COME UNTO CHRIST
Brothers and sisters, it is a privilege to be here with you this morning.
My desire today is to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost. It is not my intent to give a lecture nor to give a talk; rather, I hope to share with you some things from my own personal study of the Book of Mormon. I will describe both a method of study that I frequently use and some of the results the method produces.
Let me begin with a recommendation. Please do not write down anything I say today. Let me explain why. The eighth section of the Doctrine and Covenants is a revelation given to Oliver Cowdery through the Prophet Joseph Smith. In that section we learn very specifically about the spiritual gift of revelation. We learn that most typically the gift of revelation comes as thoughts to the mind and feelings to the heart. I suggest you have a pencil or a pen and a piece of paper, and I hope you have your scriptures on your lap and are ready to use them. But what you and I should really pay attention to this morning is certainly not what I will say but the thoughts and feelings that will come in this very special setting. We are meeting in a dedicated chapel; we are members of the Church who have made sacred covenants; we have sung a hymn of Zion; we have united in prayer; and, as we continue to pray for each othereven as I now pray for you and you continue to pray for me that we will have the Holy Ghost and its influence here, there will come to you and to me inspired thoughts and feelings. They will be placed in our minds and in our hearts by the Holy Ghost. And that is what we should pay attention to today, not what I will say. If you will consider this principle and the recommendation about how the spirit of revelation works, then indeed we will have an edifying and uplifting experience together.
Before beginning, however, I need to make a brief comment to those who will read this message from a hard copy without having first heard it at the symposium. During my presentation, I will use both slides and a series of animations to illustrate and summarize key points. While the PowerPoint slides have been printed and attached to this copy (noted throughout the text), I anticipate the full impact of the message will be somewhat diminished in text form when compared to the initial oral and visual presentation.
I want to begin with my testimony of the Book of Mormon. I will end with my testimony as well, but I want to begin by declaring that I love the Book of Mormon. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God and want to take just a minute or two to describe a personal experience that relates to my testimony of the Book of Mormon. I know by the witness of the Spirit and by personal experience that the Book of Mormon is true.
Before coming to Ricks College, I was a business professor for almost 20 years. As a part of my work, I wrote books. I brought with me today one of the books I authored with a colleague when I was a faculty member at the University of Arkansas. This book is 650 pages long, it contains 17 chapters, and it took us two years to write. The colleague with whom I wrote this book also has a Ph.D., which means that we each went to college for eight years or more--a total of more than 16 years of formal higher education between the two of us. It is a remarkable experience to receive a box of these brand-new books from the publisher. I was seated in my office at Texas Tech University when my box of books arrived. I opened up the box and thumbed through one of the books. As I did so, I looked out the window of my office and asked myself the question, "Why did you write this book?" When you really think about it, investing so much time and effort in a project that so quickly becomes obsolete is rather foolish. As I posed that question to myself and as I was pondering, the thought came to me, "Because now you know by experience that Joseph Smith could not have written the Book of Mormon." That conclusion clearly was influenced by the fact that for all of my professional career we lived in Arkansas and Texas. We, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were the religious minority in the middle of the Bible Belt. We relentlessly were confronted by people of other faiths who said, "The Book of Mormon is not necessary; the Bible is all that you need. And Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon."
With eight years of university training, with two years of very dedicated work, with an editorial staff, with personal computers, with spell checkers and thesauruses on-line, with the Internet and the other resources that are so readily available, when I picked up the book that I had written and opened it up, I still found mistakes. And within a matter of twelve months, this book upon which I had worked so hard and so long was obsolete and had to be revised.
Brothers and sisters, you could take a team of the brightest people on the earth, as large a team as you might want, with all of the support staff, all of the computer technology, and all of the assistance that you can imagine, and such a team could not produce one page of a Book of Mormon. Consider the power of the following phrases: ". . . men are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25); ". . . wickedness never was happiness" (Alma 41:10); and ". . . press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope" (2 Nephi 31:20). We could go on for a long, long time quoting simple but powerful phrases that no one could have generated without divine assistance.
The best summary I have ever found about the Book of Mormon is from George Cannon, the father of George Q. Cannon. This is what he said, "No wicked man could write such a book as this, and no good man would write it unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so" (LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, Vol. 1, pg. 42).
