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As we begin a new year, it is appropriate and exciting that the Book of Mormon is the text for the gospel doctrine course of study. The Prophet Joseph said: “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.”(1) The invitation is clear that we should strive to draw closer to the Lord in this coming year, and the best way to do that is by keeping the commandments and reading daily from the Book of Mormon.
President Benson explained: “Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.”(2) He also taught: “There are three ways in which the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. It is the keystone in our witness of Christ. It is the keystone of our doctrine. It is the keystone of testimony.”(3)
During the course of this coming year, each of us should strive to immerse ourselves in the Book of Mormon. Drink deep from the wells of living water which flow from it. If you have not yet received your own personal witness and testimony of the Book of Mormon, “by the power of the Holy Ghost,” (see Moroni 10: 3-5), then this is the time to seek after that witness, to add your own personal testimony to that of millions of others who also know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and can lift, bless and strengthen our lives.
Testimonies of the Book of Mormon and the Scriptures
Parley P. Pratt recorded his experience as he first encountered the Book of Mormon: “I felt a strange interest in the book…Next morning…for the first time, my eyes beheld the “BOOK OF MORMON”–that book of books–that record which reveals the antiquities of the “New World” back to the remotest ages, and which unfolds the destiny of its people and the world for all time to come;–that Book which contains the fulness of the gospel of a crucified and risen Redeemer;–that Book which reveals a lost remnant of Joseph, and which was the principal means, in the hands of God, of directing the entire course of my future life.
“I opened it with eagerness, and read its title page. I then read the testimony of several witnesses in relation to the manner of its being found and translated.(4) After this I commenced its contents by course. I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.
“As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists. My joy was now full, as it were, and I rejoiced sufficiently to more than pay me for all the sorrows, sacrifices and toils of my life…I had not yet completed its perusal, and…I commenced again to read the book. To my great joy I found that Jesus Christ, in his glorified resurrected body, had appeared to the remnant of Joseph on the continent of America, soon after his resurrection and ascension into heaven; and that he also administered, in person, to the ten lost tribes; and that through his personal ministry in these countries his gospel was revealed and written in countries and among nations entirely unknown to the Jewish apostles.
“Thus revealed, written, handed down and preserved, till revealed in this age by the angels of God, it had, of course, escaped the corruptions of the great and abominable church; and been preserved in purity.
“This discovery greatly enlarged my heart, and filled my soul with joy and gladness. I esteemed the Book, or the information contained in it, more than all the riches of the world.”(5)
If you have had a time when you have felt those swelling feelings towards and from the Book of Mormon, can you feel so now? (See Alma 5: 26) The reading, studying, pondering, and praying about the Book of Mormon probably does more to invite the Spirit of the Lord into one’s life than any other activity or effort. And to have the Spirit in our lives is everything. President Ezra Taft Benson said: “One sure way we can determine whether we are on the strait and narrow path is that we will possess the Spirit of the Lord in our lives…The most important thing in our lives is the Spirit. I have always felt that. We must remain open and sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost in all aspects of our lives.”(6)
President Spencer W. Kimball showed us a pattern in his life that we would do well to follow: “I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel.”(7)
The Prophet Joseph came to Brigham Young in vision several years after he was killed in Carthage and gave him this message: “Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small, still voice; it will teach you what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it.”(8)
During the course of the coming year let us do everything in our power to have the Spirit in our lives, to listen to the promptings thereof, to daily read and ponder the scriptures. If you have not begun to read the scriptures each and every day, and have not committed to do the same all the days of your life, today is the very best day to begin.
4. Parley would later become acquainted with and friends with the three witnesses, namely, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris; and the eight witnesses, namely, Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer Jr., John Whitmer, Hiram Page, Joseph Smith, Sr., Hyrum Smith, and Samuel H. Smith.