The Book of Mormon, A Gift
Surely the most important function of scripture is to give our lives godly form. Joseph Smith taught that the Book of Mormon has that power more than any other scripture, whatever the superior literary, philosophical, and other merits of those other scriptures might be. Book of Mormon prophets like Abinadi and Ammon teach that the scriptures have the power to change our lives. As another Book of Mormon prophet, Alma, said, preaching the word has "a great tendency to lead the people to do that which was just—yea, it [has] more powerful effect upon the minds of the people than the sword, or anything else" (Alma 31:5). As we read, study, and ponder scripture diligently and faithfully, the Word becomes written in our hearts and we become different people. The Book of Mormon comes with the promise that it can do this at least as powerfully and effectively as any other scripture. Mormons believe it can do this because God specifically prepared, preserved, and presented it for our day.
Mormons believe that it is a great privilege to have been entrusted with the Book of Mormon. Just as Paul said that the best thing about being a Jew was that God's words had been entrusted to Jews (Rom. 3:1-2), perhaps the best thing about being a Latter-day Saint is that the Book of Mormon has been entrusted to us. We have received a gift and that gift was given to us so that Israel (in the broad sense mentioned above) might be restored to its inheritance, and so that all the world might receive the blessings of salvation.
While we wait on the fulfillment of that restoration, if Mormons live up to the responsibility that the trust and gift of the Book of Mormon brings, we will do as the book demands. We will wait on the restoration of Israel by bearing the burdens of our brothers and sisters, by mourning with those who mourn, comforting those who need comfort, and by standing as witnesses of the Father and the Son in the lives we lead (Mosiah 18:8-9).
James Faulconer is a Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, where he has taught philosophy since 1975.