“And When Ye Shall Receive These Things …”

By Tammy Lavena Tobin

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    Stories of Conversion and Faith Inspired by Reading the Book of Mormon

    “And When Ye Shall Receive These Things …”

    Truly the Word of God

    From the time I was thirteen I knew that I wanted to live a life of service in my church. Brought up as one of eleven children in a good Catholic family, I had their support as I trained in a convent six years and then took my final vows as a nun. My first field of service was Perth, Australia, and after four years there I was transferred to Sydney. I found the work very rewarding, and I had many wonderful experiences in the service of others. I will never forget those years, for in that time I feel I was being prepared for an experience that changed the course of my life.

    It started out to be a normal day. I was on my way to the home of an elderly lady who lived about two blocks from the convent, when I saw walking toward me two young men in dark suits. The tall one stopped in front of me, introduced himself, and asked me what I knew about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I replied that I knew all I wanted to know about Jesus Christ. He then said, “If Christ visited some people and spoke to them, wouldn’t you want to read what he said?”

    I pondered that for a few seconds and replied, “Yes, I would.”

    He pulled a Book of Mormon from his pocket and said, “This book tells of a visit that Jesus Christ made to the ancient people of America. All God wants you to do is read thirty-four pages and pray and ask him if it is true. Would you do that for him?”

    I replied that I could see his religion meant as much to him as mine did to me, so I would read the thirty-four pages and pray about it. We agreed to meet the next morning, and I would return the book to them. Then I put the Book of Mormon in my purse and went on my way.

    I still can’t describe the feeling I had as I read those thirty-four pages (3 Ne. 11–28) that evening. I didn’t have to pray to know that the message was true. The words of the Savior were absolutely beautiful; they rang true with every word that passed before my eyes. I went to bed feeling better than I ever had in my life. It was a feeling of having found truth.

    The next morning I wanted to tell someone that I had found something true, but with reluctance I said to myself, “No, it can’t be true.” I arose and prepared to meet the elders; but as the time approached, I was very nervous. I arrived ten minutes early, and those minutes seemed to tick away like hours. At last I saw them coming, right on time.

    The first thing I did was to hand back the Book of Mormon. I told them I didn’t want the book anymore, although deep down inside I knew I did. But instead of taking the book, one of them asked me if I had prayed about what I read. “No, I didn’t,” I replied.

    Then he said, “You’ll never know it’s true until you do.”

    I wanted to say that the book wasn’t true, but I didn’t. The elders knew I was disquieted about something, but they didn’t know what.

    Then the other elder said, “You read those pages last night. Why didn’t you pray?”

    I had no answer to that question, so at last I told them how I felt when I was reading the Book of Mormon.

    Then they said, “You know the Book of Mormon is true, and that means Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and we have God’s authority to baptize. And that means you know you must be baptized to be obedient to these truths and follow God. Will you be baptized by one holding God’s authority?”

    I knew right then that I must do as they said, but I answered, “No.” I knew I was wrong in saying it, but I thought they would leave me alone. They didn’t.

    They said, “If God told you from your own prayer to be baptized Sunday [only three days away!], would you follow him and do it?”

    What else could I say but “Yes, I would”?

    So they said, “Let’s go where we can pray.”

    When we were alone, they explained to me how I should pray. As I prayed and asked God if I should be baptized, the same feeling came to me that I had when I read the Book of Mormon. When I opened my eyes, we looked at each other without speaking for what seemed a long time. I was afraid to speak, so finally one of the elders said, “Wasn’t that a wonderful feeling?”

    “Yes, it was,” I replied.

    “Will you follow God and keep his commandment to repent and be baptized by one holding authority? Will you do it this Sunday?”

    I hesitated for a long time, but finally I said, “Yes, I will follow God and be baptized.”

    When Sunday came, the elders had taught me many wonderful truths from the Bible—truths that were as plain as day, yet I had never heard or read them before. I hadn’t told any of the other sisters what I was going to do. As I left the convent that morning to meet the elders, I was very nervous but excited too. The church service was a beautiful experience. And I spent the time after the service waiting for my baptism at a wonderful member’s home.

    As the time for my baptism approached, I became nervous; but I knew it was what God wanted for me, so I was baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    Back at the convent that night, many sweet memories and emotions passed through my mind as I packed my belongings. A few of the sisters came and asked me what I was doing, and I simply replied, “I am leaving. I found where God wants me to go. I’ve become a Mormon. I was baptized tonight.”

    They were alarmed, but I just kept packing; and when I said good-bye I gave each of them a copy of the Book of Mormon. “Please read it with an open mind and heart,” I said.

    I know that what I did was right. I am grateful for the Catholic Church and what it did for me. I feel that my experiences there prepared me to accept the restored gospel. I know that God lives, that he is a being like each of us, yet perfected. Jesus is truly the Christ. He lives today. He atoned for our sins on condition of repentance. I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God and that there is a prophet on earth today. And from my own experiences I know that the Book of Mormon is truly the word of God.

