The Role of the Book of Mormon in Missionary Work
I’m going on my mission to Piura, Peru which, as it turns out, is the hottest location in Peru just below the equator. Among the normal clothing and other items we bring our mission president requires that all missionaries wear sunglasses and sunscreen each day to protect our eyes and skin from the sun, as well as wind and dust. These will be important items that I carry in my bag each day to be healthy and successful as a missionary. However, they aren’t the most important things I’ll take. There’s a book I’ll carry with me every day; my companion and I will study it each morning, we’ll share copies with those who may have never seen it before, and we will use its pages and verses to increase our personal faith as well as that of the Peruvian people.
It’s the Book of Mormon.
As our prophet Joseph Smith described, this book is “the keystone of our religion”, and I believe that it is also the keystone of missionary work.
A keystone is absolutely essential to a structure, even key to its stability. So why is The Book of Mormon this irreplaceable piece?
President Ezra Taft Benson said that The Book of Mormon is the keystone in at least three ways: “It is the keystone in our witness of Christ. It is the keystone of our doctrine. It is the keystone of testimony.”
I want to address these three points in the context of my own life as well as missionary work.
First, and perhaps most importantly: The Book of Mormon is the keystone in our witness of Christ.
Elder Boyd K. Packer said that “The central purpose of the Book of Mormon is its testament of Jesus Christ. Of more than 6,000 verses in the Book of Mormon, far more than half refer directly to Him.”
This is why the Book of Mormon is such an important resource for missionary work. Our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ. With such an abundance of verses and chapters dedicated to the Savior, The Book of Mormon is the vehicle whereby we teach of Christ and invite others to come unto Him. In general, when the Lord gives us a commandment or an invitation, like “come unto Christ” as found in Moroni Chapter 10, he prepares a way for us to accomplish that goal. Missionary work, I think, is about showing people what that way is through the scriptures.
One of my favorite verses in the Book of Mormon is found in 2 Nephi 25:23, 26. The ancient prophet Nephi gives a reason for writing the records that he wrote which became part of The Book of Mormon we have today. He said: “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”
What a blessing it is to have this book. It was written by prophets who labored diligently that we may know about our Redeemer.
Second, The Book of Mormon is the keystone of our doctrine.
We believe that The Book of Mormon contains a fullness of doctrine that cannot be found anywhere else. In a predominantly Catholic country, the Peruvian people will likely be familiar with The Bible and perhaps less inclined to seek out The Book of Mormon. As missionaries we do teach from both books of scripture, but with regard to the difference between the two Elder Packer taught: “the Bible passed through generations of copyists, translators, and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text while the Book of Mormon came from writer to reader in just one inspired step of translation. Therefore, its testimony of the Master is clear, undiluted, and full of power.”
I can testify that I have felt this clarity and power from doctrine found in the Book of Mormon. An example is the doctrine of the Plan of Salvation. The word “plan” actually never appears in the Bible, but the Book of Mormon is filled with teachings about this great plan of our Heavenly Father that allows us to be with our families forever. It answers questions of the soul like: “Why am I here? Where did I come from? And where am I going?” The answers to these questions, many of which found in 2 Nephi chapter 2, offer peace and direction for my life.
Although I will use both the Book of Mormon and The Bible on my mission to teach, the Book of Mormon provides that fullness that is the keystone of our doctrine.
Lastly, The Book of Mormon is the keystone of testimony.
In August of 2005 President Gordon B. Hinckley, our prophet at the time, issued a challenge in August to read the BoM before the end of the year. I decided to accept the invitation along with my parents and on December 29th I recorded this in my journal: “Today I finished the Book of Mormon! I am so proud because the prophet set a challenge earlier in the year for everyone to finish The Book of Mormon. My mom is only on Moroni 7, so I beat her! I know the Book of Mormon is true and the people they talk about in the scriptures really did once live on the earth.”
At that point, 9 years old, the keystone of my testimony was just beginning to be shaped and molded. Over the past 10 years the Spirit of God, little by little, has witnessed to my mind and my heart that The Book of Mormon is true. This is the keystone of my testimony.
One example occurred this past semester while studying the war chapters in the Book of Mormon. In the past, the war chapters seemed like a drag. The battles and contention between the Nephite and Lamanite people seemed less important and less instructive than other parts of The Book of Mormon so I would usually skim those chapters. However, I’ve since learned that Mormon decided to include the war chapters in his abridgment of The Book of Mormon because they are a type and a spiritual prefiguration of what we go through today.
We have our own battles; there is right and wrong, an enemy and a defender. As I’ve been preparing for a mission I’ve felt that in no other time of life have I needed to understand and defend against the adversary more than right now. Satan desires that all men be miserable like unto himself, so he doesn’t want us to have joy and he especially doesn’t want us to share our joy with others.
But when I read Alma Chapter 49 one day back in February, it laid out my counter-attack perfectly.
The Lamanites were advancing.
And because they had destroyed this Nephite city before, the scriptures say that "they supposed that it would again become an easy prey for them."
The adversary has won the victory over each of us before. Personally, there have been times when he made me feel bitterness, self-doubt, hopelessness, and inadequacy.
He is advancing again. He's won before, so easy prey right?
Going on to verse 4: "But behold, how great was their disappointment, for behold, the Nephites had dug up a ridge of earth round about them, which was SO HIGH that the Lamanites could not come upon them."
So the Nephites had built a defense. Not just any ridge but one so high that their enemies could not overtake it.
In verse 8 it describes that they were "prepared in a manner which never had been known."
When I read this, I decided that my preparation would be just like the Nephites; a ridge built of strong stones, the highest I could make it.
My construction plan was: feasting on the scriptures + earnest prayer, going to church and the temple.
And then..."Thus The Nephites had all power over their enemies." Or we could paraphrase: “And thus [you and I] have all power over [our] enemies.”
But, it wasn’t and isn’t over yet.
This process turns out to be a lifetime endeavor as it says that “Moroni, (the Nephite captain) did not stop making preparations for war"
The influence of the adversary, unfortunately, will always be there, but HE -- Jesus Christ -- will always be there too. I have found that as I build my ridge higher, I lengthen the distance between the adversary and I while coming closer to my Savior.
I want to close with a quote from one of our apostles Elder L. Tom Perry who passed away just yesterday. This is a solemn but also wonderful time to celebrate his life and teachings. He was truly an incredible man and witness of Jesus Christ. He said: “Why is the reading of the Book of Mormon so important to us today? It is because the major writers of the Book of Mormon fully understood that their writings were primarily for the people of a future generation rather than for the people of their own generation. Moroni wrote to our generation saying, “I speak unto you as if ye were present”.
I love that quote and that scripture because the prophets who wrote the Book of Mormon; Nephi, Mormon, and others, they saw us. They saw our day and they saw the challenging things we would face. They knew that in order for us to return to our Heavenly Father, we would need this book as our keystone.
And lastly, I want to share part of President Benson’s testimony: He said: “Moses never entered the promised land. Joseph Smith never saw Zion redeemed. Some of us may not live long enough to see the day when the Book of Mormon floods the earth (as promised in the Doctrine & Covenants). But, God willing, I intend to spend all my remaining days in that glorious effort.”
I want to echo the testimony of President Benson. I don’t understand everything perfectly and there are still questions I have within the gospel but I intend to spend all of my remaining days in this glorious effort to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. As part of that effort, I am going to carry this book with me every day for the next 18 months and seek out its truth for the rest of my life.