By Faith Restored

By Robert M. Hogge


In ways great and small, the Book of Mormon is changing lives around the world.

By Faith Restored

The question was simple. Your responses were not. In our May 1991 issue, we asked readers how the Book of Mormon has changed their lives. We received answers from eighteen different nations—from Canada and Guatemala, from Pakistan and the Philippines, from Ireland and the Persian Gulf, from South Africa and Sierra Leone. We heard from the old and the young, new converts and long-time members, parents and teens.

The diversity of the responses reflects the diversity of the Church; the singleness of the messages reflects the unifying power the gospel brings among Church members. As with one voice, the letters repeated: “The Book of Mormon is the word of God; having read it, we will never be the same again.”

Beverly Sorensen of Oak City, Utah, wrote that the Book of Mormon has had a subtle but nevertheless profound effect on her life—or, more precisely, on her family’s life. “Fourteen years ago I heard President Ezra Taft Benson, then President of the Quorum of the Twelve, plead with us to return to the practice of daily family devotionals. This so touched my heart that we began holding family devotionals every morning, gathering for a hymn, prayer, and scripture reading.

“We began with the Book of Mormon, reading it out loud. When we finished a year later, I wondered what we should read next. A soft answer came: Read it again. Our devotionals have now taken us through the Book of Mormon fourteen times.

“The greatest benefit we have received from our reading is our family’s life-style. I couldn’t see it at first, but now it is apparent that our spirits have been growing. Reading the Book of Mormon has given everyone in our family strength to live the commandments. It brings a spirit of peace into our home and has made us more service-oriented. Reading the Book of Mormon helps us put our choices in an eternal perspective.

“I believe that people become like the books they read and the people they associate with. Reading the Book of Mormon gives us the best of the Nephite civilization to associate with each day.”

Margaret Durtschi of Ogden, Utah, explained that all her life she has struggled with a learning disability. Having grown up at a time when programs for those with learning disabilities were not available in the schools she attended, she failed to learn to read while in school. She wrote: “It wasn’t until I was an adult and determined that I wanted not only to learn how to read but also to gain a testimony of the gospel” that her life began to change. “With the help of my dear, patient husband and much prayer, I read the Book of Mormon.” She then went on to read other Church publications, and she now reads well.

Others reported challenges of a different nature. Pam Kazmaier of Mesa, Arizona, for example, read the Book of Mormon only after receiving it from some missionaries and carrying it around from move to move for eight years. “I am still amazed at the powerful change that book has made in my life,” she wrote. “From the first chapters, I recognized that this book was scripture. My heart quickened as I felt God speak to me through those inspired words.”

Pam’s experience was immediately instructive. In spite of her first reaction, she says that a stubborn part of her “rebelled against the principle of obedience. Even if this book was true,” she told herself, “did that mean I had to be Mormon? I shuddered at the thought of joining such a strict religion. I had thoughts like, What’s wrong with partying a little? You only live once. There might be some punishment in the afterlife—but isn’t God merciful?”

Almost immediately she came across the passage in 2 Nephi 28:8: “And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; … and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God.” [2 Ne. 28:8]

Pam described how the Book of Mormon helped prepare her further for baptism: “Though I hadn’t had a lesson yet on the Word of Wisdom, I found as I read the Book of Mormon night after night that my intake of alcohol gradually decreased. I used to consume three beers a night; but as I read the book, I found that I dropped back to two beers, then one. I remember one night standing in the kitchen with the Book of Mormon in one hand and a can of beer in the other. After a few sips, I threw the beer away, thinking that it tasted funny. It was not until several months later that I associated my lost taste for beer with the power of the Book of Mormon.”

Over and over again, always the same but never the same, the story is repeated: the first scripture of the Restoration, restored by faith, continues to restore faith. What follows is a small sampling of the many stories we received, each bearing testimony of Christ’s power to comfort and heal through the pages of the Book of Mormon.

A Friend in Christ

As a teenager, I was only marginally active in the Church—usually only during basketball season or when our ward had a dance. I found my 1950 Chevrolet much more interesting, and it occupied most of my Sunday afternoons. Instead of attending Church meetings, I was often at the drag strip north of Grand Junction, Colorado, racing my car.

