For the last three years, I have been studying at BYU. One thing I love about BYU is the religion classes it offers. These classes give the same spiritual benefits as seminary or institute or Sunday school, but require a lot more work and studying since they have to give us a grade. These classes teach a lot of the background behind the scriptures, facts and meanings about words or actions, and give a lot of extra knowledge and understanding the scriptures.
This last year I took Mission Preparation and the Pearl of Great Price. In these classes we learned a lot about the Great Apostasy. After Christ visited the people in the Americas, He established His church and the people were righteous. However, after several hundred years the people became so wicked that the Lord took away his prophets and apostles. Mormon 1:13-14 reads, “But wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole land, insomuch that the Lord did take away his beloved disciples, and the work of miracles and of healing did cease because of the iniquity of the people. And there were no gifts from the Lord, and the Holy Ghost did not come upon any, because of their wickedness and unbelief.”
The church on the earth was corrupted and divided many times. This period of history is known as the Dark Ages. There were many churches, but they had lost the authority of the priesthood by falling away.
Then European Reformation in the 1500s-
Preach my Gospel says; “After centuries of spiritual darkness, truth-seeking men and women protested against current religious practices. They recognized that many of the doctrines and ordinances of the gospel had been changed or lost. They sought for greater spiritual light, and many spoke of the need for a restoration of truth. They did not claim, however, that God had called them to be a prophet. Instead, they tried to reform teachings and practices that they believed had been changed or corrupted. Their efforts led to the organization of many Protestant churches. This Reformation resulted in an increased emphasis on religious freedom, which opened the way for the final Restoration.”Some important men whose work led the Reformation were Martin Luther, John Calvin, and William Tyndale. Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “I believe these reformers were inspired to create a religious climate in which God could restore lost truths and priesthood authority. Similarly, God inspired the earlier explorers and colonizers of America and the framers of the Constitution of the United States to develop a land and governing principles to which the gospel could be restored.”
These men of the Reformation in the 1500s, along with many men during the American Revolution in the late 1700s, created an environment in which the gospel would be able to be restored.
Joseph Smith was born only 29 years after America declared their independence from the British Empire. Because of religious freedom in the United States, the time and place for the Restoration was at hand.
Just as God called prophets in the Bible, Joseph Smith was called by God to be a prophet in the latter days. In D&C 1:17,23 we read “Wherefore, I the Lord, the calamity which should come upon the of the earth, my Joseph Smith, Jun., and unto him from heaven, and gave him ; … That the of my might be by the and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before and .”
True to the Faith pg 89 reads “As Joseph Smith proved his worthiness, he was given a divine mission as a prophet of God. Through him, the Lord accomplished a great and marvelous work that included bringing forth the Book of Mormon, restoring the priesthood, revealing precious gospel truths, organizing the true Church of Jesus Christ, and establishing temple work.”
Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon through the power of God.
I learned from a speech given by Elder Russell M. Nelson that the King James Version of the Bible was produced by 50 English scholars, translating at a rate of one page per day, which took seven years. Today, expert translators do well if they can also translate scripture at the rate of one page per day. In contrast, Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon at the rate of 10 pages per day, completing the task in approximately 85 days.
This shows the power of God and the truthfulness of Joseph Smith’s calling as a prophet.
The Book of Mormon has been called the “Keystone of our Religion.” Ezra Taft Benson, in his talk called “Keystone of our Religion,” talks about the importance of the Book of Mormon. It came before the restoration of the priesthood, it was published a few days before the organization of the church, and it was given to the members to read before they were taught the doctrines like the three degrees of glory, doing work for the dead and celestial marriage.
In the Introduction to the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith testified that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on Earth, and the keystone of our religion.”
The Book of Mormon is the keystone to our religion because it bears witness of Joseph Smith. If the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith was a true prophet and he restored God’s true church and the priesthood to the earth.
This resonates with me as I prepare to leave for my mission- so much of missionary work is focused on the Book of Mormon. It truly is the keystone to our religion.
I’ve learned that the first lesson is Preach my Gospel teaches about Joseph Smith and the Restoration, and concludes with the Book of Mormon. The commitments of the first lesson are to read the Book of Mormon, to pray to know if it is true, and to pray to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet.
The Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith are so important they come first. True to the Faith says, “For your testimony of the restored gospel to be complete, it must include a testimony of Joseph Smith’s divine mission. The truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the truthfulness of the First Vision and the other revelations the Lord gave to the Prophet Joseph.”
In the First Presidency Message of the February 1996 Ensign, President James E. Faust said, “We can expect increased attacks upon Joseph Smith as a prophet and upon the Book of Mormon. Satan will attack us at the core of the Restoration and our belief: the Prophet Joseph Smith and his divine mission.
It is important for all of us to develop a testimony of Joseph Smith and the Restoration and a testimony of the Book of Mormon. In True to the Faith, under “Testimony,” it reads….
“ A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy
Ghost. The foundation of a testimony is the knowledge that
Heavenly Father lives and loves us; that Jesus Christ lives,
that He is the Son of God, and that He carried out the infinite
Atonement; that Joseph Smith is the prophet of God who was
called to restore the gospel; that we are led by a living
prophet today; and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints is the Savior’s true Church on the earth. With this foundation, a testimony grows to include all principles of the gospel.” (page 178)
A testimony begins with a sincere, righteous desire. With effort on our part it comes through the quiet influence of the Holy Ghost. A testimony grows through experiences and as you share it.
We must strengthen our testimonies continuously.
I bear my testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. It is true. It contains the fullness of the gospel. Joseph Smith was called of God to be His prophet. He translated the Book of Mormon and he restored the true church and the priesthood of God to the earth. All of this he did through the power and influence of God.
I testify that Thomas S Monson is God’s current prophet. He leads our church by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
I know that God loves each of us. Because of His love for us He provided a plan. He restored the gospel so that we can return to live with Him again. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. He is God’s son and He atoned for our sins. He died for us so that we could be made clean and live with Him again.
I am thankful for my testimony, I hope others will continue to grow and strengthen their own testimonies. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.