Well, brothers and sisters, intellectually I know the Book of Mormon is true; and I know it through personal experience as an author. And that type of knowledge is nice. But what is most important is the witness of the Spirit. And I know by the witness of the Spirit, I know intellectually, and I know as an author and by personal experience that Joseph Smith could not and did not write the Book of Mormon.
Now I want to describe a method of scripture study. What I frequently do as I study the scriptures is search for phrases. A specific scriptural phrase is the topic that I am going to be discussing with you this morning. The Book of Mormon contains a promise, it contains a warning, and it contains an invitation. The promise is that if we are obedient, we will prosper in the land. The warning is to avoid pride and blindness in our minds and hardheartedness in our hearts. And the invitation is to come unto Christ. That is the phrase that I will focus on today--the invitation to come unto Christ.
If I were to ask you about the mission of the Church, I hope you would not say it is to proclaim the gospel and redeem the dead and perfect the Saints. That is not the mission of the Church. The mission of the Church is to invite all to come unto Christ. There is a perfect alignment between the central message and the invitation of the Book of Mormon and the overarching mission of the Church. We perform the work of inviting all to come unto Christ in three major arenas. If we are inviting those who have not yet received the ordinance of baptism to come unto Christ, we are proclaiming the gospel. If we are inviting those to come unto Christ who have already received the ordinance of baptism, we are laboring to perfect the Saints. And if we are assisting those who have passed through the veil to come unto Christ, we are redeeming the dead. There is only one work: inviting all to come unto Christ.
The Book of Mormon is a handbook about that process of coming unto Christ. I want to emphasize that coming unto Christ is a process; it is not a single or discrete event. It is an ongoing, continuing process throughout our lives. That one principle will be a key element to what I am going to be discussing with you today.
My goal today is that we will leave here able and motivated to ask better and more penetrating questions. Consequently, my remarks and my discussion with you today will not provide you with all of the information you need to know about the process of coming unto Christ. Rather, I will pose questions that we ought to pursue and consider. Questions are one of the most powerful teaching tools. The Savior used questions as one of His primary teaching tools. Perhaps, then, if we strive to ask inspired and effective questions, you and I can subsequently engage in the process that will help us find our own answer.
Let me now describe what I have done. I looked in the standard works for all of the verses that contains the following phrases: Come unto me, come unto Christ, come unto the Holy One of Israel, come unto God, come unto the Lord. How many do you think there are? All together, there are 124. Let me show you a breakdown of those verses (Slide 2). The phrase come unto me is found 74 times; come unto him, 24 times; come unto Christ, 5 times. The phrases come unto the Holy One of Israel and come unto God are found 11 times. Other variations of the word come are cometh unto me and cometh unto the Lord; there were six and four of those phrases respectively.
It was necessary to eliminate some of the 124 verses from my analysis because the phrase come unto me is not always used in relation to the Savior (Slide 3). For example, in Exodus 18:15 we find the episode wherein Jethro teaches Moses that it is not wise for him to have all of the people come to him for answers to their problems. "And Moses said unto his father in law, Because the people come unto me to inquire of God" (emphasis added). So I took the 124 verses that contain the phrase come unto me, and I eliminated the ones like Exodus 18:15 that refer to persons other than the Savior. Sixty-seven verses were left when I completed the initial analysis.
Now let us look at where these 67 verses come from (Slide 4). Forty-two of the verses are found in the Book of Mormon. That fact alone is very significant. Where do you think the majority of those verses are found within the Book of Mormon? Fifteen are found in 3 Nephi--a fact that should not be terribly surprising. What we now know is that the Book of Mormon is the handbook about how we come unto Christ, and the most focused instruction in the Book of Mormon about this process is found in 3 Nephi as the Savior appeared to and taught the people on the American continent.
Now let me show you where the other verses are located (Slide 5). Eighteen of the 67 verses are found in the Bible. Of those verses, one is found in the Old Testament, ten are found in the New Testament, and seven are found in the Joseph Smith translation. I might point out that six of the seven found in the Joseph Smith translation are also in the New Testament; one of the seven is unique to the Joseph Smith translation.
Seven of the 67 verses are found in the Doctrine and Covenants (Slide 6). None are found in the Pearl of Great Price. One of the things I think will be quite interesting in my future study is to examine the seven verses from the Doctrine and Covenants and review them in their totality to see how they are different from or similar to the verses in the Book of Mormon or in the New Testament.
