Select Page

basicswhatthebom ( ** )

What the Book of Mormon means to me!

I am not certain who gave this wonderful talk, but it is a wonderful testimony of the Book of Mormon.

I’m very grateful to be here once again in the Wilmington Branch this morning. I appreciate the talk that Chloe gave and want her to know how much I respect and admire her for the person that she is becoming – she is beginning a life-long journey of scripture study and personal revelation. My challenge to her and to each of us – is to live worthy of the gift of the Holy Ghost so that the desire will always be there to read more and to pray for guidance and understanding.  The Apostle James said that we should rejoice whenever we have doubts and fall into various temptations, because: “the trying of your faith worketh patience,” but he counseled “let patience have her perfect work,” in other words, keep studying, keep pondering because our faith in Christ will lead us to truth as a light in the darkness often brings salvation. He said: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1: 2-7). 

The Book of Mormon stands as both a second witness of Jesus Christ and as a guidepost on how to integrate scripture study into our daily living experience. In the first 16 chapters of the Book of Mormon we learn so much about why the scriptures should be important to us in our daily lives. In chapters 3-5 we learn that Lehi was willing to take great risks in order to obtain a record of the scriptures for his family to take with them to the Promised Land. Nephi taught that the plates of brass (that contained the writings of Moses and many other Old Testament prophets, including Isaiah) were “desirable; yea, even of great worth unto us, insomuch that we could preserve the commandments of the Lord unto our children” (1 Ne. 5:21). In Chapter 6, Nephi taught that the Book of Mormon was written to “persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved” (1 Ne. 6:4) Then, in chapter 8 we are given Lehi’s amazing Dream of the Tree of Life – and later, in Chapter 15, we are taught that the iron rod in the dream “was the word of God; and whoso would harken unto the word of God; and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction” (1 Ne. 15:24). Finally, in Chapter 16, Lehi finds a compass made of brass (called the Liahona) – it has always been a very curious thing to me to realize that the Liahona and the Nephite Old Testament scriptures were symbolically connected because they were made of brass – and they operated on the same principles of faith, diligence and righteousness. With the Spirit, the scriptures are a compass in our lives, leading us along a pathway of righteousness toward salvation, but without the Spirit – without personal righteousness, the scriptures are like the Liahona, “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that the pointers which were in the ball, that they did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them. And there was also written upon them a new writing, which was plain to be read, which did give us understanding concerning the ways of the Lord; and it was written and changed from time to time, according to the faith and diligence which we gave unto it. And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things” (1 Ne. 16:28-29).

Brothers and Sisters I absolutely love this passage of scripture. What does it mean? Well, I think it is applicable to all of scripture, including the semi-annual messages that we receive from President Monson and the other general authorities of the Church. It is a good thing that our modern-day Liahona keeps working based on the collective righteousness of the membership of the Church, but for each of us as individuals it can and does stop working, whenever we are negligent, whenever we either stop listening or become less diligent than we should normally be in following the compass that they Lord has already provided us in the wilderness of our lives.

I just love the symbolism of the Book of Mormon! Not only does the iron rod of the scriptures lead us through the dark mists of sorrow and doubt and uncertainty to testimony, it becomes a lifeline of conversion built line upon line, precept on precept slowly guiding the weary traveler to Eternal Life.

So, as you are probably aware by now, the Stake Presidency has asked me to speak today about what the Book of Mormon means to me. When I first contemplated this subject, I thought, “Oh that’s easy, I will just bear my testimony about the Book of Mormon and sit down.” But then I started really thinking about what I would share with you today and I even decided to begin a fast, and what I decided was this:  “’What the Book of Mormon means to me,’ is much more than the width and depth of my testimony.” Don’t get me wrong, the Book of Mormon does mean testimony to me, but that’s not all…  On this subject, I thought it would be only proper and fitting to bear my testimony about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Then I want to share a few more pearls of wisdom that I have gained over the years because of the Book of Mormon.

So, my testimony… Does it surprise any of you to know that my testimony of the Book of Mormon is growing on an almost daily basis? I don’t know exactly how many times that I have read it. Oh, I know that I read it once before serving as a missionary and as I knelt in prayer one night by the side of my bed (I was probably 15 or 16), a still small voice spoke whispered to me that it was true – more than anything, my whole body was filled with light and I just knew…like Moroni promised…Christ will “manifest the truth of it unto [us] by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4). So then I knew…but it didn’t stop there, I read the Book of Mormon at least twice more during my mission and I really gained a working testimony that it was true as I personally invited the people I met in Peru to read it and then had the privilege to sit back and observe the changes it brought to their lives. Sure…for every one person who accepted the Book of Mormon as true there were dozens who did not, but that didn’t matter to me as a missionary. I began to see the Book of Mormon for the life saving tool that it is – and diligently shared it with everyone I came into contact with. And then there was the added testimony of hearing their testimonies about how the Book of Mormon had come into their lives and made a difference – and each time brought every one of them closer to Christ. My mission was a beautiful experience, but then I had to come home and face life.

It took me a few times of reading the Book of Mormon up to the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi and then stopping to realize that I needed to push through it and then I did something even crazier – I signed up for an Isaiah class one summer at BYU. For the first time, I started to understand just how beautiful and important the revelations of Isaiah are and why Nephi and Mormon included so many of them in the Book of Mormon.

It wasn’t until after my mission too that I began studying a little about the pre-Columbian civilizations that inhabited America in the years leading up to the Discovery by Columbus. I could share many experiences that have touched me since then, and caused my testimony of the Book of Mormon to grow, but today I will share just one of them. One of the tribes that inhabited the Lake Titicaca region of southern Peru and western Bolivia were the Tiwanakus. Researchers believe that they flourished between 600 BC and 600 AD (so roughly the same time period as the Book of Mormon) and were the precursor culture to the Incas who took over after they were defeated in several protracted battles before the year 1000. Located midway between the Peruvian border town of Desaguadero and the Bolivian capital, La Paz lies their most famous Temple in ruins, which is also called Tiwanaku. At Tiwanaku is a famous “Gate of the Sun,” or monument to Viracocha, sometimes called “Dios lloron,” which translated from Spanish means the “weeping God.” 

