Rosemary M. Wixom, “Coming to Know”
CES Fireside for Young Adults • May 1, 2011 • Utah State University
I am grateful to be here in Logan, Utah, at Utah State University. As my husband, Jack, and I drove through Sardine Canyon and came into this valley tonight, in some ways I felt like I was coming back home. Let me tell you why.
This Is Where I Began to Know for Myself
Years ago, it was a beautiful fall day as we loaded up the family car with all of our belongings. You see, I was off to college with my twin sister, and our mother was going to drive us and drop us off in Logan so we could attend here at Utah State. We had seen pictures of this beautiful campus. In some of the pictures the trees were growing at an angle. We were told the wind doesn’t blow in Logan; the trees just grow that way. Nevertheless, we were excited. We had every piece of clothing and every shoe we owned, plus food to stock our cupboards, packed into that car. We could barely see out the windows. As we drove into this valley, I had butterflies in my stomach. I could hardly wait for the adventure ahead.
On campus one could feel the excitement in the air as students were unloading their cars and moving their belongings into their dorms and apartments. For my sister and I, it was our first time to live away from home, and we felt empowered as we hung our clothes in the closet and organized our room. We had two posters for our walls. One read, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Our older brother gave us the other poster. It read, “Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.”
When the car was empty, we stood on the sidewalk in front of Moen Hall, holding the last few items from the backseat. There we were, with jars of bottled peaches in our arms as we waved good-bye to our mother. Then, as she drove away, reality hit. We turned to each other, and with tears running down our cheeks, we said: “What have we done? What were we thinking? How could something we once thought to be so adventurous now seem so frightening and intimidating?” Little did I know that in the days and years ahead on this campus, I would make decisions that would define the rest of my life. It was here that I discovered I had my own beliefs, and I was faced with defending my faith. I made lifelong friends. My prayers became more sincere. My testimony began to grow. I learned it was a personal choice to stand up for my standards and stretch myself academically and spiritually.
Who was I really? Through those years, at times I felt defeat and failure—and once in a while I tasted hope and success. It was a stretching process from homesickness—oh, excruciating homesickness—to exhilarating independence. I was like Ammon and his brethren in the Book of Mormon, experiencing “sorrows, and … afflictions, and … incomprehensible joy” (Alma 28:8) at the same time. I now realize I needed to leave my comfortable home to progress and to learn these lessons of life. No wonder this Cache Valley, this university, this campus is so beautiful to me. For it is here that I would begin to come to know myself, and in the process of coming to know myself, I would begin to come to know the Savior. In your life, what have you come to know, and where did you learn it?
It is about “coming to know” that I would like to speak to you tonight.
Find a Place Where You Can Come to Know for Yourself
When we left the presence of our Heavenly Father and our comfortable home in the premortal existence to come to this earth, we came ready to learn and be tested. Now, on this earth, we may find ourselves saying, “What have I done?” We are here walking a path. We are living the plan of our Heavenly Father—the plan of salvation, the fulness of this gospel. And it is a plan of happiness! Joseph Smith said the plan of salvation is “one of heaven’s best gifts to mankind.”1
This experience of mortality we once thought would be so adventurous can be frightening and intimidating at times—and just downright hard! The veil prevents us from remembering what we once knew. Now we walk by faith, but we walk with the knowledge that with the Lord’s help we can come to know what we once knew. Our Heavenly Father loves us so much. We were created with the very purpose of not only returning to Him but actually becoming like Him. Now we are relearning how well we knew Him. Brigham Young said, “You are well acquainted with God our Heavenly Father, … for there is not a soul of you but what has lived in his house and dwelt with him year after year [in the premortal existence]; and yet you are [now on this earth] seeking to become acquainted with him, when the fact is, you have merely forgotten what you did know.”2
We knew Him then, but it is only through our effort that we will come to know Him here. We are not alone in our quest, for He said, “I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).
Alma came to know the Savior and then taught the people at the waters of Mormon. He “preach[ed] unto them repentance, and redemption, and faith on the Lord” (Mosiah 18:7). It was there that the people entered into a covenant of baptism “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places … , that [they] may have eternal life” (Mosiah 18:9). They grew in faith, they learned to observe the Sabbath day, they learned to labor with their own hands for their support, “and they did walk uprightly before God, imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually” (Mosiah 18:29; see vv. 20–29).
