When I was a full-time missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was told to go out into the world and share the message of the restoration and the Book of Mormon. I was taught that this was the missing piece for so many people that were seekers of Christ. I was also taught that having the Book of Mormon made me special in some way and that it made my church the only true church on the earth.
So imagine the surprise (and even confusion) for two young full-time missionaries who knock on a door in the United States and invite the resident to hear a message about the Book of Mormon, when the resident gladly receives them into his home. The missionaries are pretty stoked that someone has finally let them in the door, and they are excited to share everything they have been taught in the Mission Training Center (MTC).
“Sir, we are thankful you opened the door and let us into your home,” the senior companion says.
“Oh, I love the Book of Mormon and am happy to hear any person share their witness of this great book,” responds the resident.
Unfamiliar with the man that lives in their assigned boundary, the missionaries anxiously ask, “Oh, so you are a member of the church?”
“Well, from what you told me at the door, you’re Mormon missionaries, but, no, I am not a member of your church.”
“Ok, but I assume you were a member at some point, but maybe just not active right now?” the missionaries try to clarify.
“No, I’m sorry, but I have never been a member of the Mormon church,” the resident politely answers.
Very confused and even disappointed, the missionaries soon learn that there are other religious faiths that subscribe to the Book of Mormon and even claim it as part of their own standard works.
This is a very real situation. It is also very relevant to some powerful learning that was taught to me by the Lord. The proper context for the Book of Mormon really is everything!
The 3 Unique Purposes of the Book of Mormon
For months now, I have been trying to fulfill an assignment (“The Covenant Path Unveiled” in the Book of Mormon). The purpose of this assignment is to demonstrate how prophets throughout the entire Book of Mormon are consistent in teaching the doctrine of Christ, which is the true covenant path. So far, from the beginning of the Book of Mormon, I have demonstrated the doctrine of Christ in the Book of Mormon through 11 prophets, 9 books, and 17 posts.
However, I need to hit the pause button on this current assignment to make very plain a couple of truths that you absolutely have to anchor yourself. If you do not, I will warn that unbelief will keep you from a personal relationship with the Lord and keep you from personal your own personal redemption. First consider:
The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel.Introduction, The Book of Mormon
It is not saying some of the gospel or most of the gospel. It does not mean that the book contains some and that more of the gospel is coming and that it requires modern day prophets to unveil more of it. No! It is clear that it “contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel” (See also D&C 20:8-9; 27:5; 42:12). Contrary to the unbelieving of some, this book contains truth of how to receive personal redemption/salvation while you are in mortality. Do you really believe these revelations and this statement?
Now consider what the prophet Joseph Smith said:
“I told the brethren that 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.”Joseph Smith, Introduction, The Book of Mormon
I have pondered this many times. Looking back, I realize that for years I treated the Book of Mormon incorrectly and unfairly. I took it for granted and even abused it. (I will explain how I abused it later in this post.)
Have you also pondered this quote? Do you realize what Joseph Smith is really saying? That this book is of the most supreme value to any person’s relationship to the Lord? Do you believe that—like do you really believe that?!? How in the world would this book actually help a person “get nearer” to God?
I’d like to answer that question for you today by teaching you something that the Lord has taught me. There are three primary purposes for the restoration of the Book of Mormon and how it can help a person “get nearer” to God. In addition, the Lord has taught me that there are right and wrong ways to use the Book of Mormon.
I will put these in order of importance starting with number one. Then I will explain how a person can wrongly use or even abuse this amazing book. Each of the three purposes will include a reality that you are faced with, the risk you are faced with, and questions that you are faced with.
#1—Jesus Christ is the Only Way
This one I have already discussed in great length in other posts, so it may seem a little redundant, but I think it appropriate to reiterate for those who may be new to this blog and a good reminder for those who aren’t. In general, we give this a nod to the affirmative, but we struggle to really understand it and even believe it. This is literal and yet we treat it casually–such as, “Yes, of course the Savior’s atonement is what enables me to be redeemed.” However, it is more literal than that. It might be better said this way: “The Lord is who enables you to be personally redeemed.” At first glance, this might be subtle, but it makes all the difference. It is “in and through Him” only because He is the one that fulfilled the atonement. This is why your personal relationship with the Lord is the only means by which you can receive personal redemption.
