Second counselor in the Young Men general presidency and BYU religion professor Brad Wilcox discussed the power of the Book of Mormon and defended its translation process to BYU Education Week viewers.
In his recorded speech, “Another Testament of Christ,” Brother Wilcox said even though the Book of Mormon’s translation is not academic or acceptable to everyone, the book’s validity comes from the way it changes lives by bringing people to the Savior. In an additional speech, Brother Wilcox implored the youth of the Church to remember their role in gathering Israel.
Church members shouldn’t apologize for the way the Book of Mormon came forth because it helps them acknowledge that there’s no way Joseph Smith could have done it without the Lord, Brother Wilcox said.
This unconventional translation process involved various seer stones in addition to the Urim and Thummim. One way Smith could have used these stones was by reading words in English off of them, Brother Wilcox said.
While this translation process can seem strange, Brother Wilcox encouraged the audience to have faith.
In the face of criticism, Brother Wilcox said members of the Church sometimes wish for a story that is more academic or acceptable. “Something that we could say to strangers without feeling like we’re saying something that they can make a broadway musical about.”
If this was the case, it wouldn’t mean the story would have more power, Brother Wilcox said. He used the example of the Dead Sea Scrolls. They were translated by scholars and everything about them is very academic and factual. The difference is that he can’t name one person whose life was changed because of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but there are millions who have been touched and changed by the Book of Mormon.
One way the Book of Mormon changes lives is through its teachings on the Savior’s Atonement. It teaches the Atonement in more clarity than any other book — including the Bible, Brother Wilcox said.
It also has the power to lead people to the temple and Jesus Christ, through which they can be sealed with loved ones forever. “The book is correct because it corrects our course.”
“It’s the supernatural way that the book came forth that backs us up against a wall and says, ‘Are you going to take a leap of faith?’ And the minute we take that leap, then our lives are changed forever,” Brother Wilcox said.
In another Education Week speech, “Your Part in Gathering Israel (Youth),” Brother Wilcox discussed the “birthright” of Church members that sets them apart and gives them the responsibility to help gather Israel — now and in the millennium.
Members of the Church are not set apart because they are children of God or saved for the last days, Brother Wilcox said. Rather, they are set apart because of the birthright that comes from being a member. This birthright explains why they keep the commandments and fulfill responsibilities like going on missions and doing family history work. These obligations come from the necessity of gathering Israel.
“We’re doing the most important thing that can be happening on this earth. We’re gathering Israel,” Brother Wilcox said. “Every aspect of the work of salvation and exaltation is part of the gathering as we prepare the world for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, where the real work of gathering His family, of gathering God’s family, can commence.”
Brother Wilcox emphasized that the gathering does not end when the Savior comes. Church members will need to be leaders to help even more people join the Church and fulfill any responsibilities that come up under Christ’s direction. “The goal isn’t to gather Israel as an end in and of itself. The goal is to gather Israel so that Israel can gather all of God’s children home to Him.”’
When church members know who they are and why they do what they do, it makes a difference. The difference is that commandment keeping goes from being a “hoop jumping experience” to a “quest,” Brother Wilcox said.
“When our prophet says (the gathering of Israel) is the most important thing on Earth, it is. When he enlists us and invites us to become part of the Lord’s battalion, a military unit with a special job to do, it’s time for us to square our shoulders instead of shrugging them,” Brother Wilcox said.