[Editor’s Note During 2019 we tried to provide you with a large number of resources to augment your Come Follow Me study of the New Testament. It is our desire to continue this as we move into the 2020 course of study, which focuses on the Book of Mormon.
As part of that effort, we are pleased to introduce weekly study aids provided by Jonn Claybaugh. These will be keyed to each week’s area of study and I’m sure you’ll find them a valuable asset.
Jonn has a long history in the Church Educational System, and his understanding and attention to detail are evident in these aids.]
We are blessed with several inspiring resources that precede the text of the Book of Mormon. A closer look can strengthen our knowledge and our testimonies.
The TITLE PAGE was written by Moroni. On the plates given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, it was at the end of the Book of Moroni. It is helpful to look for the following:
- What the Book of Mormon is (an abridgement made by prophets of the records of the people of Nephi, of the Lamanites, and of the people of Jared).
- To whom it was written (to the Lamanites and to Jew and Gentile; in other words, to all people).
- How it was written, preserved, and translated (by way of commandment, by the spirit of prophecy and revelation, and by the gift and power of God).
- And most importantly, Why it was written. At least five purposes are given:
- To show what great things the Lord has done for the House of Israel.
- That we may know the covenants of the Lord.
- To know that we are not cast off forever.
- That we may be convinced that Jesus is the Christ and manifests Himself to all nations.
- That we may be found spotless at the judgment seat of Christ.
The sincere reader may note that even in this first page of our study of the Book of Mormon, the spirit and power of the text already bear witness that the Prophet Joseph Smith was the translator—not the author—of the Book of Mormon, and that it is the word of God. This testimony is shared by millions throughout the world.
The INTRODUCTION relates more about what the Book of Mormon is and adds a brief history of its coming forth in our day through heavenly ministration.
The third paragraph tells us that the “crowning event” in the book is the ministry of Jesus Christ among the Nephites (see 3 Nephi 11-28), which instructs us what we “must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.” We may consider times when peace has come through reading and pondering the Book of Mormon, with a genuine anticipation of eternal salvation; all thanks to this miraculous book.
The sixth paragraph highlights Joseph Smith’s familiar statement about the Book of Mormon being “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion.” He also asserted that we may “get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” We would do well to consider how Joseph Smith’s promise has been true—and must continue to be so—in our own lives.
The eighth and ninth paragraphs are an invitation to all to read and ponder the message of the Book of Mormon, and to pray to God to know if it is true (see Moroni 10:2-5). Those who do this in faith will gain a testimony of its truth, as well as a testimony of Jesus Christ as our Savior, of Joseph Smith as a true prophet, and of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as God’s church and kingdom on earth; all in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. These are remarkable promises.
In THE TESTIMONY OF THREE WITNESSES and THE TESTIMONY OF EIGHT WITNESSES, it is easy to feel the confident assurance of these eleven men who boldly put forth their testimonies, despite the opposition and persecution that would follow. The experiences of the two groups of witnesses were different: The three saw the plates, heard the voice of God declaring the truth of the record, and saw the Angel Moroni; while the eight saw, hefted, and handled the plates. But both groups bear witness “unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people” that the plates were real.
Consider the resoluteness of their words: we know of a surety that the work is true … they [the plates] have been shown unto us by the power of God … we declare with words of soberness … we beheld and bear record that these things are true … we bear testimony of these things … this we bear record with words of soberness … we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety … we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen … we lie not.
Only five of the eleven witnesses died having always been faithful in the Church (Christian Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr., Joseph Smith, Sr., Hyrum Smith, and Samuel H. Smith), but none of the eleven ever denied their testimonies of the Book of Mormon and their experience in seeing the plates.
The TESTIMONY OF THE PROPHET JOSEPH SMITH is excerpted from Joseph’s personal history, as recorded and canonized in the Pearl of Great Price. Joseph is eloquent and forthright in recounting his experiences. For example, these are the words he used to describe the light that accompanied the first visitations of the Angel Moroni: lighter than at noonday, whiteness beyond anything earthly, exceedingly white, brilliant, and like lightning (see paragraphs 3-5).
In the sixth paragraph, Moroni tells Joseph that his name would be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues. We need not look far to find fulfillment of the prophesied evil that has been and continues to be spoken of Joseph Smith, making it all the more important for the faithful to diligently assist in the fulfillment of the prophesied good that is spoken of him. Let us open our mouths!
Those who carefully and prayerfully read Joseph’s history and testimony may ask themselves, “Do I believe this? Do I know it to be true? Am I devoting my life to the cause which sprang from these miraculous experiences of Joseph Smith?” The Lord Himself bore testimony of the Book of Mormon in these words: “And he [Joseph Smith] has translated the book, even that part which I have commanded him, and as your Lord and your God liveth, it is true” (D&C 17:6).
A final topic to pursue upon beginning this year’s study is the stated intent of several of the prophets who helped write the Book of Mormon. Their inspiring declarations clearly and powerfully relate to us today, and they match Moroni’s Title Page objective to convince all that Jesus is the Christ:
- 1 Nephi 6:3-4 (“the fulness of mine intent is that I may persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham … and be saved”)
- 2 Nephi 25:23, 26 (“we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ”)
- 2 Nephi 33:4 (“the words which I have written … persuadeth them to believe in him”)
- Mormon 3:20-22 (“I write unto you … that ye may believe the gospel of Jesus Christ”)
- Mormon 8:12 (“whoso receiveth this record … shall know of greater things than these”)
- Ether 8:26 (“I, Moroni, am commanded to write these things that evil may be done away”)
And, may we take to heart the promises pronounced by President Ezra Taft Benson in relation to our study of the Book of Mormon. He said: “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. 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.”
Let us claim these promised blessings this year and throughout our lives, through our “serious study” of the Book of Mormon.