Your relationship is not just an added bonus to help you through some tough times. Instead, your personal relationship is the means by which you will receive everything from the Lord—truth, guidance, and personal mentoring through gifts of the spirit, as well as saving ordinances (baptism of water; baptism of fire & Holy Ghost). Yes, it’s through this relationship that the Lord can offer the saving ordinance of a baptism of fire and Holy Ghost (part two of a “baptism in the name of the Son.”)—which offers sanctification and justification (Moses 6:59-62) required to enter the presence of the Lord.
Please understand what it means that the Lord is the only being able to offer you any portion of divine glory. Sure, there are times when the Lord has commanded and authorized a person to be a voice and visible symbol for the Lord’s power, but it is still the Lord’s power that is necessary. No person truly holds it or possesses it, but rather he or she is only able to be a conduit for the Lord’s power in a case-by-case scenario.
Also, by revealing who it is that can offer salvation or even exaltation, the Book of Mormon also reveals the divine nature of God—His omniscience, omnipotence, omnibenevolence, perfect justice and mercy, and immortal glory. This helps to develop hope (belief & trust) in Him and encourages each person to exercise faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The reality you are faced with
I will say it again boldly for the sake of plainness and clarity—the statement that “Jesus Christ is the only way” is absolutely 100% literal. Salvation is also personal, and group salvation or even exaltation is a false tradition and doctrine. Nowhere in the Book of Mormon does it say that you are saved (receive salvation; personal redemption) through your membership in any institution. Your unwavering loyalty to a specific religious institution won’t do it either. Nowhere in the Book of Mormon does it say that you are saved through temporal rituals. (As a matter of fact, Abinadi’s primary message is to preach against this.) It doesn’t say that a religious institutional leader saves you. It doesn’t even say that your own good deeds/works save you. The following are just a few of the countless scriptures that clearly validate the reality you are faced with:
And now, ought ye not to tremble and repent of your sins, and remember that only in and through Christ ye can be saved?Mosiah 16:13
And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ. Behold, he is the life and the light of the world. Behold, he is the word of truth and righteousness.Alma 38:9
The Risk You are Faced With
The risk you take is making a personal offering of loyalty, trust and utmost confidence in someone(s) or something(s) other than the Lord personally. Your risk is to hope, desire or expect that your offering will in return offer you personal redemption and even exaltation. Your risk is idolatry!
The questions you are faced with
- Anything less than 100% literal interpretation of the scriptures in this way is a manifestation of unbelief. Do you have any unbelief?
- Do you deny the power of God which is manifested through the gifts of the spirit (Moroni 8, 10; 2 Nephi 28; Jacob 6)?
- Do you really believe the power of God comes directly from Him, or do you believe in the false tradition that it is possessed by and comes from mankind/arm-of-flesh (2 Nephi 4, 28)?
- Do you really believe that the Lord is consistent, reliable, and dependable? Or do you believe He is a truly random God? Do you believe that He works in patterns, is a promise keeper, is intimately personal, or that He can customize your journey?
- Do you believe the Book of Mormon? Do you really believe the Book of Mormon, or is your belief in it, just a spiritual platitude?