    An Answer Like a Splash of Fire

    Some years before I knew anything about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I began to think of eternity, and how I would stand before God on the day of judgment. I thought of my unworthiness, and often in the silent hours of the night dark shadows seemed to surround me, causing me great anguish.

    I wanted God to show me the way, to give me a sign of some kind. I had felt the Spirit’s presence many times, but not at this time of my humble request. I needed help, for my heart was troubled.

    One beautiful evening in May there was a knock on the door, and two young men stood there. They left the Book of Mormon with me, but they left something else also, something I did not know existed—a beautiful feeling of peace. I knew they were messengers from God. These two young men became my teachers.

    I read a few chapters in the Book of Mormon, and at first I regarded it as an ordinary history or chronicle, but soon felt it to be inspired of God and involved myself deeply in it. As I read on, compassion for those people filled my thoughts. At times I seemed to be walking among them, treading the hot soil of their land and listening to their prophets.

    One day my teachers put the question of baptism to me, but I was unsure and asked for time. In my mind appeared my old Protestant church on the Baltic, strong and majestic, where for over seven centuries services had been held. I could see that beautiful edifice as it was in the time of my confirmation, but now it had been destroyed in the war. The pull of my religion was stronger than I thought. I wanted a sign.

    The elders advised me to pray and read the 32nd chapter of Alma. In verse 17 I read: “Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe. Now I ask, is this faith?” (Alma 32:17–18.)

    I realized this was written for those like me. I read on, and in verse 28 [Alma 32:28] the answer was before me. The word was compared to a seed, to be planted in our hearts; and if the seed were a true seed it would begin to swell within the breast and enlarge the soul; it would enlighten our understanding. The verses following were so beautiful and stirring: the tree would grow and be nourished and bring forth fruit, and thus we would reap the rewards of faith. That was what I had been searching for. It pierced my soul like an arrow, and I wept tears of joy.

    But I still had to put my mind at rest over Joseph Smith. I believed he was a prophet, but my testimony lacked something. I was struggling with nameless doubts. My teachers said again, pray on your knees and ask God who Joseph Smith was. I fasted and prayed, but there was silence. Then early one morning I was kneeling by my bed with the sun streaming in, and I cried aloud, “Please, God, in the name of Jesus Christ, who was Joseph Smith?” And the answer came like a splash of fire over my head and into my chest. It was so incredibly beautiful I just stayed there on my knees, offering a silent prayer of thanks.

    Only four weeks later I entered the waters of baptism, whereas I had been searching and waiting for the truth for more than four years. As I came out of the water I felt infinitely small, truly newborn, with the surety that my sins had been forgiven and I was washed clean. And when I was confirmed I sensed my heart opening like a clear vessel to receive the Holy Spirit. I was filled with wonder and peace and humility. I will always be grateful for those missionaries, whose coming altered my whole life.

    “That Book Is True”

    It had been a frustrating day. Of all the ways to get from São Bernardo do Campo to São Paulo, Brazil, I had once again managed to pick the slowest. As I sat and waited for my train, now more than an hour overdue, I turned over in my mind the day’s most puzzling occurrence. After teaching my regular English class in São Bernardo do Campo, I had been on my way to catch the express bus for São Paulo. Suddenly I felt impressed to call my boss in São Paulo. When my call finally went through ten or fifteen minutes later; my boss was out of the office. And, by that time, I had missed the express bus. Instead of taking a slower bus, I went to the train station. As luck would have it, though, I also missed the train. And now the next scheduled train was over an hour late. So much for my “inspiration,” I thought. It must have been my overactive imagination.

    When the train finally arrived, there was no place to sit and not much room to stand. The nearest space was in front of a long-haired fellow wearing bib overalls and carrying a guitar. Not seeming to notice my mood, he struck up a conversation. His name was João Batista, he said, and he had once liked American rock music but now played his guitar “for Jesus.” He and his friend were on their way to a Christian commune in the interior of Brazil, where they hoped to proselyte among the rural poor.

    I considered mentioning the Church, but decided it would be useless. I had met people like him before. They always seemed too committed to their own life-style to take interest in a more traditional church.

    The matter would have ended there had João not seemed to read my mind. “What is your religion?” he enquired. I tried to say something that sounded open-minded—that I was a Mormon, that I thought his work in the interior was commendable. But, as soon as I had said the word Mormon, João’s face lighted up. He pulled a Book of Mormon out of his pack. “Look what the Lord showed me,” he said enthusiastically.

    This made me feel bolder. “That book is true,” I stammered.

    “I know it is,” came his reply.

    João then explained that he had felt something was missing from his spiritual life. After fasting for direction for two days, he had stumbled across a neglected copy of the Book of Mormon in a friend’s bookcase. He read it and received a testimony of its truthfulness.

    And now, because I had missed my usual bus, I was able to talk to him. Suddenly, the strange impression I had received earlier that day made sense and I began in earnest to explain the gospel to him.

    João was soon baptized and went on to help convert several members of his family. He served a mission, married in the temple, and is now an elders quorum president and a spiritual leader in the Church in Brazil.

    [illustrations] Illustrated by Cary Henrie