“When you get to Utah, watch out for the Mormons,” one of my Florida neighbors told me. I pretended polite interest as she warned me about the Church’s emphasis on missionary work. I told her that I really wasn’t interested in spiritual matters. I had not been inside any church since my wedding eight years before, so I had no fear of anyone getting me to join an unknown religion. But I was rather startled by her next statement.
“Did you know,” she said, “that they even have their own Bible?” If what she said was true, I had to agree that this church was indeed a strange sect.
When I arrived with my family in Ogden, Utah, I found the life-style there to be quite different from what I was used to. While there were various religious denominations in the area, “the Church” referred to only one. Its influence was felt by almost everyone—those who loved and supported it, those who were indifferent to it, and those who actively opposed it.
I was not sure how I felt about it. When members of the Church spoke to me with firm testimonies, I felt an undeniable spirit in their voice and manner. They showed a love and loyalty toward their religion that I had never seen in members of other denominations. I was certain of one thing—this was no ordinary church. I found the history, the beliefs, and the doctrines of the Church fascinating, and I read everything I could find about it.
The Barlows, our neighbors, were members of the Church who traced their lineage back to the days of the pioneers. Their family stories of handcarts, persecution, and migration were always interesting to hear.
They were delighted with my interest in the Church, but I assured them that I was just curious; I had no intention of becoming a member. Still, they encouraged my interest, gave me more reading material, and invited me to visit with the missionaries. When Brother Barlow brought me a copy of the Book of Mormon, he said, “Read this; then ask the Lord if it is true.”
So this was the “Mormon Bible” I had been told about! With no intention of asking the Lord—which I didn’t know how to do anyway—I tried to read the book. But here the fascination I had felt about the Church before vanished. The book’s language escaped me. Its spiritual seeds of truth fell on rocky soil.
Still, I did understand that it told the story of ancient civilizations in Central and South America. And since I had always been intrigued with the mystery of these early peoples, I persevered and began to find it rather interesting. I soon became fascinated with the book—not its content or its message, for I was too earthly minded to be receptive to either—but with the fact of its existence.
The missionaries were happy to explain its origin. They told me that it had been delivered by an angel to the Prophet Joseph Smith, who then translated it from an ancient language he had never studied. Noting my skepticism, they too suggested that I read the book and ask the Lord about its truthfulness. They told me that, if I had faith, the Holy Ghost would manifest the truthfulness of it unto me.
Since I could not conceive either of a book being written or of its truth being revealed in such a manner, I set out to find a more logical explanation. Surely, I thought, after almost 150 years, someone must have discovered the real author of the Book of Mormon, or at least have come up with a reasonable theory!
A good place to look, I felt, would be in the writings of those who were opposed to the Church. I knew that over the years many people had attempted to discredit both the Church and its sacred scriptures. Surely after so many years, some zealous anti-Mormon must have found the answer!
The few theories I found in these writings seemed like nothing more than disgruntled protests. The logical, carefully-researched, cleverly thought-out explanation I had hoped for was not to be found. I began to feel a real longing to find the answer, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, this longing was the beginning of a testimony. I began to see that there was no other explanation for the book’s existence. Strange as it seemed, I realized that the Book of Mormon might very well have come into being just as the missionaries and Brother Barlow had told me that it had.
After two years of more reading on my part and persistent efforts on the part of the missionaries, I felt a strong desire to be baptized. But my testimony was still shaky, and I still had not read the entire Book of Mormon. When, instead of feeling the peace that I had been told would come with baptism, I underwent testing and trials, the questions that had been racing through my head bothered me even more. This new faith to which I felt irresistibly drawn seemed to be bringing not enlightenment but confusion.
I tried to read the Book of Mormon even though I didn’t understand it. I tried asking the Lord if it was true. But I waited in vain for a soul-wrenching testimony that would erase all my doubts and answer all my questions. Others I knew had experienced such feelings. They had testified with such fervor and sincerity that I knew they were speaking of events that were real. Why couldn’t I receive the same knowledge?
The problem, I soon learned, was that I was not teachable. I knew little about humility and faith. To me, they seemed to connote self-effacement and belief without real knowledge. But I was beginning to see that these qualities were necessary for me to know the power of the Spirit.
A lifetime of accepting reality as only that which could be perceived through the five physical senses had made me skeptical of anything that could not be proved in a laboratory. Now I was being asked to surrender my life, my heart, my very being to the will of a divine Creator. I wanted to cling to what was familiar, even if it hadn’t served me well in the past. But I failed to take into account that the Lord’s will for me was for my highest good—that only by surrendering my will to his could I make myself receptive so that his power could flow through my life and enlighten my understanding.
I also feared that the Lord would ask of me greater responsibilities than I could handle—more sacrifice of my time and resources than I was willing to make. From my limited perspective, I could not yet see that he would provide me not only with the resources to perform those responsibilities, but that he would also make what seemed to be a chore a source of joy instead.
I was to learn a great lesson—that only as we fall to our knees in humility are we truly free. Only as we accept our dependence on the Lord and the limitations of our humanity can we tap into the depths of spirituality and find abiding peace.
As the testing and the trials continued, I realized that this new way of life was going to be more difficult than I had imagined. Spirituality, slow to replace worldliness, came in minute degrees. Sometimes I wondered why I persisted, but I knew that I could not turn back. Sometimes the truth seemed to evade me, but I knew that behind the doubt and confusion it was there, and I truly felt that when I found it, it would be worth whatever price the Lord had demanded.
I was to experience several long months of this slow spiritual growth before I was ready to read the Book of Mormon, not through the wavering light of human understanding, but through the sweet, subtle influence of the Spirit. This time, the language of the book became clear. As I read, I was overcome by a sense of awe awakened not only by the literary quality of the book, but also by an unmistakable feeling that it was indeed true. I felt a surge of power—a warm feeling of the depth of God’s love. I soon came to know, beyond any doubt, that the Book of Mormon was of God.
I could not say when I really began to know. The knowledge was not absent one day and present the next. But as it grew from a small seed to a fragile plant to a tree solid and immovable, it gained power and strength until it became an unshakable knowing—a part of my very being. I felt that I had not chosen this new faith so much as I had been chosen for it. It was only when I had learned to become humble and teachable that I could truly read and understand this “most correct of any book on earth.”