Topic Study: Family and the Book of Mormon

(January 2004 IN Family IN Book of Mormon.  This entry is the text of a Sacrament Meeting talk from January 2004, in the Woodridge II Ward)

Overview

This topic introduces the importance of personal worship, particularly reading the Book of Mormon.  It then explains how family study of the Book of Mormon increases the likelihood of personal study.  It explains what the blessings of reading the Book of Mormon as a family are, and how we can apply those doctrines to ourselves.

It uses the heading to 1 Nephi to show how much that book is about the Family.

It discusses Opposition in All Things, and the need to council as a family.

It then applies the doctrines in 3 Nephi chapter 17 to family situations.

I             Personal Study

I would like to recap, and be a second witness, to the message you received from Brother Kosiek last week.  Listen to the first half of a statement from President Marion G. Romney from April 1980 General Conference about our person study of the Book of Mormon

And so, I counsel you, my beloved brothers and sisters and friends everywhere, to make reading the Book of Mormon a few minutes each day a lifelong practice. All of us need the uninterrupted association with the Spirit of the Lord. We need to take the Holy Spirit for our constant guide that we be not deceived. I am persuaded by my own experience and that of my loved ones, as well as by the statements of the Prophet Joseph Smith, that one can get and keep closer to the Lord by reading the Book of Mormon than by reading any other book. Don’t be content with what someone else tells you about what is in it. Drink deeply from the divine fountain itself.

Marion G. Romney, “The Book of Mormon,” Ensign, May 1980, 67

I know that to be true.  Notice how President Romney recommends we personally study the Book of Mormon.

In researching this talk, I came upon a study the church performed described in the March 1999 Ensign on youth of the church and delinquency.  They studied church youth in areas of high and low concentration of members and their delinquency, including smoking and drug use, immorality, and honesty.  I found the following passage from the study very interesting.

One interesting finding of our study was that private religious behaviors, such as personal prayer, personal scripture reading, and fasting, were even more influential in preventing delinquency than public religious behaviors, such as attendance at meetings, family prayer, and family home evening. Public and family religious practices, however, continue to be important because they lead youth to internalize gospel principles and reinforce private religious behavior.

Now listen to some of these quotes from youth.

“My parents would often bear testimony and would encourage me to say my prayers, read the scriptures, and come to know the truth for myself,” wrote one teenager. Numerous others described how their parents not only taught them the gospel but also showed them how to live it. “My parents always encourage me to take my problems to Heavenly Father in prayer,” wrote another. Personal prayer appears to be an important practice that young people can engage in to give them the strength to overcome temptations. Another teen in the study wrote, “I wish I would have prayed more and read the scriptures more often. … My problems seemed magnified when I did not pray. I always keep that in mind now when I don’t feel like praying.”

The quotation continues.

The more that young people said they felt the influence of the Holy Ghost and a closeness to God in their personal lives, received answers to prayers, and felt they had been forgiven for wrongdoing, the less likely they were to engage in delinquency. “Before I received a sure confirmation of the gospel’s truthfulness, I experienced the most trying year of my life with peer pressure and temptation,” one young lady in the study responded. “But after I received my own testimony of the gospel through prayer, I felt a spirit of peace that sustained me through some tough times.”

Brent L. Top and Bruce A. Chadwick, “Helping Teens Stay Strong,” Ensign, Mar. 1999, 30

Our personal religious behaviors are a better indicator of the strength of our testimonies than are our public behaviors such as attendance at church and participation in callings.  As President Romney said, it is important that we “Drink deeply from the divine fountain itself.”

II            Family Blessings From Study of The Book of Mormon

Having said that, it is clear that very few children, on their own, develop the habits of personal religious worship.  The pattern is clear.  The church teaches parents their duty, and parents are to teach their children.  Family study of the Book of Mormon is important in helping all the members of the family engage in personal religious behavior.  As the study said, “Public and family religious practices, however, continue to be important because they lead youth to internalize gospel principles and reinforce private religious behavior.”

Listen to the second half of President Romney’s statement.

I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness.

Marion G. Romney, “The Book of Mormon,” Ensign, May 1980, 67

What a tremendous promise.  How can that happen?  There are probably more influences at work than I can describe.  But let’s consider one part of that question:  How can the content of the Book of Mormon help to bring about those blessings.

