“How to Study the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, Oct. 2011, 28–31
Twenty-five years ago, President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) detailed “three great reasons why Latter-day Saints should make the study of the Book of Mormon a lifetime pursuit.”1 The reasons were these:
First, the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion—the keystone of our witness of Jesus Christ, of our doctrine, and of our testimony.
Second, the Book of Mormon was written for our day.
Third, the Book of Mormon helps us draw nearer to God.
These reasons for studying the Book of Mormon also suggest some ways we might go about studying this unique scripture.
Since the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our witness of Christ and the fulness of His gospel, it is important in our study to give special attention to the many teachings and testimonies of the Savior it contains. Some have done this by obtaining a new, inexpensive copy of the Book of Mormon and marking all of the verses that refer to or teach about the Savior, His ministry, and His mission. This brings both a deeper witness of Jesus as the Son of God and a fresh appreciation of what He has done and continues to do for us.
The Book of Mormon authors wrote with future generations in mind, specifically the latter days. In abridging the Nephite records, Mormon said he could not include “even a hundredth part” (see 3 Nephi 5:8; see also Words of Mormon 1:5). Moroni commented, “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” (Mormon 8:35). These two authors and others, acting under inspiration, wrote what would be of greatest benefit to us in these latter days.
We should therefore study with these questions in mind: “Why was this included? How does this apply today and to me?” President Benson observed, for example, that in the Book of Mormon we find a pattern for preparing for the Savior’s Second Coming. We learn how disciples of Christ live in times of war, deal with persecution and apostasy, do missionary work, and respond to the dangers of materialism.2 As Nephi did, when we study, we should “liken” the scriptures to ourselves—that is, try to discover how to apply what we find in the Book of Mormon (see 1 Nephi 19:23).
Quoting President Benson once again: “It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that, too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book.”3
Indeed, studying the Book of Mormon invites the Spirit, and the Spirit is the medium of revelation. This suggests that we study in a thoughtful, meditative fashion—pondering, praying, and perhaps making notes as we read. This puts us in a condition to receive added light and understanding, both about what we are studying and about other matters. Sometimes it is helpful to read the entire Book of Mormon in a relatively brief period of time to grasp the sweep of its story and message. But generally it is best to focus on devoting adequate time each day to studying the book as opposed to reading some fixed number of verses or pages per day.
We are fortunate today to have a number of tools that can assist our study of the Book of Mormon. Some are bound with our scriptures—the Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, and index in the English scriptures and the Guide to the Scriptures in other languages. And we have in Latter-day Saint editions of the scriptures numerous footnotes and cross-references on every page.
Other study aids in printed form include the Sunday School Class Member Study Guide, the Seminary Student Study Guide, and the Institute Student Manual. New to our time and age is the growing volume of electronic tools, described in the sidebar on page 31.
The Book of Mormon is an incomparable treasure and the instrument of conversion that the Lord has designed and provided for our dispensation. I recognize it as the foundation of my own testimony of Jesus Christ, of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith, and of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as “the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth.”4 I am happy to join my testimony with Jesus Christ’s that “as your Lord and your God liveth it is true” (D&C 17:6). May your lifelong study of the Book of Mormon deepen your conversion and lead you in a direct course to eternal life.