Though each of our journeys through life is different—which I appreciate more and more—the principles on which our lives operate are the same: practical, universal, and eternal. Because they cut through differences in personalities, principles unite us when we live by them but divide us when we don’t. Those who live by them may thus experience kinships closer than family ties, while those who don’t may attribute their alienation to a pet peeve rather than a broken principle.
While the scriptures teach the principles God has revealed through which people can experience oneness with him and with one another, no scripture contains such a concentration of them as the Book of Mormon. As the prophet Joseph Smith declared, “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (TPJS, 194).
Those words were no boast but remain as true as any statement man has ever made. Many years after gaining a spiritual testimony of the Book of Mormon, I gained an intellectual testimony of it from its many layered structural, typological, and rhetorical features that also characterize the Book of Isaiah but that were unknown in Joseph Smith’s day. Not that intellectual proof is needed as the Book of Mormon itself is proof when we “abide by its precepts” or principles.
Because spiritual principles work like a chemical formula or mathematical equation (what we put in is what comes out), they can be proven true or false by putting them to the test. Like anyone else, I have lived by true and false principles until I learned by experience to distinguish between them. But I could have saved myself, my family and others a lot of trouble if true principles had been my guide right from the beginning, especially the ones the Book of Mormon teaches.
Not that “abiding by its precepts” produces perfect, cookie-cutter Mormons, but that God created individual personalities and life journeys to blend perfectly within what Paul calls the “body of Christ.” Steven Covey’s advice to couples who subscribe to the false principle of falling out of love was to “value your differences.” But doesn’t that principle apply to everyone? That is, to see differences in others as a reason to love them rather than being grounds for growing alienated?