Now let me describe what I did with the 67 verses that contain some variation of the phrase come unto me and are related specifically to the Savior (Slide 7). While I will use the word analysis to describe the process I used, analysis is far too sophisticated of a term and suggests a level of precision far beyond anything I actually did. So please do not conclude that I used a rigorous or overly systematic method.
I took the 67 verses, printed them, and cut them out one by one. Prior to cutting them out, I color coded the verses. I referred to a key element in the verse that came before the phrase come unto me as a preparatory condition. In other words, a preparatory condition was assumed to be something that one would do in the beginning or initial stages of this process of coming unto Christ. Everything in the verse that came after the phrase come unto Christ, I called an ongoing requirement. I also identified promised blessings that are linked to the process of coming unto Christ. Thus, I used three colors as I read each of the verses. If a statement were highlighted in blue and came before the phrase "come unto Christ," it was classified as a preparatory condition. If a statement were yellow, it was classified as an ongoing requirement. And if a statement were green, it was classified as a promised blessing. Then I reviewed the 67 verses looking for patterns and relationships I had not previously noticed.
What I have described thus far is my method for identifying and studying key phrases, and in the Book of Mormon you can find a number of fascinating phrases. For example, you find the phrase and thus we see 17 times in the Book of Mormon. And thus we see is an editorial exclamation point by Nephi or Moroni or another compiler who is saying in essence, "Given this episode, given this experience, here is my summary of what you ought to learn." Any place in the Book of Mormon we find the phrase and thus we see, we ought to pay particular attention to what follows because a prophet scribe is summarizing what he has learned in the process of recording the material. Back to my method: I look for phrases, then I sort and group or cluster them by themes or common features. I learn a great deal by looking for patterns and associations.
One of the first things I noticed and learned in this analysis is that the requirement to come unto Christ is universal (Slide 8). It is summarized in 1 Nephi 13:40. ". . . These last records . . . shall establish the truth of the first, . . . and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved." The requirement to come unto Christ is universal.
On the right-hand side of the next slide (Slide 9) is a column of numbers. These numbers indicate the frequency with which a particular phrase or topic was found in the 67 verses. Please do not let these numbers become the principal focus of your attention. The numbers are helpful, but they merely point to relationships and patterns that are much more important. In addition, there could be errors in the way I grouped this information and summarized it. Nonetheless, I think they do show some interesting patterns.
I want to first talk about preparatory conditions. Please remember that in the verses I studied, a preparatory condition came before the statement come unto Christ. Repentance is the most frequently mentioned preparatory condition; it is found 16 times. The nature of our approach to the process of coming unto Christ is mentioned next. Being humble, meek, having a broken heart and a contrite spirit, being heavy laden and poor in spirit, and verses with similar themes are found 13 times. I do not think either one of these first two findings, viewed individually, is very surprising or even very illuminating; but as you begin to link them together and see the frequency with which they are mentioned, that to me is very instructive. We next find references to doing the works of righteousness, i.e., conduct thyself wisely, a very action-oriented theme or requirement, mentioned four times. I would like you to especially pay attention to this next finding because what we will see as we move from preparatory conditions to ongoing requirements is a very subtle but significant difference. The phrases in these verses that precede the statement come unto Christ are believe in me (meaning the Savior), believe on my name, and be believing. The final thing that was mentioned as a preparatory condition was desire.
I suspect that if you took the same verses and applied my method of analysis, you would obtain some of these same results. They might be a bit different. That is why I am cautioning everyone not to think that somehow these numbers are exact. But look at the totality of those requirements and consider the preparatory conditions as we begin the process of coming unto Christ, i.e., repenting, having a broken heart and a contrite spirit, believing in Christ, having a desire, and doing the works of righteousness.
Now, I would like to move to the ongoing requirements (Slide 10). These are the phrases in the verses I studied that came after the phrase come unto Christ. The most frequently mentioned ongoing requirement is to be baptized for the remission of sins. That is not very surprising. Next is a category that includes a wide range of clearly defined, action-oriented phrases: hear, do, remember, offer, drink, call, endure, continue. At least eight words fall into this category. Please look at the next requirement very carefully: believe on me (which is similar to the preparatory condition), believe in all things which are good, and have faith in me.
