Scheduled for study Dec. 30-January 5, 2020. This is the story before the story. Most people don’t read the introduction to a book, but it is in the introduction we learn about the reason for the existence of the book.

Day 1

Title page of the Book of Mormon – The Book of Mormon can strengthen my faith in Jesus Christ.

Your study of the Book of Mormon can be enriched if you start by reading the pages that precede 1 Nephi. What do you find that strengthens your testimony?

For the first time, I am walking away from reading the title page of the Book of Mormon with something meaningful. So often I have read this book without looking at the introductory remarks, but obviously, I have been short changing myself.

In the first paragraph there is one main reason given for writing the Book of Mormon, and that is that it is “Written to the Lamanites,” then it adds “and also to Jew and Gentile.” Through the spirit of prophecy, the prophets were commanded to write a record of all their doings, both spiritually and physically. Why? So that at some future date the Lord could use their experiences for the welfare of the Lamanites, and also the Jews and Gentiles. Whatever was going to be in this record it was so important to those who would read it in the last days that the Lord had the record hidden up unto Himself so it couldn’t be destroyed. This makes the record itself a miracle, for without the protection of the righteousness and priesthood power of those who wrote the record, it would have been destroyed.

In the second paragraph we learn the rest of the reason for making and preserving this record in such a miraculous way. Along with the additional record of the book of Ether, the purpose of the record of the Nephite people “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 finally, it is “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.”

Form your own opinion, but it seems to me that the main reason for making this book was as a labor of love for the cast off descendents of Laman and Lemuel who taught their children to hate the truth and to kill those who followed God’s prophets. Because they were taught false doctrines from the beginning, the Lord showed them mercy and prepared a way for their descendents to learn the truth. The truth they were to learn was that God truly does love them, that He has covenants ready for them that will bless their lives and save their families. This record demonstrates that love of God over and over again as He tries to save the Nephites from their own silly foolishness, which includes their open rebellions.

While the record seems mainly to target the posterity of the Lamanites, it serves the same purpose for the Jews and the Gentiles. God loves them, has covenants for them, and they need not remain cast off from His good graces. They need only turn and repent of their worldly ways, and accept His commandments and be obedient, and all the blessings He showered down on the Nephites can be theirs to enjoy as well.

The final point in the introductory page is that this book demonstrates in a powerful way that Jesus is in fact the Christ, the Messiah, and it testifies that he manifested “himself unto all nations.” This last point seems to be directed at each of us. We live in a time when people no longer believe God speaks to prophets, so this book demonstrates that He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The very existence of this book is an evidence or proof that God does indeed take an active interest in all His children in every generation, and that the mission of His Son was to save all of His children, not just a few of them.

Day 2

Introduction to the Book of Mormon – The Book of Mormon “outlines the plan of salvation.”

Your study of the Book of Mormon can be enriched if you start by reading the pages that precede 1 Nephi. What do you find that strengthens your testimony?

The manual has the quote that the Book of Mormon “outlines the plan of salvation.” I have read through the introduction multiple times, but cannot find this quote, so it must come from an apostle’s comments. I just don’t know who, when, or where. But the truth of the matter is that the Book of Mormon does, in fact, talk more about the plan of salvation directly and specifically, than any other book of scripture, even the Doctrine and Covenants. The one exception in the Doctrine and Covenants might be section 76 that talks specifically about the three degrees of glory. But on most all other parts of the great plan, the Book of Mormon reigns supreme. Even the Book of Abraham in the Pearl of Great Price cannot compare with the number of times the plan is referenced in the Book of Mormon.

We normally think of our Father in Heaven’s plan as either the plan of salvation or the great plan of happiness. But the manual lists multiple passages and verses from the Book of Mormon that give different names to this whole plan for our exaltation. Those additional names include: the plan of our God, the great and eternal plan of deliverance from death, the plan of redemption, the plan of restoration, and the plan of mercy. I took the liberty of bolding the key words in each of the descriptions of this glorious plan. Say those words out loud: God, deliverance, redemption, restoration, and mercy. Just that list of words makes one feel good all over.

My point in saying all of this is that the plan to elevate all of God’s children to being celestial candidates is a plan filled with hope and joy. Outside of this plan we have no hope, and no possible way to become like our Father in Heaven. And even within the plan, with all the passages that speak of punishment and hell for those who come to earth and receive a body, there will be only a miniscule number who will suffer for all time. Everyone else will receive a resurrected and glorified body to enjoy eternally. The only question is the degree of glory we want to obtain.

As you read the Book of Mormon this time around, look for any reference to any part of the plan of salvation. I have started to write PoS in the margin then draw a bracket down the part that refers to the plan of salvation. I am amazed each time I read the Book of Mormon how many times I run into whole sermons that explain aspects of the great plan of happiness. And as you read through the book, look for all the explanations that refer to redemption, restoration, deliverance, and mercy. The book is riddled with such references.

Three keys

In the last paragraph of the Introduction, three key pieces of knowledge we can gain from the Book of Mormon are listed. They are that “Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world,” that “Joseph Smith is His revelator and prophet,” and that “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom.” If you receive a witness of the truthfulness of this book then all three of these things must be true. If any one of them were not true then the book would be false.

Finally, I would like you to consider the notion that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God on the earth. The Church is a theocracy. It is run by the will of God. The whole universe is governed by this same theocracy, by His will and pleasure. When Joseph Smith restored the Church by way of God’s commandment, he restored the official government of God’s kingdom on the earth for the latter days. The structure of this government is based on what we are prepared to receive, and on the conditions of our day. As we draw nearer and nearer to the coming of the Savior, the government of the Church will gradually change to reflect more closely the way it will be governed by Christ, Himself when he comes and reigns as our King. For now, we are governed by his spokesman, the prophet. The point is that we are part of an actual kingdom, with laws and a government, and a whole power structure, labeled as the priesthood.

