Elder Schmeltzer provided his ward with a 15-20 minute sermon today, the text follows:
Good morning brothers and sisters. I am very grateful to be able to speak to you today. As most of you know I am leaving to serve a mission in Ghana this Thursday. I look forward to being able to live in a different country for a while, having my testimony grow exponentially as well as seeing others gain testimonies and receive the fullness of joy that comes through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am going to be speaking a little bit about the Book of Mormon today. And I hope that as I do so I can teach with the spirit.
What is the Book of Mormon?
In the introduction which is in the front of the book of Mormon we see that it is a volume of Holy Scripture comparable to the bible. It tells us that it is a record of the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. It was written by many ancient prophets. Their words were written on gold plates and abridged by a prophet named Mormon. The record tells of two civilizations: the first came from Jerusalem in about 600 B.C. and afterward separated into two nations that became known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The second civilization came earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. This group came to be known as the Jaredites. Eventually all were destroyed except for the Lamanites which are the principal ancestors of the American Indians.
President Ezra Taft Benson said that “the Book of Mormon is more important than any of the inventions that have come out of the industrial and technological revolutions… it is of greater value to mankind than even the many wonderful advances we have seen in modern medicine. It is of greater worth to mankind than the development of flight or space travel.
How can this one book be more important than all of that? Well, one of the most important parts to the book of Mormon is when Jesus Christ himself ministered to the Nephites just after his resurrection.
Joseph smith said that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than any other” We also can gain the answers to “life’s great questions” in it.
How do we have the book of mormon if it was written so long ago?
Joseph smith obviously has an important role in our church. A young boy at the age of 14 was taught from his mother to read the Bible. He came across a scripture that made him ponder. This scripture was James 1:5. It reads: “5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not not; and it shall be given him”
Joseph decided to test it out. He went and searched for a spot that he would be alone. He went into the woods. Kneeling down he started to offer the desires of his heart (to know which of the many churches were true) to his astonishment his answer is in verse 16 o Joseph Smith-History, it says: “16. I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me…. 17. (Goes on to say) When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (And then in 19 it says) I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong”
One of the many important parts I noticed about this event was that if he didn’t read the scripture he might not have been inspired to go into the woods and pray.
Alma 37 verse 6 says: Now ye may suppose that this is afoolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by bsmall and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.
We need to be doing the small and simple things that we are told about. Reading scriptures, praying, going to church, paying tithing ect.
With Joseph we gain knowledge of Modern Prophets. This is one of the biggest differences between our religion and others. In a changing world we most assuredly need a Prophet to guide us. Today our prophet is Thomas S Monson. We get to hear words of counsel from him and the other apostles twice a year in General Conference. We have one of those coming up soon. Let’s read some of President Monson’s words from last conference.
“When we’re busy, time seems to pass far too quickly, and the past six months have been no exception for me. One of the highlights during that period was the opportunity I had to rededicate the Atlanta Georgia Temple on May 1…… During the cultural celebration entitled “Southern Lights,” held the evening prior to the rededication, 2,700 young men and young women from throughout the temple district performed. It was one of the most outstanding programs I have seen and had the audience on its feet several times for standing ovations.
Pausing with that for a moment I would like to have all of those who were able to participate in the “Southern Lights” (especially the youth) think back on the Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings we spent practicing and also the night we preformed. How cool is it that we were part in one of the first things he talked about to the entire worldwide church? I’m grateful that I was able to be a part of the celebration. I hope that the youth who didn’t have the best of attitudes about it look back and see it as a good, once-in-a-life-time experience and that they are grateful to have participated in.
President Monson continues to say that: “The building of temples continues uninterrupted, brothers and sisters. Today it is my privilege to announce several new temples. First, may I mention that no Church-built facility is more important than a temple. Temples are places where relationships are sealed together to last through the eternities. We are grateful for all the many temples across the world and for the blessing they are in the lives of our members.”
While I was living in Atlanta I tried to attend the temple every week. There were a few times where I wasn’t able to make it. We are lucky to have one somewhat close to us. In other parts of the world they have to drive for days just to be sealed and a lot of people only get the opportunity once in their entire life if at all. I challenge you to make the temple a priority as we are told often by church leaders. I promise you that it does make a difference in our lives. I noticed a big difference in my life when I was able to make it regularly. If sin permits you from attending the temple then I urge you to take care of it as soon as possible.
