PROVO, Utah Salvation would not come to this generation without the Book of Mormon, said Robert J. Matthews Oct. 25.
"The message of the Book of Mormon is heavier than the gold plates on which it was engraved, and is the keystone of the doctrine of the Church," said Brother Matthews, dean emeritus of BYU Religious Education.
Offering a keynote address for the Sidney B. Sperry Symposium on the Scriptures, held annually on the BYU campus, Brother Matthews addressed the subject, "For a Wise Purpose," a phrase used several times in the Book of Mormon.
In its 32nd year, the symposium's objectives were to increase gospel knowledge, strengthen individual testimonies and supplement the 2004 gospel doctrine curriculum in Sunday School. Presenters including faculty from BYU Religious Education, the Church Educational System, and other Church scholars addressed the theme "The Fullness of the Gospel: Foundational Teachings From the Book of Mormon."
During his address, Brother Matthews said the Lord revealed His "wise purposes" not only in the bringing forth of the Book of Mormon, but also in its entire message, especially its witness of Jesus Christ.
"The Book of Mormon affirms that God has a plan of happiness for mankind; that mortal life is a probation; that individual, intelligent life continues after the death of the mortal body; that every person's spirit and body will be permanently reunited in a resurrection and receive a just judgment from God according to one's works. This plan called the Plan of Salvation is operative only because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ."
Brother Matthews said in the modern world there is a growing rejection of Jesus Christ as the divine Redeemer. "It is a sophisticated, intellectual and sociological approach, generally denying Christ's Godhood, His miracles and physical resurrection from the tomb."
With many, he continued, the Bible no longer has divine authenticity. The Lord knew that this rejection of Jesus and of the Bible would occur so He sent the Book of Mormon as "a fresh second witness of the real Jesus Christ and the real Bible."
"Because of the plain language of the Book of Mormon, it is in many ways a stronger, more revealing, and particular testament for Christ than is the New Testament," he said.
Brother Matthews said Book of Mormon prophets repeatedly use the word "infinite" when speaking of Jesus.
"Other men could teach doctrine, other men could administer ordinances, but only Jesus could atone and conquer death," he said. "He came in person to assure the people that the Resurrection was real, and that He was real."
The Book of Mormon, Brother Matthews said, is the keystone of Church doctrine. "We see how forcefully the Book of Mormon teaches the points of Christ's doctrine, not in competition to the Bible, but as a witness for the truth of the Bible, and that if a person believes one record he should believe both records.
"We know the Bible is true because we know the Book of Mormon is true. This is one of the Lord's wise purposes in making the Book of Mormon available to us to testify of the truth of the Bible."
Brother Matthews said by heavenly visions and the guidance of a holy angel, Nephi was shown what would happen to the record of the Jews, consisting of the writings of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles:
The Bible, containing the covenants of the Lord and the fulness of the gospel, was originally plain and easy to understand (1 Nephi 13:21-24; 14: 23-27).
This Jewish Bible was deliberately altered by the great and abominable Gentile church, which took "many plain and most precious parts," and "many covenants," and much gospel out of the book (1 Nephi 13:27).
Alterations to the text were made deliberately, to "pervert the right ways of the Lord" (1 Nephi 13:27).
The alterations were done early, for it was after the Bible was altered that it went "to all the nations of the Gentiles" (1 Nephi 13:29).
Because many precious parts are "kept back" and taken out of the Bible and out of the gospel, many persons "stumble" and are in an "awful state of blindness" (1 Nephi 13: 29, 32).
To rescue the world from this spiritual blindness, the Lord will bring forth the Book of Mormon and other books to "make known the plain and precious things that have been taken away" from the Bible (1 Nephi 13: 35-40).
The Book of Mormon and the other books will establish the truth of the original Bible (1 Nephi 13: 39-42).
"As a divinely revealed original record, the Book of Mormon deserves to be used by scholars and laymen alike as a major documentary source for understanding the original doctrine of the Bible. Surely, the Lord expects us to do this. Surely, it is one of His wise purposes."
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