Joseph Smith once “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” (see the introduction to the Book of Mormon).
President Ezra Taft Benson explains why the Book of Mormon is that essential keystone: “A keystone is the central stone in an arch. It holds all the other stones in place, and if removed, the arch crumbles. . . .
“The Book of Mormon is the keystone of testimony. 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. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church. But in like manner, if the Book of Mormon be true—and millions have now testified that they have the witness of the Spirit that it is indeed true—then one must accept the claims of the Restoration and all that accompanies it.
“Yes, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion—the keystone of our testimony, the keystone of our doctrine, and the keystone in the witness of our Lord and Savior.”
In this lesson, we will seek answers to these questions:
- What are the three purposes of the Book of Mormon?
- What do we learn from the Book of Mormon about Jesus Christ?
- How can the Book of Mormon strengthen your testimony of Jesus Christ?
What are the three purposes of the Book of Mormon?
The purposes of the Book of Mormon are “ 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 also  to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations” (Book of Mormon Title Page).
- To show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers.
The world has to a great extent forgotten the Lord. We have cast the things of eternity aside in favor of the pursuits of the world, and the result is a great void of meaninglessness and hopelessness in the world at large. But the Book of Mormon speaks clearly, like the voice of the Spirit, bringing to remembrance the marvelous forgotten things of the Lord:
“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts” (Moroni 10:3).
“Wherefore, for this cause hath the Lord God promised unto me that these things which I write shall be kept and preserved, and handed down unto my seed, from generation to generation, that the promise may be fulfilled unto Joseph, that his seed should never perish as long as the earth should stand. Therefore, these things shall go from generation to generation as long as the earth shall stand; and they shall go according to the will and pleasure of God; and the nations who shall possess them shall be judged of them according to the words which are written” (2 Ne. 25:21-22).
- To know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever
The promises the Lord made to his servants in ancient times are given little consideration in the world today. They are deemed ancient history, dusty old myths without relevance to “modern” times. Many have lost hope that the promise of a world of peace and righteousness can ever be fulfilled. Some believe the Lord has forgotten his promises of old; but the opposite is true. He has not forgotten us, but we have forgotten him.
Now comes the Book of Mormon out of the dust to reawaken hope in the hearts of all people. “And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation. And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—that they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion” (D&C 84:54-58).
- To convince the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations
Mormon saw that our day would be a time of disbelief in Christ. He prophesied that the Book of Mormon would come forth “in a day when it shall be said that miracles are done away; and it shall come even as if one should speak from the dead . . . .Yea, it shall come in a day when the power of God shall be denied” (Mormon xxx)
Therefore, the highest purpose of the Book of Mormon is to provide hope and assurance to the world that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the anointed Savior of mankind. It is the instrument God as given to “convince” all the world of this truth. The Book of Mormon contains “the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles and to the Jews also; which was given by inspiration, and is confirmed to others by the ministering of angels, and is declared unto the world by them—proving to the world that the holy scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men and call them to his holy work in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old; thereby showing that he is the same God yesterday, today, and forever” (D&C 20:8-12).
An angel told Nephi that the Book of Mormon would “establish the truth” of the teachings of the Bible, which are now called into question everywhere. “These last records [the Book of Mormon], which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first [the Bible, or record of the Jews], which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, 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” (1 Ne. 13:40).
President Ezra Taft Benson points to the Book of Mormon as the great corrective to the diluted and often misunderstood Biblical witness of Christ.
“The Book of Mormon is the keystone in our witness of Jesus Christ, who is Himself the cornerstone of everything we do. It bears witness of His reality with power and clarity. Unlike the Bible, which passed through generations of copyists, translators, and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text, the Book of Mormon came from writer to reader in just one inspired step of translation. Therefore, its testimony of the Master is clear, undiluted, and full of power. But it does even more. Much of the Christian world today rejects the divinity of the Savior. They question His miraculous birth, His perfect life, and the reality of His glorious resurrection. The Book of Mormon teaches in plain and unmistakable terms about the truth of all of those. It also provides the most complete explanation of the Atonement. Truly, this divinely inspired book is a keystone in bearing witness to the world that Jesus is the Christ.”
