“Chapter 16: The Power of the Book of Mormon,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley (2016)
“Chapter 16,” Teachings: Gordon B. Hinckley
When Gordon B. Hinckley was a young man, he established a pattern for scripture study. “As a missionary, I read each evening before going to bed a few chapters of the Book of Mormon,” he said, “and there came into my heart a conviction which has never left: that this is the word of God, restored to the earth by the power of the Almighty, translated by the gift and power of God to the convincing of the Jew and the Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.”1
His knowledge and testimony of the Book of Mormon influenced many people after his mission, when he worked as an employee of the Church’s Radio, Publicity, and Mission Literature Committee. He received an assignment to write scripts for a radio series titled A New Witness for Christ. The series brought Book of Mormon passages to life for radio listeners. At the time, he commented to an associate: “I have always thought that we will do our best work when we get people interested in the Book of Mormon to the point where they will read it. It is then that the Spirit can bear witness of its divinity.”2
Throughout his ministry, President Hinckley emphasized the importance of the Book of Mormon. In August 2005, as President of the Church, he challenged Latter-day Saints to read the entire book before the end of the year. He later reported: “It is amazing how many met that challenge. Everyone who did so was blessed for his or her effort. As they became immersed in this added witness of our Redeemer, their hearts were quickened and their spirits touched.”3
It was said of old, it was said by the Savior, that in the mouths of two or more witnesses shall all things be established.4
As the Bible is the testament of the Old World, the Book of Mormon is the testament of the New. They go hand in hand in declaration of Jesus as the Son of the Father.5
The Book of Mormon … testifies of Him who was born in Bethlehem of Judea and who died on the hill of Calvary. To a world wavering in its faith, the Book of Mormon is another and powerful witness of the divinity of the Lord. Its very preface, written by a prophet who walked the Americas a millennium and a half ago, categorically states that it was written “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”6
There is nothing we could do of greater importance than to have fortified in our individual lives an unshakable conviction that Jesus is the Christ. … And, my brothers and sisters, that is the purpose of the coming forth of this remarkable and wonderful book.7
I have read the Book of Mormon, which [Joseph Smith] translated by the gift and power of God. By the power of the Holy Ghost I have received a testimony and a witness of the divine origin of this sacred record.8
Its origin is miraculous; when the story of that origin is first told to one unfamiliar with it, it is almost unbelievable. But the book is here to be felt and handled and read. No one can dispute its presence. All efforts to account for its origin, other than the account given by Joseph Smith, have been shown to lack substance.9
The evidence for its truth, for its validity in a world that is prone to demand evidence, lies not in archaeology or anthropology, though these may be helpful to some. It lies not in word research or historical analysis, though these may be confirmatory. The evidence for its truth and validity lies within the covers of the book itself. The test of its truth lies in reading it. It is a book of God. Reasonable people may sincerely question its origin; but those who have read it prayerfully have come to know by a power beyond their natural senses that it is true, that it contains the word of God, that it outlines saving truths of the everlasting gospel, that it “[came] forth by the gift and power of God … to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ.”10
[Moroni] wrote his last testament in the book which carries his name and which concludes the Nephite record. He wrote as one with a certain knowledge that his record would eventually come to light. …
In the final chapter of his own composition he bore testimony of the record of his people and categorically promised that those who would read it could know by the power of the Holy Ghost of its truth [see Moroni 10:3–5].
No other book contains such a promise. If Moroni had written nothing else, this promise in his concluding testimony would mark him forever as an eloquent witness of eternal truth. For, said he, “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5).11
Each time we encourage others to read the Book of Mormon, we do them a favor. If they read it prayerfully and with a sincere desire to know the truth, they will know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the book is true.
From that knowledge there will flow a conviction of the truth of many other things. For if the Book of Mormon is true, then God lives. Testimony upon testimony runs through its pages of the solemn fact that our Father is real, that he is personal, that he loves his children and seeks their happiness.
If the Book of Mormon is true, then Jesus is the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh, born of Mary, “a virgin, most beautiful … above all other virgins” (see 1 Ne. 11:13–21), for the book so testifies in a description unexcelled in all literature.