We read on: “And now it came to pass that all this was done in Mormon, yea, by the waters of Mormon, in the forest that was near the waters of Mormon; yea, the place of Mormon, the waters of Mormon, the forest of Mormon, how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer” (Mosiah 18:30).
Why, in this scripture, are we drawn to the waters of Mormon through the surrounding landscape? How does the description make us feel about that place—the waters of Mormon? Perhaps we should consider our surrounding landscape and what role it plays in our quest to come to the knowledge of our Redeemer.
Now is the time. If you have not already done so, now is the time to seek the place where you can come to the knowledge of your Redeemer. Where is your waters of Mormon? How beautiful to your eyes is that place?
To find that beautiful place, you may want to ask yourself these four questions.
1. Come to Know the Holy Ghost
Question number 1: How will I come to know the Spirit of the Holy Ghost?
A young man in his teens had an experience when he was just a child, a very young child, under the age of three years old. He had been adopted into a family who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His environment changed drastically. He left his home in Eastern Europe and came to live in the eastern United States—a land with a new family, a new language, and new feelings. On Sundays his new family would take him to the nursery. It was in the church, down the hall, in that nursery room when he felt it—when he came to know a security and a love he had never felt before. It was his first experience of really recognizing the Spirit. Now, as a teenager, he occasionally chooses to go down the hall to that same nursery room to hear the sounds, see the sights, and feel the Spirit that he once felt there. How beautiful that nursery is to the eyes of that child who there came to the knowledge of the Spirit of the Holy Ghost.
Mormon tells us, “Because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love” (Moroni 8:26).
Mormon was describing what the Savior would describe: “You shall receive my Spirit, the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom” (D&C 36:2).
In the book of Alma we learn how the sons of Mosiah came to know the Spirit of the Holy Ghost. It says:
“They had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God.
“But this is not all; they had given themselves to much prayer, and fasting” (Alma 17:2–3).
Then they went out to teach. These were ordinary young men who had remarkable courage because of the Holy Ghost and a desire to know the word of God.
Ammon said, “A portion of that Spirit dwelleth in me, which giveth me knowledge, and also power according to my faith and desires which are in God” (Alma 18:35).
Lamoni’s father felt the Spirit through Aaron’s teachings and said, “I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy” (Alma 22:15).
Both Lamoni and Lamoni’s father felt the Spirit of the Holy Ghost as they were taught the plan of salvation. Missionaries today, filled with the Spirit of the Holy Ghost, teach that same message around the world. To those of you who have served missions: Do you remember feeling the strength of the Spirit when you would stand and testify of the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ?
One missionary on the way to the airport said, “I’m afraid to go home. What if I don’t feel the Spirit this strong after my mission?”
I told her, “When you invite the Spirit of the Holy Ghost into your life and you live worthy of it, it will always be with you.”
2. Come to Know the Truthfulness of the Book of Mormon
Question number 2: How will I come to know the Book of Mormon is true?
In a devotional at BYU–Idaho in June of 2004, Elder Clayton M. Christensen, a Harvard Business School professor, told of the decision he made to learn if the Book of Mormon is true. After graduating from BYU he received a scholarship to go to Oxford University in England. It was then that he came to the conclusion that “[he] didn’t even know that the Book of Mormon was true. [He] had read the Book of Mormon, [up to] that point, seven times in [his] life, and in each of the seven times [he] had gotten to the end of the book and had knelt in prayer and had asked God to tell [him] if it was true, and [he] had gotten no answer. [He] realized, as [he] thought through why [he had not] gotten an answer, that each of the previous seven times, [he] had read it on an assignment, either from [his] parents or a BYU instructor or [his] mission president or a seminary teacher, and [his] objective was to finish the book. But this time [he] desperately needed to know for [himself] if the Book of Mormon was true. To that point in [his] life [he] had sustained [himself] on a belief in many of the doctrines of the church and in the trust of [his] parents because [he] knew they knew it was true, and [he] trusted [his] parents. But finally when [he] arrived at Oxford, for the first time in [his] life [he] just desperately needed to know if it was true.”
