What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
The other night I transcribed a pamphlet by W. Cleon Skousen titled “Do You Really Want the Rest of the Book of Mormon?” If anybody would like the text let me know and I’ll send you a link (I’m not going to link it on my site since I don’t have permission to redistribute it). The following section of the pamphlet struck me as interesting:
Two elements are required to make a breakthrough in Book of Mormon study. First of all, the text of the Book of Mormon must be perceived as highly interesting and inspiriting communications from God, so that it will command our attention.
Second, there needs to be a plan involving thousands of Church members who are consistently studying the Book of Mormon, digging out its hidden treasures and making it an integral part of our daily lives.
That plan was provided by our Prophet last year:
We studied the Book of Mormon in Sunday School this past year. Nonetheless I offer a challenge to members of the Church throughout the world and to our friends everywhere to read or reread the Book of Mormon. If you will read a bit more than one and one-half chapters a day, you will be able to finish the book before the end of this year. Very near the end of its 239 chapters, you will find a challenge issued by the prophet Moroni as he completed his record nearly 16 centuries ago. Said he:
“And I exhort you to remember these things; for the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust? . . .
“And God shall show unto you, that that which I have written is true” (Moroni 10:27, 29).
Without reservation I promise you that if each of you will observe this simple program, regardless of how many times you previously may have read the Book of Mormon, there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.
The Church has nearly 12 million members. If you estimate that one-half of those are active, that leaves us 6 million members of the Church who heard the Prophet’s challenge.
Eight months after issuing the call, President Hinckley said in General Conference:
Last year I asked members of the Church throughout the world to again read the Book of Mormon. Thousands, even hundreds of thousands, responded to that challenge.
Likewise, President Monson said in the most recent General Conferece:
In 2005, hundreds of thousands of Latter-day Saints accepted President Gordon B. Hinckley’s challenge to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. I do believe December of 2005 would set an all-time record for hours devoted to meeting the challenge on time. We were blessed when we completed the task; our testimonies were strengthened, our knowledge increased. I would encourage all of us to continue to read and study the scriptures, that we might understand them and apply in our lives the lessons we find there.
I’m sure some research and statistical analysis was done into the subject, and here we have the report: hundreds of thousands of people obeyed President Hinckley’s challenge. Let’s be generous and assume that implies 900,000. Even so, that’s less than 10% of the entire Church membership, and 15% of all active members. Are so few willing to obey the Prophet’s voice? What happens when the Prophet begins to ask harder things of us?
Even out of that 10-15% who took the Challenge, how many of those people are still vigorously reading the Book of Mormon, “that we might understand them and apply in our lives the lessons we find there”, as President Monson suggests? How many of us have made such a study a daily habit?
W. Cleon Skousen, in the above-mentioned pamphlet (printed in 2000) suggests that we are not going to receive the rest of the Book of Mormon until we as a Church embrace the book to end the condemnation upon us. Additionally, Skousen proposes (with evidence to back his claim) that the extra plates contain instructions on how to set up a Zion society. If this is true, we clearly need these plates and their teachings before the coming of Christ, so that we will know how best to set up the New Jerusalem.
Whether our aim is to remove the condemnation, becoming worthy of the additional plates, or simply to apply its awesome lessons to our own lives, it is my opinion that we all can do better at integrating the Book of Mormon into our lives. If we really believe it was written for our day, wouldn’t we all benefit from seeking within its pages a application to current events? President Hinckley thinks so:
[I]n its descriptions of the problems of today’s society, it is as current as the morning newspaper and much more definitive, inspired, and inspiring concerning the solutions of those problems.
I love the Book of Mormon. Within its teachings I have found direct application to my own life as well as events taking place today. Studying its background and contents I have received a strong witness that it is true. Others may disagree and disbelieve, and that is their choice. My testimony, however, like President Hinckley’s, is “A Testimony Vibrant and True”. This book is true, and the peoples of the Earth would greatly benefit by reading its teachings and learning more of Christ, of whom the book primarily testifies.