With a testimony of the Book of Mormon comes a testimony of Jesus Christ, declared Elder Robert L. Simpson of the First Quorum of the Seventy.
The Book of Mormon is the pivotal point of the restored gospel, said Elder Simpson, general president of the Sunday School, during a Church News interview pertaining to the 1988 gospel doctrine course of study.The "manual" for this course of study, explained Elder Simpson, is the Book of Mormon itself, which, if read and studied, will bring increased understanding of the Savior's teachings. "The Book of Mormon carries in its title 'Another Testament of Jesus Christ,'" he said.
"Everything we have in the gospel is strengthened as we receive the testimonies of the prophets of the Old Testament and the New Testament. Even though the prophets had different ways of teaching and lived in different eras, their teachings had as a common thread the integrity of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
"To have the Book of Mormon-- a whole new scripture, with a whole new set of prophets declaring the same truth and declaring the same things in their own way-- is really one of the main keys to Latter-day Saints' strength in the religious world today."
Elder Simpson said the Sunday School is "a missionary training course" and the Book of Mormon is a fundamental and basic tool of that training. "Missionary preparation isn't just for young people," he said. "Adults attending gospel doctrine classes are in missionary training. I can visualize thousands of couples serving as missionaries."
Elder Simpson said the Sunday School purposes have been modified to conform more fully with the definition given by the First Presidency of the overall mission of the Church. They new purposes of the Sunday School are:
1. Proclaim the gospel-- by teaching members sound gospel doctrine in preparation for missionary service.
2. Perfect the saints-- by helping build members' testimonies through better teaching.
3. Redeem the dead-- by teaching members the plan of salvation and the importance of the higher ordinances of the gospel for every individula and his ancestors.
"The Book of Mormon is the key to carrying out the mission of the Church," Elder Simpson said. "In the 'old days,' each student had a manual to study. Today the scriptures themselves are the student manual. We emphasize the importance of using the scriptures, and teaching by the Spirit. If the scriptures are going to be our foundation, there is no way we can interpret them except by the Spirit.
"We hope every member will bring his or her scriptures to class. Each student shouldhave a copy of the study schedule. A little pamphlet, which costs 10 cents, is available through Church Distribution. If these pamphlets aren't ordered, teachers may prepare handouts to remind students about the next week's class, or the reading schedule may be printed in the ward bulletin each week."
Elder Simpson said there are more than 12,000 gospel doctrine teachers in the Church. "Not all of them are going to be expert teachers, but they do have resources to call upon," he said. "Each ward and branch has a Sunday School president, who should have an ongoing program to help teachers become better.
"We also call attention to the gospel doctrine teacher's supplement, which has some directions on how to inspire class members to study the Book of Mormon.
"The weekly feature in the Church News about the gospel doctrine course is one of the best assets that we have in the Church for having people come to class prepared, to have some thoughts on the lesson beforehand. The Ensign periodiclaly publishes articles that are interesting, informative and inspiring."
Elder Simpson said he and other General Authorities feel strongly the importance for each Sunday School class member, especially the adults, to read the Book of Mormon in 1988. "We're asking them to read 15-20 chapters each month; that's less than a chapter a day," he said.
"We would like to have everyone read the Book of Mormon. We have printed in the front of the teacher's manual a statement by President Ezra Taft Benson, which he made in his April 1986 conference address:
"I bless you with increased understanding of the Book of Mormon. I promise you that from this moment forward, if we will daily sup from its pages and abide by its precepts, God will pour out upon each child of Zion and the Church a blessing hitherto unknown...Of this I bear solemn witness."
Elder Simpson said many members, upon the urging of President Benson, have read the Book of Mormon during the past year. "Our fear is that these members will say they have already read the Book of Mormon and won't feel inclined to read it again this year," said Elder Simpson. "To them, we say, 'Read it again.'
"Reading the Book of Mormon over and over is like going to the temple again and again. Each time we go to the temple, we notice something different. Each time we read the Book of Mormon --or any scripture-- we notice something we have not noticed before. We know it was there, but we didn't recognize it because we weren't ready for that particular truth; it wasn't ready to be assimilated into our background and knowledge because our level hadn't come up to a certain threshhold.
"There is an example I use quite often. In a stake conference or some leadership meeting, I will point out a concrete block or brick about 7 feet off the floor. I will say, 'I'm looking at a block up there. I guarantee you that it was not the first block that was placed in that wall. There were tiers and tiers and tiers of other blocks laid, and pretty soon, there was a lodging place for that block.
"That's the way it is with some of these principles in the Book of Mormon. Until there is a lodging place, until other things have been put in place, we just skim over some of these great principles because we are not quite ready for them. That's why we learn every time we read the Book of Mormon. Because we've done a little reading, attended a gospel doctrine class, attended a few more sacrament meetings, we're ready for a new truth-- we have a lodging place for it. It means something to us."
"A prophet has spoken in clarion terms regarding the Book of Mormon," said Elder Simpson of President Benson's often repeated encouragement for members to read the Book of Mormon. "It will bring blessings into our lives, and a security for our testimony."