Monday, November 18, 2013

Flooding the Earth

“The time is long overdue for a massive flooding of the earth with the Book of Mormon for the many reasons which the Lord has given. We have the Book of Mormon, we have the members, we have the missionaries, we have the resources, and the world has the need. The time is now!” 
-Ezra Taft Benson, Oct. 1988

That quote was given 25 years ago. If the time was overdue then, it is overdue now.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints love The Book of Mormon, for the most part. We have testimonies that it is true, but we are not reaching the full potential of The Book of Mormon. We have "treated lightly the things you have received—" The Book of Mormon (Doctrine & Covenants 84:54). We will probably not receive any more scripture until we finally figure out the true power behind this book. For, if we do not learn how to use The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ as the standard of the Restoration of the Gospel, "condemnation [shall rest] upon the children of Zion, even all. And [we] shall remain under this condemnation until [we] repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon" (Doctrine & Covenants 84:56-57). To know of the true power behind The Book of Mormon, we must know what The Book of Mormon is -- or what it claims to be -- for if it is what it claims to be, then it is true. 

The Book of Mormon claims to be "an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi...Written by way of commandment, and also by the spirit of prophecy and of revelation", for "the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations" (Title Page, Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ). It further claims to be "a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible...a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas [that] contains the fulness of the everlasting gospel" (Introduction, Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ). Even on the cover, it declares without equivocation that it is "Another Testament of Jesus Christ". If it is these things, then it is true. If it is not, then it is false. 

That's the beauty of The Book of Mormon! Either it is true or it is false! Either it is of God or it is from the devil. There is no middle ground with this book! The truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints rests upon the validity of The Book of Mormon. If it is true, we have living prophets who hold the keys of the Priesthood on the earth today. If it is true, this is a time of revelation, even a time when "righteousness...[sent] down out of heaven; and truth...[sent] forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of...[the] Only Begotten" (Moses 7:62). If The Book of Mormon is true, temple work is necessary for everyone who has ever lived on the earth. If The Book of Mormon is true, the gathering of Israel is already well under way. If The Book of Mormon is true, every doctrine, principle, and key taught by this church is one hundred percent true. If The Book of Mormon is false, then this work is the greatest fraud the world has ever seen. But if it is true, then this is "the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands [that is filling] the whole earth" (Doctrine & Covenants 65:2).

The Book of Mormon is truly "a marvelous work and a wonder", causing "the wisdom of [our] wise and learned [to] perish, and the understanding of [our] prudent [to] be" hidden (2 Nephi 27:26). There is no possible explanation for the publication and writing of this book, except the one that Joseph gave: that a messenger from heaven showed the place of the plates and that he translated it by the gift and power of God. As Jeffrey R Holland put it, "Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. " (Safety for the Soul, Conference Oct 2009). Those same theories get resurrected again and again and go through the same process. Attacks on the Book of Mormon will not cease, for it is the work of God, and Satan will stop at nothing to keep one man, woman, or child from finding this work, and joining it.

Every book, every chapter, and every verse of The Book of Mormon has great meaning. It might not be shown instantly to us, but as we consistently search, ponder, and pray (which requires effort!!! See Read, Pray, and Go to Church) we will come to see the gold dust amid all the nuggets. 

I find it interesting that The Book of Mormon came from plates that had the appearance of gold. While there were probably reasons for this dealing with availability of ores and properties of various types of metals with corrosion, I feel that the Lord was very wise in the symbolism. The words of the "Gold Bible" (as enemies of the church at one point called The Book of Mormon) is worth more than gold. They are words of celestial gold. The gold, in addition to being the physical description, also refers to the words therein. They are words of gold. It truly is truth "out of the earth" (Moses 7:62).

President Ezra Taft Benson taught, "The Book of Mormon was written for us today. God is the author of the book. It is a record of a fallen people, compiled by inspired men for our blessing. Those people never had the book—it was meant for us. Mormon, the ancient prophet after whom the book is named, abridged centuries of records. God, who knows the end from the beginning, told him what to include in his abridgment that we would need for our day" (The Book of Mormon is the Word of God, Ensign Jan 1988). The Book of Mormon holds the answers that so many in today's world are searching for.

Preach My Gospel shares a few of those questions that are answered:
"Is there a God? (Alma 22)
• What does Jesus Christ expect of me? (2 Nephi 9)
• How can a belief in Jesus Christ help me? (Alma 36)
• Is there life after death? (Alma 40)
• What is the purpose of life? (Alma 34)
• Why does God allow evil and suffering to occur? (2 Nephi 2; Alma 14:9–11; 60:13)
• Does my infant need to be baptized? (Moroni 8)
• Does God know me? (Alma 5:38, 58) 
• Does God answer prayers? (Enos 1)
• How can I find peace and joy? (Mosiah 2, 4)
• How can my family be happier and more united? (Mosiah 2)
• How can I balance my family and career? (3 Nephi 13)
• How can I strengthen my relationship with my spouse? (3 Nephi 14)
• How can I avoid the evils that threaten my family? (Alma 39)
• How can I avoid sin? (Helaman 5)" (Preach My Gospel pg 107).

