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Editor’s Note: Our friend and longtime Meridian writer Larry Barkdull passed away. To remember and honor him this is one of a series of his past articles that we are republishing regularly.
Cover image via LDS.org.
Recently, a friend called to ask for my counsel. Once again he had caved in to an addiction that had plagued him for years, and now he felt ashamed, miserable and defeated. I reminded him that I was not his bishop, but in preparation for our talk, I called my bishop to seek advice. What could I say to someone who was so obviously good and trying so hard and yet was being crushed by this vicious enemy?
My bishop helped me understand how bishops think. “Stopping is not repentance,” he said; “changing is.” Stopping is an act of will-power, which seldom holds up to the unrelenting onslaught of Satan; changing is a function of the Atonement, a divinely infused power allowing one to become a new creature in Christ.
Let’s say, for example, that I had a problem with gossiping. To repent, I would certainly exert my will-power to stop saying cruel things about people, but more importantly, I would seek Jesus’ help so that I could see people with new eyes: to see them as does God, and verbally point out those good attributes. Repentance-change-can only happen when we come to Christ and beg his grace so that we might obtain power to change-to think and do the opposite.
While bishops certainly want a person to stop sinning, their primary concern is to help a person repent-to change, to experience conversion, to have the sin excised from the soul so completely that a transformation takes place, so much so that the person has no more disposition to sin. It is no longer part of him or holds him captive. He becomes the exact opposite of what he was.
This “mighty change of heart” is impossible to achieve on our own. Neither bishops nor parents nor friends nor the prophet of God can cause it to happen. Only Jesus can cause a mighty change. Thus bishops and prophets labor endlessly to create the environment for change, begging us to come unto Christ.
The Book of Mormon Brings Us to Christ
So how do we come unto Christ?
The scriptures are filled with examples.
Once, when Jesus taught in Capernaum, four men carried their sick friend to Jesus for healing. But when they arrived at the house where Jesus was teaching, they could not enter because of the crowd. Not to be denied, they lifted their friend upon the roof, broke away the covering, and lowered the man in his bed to the Savior. They did all in their power to get their friend to Christ, who healed him.[i]
On another occasion, Jairus waited for Jesus all night to beseech him to come and heal his little daughter, who was dying. As Jesus was accompanying Jairus to the girl’s bedside, a woman who had suffered with an issue of blood for twelve years “came in the press behind, and touched his garment” and was healed.[ii]
Suddenly filled with hope, Jairus turned for home only to be met with the news that his daughter had died. Jesus, perceiving the father’s collapse of faith, urged him, “Be not afraid, only believe.” Even now, even when all seems lost, I can heal her. Be not afraid, only believe. They proceeded to the child’s bed, and Jesus healed her.[iii] Jairus and the woman with an issue of blood persisted in faith and got themselves to Christ, the only One who has the power to heal.
The Book of Mormon prophet, Jacob, summed up his ministry this way: “Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness.”[iv]
Likewise, my job was to labor diligently to persuade my friend to come unto Christ and partake of the Savior’s goodness, healing, peace and rest – all things that I could not provide. Like the men who lowered their sick friend to Jesus, like the ailing woman with an issue of blood, like Jairus who had no one else to turn to, I was not the healer. And neither are Church leaders, parents or friends. No matter our good intentions, we must resist the urge to try to be healers; rather, we should labor diligently to urge the suffering soul to come unto to the one and only Healer.
The Book of Mormon Helps Us Look to Christ
Jacob’s reference to “provocations” is an interesting study.[v] I spoke to my despairing friend about one time when the children of Israel provoked the Lord to anger. The occasion was when the people complained to Moses about the lack of bread and other inconveniences. The Lord responded by really giving them something to be concerned about: fiery serpents.
The plague of poisonous snakes must have been terrifying, for the entire population of Israelites-several million-were all bitten and were slowly dying. The Israelites, like my spiritually dying friend, needed an urgent solution. Moses prayed to the Lord and received an astonishing answer: “Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.”[vi]
The brass serpent represented Jesus Christ, who would similarly be raised up and heal the nations.[vii] The symbolism might escape us until we remember that the Israelites had in their recent memory Pharaoh’s priests who had attempted to demonstrate by sorcery their power by casting down their rods that became serpents.
However, in a demonstration of priesthood power, Aaron’s rod became a mighty serpent that swallowed them up.[viii] That incident might now have provided a vivid reminder of God’s power in moments of crisis.
Alma referred to the brass serpent incident to teach other people, who were in need of healing, just how easy it is to likewise look to the Savior and receive help.
Behold, [Jesus] was spoken of by Moses; yea, and behold a type was raised up in the wilderness, that whosoever would look upon it might live. And many did look and live.
But few understood the meaning of those things, and this because of the hardness of their hearts. But there were many who were so hardened that they would not look, therefore they perished. Now the reason they would not look is because they did not believe that it would heal them.
They would not look! The solution was too easy, too juvenile, too ridiculous — so they refused to even glance in the direction of the symbol of Christ and perished. Alma pled with his people not to be so foolish: Look to Christ and live!
O my brethren, if ye could be healed by merely casting about your eyes that ye might be healed, would ye not behold quickly, or would ye rather harden your hearts in unbelief, and be slothful, that ye would not cast about your eyes, that ye might perish?[ix]
The Book of Mormon is the “Easy” Way to Look to Christ
Again, we ask the question: How do we look to Christ and live? Alma had the answer. Referencing the plague of serpents, he instructed his son Helaman to teach the people that the scriptures would immediately bring them to Christ. To look upon the scriptures is as powerful as to look upon the brass serpent! In this “easy” way, said Alma, we look to Christ; through the scriptures we come unto Christ for healing.