This is where I want to show a very subtle but significant distinction. Please turn to Omni in the Book of Mormon to verse 25. You will need to remember what I said about the preparatory condition, i.e., that it is faith focused in Christ and on his name and that we are to be believing. As we read verse 25, notice how the requirement for our faith is much broader, more expansive, and more comprehensive. Yes, it is faith; but it is a developing and evolving faith. It is an expanding faith that we are required to have. "And it came to pass that I began to be old; and, having no seed, and knowing king Benjamin to be a just man before the Lord, wherefore, I shall deliver up these plates unto him, exhorting all men to come unto God, the Holy One of Israel, [now watch what we are to have faith in] and believe in prophesying, and in revelations, and in the ministering of angels, and in the gift of speaking with tongues, and in the gift of interpreting languages, and in all things which are good; for there is nothing which is good save it comes from the Lord: and that which is evil cometh from the devil." It is not only believing in Christ, which is the preparatory condition, but we must continue to believe in Christ and in his gospel and in the gifts of the Spirit. It is a much more comprehensive requirement for our faith. Let us continue reading in verse 26: "And now, my beloved brethren, I would that ye should come unto Christ, who is the Holy One of Israel, and partake of his salvation, and the power of his redemption. Yea, come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him, [watch for the action-oriented things that are required of us] and continue in fasting and praying, and endure to the end; and as the Lord liveth ye will be saved."
Our experience with the principle of faith should change as we develop spiritually and as we gain additional light and knowledge. Faith grows and develops. And that is a part of what I began to see as I looked at faith and belief as preparatory conditions. I could see that it is also an ongoing requirement as we press forward in the process of coming unto Christ.
Now, let us continue with the remainder of the ongoing requirements: obedience; keep the commandments; touch not the unclean thing; do so with full purpose of heart; and then receiving, being sanctified by, and being filled with the Holy Ghost. To me, the real value of these findings is not any one of them in isolation. Rather, increased understanding grows out of recognizing themes and patterns across the findings.
If you look at the ongoing requirements compared to the preparatory conditions, you will not find the word repentance. Does that mean you only need to repent before coming unto Christ and then you do not have to worry about repentance anymore? I believe repentance is a part of the ongoing requirement of doing. I think it is included in and distributed through a number of the ongoing requirements. In the same way that faith is an ever-increasing expectation as we are coming unto Christ, so is repentance. Repentance is repentance, but repentance changes. And as our faith is increasing and our knowledge is expanding, our repentance is changing as we are engaged in the process of coming unto Christ.
Now let us talk about promised blessings (Slide 11). The first blessing is that we are redeemed, saved, spared, and rescued from our fallen condition. The second blessing is that we will find a place in the kingdom of God or in the kingdom of heaven. I found the third blessing to be particularly fascinating--that we will have greater knowledge, that we will be taught of God, that we will eat and drink of the waters of life freely. Some of these promised blessings are clearly "there and then" in the kingdom of God; some are clearly "here and now" as we are in the process of coming unto Christ in mortality. What follows are some of the "here and now" blessings: our soul shall live, we will have everlasting life, and we will experience rest and peace. I had never really considered the next theme until I recognized a number of verses emphasizing the same concept: him will I receive, I will receive him, will be numbered among my people. This is the Savior describing the sense of inclusion that will come as we receive the promised blessings. Think of the rest and the peace and the security that flows from the inclusion of being numbered among the Savior's people. I found that to be very powerful. And the final promised blessing: Mine arm of mercy is extended.
What we have discussed thus far are the preparatory conditions, ongoing requirements, and promised blessings related to the invitation to come unto Christ that were found in the 67 verses contained in the standard works.
Now please ask yourself the following question: "So what can I learn from all of this information?" I have attempted to highlight a couple of key points as we went along, i.e., faith is faith, but faith changes; spiritual expectations are increased and elevated as we come unto Christ; and repentance is repentance, but repentance changes in some very significant ways. Can I give you an illustration of how repentance might change? It is one thing to turn away from sin in the process of repentance, but it is quite another to turn to God. It is one thing to seek for forgiveness of our sins; it is another thing to seek for our hearts to be purified. It is one thing to receive a remission of our sins; but it is an even greater thing, a more spiritually demanding thing, to always retain in remembrance the greatness of God. It is one thing to have our sins removed; it is a different thing to have the desire to sin removed. The process of coming unto Christ is not a process that is sequential with little, separate steps. In a Gospel Doctrine class we typically diagram spiritual progress with boxes and arrows, i.e., you do this first and then you do this. And we get the notion that we move through this series of sequential steps. In a few minutes I am going to show an illustration of a helix. A helix is like a coil; but as it spirals upwards, it expands and becomes broader. For me, the answer to the so what question is that these preparatory conditions and ongoing requirements are not sequential; they are continuous. We exercise a particle of faith, and we come unto Christ. We receive ordinances, and we continue in the process of coming unto Christ. And we believe in prophesying and in the gift of tongues, and it becomes broader and more expansive. The same thing is true with repentance as we continue to cycle upward in a very significant way.
