Ezra Taft Benson, Chapter 11: Follow the Living Prophet

Chapter 11 of the Ezra Taft Benson Teachings of the Presidents of the Church manual covers the importance of following living prophets. The “from the life” section gives examples of President Benson following Church leaders in his childhood on matters such as family home evenings, and sustaining his fellow general authorities throughout his adulthood. Section one focuses on the idea that prophets are the Lord’s mouthpieces, directing the Church under divine wisdom. Section two is centered on the idea that the most important prophet at any given time is the living prophet. Section three is about the living prophet telling us what we need to know, not what we want to hear. Section four is about the promised blessings of following the prophet.

Resources for Lesson/Teaching Helps:

Suggested Hymns

“We Thank Thee, O God, For a Prophet” (Hymns 19)

“Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice” (Hymns 21)

“We Ever Pray for Thee” (Hymns 23)

“Now We’ll Sing with One Accord” (Hymns 25)

“Follow the Prophet” (Primary Songbook)

Videos

We Need Living Prophets

Live According to the Words of the Prophets

Watchman on the Tower

Object Lessons

Gift wrap two boxes. Leave one empty and put some treats in the other one. Tell the class that one of the boxes has something special in it, while the other one has nothing. Ask a volunteer to choose a box. Let the volunteer see what’s inside the box and ask the class if they want her to decide for them. They’ll say yes because she now knows what’s in both boxes. We follow the prophet because he has “seen what’s in the box” of life! He knows what choices we need to make in order to receive eternal rewards.[1]

Gather sap from a pine tree, margarine, soap, and water. Make an instruction card with the following information: (1) grease hands liberally with butter, margarine, or solid shortening; (2) wash with soap and water. In class, ask for a volunteer. Have the volunteer put some sap on her hands (not on clothing—it doesn’t come out). Tell the volunteer to only follow part (2) of the instructions. As the volunteer does so, explain to the class the importance of following all of the directions. Discuss similar examples in cooking (leaving ingredients out, not letting bread rise, etc.). Now tell the volunteer to follow all the directions and give her the resources to do so. The sap should come off.[2]

Further Reading

Ezra Taft Benson, Chapter 11

Ezra Taft Benson: Fourteen Fundamentals in Following the Prophet

Dallin H. Oaks: Two Lines of Communication

Russell M. Nelson: Sustaining the Prophets

Robert Millet: What is Our Doctrine?

Quotes

Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith

Joseph Smith: It is contrary to the economy of God for any member of the Church, or any one, to receive instructions for those in authority, higher than themselves; therefore you will see the impropriety of giving heed to them; but if any person have a vision or a visitation from a heavenly messenger, it must be for his own benefit and instruction; for the fundamental principles, government, and doctrine of the Church are vested in the keys of the kingdom.[3]

Now for persons to do things, merely because they are advised to do them, and yet murmur all the time they are doing them, is of no use at all; they might as well not do them. There are those who profess to be Saints who are too apt to murmur, and find fault, when any advice is given, which comes in opposition to their feelings, even when they, themselves, ask for counsel; much more so when counsel is given unasked for, which does not agree with their notion of things; but brethren, we hope for better things from the most of you; we trust that you desire counsel, from time to time, and that you will cheerfully conform to it, whenever you receive it from a proper source.[4]

We are differently situated from any other people that ever existed upon this earth; consequently those former revelations cannot be suited to our conditions; they were given to other people, who were before us; but in the last days, God was to call a remnant, in which was to be deliverance, as well as in Jerusalem and Zion [see Joel 2:32]. Now if God should give no more revelations, where will we find Zion and this remnant?[5]

John Taylor

John Taylor

John Taylor: Adam’s revelation did not instruct Noah to build his ark; nor did Noah’s revelation tell Lot to forsake Sodom; nor did either of these speak of the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt. These all had revelations for themselves.[6]

B. H. Roberts

B. H. Roberts

B. H. Roberts: While the servants of God, chosen as presidents, apostles, and other leaders of the great New Dispensation movement, carried heavenly treasures in their hands and high truths, yet they bore these in earthen vessels, liable at times to be broken and the heavenly treasures marred.

It must be said of those entrusted with this great mission of God that they were not always 100 percent perfect and right in their administration. Neither were those who fought them always and every time 100 percent wrong. Even in the divine things human frailty touches them or enters into their development and are liable to take on human limitations and uncertainties.[7]

Let not this remark, however, be regarded as implying too great a censure upon the leading men of the New Dispensation. While many of them fell into grievous sins, and all of them at times plainly manifested errors of judgment and limitations in their conceptions of the greatness and grandeur of the work in which they were engaged, yet doubtless they were the best men to be had for the work, since they were chosen either directly of God, or else by a divinely appointed authority, and in either case called of God, and ordained to bring forth the work.[8]

I want to warn members of the Church against speaking lightly or slightingly of sacred things, or of the servants of God. In nothing, perhaps, can you more offend God or grieve his Spirit. . . . Remember, we live under the law of God.—Speak no evil of mine anointed; do my prophets no harm. And remember always that whatever the weakness and the imperfections of men may be, whatever weaknesses they may have manifested before the Church in the past, or may manifest before it in the future (for the end is not yet), their weaknesses and imperfections affect not the truth that God has revealed. The Lord will vindicate his truth, and at the last it will be found that,

‘Tis no avail to bargain, sneer, and nod,

And shrug the shoulder for reply to God.[9]

M. Russell Ballard Image courtesy LDS.org

M. Russell Ballard
Image courtesy LDS.org

M. Russell Ballard: It is no small thing, my brothers and sisters, to have a prophet of God in our midst. … When we hear the counsel of the Lord expressed through the words of the President of the Church, our response should be positive and prompt. History shows that there is safety, peace, prosperity, and happiness in responding to prophetic counsel as did Nephi of old: ‘I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded’ (1 Nephi 3:7).[10]

 

Harold B. Lee

Harold B. Lee

Harold B. Lee: Soon after President David O. McKay announced to the Church that members of the First Council of the Seventy were being ordained high priests in order to extend their usefulness and to give them authority to act when no other General Authority could be present, a seventy I met … was very much disturbed. He said to me, “Didn’t the Prophet Joseph Smith say that this was contrary to the order of heaven to name high priests as presidents of the First Council of the Seventy?” And I said, “Well, I have understood that he did, but have you ever thought that what was contrary to the order of heaven in 1840 might not be contrary to the order of heaven in 1960?” He had not thought of that. He again was following a dead prophet, and he was forgetting that there is a living prophet today. Hence the importance of our stressing that word living.