For behold, it is as easy to give heed to the word of Christ [the scriptures], which will point to you a straight course to eternal bliss….the words of Christ [the scriptures], if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise.
O my son, do not let us be slothful because of the easiness of the way; for so was it with our fathers; for so was it prepared for them, that if they would look they might live; even so it is with us. The way is prepared, and if we will look we may live forever.
The sacred scriptures that Helaman was charged to safeguard became the Book of Mormon. The Prophet Joseph Smith said this book was the keystone of our faith and that a man would get closer to God by reading it than any other book.[xi]
The Book of Mormon Heals
Of its healing power, Elder Richard G. Scott said, “The Book of Mormon holds answers for the problems we face every day…. If you have not drunk deeply from this fountain of pure truth, with all my soul I encourage you to do so now….I bear witness that it can become a personal Urim and Thummim’ in your life.”[xii]
President Ezra Taft Benson said, “God uses the power of the word of the Book of Mormon as an instrument to change people’s lives….in particular, the instrument He designed to bring us to Christ [is] the Book of Mormon.[xiii]“
In a speech to Church leaders called, “The Power of the Word,” one of the most powerful speeches on the healing power of the Book of Mormon, President Benson said,
Do you have members in your stakes whose lives are shattered by sin or tragedy, who are in despair and without hope? Have you longed for some way to reach out and heal their wounds, soothe their troubled souls? The prophet Jacob offers just that with this remarkable promise: “They have come up hither to hear the pleasing word of God, yea, the word which healeth the wounded soul.” (Jacob 2:8; italics added.)…
Success in righteousness, the power to avoid deception and resist temptation, guidance in our daily lives, healing of the soul–these are but a few of the promises the Lord has given to those who will come to His word. Does the Lord promise and not fulfill? Surely if He tells us that these things will come to us if we lay hold upon His word, then the blessings can be ours. And if we do not, then the blessings may be lost. However diligent we may be in other areas, certain blessings are to be found only in the scriptures, only in coming to the word of the Lord and holding fast to it as we make our way through the mists of darkness to the tree of life. And if we ignore what the Lord has given us, we may lose the very power and blessings which we seek.[xiv]
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “Few men on earth, either in or out of the Church, have caught the vision of what the Book of Mormon is all about.
Few are they among men who know the part it has played and will yet play in preparing the way for the coming of Him of whom it is a new witness. … The Book of Mormon shall so affect men that the whole earth and all its peoples will have been influenced and governed by it. … There is no greater issue ever to confront mankind in modern times than this: Is the Book of Mormon the mind and will and voice of God to all men?”[xv]
Countless other statements by prophets concerning the immense healing and revelatory power of the Book of Mormon could be cited. Which again leads to this singular conclusion: The Book of Mormon is to us what the brazen serpent was to the Israelites. If we look to the Book of Mormon, which will bring us closer to Christ more than any other book, we effectively come unto Christ, who can heal us…of anything!
With little doubt, America and its Constitution were established to protect the Book of Mormon, and the Book of Mormon was published to protect the Church and the testimony of Jesus Christ. To be converted by the Book of Mormon is one thing, but to be converted to the Book of Mormon is quite another. We cannot overstate the importance of the Book of Mormon and its revelatory and healing power.
My Testimony of the Book of Mormon
I bore my testimony of the Book of Mormon to my friend: “From a life-time love affair with the Book of Mormon and having read many of the prophets’ promises concerning this book, I personally testify that daily drinking from this fountain of pure truth’ will yield at least the following blessings:
- You will be healed of your afflictions, even those you feel are impossible.
- You will receive Moroni’s promise of the book’s truthfulness (Moroni 10:4-5).
- Your testimony will increase exponentially during the coming year.
- You will receive at least one significant spiritual insight each week, and most likely, you will receive daily significant insights.
- You will acquire greater power in prayer.
- You (men) will acquire greater power in the priesthood.
- You will receive greater safety, security, and blessings for you and your loved ones.
- You will enjoy a continuous flow of miracles.”
The Book of Mormon is the Voice of Jesus Christ
Elder McConkie wrote:
[The Savior’s] voice comes to us in many ways. He may speak audibly to attuned ears. His voice may come by the power of the Spirit. It may also be given by the mouths of his servants as they recite the words revealed to them. All of the Saints are entitled to hear his voice in each of these ways.
But there is another way to hear the voice of the Lord, and, almost universally, it should be our first approach in seeking revelation. It is available to us all, but sadly is overlooked or ignored by many of us.
After revealing certain truths through Joseph Smith to his modern Apostles, the Lord, continuing to speak to Joseph Smith, said: “And I, Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, have spoken it. These words are not of men nor of man, but of me; wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man; 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.” (D&C 18:33-36.)
If the Spirit bears record to us of the truth of the scriptures, then we are receiving doctrines in them as though they had come to us directly. Thus, we can testify that we have heard his voice and know his words.
Let us now highly resolve that we will search the scriptures and make them a part of all that we do.
Every latter-day prophet has proclaimed that the Book of Mormon is the great healer, the single most important revelatory device of the last days, the unsurpassed witness of the divinity and mission of Jesus Christ, and the book that will bring us closer to the Savior than any other book. May we come unto Christ by feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon and allow the book and the Savior to heal us of seemingly impossible afflictions.
Would you look and live if healing were that easy?