Oxford is one of the world’s oldest universities. He lived in a building that was built in 1410. He said it was “beautiful to look at, [but] horrible to live in. It just had a little [place where] they had dug [a hole] out of the stone wall and had inserted [a heater] there. [He] decided that [he] would commit every evening from 11 to 12 o’clock to reading the Book of Mormon to find out if it was true.” He said he “wondered if [he] dared spend that much time, because [he] was in a very demanding academic program, studying applied econometrics, and [he] was going to try to finish the program in two years, whereas most of the people in the program finished it in three, and [he] just didn’t know if [he] could afford allocating an hour a day to this effort. But [he] did.” He “began at 11:00 by kneeling in prayer by the chair by that heater, and [praying] out loud. [He] told God how desperate [he] was to find out if this was a true book, and [he] told Him that if He would reveal to [him] that it was true, [he] then intended to dedicate [his] life to building [His] kingdom. And [he told the Lord] if it wasn’t true [he] needed to know that for certain, too, because then [he] would dedicate [his] life to finding out what was true. Then [he] would sit in the chair, and … read the first page of the Book of Mormon, and when [he] got down to the bottom of the page, [he] stopped, and [he] thought about what [he] had read on that page, and [he] asked [himself], ‘Could this have been written by a Charlatan who was trying to deceive people, or was this really written by a prophet of God? And what [does] it mean for me in my life?’ … Then [he] put the book down and knelt in prayer and verbally asked God again, ‘Please tell me if this is a true book.’ Then [he] would sit in the chair and pick up the book and turn the page and read another page, pause at the bottom, and do the same thing. [He] did this for an hour every night, night after night in that cold, damp room, at the Queen’s College Oxford.
“By the time [he] got to the chapters at the end of 2nd Nephi, one evening when [he] said [his] prayer and sat in [his] chair and opened the book, all of a sudden there came into that room a beautiful, warm, loving spirit that just surrounded [him] and permeated [his] soul, and enveloped [him] in a feeling of love that [he] just had not imagined [he] could feel. And [he] began to cry, and … didn’t … stop crying because as [he] looked through [his] tears at the words in the Book of Mormon, [he] could see truth in those words that [he] never imagined [he] could comprehend before. [He] could see the glories of eternity and [he] could see what God had in store for [him] as one of His sons. [He] didn’t want to stop crying. That spirit stayed with [him] the whole hour, and then every evening as [he] prayed and sat with the Book of Mormon by the [heater] in [his] room, that same spirit returned and it changed [his] heart and [his] life forever.”
Now, he says, he looks back on the conflict that he experienced, “wondering whether [he] could afford to spend an hour everyday apart from the study of applied econometrics to find if the Book of Mormon was true.” He said that “in all of the education that [he has] pursued, that is the single most useful piece of knowledge that [he] ever gained.”
Now he loves to return to Oxford. He says, “Most of the people there are either students or they’re tourists who have come to look at a beautiful university.” But he loves “to return there because [it is] a sacred place, and [he] can look at the windows of that room where [he] lived,” and he thinks, “That’s the place that I learned that Jesus is the Christ, that he is my living Redeemer, and that Joseph Smith was the prophet of the restoration for the true church.”
Elder Christensen said to those students at BYU–Idaho: “Some of you probably came here to Rexburg already having learned for yourself that this is God’s church. But for those of you who may still be living on the testimony of others, I invite you to set aside an hour everyday and find out for yourself if this is true, because it will change your heart as it has changed mine.”3
In John 5:39 we read, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”
Elder Bruce C. Hafen said, “We can have eternal life if we want it, but only if there is nothing else we want more.”4
Coming to know the truth comes with effort. And the more effort we give, the greater the reward. Moroni said, “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4).
3. Come to Know Heavenly Father’s Plan
Question number 3: How will I come to know the personal plan Heavenly Father has for me?
