Monday, February 6, 2012

Book of Mormon Keystone and the Very Key

The Book of Mormon was described by Joseph Smith as the "keystone" of our religion. He 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 it's precepts, than by any other book." Joseph knew something about the "precepts" of the Book of Mormon that most latter day saints never come to understand. Most good members of the church would be hard pressed to point out what "precepts" the book of Mormon contains that will allow a person to draw near to God in the sense Joseph meant the phrase.

When Joseph said the precepts of the Book of Mormon would allow a person to "get nearer to God" I think he meant something literal and very specific. Two hundred years of continuous dwindling away since Joseph Smith's day, have left much of what Joseph originally taught, changed, forgotten, and in some cases simply abandoned as worthless. Joseph's whole purpose in what he taught and revealed under the Lords direction in the restoration was designed to show the individual child of God how to regain the presence of God in this mortal life. (D&C 93: 1, D&C 76: 117-118, D&C 88: 67-since 68) In this way, the work and the glory of God (Moses 1: 39) is brought to past for individuals that learn and apply Gods prescribed path and commandments. This level of "knowledge" according to John constitutes eternal life. (John 17: 3) The knowledge, instruction, and ordinances needed for individual sons and daughters of God to come into the presence of God is the essence and purpose of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The very key to that sacred instruction, showing the path back to Gods presence, is to be found in the words of the Book of Mormon. Abiding by its precepts as Joseph said, will "get a man nearer to God" and fulfillment of the promises of the Lord to reveal Himself to man, than any other book. 

The way the Book of Mormon is taught in the correlated curriculum of the church, those "precepts" that will allow a person to get near to God are lost in a too superficial mix of a little history and misdirected understanding of doctrinal meaning. Even the "experts," the scholars, and authorities that most people look to for guidance to understand the meaning and precepts of the Book of Mormon are without understanding. Though they are learned, "they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish." (2Nephi 9: 27) Because their wisdom is foolishness, when it is taught to others, it not only "profiteth them not," but it leads others astray from saving principles as well. Nephi said, "Yea, and there shall be many which shall teach after this manner, false and vain and foolish doctrines;" ( 2Nephi 28: 9) Nephi also pointed out "they have all gone astray save it be a few, who are the humble followers of Christ; nevertheless, they are led, that in many instances they do err because they are taught by the precepts of men." (2Nephi 28: 14)

Lest we vainly think the prophecies pointing to false teachings in our day were given to mean not us, but other people instead, Moroni clearly points out in his words in the Book of Mormon, it is those who belong to the "Holy church of God" that have polluted it and "transfigured the holy word of God." (Mormon 8: 38 and 33, see verses 33-41 inclusive) Among the foremost reasons latter day saints fail to recognize and live the saving precepts contained in the Book of Mormon is because of the strong predisposition to think warnings and negative suggestions in the book are only about or pointed to "other people." If this one false understanding could be overcome, the Book of Mormon could be understood with much greater clarity and truth. The book was written for the latter day church, to the latter day church specifically. The Book of Mormon was not written to, or for, any other people. It was not written to warn people who are not members of the Lord's church and who have not received the fullness of the gospel.  When the words of the book speak ideas and concepts that seem condemning or harsh, it is the latter day saints that need to understand the meaning of the message as it applies to them, not others. It is vanity and pride that makes latter day saints think the warnings in the Book of Mormon are directed toward others. Everything written in the book is about and for latter day saints, not others.     

If the Book of Mormon is ever to have the intended power to bring us near to God as Joseph suggested, its precepts must be clearly understood, believed, and most importantly they must be lived with real intent. For most of my life, though I have been a member of the church, I found I have misunderstood the meaning and purpose of the Book of Mormon. I studied the book diligently, took institute classes, read the commentaries of top church scholars and general authorities, I even did my share of teaching from the Book of Mormon. After all my efforts to learn truth through much study and reading, I found in the end, when truth was finally revealed by the power of the Holy Ghost, I had gained little understanding of the precepts in the Book of Mormon that allow one to draw near to God. I, like most others in our day, was "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." (2Timothy 3: 7) This inability to learn truth is part of a plague the apostle Paul said would afflict the people of the last days. Paul said these last days would be "perilous times." (2Timothy 3: 1-7) Perilous indeed are the times when men are unable to learn truth that will lead them to life eternal. Though they are surrounded by all the truth needed to find and secure eternal life in the revelations received by Joseph Smith, foremost of which is the Book of Mormon, the precepts of truth found there are mostly misunderstood and grossly not believed. There is peril to the soul of every latter day saint that does not learn the precepts of the Book of Mormon that are designed as a guide book back to the presence of God. This is why Joseph Smith said a man would get closer to God by abiding it's precepts than by any other book.

Latter day saints are lulled into thinking, because they have read the Book of Mormon, in some cases repeatedly, and because they have a testimony of its divine origins and truth, that their obligation where the Book of Mormon is concerned is fulfilled. However, it is entirely possible that a person can have completed the steps needed to gain a witness of the truth of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, (Moroni 10: 3-5), but still not have a knowledge of the precepts contained in the book that Joseph Smith said would lead a person closer to God. A "testimony" of the divinity and truth of the Book of Mormon will not save. Almost all latter day saints are caught in the deception that their belief in the Book of Mormon will be enough to lead them to the celestial kingdom. Instead, it is only "abiding by its precepts" that will lead closer to God. Abiding by any precept cannot be done unless the precept is clearly and correctly understood, believed, and lived with real intent.

In 1832 the Lord placed the church and its people under condemnation largely because they had "taken lightly" the Book of Mormon. The words of the condemnation are: "And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all. 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—" (D&C 84: 56-57) This condemnation has never been lifted by the Lord. In fact it has been reconfirmed and reiterated by various church leaders including President Ezra T. Benson and most recently by Dalin H. Oaks since it was originally pronounced by the Lord.

We are to abide by the precepts of the precious Book of Mormon in order to "get nearer to God." Being under God's condemnation for taking the Book of Mormon lightly should be taken by us as a clear signal that we are far from understanding how to draw closer to God by its precepts. The next many entries to this blog will be devoted to discovering the little understood and nearly universally rejected precepts contained in the Book of Mormon that are given to us by the Lord in the latter days to show us Gods great works and how to come unto Him.  

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