Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Keystone of Our Faith

Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke to the young adults in Cache Valley, Utah on January 31. He spoke of the power of the Book of Mormon and the necessity for each of us to read and pray to know of it’s truthfulness. Elder Andersen spoke of the familiar analogy of how the keystone in an arc holds all the pieces together. If you take the keystone out of the arc the rest of it falls. One of the fundamental parts of the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. We believe that the Book of Mormon is a second witness, along with the bible, of Jesus Christ. We believe that Joseph Smith was given the gold plates and that he translated it by the gift and power or God.

The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our faith because either it is true or it is false. If it is true, then everything else Joseph Smith said and did is true and the arc (or the church) stands even in the midst of the turmoil of accusers and those who wish to disclaim what Joseph Smith said. If the Book of Mormon is false and not the word of God, then everything else that Joseph Smith said and did is also false and crumbles to the ground. There can be no middle ground. It cannot be partially true. Either it is or it isn’t true.

Page from the original Book of Mormon manuscript
If the Book of Mormon is true, and I testify that it is, every other aspect of the restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true from the restoration of the priesthood, living prophets and apostles, the teachings of the church related to eternal marriage, and the policy related to same sex marriage. We may not understand all the doctrines and policies, but we can know that they are the truths God has revealed through his living prophets.

Elder Andersen showed the audience a page from the original manuscript that Joseph Smith dictated to the scribes when he translated the Book of Mormon from the gold plates. The manuscript flowed from one sentence to another. There were no corrections, crossed out text or changes. While there were times that the translation was interrupted, the actual time spent translating the Book of Mormon took about 65 working days (See “I Have A Question”, Ensign, January 1988)

Joseph Smith's 1832 Journal
The Book of Mormon is 531 pages and when Joseph Smith received the gold plates in 1827 he only had the equivalent of a third grade education and had difficulty writing. As an example, Elder Andersen showed a copy of Joseph’s first journal from 1832 (two years after the publication of the Book of Mormon). On the very first page when Joseph was explaining the purpose of the journal there were several spelling mistakes, places where he crossed out words and changed the wording. It shows the difficulty Joseph had writing anything on his own. Elder Anderson quoted from the journal:

(The Joseph Smith Papers- Journal 1832-1834)

Elder Andersen then quoted Emma Smith, Joseph's wife, when she describes Joseph’s writing abilities. She said: “Joseph could neither write or dictate a coherent letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon”. He said that Emma described to her children what it was like when she was Joseph’s scribe as he translated the Book of Mormon (Emma was the scribe for a brief time). She said:

“Your father would dictate to me hour after hour and when returning after a meal or other interruptions he would begin where he left off without seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. It would have been improbable that a learned man to do this and for one so unlearned as he was. It was simply impossible.”

It would have been impossible, under the circumstances, for Joseph Smith to have written the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith was not the only witness of the gold plates or the Angel Moroni, that gave Joseph the plates. Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris all saw the Angle Moroni and the gold plates and their testimonies are in the introductory section of the Book of Mormon. We also have the testimony of the eight witnesses. These eight men did not see Moroni, but the did see the gold plates. Joseph brought the plates to them and they each handled the plates and their witness is also contained in the beginning of the Book of Mormon.

Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Martin Harris, and three of the eight witnesses all left the church. Oliver and Martin eventually reunited to the church, but none of the eleven witnesses ever denied their testimony of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Their last words on their death beds were of the truth of the Book of Mormon.

Elder Andersen in the October 2015 general conference had this to say of the Prophet Joseph Smith:

“..questions concerning the Prophet Joseph Smith are not new. They have been hurled by his critics since this work began. To those of faith who, looking through the colored glasses of the 21st century, honestly question events or statements of the Prophet Joseph from nearly 200 years ago, may I share some friendly advice: For now, give Brother Joseph a break! In a future day, you will have 100 times more information than from all of today’s search engines combined, and it will come from our all-knowing Father in Heaven. Consider the totality of Joseph’s life—born in poverty and given little formal education, he translated the Book of Mormon in less than 90 days. Tens of thousands of honest, devoted men and women embraced the cause of the Restoration. At age 38, Joseph sealed his witness with his blood. I testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Settle this in your mind, and move forward!” (“Faith Is Not By Chance But By Choice”, Neil L. Andersen, General Conference, October 2015)

I add my testimony of the Book of Mormon, it is the word of God. It is a second witness of Jesus Christ. It is the only book of scripture that includes a promise that if we would just read it and pray with a sincere heart and with real intent to know if it is true, God will tell us it is true (Moroni 10:3-5). The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion and for 186 years has stood the test of time. Even with all the doubters and critics not one has been able to prove that it is not what the Prophet Joseph Smith said it was: “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (Introduction to The Book of Mormon)

Your comments and questions are welcome.

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