Years ago as a young missionary I visited Nauvoo and Carthage with my mission president, and we were holding a missionary meeting in the jail room where Joseph and Hyrum had met their deaths. The mission president related the historical events that led up to the martyrdom and then he closed with this very significant statement: “When the Prophet Joseph Smith was martyred, there were many saints who died spiritually with Joseph.” So it was when Brigham Young died: so it was when John Taylor died. … Some Church members died spiritually with Wilford Woodruff, with Lorenzo Snow, with Joseph F. Smith, with Heber J. Grant, with George Albert Smith. We have some today willing to believe someone who is dead and gone and to accept his words as having more authority than the words of a living authority today.[11]

Come Unto Christ

A somewhat popular joke that I have heard before from both Mormons and Catholics (with roles reversed, depending on who’s telling it) goes that the pope’s secretary enters his office one day and tells the pope: “I have good news and bad news.”

“Well, what’s the good news?” the pope asked.

“We just got a phone call—the Second Coming is happening and Jesus Christ is on the line.”

“That’s wonderful! What bad news could there be with that?”

“He’s calling from Salt Lake City.”

Salt Lake Temple Image courtesy LDS.org

Salt Lake Temple
Image courtesy LDS.org

In the LDS Church we focus a lot of on following the prophets and apostles with emphasis on the idea that they are special witnesses of Christ. Often times, the reasoning is that in order to be special witnesses, they have to have had an experience or opportunity that sets them apart as special in some way that makes their witness of Christ more powerful than the average person. The assumption is often that they have personally met Christ during this life and possibly talk with him often, but the experiences are too sacred to share in public. The exaggerated, caricature version of this is that Church members think Christ has a personal phone line to the holy of holies in the Salt Lake Temple that He calls the prophet on regularly.

I believe that it is accurate to state that the men we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators receive revelation on a regular basis. I don’t believe, however that they have regular, personal interviews with Christ, though that does occur once in a while. To explain that statement, I would like to dive into the historical record.

Joseph Smith left a number of experiences where he met with Christ or saw Christ on record. The First Vision, the stunning revelation of the Three Degrees of Glory (often simply referred to as “the Vision”), and the appearance of Christ in the Kirtland Temple stand out as particularly well-known and powerful experiences of this sort. Joseph Smith also did not desire to be alone in meeting Christ—he spent his life trying to bring people into the presence of the Lord. For example, in speaking of ancient prophets, he taught:

This is why Abraham blessed his posterity: He wanted to bring them into the presence of God. They looked for a city, &c. Moses sought to bring the children of Israel into the presence of God, through the power of the Priesthood, but he could not. In the first ages of the world they tried to establish the same thing—& there were Elias’s raised up who tried to restore these very glories but did not obtain them. But (Enoch did for himself & those that were with Him, but not for the world.) they prophesied of a day when this Glory would be revealed.—Paul spoke of the Dispensation of the fulness of times, when God would gather together all things in one &c &.[12]

Since he indicated that he was establishing the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, it seems that he intended to succeed where past prophets had failed. As such, Kathleen Flake—an important Mormon historian—noted that “Joseph Smith was the Henry Ford of revelation. He wanted every home to have one, and the revelation he had in mind was the revelation he’d had, which was seeing God.”[13]

Joseph Smith was the Harrison Ford of Revelation

Joseph Smith was the Harrison Ford of Revelation

This urge to usher people into the presence of God and of Christ appears a number of times in the Doctrine and Covenants—particularly in relation to the Melchizedek priesthood and temple experiences. In fact, Dr. Richard Lyman Bushman (the foremost expert on Joseph Smith at the moment) has suggested that the particular “endowment of power” Joseph expected to be associated with the Kirtland Temple was a general appearance of Christ to the Saints to enable them to all testify more powerfully about the Savior while on missions.[14] Further, Church leaders did indeed indicate that this was the goal of the apostles as “special witnesses of Christ.” Oliver Cowdery gave the Twelve a charge along these lines shortly after their ordination in 1835:

You have been indebted to other men in the first instance for evidence [of God’s existence, and] on that you have acted. But it is necessary that you receive a testimony from Heaven for yourselves, so that you can bear testimony to the truth of the Book of Mormon. And that you have seen the face of God; that is more than the testimony of an Angel. When the proper time arrives you shall be able to bear this testimony to the world. When you bear testimony that you have seen God. This testimony God will never suffer to fall, but will bear you out. Although many will not give heed, yet others will. You will, therefore see the necessity of getting this testimony from heaven. Never cease striving until you have seen God, face to face. Strengthen your faith, cast off your doubts, your sins and all your unbelief and nothing can prevent you from coming to God. Your ordination is not full and complete till God has laid his hand upon you. We require as much to qualify us as did those who have gone before us. God is the same. If the Saviour in former days laid his hands upon his deciples. Why not in the latter Days.[15]

There were some successes in this endeavor. Visions and appearances of God in the Kirtland area that have been documented number at least into the teens and took place in at least four different sites.[16] Unfortunately, I don’t have a list of which, if any, of the men called into the Quorum of the Twelve in Joseph Smith’s time took place in any of those experiences.

There are a number of apostles and presidents of the Church who we have record of having visions or meeting with Christ since the time of Joseph Smith. The Savior appeared to Wilford Woodruff after the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple to accept the temple,[17] Lorenzo Snow met with the Savior in the Salt Lake Temple after Wilford Woodruff’s death,[18] George Q. Cannon stated that “I know that Jesus lives; for I have seen Him,”[19] Elder Orson F. Whitney spoke of dream-vision where he saw and talked with the Christ while serving a mission as a young man,[20] Elder Melvin J. Ballard also had an experience of meeting with Christ while presiding over a mission,[21] President Hugh B. Brown told his nephew that the Lord appeared to him in an informal manner to offer comfort towards the end of his life,[22] and David B. Haight had a lengthy vision of the Savior’s ministry during a serious illness.[23] Other modern apostles and prophets have said things that could be taken to mean that they have seen or met the Christ, but are more cryptic than George Q. Cannon’s straightforward statement. For example, President Boyd K. Packer has stated on at least two occasions (once in 1971 and once in 2014) that “I know the Lord.”[24] Elder Jeffrey R. Holland stated recently that he gave his testimony “with the conviction Peter called the ‘more sure word of prophecy.’”[25] President Ezra Taft Benson stated that “There is no truth or fact of which I am more assured, or know better by personal experience, than the truth of the literal resurrection of our Lord.”[26] There is also room for apostles that have seen the Lord, but have chosen not to leave it on record due to the sacredness of the experience. President Boyd K. Packer said: “We do not talk of those sacred interviews that qualify the servants of the Lord to bear a special witness of Him, for we have been commanded not to do so. But we are free, indeed, we are obliged, to bear that special witness.”[27]

