Sunday, January 1, 2012

Lesson 1: The Keystone of Our Religion

Class Member study guide link here.

Teacher's Manual link here.

The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion by President Ezra Taft Benson, link here.

FAIR study aid, link here.
Feast Upon the Word blog, link here.
Times and Seasons, link here.
Gospel Doctrine Plus blog, link here.

New Year's Day. What a great time to evaluate our past year and analyze how we can make this next year even better. It seems like people either love New Year’s resolutions, or hate them. I hope, that even if you fall into the latter category, that you will consider at least one goal. It’s a challenge given to us through inspiration, by our Stake President, to focus again on using the Book of Mormon to become a Zion people. Happily, this coincides nicely with our gospel doctrine study this year. I’d like to remind you of some of President Boyer’s suggestions for studying the Book of Mormon this coming year:

  • Passed out a reading chart (about a page and a half each day)
  • Advised that it is more than just turning pages and checking boxes
  • Said we should focus on Christ, and use our study as a vehicle to come unto Christ
  • Asked us to get a clean copy ($2.50 at Distribution Center) and a red marking pencil
  • Mentioned Elder Hanks’ marking system: underline everything about the Savior and the Atonement in red; things that relate to you in blue; and other important passages in green
  • Recommended A New Witness for Christ by Elder Holland
  • Also recommended Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon, by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet
  • Encouraged us to liken the scriptures to ourselves, put ourselves there, find our own inspiration:

”Last year a church member sent me a suggestion that someone prepare a book containing all General Authority interpretations of all verses in the scriptures. I replied that I thought this was not a good idea…. What we are seeking to accomplish… is not to magnify the standing of the prophets but to elevate the spirituality of our rank and file members. Like Moses, we declare, ‘would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!’ (Numbers 11:29). We encourage everyone to study the scriptures prayerfully and seek personal revelation to know the meaning for themselves.”

—Dallin H. Oaks

(I highly recommend Elder Bednar’s new book Increase in Learning to help us learn to do this.)

  • President Boyer also encouraged us to adopt a regular plan and to pray, ponder & discuss
  • Suggested that we hold a family B of M study class
  • Asked us to use the Book of Mormon for talks, lessons, etc.
  • Referred to talks about the B of M in last general conference by President Eyring, Elder Scott and Elder Callister
He specifically mentioned this statement by President Eyring:

“Your copy of the Book of Mormon may be hidden from your view by cares and attention to all you have accumulated in your journey.”

I’m ashamed to admit that this quote spoke to me—it’s one I highlighted in my copy of the conference Ensign. Yesterday I did an analysis of my reading over the past year. As near as I can figure, I read or listened to at least 52 books, for a total of 14,359 pages. For the first time in many years, the Book of Mormon was not one of the books I read. It was “hidden from my view “ by other “cares and attention.”

At this point in the lesson, I made a last minute decision to include most of my last post about Elder Bednar's talk Understanding the Importance of Scripture Study. Then class members shared their responses to the assignment I gave them as they came in: "Write the doctrinal reasons for studying the Book of Mormon." Wow. They pretty much covered every reason given by both Elder Bednar and President Benson. It was a good thing we had so much participation, because this is the point in the lesson where I nearly hacked up a lung in a coughing attack. Good timing. Good for my development of the Christlike characteristic of humility.

Unfortunately we ran out of time before we made it through all of President Benson's reasons, so scroll down a bit if you want to finish up. :)

President Benson also gives three reasons we should study the Book of Mormon, in his classic talk, The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion.

“There are three great reasons why Latter-day Saints should make the study of the Book of Mormon a lifetime pursuit. The first is that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. This was the Prophet Joseph Smith’s statement. He testified that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion.”

“There are three ways in which the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. It is the keystone in our witness of Christ. It is the keystone of our doctrine. It is the keystone of testimony.”

