PROVO, UTAH — Missionaries should cherish and use the Book of Mormon above all other proselyting tools God has given them, said Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and Sister Patricia Holland on June 25.
“I fear however much we revere this record as the keystone of the restoration, we haven’t revered it enough,” said Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
During the 2018 Mission Leadership Seminar, Elder and Sister Holland addressed the topic, “Christ and the Book of Mormon,” focusing their remarks on Doctrine and Covenants 5.
In this section, dated March 1829, the Lord tells Joseph Smith he has the gift to translate the Book of Mormon and that he “will grant unto [Joseph] no other gift until it is finished,” explained Sister Holland.
“Now think about this,” added Elder Holland. “The restoration is just beginning. Consider all the Lord needed to have Joseph do before that fateful day in which he would lie martyred in Carthage at just 38 ½ years of age.”
And yet, he added, the Lord instructed Joseph: “Don’t do anything until you translate the Book of Mormon and publish it to the world.”
Of course, the Book of Mormon is not the Church’s only missionary message, said Sister Holland, and “it won’t be our only gift to the people.”
However, if Latter-day Saints can see the Book of Mormon the way the Lord taught Joseph to see it, it will lead to binding testimonies and convert retention.
“Because it is the clearest, purest, evidence we have of the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose Church this is and whose witnesses our missionaries must be,” she explained.
This is not just the Church of happy families, Steve Young and Danny Ainge, the Tabernacle choir, or BYU’s International Folk Dancers, said Elder Holland.
“Those are all pleasant by-products of the fact that we are the Church of Jesus Christ and the first thing God did to declare that truth was to give us a book that bears solemn witness of that fact, a testament of the divinity of Him whom the prophets said would come as Savior, Redeemer, Messiah, the Holy One of Israel.”
Sister Holland promised the new mission leaders that they will get right to the heart of the matter of missionary work if they will love and teach from the Book of Mormon. Missionaries must let the “spiritual light of the Book of Mormon pierce the darkness and difficulties of their investigators’ lives,” she explained.
“Teach them to let it pierce the darkness and difficulties of their own lives,” she said.
Elder Holland said he sometimes asks missionaries to make a case for who might best be considered the most memorable character in the Book of Mormon. “If they take my bait and fall for it, their responses will vary but usually they will say that it is one of the obvious figures like Nephi or Mormon, Alma or Moroni. …
“Of course, then I tell them they are all wrong. The principal, commanding, and surely the most memorable figure in the Book of Mormon, from first chapter to last, is the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Through the 531 pages of the English translation of the Book of Mormon, the Savior’s name appears on average once every 1.7 verses, he said.
“From the title page to the last page, this written record teaches the divine mission of Jesus Christ to two New World dispensations (the Jaredites and the Lehites), both of which were written for the benefit of a third dispensation — ours — the dispensation of the fulness of times,” said Sister Holland.
The Book of Mormon is the preeminent net God has prepared for missionaries to gather scattered Israel in these last days, said Elder Holland. “It is His definitive latter-day declaration regarding the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is His great revelation of the greatest revelation He has ever given to mankind — the life, teaching and eternal mission of His Only Begotten Son.”
Many will say they already know of Christ in the Bible, said Elder Holland. But the Bible, once clear and untarnished in the Meridian of Time, would, through innocent error as well as malicious design, have many saving truths and pure principles lost or taken from it.
“Surely the most plain and precious of all truths lost from the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, are the clear, unequivocal declarations of the mission of Jesus Christ, his foreordained role as Messiah and Savior of the world, and the covenantal elements of his gospel which have been taught from Adam down through each succeeding dispensation,” he said. “But fortunately, ... the Book of Mormon will restore that which was lost and literally be to the convincing of the reader that Jesus is the Christ.”
Besides the “doctrine of Christ,” the Bible and its readers also lost an understanding of divine covenants, solemn promises made between God and themselves, said Sister Holland. “The most sacred moments of our relationship with our Father in Heaven have always been marked by the making of covenants.”
However, Elder Holland said, even with Heaven’s repeated effort to teach these gospel truths much of the human family has either never heard that message or have chosen not to embrace it. “Thus it is required of us as it was of Nephi to continue to ‘talk of Christ, rejoice in Christ, [and] prophesy of Christ’ (2 Nephi 25:26) that our children — and all others — may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.”
Heavenly Father has given one last testament to His fallen family, she added. “That final testament and witness, that new covenant offered to the children of men only one more time, is the message of our Book of Mormon.”
The call to the children of God in these concluding days of the world’s history is to “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ” (2 Nephi 31:20), said Elder Holland.
“No other book helps us press forward so well,” he said. “No other book was ever divinely protected and produced solely for that purpose. No other book has ever been written with such a full view of the future dispensation to which that record would eventually come.”
Sister Holland shared her personal testimony of the Book of Mormon. “Recently during a near-fatal illness I wanted Jeff and his priesthood to be with me constantly,” she said. “Because he couldn’t always be at my side, I wanted the next best thing. I wanted my Book of Mormon in my hands, holding it, and when I slept I wanted it under my pillow. With doctors telling us that I wasn’t going to make it. ... I knew if I did live, it would be because of the blessings of the true gospel that the Book of Mormon teaches.”
The Book of Mormon has given her life over and over again, she added.
Joseph Smith was not given the same blessing that God gave Sister Holland, “for it was required of him to give his life for his testimony,” said Elder Holland. “I have always been moved to tears … but by the fact that Joseph and Hyrum sought comfort from its pages as they sat incarcerated in Carthage awaiting martyrdom. That for me has always been, and will forever be, among the most compelling evidence of all that this was not a ruse they had perpetrated upon the world. They were depending for their very life, as it were, on the promises contained in that book.”
The Book of Mormon is God’s new covenant to His children — for the last time, concluded Elder Holland.
“Pat and I pray that you and your missionaries will love and teach this testament-of-all-testaments which was God’s first gift to this dispensation…,” he said. “We bear witness of and give thanks for this book which has blessed our lives all of our life. We testify of its truthfulness. In doing so we invoke the transcendent and ultimate witness of the Book of Mormon — the Savior and Redeemer of the World himself.
“We know of no other book about which the Son of God Himself has said, ‘As your Lord and your God liveth it is true … and I, Jesus Christ, … have spoken it … that I might bring about my righteous purposes unto the children of men.’ (Doctrine and Covenants 17:6, 9).”