“Lesson 1: Title Page, Introduction, and Testimonies of the Three and Eight Witnesses,” 2017 Book of Mormon Seminary Teacher Manual (2017)
“Lesson 1,” 2017 BoM Seminary Teacher Manual
As you teach the Book of Mormon, you will help students discover truths that will bring them closer to God. From the beginning of the book, it is clear that the writers of the Book of Mormon intended it to testify that Jesus is the Christ. As students prayerfully study the Book of Mormon, they will gain a greater testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and of the Restoration of His Church in the latter days.
Before class, write the following statements on the board:
Read the statements on the board aloud, and ask students to silently consider which statement most closely represents their thoughts and feelings concerning the Book of Mormon.
Invite students to ponder during the lesson today why it is crucial for each of us to receive a testimony that the Book of Mormon is true.
Invite students to turn to the title page of the Book of Mormon. This page begins with the words “The Book of Mormon, an account written by the hand of Mormon upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi.” Point out that the Prophet Joseph Smith explained that this page is a literal translation of the words Moroni wrote on the final leaf of the golden plates (see History of the Church, 1:71).
Invite one student to read aloud the first paragraph of the title page of the Book of Mormon, and invite another to read the second. Ask the class to follow along, looking for phrases that state the purposes of the Book of Mormon. (You may want to point out that these purposes are expressed as what the Book of Mormon will “show unto” those who read it.)
What are the purposes of the Book of Mormon?
As students mention the purpose of convincing “the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ,” write the following truth on the board: The Book of Mormon was written to convince all people that Jesus is the Christ.
What do you think it means to know that Jesus is the Christ?
Explain that the word Christ is a title and is the Greek equivalent of the word Messiah, which means “the anointed.” In the premortal existence, Jesus was anointed or chosen by Heavenly Father to be our Savior (see Guide to the Scriptures, “Messiah,” scriptures.lds.org; see also Bible Dictionary, “Anointed One”).
To help students appreciate the primary purpose of the Book of Mormon, ask a student to read aloud the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994):
“The honest seeker after truth can gain the testimony that Jesus is the Christ as he prayerfully ponders the inspired words of the Book of Mormon.
“Over one-half of all the verses in the Book of Mormon refer to our Lord. Some form of Christ’s name is mentioned more frequently per verse in the Book of Mormon than even in the New Testament.
“He is given over one hundred different names in the Book of Mormon. Those names have a particular significance in describing His divine nature” (Ezra Taft Benson, “Come unto Christ,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 83).
Invite students to turn to any chapter in the Book of Mormon and see if they can locate names or titles that refer to Jesus Christ. Ask students to report a name or title they discovered and explain what it can teach us about Jesus Christ. Share your testimony that the Book of Mormon is a witness that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of all mankind.
Draw on the board a picture of an arch (see the accompanying illustration), or make a model of an arch from wood or other materials.
Point to the central stone at the top of the arch and ask:
What is this stone called? (The keystone.)
What purpose does a keystone serve?
Explain that when an arch is constructed, the two sides are built up with external supports to hold them upright. The space at the top of the arch is carefully measured, and the keystone is cut to fit it exactly. When the keystone is put in place, the arch can stand without supports.
What happens to the arch if the keystone is removed? (If you are using a model, demonstrate by removing the keystone. Then rebuild the arch.)
Ask a student to read aloud the statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the introduction to the Book of Mormon (see paragraph six). Invite the class to look for what Joseph Smith compared to a keystone. Invite students to consider marking the statement in their scriptures.
According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, what is the keystone of our religion?
On the keystone of your arch, write or attach a label that says The Book of Mormon.
How would you explain why the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994):
“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. …
“… Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church. But in like manner, if the Book of Mormon be true … then one must accept the claims of the Restoration and all that accompanies it” (Ezra Taft Benson, “The Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion,” Ensign or Liahona, Oct. 2011, 54, 55).
If the Book of Mormon is true, what other aspects of the restored gospel must also be true?
Consider adding labels to the other stones of the arch such as divinity of Jesus Christ, the Prophet Joseph Smith, continuing revelation, priesthood keys, the restored Church of Jesus Christ, priesthood ordinances, knowledge of the plan of salvation, and eternal families.
In your own words, how would you summarize the importance of receiving a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon? (After students respond, write the following principle on the board: If we know the Book of Mormon is true, then we will also know that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom on the earth today. You may want to point out that this principle is expressed in paragraph nine of the introduction to the Book of Mormon.)
Explain that in addition to Joseph Smith, the Lord appointed others to testify of the Book of Mormon. Invite half of the class to silently read The Testimony of Three Witnesses, and invite the other half to silently read The Testimony of Eight Witnesses. Ask the students to look for what these witnesses saw, heard, or touched. You may want to invite students to consider marking what they find.
What did the Three Witnesses see and hear? (They saw an angel holding the plates and heard the voice of God.)
What did the Eight Witnesses see and touch? (They saw and handled the plates in an ordinary manner.)
Why do you think the Lord might have provided these two different kinds of experiences for these witnesses of the Book of Mormon? (If critics of the Church accused the Three Witnesses of imagining their vision, that would not explain the ordinary experience the Eight Witnesses had with the plates. On the other hand, if critics accused Joseph Smith of simply forging the golden plates to deceive the Eight Witnesses, that would not explain the divine manifestations the Three Witnesses experienced.)
Explain that although we may not have the opportunity to see or touch the plates, we can know for ourselves that the Book of Mormon is true.
Invite a student to read Moroni 10:3–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how we can know the Book of Mormon is true.
According to Moroni, how can we know that the Book of Mormon is true? (Help students identify the following principle: As we read, ponder, and pray about the Book of Mormon, the Holy Ghost will witness that it is true.)
Invite several students to share their testimonies and feelings about the Book of Mormon. You may also want to share your testimony of the Book of Mormon and how you received this testimony.
Point out that some students may feel they do not yet know that the Book of Mormon is true. Assure them that they can receive a testimony of the Book of Mormon through the power of the Holy Ghost. Invite all your students to seek to increase their testimony of the Book of Mormon by reading it daily and prayerfully pondering and applying its teachings.