“It Taught Me the Bible,” Ensign, Sept. 1976, 22–23
As a convert to the Church with a divinity school background, and having spent a number of years in the pastorate of another faith, my first reading of the Book of Mormon struck me with great impact. It was like seeing the thundering Niagara Falls for the first time. It is a book one cannot read casually. Its claims are too enormous to be ignored.
Before my conversion I was so imbued with modern thought and liberal interpretations of the Bible that much of the scriptures seemed irrelevant. I was unable to think clearly as I listened to many theologians pointing in different directions proclaiming, “This is the truth.”
I knew I did not have the unifying truth I so greatly desired. In my search for it I came upon the Book of Mormon. I found it wonderfully enlightening. In my hunger to know the truth I read it five times over a period of seven months, in a comparative study with the Bible. This was the most fruitful labor of my life, above any similar investment of time I had ever made.
My most startling discovery about the Book of Mormon was the light it threw on the Bible. At first I was amazed how this could be so, but later I came to realize God planned it that way. The Bible and the Book of Mormon needed to come together to supplement each other in fulfillment of Ezekiel 37:16–17:
“Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions.
“And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.” [Ezek. 37:16–17]
I knew the sticks referred to by Ezekiel were scrolls or books rolled on sticks. The reference could not be to the Old Testament and New Testament, as some scholars have suggested, for the tribe of Joseph through Ephraim had little to do with bringing the Bible into existence, either the Old Testament or New Testament. However, the tribe of Judah is closely identified with the whole Bible. The royal tribe of David came through Judah, as did other great kings and prophets of the Bible, including Jesus of Nazareth. On the other hand, the Book of Mormon was written or abridged by great Nephite prophets, kings, and judges, all of whom were descendants of Joseph of Egypt. The answer seemed obvious: Ezekiel’s prophecy refers to the Bible and the Book of Mormon.
Then many other basic teachings of the Bible with which I was intellectually familiar came to life. I had never understood the true significance of the fall of Adam as a necessary step toward man’s eternal salvation. When I read the Book of Mormon I learned that Adam is not the villain responsible for the downfall of the human race as interpreted by orthodox Christianity. He and Eve, representative of our human condition, gave up their state of innocence and assumed the awesome responsibility for making choices between good and evil.
How wonderfully sweet is a little baby in its innocence and purity! At the same time, how indescribably tragic it would be if that baby kept his innocence and purity by remaining a baby and never grew up to assume responsibility for his actions. These words from the Book of Mormon became precious and meaningful:
“[Had Adam and Eve not transgressed], they would have had no children; wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin. …
“Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” (2 Ne. 2:23, 25.)
No doubt Adam and Eve suffered the consequences of making some wrong choices, as do we. They also had the same joy that comes in right choices that we can have.
I also found the Book of Mormon especially helpful in understanding the book of Isaiah and the spiritual magnitude of this great Old Testament prophet. Many of his remarkable prophecies, such as the beloved and familiar Isaiah 9:6 passage, became so clear when examined in the light of the Book of Mormon that they could not be misinterpreted:
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” [Isa. 9:6]
“The government shall be upon his shoulder.” To shoulder anything is to be responsible for it. According to the Book of Mormon Christ shall manifest himself to all nations. (1 Ne. 13:42.) He will be responsible for our beloved nation or for any nation that will accept his government and live by his commandments. (Ether 2:12.) At his coming he will set up his perfect government and will be the responsible king.
“Counsellor.” There is much in the Book of Mormon about the great wisdom of the Lord’s counsel. (Jacob 4:10; Alma 37:12.) Christ is the “mighty God,” being the second person in the Godhead, and manifest in the flesh as God’s Only Begotten Son—not in name only, but in fact! He is our “everlasting Father” in that he has spiritually begotten us through his atonement. (Mosiah 5:7; Alma 11:38–39.) “Prince of Peace.” When Christ came to the Nephites as recorded in Third Nephi they accepted him so completely they were able to enjoy two centuries of righteous living and unbroken peace, where no man lifted his hand against another. This is the only record we have of a whole nation over a long period of time accepting Christ as the Prince of Peace in practice and not just in name. This can happen to nations or individuals only when the Lord’s counsels are fully obeyed, as the Book of Mormon makes clear.
Nephi’s remarkable vision (1 Ne. 11:14–34) of the most beautiful and fair virgin becoming the mother of the Son of God, the going forth of the Redeemer, the multitudes gathered to hear him, his being lifted up upon a cross, and the going forth of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb foreshadowed the Christian era several centuries in advance. The whole broad structure of messianic prophecy in Psalms, Isaiah, and writings of other Old Testament prophets came together for me in wonderful clarity after studying the Book of Mormon.
Also from the Book of Mormon I learned the important part the gentiles must play in assisting Israel to claim the great promises God made to them in the Old Testament—they are to be an instrument in his hands to bring redemption to the whole human race. (1 Ne. 22:3–12.)
There are dimensions of faith in the Book of Mormon that give support to the same teachings in the Bible. There are also some unique aspects of faith in the Book of Mormon not found in the Bible, such as in Alma 32, where faith is contrasted with knowledge and likened to a good seed. This chapter on faith in the Book of Mormon added much to my understanding of the teachings of the Bible on this major theme.
The heart of the Book of Mormon is its testimony that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and our Savior. This is also one of the main streams running through the Bible. The Book of Mormon concept of the divine nature of Christ as Savior underscores the historic Jesus as he moves through the New Testament. The idea advanced by some opponents of the Book of Mormon that we have a Bible and do not need another witness for Christ is as illogical as contending that since we have the Gospel of Matthew we do not need the other three Gospels that tell essentially the same story. The Book of Mormon gives support and individual witness to the Bible much as each of the four Gospels support each other.
The ministry of Jesus in Palestine lasted for three years, and among the Nephites only a few days, but to see the Lord’s compassion for the Nephite multitudes and their overwhelming response to him as recorded in Third Nephi adds much to the picture of his earthly life. We learn that Jesus came not only to his people on one side of the world but to those on the other side as well. His New Testament statement, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold” (John 10:16), becomes significantly meaningful.
The Book of Mormon is permeated with the Spirit of the Lord, and whoever reads it with that same Spirit will know it is true. If you love Jesus Christ you will love the Book of Mormon, because it bears witness of him.