What do we learn from the Book of Mormon about Jesus Christ?
Every page of the Book of Mormon testifies and teaches of Christ. Unquestionably, however, the key truths we learn about Jesus Christ are found in his own pronouncements about himself in 3 Nephi 11:10-11:
- “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.”
He appears in glory to the people after his resurrection and testifies plainly of himself. He truly is the Messiah foretold by all the prophets of ancient times.
- “I am the light and the life of the world.”
Only by Jesus Christ can truth be discerned, for he is light. Only by Jesus Christ do we live eternally, for he is the life of the world.
- “I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world.”
He is the One who took upon himself the weight of all our sins and the bitterness of all our pains and canceled their effects. He “glorified the father”; inasmuch as the glory of the Father is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39), Jesus is the one who guarantees immortality for all and eternal life to the repentant.
- “I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.”
Jesus is the great example of obedience. He shows the way for all of us; through close study and emulation of his life, we can become like him.
Among many others, these are key truths we learn about Jesus Christ from the Book of Mormon.
How can the Book of Mormon strengthen your testimony of Jesus Christ?
Most of all, the Book of Mormon is itself the mighty proof needed by a jaded, skeptical world that Jesus Christ is exactly who he claimed to be. The Book of Mormon provides a corroborating witness of Christ clearly directed to the world we live in. It also provides a formula for determining for oneself if Jesus is who he claimed to be.
The Book of Mormon provides a second witness of the Lord Jesus Christ:
Anyone who is trying to establish the truth of something welcomes a second witness, someone or something that provides corroboration. Just as the Bible provides one witness of Christ, the Book of Mormon provides a corroborating witness from another side of the world, as the book itself points out:.
“Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth? Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure” (2 Ne. 29:7-9)
The Book of Mormon message is obviously directed at us. It describes the world we live in with great accuracy:
Moroni saw our day in vision and described it in terms that are unmistakable to us. He pointed to the faithlessness of our time, the moral relativism, and the degradation of true religion. He saw the catastrophic wars, storms, earthquakes and fires of our day—things that are to us “the daily news.” He saw the tremendous covetousness and massive criminal operations that we simply shrug at because we are so accustomed to them. He saw “great pollutions upon the face of the earth,” and so do we. He also saw the immense gulf between the poor and the prosperous that characterizes our world.
“[The Book of Mormon] shall come in a day when it shall be said that miracles are done away; and it shall come even as if one should speak from the dead. And it shall come in a day when the blood of saints shall cry unto the Lord, because of secret combinations and the works of darkness. Yea, it shall come in a day when the power of God shall be denied, and churches become defiled and be lifted up in the pride of their hearts; yea, even in a day when leaders of churches and teachers shall rise in the pride of their hearts, even to the envying of them who belong to their churches. Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be heard of fires, and tempests, and vapors of smoke in foreign lands; and there shall also be heard of wars, rumors of wars, and earthquakes in divers places. Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be great pollutions upon the face of the earth; there shall be murders, and robbing, and lying, and deceivings, and whoredoms, and all manner of abominations; when there shall be many who will say, Do this, or do that, and it mattereth not. . . .
“Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing” (Mormon 8:26-31, 35).
Clearly, the truth of the Book of Mormon is in part established by its “picture-perfect” portrait of the times we live in. The glory of the Book of Mormon is that it provides the answer to the challenges of our times.
The Book of Mormon provides the formula for gaining a testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ:
Ultimately, only by the Spirit can one gain and strengthen a testimony of Jesus Christ. The formula is clear: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:3-5).
It is time again to study the Book of Mormon as a church, as families, and as individuals. Let us spend this year in close reading and appreciation of this great book. Let us come prepared to talk of its truths in our Sunday school classes. Let us follow this inspired counsel of President Marion G. Romney:
“I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness.”
 Benson, Ezra Taft, “The Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign, Jan. 1992, p. 2.
2 Benson, “The Keystone”, p. 2.
3 Romney, Marion G. “The Book of Mormon,” Ensign, May 1980, p. 67