In 1984 the Church published the Book of Mormon with an added title. Do you remember the title that was added? “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” The Book of Mormon that I had in 1962 was the little paperback copy; it did not have this important subtitle.
I learned some years after I joined this Church at the age of 21, that Joseph Smith made an interesting statement in 1842 at the home of Brigham Young, where he was meeting with the Council of the Twelve in Nauvoo, Illinois: “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.” You can find this statement today in the Introduction to the Book of Mormon printed near the beginning of the book.
You older folks who served missions before 1980 did not have an introduction page in the book. It was added in the 1981 edition. In the introduction we read that the Book of Mormon “is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible.” Another paragraph teaches that “the crowning event in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ…It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.” This information was placed in the book years after I had become acquainted with it. If I had known these things, I would have been even more interested in this book.
The Introduction continues, “We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon…and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true… [to] gain a testimony of its truth… by the power of the Holy Ghost.” Those who do so will “come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom.” Preparations are underway now for the “second coming of the Messiah.” Though I did not have access to this wonderful introduction, my testimony of the restored gospel grew; I became acquainted with these glorious doctrines.
A testimony of the gospel is a personal witness born to our souls by the Holy Ghost that certain facts of eternal significance are true and that we know them to be true. My purpose today is to share with you my testimony of the truthfulness of this record.
In Joseph Smith’s First Vision, he learned something that the world needed to know and that certainly he wanted to know. That is that God lives. He also learned that Jesus lives. God pointed to Jesus and said: “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”1. This was in 1820. The power of the Holy Ghost came upon Joseph at this time so that he could endure the presence of the Father and the Son. This was one of the clearest illustrations ever given in the last days of the nature of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Would it surprise you then that in 1 Nephi 1, we would find in verse 5 something that Joseph would be familiar with? Lehi is praying, a pillar of light comes down in front of him, and he saw God. He heard much and also saw that One (Jesus) was sent to the earth, followed by 12 others who did a holy work for all people. Joseph would have been very familiar with the work of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. As Joseph began then to work through the Book of Mormon and the translation, he would come across these principles time and time again. The Book of Mormon really does testify of the power of God and of His Son and of the Holy Ghost working among the people.
He would have found, for instance, in 1 Nephi, chapter 11, a very interesting experience related to the Godhead. In verse 6, he would have learned again of the work of the Spirit, God the Father, and the Son of God--a testament of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Joseph would then have worked his way through the book and until he came to 2 Nephi 31. This would have been a marvelous experience for him, just as it was for me, and as it is for you. We find in verse 2 that Nephi and Jacob testify of the doctrine of Christ: “Wherefore, I shall speak unto you plainly, according to the plainness of my prophesying” 2.
The Book of Mormon brings truth forth so plainly. And these truths are so precious. I testify of these truths. This plainness is defined in 2 Nephi 31. You will find in verse 3 that the Lord God will do a work among the children of men. And in the verse following, the Lamb of God will be sent by God to do a sacred work. Verse 7 tells us that the Lamb of God keeps the Father’s commandments in doing the work that He will do. In verses 8 and 9 the Holy Ghost will testify that these things are true. And in verse 10 we learn that we should follow Jesus as He has followed the Father in keeping the commandments. What a wonderful thing this would be for us to learn! We would have found back in 1 Nephi 15, verse 14, that there would be a people on the earth in the last days who would come to know the Redeemer. These latter-day people would come to know the very points of doctrine that would help them know how to come unto Him and be saved. That little phrase “come unto him” or “come unto Jesus” is used over a dozen times in the Book of Mormon. From the first books to the very last page that invitation continues throughout the book. “Come unto Jesus” or “come unto me that you may be saved” is the constant invitation to all who read this sacred record.
What a fantastic doctrine! Over and over again the Book of Mormon invites us to come unto Christ. Then we find further in 2 Nephi 31:12 the invitation to be baptized with the result that the Father will give us the Holy Ghost. Verse 13 teaches us to “follow the Son,…witnessing unto the Father that [we] are willing to take upon [us] the name of Christ…and…receive the Holy Ghost.” In verse 14, ‘the voice of the Son” acknowledges the Father and the Holy Ghost in connection with the baptisms of water and fire.
The Godhead is revealed over and over in the Book of Mormon. Verse 20 invites us to go forth in Christ with the “love of God and of all men…and endure to the end.” Then the Father says, “Ye shall have eternal life.” What beautiful, plain doctrine for us to learn through this great scripture that has been restored.
