You’ve probably heard rumors and gossip about the Book of Mormon but the only way to know what is really in it is to read it. Many people who have finally taken the time to do so have been surprised to realize it isn’t what they were told it was. They’re startled by the emphasis on Jesus Christ, the discussions of grace, and the correlations to the Bible. There is no certainty the person telling you what is in it is telling the truth. In fact, there is no certainty he has read it. Only by reading it yourself will you know what is really in it.
There are many ways to read the Book of Mormon and I’ve read it myself in a variety of ways. One way to read is to read it as a story. Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon has a story. The stories in the Book of Mormon serve the same purpose as those in the Bible—to teach moral and spiritual lessons. I’ve known many people who are not Mormon and who enjoyed reading the Book of Mormon as literature and this can be an interesting way to get started.
You’ll find wonderful people in the Book of Mormon. Watch for Nephi, the first person you’ll meet, who said he was blessed every day of his life—and this despite growing up in a dysfunctional home with brothers who wanted to kill him (and who would have succeeded without divine intervention) and despite being essentially homeless for many years. He went from wealth to being a nomad in a tent to moving to a strange new land all in his younger years.
Watch for Moroni, the last person you’ll meet in the Book. There are two men with that name, one a great military leader. The other is the one I’m referring to here. He was the son of a prophet of God. His people had forgotten God and as a result, the promises made to them were not able to be carried out, since they were dependent on worthiness. When the wicked Lamanites (descendents of those brothers who tried to kill Nephi back at the start of the book) killed off all his people, including his family and friends, he was left all alone. He was a teenager and the only good person left in his world. He had to stay in hiding as he finished editing and condensing the records of his people. Can you imagine a teenager coping with those circumstances, all alone in the world, sought by thousands of evil people, and kept alive for the sake of a book? When he finished his work, he hid the record away. In the future he would come as an angel to another teenager, Joseph Smith, and begin preparing him to translate the record and bring it to the modern world. It was for this purpose Moroni had been saved from destruction. His story is a touching and powerful one of faith, suffering, and sacrifice for God at a very young age.
To get the most from the book, however, you need to look beyond the entertainment value of the book. The Book of Mormon is rich with doctrine that will help you strengthen your testimony of Jesus Christ. As you read, mark in one color all scriptures that are about Jesus Christ. Sometimes the writers will use a title instead of a name. The Book of Mormon actually refers to Jesus Christ more often than the Bible does.
As you’re reading, watch for these scriptures:
Why the prophets wrote the words in the Book of Mormon:
And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins (2 Nephi 25:26).
Salvation Comes Through Jesus Christ
16 And even if it were possible that little children could sin they could not be saved; but I say unto you they are blessed; for behold, as in Adam, or by nature, they fall, even so the blood of Christ atoneth for their sins.
17 And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent (Mosiah 3:16-17).
Jesus Appears to the Nephites
The Nephites were the descendents of Nephi, the first person I told you about in this article. His descendents were promised Jesus Christ would come to them one day after his death. This scripture is from the moment Jesus appears to them—the other sheep He told His apostles He had to go to teach.
2 And they were also conversing about this Jesus Christ, of whom the sign had been given concerning his death.
3 And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.
4 And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not.
5 And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.
6 And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them:
7 Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him.
8 And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him, and they durst not open their mouths, even one to another, and wist not what it meant, for they thought it was an angel that had appeared unto them.
9 And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand and spake unto the people, saying:
10 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world.
11 And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.
12 And it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words the whole multitude fell to the earth; for they remembered that it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them after his ascension into heaven (3 Nephi 11).
If you are reading to find out whether the book is true or not, there is only one way to do this. You can’t take the word of any person on earth, whether Mormon or not. The only way to know for sure is to ask God Himself to tell you. If you pray before you read, as you read, and after you read, and then sit quietly waiting for an answer, you’ll soon know for yourself what God thinks of this book. It can take time, if you’re not used to waiting for non-material answers from God, to learn to recognize how He “speaks” to us, but as you continue to ask Him for wisdom and confirmation of truths, you will begin to notice a pattern. You’ll note that when you have made a correct choice, you’ll feel at peace. Satan cannot create a feeling of spiritual peace, so you know this comes from God. You’ll feel in your heart you’ve made the right choices. The Holy Ghost is always ready to tell us when we’re doing right and also, of course, when we’re doing wrong.
What many people think is their conscience is really the Holy Ghost guiding us gently along the path. The more often we take His advice, the more regularly He will speak to us. A peaceful feeling means we’re on the right track and a confused or negative feeling means we are not. Think about how you feel when you’re in church or helping another person. Those feelings of peace are from God.
Some will tell you that you can’t trust these feelings. However, I know God can do anything. He promised us we could turn to Him when we needed wisdom. (If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him—James 1:5, King James translation of the Bible.) I know God keeps His promises, and so I trust Him to answer me in ways I can recognize as being Him. After all, if He couldn’t do that, how could we ever turn to Him for wisdom?
So, trust God and start reading. It won’t take very long to read, but it may be the most important book you’ve read in a very long time. You can read the Book of Mormon free online without registering.
About Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.