In the Introduction to the Book of Mormon Joseph Smith describes the book as the ‘keystone of our religion’. What is a ‘keystone’ and why is the Book of Mormon the keystone of the restored gospel?
The word ‘keystone’ has two principal meanings:
- A central stone at the summit of an arch locking the whole together.
- The central principle or part of a policy, system, etc., on which all else depends
President Benson described three ways in which the Book of Mormon is the keystone to our religion. It is the keystone to:
- Our witness of Christ
- Our doctrine
- Our testimony
It is the keystone to our witness of Christ because it is a second witness to the atoning mission of the Saviour. Of the 239 chapters in the Book of Mormon only 6 don’t have reference to Jesus Christ.
It is the keystone to our doctrine because it sets out the fullness of the Gospel. President Ezra Taft Benson taught us that the Book of Mormon helps us discern truth from error: “We should know the Book of Mormon better than any other book. Not only should we know what history and faith-promoting stories it contains, but we should understand its teachings. If we really do our homework and approach the Book of Mormon doctrinally, we can expose the errors and find the truths to combat many of the current false theories and philosophies of men. I have noted within the Church a difference in discernment, insight, conviction and spirit between those who know and love the Book of Mormon and those who do not. That book is a great sifter.”
It is the keystone to our testimony because most of us received our testimony through reading the Book of Mormon and accepting Moroni’s invitation to pray about it.
It is also the keystone to our testimony in the sense ‘locking the whole thing together’. If the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph was a prophet and restored the true Gospel to the earth. If the Book of Mormon is not true then Joseph was a fraud and the Church has no claim to authority and revelation.
It continues to be the ‘central principle’ on which all else depends. If we have a testimony of the Book of Mormon then we should also have a testimony of prophets and of continuing revelation between God and man. This testimony should strengthen us when we have doubts about the Prophet Joseph, historical issues or current policy pronouncements. When our testimony wavers, we need to go back to that sacred volume and refresh our testimony of it.
We all need the stability that a keystone brings. Without that stability we risk, as Paul syas in Ephesians being
…..children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
President Benson promises great blessings to those who seriously study the Book of Mormon:
“The moment you begin a serious study of [the Book of Mormon, you] will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception. You will find the power to stay on the strait and narrow path. … When you begin to hunger and thirst after those words, you will find life in greater and greater abundance” (Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1986, 6; or Ensign, Nov. 1986, 7).
See Ensign article: