The Bible: A Testimony of Jesus Christ

Q. Do Mormons believe in the Old Testament?

bible1Yes, we do believe in the Old Testament.  The Old Testament is full of symbolism and prophecies that support the New Testament’s testimony of Jesus Christ and point to our days as well.  It may be difficult to understand at times, but with careful study, the whole of the Bible has been a wonderful source of inspiration in my life.  It has a long history of inspiration and continues to inspire people today.  I’d like to address a bit of its history and content as well as what we believe concerning the Bible.

The Bible (from the Greek biblia, meaning “books”) is a collection of writings by many authors collected and compiled over the course of a many centuries.  The two parts, the Old and New Testaments, are separate and distinct from one another.  The Old Testament is comprised of histories and personal writings of prophets and the New Testament is a collection of some of the writings of early Christian leaders.  A prophet of the Old Testament such as Isaiah, for example, would have a vision, write it down and it would be eventually compiled with his other writings.  Isaiah had a vision of the throne of God and His glory which became Isaiah chapter 6.  Isaiah had many visions, teachings and life experiences, some of which make up the 66 chapters in his book in the Bible.  Jeremiah had his visions and teachings as did Ezekiel, Amos, Habakkuk, Nahum, Malachi and other inspired men, including prophets mentioned in the Bible whose books are not available to us.  All of those teachings were given to the people living at the time for the purpose of reminding them of the Lord their God.  As often as they forgot, the Lord sent prophets to remind them of His will toward them.  This was usually to persuade the people to abandon the worship of false gods and return to obedience and service to the only true and living God.

isaiahThe New Testament picks up chronologically over 400 years after the last prophet of the Old Testament, Malachi.  It begins with a book written by a man named Matthew, whom we later learn to be an apostle personally chosen by Jesus.  Matthew gives us his testimony concerning the gospel (a word meaning “good news,” which is the good news of Christ’s atonement) and the coming of Jesus Christ, His ministry, teachings and death.  Matthew quotes scripture from the Old Testament many times to support his testimony that Jesus was truly the Messiah and Savior of all mankind.  The next book, authored by Mark, offers another testimony of the same Jesus Christ.  As does Luke and also John, the beloved.  Those four books make up everything we know about the life and ministry of the mortal Jesus Christ and they are all testimonies of His divinity, His life and His Atonement.  After the book of Acts, which tells a small amount about the early church and the missionary effort put forth by those early Christians, we have a collection of letters sent by church leaders, mostly Paul, to the scattered congregations.  The last book, Revelation or Apocalypse, is a vision received and recorded by John.  All these testimonies, books and letters, as well as many others that existed then, were circulating among the people.  Which of these documents were valid and doctrine were defined to be canon around the fourth century A.D., leading to the particular collection we have today.

Is the Bible itself perfect?  Unfortunately, no.  There are many variations and translations of the Bible, some of which are vastly different from others.  And if it were perfect, wouldn’t we all understand it to mean the same thing?  How could there be so many different opinions on what the truth of God really is?  This is precisely why God did not cease with revelation.  He did not give up on us.

So then, what is the Bible?  In a nutshell, it is the testimony of prophets among the Jewish people.  It is a record.  It is a description of Jesus Christ and a testimony that He is the way to eternal life.  It describes a perfect being, His perfect gospel and His perfect way.  All the prophets since Adam have given their testimonies concerning Christ and His gospel.  To receive anyone’s testimony of Christ is surely a great blessing.  The Book of Mormon is also a blessing like that.  It is another such description or testimony of Christ written by prophets not among the Jews, but among other peoples across the world.  With both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, we can gather a clearer image of what the Lord truly desires of us.

A Book of Mormon Synopsis: The Small Plates

moroniThe Book of Mormon is a record of a people that lived in the Americas between 600BC and 400AD as well as their origins, lives and religion. The record, written on gold plates, was given to Joseph Smith and he was given the ability to translate it from the original language, reformed Egyptian.

