For some time I have created study notes for members of my Gospel Doctrine class. I hand them out a week before the lesson (unless I’m behind, as has occasionally been the case). For the most part the notes consist of questions about the passage assigned for reading. I have avoided commentary, hoping that the questions would be a vehicle for people to think for themselves about the readings. These questions are intended to provoke thought; I usually have no particular answer in mind myself.
Since some of those who haunt this list may find the study questions useful. I’ll post them here each week as well.
Lesson 1 (4 January 2004)
Book of Mormon, Title Page
Most scripture divides the world into “Israel” and “Gentile” or “Jew” and “Gentile,” but the title page of the Book of Mormon does not. For what two groups was the Book of Mormon written? What is the significance of that division? What is the point of saying that the Book of Mormon was “written by way of commandment”? The second paragraph of the title page gives the purposes of the Book of Mormon. What are they? Who is “the remnant of the House of Israel”? Why is it important to show them “what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers”? (Compare 1 Nephi 1:20.) How does the Book of Mormon convince people that Jesus is the Christ? (Compare Mormon 5:14-15.) Why does the title page end with a warning? What is the significance of that warning? (See 1 Nephi 19:6.)
Doctrine and Covenants 84
Verses 54-57: In what ways might the early latter-day church have treated the Book of Mormon lightly? Why might they have done so? Have we treated continued to treat it lightly? (See President Ezra Taft Benson’s talk, “The Book of Mormon?Keystone of our Religion”: on line at Ensign, November 1986, pages 4-7.) What is the condemnation of which verses 56-57 speak? How is the Book of Mormon a covenant? a new covenant?
Doctrine and Covenants 20
Verses 8-10: What does it mean to say that the Book of Mormon contains “the fulness of the gospel” (verse 9)? Verse 10 begins “which was given by inspiration.” Is it referring to the Book of Mormon or to the power to translate it? Verse 10 also speaks of the witnesses to the Book of Mormon. Why are they important? (See Ether 5:2-4.) How do the two testimonies of witnesses (that of eight witnesses and that of three) differ? Why was it important to have two sets of witnesses? Why is it significant that all of the Whitmers but Christian, Oliver Cowdry, Martin Harris, and Hiram Page were for a significant part of their lives disaffected from the Church but did not deny the testimonies they signed for the Book of Mormon? What other witnesses of the Book of Mormon are there?
Verse 11: What proves that the Book of Mormon is true? the witnesses? the book itself? something else?
Verses 14-15: What does it mean to receive the Book of Mormon “in faith”? We often speak of being righteous, but verse 14 speaks of working righteousness. Do those phrases mean different things? Does the second have a different connotation than the first? What does it mean to receive a crown of salvation? How can the Book of Mormon be so directly connected to receiving one? What does it mean to turn to one’s own condemnation (verse 15)? How does one harden one’s heart in unbelief in response to the Book of Mormon?
“The Book of Mormon?Keystone of Our Religion”
President Benson said that there are reasons that we should study the Book of Mormon: (1) it is the keystone of our religion, (2) it was written for our day, and (3) it helps us draw nearer to God than any other book. How are these reasons related to the purposes of the Book of Mormon given on its title page? What does it mean to say that the Book of Mormon was written for our day? How is it relevant to us today in a way that it might not have been relevant for those before the Restoration? (See 2 Nephi 25:21-22; 27:22; Moroni 1:4; and especially Mormon 8:26-41.)
Referring to Joseph Smith’s statement (History of the Church 4:461), President Benson gave three ways in which the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion: “It is the keystone in our witness of Christ. It is the keystone of our doctrine. It is the keystone of testimony.” How are these three related to the purposes given on the title page? The keystone holds an arch together, distributing the weight that bears down evenly to the two sides of the arch, and preventing the two sides from toppling under the sideways pressure on them. How is the Book of Mormon the keystone of our witness of Christ? of our doctrine? of testimony? How are “our witness of Christ” and “testimony” different?