—3 Nephi 26:10
Ever heard of iron pyrite? You probably know it as “Fool’s Gold” because of its superficial gold appearance. I had a few chunks of it as a kid, which I kept in my “rock collection” and liked to show my friends. But most of them were either smarter than me or more skeptical than me, because, try as I might, I never managed to convince anyone I had a chunk of real gold. How many 6-year-olds do?
Given the texture and shape of iron pyrite crystals, it’s not surprising I couldn’t pull off the deception. I probably would have come closer by spray painting some smooth stones with gold paint.
Iron pyrite does have its uses though (I mean besides fascinating 6 year olds.) But “precious metal” is certainly not one of them. Hence, iron pyrite is cheap, easily obtained, and little more than a curiosity and a distraction from the real thing.
Real gold, on the other hand, is only obtained by much labor. If you want the real thing, it’s going to cost you. And it’s the labor that makes it worthwhile. Gold easily won is easily lost because it is not counted dear.
I’m reminded of Mark Twain’s book, Roughing It, wherein he recounts the tale of discovering and staking claim to a rich gold mine in California. The claim required that the claimants begin working the mine within ten days to retain rights to the find. Only a minimal amount of work was required, but if it wasn’t done, the claim was lost.
Well, as human nature tends to do, each of the three men who shared the mining claim assumed the other would begin working the strike within the required ten days, while none of the men actually did anything but dream of their certain riches. Of course, the ten days came and went, and the claim was lost.
The gold was there, the intention was there, but the laborers were distracted, and the prize was lost.
Book of Gold
Here’s my story. I’ve always loved the Book of Mormon. I remember reading it as a family when I was a child. We would go around the room, each of us reading a verse, until we got through a chapter. There was little commentary, and I didn’t understand much, but I got the idea that this book was important.
Then came seminary, with its required memorization and reading. It mostly seemed like school work to get through the assignments. But I believed it was important and the Lord’s word was in there.
In college, I studied the Book of Mormon as an adult, and began to hear the “evidence” and “origin” arguments. I appreciated and read the works of scholars, who built a case for the historicity of the Book of Mormon. I was convinced and impressed.
On my mission, I read the Book like it mattered. I sought to actually understand it, learn what the Lord wanted of me, and teach it. I saw its conversion power. I received a sure witness from God of the book’s truth.
I’ll bet my story is pretty common. Maybe it’s even similar to yours.
But you know what? I hadn’t yet worked the claim. I had scarcely commenced digging. I found a few gold flakes, and assumed that was the fulness of what this particular mine had to offer. The flakes were pretty, required little effort, and assured me I was doing great. I thought myself richer than the rest of the world, with my minuscule gold dust clenched and held high.
When I began teaching Gospel Doctrine classes, I studied more deeply and began to understand, just a little, what the Book of Mormon has to offer. I taught by the Holy Ghost, and learned things I didn’t know, even as they came out of my mouth. I could answer most any Book of Mormon trivia question. I could tell you the teachings, and expound them at length. I thought I had mastered the Book of Mormon.
Yet I was a fool, waving my gold flakes and telling the world I was rich.
About 4 years ago, for the first time in my life, I encountered the message of the Book of Mormon, and it changed my life forever. As I began mining the claim, directed and taught by more experienced miners, I sunk a shaft and struck gold.
The Book of Mormon is a warning. To us. About us. You and me—our opportunities and failings, our destiny and distraction and destruction. It is a beacon and a rallying cry, with the Lord’s voice ringing out, page after page. It is the instructions and notations for the practical course on how to save your life and receive eternal life. It’s the study guide for the only final exam that matters. The Book of Mormon is the practical survival manual sent to prepare us for the end of the world. You and I will not survive without it.