#2—A Witness of the True Doctrine of Christ
Prophets in the Book of Mormon have extended the Lord’s invitation to “work out your own salvation” with the Lord:
“And now, my beloved brethren, I desire that ye should remember these things, and that ye should work out your salvation with fear before God, and that ye should no more deny the coming of Christ”Alma 34:33-38
“O then despise not, and wonder not, but hearken unto the words of the Lord, and ask the Father in the name of Jesus for what things soever ye shall stand in need. Doubt not, but be believing, and begin as in times of old, and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him.”Mormon 9:23-37
The Book of Mormon is not just a witness that the Lord restored knowledge of this invitation (Everlasting Covenant), but rather, it is more of an instruction manual on how to work out your own salvation (the process) with the Lord. The Lord outlines the process Himself in the Book of Mormon (3 Nephi 11-12). Six hundred years prior to the Lord appearing in the land Bountiful, Nephi learned it, believed it, sought after it, experienced it first-hand like his father Lehi, and taught it in plainness prior to his death (2 Nephi 31-33). Jacob, Nephi’s brother fulfilled it and personally testified of it. The record of Enos, captured by Mormon, was a hands-on account of receiving personal redemption through a baptism of fire and Holy Ghost. And Mormon meticulously captured the teaching and demonstration of the true doctrine of Christ from each book and major character throughout the Book of Mormon.
The true doctrine of Christ is outlined in The Doctrine of Christ Study Guide for you to learn, believe, live and teach yourself. Believe the Book of Mormon.
THE REALITY YOU ARE FACED WITH
Not only is there “none other way” (2 Nephi 9:41; 31:21), but the Book of Mormon has repeated warning for those that preach salvation or even exaltation by any other means—an alternative doctrine. The most direct and powerful comes directly from the Lord’s mouth:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my doctrine, and whoso buildeth upon this buildeth upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them. And whoso shall declare more or less than this, and establish it for my doctrine, the same cometh of evil, and is not built upon my rock; but he buildeth upon a sandy foundation, and the gates of hell stand open to receive such when the floods come and the winds beat upon them.3 Nephi 11:39-40
The Lord Himself declared His own doctrine to remove any dispute or even contention related to the subject of His doctrine (3 Nephi 11). False traditions perpetuated within religious institutions and persons that teach, promote, or expect any alternative are in complete opposition to the Lord’s own stated doctrine—the doctrine of Christ. I do not know how to be more plain and clear about this.
The Risk You are Faced With
The risk you are faced with is relying on your own seemingly good works, personal service, institutional service, or relying on ritualistic performances (modern-day law of Moses) to qualify you for personal redemption and even exaltation. Your risk is to believe you can earn it. Your risk is not understanding that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is to seek for and obey personal revelation (enduring to the end), thereby making the Lord the author and finisher of your faith. Your risk is dead works!
The Questions You are Faced With
- Do you seek, knock, ask and receive in your own personal journey/relationship to “work out your own salvation with the Lord?” Do you instead focus on our own righteous works of service thinking this will qualify us as “good enough” for a celestial glory?
- Which doctrine of salvation, or even exaltation do you subscribe to? Is it the doctrine of Christ as plainly taught in the Book of Mormon?
- Do you believe it’s possible for the doctrine of Christ to be so watered down over decades that it has been replaced by false traditions and even that institutional leaders “teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power (gifts of the spirit) thereof” (JSH 1:19) which are the words, opinions, counsel, and directives of arm-of-flesh (2 Nephi 4)?
- Consider the following revelation of the Lord to Joseph Smith: “And this I do that I may establish my gospel, that there may not be so much contention; yea, Satan doth stir up the hearts of the people to contention concerning the points of my doctrine; and in these things they do err, for they do wrest the scriptures and do not understand them” (D&C 10:63). Do you favor the modern-day “teachings for doctrines the commandments of men” (JSH 1:19) over the Book of Mormon? Is it outdated to you? Do you understand the doctrine of Christ as taught in the Book of Mormon so you can discern the contradictions between the “teachings for doctrines the commandments of men” and the true doctrine of Christ? Are you at odds with the doctrine of Christ as taught in the Book of Mormon? Is there contention between the true doctrine of Christ in the Book of Mormon and your religious institution?
- Do you deny the power of God (gifts of the spirit) is part of your personal journey/relationship? Are you a personal witness to the power of God in many of the different manifestations (gifts)? Do you deny the ministration of angels? Are you seeking for the gifts of the spirit (Moroni 10) or do you have unbelief?
