Week 01 is scheduled for study Jan. 1-7, 2024. This year take time to stop and consider what a miracle and what a marvelous work the Book of Mormon is to you, and why it is.

Day 1

Title Page of the Book of Mormon – Studying the Book of Mormon can strengthen my faith in Jesus Christ.

My comments today piggyback off the manual for today’s lesson. Let’s look at the purposes of the Book of Mormon. The manual asks that we identify all the purposes we can find and list them. I won’t be making that list, but one that is close to it. I have included the contents of the Title Page to make commenting on them easier.

Wherefore, it is an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites—Written to the Lamanites, who are a remnant of the house of Israel; and also to Jew and Gentile—Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation—Written and sealed up, and hid up unto the Lord, that they might not be destroyed—To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof—Sealed by the hand of Moroni, and hid up unto the Lord, to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile—The interpretation thereof by the gift of God.

Wow. This is a classic forever-long sentence that we see throughout the Book of Mormon. These hyphens actually turn this sentence into a list of purposes. Let’s talk about some of these purposes.

What it is: The Book of Mormon is an abridgment of all the records kept by the government and prophets of the Nephite people for more than 1,000 years. Ever wonder how long it took Mormon, the prophet/historian, to piece together the accounts we have as the Book of Mormon? He first had to read and become intimately familiar with 1,000 years worth of records, both of secular writings and accounts, as well as the religious writings of all the prophets. His narrative could have gone in a thousand different directions. But Mormon was first of all a prophet. Through inspiration and revelation the Lord directed him as to what the Lord thought was most important to pass along to future generations. My guess is that even Mormon was surprised with the final outcome, for it is a work of personal revelation to him from start to finish.

The purpose of the book: First off the book was written for the benefit of the Lamanites in the last days. The Lord had promised Lehi that the children of Laman and Lemuel, who were not taught correctly by their parents, might be cast off for the time being, but would one day come in remembrance before the Lord and have His word given to them for the sake of their salvation. This whole volume is meant to convince them of the divinity, love, and need for Jesus Christ. As a second purpose, it was also written for the same sake of the gentiles and the Jews. Now for the next sentence.

An abridgment taken from the Book of Ether also, which is a record of the people of Jared, who were scattered at the time the Lord confounded the language of the people, when they were building a tower to get to heaven—Which is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations—And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ.

This is another long sentence. Now Mormon is letting us know that the Book of Ether is included in order to show to the remnant of the house of Israel the great things done by the Lord for their fathers. Evidently the Lord feels it is important that the posterity of the Lamanites, Jews, and Gentiles all know the covenants God has given to man, that they are not cast off from Him forever, and that the Lord wants to convince them that Jesus is the Christ.

Did you notice that both of these sentences in the introduction to the Book of Mormon focus on the importance of coming to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, and that he is our judge in the day of judgment? Everything Mormon was inspired to include in his record, with all the things that could have been included, are focused around convincing us of the divinity of Christ. All of the stories have lessons for us to learn about how Christ is involved in the lives of each of us, no matter what period of time we live in. I admit that I can immediately think of a number of parts of the book where I am missing that connection. I guess I haven’t thought deeply enough about those sections, or perhaps I haven’t had enough experiences yet to see the connections the prophet is hoping I will get from his record.

The title of today’s lesson says: “Studying the Book of Mormon can strengthen my faith in Jesus Christ.” As we begin our studies this year, let’s take the manual’s suggestions to heart and make a plan to find and understand more of the ways in which Jesus is our Redeemer, Savior, Friend, and example in all things. In my mind this year’s manual holds many of the opportunities to learn and appreciate more fully how Jesus is my path back to God. By year’s end I should be far more appreciative of what he has done for me.

Day 2

Introduction to the Book of Mormon; “The Testimony of Three Witnesses”; “The Testimony of Eight Witnesses” – I can be a witness of the Book of Mormon.

The manual focuses on our witness of the Book of Mormon. There is a need for these special witnesses that the gold plates actually exist. But once we have gotten past any hesitation that the plates might actually be a real thing, we still need to decide whether we believe what we are told was translated from those plates. This is where we come in. Unlike these special witnesses, we won’t see the plates in our lifetime, but all of us can come to have a testimony of the Book of Mormon and its importance in our life. One of the questions we should concern ourselves with is, will we be as faithful to our witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon as the official three and eight witnesses were? Even those who left the church never denied the truthfulness of what they had experienced with the Book of Mormon. How many people do you know who have left the church and still stand by the truthfulness of this sacred book? That tells me that these special witnesses all had a very powerful experience when they were shown or handled the plates. It was powerful enough that they stuck to their experience for the rest of their lives, no matter how they felt about the church at various points in their lives.

Testimonies are funny things. In courts of law they often tend to be very formal, and often highly rehearsed. In sacrament meetings we frequently hear the same verbiage associated with the bearing of a testimony. This can give a young mind the impression that there is a right and a wrong way to express a testimony. The witness we have from the three and the eight is highly formal, coming to us in written form so that it will stand forever. But the Lord doesn’t usually work in such formal ways. For example, how each of us received our initial testimony varies from person to person and situation to situation. How we first learned of the church and the Book of Mormon is a story that is unique to each of us.

