All of us have been edified by experiences in testimony meetings of being able to blend together the witnesses of many individuals concerning the truthfulness of the gospel. The Book of Mormon, “Another Testament of Jesus Christ,” is a sacred compilation of testimonies from a long sequence of prophets. It is a kind of tapestry of recorded witnesses, the strands or cords of which are the individual testimonies of inspired men of God speaking under the influence of the Spirit.
When the Savior appeared to the ancient Nephites following His resurrection, He taught them with such power and authority that peace prevailed among them for some 200 years. Among the scriptural references He cited was this statement from Isaiah: “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations; spare not, lengthen thy cords and strengthen thy stakes” (3 Nephi 22:2; compare Isaiah 54:2). The reference to cords is interesting. The word cord in the scriptures sometimes has a negative connotation, as in “cords of death” (D&C 121:44) or cords of confinement and restriction. In the image from Isaiah, however, the word cords refers to the means of supporting the tent of Zion, or the canopy of the expanding kingdom of God on the earth. Thus the stakes anchor the cords, and the cords (acting with the tent poles) support the curtains or tent fabric. In an earlier reference from Isaiah, the word cords is used in a similar way: “Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken” (Isaiah 33:20).
If the word stake has reference to a community of Saints joined in a mutual cause to build up the tent of Zion or the kingdom of God, what does the word cord imply? In general, it shares with the word stake the same symbolic meaning. “Elder Joseph Fielding Smith informs us that … Zion is the tent, the settlements surrounding her, are the cords and stakes.” (Essentials in Church History, 146–147.) (Roy W. Doxey, The Doctrine and Covenants Speaks [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1964], 2:205–206)
However, one could make the case that the word cord could imply something more specific. The strength of the communities of God resides in the character and Christlike attributes of the Saints who live there. These attributes are evidenced by their words and deeds while engaged in a “godly walk and conversation” (D&C 20:69) according to patterns prescribed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. In that sense, the word cord might be taken, therefore, to imply the living testimony of the Saints. It is the strength of that testimony, born of the Spirit, that supports the tent of Zion.
One of the themes of the Book of Mormon is the extraordinary leverage that is gained when testimonies of righteous people are intertwined. Just as a cord is made stronger by braiding together individual strands, so is the witness of truth strengthened when individual testimonies are interwoven to support each other.
This process of intertwining testimonies was encapsulated perfectly by Nephi when he said that he was going to send forth to his children the words of Isaiah and Jacob concerning the Redeemer “to prove unto them that my words are true. Wherefore, by the words of three [in this case Nephi, Jacob, and Isaiah], God hath said, I will establish my word. Nevertheless, God sendeth more witnesses, and he proveth all his words. Behold, my soul delighteth in proving unto my people the truth of the coming of Christ… .” (2 Nephi 11:3–4).
The process of sending “more witnesses” is ongoing and ever operational. The greatest miracle in this whole process occurs when the individual reader of the Book of Mormon intertwines his or her own testimony with that of the authors and compilers of the work in the form of steady spiritual growth and increased righteousness—all through a process of lengthening the cords of Zion and extending the kingdom of God on the earth. (Richard J. Allen)