“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.” (Moro. 10:4.)
I’d heard that scripture dozens of times, and I assumed it was written for investigators—the searching souls newly introduced to the Book of Mormon and the truths of the gospel. But Sister Higginson, our early-morning seminary teacher, looked so earnest as she pleaded with each of us to put this promise to the test that I began to think of it in a broader sense.
Well, why not? I thought. I’d always believed the gospel was true and the Book of Mormon authentic, but I really couldn’t say that I’d ever received personal revelation on the matter. So I decided to begin reading.
It was hard to find a few spare minutes and a quiet place. If I did, I had a tendency to fall asleep. And when I managed to stay awake, I read slowly.
“Five hundred and twenty-two pages,” I said, sighing, “at twenty-five words a minute.” I did a quick calculation. I was almost fourteen years old at the time, so I figured that if I read faithfully for twenty minutes a day, I’d finish the book by the time I was ready to get married.
Oh well, I can pray, I thought. So I continued reading and began to pray.
It was about this same time that my oldest brother, Budge, received his mission call and was studying extensively to prepare for missionary work. On occasion I helped drill him on his six discussions. It was in the middle of one of these tedious sessions with “Mr. Brown” that I abruptly stopped and asked, “Do you really believe the gospel is true, Budge?”
“I do,” he replied.
“How?” I asked.
“Well, a few weeks ago I wasn’t at all certain the gospel was true,” he said. “The closer I got to my mission the more concerned I became. I thought that I really ought to know that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Book of Mormon was the word of God if I was going to try to convince others of it. So I read the Book of Mormon.”
“All of it?” I broke in.
“Yes, every word. And then I got down on my knees and asked the Lord if it was true, and he answered my prayer. I can’t explain it, but my heart was touched and my mind was opened, and I just knew without the tiniest sliver of doubt.”
I was impressed by Budge’s testimony—and encouraged. If it worked for him, it ought to eventually work for me, too. But then my heart fell. I had a sinking feeling of injustice as I realized that I had prayed many times for this type of affirmation and had felt absolutely nothing. My brother, it appeared, had made only a single attempt and yet was blessed with the desire of his heart! Perhaps, I decided, it was because he had finished reading the entire Book of Mormon before he prayed about it.
I sighed again. This was going to take more effort and endurance than I had planned. I didn’t have the patience to wait until I finished the book, so I decided to continue praying and hoping that the Lord would have mercy on me. Every night I asked the same questions: “Heavenly Father, is the Book of Mormon true? Did you really appear to Joseph Smith in the grove of trees? Is our church really true?” And then I’d wait, sometimes as long as three or four minutes. But nothing came.
Finally one night I became emphatic with the Lord. I was frustrated and discouraged to the point of anger. “Heavenly Father,” I complained, “why won’t you talk to me? I don’t want thunder and lightning! Just a feeling in my heart that these things are true. I know I’m weak, but I’m trying. I don’t know what you expect of me. What must I do to gain a testimony that will enable me to say to others that I know for sure that the gospel is true?”
A long pause—and nothing. By this time I was in tears. I felt the heavens were closed to me, and I wasn’t sure why. So I abruptly ended my prayer and climbed into bed. But anger and frustration had replaced fatigue, and I tossed and turned, unable to sleep. Gradually my anger subsided, and I began to feel sorry for speaking so defiantly with the Lord. T got out of bed and knelt again, this time with a little more humility.
“Heavenly Father,” I began, “I’m sorry for that last prayer. I had no right to be angry with you. In my heart I know that you must have a reason for making me struggle for this blessing. I’ll try to be patient. Perhaps you would like me to finish the Book of Mormon before asking these questions, but I feel I have been taught the basics of the gospel and can ask intelligently. Is the gospel true? Is the Book of Mormon a divine record? Did Joseph Smith really receive the vision in the grove?”
A pause—and then, to my surprise, a voice from within asked, “What do you think?”
“Well,” I stuttered, “ah, well, of course I believe these things are true. They’ve just always made so much sense to me that I’ve never doubted.”
“Then why do you ask?”
These words were so plain, direct, and surprising to me that I knew they could not have been of my own creation. The message was divine. I was left speechless.
Never before had it occurred to me that my simple acceptance of these truths was sufficient as a testimony. A feeling of relief and satisfaction filled my soul—not the burning in my bosom I had sought, but a feeling of resolve, because I knew my quest had ended with the realization that I had been seeking after the luxury of an unneeded revelation. Revelation from the Lord is reserved for those who need it. Not that I haven’t needed it at other times, about other things, but I didn’t need it then.
Years later I read these verses:
“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
“To others it is given to believe on their words.” (D&C 46:13–14.)
At that time in my life, my trusting faith in the scriptures was sufficient.