Many of my posts will be short. This one is a little longer. It’s a write-up I did many years ago explaining my “story” (my testimony of and experience with) The Book of Mormon, as I was searching for myself to know if it was really true or not.
This story shares what I learned and how it changed my life. I encourage you, when you have a few minutes, to take the time to read through it. The Book of Mormon is an extraordinary record, another volume of scripture. that’s changing lives all over the world. It’s been proven over and over to be true (more on how later). To understand, you really just need to crack it open yourself. I hope you will.
Enjoy … and good reading,
Patrick Laing, Portland, Oregon USA, 5 July 2018
My Story of The Book of Mormon
Several years ago I was introduced to a book and a message that has had an extraordinary influence on my life. The book is more than just a story and the message it bears is much more as well. It’s called The Book of Mormon and is considered by millions to be “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” At risk of oversimplifying, The Book of Mormon is additional scripture, comparable to and in harmony with the Holy Bible and it’s message and teachings.
The Book of Mormon has several similarities to the Bible, as well as a handful of differences. Just like the Bible, ancient prophets wrote it. It teaches of Christ, of patterning our lives after His, of seeking to understand His will, and of following it more fully in our lives. The prophets whose writings make up The Book of Mormon, however, did not reside in Israel. Though also of Jewish descent, their words come to us from the other side of the globe.
The narrative begins in Jerusalem in 600 B.C. A merchant by the name of Lehi is called as a proet and commanded of God to take his family and flee the city, as it was about to be destroyed. At this time the inhabitants of the land had become so wicked and corrupt that they had already killed many of the previous prophets and were threatening Lehi’s life as well. (History books tell us that the city was in fact overrun and many of its residents carried off into Babylon, circa 581 B.C.). Lehi was obedient to the warning and, with his family and a small group of friends, escaped unharmed into the desert lands south of Jerusalem.
After a number of years, they arrived at the sea, built a ship, and crossed the Pacific Ocean to what they refer to as “The Promised Land” (the same land that would later be called the New World or The Americas). After landing somewhere in Central or South America, the group split and became two separate—sometimes peaceful, often warring—nations. These two civilizations are the ancestors of the Incas, Mayas, Aztecs, etc.
As mentioned, the group’s leader, Lehi, was called to be a prophet. He and his descendants (many of them) spoke with God and were guided by Him throughout their journeys. Lehi’s son, Nephi, and many others after him, were called as prophets as well. Each kept a written record of his experiences. These records were inscribed upon plates of metal so they would withstand the tropic humidity and elements and last throughout the centuries to come.
Besides being a history of this people, The Book of Mormon contains the teachings of the prophets throughout the land. They prophesied of Christ’s coming, taught the people, preached repentance and more. They were guided and directed by God! This meant a lot to me when I first learned about it, for it answered a question I’d had for many years, namely: why would God call prophets to teach His Word in just one corner of the world? Doesn’t He care about us all? Doesn’t He love each of His children? Of course, He does…! To learn for myself that this is true—that He really does love us and want us to understand who we are to Him, and that He has a plan for us—was for me incredibly exciting to discover.
The teachings in the Book of Mormon are very much in line with those of The Holy Bible. Where the Bible tells us what Christ taught, The Book of Mormon explains to us why it is so important. While the Bible teaches us how Christ died, The Book of Mormon goes into much more detail about why He had to die… and expounds upon the effect His atoning sacrifice has upon us and our lives. These are just a couple of examples of many of the teachings found in The Book of Mormon. Together, the two books do so much more to teach the truth than either one of them could ever do alone. As is taught (in Amos 3: 7), “Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” God has followed this pattern by calling His representatives (his prophets) in many different parts of the world.
The capstone event of The Book of Mormon is its account of the visit of Christ himself to the people of Ancient America. The inclusive chapters tell of the resurrected Christ descending from heaven to bless and instruct His followers throughout the land. This extraordinary account is a powerful testimony of the validity of Christ’s resurrection, and of His and His Father’s love for us all (see 3rd Nephi, Chapter 11). Regardless of where we live, no matter who we are, what we do, or what time of history we exist in, God is mindful of us and wants us to understand this truth. In John 10:16 Christ said to his followers, “Other sheep I have who are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” Then, during his visit to the people in Ancient America, He said to them, “Verily I say unto you, that ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (See 3 Nephi 15: 21).