Finally in verse 21 of that chapter we learn the only way and the only name whereby we receive the doctrine of Christ and the doctrine of the Father and the doctrine of the Holy Ghost. It is through the name of Christ as pronounced in these great prophetic scriptures in the Book of Mormon. I have learned that I can get closer to God through the Son and the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Is that not plain and precious for us to know in these last days? And we didn’t even need 46 publications to teach us.
The Introduction to the Book of Mormon says that the crowning event in the Book of Mormon is the actual visit of Jesus Christ to a people. From 3 Nephi 9 we learn that the voice of Christ teaches Nephi from the heavens. Later God the Father introduces His Son Jesus Christ to the people.3 In the New Testament, in the Book of Mormon, and in latter days, this is the pattern. The Father introduces the Son and invites us to hear Him. Between 3 Nephi 9 and 3 Nephi 28:12, there are 531 verses and over 700 personal references to Jesus. Thus, 3 Nephi is one of the great scriptural witnesses in all the world of Jesus Christ Himself and what He did and what He teaches. There are hundreds of witnesses in this book of the things He said and the things He taught.
Let’s look at the use of the pronoun, “I”:
“I declare my doctrine.”
“I am Jesus Christ.”
“I am he.”
“I am the light and the life.”
“I will gather.”
“I will fulfill the covenant.”
“I will remember.”
“I bear record.”
“I was with the Father.”
“I have come into the world.”
“I have laid down my life.”
“I have suffered.”
“I have prayed.”
There are over a hundred times in 3 Nephi where Jesus uses “I”. What a witness of His work and His teachings.
Now let us look at the way He uses “He”:
“He gave power.”
“He did heal.”
“He did smile.”
“He had chosen.”
“He broke bread.”
These are just a few of the many dozens of ways this pronoun is used.
Now we will review ways Jesus refers to “My” and “Me”:
“My flesh and blood.”
“By me came redemption.”
“My own received me.”
“My joy is full.”
“Their faith in me.”
“I laid down my life.”
“I do it in my name.”
“Take upon me the sins.”
Dozens and dozens of times He uses “me” and “my” as He bears His witness in this sacred book.
During September and October in our Gospel Doctrine classes we are reading 3 Nephi. Read this book again. Look for the sacred witness that Jesus taught as He came to the people of the Nephite and Lamanite nations. Ponder the key phrases, such as “baptized in my name,” “points of my doctrine,” “declared my doctrine,” and “the Church in my name,” Over 150 times in the space between 3 Nephi 11:1 and 3 Nephi 28:12, Jesus speaks to, prays to, or acknowledges His Father. What greater witness could we have than His own words bearing witness of His own Father:
“I have glorified the Father.”
“I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”
“It is the doctrine which the Father has given me.”
“The Father beareth record of me.”
“Who so believeth in me believeth in the Father also.”
“I come to do the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
“The Father has commanded me.”
“Ask the Father in my name.”
“Pray in your families unto the Father.”
“Father, I thank thee that thou has given the Holy Ghost unto these.”
Is not the witness profound in this book, this Book of Mormon, that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that They will do Their work through the prophets in all ages?
There are over one hundred references in the Book of Mormon concerning the Godhead. I will point out just three. In 3 Nephi 11 Jesus referred to my doctrine, the Father’s doctrine, and the Holy Ghost bearing record of that doctrine. In 3 Nephi 18, Jesus taught that we are to be baptized in His name, witness unto the Father that we have done this, and the Spirit will then be with us. And in 3 Nephi 28, Jesus testified that the Father had given Him the fullness of joy, and the Holy Ghost bore record. Is there any doubt that what Joseph Smith declared about the Godhead in 1820 is true? Joseph said that God appeared and by His side was His Son, Jesus Christ. Joseph was overpowered with a glorious light. The Holy Ghost enabled Joseph to endure the presence of the Father and the Son and be taught by these glorified beings. This is our testament to people today. God lives, Jesus is the Christ, and the Holy Ghost, which has been bestowed upon you, and I will help bear witness of these things to all people.
President Hinckley has said, “I cannot understand why the Christian world does not accept this book. I would think they would be looking for anything that would establish without question the reality and the divinity of the Savior of the world”4.
Let us return to 2 Nephi 33, just for a moment, and look at verse 10: “And now by beloved brethren, and also Jew, and all ye ends of the earth… hearken unto these words and believe in Christ; and if ye believe not in these words believe in Christ. And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me; and they teach all men that they should do good.” Thank you, Nephi. What a great witness from that prophet!