So first, I would like to say a few words about the Tiwanakan God, Viracocha or Wiracocha (depending on whether you pronounce in Aymara or Quechua – the two native languages to that region). If you have never heard of Viracocha, I hope that after today you will look him up. According to both Tiwanakan and Inca legends, Viracocha was the creator of both the heavens and earth and visited the inhabitants of this continent at many locations, arriving from the air carrying a staff, and had light skin coloring and a beard. He taught the people the arts of civilization, often weeping as he interacted with them. After several visits he departed by air traveling in a westerly direction, but not before promising to watch over them from afar and send them rain if they were righteous. The Spanish historians, Pedro Cieza de Leon,  Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, and Juan de Betanzos all reported that the first Spanish conquistadors were welcomed as Gods and even called “Viracochas” because of their lighter skin and beards. 

During my mission to Peru in the mid 1980s, I met many people who were familiar with the legends of the white, bearded god, Viracocha, the weeping God – and when they first read 3 Nephi, they were immediately touched by the account of the Savior’s visit to the Nephites. Most touching of all are the many passages in 3 Nephi that speak of the Savior weeping as His heart was filled with compassion for the Nephites. Before leaving the mission field, I was blessed to be able to visit Tiwanaku, where our guide (a Bolivian member of the Church) read out loud: “And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of praying unto the Father, he arose; but so great was the joy of the multitude that they were overcome. And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise. And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full. And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them. And when he had done this he wept again; And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones. And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them” (3 Ne. 17:18-24).

Brothers and Sisters it is hard for me to describe the impact this experience had on me as a very young missionary, standing just below the Gate of the Sun, and hearing this passage of scripture read to me while looking up at the sacred inscription of Viracocha with the visible tears streaming down each cheek of his face (if you have never seen this image do yourself a favor and google “Gate of the Sun – Tiwanaku”). I know that this place is a sacred spot. The Spirit I felt there was as strong as any I have felt while visiting Church history sites such as the Sacred Grove in Palmyra. Though 3 Nephi says that there were only 2500 people present on this occasion, I wonder if he didn’t visit other Nephite cities and do similar things with those children because Tiwanaku is not the only place that Viracocha is depicted as having a beard and while weeping. Whatever the case, it was an impactful moment, and a reality of that culture that was handed down from generation to generation among the people of South America and not by coincidence shows up too in the cultures of Mesoamerica in Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. Joseph Smith could not possibly have been aware of this. The first American archeologists to visit Tiwanaku did so in the 1860s, while the records of most of the Spanish historians I mentioned were either inaccessible or undiscovered too until the late 19th Century and none of them were translated into English until the mid 20th Century at the earliest.

My testimony of the Book of Mormon continues to grow and develop today. This past school year, I read it again while challenging my 16-year old son, Brad to do the same in seminary. Little did I realize that for much of that time I would be unemployed and looking for work (and ironically while serving at the same time as the Stake Employment Specialist). Reading the Book of Mormon this year brought me the daily lessons and the Spirit that I needed to help me stay motivated, positive and optimistic. A few of the great teachings from the Book of Mormon that I remember reading are:

  • “Wherefore, brethren, seek not to counsel the Lord, but to take counsel from his hand. For behold, ye yourselves know that he counseleth in wisdom, and in justice, and in great mercy, over all his works” (Jacob 4:10), was one of my favorites.
  • Then there was: “But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God. And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good – to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted” – this passage of scripture, believe it or not, helped me to focus my job search on jobs that would allow me to serve in the Church. Eventually I was offered different jobs, but I turned down any of them that would have required me to work weekends, or travel during most of my week. I earnestly prayed that a job would come along that would allow me to keep the Sabbath holy and to spend time with my family, and in the end that blessing came. I have a strong testimony that the Lord provides us with the righteous desires of our hearts – but this sometimes requires a lot of patience.
  • Alma preached at Gideon: “And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive” (Alma 7:23).

In closing, there are many things that Book of Mormon means to me and it has touched my life personally on many different levels and continues to be a constant source of inspiration and support to me and to my family. We all do well to follow Nephi’s advice (even when reading the Isaiah chapters of the Book of Mormon): “And I did read many things unto them which were written in the books of Moses; but that I might fully persuade them to believe in the Lord their Redeemer I did read unto them that which was written by the prophet Isaiah; for I did liken all scriptures unto us, that it might be for our profit and learning” (1 Ne. 19:23). I love this passage of scripture for many reasons, not the least of which is that I think it is the only verse of scripture that it uses both spellings of the homonym “prophet/profit.”

It is my humble prayer Brothers and Sisters that we will search the teachings of the Book of Mormon. Nephi promised that he did not write “anything upon plates save it be that I think it be sacred,” (1 Ne. 19:6) and cautioned us not to overlook the many great and precious truths contained in it because of any so-called “errors” we might encounter in its pages, “For the things which some men esteem to be of great worth, both to the body and soul, others set at naught and trample under their feet. Yea, even the very God of Israel do men trample under their feet; I say, trample under their feet but I would speak in other words – they set him at naught, and hearken not to the voice of his counsels” (1 Ne. 19:7). I testify to all here today that I personally have profited from the sacred truths of the Book of Mormon, by praying for guidance and following the promptings of the Holy Ghost to guide me as I apply them to my changing circumstances everyday. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Click here to return to the General Information menu