One of your questions might be why the book is called The Book of Mormon. It was for me and it’s a valid question. Even though it was written by many prophets over a period of 1,000 years, the writings were compiled and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon (A.D. 321-326). He collected all of the records and selected the parts he felt directed were of most importance. And, here is a fascinating point: while abridging the record, Mormon states numerous times that he is including only those parts that would be of greatest help to a later day and age.
This is a recurring message throughout The Book of Mormon—the fact that it was prepared, not for the people of its day, but for us and our plethora of modern challenges and conflicts. The people of its time never had it. The Aztecs or the Mayas or the 18th Century Native Americans never knew it existed (though many legends throughout Mexico, Central, and South America, etc., do speak of a white god who visited them and said He would someday return—Quetzalcoatl, the fair-skinned, blue-eyed, figure for whom Cortez and others were later mistaken in Central America). Just think, though! Christ in America! The prophets writing for our age! God Himself guiding them to prepare an incredible help for our challenges of today!
Moroni, Mormon’s son and the last prophet of The Book of Mormon, wrote the following passage just before he passed away: “Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet year are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doings.” He then describes today’s problems in surprising detail (and he wrote this 1,400 years ago)!
As mentioned, The Book of Mormon contains answers to many of the questions many of us have asked ourselves. Why are we here on earth? Where did we come from? Do we go somewhere when we die? Are God and Christ the same, are they different… are they real? What has amazed me as I’ve studied it is just how clear the book’s answers have been. I’ve been touched by how applicable the teachings are—applicable to our day and our problems. It’s a compelling witness of how much our Father really does care, is concerned about the welfare of His children everywhere, and really desires for us all to understand His plan for us all.
In September of 1827, the record was finally introduced. A young man named Joseph Smith was guided to where the ancient record lay (Moroni had hidden it in a hill in what was later to become upstate New York—in about A.D. 421). For hundreds of years, it had lain in wait for the chosen day. Joseph, a 14-year-old farm boy with very little education, was chosen, as many prophets are, in his youth and despite his shortcomings. He was commanded to bring to pass the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on earth.
The story is incredible, I admit. It was and is to many—even to those of us who know it to be true and have seen it change our lives and that of many others. But it makes sense if you think about it as well. For one thing, if God has always called prophets to guide and direct His work on earth, why would He stop? Hasn’t He always been the same “today, tomorrow, and always,” as the scriptures attest? He is unchanging and, if so, why would He change? Why would He not follow the pattern He established from the very start (with Adam, Noah, etc.)? Second, since America was established so that freedom of religion could exist, isn’t it ironic that almost immediately following our miraculous independence from Great Britain as a nation of our own, God called a latter-day prophet to restore His Church in this new, free land? Seems a little too convenient to be a random coincidence to me. (Anyone who has studied The Revolutionary War knows the colonists never should have won. Repeated miracles and help occurred throughout the conflict that literally saved America and made it come to pass—proof evident that God’s Hand was present. But if so then why? To what end?
The basic message of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (known as the Mormons because we’re the only church to possess The Book of Mormon) is that it is the same church established by Christ while He was on earth, restored once again today on earth. If you study history, you know that the Church of Christ fell into ruin following His death and the deaths of His apostles. Whole books have been written on the break-up and confusion that followed their efforts (and eventual martyrdoms). But, suffice it to say that an “apostasy” or a “falling away” did occur (see Second Thessalonians 2: 1-3 for just one example). The authority to act in God’s name was lost, changes to the gospel and the Bible took place, men and women began interpreting the scriptures on their own, and numerous churches broke off / branched out. We see it today with how many different Christian churches are in existence. But all that has changed. The Church of Jesus Christ exists again today—in it’s original/identical state.