A most interesting story along these lines concerns President Heber J. Grant’s call to the apostleship. According to his grandson, Truman G. Madsen, when President Grant was first called to the Quorum of the Twelve, he spent a number of months deeply depressed because he felt unworthy to serve in that calling. There were a number of reasons why (moral worthiness was not a concern), but one of them was that one of the Brethren had said that no man could serve in the Quorum of the Twelve who had not had an open vision of Christ, and Heber J. Grant had not. He felt like a liar whenever he bore his testimony because he had “never seen Him; [and did] not know.” Eventually, however, he did have a vision where he saw the council in the spirit world of important individuals—most notably the Savior himself—that had decided to send revelation to the Church leaders to call Heber J. Grant. Concerning the nature of the vision, President Grant stated, “I understand what Lehi meant when he said, ‘I seemed to see.’ I was not seeing it with my eyes, but it was powerful. It was as if I could see it, and I could hear.”[28] This experience seemed to satisfy his concerns over the issue.

That being said, there have been prophets and apostles who have admitted that they have not actually seen the Christ. President Joseph Fielding Smith told his son after almost forty years of serving as an apostle: “I did not live in the days of our Savior; he has not come to me in person. I have not beheld him.”[29] Similarly, President David O. McKay was asked by a reporter whether he had seen the Christ after he had served as president of the Church for a few years, he responded “that he had not.”[30] In that same interview, he also gave more information on how he was able to say things like “My testimony of the Risen Lord is just as real as Thomas’s on that occasion. I know that He lives” despite not actually seeing the Lord: “[David O. McKay said that] he had heard His voice—many times—and that he had felt presence and his influence. . . . Then he told me how some evidences are stronger even than that of sight” and spoke of the words of Christ to Thomas.[31] Similarly, Joseph Fielding Smith said that while he hadn’t beheld the Christ, “it is not necessary. I have felt his presence. I know that the Holy Spirit has enlightened my mind and revealed him unto me, so that I do love my Redeemer.”[32]

Joseph Fielding Smith.

Joseph Fielding Smith

These stories and references indicate that some, but not all, of the apostles have seen the Christ. It can probably be assumed that they all have powerful witnesses of the Savior in some way or another, even though they haven’t had a fireside chat with the Christ. The other half of the question is whether or not the president of the Church has regular interviews with the Savior.

As I said above, I do believe it is accurate to say that the Church is guided by revelation, but I also believe that it is on an as-needed basis and is generally through the whisperings of the Spirit to the combined council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. President Gordon B. Hinckley explained on two separate occasions that:

We have a great, basic reservoir of revelation. But if a problem arises, as it does occasionally, a vexatious thing with which we have to deal, we go to the Lord in prayer. We discuss it as a First Presidency and as a Council of the Twelve Apostles. We pray about it and then comes the whisperings of a still small voice. And we know the direction we should take and we proceed accordingly.[33]

We have a great body of revelation, the vast majority of which came from the prophet Joseph Smith. We don’t need much revelation. We need to pay more attention to the revelation we’ve already received.
Now, if a problem should arise on which we don’t have an answer, we pray about it, we may fast about it, and it comes. Quietly. Usually no voice of any kind, but just a perception in the mind. I liken it to Elijah’s experience. When he sought the Lord, there was a great wind, and the Lord was not in the wind. And there was an earthquake, and the Lord was not in the earthquake. And a fire, and the Lord was not in the fire. But in a still, small voice. Now that’s the way it works.[34]

Similarly, Elder B. H. Roberts wrote that:

From some things that have been said recently relative to revelation one would reach the conclusion that because we have in our midst prophets and apostles, inspired men, God and angels and the Holy Spirit are subject to their beck and call; and because a man is upheld as a prophet of God some people seem to suppose that he may enter the presence of God when he will and talk with Him face to face; or, that by his summons, a prophet may bring angels to his side at his own sweet will! Not so. These divine things are under the control of the Lord Almighty, and He will reveal Himself when and in whatsoever mode seemeth Him good. . . . The times and modes of revelation are in the hands of God; our faith is simply this: that the Lord reigns supreme in heaven, aye, and on the earth, and whenever His work requires that His hand should touch it and guide it He will inspire His servants to take the course that is necessary to conform His works to His will. If it be necessary to send from the presence of His throne an angel, clothed with power, might and majesty, to stand in the presence of prophets and apostles, to make known a divine purpose, the sovereign will of God is sufficient to order that to be done; and if it becomes necessary to summon a prophet into the presence of God to commune face to face with Him, then He will summon that prophet into His presence; or open the vision of His mind, snatch away the veil of the covering that at present separates us from God, and will commune with His servant as He did with Moses face to face—all according as God wills.[35]

That being said, the Prophets and apostles have pretty consistently testified that they are guided by inspiration, albeit, the subtle, gentle revelation of the Spirit. We might, in conclusion, read the words of President Spencer W. Kimball:

Expecting the spectacular, one may not be fully alerted to the constant flow of revealed communication. I say, in the deepest of humility, but also by the power and force of a burning testimony in my soul, that from the prophet of the Restoration to the prophet of our own year, the communication line is unbroken, the authority is continuous, and light, brilliant and penetrating, continues to shine. The sound of the voice of the Lord is a continuous melody and a thunderous appeal. For nearly a century and a half there has been no interruption…. Every faithful person may have the inspiration for his own limited kingdom. But the Lord definitely calls prophets today and reveals his secrets unto them as he did yesterday, he does today, and will do tomorrow: that is the way it is.[36]

A Deeper Look

The fact that we believe in continuing revelation and a living prophet is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because we receive ongoing guidance from God and are better able to adapt and respond to the needs of a changing world. It is a curse because it is means change when we are often looking for finality in religion. Nothing is settled permanently, which leaves life a bit unsettled. This has always led to some defection from the Church when change does come.

We believe in living prophets and continuing revelation.

We believe in living prophets and continuing revelation.

We see this pattern most clearly in the early days of the Church, when things were most fluid. Joseph Smith received revelation after revelation, often changing both the doctrine and procedures of the Church. Some scholars have noted that there were three general tiers of this process—a basic, Christian “apostolic” restoration in the early days of the Church in which Mormonism resembled closely a form Protestant Christianity that believed in New Testament gifts and powers. Second, and “Abrahamic” restoration in which Mormonism fit Christianity into Old Testament molds, bringing back temples, gathering into central locations to build communities, and so forth. Third, was the introduction of esoteric doctrines in the Nauvoo era, such as the endowment ceremony, temple sealings and work for the dead, explicit expression of belief in humankind’s ability to become like God, and the introduction of polygamy.[37] Each step along the way, some members left. Further splintering occurred after Joseph Smith’s death when he was no longer around to hold even those who had doubts about more recent revelations by his charisma, often splitting along lines of belief.