If the Book of Mormon is true, then Jesus is verily our Redeemer, the Savior of the world. …
If the Book of Mormon is true, Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, for he was the instrument in the hands of God in bringing to light this testimony of the divinity of our Lord.
If this book is true, [the President of the Church] is a prophet, for he holds all of the keys, gifts, powers, and authority held by the Prophet Joseph, who brought forth this latter-day work.
If the Book of Mormon is true, the Church is true, for the same authority under which this sacred record came to light is present and manifest among us today. It is a restoration of the Church set up by the Savior in Palestine. It is a restoration of the Church set up by the Savior when he visited [the American] continent as set forth in this sacred record.
If the Book of Mormon is true, the Bible is true. The Bible is the Testament of the Old World; the Book of Mormon is the Testament of the New. One is the record of Judah; the other is the record of Joseph, and they have come together in the hand of the Lord in fulfillment of the prophecy of Ezekiel. (See Ezek. 37:19.) Together they declare the Kingship of the Redeemer of the world and the reality of his kingdom.12
[The Book of Mormon] narrative is a chronicle of nations long since gone. But in its descriptions of the problems of today’s society, it is as current as the morning newspaper and much more definitive, inspired, and inspiring concerning the solutions to those problems.13
I open its pages and read, and it has language both beautiful and uplifting. The ancient record from which it was translated came out of the earth as a voice speaking from the dust. It came as the testimony of generations of men and women who lived their lives upon the earth, who struggled with adversity, who quarreled and fought, who at various times lived the divine law and prospered and at other times forsook their God and went down to destruction.14
I know of no other writing that sets forth with such clarity the tragic consequences to societies that follow courses contrary to the commandments of God. Its pages trace the stories of two distinct civilizations that flourished on the Western Hemisphere. Each began as a small nation, its people walking in the fear of the Lord. Each prospered, but with prosperity came growing evils. The people succumbed to the wiles of ambitious and scheming leaders who oppressed them with burdensome taxes, who lulled them with hollow promises, who countenanced and even encouraged loose and lascivious living, who led them into terrible wars that resulted in the death of millions and the final extinction of two great civilizations in two different eras.
No other written testament so clearly illustrates the fact that when men and nations walk in the fear of God and in obedience to his commandments, they prosper and grow, but when they disregard him and his word, there comes a decay which, unless arrested by righteousness, leads to impotence and death. The Book of Mormon is an affirmation of the Old Testament proverb, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov. 14:34.)15
In August 1830, as a lay preacher, Parley Parker Pratt was traveling from Ohio to eastern New York. At Newark, along the Erie Canal, he left the boat and walked ten miles [16 kilometers] into the country, where he met a Baptist deacon by the name of Hamlin, who told him “of a book, a STRANGE BOOK, a VERY STRANGE BOOK! … This book, he said, purported to have been originally written on plates either of gold or brass, by a branch of the tribes of Israel; and to have been discovered and translated by a young man near Palmyra, in the State of New York, by the aid of visions, or the ministry of angels. I inquired of him how or where the book was to be obtained. He promised me the perusal of it, at his house the next day. … Next morning I called at his house, where, for the first time, my eyes beheld the ‘BOOK OF MORMON’—that book of books … which was the principal means, in the hands of God, of directing the entire course of my future life.
“I opened it with eagerness, and read its title page. I then read the testimony of several witnesses in relation to the manner of its being found and translated. After this I commenced its contents by course. I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.
“As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 3rd ed., Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1938, pp. 36–37.)
Parley Pratt was then twenty-three years of age. Reading the Book of Mormon affected him so profoundly that he was soon baptized into the Church and became one of its most effective and powerful advocates. …
Parley Pratt’s experience with the Book of Mormon was not unique. As the volumes of the first edition were circulated and read, strong men and women by the hundreds were so deeply touched that they gave up everything they owned, and in the years that followed, not a few gave their lives for the witness they carried in their hearts of the truth of this remarkable volume.