The Book of Mormon starts with a title page and introduction to familiarize the reader with the book’s purpose and history. As the title page states, the Book of Mormon was written as a witness and testament that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God and that He manifests Himself unto all nations. The final paragraphs of the introduction contains an invitation to read the book and a promise that if one will read it, ponder over the words, and pray to God, asking if the book is true, then an answer will be given by the power of the Holy Ghost. After this invitation, the testimonies of the eight witnesses, the three witnesses and Joseph Smith are given.

The book then begins. Its format is similar to the Bible, in that there are individual books within the greater book and these are divided into chapters and verses. The first book was written by a man named Nephi living in Jerusalem around 600BC and is taken from a record mentioned in the book called the Small Plates of Nephi. The small plates were like a journal that Nephi kept and was passed on in the family for generations. In it, he and others recorded prophecies, teachings and “a few of the things which [they] considered to be most precious.” (Jacob 1:2) Nephi made other plates, the large plates, on which he wrote the daily goings-on of his people. That book was passed down from king to king and was eventually abridged by a prophet named Mormon. That abridgment comprises most of the Book of Mormon. The first part, however, is taken directly from the small plates.

lehiNephi tells the story of his father, Lehi, and his vision. Much the same way that Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel were called to be prophets, Lehi sees a vision of God, learns of His gospel and is sent among the people to warn them of their wickedness and the impeding doom of the city. Predictably, he is rejected by the people and threats are made on his life (Jeremiah is probably in prison at this time) so the Lord commands him to take his family and absquatulate into the desert. Nephi records their experiences, trials and the things they learn about Christ and His gospel as they travel eight years through the desert from Jerusalem to an unknown point on the Arabian coast where they build a boat, according the Lord’s directions, and cross the ocean to the promised land.

shipSome time after arriving, Lehi gives his dying words to his children and grandchildren and passes away. It didn’t take long for Nephi’s oldest brothers, Laman and Lemuel, to try and kill Nephi. They had been complaining, rebelling and plotting Nephi’s death since they left Jerusalem because they did not believe that Lehi had a vision nor did they believe in God all that much. Nephi took his wife, kids and anyone else who would listen away from Laman’s group so they could live peacefully and worship God. From that time until the very end of the book, the two main groups are referred to as Nephites and Lamanites.

Nephi spends the rest of his book writing down a few of his thoughts and feelings, but mostly prophecies and teachings and many words of the prophet Isaiah. Nephi then passes the metal plates he used to write on, to his brother Jacob and dies. Jacob continues to write and records a few of his sermons to the people and passes them to his son, Enos. The tradition continues for several generations, each of them writing a little until one man, who had no children, passes the plates on to the king, a righteous man named Benjamin. By this time, over 450 years had passed since Lehi and his family had left Jerusalem.

During the time that this record was kept, the Nephites and Lamanites fought against each other and had several wars. At one point, the Nephite king, Mosiah, was warned by the Lord to leave their lands and go north. He took as many people with him as would listen and left their city to find a new place to live. Mosiah was led by the Lord and found an entire city of people called Zarahemla. Their history is largely unknown except that they were originally led by Mulek out of Jerusalem when Babylon invaded Jerusalem in 585 BC. The two groups merged and Mosiah, followed by his son Benjamin, became their king. This marks the end of the small plates.

talk_of_christ1The most remarkable thing about these writings is how much Nephi and his descendants knew about the coming Messiah.  Nephi was shown the birth of Jesus in a vision and understood the miraculous power of the atonement.  He writes, “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins” (2 Nephi 2:26).  We share this book with you, and with the whole world for the same purpose.  Please take the opportunity to read it for yourself.

Part 2 and part 3 are continuations of this synopsis.

Book of Mormon Stories: The Iron Rod

treeLehi, the first prophet in the Book of Mormon, was warned by the Lord that Jerusalem would soon be destroyed and was told to leave into the wilderness. While in the wilderness, Lehi had a peculiar dream.

