Today is a melancholy day for me. Today is the last day my dear friend, Taylor, and I will be studying the Book of Mormon together. It has been two years on this journey together of meeting every single week, reading & journaling side-by-side as well as doing "homework" on our own. I have enjoyed, relished, and found purpose in these past twenty-four months of gaining insight from conversation and theological pondering. For Taylor, it is an accomplishment, a conquered goal, and requirements met, as now she will qualify to be a graduate in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Seminary Program. How I admire her desire and drive to earn this acknowledgement, and believe me she has earned it! Like many busy high school seniors she has made sacrifices in order to keep this a priority in her life. The process was not fast, but for that I am so grateful. Not only did it give me more time to have a frequent connection to one of my beloved young women (from my days serving in the Young Women program of the church), but it allowed me the opportunity to study the scriptures slowly, methodically, and purposefully. And so you see, I admit to my selfishness. As pleased as I'd like to be for sweet Taylor, my heart simply feels heavy that we have reached the end of this magnificent book and study period as a team. A tender mercy, a merciful blessing - that is how I would describe the entire experience.
I have read the Book of Mormon before. I have taken the advice of the prophet Moroni - the last man to write or hold the record of the Book of Mormon (named after his father) before burying it for safety until the time of translation and publication could come some 1,400 years later. With all the counsel he could have given, Moroni's last written breath was a plea to come unto Christ and an invitation to "ask God...if these things are not true" (Moroni 10:4). I have experienced the confirmation that I know came from the Holy Ghost, which told me this book did not come forth by the power of man, but by the power and through the authority of God, and that the Book of Mormon needed to be part of my life and would bring me much happiness.
So as I read the final chapters one more time, I recognize that I may not need again the confirmation I received the first time I had read. I already know that it's true - I do not doubt and do not need reaffirmation of that fact. However, the promise we are given is that "by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of ALL things" (Moroni 10:5). I have faith that as I take the time to pray with gratitude and questions, the Lord will give me answers and additional truths will be added to my spiritual knowledge and core beliefs.
Our God is a god of miracles. Our God is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and will continue on for every day to come (Hebrews 13:8). Knowing that, I feel it begs the question: if one truly believes that God is constant, if one truly believes that God would not abandon us, then why would one choose to disbelieve modern revelation and not openly investigate any work that could possibly be claimed as scripture from God? Just as Abraham and Moses knew God and received Him, I am fully convinced that righteous people in Ancient Americas also knew Christ and accepted Him into their lives. Becoming familiar with their trials, triumphs, and testimonies by reading the Book of Mormon has helped me obtain a deeper understanding of the Savior’s love for all of us, but particularly for me specifically.
I will never have words adequate enough to express the gratitude I feel for the sacrifices of so many, that I might have the scriptures in my possession. The many prophet historians over thousands of years who painstakingly kept record, the devoted followers of Christ who knew the value of these words and ardently and tirelessly protected them from those who would destroy them, the courageous and divinely-inspired religious reformers who for hundreds of years knowingly or unknowingly followed the promptings of the spirit as part of the Lord’s plan to provide for His children instruction, doctrine, and counsel that was complete and without error. For the word of God to be so readily available in our lives is an unspeakably marvelous gift.
“What did people in 16th-Century England, who paid enormous sums and ran grave personal risks for access to a Bible , what did they understand that we should also understand? The scriptures are the standard for distinguishing truth and errors. The scriptures enlarge our memory by helping us always to remember the Lord and our relationship to Him and the Father.
…Consider the magnitude of our blessing: to have the Holy Bible, and some 900 additional pages of scripture, including the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price. Surely with this blessing the Lord is telling us that our need for constant recourse to the scriptures is greater than in any previous time.” D. Todd Christofferson
“We invite all men [and women] everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in fiath will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Book of Mormon introduction page)
As a member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost can and will confirm to us, through prayer and sincere intent, the validity of the Book of Mormon. I do not hesitate to encourage any person to read it and put it to the test. I know – I KNOW – that if one, after reading it entirely, approaches the Lord in humble prayer and with a genuine desire to know truth (not just a desire to disprove), that they will gain that knowledge for themselves and will know without a doubt of what they've inquired. That is God’s promise, and we can trust that His promises are sure.
I echo a statement I recently read from the personal blog of one who was sharing their daily experience reading the Book of Mormon. He stated: “I know that The Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know this because every chapter leads me to Christ. As I read the story of Lehi's family following the liahona by faith, I received a witness that the liahona was a type of Christ, and that if we will follow Christ in faith, we will be led to our promised home. As I read the story of Abinadi testifying of the truth to a wicked and hard-hearted people, I received a witness that Christ was 'despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." (Isaiah 53:3) Surely, the message of this blessed book is found in Moroni 10:32; "Come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him."
As I read that it struck me that this gentleman is right – EVERY part of the Book of Mormon, every story, every experience recorded by that ancient people, is meant to draw our hearts closer to Christ and to stir within us a desire to become like Him, and live so that we may not deny ourselves any privilege or happiness that is reserved for us!
I offer my own witness that my life is better for including in it this sacred book. I feel deeply, with all my heart and soul, with all my intuition or “gut feeling”, that this book WAS indeed authored by Christian prophets, that although they lived on the earth anciently, were aware of the guidance and testimony we would need today to fully partake of the blessings our Heavenly Father desires for us.