compelling.

“What will protect us from the sin and evil so prevalent in the world today?” questioned President Monson. “I maintain that a strong testimony of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of His gospel will help see us through to safety. If you are not reading the Book of Mormon each day, please do so. 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.

“Because the Book of Mormon is true, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s Church on the earth, and the holy priesthood of God has been restored for the benefit and blessing of His children.”

President Monson proclaimed that having a testimony of the Book of Mormon is not enough. It must be kept vital through daily prayer and scripture study.

He was speaking to me. I couldn’t make up the time I had lost, but I could look forward — in 2017 and now.

As we again have the opportunity to study the Book of Mormon through “Come, Follow Me” this year, we all have the opportunity to accept President Monson’s and President Nelson’s challenges again.

We can start by asking ourselves three important questions: What would our lives be like without the Book of Mormon? What would we not know? What would we not have?

President Nelson’s Book of Mormon lists 

Following are President Nelson’s Book of Mormon lists:

The Book of Mormon is:

  • Another testament of Jesus Christ. Its major writers — Nephi, Jacob, Mormon, Moroni —and its translator, Joseph Smith, were all eyewitnesses of the Lord.
  • A record of His ministry to people who lived in ancient America.
  • True, as attested by the Lord Himself.

The Book of Mormon affirms:

  • The individual identity of Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
  • The necessity of the Fall of Adam and the wisdom of Eve, that men might have joy.

The Book of Mormon refutes notions that:

  • Revelation ended with the Bible.
  • Infants need to be baptized.
  • Happiness can be found in wickedness.
  • Individual goodness is adequate for exaltation (ordinances and covenants are needed).
  • The Fall of Adam tainted mankind with “original sin.”

The Book of Mormon fulfills biblical prophecies that:

  • “Other sheep” shall hear His voice.
  • God will do “a marvelous work and a wonder,” speaking “out of the dust.”
  • The “stick of Judah” and the “stick of Joseph” will become one.
  • Scattered Israel will be gathered “in the latter days” and how that will be done.
  • The land of inheritance for the lineage of Joseph is the Western Hemisphere.

The Book of Mormon clarifies understanding about:

  • Our premortal existence.
  • Death. It is a necessary component of God’s great plan of happiness.
  • Postmortal existence, which begins in paradise.
  • How the resurrection of the body, reunited with its spirit, becomes an immortal soul.
  • How our judgment by the Lord will be according to our deeds and the desires of our hearts.
  • How ordinances are properly performed: for example, baptism, sacrament, conferring the Holy Ghost.
  • The Atonement of Jesus Christ.
  • The Resurrection.
  • The important role of angels.
  • The eternal nature of priesthood.
  • How human behavior is influenced more by the power of the word than the power of the sword.

The Book of Mormon reveals information previously unknown:

  • Baptisms were performed before Jesus Christ was born.
  • Temples were built and used by people in ancient America.
  • Joseph, 11th son of Israel, foresaw the prophetic role of Joseph Smith.
  • Nephi (in 600–592 BC) foresaw the discovery and colonizing of America.
  • Plain and precious parts of the Bible have been lost.
  • The Light of Christ is given to each person.
  • The importance of individual agency and the need for opposition in all things.
  • Warnings about “secret combinations.”

— Sarah Jane Weaver is the executive editor of the Church News. 

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