- Do you believe the warnings in the Book of Mormon of adhering to or teaching an alternative doctrine—especially the Lord’s own warnings—or do you think He was kidding?
- Do you believe the Book of Mormon? Do you really believe the Book of Mormon or is your belief in it just a spiritual platitude?
#3—Preparation for the Last Days
There are patterns throughout history. When it comes to the Book of Mormon, the prophet, Mormon, saw our day and knew which patterns would repeat themselves in the last days. So, under divine inspiration and commandment, everything that he included was intentional and meaningful to you.
This explains why the war chapters and even gruesome details were included. This also explains why only portions of records were part of the final abridgment—because these select chapters or verses were specific to last day’s events.
The Reality You are Faced With
Remember, these three purposes are in order of importance. So, if you have a deep understanding of purpose #2, then you will understand how it is related to #3. If a person knows Who to receive personal redemption from—which is the Lord (#1)—and if they know the how-to process to actually receive personal redemption—which is the doctrine of Christ (#2)—and if they choose to seek after it and actually receive it, then they will have a personal relationship with the Lord and be 100% rooted in Him, which will include receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, which will be the primary asset needed to navigate the apostasy, false prophets, idolatry, priestcrafts, corruption, and more that is prophesied will exist in the latter and last days:
And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them.3 Nephi 16:10
The Risk You Are Faced With
The risk you are faced with is dismissing the Book of Mormon as historical only, or even antiquated in favor of a more modern flare. Your risk is continued personal condemnation!
47 And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit [personal revelation] cometh unto God, even the Father.
48 And the Father teacheth him of the covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you, which is confirmed upon you for your sakes, and not for your sakes only, but for the sake of the whole world.
49 And the whole world lieth in sin, and groaneth under darkness and under the bondage of sin.
50 And by this you may know they are under the bondage of sin, because they come not unto me.
51 For whoso cometh not unto me is under the bondage of sin.
52 And whoso receiveth not my voice is not acquainted with my voice, and is not of me.
53 And by this you may know the righteous from the wicked, and that the whole world groaneth under sin and darkness even now.
54 And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—
55 Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.
56 And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.
57 And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—
58 That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father’s kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.D&C 84
The Questions You are Faced With
- Do you believe Mormon was a true prophet (gift of prophecy)? A seer (gift of visions)?
- Do you believe he was inspired to include everything in the Book of Mormon that he did?
- Do you believe that there is a personal condemnation that you are subject to by taking the Book of Mormon lightly or even not understanding what is truly taught in it?
- Like it was presented in the Book of Mormon, do you believe that the political, social and religious corruption of every kind will repeat itself in the latter and last days?
- Like it was presented in the Book of Mormon, do you believe that wars in the last days will put many into temporal bondage or take the lives of many including those that think they are righteous and protected because of their association with some religious institution?
- Do you believe the Book of Mormon? Do you really believe the Book of Mormon or is your belief in it just a spiritual platitude?
The Wrong Approach to the Book of Mormon
The Lord has taught me something about the Book of Mormon that I would like you to ponder. Now that we have outlined the three primary purposes for the book, I want to explain something very important about how the book should not be used.
There is a narrative that is taught in my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) that is used to justify the preeminence of the church, and it goes something like this: “If Joseph Smith is a prophet, then the Book of Mormon is a true book of scripture. And if this is true, then The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has an unbroken line of authority and stands supreme to any other religious institution.” This is a false tradition and even an abuse of the Book of Mormon. Let me explain.
First, you may not be aware, but outside of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there are dozens, if not hundreds of other religious faiths/institutions that believe the Book of Mormon is inspired and even include it in their own standard works. Heck, there are even protestant ministers that preach from it alongside the Bible. Thus, possession of this great book alone does not necessarily support claims of preeminence. There are countless other people that love this amazing book, and many of them even understand the three purposes of the book explained above—they might even say that they even know the Book of Mormon better than members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It is important to understand that Joseph Smith is not the Book of Mormon. In addition, The Book of Mormon is not the gospel. The gospel is not a church/institution. It is a false tradition to lump these types of things together or even treat them as if they are equivalents or things that are one and the same. (More on this will come in a future post.)
