The Book of Mormon is true, just what it purports to be, and for this testimony I expect to give an account in the day of judgment. (“Recollections of the Prophet Joseph Smith,” Juvenile Instructor, Mar. 15, 1892, 173.)
Permit me to tell you how Parley Pratt came to know of the book about which he wrote these words. In August of 1830, as a lay preacher, he was traveling from Ohio to eastern New York. At Newark, along the Erie Canal, he left the boat and walked ten miles into the country where he met a Baptist deacon by the name of Hamlin, who told him “of a book, a STRANGE BOOK, a VERY STRANGE BOOK! … This book, he said, purported to have been originally written on plates either of gold or brass, by a branch of the tribes of Israel; and to have been discovered and translated by a young man near Palmyra, in the State of New York, by the aid of visions, or the ministry of angels. I inquired of him how or where the book was to be obtained. He promised me the perusal of it, at his house the next day. … Next morning I called at his house, where, for the first time, my eyes beheld the ‘BOOK OF MORMON’—that book of books … which was the principal means, in the hands of God, of directing the entire course of my future life.
“I opened it with eagerness, and read its title page. I then read the testimony of several witnesses in relation to the manner of its being found and translated. After this I commenced its contents by course. I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.
“As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 3d ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, pp. 36–37).
Parley Pratt was then twenty-three years of age. The reading of the Book of Mormon affected him so profoundly that he was soon baptized into the Church and became one of its most effective and powerful advocates. In the course of his ministry he traveled from coast to coast across what is now the United States, into Canada, and to England; he opened the work in the isles of the Pacific and was the first Mormon elder to set foot on the soil of South America. In 1857, while serving a mission in Arkansas, he was shot in the back and killed by an assailant. He was buried in a rural area near the community of Alma, and today in that quiet place a large block of polished granite marks the site of his grave. Incised in its surface are the words of another of his great and prophetic hymns, setting forth his vision of the work in which he was engaged:
The morning breaks; the shadows flee;
Lo, Zion’s standard is unfurled! …
The dawning of a brighter day
Majestic rises on the world.
The clouds of error disappear
Before the rays of truth divine; …
The glory bursting from afar
Wide o’er the nations soon will shine.
Parley Pratt’s experience with the Book of Mormon was not unique. As the volumes of the first edition were circulated and read, strong men and women by the hundreds were so deeply touched that they gave up everything they owned, and in the years that followed not a few even gave their lives for the witness they carried in their hearts of the truth of this remarkable volume.
Today, a century and a half after its first publication, it is more widely read than at any time in its history. Whereas there were 5,000 copies in that first edition, today’s editions are ordered in lots of as many as a million, and the book currently is printed in more than a score of languages.
Its appeal is as timeless as truth, as universal as mankind. It is the only book that contains within its covers a promise that by divine power the reader may know with certainty of its truth. (“An Angel from on High, the Long, Long Silence Broke,” Ensisn, Nov. 1979.)
Even though some of you may be fully occupied with families and have little time for other things at this stage of your lives, you can enlarge your minds and broaden your understanding through the reading of good books. There is much of worth on television. I am the first to recognize this. But I am also mindful of the tremendous waste of time indulged in by many, and particularly by those who spend hours watching titillating trash. How marvelous a thing is a good book! How stimulating to read and share with a great writer thoughts that build and strengthen and broaden one’s horizon! You may think you are too busy. Ten or fifteen minutes a day with the scriptures, and particularly with the Book of Mormon, can give you marvelous understanding of the great eternal truths which have been preserved by the power of the Almighty for the blessing of His children. As you read of the life and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ, you will draw closer to Him who is the author of our salvation. (“Rise to the Stature of the Divine within You,” Ensign, Nov. 1989.)
The Book of Mormon is an endless treasure of wisdom and inspiration, of counsel and correction, “adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest [among us]” (D&C 89:3). At once, it is rich in nourishment for the most learned, if they will humble themselves (see 2 Ne. 9:28–29).
