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""THE GREATEST BOOK IN THE WORLD""

"The Book of Mormon is the greatest book in the world," President Ezra Taft Benson told the Church News during a Dec. 18 interview about the Book of Mormon.

An advocate of the Book of Mormon for many years-- and especially since becoming Church president on Nov. 10, 1985-- President Benson has repeatedly pleaded with members to read the book."I'm sure we don't recognize the value of the Book of Mormon-- the treasure it is-- and some day we're going to find that this is the book for latter days," he declared.

During the interview, President Benson spoke of his early experiences with the Book of Mormon, when his parents gathered their 11 children to read from its pages. "We had family home evening every night," he reflected. "We usually had a supper of bread and milk, and then we would read the Book of Mormon.

"We should sup daily from its pages. It says on the cover, 'Another Testament of Jesus Christ.' There's a real message on every page."

President Benson said one of his favorite parts of the Book of Mormon is the "summary," found in the last chapter of Moroni. The chapter contains Moroni's promise that if the reader "shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ" (Moro. 10:4) the Lord will manifest the truth unto him.

Also in the chapter is an exhortation "that ye would come unto Christ" (Moro. 10:30), a plea that President Benson has repeatedly made.

President Benson said he has loved the Book of Mormon since early childhood. He recalled that as a young boy he enjoyed riding his horse near the family farm in Whitney, Idaho. "I would think about the things I had read in the Book of Mormon. I was very greatly impressed by the book, and I used to ponder the words of Nephi especially," he said. "Nephi is one of the great people in the Book of Mormon."

Just as his father had done before him, President Benson taught his sons and daughters to love the Book of Mormon through frequent study. After their children grew up and left home, President and Sister Benson continued to study the book together and individually. "We usually read together in the evenings," he said, adding that the Book of Mormon is a wonderful book for families to read together. "Children especially love Book of Mormon stories," he said.

"I think we have a real challenge today to have our families read the Book of Mormon. We find the answer to practically every problem in the world in the Book of Mormon; there is no question about it.

"The Prophet Joseph Smith said the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. The keystone is the central stone in an arch. It holds all the other stones in place. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. I believe that."

In the little more than two years since he became president of the Church, President Benson has spoken of the Book of Mormon in every general conference, and has admonished members in addresses at 14 regional conferences to read and heed its words.

In his opening address to the April 1986 general conference-- his first general conference as prophet-- he said, "Because we have treated lightly the Book of Mormon, the Lord has stated in the 84th section of the Doctrine and Covenants that the whole Church is under condemnation. (See D & C 84:56-57.)

"Now we not only need to say more about the Book of Mormon, but we need to do more with it," President Benson said. "Why? The Lord answers: 'That they may bring forth fruit meet for their Father's kingdom; otherwise there remaineth a scourge and judgment to be poured out upon the children of Zion.' (D & C 84:58.) We have felt that scourge and judgment!...

"The Book of Mormon has not been, nor is it yet, the center of our personal study, family teaching, preaching, and missionary work. Of this we must repent."

In his October 1986 general conference address, President Benson said, "The Book of Mormon must be re-enthroned in the minds of our people. We must honor it by reading it, by studying it, by taking its precepts into our lives and transforming them into lives required of the true followers of Christ."

At the next general conference, April 1987, he said, "During the past six months, I have been deeply touched by the response of the members of the Church who have heeded counsel to read and reread the word of the Lord as set forth in the Book of Mormon. This has resulted in increased spirituality and is helping to cleanse the inner vessel. Adults, youth, and children have borne powerful testimonies as to how the Book of Mormon has changed their lives. My life, too, continues to be changed by this sacred volume of scripture."

During the last general conference in October 1987, President Benson said, "The major mission of the Book of Mormon, as recorded on its title page, is 'to the convincing of the Jew and the Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God, manifesting Himself unto all nations.'

"The honest seeker after truth can gain the testimony that Jesus is the Christ as he prayerfully ponders the inspired words of the Book of Mormon."