Now turn to Mormon 7:8: “Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you.” The prophet Mormon is speaking about a book that will come forth in our day. He is speaking to us. He wants us to understand the great value of this Book of Mormon record.
“Behold, this [the Book of Mormon] is written for the intent that ye may believe that [the Holy Bible]; and if ye believe that ye will believe this also; and if ye believe this ye will know concerning your fathers, and also the marvelous works which have been wrought by the power of God among them”5. A powerful witness from one who lived in the past but was seeing our day, testifying that these two great records (the Book of Mormon and the Bible) would literally be testaments of Jesus Christ in the last days.
How many of you have a patriarchal blessing? Mormon 7:10 explains: “Ye will also know that ye are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore ye are numbered among the people of the first covenant.” You are not just institute students. You are not just students at BYU-Idaho. You are numbered among those of the first covenant, those who will have great blessings and privileges because of this gospel that has been restored. We have faith in Jesus Christ and in God the Father who have given us this plan, including its sacred ordinances.
Congratulations, what a wonderful people you are! I hope you will learn even more about that in coming weeks as you study the Book of Mormon: “And if it so be that ye believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment. Amen”6.
I like that. I like to know that I am okay before the Lord. I like to know exactly what my circumstance is in this life as I follow Jesus, believe in God, and have the influence of the Holy Ghost in my life.
I am grateful for the following promise from the great prophet Mormon: “And he hath brought to pass the redemption of the world, whereby he that is found guiltless before him at the judgment day hath it given unto him [or her] to dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost’7. What a promise to you and me, as ordinary members of the Church.
The Prophet Joseph Smith received the plates in 1827. By June of 1829 he had translated the Book of Mormon and had given it to the publisher. The Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood had been restored in 1829 also. Revelation was beginning to come to Joseph as to how to lead the Church and prepare for organizing the Church in 1830. Jesus spoke to Joseph and gave him this instruction, speaking of all scripture: “These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of ma; for it is my voice which speaketh them unto you; for they are given by my Spirit unto you, and by my power you can read them one to another; and save it were by my power you could not have them; wherefore, you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know my words”8. I bear my testimony to you also that I have heard His voice, and know His words as His servant and as a member of this Church.
Let us conclude by returning to the Book of Mormon. This sacred book of scripture introduced us some 600 years before Christ to the thought of “coming unto Christ.” Four hundred twenty years after He came, the prophet Moroni again invited, “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye…love God with all your might, mind, and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ”9. After 1000 years of scriptural record, from 600 years before Christ to 400 years after Christ, we again receive the admonition from the prophet-writer to “come unto Christ.” The phrase “come unto Christ” is repeated over a dozen times in this book, this other testament of Jesus Christ. We find in Moroni 10:33, this amazing promise, “If ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then ye are sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father.” Remember that we were numbered among those of the first covenant. Moroni concludes with these reassuring words: “I…go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite,” and he indicates that one day he will be a witness at our judgment that he gave us these things, for which we will have to account.10
I bear testimony of these things. I am one who can claim with Joseph Smith that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of my religion. I am one who can claim that a man can get closer to God by abiding by the precepts of this book than by any other book. I am a witness, as was Joseph, that these things will bring us closer to Christ and closer to God. We see the great work of God restoring this gospel, raising up this Church, bringing back His priesthood; all through His beloved Son Jesus Christ, who lives, who is our Savior, our Redeemer, our Friend, our Helper whose words are readily available to us. His example is before us. Let us do it His way for He knows how to live with God. He invites us to come unto Him and live with God also.
I bear testimony of these things, as one of those who is a witness, ordained and set apart, to testify that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ. The Holy Ghost will help us through this life. The Book of Mormon is true. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true Church on the earth today. We have a living prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, who follows in the footsteps of the first prophet of the Restoration, Joseph Smith. This Church holds the keys to salvation in the next life through the authorized servants of God who walk the earth today. Many of you have taught this gospel and testified of your faith in Christ. You have invited people to repent, and you have baptized them with authority in the water. You have bestowed on them the gift of the Holy Ghost that they might walk with that great guide in their lives also.
I testify that these things are in this Church only. I thank you. We love you. We have so much brightness, so much goodness, so much to offer to others. Gain a testimony of these things and see what the Lord can do with you. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.