From the Book of Mormon we learn about:
The plan of salvation or “the great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8; see also Alma 42:5, 8, 12, 30).
The doctrine of Christ and the Atonement (see 2 Ne. 31:2–21; 2 Ne. 32:1–6; 3 Ne. 11:31–40; 3 Ne. 27:13–21).
Why death is necessary (see 2 Ne. 9:4–6; Mosiah 16:8–9; Alma 12:25–27).
Life after death in the spirit world (see Alma 40:11–14).
The workings of the evil one (see 2 Ne. 2:27; Alma 28:13; 3 Ne. 2:2).
The order of the priesthood (see Mosiah 29:42; Alma 4:20; Alma 5:3, 44; Alma 13:1–10).
Sacramental prayers (see Moro. 4:3; Moro. 5:2).
A sure way to judge between good and evil (see Moro. 7:16).
How to retain a remission of your sins (see Mosiah 4:26).
Clear, prophetic warnings and many, many other things pertaining to the redemption of man and to our lives. All are parts of the fulness of the gospel (see D&C 20:9). (“The Book of Mormon:Another Testament of Jesus Christ—Plain and Precious Things,” Ensign, May 2005.)
The Prophet Joseph Smith, who translated the Book of Mormon through “the gift and power of God,” described the Book of Mormon as “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion.”
Since the Book of Mormon’s first printing in 1830, more than 174 million copies have been published in 110 different languages, demonstrating that the Book of Mormon is still the keystone of our religion. But what does this mean for each of you?
In architectural terms a keystone is a main element in an arched gateway. It is the wedge-shaped stone in the very center and at the highest point of an arch. It is the most important of the stones because it keeps the sides of the arch in place, preventing collapse. And it is the structural element that ensures the gate, or opening below, is passable.
In gospel terms it is a gift and blessing from the Lord that the keystone of our religion is something as tangible and graspable as the Book of Mormon and that you can hold it and read it. Can you see the Book of Mormon as your keystone, your spiritual center of strength?
President Ezra Taft Benson expanded on those teachings of Joseph Smith. He said: “There are three ways in which the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. It is the keystone in our witness of Christ. It is the keystone of our doctrine. It is the keystone of testimony.”
President Benson further taught: “The Book of Mormon teaches us truth [and] bears testimony of Christ. … But there is something more. 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 stay on the strait and narrow path.” (“Look to the Book, Look to the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 2016)
“From the Book of Mormon come other precious promises, including promises of peace, freedom, and blessings if we “will but serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ” (Ether 2:12).
From its pages comes the promise of “never-ending happiness” to “those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual” (Mosiah 2:41).
From its pages comes the promise of “incomprehensible joy” to those who become “instrument[s] in the hands of God” in rescuing His precious sons and daughters (Alma 28:8; 29:9).
From its pages comes the promise that scattered Israel will be gathered—a work in which we are engaged through our great worldwide missionary efforts (see 3 Nephi 16; 21–22).
From its pages comes the promise that as we pray unto the Father in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, our families will be blessed (see 3 Nephi 18:21).
From a study of its pages comes the fulfillment of the prophetic promise that “there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.”
And from the pages of the Book of Mormon comes Moroni’s promise that through prayer, real intent, and faith in Christ, we may know the truth of these promises “by the power of the Holy Ghost” .” (“Precious Promises of the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, Oct. 2011.)
“I’d like to share a true story with you, a story that can be both an example and a lesson. It can show you how to get closer to the Lord and access greater power to resist temptation.
“This is a story of a young girl, living in New York, who before age three lost her father when his boat sank on a large lake. She, her mother, older brother, and younger sister moved to a new city in another state to live with her aunt and uncle. Sometime after the family arrived, missionaries and members of a newly organized religion came to their town with the glorious news of the Restoration of the gospel. They told a remarkable story of an angel delivering an ancient record to a young man named Joseph Smith, a record he had translated by the power of God. Two of the visitors, Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer, had actually seen the engraved metal pages of the ancient record with their own eyes, and Whitmer witnessed he had held the golden plates in his own hands. This record had been recently published, and Brother Whitmer brought the book with him. The name of the book, of course, was the Book of Mormon.