We each make choices on our way back to Heavenly Father. His plan for us is a plan of happiness. Joseph Smith said, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence.”5 Our Heavenly Father wants us to feel joy. Each of us is mapping our own route. We are different. Our personalities, talents, and physical and emotional attributes vary. Some are God given. Much comes from personal discipline. Our desires can conquer our frailties.
Here’s an example: A second-grade girl was diagnosed with a visual memory learning disability. The school psychologist said, “Because of this incapacity to remember and memorize she will always be at the bottom of her class.” Her parents chose to not inform her of her special disability. In her attempt to simply do well in school, she had to work hard to achieve what most could accomplish easily. She was surrounded by good friends who did well in school. That contributed to her momentum. It took her longer to learn the multiplication tables in third grade and the capital cities of the United States in fifth grade. She registered for AP classes in high school and didn’t look back. The hours and hours she spent studying were evidence of her dedication. Today she is a cardiac intensive-care nurse. And a good one too! She and her Heavenly Father had a plan.
Another story: About a year ago I was visiting a class of young women. The teacher asked us to write our top 10 priorities. I quickly began to write. I have to admit, my first thought began “Number 1: clean the pencil drawer in the kitchen.” When our lists were complete, the Young Women leader asked us all to share what we wrote. Abby, who had recently turned 12, was sitting next to me. This was Abby’s list:
1. Go to college at the University of Utah.
2. Become an interior designer.
3. Go on a mission to India.
4. Get married in the temple to a returned missionary.
5. Have five kids and a home.
6. Send my kids on a mission and to college.
7. Become a “cookie giving” grandma.
8. Spoil the grandkids.
9. Learn more about the gospel, and enjoy life.
10. Return and live with Father in Heaven.
Can you believe it! I say, “Thank you, Abby, for teaching me about having a vision of the plan Heavenly Father has for each of us.” You make a plan, and you live it the best you can. There will be detours. A bridge may be out here, and you may encounter occasional road blocks there, or you may wander and get lost, but you can return to the path.
President Thomas S. Monson said, “If you do something that turns out not quite as you … planned, you can almost always put it right, get over it, learn from it.”6 You may think there is not a way to get back. The adversary smiles at that thought. Let me assure you, there is a way back. The Savior said, “Mine arm is lengthened out all the day long” (2 Nephi 28:32). He said, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). I like to think that God is working even harder than we are to bring us back.
First, He expects us to find our place in His plan and do all we can to live it by obeying the commandments and standing in holy places. If our ultimate goal is that of exaltation, our plan to get there will begin to drive every decision we make. We do not walk alone. He loves us, and He knows us personally. He is involved in the very details of our lives, and at times we can feel His handprints on our backs as we walk the path.
4. Come to Know the Father and the Son
Question number 4: How will I come to know the Father and His Beloved Son?
To come to know the Father and His Son is the purpose of our existence.
The Savior, when praying to the Father, said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
Laman and Lemuel “knew not the dealings of that God who had created them” (1 Nephi 2:12). C. S. Lewis said, “As long as you are proud you cannot know God.”7 The adversary desires that we do not come to know God. He also desires that we be past feeling, confused, and surrounded by noise, distractions, and anything that will prevent those quiet moments when we personally seek the Lord. Involvement in anything to an extreme is another of Satan’s tools. Only we can create time enough to know the Lord.
When we are humble, submissive, or meek, we draw near to Him. Francis Webster, who walked the desolate Wyoming trail with the Martin handcart company in 1856, said in defense of the group, “Every one of us came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives, for we became acquainted with him in our extremities.”8
We come to know the Savior when we allow Him into our lives. We are more eager to forgive and more willing to serve when He is a part of our lives. When our hearts are open and receptive, we become more like Him. It is then that we discover He has been with us all the time. We are at peace. Our trials are no longer burdens, but blessings, because they paved the path that took to us Him.
“We glory in tribulations,” Paul said, “knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
“And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
“And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3–5).
C. S. Lewis referred to those who have come to know Christ as “new men.” He said: “The new men are dotted here and there all over the earth. … Every now and then one meets them. Their … voices and faces are different from ours: stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off. … They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less. … They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from. …
“… To become new men means losing what we now call ‘ourselves.’ Out of our selves, into Christ, we must go. His will is to become ours and we are to think His thoughts.”9
The Process to Come to Know for Ourselves
To come to know the Holy Ghost, to come to know the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, to come to know the plan Heavenly Father has for each one of us, and to come to know the Father and the Son is a beautiful process.