At this point I want to incorporate the teachings of Elder Merrill J. Bateman of the Seventy. Elder Bateman made a presentation by assignment to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles entitled Developing Faith in Christ. In his work he summarizes several key principles about the process of developing faith in Christ. Part of what Elder Bateman suggests is that there are many levels of faith (Slide 12). And there are steps within each level of faith that help us move to the next level (Slide 13). For example, Alma 32 describes the steps that must be used within each level of faith. The first step is to have a hope or belief that something is true, i.e., ". . . if ye can no more than desire to believe . . ." (v. 27). So here we see that we must hope or believe that something is true. The second step is an action reflecting a willingness to believe and live this truth--in other words: ". . . experiment upon my words, . . . let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words" (v. 26-27). That is the action. And the third step is the witness of the Spirit or the confirmation that something is true. That is the swelling motions talked about in Alma 32. So we have the hope or the desire to believe, the willingness to experiment, and the swelling motions that come as a spiritual confirmation that something is true. These three steps are the same in each level of faith. They do not change. The steps are to have (1) a hope, (2) a willingness to experiment and take action, and (3) the spiritual confirmation from the Holy Ghost that what we have done is indeed true.
Now let us look at some of the levels of faith (Slide 14). The first level of faith is faith as hope. Think of the definition of faith in Hebrews: ". . . Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). This is the hope of the investigator. This is the hope of one paying tithing for the first time. This is the hope of a convert giving up Word of Wisdom habits with the hope that indeed, as he/she is obedient, there will come promised blessings. This faith begins with hope and matures with righteousness.
The second level of faith is a combination of belief and knowledge. At this level of faith, evidence is added to our hope. Having paid my tithing, having lived the Word of Wisdom, having heeded the teachings of the living prophets, there comes a confirmation and evidence that indeed the principle is true. It is tender, it is young, it has not yet sunk deep into gospel soil. But the roots are beginning to sprout. This is the development of a tender testimony into continuing conversion. The seed of testimony ". . . swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow . . ." as talked about in Alma 32:33.
The third level of faith is exceeding faith in Christ's redeeming power. Over time there comes an accumulation of evidence, significant and substantial spiritual confirmations, and our faith increases and becomes exceedingly strong. It might be that this is the faith talked about in 2 Nephi 31:20. ". . . press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope . . . ." Once we have the desire and demonstrate a willingness to act, the spiritual confirmation will come. And the confirmation is the evidence of things not seen. As we have those experiences across a wide range of settings and in relation to many gospel principles, then there comes a perfect brightness of hope and exceeding faith in Christ. This is also reflected in the action aspect we identified in the ongoing requirements because then we are willing to do whatever God asks--whatever God asks, we will not withhold.
The fourth level of faith is the fullness of all things. Here the person becomes a partaker of the divine nature. As happened to the brother of Jared, his faith became so strong that he could no longer be kept from within the veil. Perhaps this is the level of faith required for one to have his/her calling and election made sure.
So we have discussed four levels of faith. Now I would like to illustrate how these levels and steps build (Slide 15). Instead of boxes, it is a helix. Level one: faith is hope. The next level: faith is a combination of belief and knowledge. The next level: exceeding faith in Christ's redeeming power. Now notice that the process of coming unto Christ is continuing. It is not something we did on June 3, 1983, and then it is over. ". . . [coming] unto Christ, and [being] perfected in him . . ." (Moroni 10:32) is an ongoing process. But the faith required to continue in that process develops and evolves and changes.
