RS/MP Chapter 9: Witnesses of the Book of Mormon (Joseph Fielding Smith Manual)
Posted by Robert C. on May 9, 2014
The lesson can be found online here.
From the Life
I especially like the second paragraph in this section:
Although President Smith felt these written testimonies were significant enough to share, he spoke more frequently of another testimony of the Book of Mormon: his own, which he received long before he ever worked in the Church Historian’s Office. He said, “I started to read the Book of Mormon before I was old enough to be a deacon, and I have been reading it ever since, and I know that it is true.” “I have read it many, many times,” he told the Latter-day Saints. “I have not read it enough. It still contains truths that I still may seek and find, for I have not mastered it, but I know it is true.”
My own testimony of the Church is deeply rooted in my testimony of the Book of Mormon. I developed a love for the book when I was in my teens, and my testimony of the Book of Mormon has pulled me through several periods of doubt.
It’s hard for me to describe how or why I had such a deep love for the Book of Mormon. When I read it, I would frequently feel a burning sense of truth—that what I was reading about was more important than anything else. Reading the Book of Mormon also instilled in me a deep desire to act in accordance with the principles it taught. In fact, I’m not sure these are separate facets of what I experienced: I would read and feel deeply within myself a desire to act in accordance with the principles of righteousness that the Book of Mormon was clearly teaching (even if I didn’t have a clear understanding of these principles).
Question: What experiences have you had reading the Book of Mormon?
1. The Book of Mormon bears witness of Christ
From the first paragraph in this section:
The Book of Mormon is the sacred history of the ancient inhabitants of the American continent, and contains the predictions of their prophets, the commandments of the Lord to them, and the history and destiny of those ancient peoples. It is the American volume of scripture, and is just as sacred and inspired as is the Bible, which contains the sacred records of the Hebrew race on the eastern hemisphere.
Question: What is a “sacred history”? How does this differ from secular history?
To me, the word “sacred” connotes what is of most valuable. Over the years, I have come to worry less and less about the historical aspects of scripture—and, frankly, I am not super interested in Church history. Instead, I have become more and more interested in what I will call the “moral” principles taught in the Book of Mormon. Importantly, I don’t think these principles can be reduced to any simple set of easy-to-articulate principles, and so I find the rich (“historical”) narratives in the Book of Mormon endlessly fascinating to study. However, I find myself most interested in the sacred truths (which, again, I tend to conceive in terms of moral principles) that the Book of Mormon contains, without mustering much enthusiasm for simply learning about the history of the people in the Book of Mormon, for history’s sake.
2. Special witnesses to the Book of Mormon
Nothing in this section jumped out at me in particular, partly because it seems to “historically” based—and so, per what I said above, it’s not especially that interesting to me. Nevertheless, I do find the idea of witnesses quite interesting, especially in terms of how it impinges on the way that we can serve as witnesses to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, even though none of us have seen or handled the plates. (This is a topic developed more in Section 4.)
3. The Three Witnesses
What I find most interesting in this section is the disconnect between the sign that the witnesses received and their subsequent unfaithfulness.
Question: Why didn’t the miraculous privilege experienced by the Three Witnesses lead to a life of faithfulness in the Gospel? What signs has God blessed you with, and how have you acted in response to those signs? What prevents us from being more faithful to the signs God gives us?
4. Each member as a witness
Question: For those of you who have a testimony of the Book of Mormon, how does this knowledge differ from other kinds of knowledge you have obtained in your life? How does this “sacred knowledge” differ in the way it affects your desires and choices in life?
My own thinking here, in response to this section, and the question I’ve posed above, is that “merely” intellectual/secular knowledge tends not to have the same motivational force as spiritual/sacred knowledge. My testimony of the Book of Mormon functions more like the love I have for my wife: it motivates me to live better and make better decisions in my life, which is something that I can’t really say about knowledge that is merely intellectual or secular.
5. Continuing to read the Book of Mormon
The final few sentences of this section (and the lesson itself) are great:
This record endears itself to me more and more day by day as I see unfolded the fulfillment of prophecies uttered by these prophets who now speak from the dead, and from the dust to the nations of the earth, crying unto them repentance, and calling upon them to believe in Christ.
We’re currently struggling to help our son (who is 8.5 years old) love reading more, in general. It’s a struggle, in part because I think the competition for his time and attention has intensified (he’s basically addicted to Minecraft…). I think we all face this challenge: with the increasing quality of distracting entertainment (I don’t mean high-quality entertainment, but entertainment that is more effective at distracting us!), it is harder and harder find the time to cultivate a genuine love for the Book of Mormon. And even for those of us who do love the Book of Mormon, it’s increasingly difficult to make the time to really feast on the Book of Mormon. But it is one of the most rewarding activities we can engage in. So, enough excuses, let’s all commit ourselves to do more feasting: bon appetit!