There is a pattern here with each desire to come to know. Can you see it?
Nephi defined the pattern when he said, “Do ye not remember the things which the Lord hath said?—If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask me in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you” (1 Nephi 15:11).
Can you see the process?
Nephi tells us the process includes:
• Having a humble heart.
• Asking in faith; inviting the Lord’s help through prayer.
• Acting with diligence to keep the commandments and do the Lord’s will.
• Recognizing the Lord’s hand. That is how it will be made known to you. Seeing His hand in your life is the confirmation of His love. The more you recognize His hand in your life, the more involved He will be. That’s how you come to know the Savior you once knew.
The people at the waters of Mormon grew in faith through prayer. Through diligence, they acted and learned to observe the Sabbath day. They learned to labor with their hands and serve by imparting spiritually and temporally to others. The sons of Mosiah searched the scriptures and gave themselves to much prayer and fasting. They paid the price to come to know.
I was impressed that Elder Christensen prayed out loud and promised the Lord that if He would reveal to him the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, he would dedicate his life to building the kingdom. He was diligent, and with his nightly sacrifice, he came to know.
Abby created a plan, and with diligence she is living it. Her goal of returning home to her Heavenly Father will confirm her daily decisions. She is coming to know the Lord has a plan for her.
Coming to know for ourselves is very personal. And we may experience that “coming to know” numerous times in our lives. It is the process of remembering what we once knew. Just know this: You do know Him, and if you ever question if He knows you, just ask. The Primary song “A Child’s Prayer” begins, “Heavenly Father, are you really there? And do you hear and answer ev’ry child’s prayer?”10 I testify, Yes! He does! The Lord can teach us when we inquire. Kneel in prayer, and ask out loud: “Am I really Thy son or daughter? Do you love me?” And then listen. There is something very humbling about asking. Asking is an act of faith.
Joseph Smith, as a young boy at age 14 in a beautiful place in New York, in the town of Palmyra, in a sacred grove of trees, asked in faith to come to know. He said, “I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me. … I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it” (Joseph Smith—History 1:25). “And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives!” (D&C 76:22).
In Jerusalem, at the sepulchre, at the end of the Sabbath as it began to dawn the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were greeted by two angels in a beautiful place in a garden. The angels said:
“Fear not ye; for we know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified.
“He is not here: for he is risen” (see Matthew 28:1–6, footnotes 2a, 3a, and 5a; from Joseph Smith Translation).
Through coming to know the risen Savior, Jesus Christ, we come to know that through His Atonement, He will ease all pain. He brings relief and solace from every worry. He can carry our burdens and bring peace to every feeling of inadequacy and every desire for change.
President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us.”11 We know Him!
Here at Utah State University is my waters of Mormon. This campus is beautiful to my eyes, for it is here that I began to come to the knowledge of my Redeemer. I proudly stand as a witness of Heavenly Father and the Savior. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, I know that They live. You are personal and precious to Them. You knew Them well before you came to this earth. As you walk the path, hold on. Heavenly Father’s embrace awaits. I love you. I pray for you as His children. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
© 2011 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. English approval: 2/11. Translation approval: 2/11. Translation of Coming to Know. Language. PD50031652 xxx
3. Clayton M. Christensen, “Decisions for Which I’ve Been Grateful” (Brigham Young University–Idaho devotional, June 8, 2004), http://www.byui.edu/Presentations/Transcripts/Devotionals/2004_06_08_Christensen.htm.
4. Bruce C. Hafen, in Conference Report, Apr. 2004, 101; or Ensign, May 2004, 98; italics in original.
6. Thomas S. Monson, “Joy in the Journey,” in Awake, Arise, and Come unto Christ: Talks from the 2008 BYU Women’s Conference (2009), 3.
8. Francis Webster, quoted in Gordon B. Hinckley, in Conference Report, Oct. 1991, 77; or Ensign, Nov. 1991, 54.