I always wondered why stalwarts such as John Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, apostles in the early Church, and other such individuals would leave. At best, I figured that the trials they faced were just too much. While that was at least partly the case, Jan Shipps (a historian who has studied Mormonism pretty intensely) has made another suggestion that makes a lot of sense to me:

General acceptance of the concept of continuing revelation notwithstanding, each time a new stratum of theology and doctrine was imposed on existing belief and practice, a substantial number of Smith’s followers were disturbed enough to leave. Those who rejected the new dogma were generally branded as apostate (or worse). Yet persuasive evidence suggests that, in cases too numerous to count, the problem was that the ones who left were so thoroughly committed to the form of Mormonism to which they had been converted that they regarded the new revelation as false prophesy.[38]

One outstanding example of this sort of occurrence was in the “great apostasy” in the fall of Kirtland. A number of prominent individuals—including a few apostles—started their own Mormon Church, calling it the “Church of Christ” (as the Church has been called up through that time) or the “Old Standard,” which held to belief in most of the Church’s doctrines but sought to reform the Church by insisting that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet who had departed from the true faith.[39] As indicated by Dr. Shipps, there are other examples. David Whitmer and William McClellan both held that the Book of Mormon was true to the end of their lives, but rejected most of what followed in the Church. Many of the individuals that organized the RLDS Church (now Community of Christ) held the first two tiers (New York era/Apostolic Restoration and the Kirtland era/Abrahamic Restoration) but rejected much of the Nauvoo era introductions, especially polygamy. Within the Utah Church, splinters have continued to happen as ongoing revelation occurs. The post-Manifesto formation of “fundamentalist” sects that hold to polygamy are a testament to that statement, as is the fact that at least a couple of people left the Church over the Spencer W. Kimball revelation that opened up the priesthood and temple ordinances up to people of black African descent because it meant that long-standing Church policy was being changed.

As members of a Church that believes in ongoing revelation, we need to take an approach to our Church that embraces beliefs and policies as they are now, but makes room for the fact that they may change in the future as living prophets direct. Wilford Woodruff was exemplary in his viewpoint that:

When a boy begins his education at school he begins at the first rudiments, and continues to progress step by step. It is so with the student in the study of the everlasting Gospel. There were not many principles revealed to us when we first received it, but they were developed to us as fast as we were capable of making use of them.[40]

Consider as well the Harold B. Lee statement in the quotes section of this post. While we have made considerable progress from the days of the early Church, arriving closer to the fullness of the Gospel, the Restoration is still ongoing, as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf indicated relatively recently at general conference.[41] It is my hope that we all can endure the concerns raised by ongoing revelation while we embrace the blessings of it as well.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

[1] Boice, Trina (2014-11-09). The Ready Resource for Relief Society Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson (Kindle Locations 1112-1115). Cedar Fort, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

[2] Beth Lefgren, Jennifer Jackson, Power Tools for Teaching: Ideas for Creative Lessons (SLC: Bookcraft, 1988), 49.

[3] Joseph Smith, Jr. Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (SLC: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2007), 197-198.

[4] Smith, Teachings, 200.

[5] Smith, Teachings, 195-196.

[6] Millennial Star,1 Nov. 1847, 323.

[7] B. H. Roberts, The Autobiography of B. H. Roberts, ed. Gary James Bergera (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990), 228.

[8] B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Churchof Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 6 vols. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1965), 1:vii.

[9] B. H. Roberts, Improvement Era, March 1905, 370.

[10] M. Russell Ballard, in Conference Report, Apr. 2001, 84.

[11] Harold B. Lee in Stand Ye in Holy Places [1974], 152–53.

[12] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 524-529). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition.

[13] Interview Kathleen Flake, “Meet the Mormons,” PBS, http://www.pbs.org/mormons/interviews/flake.html. Henry Ford wanted a car in every home.

[14] Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Random House, Inc., 2005), 308-309.

[15]  “Kirtland Council Minutes,” 21 Feb. 1835..

[16] Karl Ricks Anderson, Joseph Smith’s Kirtland: Eyewitness Accounts (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1989), 107-113.

[17] Wilford Woodruff, in Collected Discourses Delivered by: President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, edited by Brian H. Stuy, 5 vol. (BHS Publishing, 1987–1992), 5:225.; citing John Lee Jones biography (no date) and Minutes of Salt Lake Temple dedication on 6–24 April 1893, 16th session, 13 April 1893.

[18] Lorenzo Snow, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2012), 238-239.

[19] George Q. Cannon, “Supporting Church Leaders,” (6 October 1896), reported in The Deseret Weekly 53 (31 October 1896): 610; reproduced in Stuy, Collected Discourses 5:225

[20] Orson F. Whitney, “The Divinity of Jesus Christ,” Improvement Era Vol. 29, NO. 3 (Jan 1926), 119-127. https://prophetsseersandrevelators.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/the-divinity-of-jesus-christ-by-orson-f-whitney/

[21] M. Russell Ballard, Our Search for Happiness (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1993), 18-20.

[22]  Cited in G. Homer Durham, N. Eldon Tanner: His Life and Service (Salt Lake: Deseret Book, 1982), 254-256.

[23] David B. Haight, “The Sacrament and the Sacrifice,” Ensign (November 1989), 59-60.

[24] Boyd K. Packer, Conference Report, April 1971: 122–25, Boyd K. Packer, “The Witness,” General Conference (webpage), accessed April 20, 2014, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/print/2014/04/the-witness?lang=eng&clang=eng.

[25] Jeffrey R. Holland, “Lord, I Believe,” CR, April 2013, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2013/04/lord-i-believe?lang=eng#16-10785_000_51holland.

[26] Ezra Taft Benson, “Five Marks of the Divinity of Jesus Christ,” University of Utah fireside, 9 December 1979. Published in New Era 10 (December 1980): 48 and Ensign (December 2001).

[27] Boyd K. Packer, “A Tribute to the Rank and File of the Church,” Ensign (May 1980): 86.

[28] Truman G. Madsen, The Presidents of the Church: Insights into Their Lives and Teachings (SLC: Deseret Book, 2004), 184-186.

[29] Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith (SLC: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2013), 49.

[30] Cited in Gregory A. Prince and Wm. Robert Wright, David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism (SLC: University of Utah Press, 2005), 38. Note that there is an account of a dream-vision where David O. McKay beheld the Christ from a distance, but that was apparently not counted by him on this occasion.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Smith, Teachings, 49-50.

