Saturday, December 20, 2014

Apostolic Witness

One of the strongest testimonies of the Book of Mormon I have heard was given by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in October, 2009 General Conference. His stirring witness was redacted into a powerful 4 1/2 minute 2010 Mormon Message. The image below is not interactive, even though it shows the video play symbol. Click on either of the two preceding text links to watch video.
Elder Holland Holding Hyrum Smith's Copy of the Book of Mormon
I appreciate Elder Holland's eloquence, reminiscent of Elder Neal A. Maxwell. I love his passion and respect his intellect. This phrase in particular caught my attention: "As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness." The context is the role the Book of Mormon played in the lives of Joseph and Hyrum Smith immediately preceding their martyrdom.

I was in Jack Welch's office yesterday. Since the late 1960's he has participated in the scholarly research, editing and publication of many of the "thousand elements" Elder Holland referred to. (The Apostle specifically mentioned "literary and Semitic complexity" in the text.) This resonates with me because my own experience has been a gradual increase in the depth of my understanding of and appreciation for the Nephite scripture. In my current calling as Bishop of a large and diverse ward, I have tried to help many members through faith crises. No matter if their doubts stem from Joseph Smith's plural wives, arcane episodes in Church history, Book of Abraham facsimiles, contemporary Church finances or their own moral turpitude, testimonies ultimately come back to the Book of Mormon. I bear unequivocal witness the Book of Mormon is an ancient record translated by the gift and power of God. The Book of Mormon is the safe harbor Elder Holland mentions that will help all find healing, hope and peace through Jesus Christ. In the Apostle's words, "for [184] years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart ...and still it stands." For decades I have heard alternative explanations for the Book of Mormon's origin and they all ring hollow. They are "frankly pathetic" as Elder Holland says compared with the grandeur, sophistication and subtlety of the text itself.

I find it vital to recognize both divine and human elements in the Church. If I infer humanity where there is divinity, I miss the awe. If I infer divinity where there is humanity, I have unrealistic expectations. The Book of Mormon is foundational. It is bedrock. It is in Elder Holland's articulation "one of the Lord's powerful keystones..." The Book of Mormon is the most divine object most of us will have the blessing to experience this side of the veil.

"I want it absolutely clear when I stand before the judgment bar of God that I declared to the world, in the most straightforward language I could summon, that the Book of Mormon is true, that it came forth the way Joseph said it came forth and was given to bring happiness and hope to the faithful in the travail of the latter days." Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, October 2009 General Conference address entitled "Safety for the Soul"