—Ezra Taft Benson

Keystone of Witness

  • Title page: According to the second paragraph, what is the main purpose of the Book of Mormon? (To convince all people that Jesus is the Christ, manifesting Himself to all nations.)
  • Of the 6,607 verses in the modern editions of the Book of Mormon, 3,925 of them make direct reference to Jesus Christ, an average of 1 reference to Christ every 1.7 verses. (Source: Fair Wiki, link above.)
  • If BoM is true, then the resurrected Christ was seen and touched by thousands of people in ancient America. Thus, Jesus really rose from the dead and the Atonement is real.

“The Bible is one witness of Jesus Christ; the Book of Mormon is another. Why is this second witness so crucial? The following illustration may help: How many straight lines can you draw through a single point on a piece of paper? The answer is infinite. For a moment, suppose that single point represents the Bible and that hundreds of those straight lines drawn through that point represent different interpretations of the Bible and that each of those interpretations represents a different church.

What happens, however, if on that piece of paper there is a second point representing the Book of Mormon? How many straight lines could you draw between these two reference points: the Bible and the Book of Mormon? Only one. Only one interpretation of Christ’s doctrines survives the testimony of these two witnesses.”

—Elder Tad R. Callister

Keystone of Doctrine

In what ways is the Book of Mormon the “keystone of our doctrine”? (See D&C 10:45–46; 20:8–12.)

  • If the BoM is true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet and the doctrines taught in the revelations he received are also true.
  • Fulness does not mean complete:
    “The Lord Himself has stated that the Book of Mormon contains the ‘fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.’ That does not mean it contains every teaching, every doctrine ever revealed. Rather, it means that in the Book of Mormon we will find the fullness of those doctrines required for our salvation. And they are taught plainly and simply so that even children can learn the ways of salvation and exaltation.”

—President Benson

How has the Book of Mormon increased your understanding of important gospel doctrines?

Keystone of Testimony

  • If a person gains a testimony of the BoM, then they also gain a testimony that (1) God exists, (2) Jesus Christ's atonement is real, (3) Joseph Smith was a prophet, and (4) the Church is true.

“The second great reason why we must make the Book of Mormon a center focus of study is that it was written for our day. The Nephites never had the book; neither did the Lamanites of ancient times. It was meant for us. Mormon wrote near the end of the Nephite civilization. Under the inspiration of God, who sees all things from the beginning, he abridged centuries of records, choosing the stories, speeches, and events that would be most helpful to us.”

—President Benson

“Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not. But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing.” (Morm. 8:34–35.)

“If they saw our day, and chose those things which would be of greatest worth to us, is not that how we should study the Book of Mormon? We should constantly ask ourselves, “Why did the Lord inspire Mormon (or Moroni or Alma) to include that in his record? What lesson can I learn from that to help me live in this day and age?”
—President Benson

The third reason for studying the book is that it helps us draw nearer to God.

  • What are precepts? How can the precepts of the Book of Mormon bring us nearer to God?
  • What changes and blessings have come into your life when you have studied and pondered the Book of Mormon regularly?

“The moment you begin a serious study of [the Book of Mormon, you] will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. … When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance.”

—President Benson

What is a goal that you have, or can set this year in relation to your study of the Book of Mormon?

Reading consistently? Pondering more? Starting a scripture journal? Sharing a copy of the Book of Mormon? Living a precept more fully?

I'm still considering my own goals. Teaching Gospel Doctrine will surely be a blessing. I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback!

By the way, it did not escape my attention that although I advocated President Boyer's advice to teach from the Book of Mormon, we did not read a single scripture during this class. I scrapped my original lesson plan (which I had spent hours preparing, and which closely followed the manual), hopefully under the inspiration of the Spirit. I promise, this lesson will be the exception, not the rule!

1 comment:

  1. I'm Melissa Sunday's sister who was visiting on sunday. I love the idea for this blog and will be reading it even though i'm not it your ward! Thanks!