[33] Interview with President Gordon B. Hinckley, ABC News Australia: Compass, November 9, 1997. http://www.lds-mormon.com/hinckley.shtml.

[34] Don Lattin, “Interview with President Gordon B. Hinckley,” SF Gate, 13 April 1997. http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/SUNDAY-INTERVIEW-Musings-of-the-Main-Mormon-2846138.php#page-1

[35] B. H. Roberts, CR, April 1905, 43-44.

[36] Spencer W. Kimball, “Revelation: The Word of the Lord to His Prophets,” CR, April 1977.

[37] Jan Shipps, “Mormonism After the Death of Joseph Smith,” in Makers of Christian Theology in America, Mark G. Toulouse and James O. Duke (ed.) (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997), 373.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual (SLC: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2003), https://www.lds.org/manual/church-history-in-the-fulness-of-times-student-manual/chapter-fourteen-the-apostasy-in-kirtland-1836-38?lang=eng.

[40] Wilford Woodruff, April 22, 1860, JD 8:265

[41] “The Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes “all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,” and the “many great and important things” that “He will yet reveal.” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Are You Sleeping through the Restoration?” CR, April 2014, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/are-you-sleeping-through-the-restoration?lang=eng.)

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Ezra Taft Benson, Chapters 9 & 10: The Book of Mormon

Chapters nine and ten of the Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson manual both focus on the Book of Mormon and to simplify things for me, I’m combining both into one blog post.

Resources for Lesson/Teaching Helps:

Suggested Hymns

“Book of Mormon Stories,” Children’s Songbook #118

“An Angel From on High,” Hymns #13

“I Saw a Might Angel Fly,” Hymns #14

“Now We’ll Sing with One Accord,” Hymns #25 (specifically verse 3)

“As I Search the Holy Scriptures,” Hymns #277

Videos

Book of Mormon Testimonies

A Book of Mormon Story

Ezra Taft Benson: Share Our Testimony of the Book of Mormon

Ezra Taft Benson: Written for Us Today

Book of Mormon Introduction

President Eyring on the Book of Mormon

Ezra Taft Benson: Flooding the Earth with the Book of Mormon

Ezra Taft Benson: Book of Mormon—Keystone of Our Religion

Object Lessons

  • Show the class an old, rotten banana and ask for a volunteer to eat it. (No one will want to.) Ask the class why they don’t think it will taste very good. Now hold up a good banana and ask why anyone would choose to eat this one. Explain that our lives are like fruit: people can tell what kind of people we are by the fruit we produce. Matthew 7: 20 says, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Ask, “What kind of fruit do you want to produce?” The Book of Mormon is the fruit that evidences the truthfulness of Joseph Smith’s testimony. You may be the only Book of Mormon people will ever “read.” Live your lives so that others can tell you’re a disciple of Christ and will want to know more.[1]
  • Fill a glass with water until it’s almost full. Each time you read a scripture from the Book of Mormon together, add a rock or marble. Eventually, the water in the glass will be displaced until it overflows, “flooding” your lesson with the Book of Mormon! Talk about how you can achieve the same effect in your life.[2]

Further Reading

Ezra Taft Benson, Lesson 9

Ezra Taft Benson, Lesson 10

Joseph B. Wirthlin: The Book of Mormon: The Heart of Missionary Proselyting

Jeffrey R. Holland: Safety for the Soul

Terryl L. Givens: Joseph Smith’s American Bible: Radicalizing the Familiar

Book of Mormon Translation

Book of Mormon and DNA Studies

Quotes

Spencer W. Kimball: Each of us, at some time in our lives, must discover the [Book of Mormon] for ourselves— and not just discover it once, but rediscover it again and again.[3]

Spencer W. Kimball

Spencer W. Kimball

David A. Bednar: The convincing and converting powers of the Book of Mormon come from both a central focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ and the inspired plainness and clarity of its teachings. Nephi declared, “My soul delighteth in plainness unto my people, that they may learn” (2 Nephi 25:4). The root word plain in this verse does not refer to things that are ordinary or simple; rather, it denotes instruction that is clear and easily understood.

The Book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on earth because it centers upon the Truth (see John 14:61 Nephi 13:40), even Jesus Christ, and restores the plain and precious things that have been taken away from the true gospel (see 1 Nephi 13:26, 28–29, 32, 34–35, 40). The unique combination of these two factors—a focus on the Savior and the plainness of the teachings—powerfully invites the confirming witness of the third member of the Godhead, even the Holy Ghost. Consequently, the Book of Mormon speaks to the spirit and to the heart of the reader like no other volume of scripture.[4]

David A. Bednar

David A. Bednar

Quentin L. Cook: I hope we are reading the Book of Mormon with our children regularly. I have discussed this with my own children. They have shared with me two observations. First, persistence in reading the scriptures daily as a family is the key. My daughter in a lighthearted way describes their early-morning efforts with mostly teenage children to consistently read the scriptures. She and her husband wake up early in the morning and move through the blurry mist to grasp the iron railing that lines their staircase to where their family gathers to read the word of God. Persistence is the answer, and a sense of humor helps. It requires great effort from every family member every day, but it is worth the effort. Temporary setbacks are overshadowed by persistence.

The second is how our youngest son and his wife are reading the scriptures with their young family. Two out of their four children are not old enough to read. For the five-year-old, they have five finger signals to which he responds in order for him to participate fully in the family scripture reading. The signal for finger 1 is for him to repeat, “And it came to pass” whenever it appears in the Book of Mormon. I have to admit that I love the fact that the phrase appears so often. Incidentally, for the interest of young families, finger signal 2 is “And thus we see”; fingers 3, 4, and 5 are chosen by the parents based on the words contained in the chapter they are reading.