When it comes to bearing the witness we have received from the Holy Ghost, we don’t have to rely on being eloquent, fluent in our language, or even being smart and clever in our delivery. Remember that the witness doesn’t come from us. We are only vessels of conductivity for the Spirit. When we share our experience with others it is the Spirit who conveys truth into the heart of the hearer, not us. Our only job is to not be ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Our job is only to express what we have experienced for ourselves with the things of the Spirit, like the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The reception of what we convey will be made by the Spirit, Himself, and will be accepted or rejected by the hearer. It may take many years from the time the hearer first hears of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon before they come to accept it and value their own witness. We are just the fortunate ones to be there to contribute to their personal list of witnesses.

Day 3

The testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith – The coming forth of the Book of Mormon was a miracle.

Moroni stated in the Title Page of the Book of Mormon that the Book of Mormon was “To come forth by the gift and power of God unto the interpretation thereof … to come forth in due time by way of the Gentile—The interpretation thereof by the gift of God.” In this statement Moroni tells us that the coming forth of the record his father put together through the gift of prophecy will be a miracle, for the interpretation of the book will have to be done “by the gift of God.”

There is no way to casually explain a miracle. By definition a miracle is a special occurrence that must be taken on faith. The first rule to being able to explain the miracle that is the Book of Mormon is to become conversant on the background of the miracle. I’m not saying that we have to be able to quote chapter and verse of all the events that took place in obtaining the translation of the work. I am saying that we have to figure out what we have a testimony of and talk about that, for that is what we know by the Spirit of God. Perhaps our single testimony isn’t enough to bring about a conversion of someone else, but this is why we invite them to go to church with us to a fast and testimony meeting, so they can hear others’ testimonies as well. This provides the Spirit ample opportunity to testify of a broad range of subjects and stories. It is what makes each of our conversions so unique to us.

Has it been a while since you thought about the Book of Mormon being the embodiment of many miracles? Perhaps this year will provide you with many opportunities to think of this book in a new way. This other testament of Christ is nothing short of one miracle after another. Plan in your studies this year to find and identify all these miracles that testify of Christ and his work among his people. You will find joy in the search and the spiritual plunder you will find.

Personal Study

In the past the Come, Follow Me manuals had a section for FHE/Personal Study. Starting this year this section is now dedicated to teaching children. I strongly feel that something should be here in my writing for each individual to consider in their personal studies, not just single people, but for all individuals. There are enough capable people who are well equipped to teach children that I don’t need to wade into that arena.

Note: The first paragraph of this section is all I intended to write. Everything below this point are things that just started to crowd my mind wanting to get out, so I wrote. I hope you find what follows to be useful to you at some point.

When I first started writing commentary on church lessons in 2013 I am not aware of anyone else doing what I did. Now the Internet is flooded with writers, pod casters, and makers of weekly videos, some of whom spend a lot of money to win over a big audience. My philosophy has always been, as much as I would love to have the whole world read what I write, I’ll let the Lord guide people to these words if He thinks my thoughts can help them in some way. This philosophy doesn’t pay the bills, but it does give me the satisfaction to believe that the Lord will use what I write as He sees fit, and the rest shouldn’t matter to me.

At the moment I haven’t thought of what to include in this possible space. Don’t be surprised by what you see show up here. It may be something that inspired me personally from the manual, or a topic that just popped into my head. And some weeks this space may be blank. I just don’t know yet. Let’s all anticipate being surprised. 🙂

Speaking of surprises, this just popped into my head. This will be a great opportunity for each reader to pause and consider the subject matter in this week’s lessons. Following are some questions you might well ask yourself each and every week of this year’s studies.

What stood out for me this week? It can be just one thing or many. Don’t force a quantity. Look for what keeps sticking in your thoughts. And yes, that does mean you will have to be aware of what you are thinking and how often those thoughts come back. This may take some practice to recognize these recurring thoughts.

What statement or idea moved me in some way? Feelings are a huge part of becoming spiritually sensitive. The gospel of Christ isn’t about facts, but about what it takes to become a better person today than we were yesterday. It is the ultimate self-improvement program. After all, we are in this to learn how to become gods in the end. That means we need to learn to think differently, behave differently, and to feel differently about our self and others than we have in the past. If you don’t want to change then you will find living the gospel to be difficult at best.

Is there something I read that keeps coming back to my mind? If so, should I try to write a paragraph or more about why it hasn’t left my mind? (It has been my lifelong experience as an adult that when something keeps coming back to my mind that it must be important for me in some way. It usually won’t leave my mind [except through disobedience] unless I either write something about it to try to express myself over the idea, or I find someone I trust to responsibly talk about the idea. Once I have done one of those two things I am better able to move on to other things.) It is critical that we each learn to give a voice to the feelings and thoughts that kick around in our head. Until you learn to get them out and express them, which means commit to feeling about them in some way, you will not find the clarity you hope to find about particular subjects. You can always change your mind and amend your thinking later, but begin by putting a stake in the ground (as the saying goes) and getting started where you are today.

Is there something from the week’s lessons that moves me to talk to a particular person or to do something for someone? Just as we have been told many times in General Conference to write down what comes into our heads during the talks, even if those thoughts have nothing to do with the talks being given, so too might you have promptings this year to do something for someone or consider saying something to someone as you study the lessons. It doesn’t matter if what you feel prompted or urged to do has anything at all to do with the lesson. If you are studying the gospel you are also inviting the Spirit into your life. Whatever He urges you to do is the right thing. Just do it.

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BoM01-2024 – Introductory Pages of the Book of Mormon