“When 12-year-old Mary heard the missionaries speak about the book, she had a special feeling in her heart. Even though the Book of Mormon was thick with many pages, Mary yearned to read it. When Brother Whitmer departed, he gave one precious copy of the book to Brother Isaac Morley, who was a friend of Mary’s uncle and a local leader in the new church.
“Mary later recorded: “I went to [Brother Morley’s] house … and asked to see the Book; [he] put it in my hand, [and] as I looked at it, I felt such a desire to read it, that I could not refrain from asking him to let me take it home and read it. … He said … he had hardly had time to read a chapter in it himself, and but few of the brethren had even seen it, but I plead so earnestly for it, he finally said, ‘child, if you will bring this book home before breakfast tomorrow morning, you may take it.’”
“Mary ran home and was so captured by the book that she stayed up nearly all night reading it. The next morning, when she returned the book, Brother Morley said, “I guess you did not read much in it” and “I don’t believe you can tell me one word of it.” Mary stood up straight and repeated from memory the first verse of the Book of Mormon. She then told him the story of the prophet Nephi. Mary later wrote, “He gazed at me in surprise, and said, ‘child, take this book home and finish it, I can wait.’”
“A short time later, Mary finished reading the book and was the first person in her town to read the entire book. She knew it was true and that it came from Heavenly Father. As she looked to the book, she looked to the Lord.
“One month later a special visitor came to her house. Here is what Mary wrote about her memorable encounter that day: “When [Joseph Smith] saw me he looked at me so earnestly. … After a moment or two he … gave me a great blessing … and made me a present of the book, and said he would give Brother Morley another [copy]. … We all felt that he was a man of God, for he spoke with power, and as one having authority.”
“This young girl, Mary Elizabeth Rollins, saw many other miracles in her life and always kept her testimony of the Book of Mormon. This story has special meaning to me because she is my fourth-great-aunt. Through Mary’s example, along with other experiences in my life, I have learned that one is never too young to seek and receive a personal testimony of the Book of Mormon.
“There is a personal lesson for you in Mary’s story. Each of you young men, young women, and children can have the same feelings she had. When you read the Book of Mormon and pray with a desire to know it is true, you too can receive the same impression in your heart that Mary received. You may also find that as you stand and bear witness of the Book of Mormon, you will feel the same spirit of confirmation. The Holy Ghost will speak to your heart. You can also feel this same spirit of confirmation when you hear others share their testimonies of the Book of Mormon. Each of these spiritual witnesses can lead to the Book of Mormon becoming the keystone of your testimony. (“Look to the Book, Look to the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 2016)
“My beloved brothers and sisters, we hardly fathom the power of the Book of Mormon, nor the divine role it must play, nor the extent to which it must be moved.
“‘Few men on earth,’ said Elder Bruce R. McConkie, ‘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. … The Book of Mormon shall so affect men that the whole earth and all its peoples will have been influenced and governed by it. … There is no greater issue ever to confront mankind in modern times than this: Is the Book of Mormon the mind and will and voice of God to all men?’ (Millennial Messiah pp. 159, 170, 179.) We testify that it is.” (“Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, Nov. 1988)
“May I commend you faithful Saints who are striving to flood the earth and your lives with the Book of Mormon. Not only must we move forward in a monumental manner more copies of the Book of Mormon, but we must move boldly forward into our own lives and throughout the earth more of its marvelous messages.
“This sacred volume was written for us—for our day. Its scriptures are to be likened unto ourselves.” (See 1 Ne. 19:23.) (“Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989.)
“With other latter-day prophets, I testify of the truthfulness of this ‘most correct of any book on earth,’ even the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ. Its message spans the earth and brings its readers to a knowledge of the truth. It is my testimony that the Book of Mormon changes lives. May each of us read it and reread it. And may we joyfully share our testimonies of its precious promises with all of God’s children.” (“Precious Promises of the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, Oct. 2011.)