III           Liken To Ourselves

I think there are three ways that the content of the Book of Mormon can bring about those blessings.  They include:

  1. Direct Application of the Teaching About the Family
  2. Application of the Doctrines to our Family
  3. Likening Experiences in the Book of Mormon to Our Families

III.A         Direct Application of Teachings About the Family

Read with me the heading to the 1st book of the Book of Mormon, 1st Nephi.  Notice all the words in this paragraph that are family related words.

An account of Lehi and his wife Sariah, and his four sons, being called, (beginning at the eldest) Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi.  The Lord warns Lehi to depart out of the land of Jerusalem, because he prophesieth unto the people concerning their iniquity and they seek to destroy his life.  He taketh three days’ journey into the wilderness with his family.  Nephi taketh his brethren and returneth to the land of Jerusalem after the record of the Jews.  The account of their sufferings.  They take the daughters of Ishmael to wife.  They take their families and depart into the wilderness.  Their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness.  The course of their travels.  They come to the large waters.  Nephi’s brethren rebel against him.  He confoundeth them, and buildeth a ship.  They call the name of the place Bountiful.  They cross the large waters into the promised land, and so forth.  This is according to the account of Nephi; or in other words, I, Nephi, wrote this record.

1 Ne. Preface:Heading

As you can tell, and anyone who has read the book knows, the Book of 1st Nephi is all about the family.  Appling those lessons to our families does not require a great deal of imagination.  And those lessons don’t end with 1st Nephi.  They continue throughout the book.  For example Alma councils his wayward son, Captain Moroni defends his family, the Sons of Mosiah go on missions and the brothers Nephi and Lehi work closely together in preaching the gospel.  The book even concludes with Mormon mentoring his son Moroni.

By the way, you may be interested to know that the only book that contains more references to these familial words is the Book of Genesis, the 1st book of the Bible.

III.B         Application of the Doctrines

There are numerous doctrines within the Book of Mormon that we can apply to families.  For example, the teaching by Lehi to his son Jacob in 2 Nephi 2:11.

11  For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.  If not so, my first–born in the wilderness, righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad.  Wherefore, all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death, nor corruption nor incorruption, happiness nor misery, neither sense nor insensibility.

2 Ne. 2:11

We often take this scripture to mean that there is good and evil at each end of the spectrum.  But I believe the meaning of this is much greater than just that.

Joseph Smith wrote in the History of the Church, Vol. 6 page 428 that “by proving contraries, truth is made manifest.”  In commenting on this, Eugene England has written:  “By ‘prove’ he meant no only to demonstrate logically but also to test, to struggle with and to work out in practical experience.”  (Why the Church is as True as the Gospel Bookcraft 1986).

When we think of opposition in all things as being the pull between good and evil, we should always be on the side of good and against evil.  But if we think of opposition in all things as the many paradoxes in life—polarization between hot and cold, conservative and liberal, sweet and sour, on those continuums we need not be at one end or the other.  If we never tasted sour we might never learn to enjoy a tart apple.  Without feeling cold we would never know how invigorating a cool swim might be.  By proving contraries, we come to understand much greater the truth of all sides.

I feel that as our church leaders have counseled us strongly these last few years about learning how to counsel together in our church callings, they are asking us to come to the center, to find agreement amongst ourselves.  “If ye are not one ye are not mine,” the Lord said.  I believe this doctrine is true in our families as well.  Even the youngest children in our homes can contribute an important and perhaps unthought-of perspective to a family decision.

The application of this doctrine from the Book of Mormon would make our family councils more effective.

III.C         Liken the Lessons to Ourselves

Another way for our families to gain from reading the Book of Mormon is to liken the scriptures unto our selves.  In preparing this talk, I read 3 Nephi Chapter 17.  As I read, I tried to think of ways we could apply this chapter to my family.  If you would open your scriptures I would like to share my thoughts with you.

III.C.1        Perceived Weakness

This chapter is a description of the Savior’s visit to the people in the Book of Mormon.  He had been teaching them for some time.  It starts with the following.

1  BEHOLD, now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he looked round about again on the multitude, and he said unto them: Behold, my time is at hand.