All these questions and many more can be found by studying The Book of Mormon. In fact, it is my personal testimony that any question of the soul that any person has can be answered by any chapter in The Book of Mormon! Exclamation point. Now, that is not to say that  it'd be more direct in some chapters than others, but the Book of Mormon is one long revelation on how to get revelation. As people study The Book of Mormon in meaningful ways: not merely scanning a few verses, not merely reading so fast to get the story from the book, but through thoughtful, prayerful study of the words and their meanings and their applications, God will cause swelling within our breasts, enlarge our understanding, enlighten our minds, and cause the words to become delicious to us. These forms of revelation will open the door to us gaining greater light and knowledge from on high. The Book of Mormon truly is a springboard to our revelation.

That being said, in order to gain the revelation, we must follow the program. In the economy of heaven, we will not get anything that we do not work for and earnestly seek. Thus, the Lord provided a framework at the end of The Book of Moroni on how this would work. "Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your heartsAnd when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would 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 unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things" (Moroni 10:3-5). This is the pattern for everything we are seeking revelation on, though it is mostly used to coming to know the truthfulness of The Book of Mormon. This pattern is absolutely 100% reliable! No person can do it all, and fail to find the veracity of The Book of Mormon, but if ANY one of the steps is omitted, it will fail miserably. Whether a person reads the whole Book of Mormon or only a chapter, this pattern works. Whether it's for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon or any other question, this pattern works.

The first step in this all is to read The Book of Mormon. If we are searching for a question of the soul, we should read with that question in mind, looking for the answers placed before us with eyes of discernment granted from on high. If we do not read the words God already gave us, he is under no obligation to give us more. But notice: this is only the first step! There is much more that needs to be done to gain direction from God.

The second step is that we remember the mercy of the Lord "from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts" (Moroni 10:3). Remembering the mercy of the Lord gives us a deeper level of gratitude. Furthermore, as we ponder, the Lord is able to give us more --sort of like that gold dust among the nuggets again--that we can use to gain deeper understanding. It is during the pondering that the Spirit can teach most effectively. At this point, a person has received gentle promptings from the spirit, usually unrecognizable to anyone. Why? I'm sure it's because we are getting the answers from that same God that said, "But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth;" (3 Nephi 13:3). So, I feel He anonymously gives us thoughts to be answers to our prayers without our knowledge. Furthermore, the Lord taught, "But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right" (Doctrine & Covenants 9:8). He will not give us the overarching confirming witness until after we have come to a conclusion, because that is the economy of heaven.

After we have received those thoughts and those slight impressions from the spirit, then we must pray and ask if The Book of Mormon is not true. The wording there is so very significant. Yes, if the verse said, "if these things are true", it would mean the same thing in our thoughts, but the wording is so carefully placed. To ask if it is not true means to ask, "It's true, isn't it?" We already arrived at the answer and are merely asking the Lord to confirm it. This is very consistent with the way the Lord works. The Lord has said that those "that believeth these things which I have spoken, him will I visit with the manifestations of my Spirit, and he shall know and bear record" (Ether 4:11). It isn't until after we believe that we receive the witness. Why? Because belief is an act of faith. 

To gain this knowledge we must have faith in Christ. Believing before we get a definite answer is acting on a belief, or having faith, which is a principle of action. Remember that "faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith" (Ether 12:6). Believing first is something that we are not prone to do as humans, especially in this evidence-based, modern world we live in. It is going against our own natures to show that we have faith in Jesus Christ: that we have such a strong belief that He will answer our prayer that we will pray. Without this faith, even if we pray, we will receive no witness, for our faith had not been tried, because we had none. Those who have pursued this can all testify that they know that The Book of Mormon is of God.

Even with the faith to act and to believe before we get evidence, two more aspects are needed in this prayer. We must have a sincere heart, and we must have real intent. I intentionally separated the two because, too often, they're said in the same breath, and we come to think of these two things as the same, or close to the same, thing, when they aren't. A sincere heart is someone who really wants to know if something is true. They will return to the thoughts again and again. They will dwell on it. Remember the last time you really wanted to know something: whether it was why do bad things happen to good people or why does ice float? You didn't just sit around waiting for the answer, you worked to find it. You sincerely wanted to know  it. This is what a sincere heart means. Real intent means that you will act on the answer that you get. Whether that's getting baptized or more earnestly building up the Kingdom, you must be willing to act on the answer you get and only then the Lord will give you the answer to the question you are seeking.