In his dream, Lehi found himself in a dark and dreary wilderness.  He saw a man in a white robe standing in front of him who told Lehi to follow him.  Lehi was soon lost, however, and traveled alone for many hours.  He was no doubt tired and afraid of not knowing where to go, so he prayed for comfort. No sooner had he prayed, when we saw that he was in a large and spacious field and he saw a tree whose fruit was desirable to make one happy. He saw that the tree and its fruit were whiter than anything he had seen before and the taste of the fruit was sweet and gave him great joy.

The joy and sweetness of the fruit gave him the desire to share with those he loved most: his family.  As he looked around, he saw that a river ran by the tree.  He soon saw his wife and youngest two sons, Nephi and Sam, far off, and that they too seemed to be lost.  Lehi called to them and they came and also ate the fruit.  Wanting his older two sons, Laman and Lemuel, to be there too, he looked farther up the river.  When he saw them, he called out to them, but they would not come.

Alongside the river, an iron rod stretched from the tree off into the distance by where the river began.  That large field now seemed to be as large as a world, and it was filled with countless people that were trying to get to the tree.  A mist then covered the whole area so that the people could not see.  This caused many to wander off and become lost but others held the iron rod in their hands and followed it until they reached the tree. There were some who made it to the tree but when when they ate the fruit, they looked around and were ashamed. Lehi looked for the cause of this shame and saw a large building that looked like it was floating in the air. The people in that building were all dressed in extravagant clothing and were pointing fingers and mocking those by the tree.  Lehi watched and saw people get lost in the mist and others drown in the river; many followed the iron rod to the tree and the rest found their way to the large building to join the others in mocking and putting down those by the tree.


The meaning of this dream may not be immediately clear to everyone. It wasn’t to Lehi’s son, Nephi, but Nephi had enough faith that God would answer his prayers, so he took his questions to the Lord in prayer. In response to that prayer, Nephi also had a vision, where he saw the meaning of the dream and of Jesus Christ’s mission on earth and His love and gospel.  He learned that the tree represents the love of God for us. The iron rod that led to the tree was the word of God, given through His prophets and that if we held onto those words, we would find the love of God and receive joy because of it. The people in the dream are each one of us, trying to find our way through the mists of temptations to reach God’s love. Many people fail to grasp the words of the Lord and get lost or drown in the filthy waters that represented that “awful hell that separates the wicked from the tree of life.” The large building that held those that opposed God represented the wisdom and pride of the world.  Nephi saw its destruction and “the fall thereof was exceedingly great.”


The meaning of this dream applies to every person that has ever lived on this earth.  Each of us is trying to get somewhere, even if we do not know where.  What we seek is Christ and His love for us.  By holding onto the iron rod, or rather, by reading scriptures and praying to God, everyone can receive Christ in their lives regardless of the obstacles.

Lehi’s dream can be found in 1 Nephi 8 and Nephi’s vision in 1 Nephi 11. Nephi sees much more than this and I invite everyone to read about it in chapters 12 – 14. In 1 Nephi 15, Nephi explains the meaning of the dream to his older brothers, Laman and Lemuel.

What Can’t Mormons Do? Part 3: The Sabbath Day

Mount Sinai, where Moses received the ten commandments.It’s an odd thing to consider that of the great Ten Commandments that the God of Israel gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, the one He chose to expound upon the longest is also perhaps the most disregarded in our modern society:

Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.”

The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew verb shavat, meaning to cease or stop. The primary purpose of the Sabbath is to be a pause amid the constant rush of life: a day to stop and get your bearings. A day of rest, of course, doesn’t mean to lie around the house all day. The Sabbath is a day to worship God in church, to partake of the Lord’s sacrament, to visit friends and family, to read good books and hear good music. Because we are only instructed to “keep it holy,” every Mormon family observes the Sabbath a little differently. But there are some commonalities: it is not a day to play sports, for instance, or go shopping, go boating, or spend money. Some families choose to forego television or movies or other media, in favor of spending quality family time together.

The move from an agrarian society to an industrialized world has changed the appeal of the ancient practice of the Sabbath. For the majority of Mormons, at least in the United States, the change from weekday to the Sabbath is not quite, to borrow a phrase from Herman Wouk, “the old dramatic plunge from gloom, trouble, penury, and crisis to peaceful and graceful pleasure.” Rather than the much needed privilege of rest it has historically been, the Sabbath Day is now almost viewed as an inconvenience—a painful restriction on a day otherwise useful for work or recreation.