We know that family scripture study and family home evenings are not always perfect. Regardless of the challenges you face, do not become discouraged.[5]

Quentin L. Cook

Quentin L. Cook

B. H. Roberts: The Book of Mormon {is} one of the most valuable books that has ever been preserved, even as holy scripture.[6]

So long as the truth respecting it is unbelieved {the Book of Mormon} will remain to the world an enigma, a veritable literary sphinx, challenging the inquiry and speculation of the learned. But to those who in simple faith will accept it for what it is, a revelation from God, it will minister spiritual consolation, and by its plainness and truth draw men into closer communion with God.[7]

It is provided in God’s providences respecting this volume of scripture, that its truth shall be attested to individuals by the operations of the Holy Spirit upon the human mind. “When ye shall receive these things,” says the prophet Moroni, referring to the writings of the Nephites, “I would exhort you that ye should ask God, the eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of them 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 must ever be the chief source of evidence for the truth of the Book of Mormon. All other evidence is secondary to this, the primary and infallible. No arrangement of evidence, however skillfully ordered; no argument, however adroitly made, can ever take its place; for this witness of the Holy Spirit to the soul of man for the truth of the Nephite volume of scripture, is God’s evidence to the truth; and will ever be the chief reliance of those who accept the Book of Mormon, and expect to see its acceptance extended throughout the world; for, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so must the testimony of God forever stand above and before the testimony of men, and of things.[8]

B. H. Roberts

B. H. Roberts

Brigham Young: It is your privilege and duty to live so as to be able to understand the things of God. There are the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants, which Joseph has given us, and they are of great worth to a person wandering in darkness. They are like a lighthouse in the ocean, or a finger-post which points out the road we should travel. Where do they point? To the Fountain of Light.[9]

Brigham Young

Brigham Young

Neal A. Maxwell: The Gospel seeks to help us focus on those facts which have overwhelming importance, not only for this life but for worlds to come. The relevancy and congruency of the scriptures are shown in many ways. Our Nephite predecessors could have given us their remarkable formula for cement, but instead they graphically described the glue of the Gospel which puts our lives together and gives us ingredients for the chemistry of salvation.[10]

Neal A. Maxwell

Neal A. Maxwell

Come Unto Christ

Much has been said about the power of the Book of Mormon to bring people to the Church and to Christ. Generally, the reasoning is its pure, laser-like focus on the Savior and attendant spirit brings power to its message. That is true, but there is another reason that has been suggested by Dr. Terryl Givens in his studies on the Book of Mormon: the model of dialogic revelation presented in the book.

Terryl L. Givens

Terryl L. Givens

Historically (at least in mainstream Christianity), there have been three common understandings of the term revelation: (1) revelation as doctrine, (2) revelation as history, and (3) revelation as inner experience. The first two come through the scriptures—the first most explicitly so, as it is most often thought of as “propositional” revelation or “conceptual truth claim[s] extractable from Holy Scriptures.” The second is understood as self-disclosure from God to man through historical events, interpreted as “might acts” of God. The third is more nebulous—some sort of inner experience where one has contact with God.  It may be an experience with the grace of God or some other communication of truth from God to a human by means which are beyond the ordinary course of nature. Generally, however, all of these three tend to avoid a direct, vocal communication of specific words or ideas. Based on the Book of Mormon, however, Dr. Terryl Givens has suggested a type of revelation that includes actual dialogue of this sort from God: dialogic revelation.[11]

The idea of dialogic revelation may not seem novel to most Latter-day Saints. After all, Joseph Smith received dialogical revelations that were recorded as the Doctrine and Covenants and the Joseph Smith—History, including the well-beloved First Vision. We believe that there is a prophet of God who communicates with Him in one way or another on a regular basis to guide the administration of the Church. On a personal level, we believe in and are encouraged to seek personal revelation, though often these days it is thought of in a manner somewhere between the dialogic revelation that Dr. Givens describes and the revelation as an inner experience. Yet, it may be because of the Book of Mormon and the experiences of Joseph Smith that we believe in and enact dialogic revelation.

The Book of Mormon has a high concentration of dialogic revelation experiences recorded in its text. The idea is introduced most clearly in 1 Nephi with a series of visions and guided moments, including Nephi’s vision of the Tree of Life. Phrases like “the Lord spake unto me,” or “the voice of the Lord came unto [Lehi]” offering constant, explicit guidance throughout their journey to the Promised Land indicate a very vocal Deity who was personally involved in the difficult voyage. Further, this theme is reinforced over and over again throughout the Book of Mormon:

In the Book of Mormon, worried parents and earnest missionaries and befuddled Church leaders and hungry hunters and inquiring sons all learn the great truth that their concerns—their immediate, quotidian, personal concerns—are God’s concerns. And solutions to those proximate concerns are the appropriate subject of divine communication from the heavens.[12]

This moves beyond the abstract revelation of God’s existence and doctrine suggested through the three traditional approaches to revelation. In Dr. Given’s eyes, this is taken to an even more personal level than is suggested in any other volume of scripture:

Two characteristics distinguish the revelation Joseph modeled. First, from his initial inquiry in those New York woods to his last revelations, Joseph’s prayers anticipated a personal response, a discernible moment of dialogue or communicated content. This model, which I call dialogic revelation, situates Joseph and the religion he founded well outside Christian understandings of revelation. Even the Christian model that seems closest in spirit to this one, called by Avery Dulles “revelation as inner experience,” differs sharply. Within this model, theologian George Tyrrell writes that there can be no revealed statements or doctrines. Against this backdrop, Joseph insisted that prayer frequently and dramatically evokes an answer that is impossible to mistake as anything other than an individualized, dialogic response to a highly particularized question.
Second, the Book of Mormon expands the notion of revelation far beyond the Old Testament model, according to which, as the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church puts it, “[prophecy] was preeminently the privilege of the prophets.” This rupture with Judaeo-Christian precedent occurs most forcefully in 1 Ne. 10–11. Lehi is the patriarch and prophet of his people. So it is only to be expected that when a vision of the tree of life is given, Lehi would be the recipient. But then Nephi approaches the Lord in prayer, asking that he also “might see, and hear, and know of these things” for himself (1 Ne. 10:17). The Spirit of the Lord appears to him, and Nephi makes his wish known. The Spirit then asks him if he believes the words of his father.
I don’t know this, but I can imagine that at this moment Nephi pauses. Perhaps if he says no, the Spirit will rebuke him for disloyalty and faithlessness. But if he says yes, the Spirit might well ask, “Then why not be content to take the word of your prophet and patriarch?” When Nephi indicates that he does indeed believe the words of his father, the Spirit breaks forth into a virtual psalm of rejoicing, shouting, “Hosanna” (1 Ne. 11:6). Then Nephi is rewarded, not rebuked, for seeking his own personal revelatory experience. And here we find a dramatic and momentous break with the Old Testament pattern. Revelation, we here learn, is the province of Everyman.[13]

lorenzo-snow-praying-893968-gallery

This constant reinforcement of personal, dialogic revelation available to everyone throughout the Book of Mormon may explain some of its power to bring people to Christ and to God, since it encourages a type of revelation that builds a personal relationship with Deity. In addition, it helps to explain its power in the conversion process for so many individuals, since it encourages prayer with the intent of seeking specific answers, including the well-known “Moroni’s promise” that encourages individuals to pray about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon itself.

