“Remember the New Covenant, Even the Book of Mormon”
Lesson 4 – Joseph Smith—History 1:27-65; D&C 3; 5; 10; 17; 20:5-15; 84:54-62;
Our Heritage, pgs. 5-10
In the three years after the First Vision, Joseph Smith suffered “severe persecution” but remained steadfast in his testimony of that momentous event. His courage and integrity are an example for us as we face persecution or ridicule.
The angel Moroni visited Joseph when the Prophet was only 17 in response to prayer. When we recognize our weaknesses, we too can seek forgiveness and direction to get ourselves back on track.
When Joseph was first shown the plates, he was unprepared to receive them, much less proceed to translate the strange writing. In Joseph Smith—History 1:33-35, 42, 44-46, and 53-54, we see how the Lord prepared Joseph for his task.
Satan tried to thwart the coming forth of the Book of Mormon in numerous ways. He prompted evil men to attempt to steal the plates and persecute the Prophet and his family. Satan’s efforts were frustrated and the precious scriptures came forth despite all his plans and cunning.
In one notable and familiar example of Satan’s efforts to prevent the successful introduction of the Book of Mormon, Martin Harris lost 116 pages of translated manuscript.
The Three Witnesses: Oliver Cowdrey, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris.
D&C 5:11-15, 24-25; 17:3, 5 tell what the witnesses were commanded to do.
Ether 5:4; D&C 5:16-18; and 17:4 explain why their testimony was important.
The Eight Witnesses saw the gold plates for themselves and so testified. While all of the Three Witnesses and three of the Eight Witnesses left the Church, none ever denied his testimony of what he saw. In the last year of his life, David Whitmer published a strong denial that he never recanted his testimony nor did the other two witnesses, Harris and Cowdrey. All three died reaffirming their testimony. See A Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:145.
The Three Witnesses and the Eight Witnesses testified of things which they saw and heard. Today, millions of faithful LDS members testify of the truth of the Book of Mormon because of the spiritual witness that they have received from the Holy Ghost. Elder Gordon B. Hinckley said, “The strength of the Church is not in…its thousands of houses of worship across the world, nor in its universities…the strength of this church lies in the hearts of its people, in the individual testimony and conviction of the truth of this work” (Ensign, July 1973, 49).
Early Saints were condemned by the Lord for taking the Book of Mormon lightly. (D&C 84:55) President Ezra Taft Benson said:
“If the early Saints were rebuked for treating the Book of Mormon lightly, are we under any less condemnation if we do the same?” (Ensign, Nov. 1986, 4-5)
“The Lord is not pleased with us in the manner of attention we’re giving the Book of Mormon, a new witness for Christ. We need it in our homes, we need it in our families. It was written for us today” (Church News, 9 Nov. 1986, 10)
“There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. The scriptures are called ‘the words of life’ (D&C 84:85), and nowhere is that more true than it is of the Book of Mormon. When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance…[You will also enjoy] increased love and harmony in the home, greater respect between parent and child, [and] increased spirituality and righteousness. These promises are not idle promises, but exactly what the Prophet Joseph Smith meant when he said the Book of Mormon will help us draw nearer to God” (Ensign, Nov 1986, 7)
President Benson went on to point out that we need to flood the earth with the Book of Mormon. We are encouraged to make the Book of Mormon a greater emphasis in our lives.
Biblical prophecies that Moroni quoted to Joseph Smith included Malachi 3, Malachi 4, Isaiah 11, Acts 3:22-23, and Joel 2:28-32.
The Doctrine and Covenants is an external witness of the Book of Mormon. President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “Excluding the witnesses to the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants is by far the greatest external witness and evidence which we have from the Lord that the Book of Mormon is true” (Ensign, May 1987, 83). President Benson referred to 13 different sections of the D&C that testify of the Book of Mormon: D&C 1, 3, 5, 8, 10-11, 17-18, 20, 27, 42, 84, and 135.
Drawing nearer to God through the Book of Mormon: The Prophet Joseph Smith 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” (History of the Church, 4:461). Pres. Benson cited this quotation and then asked, “Is there not something deep in our hearts that longs to draw nearer to God, to be more like Him in our daily walk, to feel His presence with us constantly? If so, then the Book of Mormon will help us do so more than any other book” (Ensign, Nov. 1986, 7)
Translated by the gift and power of God: Joseph Smith completed the translation of the Book of Mormon in about 65 working days. Elder Neal A. Maxwell commented on the speed of the process and the remarkable fact that Joseph would rarely go back, review, or revise, so there was a “steady flow” in the translation process. Miracles still occur today in the process of translating the Book of Mormon into a multitude of languages for worldwide distribution.
These lessons are posted on the Internet at http://www.neumanninstitute.org