General Sunday School President Tad R. Callister delivered the BYU devotional address on Nov. 1, 2016. He spoke about the Book of Mormon and its divine origins, discrediting theories Joseph Smith wrote or copied it from other sources.
“Once we have a foundational testimony of the Book of Mormon, then any question or challenge we confront in life, however difficult it may seem, can be approached with faith,” Brother Callister said. “Why? Because the keystone of our religion — the Book of Mormon and its witness of Jesus Christ — has also become the keystone of our testimony.”
In a discussion of several alternative theories about the Book of Mormon’s existence, Brother Callister concluded the book must either be manmade or God-given.
“Disprove the Book of Mormon, and you disprove the Church,” Brother Callister said. “But this is no easy task. In fact, it is impossible because the Book of Mormon is true.”
Some people believe Oliver Cowdery or Sidney Rigdon wrote the Book of Mormon, Brother Callister said. But Cowdery said he transcribed what Joseph Smith translated, and Rigdon’s daughter recalled the exact moment missionaries introduced her father to the book.
Others claim Joseph Smith plagiarized the Book of Mormon from existing manuscripts or books. Brother Callister said he has read those books and determined their purpose and style is “most disparate” from the Book of Mormon.
Another theory proposes Joseph Smith was a creative genius who wrote the Book of Mormon himself. But there’s no evidence he knew enough about Native American history or culture, Brother Callister said, especially with “no outline, no 3×5 cards, nothing.”
“Nonetheless, others have bought into this argument — lock, stock, and barrel,” Brother Callister said. “Why? Because they have nowhere else to go except admit that Joseph Smith translated it by the gift and power of God, a place they desperately do not want to go.”
The best evidence of the Book of Mormon is its doctrinal content, Brother Callister said, including King Benjamin’s sermon and the account of Christ’s visit to the Americas.
“The doctrinal truths taught in the Book of Mormon are an overwhelming evidence of its divine authenticity,” Brother Callister said. “It is one thing to have creative ideas. It is quite another to put them into a complex but coherent and harmonious whole inundated with majestic doctrinal truths.”
He gave the Book of Mormon’s unique teachings on baptism and the atonement as examples of doctrine not taught by contemporary Christianity or discussed in the Bible.
It’s important for students to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon, and the Spirit is the way they can do that, Brother Callister said.
“The Spirit is the decisive, determining factor — not archaeology, not linguistics, not DNA and certainly not the theories of man,” he said. “The Spirit is the only witness that is sure and certain and infallible.”
Wanting the truth badly enough to pay the price will always lead to an answer, Brother Callister said.
“By that promised power of the Holy Ghost, I bear my personal witness that the Book of Mormon is God-given,” he said. “It is all it claims to be — a pure and powerful witness of Jesus Christ, his divinity and his doctrine.”
Next week’s devotional will be BYU’s annual dance assembly. Several dance groups will perform in the Marriott Center on Tuesday, Nov. 8, at 11 a.m.