I also need to be very clear on something else: A prophet is not Jesus Christ, although Jesus Christ is a prophet (one that exercises the gift of prophecy). For as long as there have been prophets, there have also been false prophets. A person should evaluate a person’s spiritual claims, first, based on their fruits (their gifts of the spirit) and second, through a confirmation from the Lord. (More on this also will come in a future post.)
I will offer you caution and even a warning. If you are using the Book of Mormon to justify or prop up your religious institution or even its preeminence, this is amiss. If you are using the Book of Mormon to justify your own personal righteousness and standing with the Lord, this is amiss. Possession of the book alone does not bleed righteousness or the glory of the Lord into your soul. The Lord God truly is no respecter of persons. If you are using this book as a daily/weekly reading checklist to fulfill some sort of promise that just reading it will further qualify your soul, this is amiss. Extracting verses out of context and sharing them through some sort of a meme lifestyle is also amiss.
I plead with you and invite you to repent of these things and study this book with the three primary contexts discussed above. This is the only way for this transcendent book to affect your personal salvation or even exaltation.
The Book of Mormon is truly transcendent only when you (a) learn its proper purposes, (b) truly believe the witnesses that are contained in it, and (c) live so as to fulfill the personal promises of salvation and even exaltation that are contained within it. This is the proper context for the Book of Mormon. I pray that you receive your own witness of what I have discussed as you take this to the Lord.
Do you believe Joseph Smith when he “…told the brethren that 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?” Do you really believe that? In the name of Jesus Christ, I offer my personal witness to you that it does and that it can and will for you as well if you learn, believe and live the proper context of the Book of Mormon.
Above, I mentioned a project in which I have been identifying witnesses of the doctrine of Christ (the true covenant path) in the Book of Mormon. To date, we are halfway through the Book of Mormon. So far, in addition to the Savior’s own witness we have unveiled the following additional witnesses:
- The Witness of Lehi & Nephi— “The Tree of Life”
- Witness of Lehi – “That they might have Joy”
- Witness of Nephi—Idolatry & “The Relationship”
- Witness of Jacob—The Words of Isaiah & Last Days Part 1 & Part 2
- Witness of Nephi – “The Doctrine of Christ” is Plain
- Witness of Jacob
- Witness of Enos
- Witness of Jarom, Omni & their posterity
- Witness of King Benjamin
- Witness of Abinadi part 1 & part 2
- Witness of Alma
- Witness of Alma the Younger to the church in Zarahemla
- Witness of Alma the Younger to the church in Gideon & Melek
- Witness of Alma & Amulek part 1 & part 2
For more understanding of this covenant path and its milestones taught throughout the scriptures, you are welcome to begin your personal study and your own journey in and through the doctrine of Christ through The Doctrine of Christ Study Guide. Also, to help you increase your confidence in personal revelation and develop your own gift of discernment, I invite you to study The 3 Voices of Personal Revelation Study Guide.
JourneyDoctrineOfChrist.org is based on free, online study guides to help you learn, believe, live and teach the Doctrine of Christ. The Study Guides invite any and all to see and know this truth for themselves that the Savior, Jesus Christ, has, in fact, introduced His doctrine and He personally invites all to receive personal redemption and to even literally receive Him while in the flesh (mortality).
Blog posts are only intended to supplement the Study Guides. Per all blog posts, seek the understanding and confirmations from the Lord in your own personal revelation. Study guides are intended to point you to both the Lord’s written word and His voice (personal revelation). These study guides will help you uncover what the Doctrine of Christ is and other essential topics that will help you in your journey to literally “come unto Christ” while in mortality. All study guides are available at JourneyDoctrineOfChrist.org.