There is one part of this formula that many (including missionaries as they teach investigators) tend to skip over. That part is the pondering. Without the pondering, nothing happens. The reason it tends to be skipped over is that nobody seems to really get how to ponder. Quite honestly, the easiest way to ponder is to write what you learned. Writing what you learned, whether it's while you read or afterwards, causes you to work with the information with your mind, and is a form of pondering. So, the easiest way to describe this formula is called the "Pray, Read, Write" method (at least by me). It comes from Clayton Christensen's book, "The Power of Everyday Missionaries". (I suggest reading the book, but I'll give a quick overview here). First you pray, and tell the Lord what you want to get out of reading, then you read The Book of Mormon, and write. When you get to this point, you pray again, and tell the Lord what you learned, and ask Him to let you see more. You read the same passage again and write what you learned in addition to last time (because you will find more). Then, you pray to know the truthfulness of what you have learned and what you read. It is the most effective way to get answers to the questions of the soul.

Just think of all the blessings that have come because of The Book of Mormon. Think of the wonder and majesty and awe of the power of The Book of Mormon! Think of the joy and the peace you have received from the knowledge that The Book of Mormon is true. Think of all the ways it has helped you. As you ponder these things, it will become increasingly clear that The Book of Mormon has blessed the lives of members of the church in more ways than we realize on a day to day basis. We take it for granted. In our day to day lives we treat "lightly the things you have received—" The Book of Mormon (Doctrine & Covenants 84:54). But we can change! We can remove this condemnation from Zion! How? By remembering The Book of Mormon and flooding the earth with this holy book!

Ezra Taft Benson taught, "The Book of Mormon is the instrument that God designed to “sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out [His] elect.” (Moses 7:62.) This sacred volume of scripture needs to become more central in our preaching, our teaching, and our missionary work." It is by no coincidence, I feel, that Elder Nelson used the term of a "wave" to describe missionary work today, and that we are to flood the earth with The Book of Mormon. God is hastening His work. The Book of Mormon is the tool he is using to orchestrate this grand harvest of the souls of men!

President Benson continued, "My beloved brothers and sisters, we hardly fathom the power of the Book of Mormon, nor the divine role it must play, nor the extent to which it must be moved." If every member of this church read from the Book of Mormon on a daily basis, I testify that the work of the Lord would hasten faster than it already is. We would have a greater desire to share the gospel with others. Our homes and families will be stronger as we study from the hallowed pages of this book individually and as families. The
Kingdom of God's growth is not limited like it was in previous dispensations. No, today the Kingdom of God is ONLY limited by the effort of the members in the work of Salvation and our attitude, individually and as a church, towards The Book of Mormon. Every member should hand out at least one copy of The Book of Mormon each month. If we truly believe that we can flood this earth with The Book of Mormon, we should all have copies TO hand out, and the Lord will bless us with the opportunities. This I know independent of anyone else. I close this post with the words of President Benson, as you read, think of ways that YOU can personally assist in flooding the earth with The Book of Mormon.

I challenge our mission leaders to show their missionaries how to challenge their contacts to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. Missionaries need to know how to use the Book of Mormon to arouse mankind’s interest in studying it, and they need to show how it answers the great questions of the soul. Missionaries need to read with those they teach various passages from the Book of Mormon on gospel subjects.

I challenge our Church writers, teachers, and leaders to tell us more Book of Mormon conversion stories that will strengthen our faith and prepare great missionaries. Show us how to effectively use it as a missionary tool, and let us know how it leads us to Christ and answers our personal problems and those of the world.
I challenge those who are in business and other professions to see that there are copies of the Book of Mormon in their reception rooms.
I challenge owners of cassette players to play Book of Mormon cassettes from time to time and to listen to them at home and while walking, jogging, or driving.
I challenge the homes of Israel to display on their walls great quotations and scenes from the Book of Mormon.
I challenge all of us to prayerfully consider steps that we can personally take to bring this new witness for Christ more fully into our own lives and into a world that so desperately needs it.
I have a vision of homes alerted, of classes alive, and of pulpits aflame with the spirit of Book of Mormon messages.
I have a vision of home teachers and visiting teachers, ward and branch officers, and stake and mission leaders counseling our people out of the most correct of any book on earth—the Book of Mormon.
I have a vision of artists putting into film, drama, literature, music, and paintings great themes and great characters from the Book of Mormon.
I have a vision of thousands of missionaries going into the mission field with hundreds of passages memorized from the Book of Mormon so that they might feed the needs of a spiritually famished world.
I have a vision of the whole Church getting nearer to God by abiding by the precepts of the Book of Mormon.
Indeed, I have a vision of flooding the earth with the Book of Mormon."