But by making a conscious decision to consecrate one day per week to your Creator, you can have what the Sabbath offers: a serene peace amid a crazy bustling world. I love my Sabbath. Admittedly, when I was a child, I saw it as a day of “can’t”—the only day I wasn’t allowed to play sports, or go swimming, or watch movies. But now I have come to need it. I’m so busy with school and work and an almost frantic need to have fun, the Sabbath has become an oasis of peace for me. You may ask: “How do you keep competitive in business, work, or school when you’re losing an entire day every week?” Here’s my answer: I’ve been doing this my whole life and it’s just the opposite. Sure, as a biochemistry researcher it’s often hard to delay or pause a multi-day experiment mid-run to observe the Sabbath. But whether as a function of the weekly restoration to mind and body, or as a blessing from God, I know that I’m more productive during the week for it, and I’ve never felt at a disadvantage. I’ve come to trust in the words of Isaiah:

Isaiah 58:13 “If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”

Do you feel like you don’t spend quality time with your family? Keep the Sabbath Day. Do you feel constantly overcome by deadlines? Keep the Sabbath Day. Are you tired of the frantic commercialism and materialism in the world? There’s no better way to escape a hectic life than donating one day of your week to the Lord. It works.

<<Part 1: The Word of Wisdom>>                   <<Part 2: The Law of Chastity>>

An Answered Prayer

I started writing an article on a different topic today, but I couldn’t get my head around it. Every way I phrased my words seemed wrong or incomplete. As we say in the Church, I had a stupor of thought.

I had the feeling to discuss something else:

Studying the scriptures makes it easier for the Holy Spirit to speak to you.Before studying the scriptures this morning, I closed my eyes and offered a silent prayer. Often times (too often) I pray for the same, routine blessings, “bless me with thy spirit, help me understand, give me guidance, etc.” Nothing wrong with any of those things, just that they are so vague and I tend not to think too hard about them.

This morning I was about to do the same thing, but I paused and recognized a problem in my life. There is a person I treat poorly. Some would call it a ‘personality conflict,’ but it’s really all about pride. Mine and his. Mostly mine. Problem is (and it really makes me ill to admit), I’ve come to enjoy putting him down, and making him the butt-end of jokes. This morning in my prayer, I asked for the grace to want to love him with a Christ-like type of love.

I opened my Book of Mormon to Mosiah 4 and started reading, but the verses still floated in and out of focus. I’m sure you know the feeling of reaching the end of a page and thinking, “Do I remember anything I just read?” Anyway, I woke myself up enough once I reached Mosiah 4:12, which read,

And behold, I say unto you that if ye do this ye shall always rejoice, and be filled with the love of God, and always retain a remission of your sins; and ye shall grow in the knowledge of the glory of him that created you, or in the knowledge of that which is just and true.

This stuck out to me. It was the exact answer to my prayer, but I had to go back and read the previous verses again to find out what the “this” was that I had to do.

And again I say unto you as I have said before, that as ye have come to the knowledge of the glory of God, or if ye have known of his goodness and have tasted of his love, and have received a remission of your sins, which causeth such exceedingly great joy in your souls, even so I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel.

There is a lot there to ponder. What really made me think was that God is greater than us all, and he knows all of our weaknesses, yet he still loves this person I struggle with. Who am I, in my nothingness, an unworthy creature, to maltreat this person? Am I saying that my judgment of the man is better than God’s?

I need to submerge myself in ‘the depths of humility’ before Heavenly Father. It’s very easy to come to this conclusion, but a terrifying and difficult thing to do. It means surrendering what I think is good (or fun or funny) for what I know the Lord desires. It also means trying to see him in a better light and treating him as a child of God, an heir! This particular relationship will take time to mend, but at least it feels good to be heading in the right direction for a change.

If we put a little more thought and effort into our prayers, the answers that come will be more powerful and profound. I know that much is true.