Faith, prayers and prophets: Laying hold upon Book of Mormon promises

‘From the Lord’s words, we can understand that prophetic faith and prayers involving scripture, when acted upon, bring power,’ writes the dean of religious education at BYU

In spring 1829, the Prophet Joseph Smith was likely concerned over the effects of his actions on the rolling forth of God’s work. A year earlier, he and his scribe, Martin Harris, had lost 116 manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon, leading to a temporary loss of his gift and a darkening of his mind (see Doctrine and Covenants 10:2). While the gift of translation was restored to him (see verse 3), the missing pages were never recovered.

To reassure the young prophet, the Lord taught him about the power of faith, prayer and promises made to prophets regarding the Book of Mormon. Speaking of the remaining portion of that sacred text, the Lord declared, “This work does contain all those parts of my gospel which my holy prophets, yea, and also my disciples, desired in their prayers should come forth unto this people” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:46.

The Book of Mormon photographed Saturday, December 29, 2007. | Brian Nicholson, Deseret News

Multiple times in the same section, the Lord highlighted the faith of these ancient Book of Mormon prophets. “I said unto them, that it should be granted unto them according to their faith in their prayers” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:47; see also Mormon 9:36-37). Because of their faith and prayers, the gospel would be preached to “their brethren, the Lamanites, and also all that had become Lamanites because of their dissensions,” as well as to any who would “possess this land” in the future (see verses 48-49). “According to their faith in their prayers,” the Lord promised He would “bring this part of my gospel to the knowledge of my people” (verse 52). Doing so would demonstrate that His “wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil” (verse 43). From the Lord’s words, we can understand that prophetic faith and prayers involving scripture, when acted upon, bring power.

Book of Mormon promises today

In our day, modern prophets have repeatedly exercised faith and promised that the Book of Mormon would impact our lives. These include specific blessings for adherence to its teachings in this life as well as promised blessings in the eternities.

An immediate blessing of studying the Book of Mormon is how it aligns us with God. In 1841, Joseph Smith instructed a council meeting with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (cited in the Book of Mormon Introduction). The statement has been increasingly quoted since the Prophet’s lifetime and, since 1981, included in the introduction to Church-produced copies of the Book of Mormon (see “Getting ‘Nearer to God’: A History of Joseph Smith’s Statement,” by Scott C. Esplin).

Ezra Taft Benson | Church History Library

More recently, successors to Joseph Smith have reiterated promises concerning studying and applying the messages contained in the Book of Mormon. One common promise is that the teachings in the Book of Mormon can protect us. President Ezra Taft Benson (1899-1994) urged Church members to increase their study of the Book of Mormon, a theme he repeated through his ministry, promising it would fortify them against temptation. “There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book,” President Benson promised. “You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called ‘the words of life’ (Doctrine and Covenants 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance” (President Ezra Taft Benson, October 1986 general conference).

Because Book of Mormon prophets saw our day and crafted its messages accordingly (see Mormon 8:34-35), it is not surprising that studying it would guard us against modern dangers.

President Spencer W. Kimball holds a book.
President Spencer W. Kimball | Deseret News Archives

The Book of Mormon will also draw us closer to Jesus Christ and increase our testimonies of Him. Speaking of his experience with scripture study, President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) observed: “I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel” (“The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball,” edited by Edward L. Kimball (1982), page 135). Pivoting directly to the Book of Mormon, President Kimball later added: “How significant it is, in a time of perplexity about the problems of mankind, that we should be given a second scriptural witness in the form of the Book of Mormon. ... The [Bible and the Book of Mormon] together declare the divinity of Jesus Christ and the importance of mankind’s keeping the commandments of God, lest His judgments come upon them” (“The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball,” 433).

President Howard W. Hunter | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Similarly, President Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) directed students of the Book of Mormon to ways the text deepens their faith. “Reading [the Book of Mormon] will have a profound effect on your life. It will expand your knowledge of the way God deals with man and will give you a greater desire to live in harmony with His gospel teachings. It will also provide for you a powerful testimony of Jesus” (President Howard W. Hunter, April 1983 general conference).

Consistent, dedicated study of the Book of Mormon will also help us make better decisions, improving our daily lives. In August 2005, President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) challenged the Church to read the Book of Mormon before the end of that year. “Without reservation 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” (President Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, August 2005).

President Thomas S. Monson (1927-2018) | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Likewise, President Thomas S. Monson (1927-2018) promised to those who regularly study the Book of Mormon increased divine guidance. “I implore each of us to prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day. As we do so, we will be in a position to hear the voice of the Spirit, to resist temptation, to overcome doubt and fear, and to receive heaven’s help in our lives” (President Thomas S. Monson, April 2017 general conference).

Like his prophetic predecessors, ancient and modern, President Russell M. Nelson has extended promises of protection, faith and divine guidance for prayerfully and consistently studying the Book of Mormon. “When I think of the Book of Mormon, I think of the word ‘power,’” President Nelson observed. “The truths of the Book of Mormon have the power to heal, comfort, restore, succor, strengthen, console and cheer our souls.”

President Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
President Russell M. Nelson, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints | The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

“My dear brothers and sisters,” he continued, “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” (President Russell M. Nelson, October 2017 general conference).

Ancient Book of Mormon prophets believed the word of God would “lead the man of Christ” safely to “the kingdom of heaven” (Helaman 3:29-30). Modern prophets have likewise promised that faithful study of this text will draw us closer to God, strengthen us against temptation, deepen our testimony of the divinity of Jesus Christ, increase the guidance we receive from the Holy Ghost and bring greater abundance into our lives.

As we begin a new study year, may we exercise faith in ancient and modern prophetic promises while we faithfully study the Book of Mormon.

— Scott C. Esplin is the dean of religious education at Brigham Young University.

Elder Samuel Nagliati, a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, holds a Book of Mormon as he and his companion make contacts in Bologna, Italy, on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021. | Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
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