I find this process exemplified by my own ancestor’s conversion to the Church in the early days of Mormonism. Zerah Pulsipher was a Free Will Baptist living in Spafford, New York in the early nineteenth century. His introduction to Mormonism came shortly after the Church was established: “in the summer of 1830 I heard a Minister say in Public that a golden Bible on some ancient Peoples were found in Manches<ter> N.Y. the sentence thriled through my sistem like a shock of Electricity.”[14] A neighbor recalled that this visitor was a man named Solomon Chamberlain.[15]

After this visit, Zerah was impressed and had a deep interest in getting his hands on the Book of Mormon to find out more after Chamberlain’s visit, since he “thought it might be something that would give light to [his] mind upon principles that [he] had been thinking of for years.” He “therefore watched the movement of things and in sept. <of> 1831 the Book of Mormon was brought into the Town.” “I succeeded in getting it[.] I directly read it through twice[,] gave it a thorough investigation and believed it was true.”[16] His son, John, would later recall that Zerah would get together “with the neighbors Elijah Cheney, [Shadrach] Roundy and others would sit and read and talk day and night ’till they read it through and through. They believed it was brought forth by the power of God, to prepare the way for the second coming of the Son of Man—it was just what they were looking for.”[17] Zerah’s wife added that they, “Believed it, but did not know anything more about it. We were very anxious to know more about it.”[18] They were able to find out more from a missionary by the name of Jared Carter.

Jared himself had a conversion experienced based in the Book of Mormon, was baptized, ordained and sent on a mission to New York. He stopped in Spafford and met with a few individuals in town that were interested in what he had to say, including Zerah. Soon afterwards, the Pulsiphers attended a service where Jared Carter preached to a crowded congregation. Mary recalled that Jared told them that baptism by immersion was the only right way and that it was for the remission of sins, which sounded right to her. He also told them how the Book of Mormon was found and translated by Joseph Smith. The missionary held up a copy of the Book of Mormon and declared it to be a revelation from God. Even though Zerah had been watching to find fault with this Mormon elder, he stated that “I could not gain-say anything he had said.”

When Carter sat down and gave liberty for remarks, Zerah perceived that those present seemed to be in a daze. He arose and stated that:

We had been hearing strange things and if true[,] they were of the utmost importance to us. If not true[,] it was one of the greatest impositions and as the preacher had said that he had got his knowledge from heaven and was nothing but a man and I the same, that I had just as good a right to obtain that blessing as he, therefore I was determined to have that knowledge for myself.

Zerah considered it his privilege from that time to make it a matter of fervent prayer. He did so for about a week and received a witness that the Book of Mormon and “Mormonism” were of God. According to his accounts: “As I was thrashing in my barn with the doors shut, all at once there seemed to be a ray of light from heaven which caused me to stop work for a short time.” This ray of light:

filed my mind remarkably upon the Principles of the gospel[.] I nearly beheld that what I had heard was true but it soon left me to ponder upon it[.] I soon began my labor again but of a short duration. Another bright<er> light presented from above with such masterly rays of glory filled to the running over it came with such magestty and power from above that I looked up to see from whence it came.[19]

I thought I saw the Angels with the Book of Mormon in their hands in the attitude of showing it to me and saying “this is the great revelation of the last days in which all things spoken of by the prophets must be fulfilled.” The vision was so open and plain that I began to rejoice exceedingly so that I walked the length of my barn crying “Glory Hal-la-lu-ya to the God and the Lamb forever.”

This vision led to the baptism of Zerah, his wife, oldest daughter, and a few neighbors on 11 January 1832 and launched a branch of Mormonism in that county.[20] Zerah went on to serve as an effective missionary (most notably baptizing Wilford Woodruff), and a president of the Seventy for twenty years.

The key to the experience and its relation to the dialogic revelation is Zerah’s statement after reading the Book of Mormon and listening the Jared Carter that “as the preacher had said that he had got his knowledge from heaven and was nothing but a man and I the same, that I had just as good a right to obtain that blessing as he, therefore I was determined to have that knowledge for myself.” This conversion narrative displays the power of the Book of Mormon in conversion and in modeling revelation.

Zerah Pulsipher

Zerah Pulsipher

A Deeper Look

At the turn of the twentieth century, Elder James E. Talmage of the Quorum of the Twelve wrote that “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accept[s] the Holy Bible as the foremost of her standard works, first among the books which have been proclaimed as her written guides in faith and doctrine.”[21] Reading this as a Mormon child of the 1990s, for a long time I assumed that Elder Talmage was paying a somewhat empty homage to the Bible to proclaim our faith as compatible with other Christian traditions. This would have been similar to many LDS missionaries who tell people that the Bible is equal to the Book of Mormon in the LDS Church, but when asked how many times they’ve read each are forced either to gloss over the question or to awkwardly admit that they have focused much more on the Book of Mormon throughout their lives. As I have studied and learned more about the history of the Church, however, I have learned that James E. Talmage was speaking with complete honesty but that there was a shift in focus towards the Book of Mormon and away from the Bible that took place in the latter half of the 20th century in the LDS Church—a shift which President Ezra Taft Benson largely created.

Concerning the impact of the Book of Mormon on the early Church, Dr. Terryl L. Givens has stated that:

As Rodney Stark has observed, “The Book of Mormon…may not have added enough doctrinal novelty to the Christian tradition to have made Mormonism more than a Protestant sect.” As I have argued elsewhere, the content of the Book of Mormon had negligible impact—and continues to have relatively negligible impact—on the doctrinal foundations of Mormonism. It both enacts and facilitates in particularly powerful form the main engine of Mormonism’s lifeblood— continuing and personal revelation. But few of what Mormons call the restored truths of the gospel are present in that volume.[22]

Indeed, although Joseph Smith cherished the Book of Mormon and many of the thoughts in the book find parallels in the Prophet’s words, he rarely referenced the Book of Mormon and even more rarely quoted from it. He was much more likely to reference the Bible in one way or another and spoke and wrote in language saturated with Biblical expressions.

