When world leaders make statements, be it about economic concerns or social problems, pundits immediately express their opinions on that subject. Journalists quickly write and compose stories as well, often on Church history subjects well outside their areas of expertise, such as first vision accounts or race and the priesthood.
Their arguments may seem so confident and logical that some are persuaded that they are facts; not just opinions. In addition to pundits and journalists, there are tweeters and bloggers whose oft-copied opinions have a similar effect.
Recently the Church posted an update to the Topics page of www.lds.org entitled Race and the Priesthood which thoughtfully and thoroughly discusses the history of race as it relates to the priesthood of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While generally positively received, this article generated significant world-wide comment and opinion in the media.
Amidst all this noise, however, the Saviour’s voice remains constant and inviting: “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. The sheep follow [me]: for they know [my] voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers”(John 10:14,4-5).
We do know the voice of the Saviour as we study and ponder the scriptures, as we listen and obey the words of the living prophets, and as we invite the Holy Ghost to witness to us the truth of all things.
The staying power of our testimony of the restored gospel centers less on our Church history than in the Book of Mormon. Moroni explicitly invited those who receive it to “ask God, the Eternal Father in the name of Christ if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4-5). I believe with all my heart that following Moroni’s exhortation will steady our minds and keep us focused on the truth of all things.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “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 any other book.” It is important to note that the prophet singled out the Book of Mormon as a powerful source for drawing closer to Heavenly Father; not Church History nor any other literature.
As a newly-called Bishop of the Soweto Ward, I presided over a baptismal service of an elderly man named Abe Ncala. At the conclusion of the service, brother Ncala bore testimony that left an indelible mark on my heart about the Book of Mormon. Brother Ncala picked up the Book of Mormon from the dumping area in the streets of Soweto. After reading it, he felt moved to find the Church whose name was written on the book’s spine.
He searched for the Church in Soweto without success. Finally, he found the Church in Sandton, Johannesburg. There he was given the address of the Church in Dobsonville, Soweto. Missionaries taught him the gospel and he was baptized. As I reflected upon his testimony and my own experience in studying the book, I know that the truth he found in the book, its power and influence, moved brother Ncala to tirelessly search for the Church. Truth was revealed to him as he studied and pondered its message. Truth can be revealed to us in the same way in times of doubt.
In Ghana and Nigeria, thousands of people of African descent were converted to the gospel without the aid of missionaries after reading the Book of Mormon. These pioneers wrote to Church headquarters for more information and asked for baptism. Because the country did not have priesthood holders, they were asked to wait. Courageous and resolute, those unbaptized converts formed congregations so they could worship together and share their message with others while they waited.
Many of these converts had to wait up to 14 years before they could join the Church. What induced the patience in them to wait, or their great desire to become members of the Church? Clearly, the answer is the Book of Mormon bore witness to them of Jesus Christ with power and clarity. It is still our keystone witness that Jesus Christ is our Lord; salvation and eternal life come only in and through Him. The book reveals truth and establishes peace in the hearts of those who study it.
Nephi had this to say about the purpose of the Book of Mormon: “Wherefore, the things that are pleasing unto the world I do not write, but the things which are pleasing unto God and unto those who are not of the world. For the fullness of my intent is to persuade men to come unto the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, and be saved”(1 Nephi 6:5,4).
As we navigate the oceans of opinions and the logic of men concerning our beliefs and our Church history, we need not be tossed to and fro. We cannot be thrust off course by every wind of speculation if we make the study of the Book of Mormon our lifetime pursuit. The Book of Mormon proves that God inspires men and calls them to His holy work in our day and age. Our minds will not be darkened as we look unto God with firmness of mind; studying the Book of Mormon and following the teachings of his servants.
I testify that the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is true; it is perfect in its form and purifying in its effect. I bear witness that the Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ, written by holy men of God as moved upon by the Holy Ghost. I testify that man will get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than any other book, and I do so in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.