I know with undeniable, unshakable certainty that the Book of Mormon is a record of ancient origin, written by Israelites called of God to do so, protected and delivered by the angels of heaven and translated in our time by a modern prophet, seer, and revelator, Joseph Smith, Jr. I know that he translated it as he said he did—"by the gift and power of God"—for such a book could not have been translated any other way.
No other book has so affected my view of God and man, my view of mortality and eternity. No other book has stirred within me so many emotions. No other book has had such an impact upon my personal, family, educational, professional, and now apostolic life. Because I know that the Book of Mormon is a true witness—another testament and a new covenant—that Jesus is the Christ, I know that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God. As my great-great-great grandfather said of his own conversion in the earliest days of the Restoration, "No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so." That is emphatically my own assertion more than a century and a half later. And this magnificent book was translated when Joseph Smith was barely a boy, a lad still coming of age. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, "Some boy. Some book."
Because Joseph Smith is a prophet of God as evidenced not least by his role in bringing forth the Book of Mormon, the Church he was instrumental in restoring is indeed the Church of Jesus Christ in these latter days. To this Church the keys of the priesthood were given, including (but not limited to) the keys of revelation, gathering, baptism, ordination, and sealing. The Church continues to bless the world with such keys and covenants to this day.
The Prophet Joseph's expression that the Book of Mormon is "the keystone of our religion" is a profound and crucial observation. A keystone is positioned at the uppermost center of an arch in such a way as to hold all the other stones in place. That key piece, if removed, will bring all of the other blocks crashing down with it. The truthfulness of the Book of Mormon—its origins, its doctrines, and the circumstances of its coming forth—is central to the truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The integrity of this church and more than 165 years of its restoration experience stand or fall with the veracity or falsity of the Book of Mormon.
To consider that everything of saving significance in the Church stands or falls on the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and, by implication, the Prophet Joseph Smith's account of how it came forth is as sobering as it is true. It is a "sudden death" proposition. Either the Book of Mormon is what the Prophet Joseph said it is, or this church and its founder are false, a deception from the first instance onward.
Not everything in life is so black and white, but the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and its keystone role in our religion seem to be exactly that. Either Joseph Smith was the prophet he said he was, a prophet who, after seeing the Father and the Son, later beheld the angel Moroni, repeatedly heard counsel from Moroni's lips, and eventually received at his hands a set of ancient gold plates that he then translated by the gift and power of God, or else he did not. And if he did not, he would not be entitled to the reputation of New England folk hero or well-meaning young man or writer of remarkable fiction. No, nor would he be entitled to be considered a great teacher, a quintessential American religious leader, or the creator of great devotional literature. If he had lied about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, he would certainly be none of these.
I am suggesting that one has to take something of a do-or-die stand regarding the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the divine origins of the Book of Mormon. Reason and righteousness require it. Joseph Smith must be accepted either as a prophet of God or else as a charlatan of the first order, but no one should tolerate any ludicrous, even laughable middle ground about the wonderful contours of a young boy's imagination or his remarkable facility for turning a literary phrase. That is an unacceptable position to take—morally, literarily, historically, or theologically.
As the word of God has always been—and I testify again that is purely and precisely what the Book of Mormon is—this record is "quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow." The Book of Mormon is that quick and is that powerful. And it certainly is that sharp. Nothing in our history or our message cuts to the chase faster than our uncompromising declaration that Joseph Smith saw the Father and the Son and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. A recent critic said that our account of and devotion to the Book of Mormon and, by implication, Joseph Smith's role in producing it, is "the most cherished and unique Mormon belief." I could not agree more, so long as we are allowed to maintain that is so because the Book of Mormon affirms our yet higher and more sublime belief that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the Savior and Redeemer of the world.