The Gospel Doctrine lesson #4; Joseph Smith—History 1:27–65; Doctrine and Covenants 3; 5; 10; 17; 20:5–15; 84:54–62; Our Heritage, pages 5–10
The other day my daughter was watching cartoons based on the Old Testament. After watching one of these she turned to me and said “Mommy, did we have any kings in our family…good kings?” I thought for a second and then said “Yes! “You’re related to the people in the Book of Mormon. King Benjamin and King Mosiah were both very good kings”. A light bulb suddenly went off in her mind and she jumped up and started searching for all the Book of Mormon cartoons so she could watch them.
I have had many experiences seeing people’s minds “light up” like this as I witnessed to them of the of the Book of Mormon. I danced with a group at Brigham Young University called Living Legends. Audiences were fascinated by the elaborate costumes, vibrant music and beautiful dances that we shared from our various cultures, namely Polynesia, Latin America and Native America. But there was more to our production than a compilation of multicultural dance routines. Woven throughout the performance was the story of our forefathers and foremothers who crossed the great waters to a promised land.
People’s countenances would change during our shows as their hearts and minds were touched by our testimony of the Book of Mormon, born through song and dance. On tour, we would also perform at assemblies. Some of the schools were in areas where students were considered to be “at risk” and had lower incomes. A lot of the kids in these areas had lives that were very different from the other parts of the country that we saw. Often their behavior reflected that. I remember one school in particular where some of the high schoolers were literally climbing up the walls. But as soon as the performance started with our first dance, a very spiritual Native American number, you could literally feel a hush come over the auditorium. The students were fascinated in spite of themselves.
What had changed? I believe they felt something for the first time in their lives. Many of these kids were Latin, Polynesian and Native American (“Lamanite”). They had a heritage that resonated with the story of the Book of Mormon. We had reminded them who they were, and why they had value. This was so different from everything the word had been telling them about their heritage and who they were. It was like they were suddenly lit from within.
Have you ever had an experience like this?
You don’t have to be “Lamanite” to be a part of the New Covenant of the Book of Mormon. Just as the Jews were the covenant people of the Old Testament, we who are the descendants of Joseph of Egypt are the covenant people of the Book of Mormon. We are Ephraim and Menasseh. We all have a deep connection to the people and promises of the Book of Mormon and are blessed with a desire to share it with others.
Think of Emma Smith and Mary Whitmer who were actually present as Joseph translated the plates entrusted to him by Moroni. Emma, who, for reasons only known to the Lord, was never actually allowed to see the golden plates, and yet she valiantly defended their divinity until the day she died. Emma shared stories about helping her husband with the translation where Joseph would be “sitting with his face buried in his hat, with the stone (urim and thumim) in it and dictating hour after hour.” Her witness illustrates the day to day reality of the translation of the book of Lehi.
Then there is the incredible testimony of Mary Whitmer, who opened her home to Joseph and Emma and all those who were interested in the work of translation. Overwhelmed with the increased labors she had to perform, she encountered an “old man” one day who told her she would receive a witness to help strengthen her faith. He then opened his knapsack and presented the golden plates to Mary. The man encouraged her to remain faithful to the end, promising that, if she would “her reward would be sure”.
This is our heritage. These are the blessing that come from the “New Covenant of the Book of Mormon”. It’s our birthright to reach out to the other descendants of Israel, and and remind them of their divine heritage. It’s our privilege to see the Holy Ghost enlighten their minds and awaken their souls. Whether we’re watching cartoons with our children on a Sunday morning, performing at the local high school, or sharing personal stories with our friends and family, we are living, breathing, dancing witnesses of God’s promises in the Book of Mormon.
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
To Sit at the Feet of Christ, Christie Kay Hansen Frandsen
“Well, I grew up on Indian Reservations. Very remote. The whole branch was basically my family. When I was in sixth grade, my mother was an early morning seminary teacher. Even though I was only in sixth grade there were not very many students in the class so she asked me if I wanted to come to seminary. I loved that I had the opportunity for my mother to be my teacher. It was Book of Mormon that first year and I remember on several occasions really being moved by what my mother was teaching me. I don’t know if it would have happened the same way if it hadn’t been my mother. I think because it was my mother I saw her in a new light. Having the Book of Mormon opened up to me by her was a really moving experience.”
Threads Woven Together, Callie Appelstein
“When we were in Seattle, I worked part-time at a store that sold scrapbooking supplies. The owners were members of the Church, and I formed a friendship with the wife. We enjoyed each other’s company, and we were curious about each other’s faith. We had good conversations over the years back and forth, and I really loved her. When we left Seattle and moved to St. Louis, I gave her a book and she gave me the Book of Mormon. She wrote her testimony in the front and had made notes throughout the book. I was so touched that she would do that for me. I had no intention of reading it, but it was such a nice gesture, so I couldn’t throw it away.”
Other Related Women’s Voices
What I Hope My Granddaughters (and Grandsons) Will Understand About The Relief Society, Julia B. Beck
“As the Lord began restoring His Church through the Prophet Joseph Smith, He again included women in a pattern of discipleship. A few months after the Church was formally organized, the Lord revealed that Emma Smith was to be set apart as a leader and teacher in the Church and as an official helper to her husband, the Prophet. In her calling to help the Lord build His kingdom, she was given instructions about how to increase her faith and personal righteousness, how to strengthen her family and her home, and how to serve others.”
Guardians of Virtue, Elaine S. Dalton
“I pray that the Spirit will witness to your hearts your divine identity and your eternal responsibility. You are the hope of Israel. You are elect and royal daughters of our loving Heavenly Father.”