One Sunday I raced for the championship and won. I found myself in the winner’s circle, trophy in hand, surrounded by people patting me on the back. But the glory was momentary. There were soon two more cars at the starting line and another race to watch. I could already feel an emptiness in my achievement.

A few days after the race, Don Darnell, one of the bishop’s assistants in the priests quorum, dropped by. I showed him my trophy, and he sincerely congratulated me. Then he turned the conversation to a more important issue.

“The priests sure miss seeing you at priesthood meeting,” he said. “Why not come next week?”

I surprised myself by saying that I would. After Don left, I reflected on why I had agreed. Perhaps it was his obvious concern for me, or maybe just his persistence. I had rebuffed him many times before.

Sunday arrived, and Don picked me up for church. The bishop and the other members of the quorum made me feel welcome, and I decided to return next week. I kept coming and was soon ordained a priest. But though I felt good about my increased activity, I was troubled when people bore their testimonies. I didn’t have one. I found it easier not to think any more deeply about the Church than I had to; I was comfortable with my friends at church, and I figured that’s all I needed.

One day Don called to say that Lark Washburn, our stake president, was willing to hire us for the summer to work as miners in his uranium mine near Uravan, Colorado. I readily accepted. We bought our mining gear, packed our bags, and headed for Uravan.

The work was demanding, but we enjoyed it, and on Saturday we loaded up the car and drove back to Grand Junction to attend church. On the way Don asked, “Bob, do you have a testimony?”

I shook my head. “No, I don’t think so.”

“Have you ever read the Book of Mormon?”

“No.”

“Neither have I,” he said. “Why don’t we read it together and see if we can gain a testimony?”

That sounded good to me, and so when we returned to Uravan late Sunday night, we both had a paperback copy of the Book of Mormon. Each day after work we spent an hour or two reading, discussing, and praying about what we had read.

One evening, as we were nearing the end of the Book of Mormon, Don and I prayed together as usual, then each of us knelt and prayed silently. That night I prayed more earnestly than I had ever prayed before to know if the Book of Mormon was true.

Suddenly an indescribable feeling came over me, a cleansing sensation, as if my spirit were being washed, purged, and purified. The sensation was so powerful that I opened my eyes and looked up, almost expecting to see heavenly personages. But my eyes blurred, and tears flowed down my cheeks.

Embarrassed, I turned to see if Don was still praying. I was startled to see that tears were also running down his cheeks.

“What’s the matter with you?” I asked.

“The same thing that’s the matter with you.”

That night, in a boarding house in Uravan, I discovered that the Church is true, that Joseph Smith is a prophet, and that the Lord answers prayers. That experience changed me. It softened me, causing me to seek and be receptive to manifestations of the Spirit. I felt any disposition to do evil wash away. In a very real sense, I was born again.

It has been thirty years since I had that experience. I am not yet perfect, as my friends and family can attest. But the choices I have made since receiving that first witness of the Spirit are choices I would not have made had I not had that experience. I have served a full-time mission. I have married in the temple. I have graduated from a Church college and am now, with the help of my wife, Jan, raising four children in the gospel.

And I have personally committed myself to a life of service. I hope that I can repay in some small measure the blessings Don Darnell brought into my life by becoming my friend and by challenging me to read the Book of Mormon. Through it I have come to know the Savior, and that has made all the difference in my life.

A Voice of Gladness

As a handicapped woman living in the Philippines, I have difficulty speaking. But reading the Book of Mormon gave me a testimony that if I would be righteous and not hold back from joining Church activities, I would be understood. It is true. As I bear my testimony or answer questions in the classroom, my speech is clear. I believe that I have received a gift of tongues.

I am very thankful to my Heavenly Father that he picks me up when I am sad. How nice it is to be with Heavenly Father! When I ponder the Book of Mormon, I receive peace of mind, feel younger, and have a sharper memory—especially in answering questions pertaining to the Lord. I also find it easier to understand the Bible and, most of all, to obey the commandments.

Now that I am no longer a stranger and a foreigner (see Eph. 2:19), I try to be a good missionary, especially to my family. Not long ago my sister came to Manila and told me that some of our family members have joined the Church. How marvelous was that day! I water my face with my tears that my broken-hearted prayers to our Heavenly Father have been heard.

I hope and pray that I can always follow what the Lord says. As I ponder the Book of Mormon, my life becomes more complete.