Joseph Smith and the early Saints lived in a culture where the Bible was king. The Good Book was highly valued and looked to for doctrinal standards and solutions to problems. Although the Book of Mormon was a key element in many, if not most, conversions to Mormonism, it did not displace the Bible in devotional study. Members had been steeped in the Bible since birth, but did not have the same opportunity for the Book of Mormon. As a result, it was rarely used in sermons preached in Utah and elsewhere during the mid-nineteenth century. Brigham Young seems to have been typical for the early Church in his observation that:

In all my teachings, I have taught the Gospel from the Old and New Testaments. I found therein every doctrine, and the proof of every doctrine, the Latter-day Saints believe in, as far as I know, therefore I do not refer to the Book of Mormon as often as I otherwise should. There may be some doctrines about which little is said in the Bible, but they are all couched therein, and I believe the doctrines because they are true, and I have taught them because they are calculated to save the children of men.[23]

While a few of the most important theological minds of Mormonism—Parley P. Pratt, B. H. Roberts, and Bruce R. McConkie, to name a few—took an interest in the Book of Mormon prior to Ezra Taft Benson’s ministry, developing a culture that consistently studied the text of the book was a gradual process. It was known, a testimony of it was an important touch stone, and there was an interest in it, but it was not deeply studied. An apocryphal story from the early twentieth century captures these conditions. According to the story, J. Golden Kimball asked a congregation whether they were interested in reading the sealed section of the Book of Mormon. The congregation unanimously expressed their interest by the raise of hand. Elder Kimball’s response what: “Then why in the hell don’t you read the parts that aren’t sealed?”[24] According to BYU folklorist Eric A. Eliason, this story rang true because “[J. Golden] Kimball’s era marked a low point in Latter-day Saints’ appreciation of [the Book of Mormon]. Some Mormon intellectuals tended to question its historical reality, and most of the general membership may well have regarded it as genuine in its historical setting in ancient America but by and large did not read it.”[25]

These conditions changed during the time of Ezra Taft Benson. His constant focus on the Book of Mormon, challenges to read it daily, and to make it central in all Church activity—much of which is captured in these two chapters of the manual—created a cultural shift that has placed the Book of Mormon at the heart of the Church. Dr. Philip L. Barlow wrote that:

Contemporary Mormon-biblical relations have seen an abrupt shift. Arising from the church presidency of Ezra Taft Benson (1985-1994), a renewed emphasis on the text (rather than the mere fact) of the Book of Mormon has come to the fore. So strong and successful has been this call that the Book of Mormon has assumed a definite priority over the Bible for many modern Mormons.[26]

Elsewhere, he observed that “Mormons have developed a king of amnesia towards the Bible since 1980. . . . It has really changed the consciousness of Mormons. They don’t bear testimony of the truthfulness of the Bible much these days, but really specify the Book of Mormon.”[27] A survey of LDS General Conference addresses found that most of the apostles quote more regularly from the Book of Mormon these days—Richard G. Scott and David A. Bednar quote from it more than twice as often as the Bible. The notable exception is President Thomas S. Monson, who takes nearly half of his quotes from the New Testament.[28]

There is both good and bad to this shift. President Benson was inspired to emphasize the Book of Mormon, and it is truly a book with spiritual power. If we focus on it at the expense of ever getting to know the Bible—as Dr. Barlow indicates we are—then we are missing out. As Elder M. Russell Ballard stated:

The Bible . . . is one of the pillars of our faith, a powerful witness of the Savior and of Christ’s ongoing influence in the lives of those who worship and follow Him. The more we read and study the Bible and its teachings, the more clearly we see the doctrinal underpinnings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. We tend to love the scriptures that we spend time with. We may need to balance our study in order to love and understand all scripture.

You young people especially, do not discount or devalue the Holy Bible. It is the sacred, holy record of the Lord’s life. The Bible contains hundreds of pages more than all of our other scripture combined. It is the bedrock of all Christianity.[29]

Still, we have no reason to avoid the Book of Mormon. Read it, study it love it—but also do the same with the Bible. Both books are the word of God and are food for our souls.

Ezra Taft Benson reading the scriptures

Ezra Taft Benson reading the scriptures

[1] Boice, Trina (2014-11-09). The Ready Resource for Relief Society Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson (Kindle Locations 965-970). Cedar Fort, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

[2] Boice, Trina (2014-11-09). The Ready Resource for Relief Society Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson (Kindle Locations 1032-1035). Cedar Fort, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

[3] Spencer W. Kimball, “How Rare a Possession— the Scriptures!” Ensign, September 1976, 2– 5.

[4] David A. Bednar, “Watching with All Perseverance,” CR, April 2010.

[5] Quentin L. Cook, “In Tune With the Music of Faith,” CR, April 2012.

[6] B. H. Roberts, CR, April 1933, 117.

[7] B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, 3:406.

[8] B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God, 2:vi, vii.

[9] Brigham Young, JD 8:129. Cited in Brigham Young and John A. Widtsoe (ed), Discourses of Brigham Young (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1977), 127.

[10] Neal A. Maxwell and Cory H. Maxwell (ed.), The Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 30.

[11] Terryl L. Givens, “The Book of Mormon and Dialogic Revelation,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 10, no. 2 (2001):19.

[12] Terryl L. Givens, “Lightning Out of Heaven,” BYU Address, 29 November 2005, http://magazine.byu.edu/?act=view&a=1851.

[13] Givens, “Lightning.”

[14] Autobiography of Zerah Pulsipher in Lund, Pulsipher Family History Book, 12; Autobiographical Sketch of Zera Pulsipher, 4.

[15] Journal of Silas Hillman, cited in Rhean Lenore M. Beck, Life Story of Sarah (King) Hillman and Her Husband, Mayhew Hillman [unpublished manuscript, 1968], 8.

[16] Zerah Pulsipher Autobiography, 12; autobiographical sketch, 4.

[17] “John Pulsipher’s History” in Lund, 47.

[18] Autobiography of Mary Brown Pulsipher,” in Lund 29.

[19] Pulsipher, autobiographical sketch, 4.

[20] Zerah Pulsipher, Autobiographical Sketch, 9-10

[21] James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1990), 214.

[22] Terryl L. Givens, “The Prophesy of Enoch as Restoration Blueprint,” Arrington Lecture, Logan, UT, 16  September 2012.. http://terrylgivens.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Prophecy-of-Enoch.pdf

[23] JD, 16:773-74. Also cited in W. Jeffrey March, “Brigham Young and the Book of Mormon,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 10/2 (2001), http://publications.maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/fullscreen/?pub=1400&index=2.

[24] Eric A. Eliason, The J. Golden Kimball Stories (Urbana, Chicago, and Springfield: University of Illinois Press, 2007), 58.

[25] Eliason, J. Golden, 142.

[26] Philip L. Barlow, Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion, updated edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), xxxvii.

[27] Cited in Peggy Fletcher Stack, “And it came to pass, one day the Book of Mormon overtook the Bible—in LDS eyes,” Salt Lake Tribune, 10 Feb 2015, http://www.sltrib.com/lifestyle/faith/2139857-155/and-it-came-to-pass-one?fullpage=1.

[28] Stack, “And it Came to Pass.”

[29] M. Russell Ballard, “The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” CR, April 2007, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/04/the-miracle-of-the-holy-bible?lang=eng.