Seeds sown by Sidney B. Sperry during his forty years of teaching and research at Brigham Young University are still bearing fruit. New generations of scholars, nourished by Dean Sperry’s example, are casting their seeds on fresh fields, inviting us all to reap the harvest. All of the authors in this book “are recognized authorities on the Book of Mormon” (vii); Ludlow, Elder Holland, Rasmussen, Matthews, and Millet have each served as deans of religious education, succeeding Sperry.
The 1995 Sperry Symposium, “Nurturing Faith through the Book of Mormon,” celebrates the centennial of Sperry’s birth. Scholars pay tribute to Sperry by counseling us to “learn by study and by faith as much as possible about the history, practices, principles, and doctrines found in the scriptures” (xi). In an introductory chapter, Ellis Rasmussen reveals the roots of Sidney Sperry’s philosophy as a teacher, a scholar, and a man: “Brother Sperry hoped to deepen the faith of Latter-day Saint students” (xv) and “believed that understanding the historical setting in which each prophet lived and worked” (xxxiii) was vital to understanding their message.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the life-nourishing force that flows through the Book of Mormon and is its most “commanding figure . . . from first chapter to last” (2). Elder Jeffrey Holland invites us all to “‘rend the veil of unbelief’ in order to behold the revelations—and the Revelation—of God (Ether 4:15)” (24).
Daniel Ludlow thoroughly explores “The Destiny of the House of Israel,” using as his tools the “background and experience of the Prophet Joseph Smith . . . [who]
understood more about the destiny of the house of Israel—including its origin, history, and prophesied future—than any other person then living upon the earth” (31–32).
According to Robert Matthews, the records written by the Book of Mormon prophets are like preserved fruit that we can enjoy seasons later: “How enjoyable in January to feast on the harvest of the previous August. And how fortunate in the twentieth century to be spiritually fed by the doctrinal discourses of the Savior and the prophets of centuries ago” (89–90).
The results of eating the forbidden fruit—the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the Atonement—are the subjects of Robert Millet’s tender treatment of the plan of salvation as taught in the Book of Mormon. Millet sums up its message: “The plight and the promise, the malady and the medicine, the Fall and the Atonement—that is the burden of the Book of Mormon” (120).
Reflecting Sperry’s reliance on both faith and reason, John Welch offers an extensive description of the relationship between intellect and spirit in the context of a person identifying evidence and using it in nurturing faith. The Book of Mormon especially, with its “precision, consistency, validity, vitality, insightfulness, and purposefulness,” yields a flow of evidence that “nourishes and enlarges faith” (158).
Each essay in this volume gives readers spiritual and intellectual nutrients to strengthen seeds of faith and produce a harvest of understanding.