Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sunday Talk

Being the easy-going, trying to be stress-free person that I am, I have decided the world is in a conspiracy to stress-out my life , but only a few weeks a year. So this week is our anniversary, I have to speak in sacrament meeting, give the gospel doctrine lesson, teach nursery (that one's not that big of a deal, just including for completeness), get three kids ready for school, get M.'s shots for preschool, and go to the Ward family reunion for three days, which starts the first day of school. In an attempt to do all this in a way that I can look back on and not grimace, I here present the rough draft of my talk, which is on the Book of Mormon, Keystone to our religion. It is the best way I can think of to go through it in my mind without getting distracted by everything else in my mind.
Then, if I am really on the ball I will even post my Sunday school lesson on Mon.

Most of my talk is taken from the famous talk Pres. Benson gave about the BoM (going to abbreviate for all you readers, I won't do that at the podium, I hope.) So I open as he opened his talk,

My beloved brethren and sisters, today I would like to speak about one of the most significant gifts given to the world in modern times. The gift I am thinking of is more important than any of the inventions that have come out of the industrial and technological revolutions. This is a gift of greater value to mankind than even the many wonderful advances we have seen in modern medicine. It is of greater worth to mankind than the development of flight or space travel. I speak of the gift of the Book of Mormon, given to mankind 156 years ago.
This gift was prepared by the hand of the Lord over a period of more than a thousand years, then hidden up by Him so that it would be preserved in its purity for our generation. Perhaps there is nothing that testifies more clearly of the importance of this modern book of scripture than what the Lord Himself has said about it.
By His own mouth He has borne witness (1) that it is true (D&C 17:6), (2) that it contains the truth and His words (D&C 19:26), (3) that it was translated by power from on high (D&C 20:8), (4) that it contains the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ (D&C 20:9, D&C 42:12), (5) that it was given by inspiration and confirmed by the ministering of angels (D&C 20:10), (6) that it gives evidence that the holy scriptures are true (D&C 20:11), and (7) that those who receive it in faith shall receive eternal life (D&C 20:14).
A second powerful testimony to the importance of the Book of Mormon is to note where the Lord placed its coming forth in the timetable of the unfolding Restoration. The only thing that preceded it was the First Vision. In that marvelous manifestation, the Prophet Joseph Smith learned the true nature of God and that God had a work for him to do. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon was the next thing to follow.
Think of that in terms of what it implies. The coming forth of the Book of Mormon preceded the restoration of the priesthood. It was published just a few days before the Church was organized. The Saints were given the Book of Mormon to read before they were given the revelations outlining such great doctrines as the three degrees of glory, celestial marriage, or work for the dead. It came before priesthood quorums and Church organization. Doesn’t this tell us something about how the Lord views this sacred work?

He then talks for a bit about the church being under condemnation, which is something I don't feel qualified to talk about, so we will skip a bit to where he talks about the keystone.

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 doctrine of the Atonement. Truly, this divinely inspired book is a keystone in bearing witness to the world that Jesus is the Christ (see title page of the Book of Mormon).
The Book of Mormon is also the keystone of the doctrine of the Resurrection. As mentioned before, the Lord Himself has stated that the Book of Mormon contains the “fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (D&C 20:9). That does not mean it contains every teaching, every doctrine ever revealed. Rather, it means that in the Book of Mormon we will find the fulness of those doctrines required for our salvation. And they are taught plainly and simply so that even children can learn the ways of salvation and exaltation. The Book of Mormon offers so much that broadens our understandings of the doctrines of salvation. Without it, much of what is taught in other scriptures would not be nearly so plain and precious.
Finally, 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.
When I think about having a testimony of the BoM the following scripture from Ephesians always pops into my mind, Eph. 4:14 :14 "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;"
I know that this verse is talking about why we have the organization of the church, but I think that it can so easily apply to our testimony of the BoM. One of the purposes of the BoM is to bring people unto Christ, the firm foundation to our lives. Elder Faust said, in the Oct 1983 conference,
A confirming testimony of the Book of Mormon convinces that “Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God” (Title Page, Book of Mormon) and also spiritually verifies (a) the divine calling of Joseph Smith and (b) that he did see the Father and the Son. With that firmly in place, it logically follows that one can receive a verification that the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price are true companion scriptures to the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
All of this confirms the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the divine mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, led by a living prophet enjoying continuous revelation. From these basic verities can flow an understanding of other saving principles of the fulness of the gospel.
Everything else comes from a testimony of the BoM. Especially because we have been given a promise in the BoM, unlike any other book, or even scripture. AS Pres. Benson said in a 1984 talk,
We must first read it and gain a testimony for ourselves. Men may deceive each other, but God does not deceive men. Therefore, the Book of Mormon sets forth the best test for determining its truthfulness—namely, read it and then ask God if it is true.
Moroni, in the book’s final chapter, issued that divine challenge to every reader in these words:
“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.” (Moro. 10:4).
This, then, is the supreme assurance for the honest in heart—to know by personal revelation from God that the Book of Mormon is true. Millions have put it to that test and know, and increasing millions will yet know.
Our world is full of winds of doctrine. If we took Oprah or the evening news or some other source to determine where we should stand we would constantly be moving, trying to keep up with each new thing that replaces what the best new thing was yesterday. When we have a testimony of the BoM, we can know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, we can know the truth of the doctrine, the calling of Pres. Monson. There are a lot of things I don't have answers for. Honestly, most don't bother me, but even the ones that do, I can stand firm in the knowledge that I know the gospel of Jesus Christ and I love and trust my Heavenly Father. I will get my answers some day and now I can find peace in the message of our Saviour found in the Book of Mormon.
If it is the keystone of our religion, it should also be the keystone of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Nowhere else is his doctrine given so clearly and completely. As the prophet said, we can come closer to God through its pages than any other book. Personally I feel that we stand or fall based on our testimony of the BoM. If we do not have a strong testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel, eventually there will come some "wind of doctrine" so strong it will blow us away from the church if we are not firmly clinging to the iron rod, the word of God.
We have been advised to read it every day, so that we may feel of its spirit and bring ourselves closer to God. I have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I know that it is true. I feel the difference in my life when I am reading it every day. I feel its power in the lives of my family because we have family scripture study every night. I know that we can increase our testimony of the reality of Jesus Christ and his atonement by making it an important part of our lives.

1 comment:

jendoop said...

Good stuff! I hope it went well and that you had a good anniversary (stress not withstanding).