Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Book of Mormon: What is uniquely ours?

(by Nate Sharp 4-24-17)

President Thomas S. Monson’s powerful witness of the Book of Mormon in April 2017 general conference and his invitation to each of us to “prayerfully study and ponder the Book of Mormon each day” have helped bring a renewed focus on and appreciation for the Book of Mormon into my life this month. President Monson’s message has also helped me recall some of the building blocks of my own testimony of the Book of Mormon.
In his remarkable October 1988 general conference address titled “Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon,” President Ezra Taft Benson taught:

I have a vision of the whole Church getting nearer to God by abiding by the precepts of the Book of Mormon…I do not know fully why God has preserved my life to this age, but I do know this: That for the present hour He has revealed to me the absolute need for us to move the Book of Mormon forward now in a marvelous manner. You must help with this burden and with this blessing which He has placed on the whole Church, even all the children of Zion.

President Benson also quoted Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s statement: “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.”

One of my most memorable experiences with the Book of Mormon came at about halfway through my full-time mission in South Korea. My companion and I were teaching a Korean woman, Sister Lee, who yearned for a testimony of Jesus Christ and had previously been unable to find answers to her most important questions. One afternoon, we were reading from the Book of Mormon with Sister Lee and asked her to read Alma 12:24 out loud:

And we see that death comes upon mankind… which is the temporal death; nevertheless there was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead. After she finished reading, Sister Lee raised her eyes and said, “All my life I have searched for the truth that I have now found in a single verse of the Book of Mormon.” Through that one short verse, Sister Lee finally felt she understood the purpose of this life and the Spirit of the Lord bore witness to her concerning the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Sister Lee later received baptism and joined the Church. This experience on my mission taught me that the power of the Book of Mormon’s witness of Jesus Christ comes not just by what the Book of Mormon says but also by how the Book of Mormon says it.

Several years after returning from Korea, I began making note of short scriptural phrases in the Book of Mormon that didn’t seem to occur anywhere else in the Standard Works. Soon I set out to identify some of the Book of Mormon’s unique contributions:
  1. First, I carefully read the Book of Mormon cover to cover, underlining all the short, meaningful, powerful phrases that stood out to me.
  2. I then typed each of those phrases into a computer spreadsheet, reviewed the list, and narrowed it down to the 685 phrases that I felt were most meaningful.
  3. Using computer software, I searched for matches (including slight variations or similar phrases) for each Book of Mormon phrase in the Standard Works (the King James Version of the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price), Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, and Words of Joseph Smith. My intent in searching Joseph Smith’s teachings was to see if he incorporated any of the unique Book of Mormon phrases into his personal manner of speaking or writing.
  4. From the search results, I compiled a chart that indicates where and how often the phrase or any close variation of the phrase occurs in these sources.
After I finished my searching, I was astonished at the remarkable, matchless contributions of the Book of Mormon, both in terms of the plain and precious doctrines it helped to restore and also in terms of shaping the language Latter-day Saints use to understand and articulate our religious beliefs and experiences. Some of the Book of Mormon phrases I identified are doctrinal; some are poetic; some are just unique ways of expressing ideas. All are contributions to the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and many have been adopted into the way members of the Church speak about the gospel in personal or casual conversation—often without their recognizing the unique origin of the phrase in the Book of Mormon. For example, when we speak of our desire to be “an instrument in the hands of God,” most of us fail to realize that this phrase was canonized first in the Book of Mormon.

Of the 685 short phrases I identified in the Book of Mormon, 463 of them (67.6 percent) occur only in the Book of Mormon and never in any form in the other Standard Works or in the writings and teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The following list includes some of my favorite phrases that were canonized first in the Book of Mormon:
  • a God of miracles
  • a mighty change
  • a perfect brightness of hope
  • a snare of the adversary
  • a tree springing up unto everlasting life
  • an eye of faith
  • appease the demands of justice
  • arraigned before the bar of Christ
  • baptized unto repentance
  • captivity of the devil
  • clothed with purity
  • due time of the Lord
  • dwindle in unbelief
  • easy to be entreated
  • exercise faith
  • faith unto repentance
  • fall into transgression
  • feast upon the words of Christ
  • full purpose of heart
  • fullness of the Gospel
  • infinite atonement
  • instrument(s) in the hand(s) of God
  • light and knowledge
  • opposition in all things
  • our first parents (Adam and Eve)
  • plan of happiness
  • plan of redemption
  • plan of salvation
  • probationary state
  • procrastinate the day of your repentance
  • ripe in iniquity
  • sincerity of heart
  • spiritual death
  • steadfast and immovable
  • swift to do iniquity
  • the chains of hell
  • the condescension of God
  • the cup of the wrath of God
  • the depths of humility
  • the depths of sorrow
  • the father of all lies
  • the father of contention
  • the fountain of all righteousness
  • the grasp of justice
  • the light of Christ
  • the spirit of revelation
  • the sword of justice
  • the tongue of angels
  • the tribunal of God
  • the wisdom of the world
  • unpardonable sin
  • unshaken faith
  • weary of good works
  • weighed down with sorrow
  • wickedness never was happiness
  • with real intent
  • wound their delicate minds
  • ye have tasted this light
  • yielding their hearts unto God
My lifelong study of the Book of Mormon has strengthened my testimony of its truthfulness and of the Lord’s hand in preserving this sacred scripture for our day. The fact that the Book of Mormon has canonized doctrines such as the plan of salvation and the infinite atonement is part of what makes it such a powerful testament of the Lord Jesus Christ. As prophesied in Ezekiel 37:15-17, the Book of Mormon and the Bible have come together as companion witnesses of the divine mission of Jesus Christ. I am thankful that the Book of Mormon has changed my heart and changed my life through its powerful witness of the Savior and through the amazing spirit it brings into my life each time I open its pages.


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