In a BYU devotional in 1996 Elder Busche said “In life there has to be challenges. They can either bring you closer to god and therefore make you stronger or they can destroy you but you make the decision of which road you take. First and foremost you are a spirit child of god. If you neglect to feed your spirit you will reap unhappiness. Don’t permit anything to distract you from this awareness. You cannot communicate with god unless you have first sacrificed your self-oriented natural man and have brought yourself to the lower levels of meekness to become acceptable for the light of Christ”….. (he goes on to say) “The pain of sacrifice lasts only one moment. It is the fear of the pain of sacrifice that makes you hesitate to do it.”
A few months back I was driving and saw a billboard and it said “Satan is real.” Sometimes we don’t realize that Satan is real. He wants to destroy us and make us miserable like unto himself. At times this can be very scary.
I try to be a glass half full kind of guy so when I first saw the billboard I thought it would have been funny to put another billboard next to it that says “Jesus is real.” Brothers and sisters fear not for we are able to repent and be forgiven of our sins through the atonement of Jesus Christ. By taking each step of repentance precisely our sins can be made white as snow.
Martin Harris became Joseph’s scribe. As Joseph read out loud from the plates, Martin wrote down the words Joseph read. After two months of work, Joseph had translated the first part of the plates. The translation was written on 116 pages of paper.
Martin asked Joseph if he could take the 116 translated pages with him to his family who had criticized him for leaving his farm to help Joseph. He hoped that by seeing the translated pages they would believe he was doing the Lord’s work.
Joseph asked the Lord for permission to let Martin take the translated pages, but the Lord said “no.” Martin asked Joseph to ask the Lord a second time. Joseph asked the Lord again, and again the answer was “no.” Martin pleaded for Joseph to ask the Lord once more. Joseph wanted to satisfy Martin, so he asked the Lord a third time. This time the Lord said Martin could take the translation if he agreed to show it only to his wife and certain other members of his family. Martin promised that he would not show the pages to anyone else. He took the 116 pages of translation to his home in Palmyra.
A few weeks later Joseph sent a letter to Martin asking him to meet at Joseph’s parent’s house. When Martin arrived, he cried out, “Oh, I have lost my soul! I have lost my soul!” Joseph jumped up from where he was sitting and exclaimed, “Martin, have you lost that manuscript? Have you broken your oath, and brought down condemnation upon my head as well as your own?”
Martin admitted that he had broken his promise and had shown the translated pages to other people. The 116 pages had been lost or stolen. Joseph exclaimed, “All is lost! All is lost! What shall I do? I have sinned—it is I who tempted the wrath of God. I should have been satisfied with the first answer which I received from the Lord; for he told me that it was not safe to let the writing go out of my possession” Joseph and Martin suffered greatly for their disobedience. The translation tools and powers were even taken away from them for a period of time.
I like this story because it shows that even prophets of God have weaknesses. They are real people just like you and I and have things they have to work on sometimes.
Missionaries have many rules. They can choose to be obedient or disobedient. Sometimes disobeying them can even get them sent home. I plan on obeying all the rules that I am given in order to have the spirit with me which is especially key with missionaries.
President Hinkley was a great prophet, I am going to share a story that I found a couple weeks ago. This was something that was addressed quite a few years ago in conference. He started by saying there was once a one room school house in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough no teacher had been able to handle them. Then one day an inexperienced young teacher applied. He was told that every teacher had received an awful beating, but the teacher accepted the risk. The first day of school the teacher asked the boys to establish their own rules and the penalty for breaking the rules. The class came up with 10 rules, which were written on the blackboard. Then the teacher asked, "What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?" "Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on," came the response.
A day or so later, President Hinckley related, the lunch of a big student, named Tom, was stolen. "The thief was located - a little hungry fellow, about ten years old."
As Little Jim came up to take his licking, he pleaded to keep his coat on. " `Take your coat off,' the teacher said. `You helped make the rules!' "
The boy took off the coat. He had no shirt and revealed a bony little crippled body. As the teacher hesitated with the rod, Big Tom jumped to his feet and volunteered to take the boy's licking. " `Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?' " the teacher asked. After five strokes across Tom's back, the rod broke. The class was sobbing. "Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. `Tom, I'm sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!' "
In many ways this is like the Atonement. Christ took the beating for us all. If Jim loved Tom for simply taking a few beatings for him how can we not love Jesus forever? We need to show our love for him by keeping not just one or two but all of the commandments and taking advantage of the atonement when we mess up.
Without the Atonement Joseph Smith wouldn’t have been able to translate the rest of the book of Mormon. Many of us wouldn’t be here today and none of us would have the potential to have the fullness of joy that comes through the gospel.
Living the gospel isn’t always easy. There are many responsibilities, distractions and trials. When we have a testimony it becomes easier. When we do the small and simple things it becomes easier. When we obey the prophets it becomes easier. When we repent of our sins it becomes easier. When we show charity to others it becomes easier.