Today … it is more widely read than at any time in its history. … Its appeal is as timeless as truth, as universal as mankind.16
[The Book of Mormon] has touched for good the lives of millions who have prayerfully read it and pondered its language. May I tell you of one such. …
He was a businessman, successful in his undertakings. In the course of his travels he met two of our missionaries. They tried to set up an appointment to teach him. He put them off, but finally agreed to listen. He somewhat perfunctorily accepted what they had to say. He became convinced in his mind that they spoke the truth, but he was not moved in his heart.
He decided that he would read the Book of Mormon. He said that he had been a man of the world, never given to crying. But as he read the book, tears coursed his cheeks. It did something to him. He read it again and felt the same emotions. What had been conversion of the mind became conversion of the heart.
His way of life was altered, his perspective changed. He threw himself into the work of the Lord. Today he fills a high and holy calling in the cause he has come to love.17
Let me tell you [another] story about the Book of Mormon. I heard a man who was a banker in California tell this story. He said his secretary smoked, constantly smoked. She was addicted to smoking. She could not set it aside. She said to him one day, “How can I stop smoking?”
He reached down in his desk and took out a copy of the Book of Mormon and handed it to her. He said, “Now, you read this.”
She said, “All right, I’ll read it.”
She came back a couple of days later and said, “I’ve read 200 pages, and I didn’t see the word smoking anywhere. I didn’t see the word tobacco anywhere. I saw nothing that referred to it.”
He said, “Keep reading.”
So she came back another couple of days later and said, “I’ve read 200 more pages—no mention of smoking, no mention of nicotine, no mention of anything associated with tobacco.”
He said, “Keep reading.”
She came back three or four days later. She said, “I’ve read the entire book. I didn’t see tobacco anywhere; I didn’t see smoking anywhere. But,” she said, “there has come into my heart as a result of reading that book some influence, some power, that has taken from me the desire to smoke, and it is wonderful.”18
Let me tell you of a letter which we received. … A man wrote, saying, “I am in a federal prison. I recently came across a copy of the Book of Mormon in the prison library. I have read it, and when I read Mormon’s lamentation over his fallen people—‘O ye fair ones, how could ye have departed from the ways of the Lord! O ye fair ones, how could ye have rejected that Jesus, who stood with open arms to receive you! Behold, if ye had not done this, ye would not have fallen’ (Morm. 6:17–18)—I felt that Mormon was talking to me. Can I get a copy of that book?”
We sent him a copy. Some time later, he walked into my office a changed man. He was touched by the spirit of the Book of Mormon and today is a successful man, rehabilitated, earning a living honestly for himself and his family.
Such is the power of this great book in the lives of those who read it prayerfully.
Brothers and sisters, without reservation I promise you that if you will prayerfully read the Book of Mormon, regardless of how many times you previously have read it, there will come into your hearts an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord. There will come a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to his commandments, and there will come a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.19
Why do we need the Book of Mormon? What are some passages in the Book of Mormon that have strengthened your testimony of Jesus Christ? What examples have you seen of the Book of Mormon and the Bible going “hand in hand” in testifying of the Savior? (See section 1.)
Why do you think the promise in Moroni 10:3–5 is more important than physical evidence of the Book of Mormon? (See section 2.) What experiences have you had with this promise?
As you review section 3, note the truths we can know when we have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. How does the Book of Mormon testify of these truths?
Think about some of the “problems of today’s society” (section 4). In what ways can the Book of Mormon help us find solutions to those problems? What are some passages in the Book of Mormon that have helped you in times of personal challenge?
Ponder the stories in section 5. If someone asked you about the Book of Mormon, what could you say about how it has influenced your life?
“I am grateful for emphasis on reading the scriptures. I hope that for you this will become something far more enjoyable than a duty; that, rather, it will become a love affair with the word of God. I promise you that as you read, your minds will be enlightened and your spirits will be lifted. At first it may seem tedious, but that will change into a wondrous experience with thoughts and words of things divine” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Light within You,” Ensign, May 1995, 99).