Vestiges of this kingdom, as set up by Christ in his day, were all that was left in Joseph Smith’s day. The Church had fallen away from the true form of religion over the centuries. All had to be restored again as it was when Christ’s apostles guided the Church. This is why the prophet today continues to remind us that the restoration is not complete, it is an ongoing process that will not finish until the Savior steps in and personally rules the kingdom. If there is one constant we can count on in the last days, it is change.

Day 3

The testimony of three witnesses, and the testimony of eight witnesses – I can be a witness of the Book of Mormon.

Your study of the Book of Mormon can be enriched if you start by reading the pages that precede 1 Nephi. What do you find that strengthens your testimony?

The Lord was required to provide proper physical witnesses of the reality of the plates from which we received the Book of Mormon. His own law demanded that at least two or three witnesses be supplied. This is known as the law of witnesses, and it has existed since Adam’s day. But being a physical witness to a spiritual event doesn’t exclude everyone who wasn’t there at the time. Think about the number of times the Savior has said blessed are they who have seen and believed, but more blessed are they who have not seen, yet still believe.

While I admit that getting to see and handle the actual plates used by Joseph to translate the Book of Mormon has a certain wow factor associated with it, we need to remember that the wow factor didn’t prevent any of these witnesses from falling away from the Church, some never to return. The testimony we receive from the Holy Ghost is far more strengthening and permanent than the voice of an angel and hefting the plates for ourselves. When the Spirit testifies to us of something’s truthfulness, that truth becomes part of the fabric of our soul, and is difficult to remove.

The second point for today’s lesson is that there is a responsibility in being a “witness” of anything. When we receive a testimony of a truth, the Lord holds us accountable for that knowledge. And like the parable of the talents, those who use what they are given will have more added to them, and those who squander or hide what they have been given will have their portion removed from them. It doesn’t matter how we receive our witness of a truth, what matters is what we do with that truth once we comprehend it and can live by it.

Day 4

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

Your study of the Book of Mormon can be enriched if you start by reading the pages that precede 1 Nephi. What do you find that strengthens your testimony?

Was the coming forth of the Book of Mormon a miracle? Let’s think about this.

It took one thousand years of meticulous record keeping by prophets of God to produce the raw materials used to write the book.

It took the brilliant mind of a prophet/historian to read the entire history of his people’s thousand year’s worth of records and years of study to reduce all the sacred and secular accounts into a cohesive story of the Lord’s dealings with the Nephite and Lamanite people.

Through revelation either Mormon or Moroni knew to separate the record into two parts so that Joseph Smith could only have access to the 1/3 of the book the Lord wanted us to have at the beginning of the last dispensation. The last 2/3 of the volume is still bound.

The Lord took the plates and the items that accompanied them and protected them, and prevented them from aging for more than a thousand years. They were in great condition when Joseph Smith unearthed them from Cumorah.

When Joseph Smith translated the plates it was all by revelation. Most of the time he didn’t even have the plates open in front of him. He looked into the seer stone or the urim and thummim and just started where he had left off without even reviewing what had been translated the day before.

Along with the actual translation of the words of the Book of Mormon came visions of the people from the Book of Mormon. Joseph actually saw these people and their prophets.

The Book of Mormon was written in a thousand year old version of reformed Egyptian, which was an unreadable language in Joseph Smith’s day. Even basic hieroglyphs were indecipherable in his day.

These are only the beginning of the list of miracles that accompanied the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Was it a miracle? If it doesn’t qualify then I don’t know what would.

Day 5

The testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith – How was the Book of Mormon translated?

Your study of the Book of Mormon can be enriched if you start by reading the pages that precede 1 Nephi. What do you find that strengthens your testimony?

So many people think of the word translation and they see in their mind a person examining one symbol and trying to find the equal to it in our current language. This is a highly labor intensive process. This is not what Joseph Smith did. When he translated the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham and received the Book of Moses, they were all revealed to him.

Yes, Joseph Smith had instruments to help aid him in translation – the seer stone and the urim and thummim, but these only helped to facilitate the act of revelation that was required to know what to write. This is why he was able to sit down to the table and look at the stone(s) and begin to read the text without even having the plates open before him. It was all revealed to him.

We don’t know the minute details of how the translation process went each day. What we do know is that each of his scribes witness the same thing, that Joseph carried with him a powerful spirit, and that what was taking place was most certainly revelation. As his own wife said, it had to be revelation, because this was a man who couldn’t even write a coherent letter, let alone a book about an ancient people in unknown lands.

Improving Personal Study

A prophetic promise.

First, please read President Nelson’s promise in the manual. 

Truth, like goodness itself, has a cumulative effect. When we study what Joseph Smith called the most correct book on earth, we open ourselves to the same spirit of goodness and righteousness that went into the writing of the book. President Nelson is not the first prophet to promise us that if we will read the Book of Mormon we will make better decisions in all parts of our lives. We will come to understand doctrine we haven’t understood before. We will grow in our strength in the gospel of Christ. Steeping ourselves in truth is like dipping the tip of a cloth in water, the wicking effect draws it up from its source and soon the whole cloth is wet, not just the tip that touches the water. That is the nature of truth.

Here is a PDF of this week’s study material.
Print it out for greater convenience in your studies.

BoM Week 01