Now can I tell you what is wrong with this animation? It has some things that are right about it, but it also has some things that are lacking. It is right in that it is not portrayed through a series of sequential boxes, i.e., do this step, move to step two, and then you move to step three. That is a vast improvement. The bad thing about this illustration is that in real life the process does not work this smoothly. The better way to portray this process would be to have the line going all over the screen--it goes down a little bit, and it moves forward and up a little bit, and then it drops somewhat, and eventually it goes to the next level and begins dipping again. So we need to agree that, although this illustration is better than boxes on the board, it has some inaccuracies as well. But it does show how the levels of faith escalate. You never totally move beyond faith as hope; it is not a box we check off and say, "I am done." Rather, we begin again and gain experience with a new principle. It spirals upward as a helix, building and continuing. Here is how that occurs. We move from level of faith to level of faith through desire, a willingness to experiment and act, and then receiving a spiritual confirmation as evidence of things not seen. This process and experience bolster our faith. Consequently, we exhibit an increased willingness to experiment and receive an even greater confirmation. Our confidence waxes stronger, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.
Let's look at another illustration (Slide 16). We also have talked about levels of repentance. The principle is exactly the same. I previously presented a series of scriptural phrases that highlight the differences in how we repent. As we are coming unto Christ, we repent. We continue in the process of coming unto Christ. Our repentance is changing. The spiritual requirements and expectations are elevated, and we continue to come unto Christ. We continue to repent, but the focus of our repentance is changing; and we see it escalate and spiral in exactly the same way. I suspect at the low end of the helix that we are repenting of many sins of commission. The farther up the helix we go, the more we are repenting of sins of omission. So repentance is repentance, but it changes as we are engaged in the process of coming unto Christ.
Brothers and sisters, David O. McKay taught and President Hinckley frequently quotes this statement by President McKay: ". . . the purpose of the gospel is . . . to make bad men good and good men better, and to change human nature" (Film "Every Member A Missionary," as acknowledged by Franklin D. Richards, Conference Report, October 1965, p. 136-137). May I suggest to you that the Book of Mormon contains the handbook of instructions on how to travel the path from bad to good to better to the mighty change of heart. We will be blessed and benefitted by recognizing both similarities and differences in fundamental principles such as faith in Christ and repentance. Although they are the same, they will change as we progress along the pathway of bad to good to better. A particular type of faith is required to go from bad to good, to receive the ordinances of the Aaronic priesthood, to be cleansed from sin. That takes a certain kind of faith. But it takes an even greater faith to go from good to better, to receive the ordinances of the Melchizedek priesthood in the house of the Lord, and to seek for sanctification. That is a part of what I learned as I studied and pondered the very subtle differences between preparatory conditions, ongoing requirements, and promised blessings.
I find the patterns and distinctions we have discussed this morning to be an additional confirmation that Joseph Smith could not have written the Book of Mormon. He did not have the capability to express such concepts with his rudimentary education and the amount of time he had to work on the translation, which was perhaps 80 days. Opponents and critics of the Church have claimed, "He had the plates for much longer than 80 days." To which I have told them: "I do not care. He could have worked on such a book for 50 years. If you want to argue about the time period, fine. Give him 100 years. Give him 200 years. Give him a staff of 80 of the best editors and assistants on the earth. But it would not make any difference. He could not have used language that eloquent, that precise, and which highlighted such important spiritual distinctions. It just could not be done."
But more than the logical conclusion that comes from my study is the witness of the Spirit that testifies that these things are true. I conclude today where I began. Brothers and sisters, I know God lives. I witness that Jesus is the Christ. I know the Father and the Son appeared to the boy prophet, Joseph Smith, and that their visitation was the beginning of the restoration of the fullness of the gospel in these latter days. The Book of Mormon is the tangible evidence that those events really occurred. You cannot discount the book. It came from someplace. A person inquiring after truth must answer the question, "Where did this book come from?" It either had to come as a deception from an evil source or as a tangible testament of truth from a heavenly source. Let me quote again the statement of George Cannon, the father of George Q. Cannon: "No wicked man could write such a book as this, and no good man would write it unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so" (LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, Vol. 1, pg. 42).
I testify that the Book of Mormon is true; it came from God. It was written for our day, and its central theme is the invitation for all to come unto Christ. I pray that each of us may be more diligent in our efforts to come unto Christ. I appreciate your attentiveness, I appreciate your faith and prayers, and I express gratitude for the assistance of the Spirit this day in attempting to communicate this message. I declare this witness in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
This message was given at the Fourteenth Annual Symposium on the Scriptures sponsored by the Department of Religious Education.