Elder Ezra Taft Benson stated, "The Book of Mormon was written for us today. God is the author of the book. It is a record of a fallen people, compiled by inspired men for our blessing today. Those people never had the book-it was meant for us. Mormon, the ancient prophet after whom the book is named, abridged centuries of records. God, who knows the end from the beginning, told him what to include in his abridgement that we would need for our day" (Ensign, May 1975).
Daniel H. Ludlow wrote, "Unfortunately, many members of the Church read the Book of Mormon as though it were simply a history book. The major writers of the Book of Mormon did not intend it to be a history book at all. . . . The Book of Mormon was written to include principles which would help us solve our problems. Each time we read a story or incident in the Book of Mormon, we should ask ourselves these questions: Why did Mormon (or Nephi, etc.) select this particular story or event to include in the records? What principle is contained in this account which would help us understand and solve our problems?" (Instructor, July 1966).
The Prophet Joseph Smith stated, “I wish to mention here that the title-page of the Book of Mormon is a literal translation, taken from the very last leaf . . . and that said title page is not by any means a modern composition, either of mine or of any other man who has lived or does live in this generation” (History of the Church, 1:71).
The title page states the purposes of the Book of Mormon. The record was "written by way of commandment" by "the spirit of prophecy and of revelation." It is to show and teach us the "what great things the Lord hath done for [our] fathers." It is to teach us "the covenants of the Lord" with his people in all generations of time. It is a testimony that "Jesus is the Christ, the eternal God" and that through Him and the covenants we "are not cast off forever” but “found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ." (Title page of The Book of Mormon)
We are a covenant people. The Book of Mormon reminds us of our covenants. The Lord works with His people and encourages us to a better life, through covenants. Covenants, and their associated promises, teaches an imperfect natural man the possibilities and realities of eternity. They help us desire and realize our full potential as children of God.
We enter into a covenant at the waters of baptism. (Mosiah 18:8-11.) We have additional covenants we make throughout our lives with priesthood ordinations and in the temples of the Lord. God makes covenants with his chosen people and thus separates them from the world. The Lord made a covenant with Lehi and again with Nephi because of their righteousness and faithfulness. "Blessed art thou Lehi, because of the things thou hast done; and because thou hast been faithful and declared unto this people the things which I commanded thee" (1 Nephi 2:1). "Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith . . . ye shall prosper, and shall be led to a land of promise" (1 Nephi 2:19-20).
Lehi and Nephi were not the first who received a covenant from the Lord because of their faithfulness. Adam and Eve entered into covenants with the Lord. Noah received a covenant after the flood. Abraham also received covenants from the Lord. (Genesis 12.) Abraham became the "founder of the covenant race, which is personified in the house of Israel. He is the 'father of the faithful'" (Bible Dictionary, Abraham).
We learn that Abraham "sought for the blessings of the fathers" and "became a rightful heir, a High Priest, holding the right belonging to the fathers" (Abraham 1:2). Abraham's personal righteousness and obedience to "all things, whatsoever he received" through covenants with the Lord resulted in his obtaining exaltation. (Doctrine and Covenants 132:29) The personal aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant are renewed with each of us as we enter into sacred covenants with the Lord.
By entering into a covenant with the Lord, we become separated from the world. The righteous have always been called upon to leave the world and be a separate righteous people. Moses and the exodus from Egypt is an example and a type of the separation/exodus pattern. As we begin the Book of Mormon, we see again an exodus of a righteous family from a wicked environment. Through faithfulness, Lehi and Nephi were led to a "promised land."
Today, the Lord has given us covenants to again separate the righteous from the world. When we enter into covenants, we promise the Lord to take upon us the name of the Lord and always remember him and keep his commandments. We promise to live a faith-filled lifestyle. Even the Word of Wisdom is a simple covenant that separates us from the world with promises associated with it. Temple covenants separate us from the world in lifestyle choices, clothing, and in knowledge and understanding. Each covenant, each law, leads us "precept upon precept; line upon line" (Isaiah 28:10), towards exaltation and eternal life.
As we read the Book of Mormon, let us remember it is written for our day by prophets who saw our day. It was written to remind us of the covenants the Lord made with our fathers and to lead us to the covenant promises of today. The Book of Mormon itself is a covenant that separates us from the world. By living the fulness of the gospel the Book of Mormon contains, we join the exodus from the world in thought, in action, in knowledge, in hope, and in lifestyle.
The Book of Mormon is a book of prophecy about our day. It is a manual, a type and pattern, a covenant with the Lord to teach us His gospel and to prepare us to be in His presence again. May we remember the purposes of the Book of Mormon, to show "what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord" and to convince the world "that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God" (Title Page, The Book of Mormon).