Did you know that the Mormon Church today is one of the fastest growing religions in the world? There are millions of members (more of them outside the U.S. than in), tens of thousands of missionaries sharing the message of the restoration, over 150 temples dotting the globe, and these numbers just keep growing larger and larger each year. These young elders and sisters are voluntary, self-financed, and sharing their message worldwide, one they know to be true, which brings us to another important and equally fascinating point.
Just before hiding up the “golden plates” that eventually became The Book of Mormon, the prophet Moroni included a promise to whoever would read the book he left us. He exhorts us to ‘read these things, ponder them in our hearts, consider what they say and then… pray to know if they are really true for ourselves.’ In his own words: “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” (see Book of Moroni 10: 3-5).
I have put this promise to the test myself and I know that it really works! It has made the most profound, undeniable difference in my life and others’. It’s almost impossible to even begin to explain. You see, along with the Church’s message that it is the restored church of Jesus Christ, along with The Book of Mormon and as an inherent part of the message of hope it bears, lies the promise: You too can know for yourself that the message is true! Don’t take anyone else’s word for it. You can know for yourself. It’s a challenge and a promise millions before you have already taken and millions still are responding to all over the world even as we speak. (The BOM is translated in 110 languages, as of the writing of this overview).
When Joseph Smith first learned about the ancient writings (the record that would eventually become The Book of Mormon), it was by following the counsel of a similar passage in the Holy Bible. The chapter and verse are James 1: 5 and they read: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” Joseph followed this counsel, he prayed aloud, in a grove of trees near his home in upstate New York, and to his extreme surprise, was called to be a prophet of God.
As part of this assignment, he was instructed to translate The Book of Mormon into English and to establish the Church of Jesus Christ again upon the earth. It took fifty British scholars seven long years to complete the King James translation of the Bible; Joseph translated the entire Book of Mormon in just 85 days, with obvious divine help. The Church of Jesus Christ was set up officially as a religion in the State of New York on Easter Day, April 6th, 1830.
As shocking as it was for a young farm boy, to be called as a prophet, isn’t the timing that it came about quite intriguing. A new nation with freedom of religion had just been established. The technological age was just beginning, with its industrial growth, telegraph, trains and satellites, television and Internet, etc. Today it is so much more practical for a prophet on earth to direct a growing worldwide church. But let me reiterate: it is not expanding as rapidly as it is because of these helps and advances alone. Though they do contribute, its explosive growth is due to the simple fact that people are putting Moroni’s promise to the test. They’re finding that it works, that God really does answer prayers, and that they can know for themselves that He lives and that this message (and His church on earth again) are true.
It’s hard to put into words. When I think about it, I am almost overwhelmed by the beauty, the grandeur and the hope of The Book of Mormon and its message. Not only is it bringing people everywhere a greater sense of self-worth and a better understanding of truly who they are, but it’s also changing the way we understand and value Christ himself.
In addition to all this, The Book of Mormon is the key to knowing that the message of the Church of Jesus Christ is true for oneself. It offers the best way to gain an understanding of the authenticity of this message. If The Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph was a true prophet of God, the Church of Jesus Christ is all that it professes to be, there is a living prophet on earth and twelve living apostles and the direction they offer is good and true and right. Just think! A living prophet today! Twelve apostles speaking God’s word and helping us all find answers to our questions today! Answers and guidance—direct from Heaven—in our own lives! The power of God on earth! What an exciting thing to know… and time to be alive.
I know for myself that these facts I’ve shared are true. The story is unfolding all around us as we speak. I’ve studied it, prayed about, and received my own answers that it is real. I know God loves us, that He knows and cares about us each intimately, and that He has a plan for us—we are His sons and his daughters! There’s much more I could say and I appreciate your listening to these insights. This knowledge has made me very happy and is helping many find more joy in their lives, and peace, as well. I hope it can for you too. Have questions? Please leave a comment or visit two other great resources: mormon.org and lds.org. As I’ve said before, if you want to learn the truth, go to the source … not the naysayers who, like a disgruntled employee, are often just angry and unfortunately biased. We love them, we hurt for them, but we cannot listen to them, for our own sake.
Patrick Laing – Portland, Oregon USA