2  I perceive that ye are weak, that ye cannot understand all my words which I am commanded of the Father to speak unto you at this time.

3  Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again.

3 Ne. 17:1 – 3

As I thought about this scripture, I realized that the Savior’s response was different than my response is sometimes when I perceive my children don’t understand my words.  Sometimes, as they role around on the ground during family home evening, wrestling one with another, my response is not nearly as kind as the Saviors.

But see how effective the Savior’s response was.

5  And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.

3 Ne. 17:5

When I am not as kind, my children don’t seem to want to be around me any more.  Perhaps I could be more kind when I perceive they are weak.

III.C.2        Administering to the Sick and the Spirit

The Savior responded to their feelings by saying.

6  And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.

7  Have ye any that are sick among you?  Bring them hither.  Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner?  Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.

3 Ne. 17:6 – 7

As I tried to liken this to my own family, I realized that perhaps the strongest feeling of the Spirit are in my home when someone is sick, or in need of a blessing in some way; when our home teacher comes and assists in administering to the sick or afflicted; or when I give a Father’s blessing.  At those times of birth or death, we feel a closeness to the Savior and his mission.

III.C.3        Family Prayer

After healing the sick, the Savior said

11  And it came to pass that he commanded that their little children should be brought.

12  So they brought their little children and set them down upon the ground round about him, and Jesus stood in the midst; and the multitude gave way till they had all been brought unto him.

13  And it came to pass that when they had all been brought, and Jesus stood in the midst, he commanded the multitude that they should kneel down upon the ground.

3 Ne. 17:11 – 13

As I thought about this, I remembered a family prayer in my own family.  I really can only remember one such time when my Father gathered us around for a formal family prayer.  We had prayers at our meals, and on special occasions.  But this one prayer, which I think we in response to a particularly stirring sacrament meeting talk.

We kneeled at the coach, and my father offered the prayer.  I remember tears filling our eyes as he prayed.  I am sure he prayed for each one of us children by name, as he did at other times.  It touched our hearts.

15  And when he had said these words, he himself also knelt upon the earth; and behold he prayed unto the Father, and the things which he prayed cannot be written, and the multitude did bear record who heard him.

16  And after this manner do they bear record: The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father;

3 Ne. 17:15 – 16

To that point in my life, I had never heard such words as I heard and felt that day.

III.C.4        Testimony

Brother Tim Jensen taught us something important this morning in our meetings, and it answered a question for me in preparation for this talk.  He told of a similar time when his mother gathered her children around her and bore her testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

She then told them that if they would read the book, and pray about it, they would know that it is true.

As he described this to me, I thought of these verses.

20  And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith.  And now behold, my joy is full.

21  And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.

22  And when he had done this he wept again;

23  And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.

24  And as they looked to behold they cast their eyes towards heaven, and they saw the heavens open, and they saw angels descending out of heaven as it were in the midst of fire; and they came down and encircled those little ones about, and they were encircled about with fire; and the angels did minister unto them.

3 Ne. 17:20 – 24

I could see in my minds eye the heavens open there in that home, and angels minister, perhaps an angel mother is but one that was ministering.  And I could see those children encircled about by the fire of the spirit, testifying to them of the truthfulness of the words spoken.

IV          My testimony of the Book of Mormon

I stand as a witness today, one of three in the bishopric, and a host of others, that our personal and family study of the Book of Mormon is important.  I know that the promises made by President Romney are true, I have seen them in my own life, and others have testified to me of their experiences as well.

I would like to particularly bear testimony today to my children that I know the Book of Mormon is true.  I have made the study of the Book of Mormon a life long process.

I remember the blessings it brought to my life as a teenage as I opened, read and marked it as encouraged by my seminary teacher in 9th grade.  I have seen its effects as I entered college.  I found that if I did not study the word of God in conjunction with my other classes, I was not as effective in learning.

I know that my relationship with my wife has been blessed as we have applied the teachings of that book to our marriage and home.  I have seen the spirit of contention depart as we have studied it in our family.  I have received direction in my work, my callings, and in overcoming my personal weaknesses as I have studied that great book.

I know that the Book of Mormon is true.

I leave this testimony with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Related Hymns

Hymn 274, “The Iron Rod”

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