Discovering the Book of Mormon

“Discovering the Book of Mormon,” New Era, May 1975, 4

The Message:

Discovering the Book of Mormon

“Who discovered America?” the teacher asked. “Columbus,” answered all the students but one. He answered, “I did.” The children laughed. Nevertheless, a point worth noting had been raised. The one had, in truth, discovered all he knew about America:

The Prophet Joseph Smith wrote: “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 its precepts, than by any other book.” (History of the Church 4:461.)

I have discovered that this statement of the Prophet is true.

When I was a boy, the story of the Gadianton robbers fascinated me. There were numerous caves in the mountains of northern Mexico where we lived. When we explored them, we found ancient arrowheads and other relics. On the walls were strange drawings and hieroglyphics. We wondered if they had been used as hideouts by the robbers. The many tales conjured up and circulated motivated me to read and reread what is written in the Book of Mormon about them.

Later, in my first year of high school at Cassia Academy, the Book of Mormon was the text we used in our theology class. Recently I found in the notebook I there used a short written statement concerning the content of each chapter in the book.

Still later, between 1920 and 1923 when I was in the mission field, I became somewhat more familiar with the Book of Mormon.

My real acquaintance with and love for the book developed between 1929 and 1941, the years during which I practiced law.

After I had worked my way through law school, had passed the bar examination, and had been admitted to practice, I became concerned over the question of whether or not I could live the standards of the gospel of Jesus Christ and practice law at the same time. My father’s worrying about it added to my concern. I don’t know that he had heard the story, but I was told that some wag, walking through a cemetery, saw on a headstone the inscription, “Here lies John Brown, a lawyer, and an honest man.” Whereupon he added to the inscription: “I wonder why they buried all three of them in the same grave?”

Remembering the Prophet Joseph’s appraisal of the book, I decided upon and carried out the following procedure:

I went regularly to my law office half an hour earlier than my associates, locked the door, and spent 30 minutes each morning praying and reading the scriptures. During the 12 years I practiced law, I read the Book of Mormon through nine times.

Since then I have read it many more times.

Great are the lessons it teaches. Consider with me the following examples.

First, faith and courage as demonstrated by Nephi. You will remember that his brothers murmured when their father, Lehi, told them the Lord desired them to return “unto the house of Laban, and seek the records.” But Nephi responded:

“I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” (1 Ne. 3:4, 7.)

When Nephi and his brothers came “up to the land of Jerusalem,” the lot to go in and negotiate with Laban for the plates “fell upon Laman.” He went in but failed to get them. When he returned to his brothers, he persuaded all except Nephi that they should return to their father without the plates. But Nephi said:

“As the Lord liveth, and as we live, we will not go down unto our father in the wilderness until we have accomplished the thing which the Lord hath commanded us.” (1 Ne. 3:10–11, 15.)

He then persuaded them to go down to the land of their inheritance and get their gold and silver and other precious things and with them try to purchase the plates. This they did, but Laban refused to part with the plates. On the contrary, he took from them their possessions and they fled for their lives.

Again outside the walls of Jerusalem, Laman and Lemuel angrily smote Nephi and Sam with a rod. Nephi then went into the city alone and with the help of the Lord obtained the plates.

The quality of Nephi’s faith was dramatically demonstrated on many subsequent occasions. When he undertook to build a ship as the Lord had commanded, his brothers mocked him, opposed him, and said he couldn’t do it. But Nephi “said unto them: If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them: If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done.” (1 Ne. 17:50.)

Well, he built the ship all right and took his whining brothers across the sea in it.

Another lesson of great value I have learned from the Book of Mormon is how one may know when his sins are forgiven. The answer was clarified in my mind as I contemplated the first verses of the fourth chapter of Mosiah.

One of the greatest discourses in the scriptures is recorded in the first chapters of Mosiah. It is King Benjamin’s farewell address to his people.

The first three verses of the fourth chapter read: “And now, it came to pass that when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking the words which had been delivered unto him by the angel of the Lord, that he cast his eyes round about on the multitude, and behold they had fallen to the earth, for the fear of the Lord had come upon them.

“And they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy; and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; who shall come down among the children of men.

“And it came to pass that after they had spoken these words the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come.” (Mosiah 4:1–3. Italics added.)

Everyone who will discover the Book of Mormon and abide by its teachings will be on the way to eternal life.

Illustrated by Sherry Thompson