Ever since it was published 157 years ago, the Book of Mormon has been a powerful tool in the hands of the "laborers in the Lord's vineyard."
In his April 1975 general conference address, President Ezra Taft Benson called the Book of Mormon, "The instrument which God has given missionaries to convince the Jew, Gentile, and Lamanite of the truthfulness of our message."Elder Robert L. Backman of the First Quorum of the Seventy and executive director of the Missionary Department, said: "We are emphasizing a simple, yet powerful approach to using the Book of Mormon. Members read it themselves so that they know and love the writings of the inspired prophets. Then they personally and directly share copies of the book with others. We ask members to read and discuss passages with friends-- especially those passages that testify of Christ-- sharing their feelings and testimony, and inviting people to apply Moroni's promise in Moroni 10:3-5."
In every mission, stake, ward and branch are examples of people whose lives have been touched and changed by the Book of Mormon.
Elder Todd Allen, a missionary in the Alaska Anchorage Mission, told of one such convert, Blane Jeffs, who had received several copies of the Book of Mormon but, despite having grown up among members in Idaho and marrying a Church member, had not read it.
After Jeffs and his wife, Patty, moved to Anchorage, their home teacher, Mont Mahoney, visited and gave Jeffs a copy of the Book of Mormon. Jeffs accepted the book, but said, "I've already got five of these." He placed the book on the shelf with the others, and it remained untouched until his wife, while preparing a Sunday School lesson, came upon a gospel precept that she began discussing with her husband. Jeffs researched the topic in the Bible, and then decided to see what the Book of Mormon said of the subject.
"A whole new dawn began to rise," said Elder Allen. "He [Jeffs] flipped to the front and read the testimony that his home teacher had written there, and then he began to read the book.
The next Sunday, he came to Church with his family, and soon after was meeting twice a week with the missionaries. On March 7, 1987, he was baptized, along with his 9-year-old daughter, Angela.
"He is now first counselor in the Sunday School presidency in the Anchorage 12th Ward and is the patriarch in his home. He holds the priesthood and reads the Book of Mormon with his family. Because of the prayers of his wife and children, the love of his home teachers and their faith and testimonies, the Book of Mormon became more than just another book for Blane Jeffs."
Steven McLaws, second counselor in the Papillion Nebraska Stake presidency, also knows what a powerful influence the Book of Mormon can have in one's life. An executive who travels frequently, he usually carries along a copy of the Book of Mormon to give to the person sitting next to him on the plane.
No one sat next to him on a trip to Houston, Texas, so he left the book on the seat when he got off the plane. Two weeks later, he was flying from Omaha, Neb., to Los Angeles, Calif., when the man in the seat next to him opened his brief case and brought out a book. He asked Pres. McLaws, "Have you ever seen this book?"
It was the Book of Mormon. Pres. McLaws' seatmate explained, "I picked it up a couple of weeks ago in Houston as I was boarding a flight to San Antonio. Someone wrote something about the book in the front and included his phone number, but he didn't put the area code so I haven't been able to call him."
Pres. McLaws said to the man, "Let me see that book." He opened it and saw his own handwritten testimony. He took out his pen and added the area code to his telephone number.
He handed the book back to the man. "We just stared at each other," said Pres. McLaws. "We were both in awe. It was a choice moment. He had been carrying the book around for two weeks and had read about a third of it. We spent the remainder of the trip talking about our feelings toward the Book of Mormon."
The two have kept in touch with each other. "He and his family have been receiving the missionary discussions," said Pres. McLaws.
Even before he became president of the Florida Ft. Lauderdale Mission, Robert Coates felt the power of the Book of Mormon as a missionary tool. "I fellowshipped two friends, an elderly couple, in Aurora, Colo.," said Pres. Coates. "They were from Bulgaria and could read very little English, so they asked theri granddaughter to read the book to them. As far as I know, the couple never joined the Church, but their granddaughter did."
Missionaries serving under Pres. Coates are mindful of the effectiveness of the Book of Mormon, and of its importance in their lives. One of those missionaries is Elder Wayne Hubert from Cape Town, South Africa. He has a brother, Garth, in the Massachusetts Boston Mission. His sister, Desiree, recently returned from serving in the South Africa Johannesburg Mission, and his younger brother, Glen, is planning to go on a mission soon.
"The Book of Mormon has always been important to my family," said Elder Hubert. "The greatest experience I've had is receiving a strong witness from the Spirit as I prayed about the Book of Mormon."