Record of the Redeemed
Ultimately, the Book of Mormon is record after record of those who are redeemed. By “redeemed,” I mean the Lord’s definition, given to the brother of Jared in the book of Ether:
And when he had said these words, behold, the Lord showed himself unto him, and said: Because thou knowest these things ye are redeemed from the fall; therefore ye are brought back into my presence; therefore I show myself unto you. (Ether 3:13)
Here, Jesus Christ—the Redeemer—defines what it is to be redeemed from the fall. It is to be brought back into the presence of the Lord, to behold His face, and know Him.
So starting with Lehi, Nephi, Jacob and Enos, then proceeding through an array of prophet-messengers, we learn the relevant spiritual histories of man after man who knew the Lord personally. These men were in His presence. He spoke with them face to face, in plain humility. These were, and are, His friends—and they’ve written, for us, us a book about Him.
But it’s not just about Him; it’s about how to know Him as they know Him. It’s a book about how to be redeemed.
Jesus’s friend Mormon abridged and compiled a thousand-year history of such men, selecting what he knew would be most relevant to our desperately deluded situation. Every story, every history, every vignette, every lesson, was selected and included with great care and absolute intention. If it’s in there, it’s there for a good reason. Then Mormon’s son Moroni, also a personal friend of Jesus, finished and preserved the work.
Fourteen hundred years later, Joseph Smith, another of Jesus’s friends who conversed with Him face to face, translated approximately a third of the sacred record, and gave it to the world. Just as Noah built an ark for the coming flood, Joseph built a shelter for the coming fire.
But why only a third? Well, to see how badly you want the rest. It’s a test, you see.
And these things have I written, which are a lesser part of the things which he taught the people; and I have written them to the intent that they may be brought again unto this people, from the Gentiles, according to the words which Jesus hath spoken.
And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.
And if it so be that they will not believe these things, then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation. Behold, I was about to write them, all which were engraven upon the plates of Nephi, but the Lord forbade it, saying: I will try the faith of my people. (3 Nephi 26:8-11)
Think of it like the app store. The Book of Mormon is the free version of the app, designed to sell us on the paid version. Those who like the app and desire what it offers will pay the price to receive the fulness. Those who want the gold will dig.
We have the lesser part; yet it is enough to prove us. In fact, it’s even enough to redeem us if we’ll mine the claim and continue the labor of digging and picking until we find the gold. It’s in there.
I know because I’ve found some. Not all of it—but enough to keep me swinging that pick.
Have you read the Book of Mormon? Maybe more than once? Good. That’s a start. But sadly, it’s only a start. “Reading” the Book of Mormon may be as far as many get, but it’s only the first step. You won’t find the gold by scratching at the surface.
Have you studied the Book of Mormon? Have you searched it? Labored over it? Pondered and wondered, and racked your brains trying to figure out what a phrase means, or why it is worded in that particular way? Have you asked questions and taken your questions to God? Have you learned to hear His voice giving you an answer you never expected and wouldn’t have come up with on your own?
The digging is labor, but day by day, inch by inch, the shaft deepens and yields its treasure.
How do you know when you’ve found the Mother Lode? It’s when you’ve found Him. When you are redeemed, when you converse with Him face to face and feel the nail prints in His hands and feet. When you become His friend.
And that’s when the Book of Gold will have yielded to you its greatest treasure. Until that day, your fortune—the riches of eternity—remains buried in the ground. Incidentally, at a coming day, you will be buried in the ground as well. Then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed. You can’t dig in the dark. Don’t let that day arrive and catch you unprepared. Don’t die without knowing Him. Don’t die unredeemed.
For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.
Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.
For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked. (Alma 34:32-35)
Procrastinating the Day
Now, if the point is to become redeemed by our Redeemer—and it is—then what is Satan’s best strategy? Well, he’s got to keep that from happening. But since he cannot ever directly prevent us from seeking the Lord, he has to be much more subtle. He has to distract us by diverting our attention. The key is in the scripture above—he just needs us to procrastinate.
In Part 2, we’ll examine the subtle, but highly effective tactics Satan uses to encourage our procrastination and divert our focus from the prize. He's more subtle than you might think.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
—3 Nephi 13:21