The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon in the Twentieth Century
As the twentieth century draws to a close, the Book of Mormon clearly holds center stage in Latter-day Saint scriptural study and appreciation. Congregations, the Church Educational System, individuals, and families are focusing on the Book of Mormon with unprecedented enthusiasm, largely because of the leadership of President Ezra Taft Benson. In his landmark conference addresses in 1986, President Benson repeatedly cited the Doctrine and Covenants and reiterated his long-standing belief that the Church was under condemnation for taking the Book of Mormon too lightly. He also announced that "the Lord has revealed the need to reemphasize the Book of Mormon." Latter-day Saints responded with an enormous and passionate effort to fully utilize the Nephite record. Such fervor did not always exist. Early LDS converts were students of the Bible, and with no traditions concerning the Book of Mormon, they did not readily incorporate the new scripture into their devotions. The early Saints valued the Book of Mormon as evidence of the Restoration, but by the Nauvoo period, focus on the book had already decreased. As recently as the mid-1930s, BYU and the LDS Institutes of Religion only occasionally featured the Book of Mormon in their curricula.