Book of Mormon Stories

I am a Sierra Leonean by nationality. I have been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for almost four years. Since the Church has been in my country for only five years, I consider myself one of the founding members of the Church in Sierra Leone.

I was born to Muslim parents and associated mostly with Muslims as a child. But by the time I was fifteen, I was investigating Christianity. I eventually began worshipping with a Pentecostal group. In February 1989 I came in contact with missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They were visiting the college I was attending.

The first discussion was rough for them because I was very skeptical about the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. At the end of the discussion, they gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon and challenged me to read it and pray about it. Over the next few days, as I read and prayed, the Holy Ghost bore witness to me that the Book of Mormon is indeed another testament of Jesus Christ. I was baptized later that month.

The Book of Mormon has shaped my life to conform to that of a true Christian. Before I was baptized, I involved myself in practices that are counter to the teachings of Christ. But when I became a member of the Church and started reading the Book of Mormon, I began to experience great changes in my life. I started to live like a true Mormon.

I read the Book of Mormon over and over again until it became part of me. My favorite song became “Book of Mormon Stories,” which says in part, “Book of Mormon stories tell that we must brothers be, given this land if we live righteously.”

The Book of Mormon continues to help me. When I have a problem, I read the Book of Mormon and pray, and often I see a way to solve that problem. When I have difficulties with my family, my friends, or my educational career, I feel better when I read through this book.

I used to have bad dreams. Nothing I did seemed to help until I started reading two or three chapters every night from the Book of Mormon. Now I sleep peacefully at night.

I don’t know how to express my appreciation for the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Through it, I know that God lives, that Jesus is the very Christ, and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and a powerful witness of Jesus Christ.

Saved

I was raised in a Christian home, but we were never very active in our church. It wasn’t until I went into the army in 1978 that I began to study the Bible. I learned to love this wonderful book, but I somehow sensed that something was missing.

I searched for that missing link through nine years of active duty, looking at as many Christian faiths as I could. But I found myself going nowhere. I stopped searching when I left active duty and enrolled in the University of Maine at Machias.

Adjustment to civilian life was excruciatingly difficult, even though I was in the reserves. In the three years that followed, I began to feel a deep and lonely emptiness.

One day I received a phone call from a friend who was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She had graduated from UMM and moved to Utah. During her call, I dumped my troubles on her. She asked if I would like a copy of the Book of Mormon, and I said why not.

A week later the book arrived. My friend had highlighted some verses, and I started reading them. As soon as I did, my hands began to shake, though I was not sure why. Then I got to Moroni 10:3–5 and wham! It hit me like a high-explosive artillery shell. I had found my missing link! It wasn’t long before I was baptized.

My branch president warned me that the adversary would make a run at me now that I was a Latter-day Saint. I had no doubt that he was right, but I was not prepared for the magnitude of Satan’s full-scale assault. Without going into detail, I’ll just say that I came close to ending not only my membership in the Church, but my life as well.

It was while I was on annual training with my army reserve unit in Gagetown, New Brunswick, Canada, just as the Persian Gulf Crisis was getting underway, that I reached my lowest ebb. I was on guard duty at around 2:00 A.M., and I had all but decided to end it all. The sky was clear, and I looked up to heaven.

“Is this church really true?” I asked.

The answer came quietly, but it changed my life. More than that, it saved my life. I took a new look at the Book of Mormon and decided that it was not only my missing link, but my lifeline as well.

Life is still far from easy, but the Book of Mormon helps keep me going.

Journey to Truth

Sunlight glistened from the mountaintops the day my buddy and I drove into Utah in late July 1988. A few days before, in New Mexico, he had convinced me to go with him on a vacation to Utah. My friend was a Mormon, and I had been staying with his family for a while. Little did I realize then that the trip would change my life.

In Salt Lake City, we visited Temple Square, where I received a copy of the Book of Mormon. I was glad to add it to my library; at the time I was a student of many different religious philosophies, having almost completely lost confidence in Christianity. I had failed to see anyone who even tried to live up to the teachings of Christ.

The only ones who I felt measured up had been my parents. My dad, who had died in 1973, had been a Baptist minister who often held a job while trying to raise a family and establish a church in an unfriendly area. After work he would visit homes, where he would pray for the sick and proclaim Jesus as the Christ. I often saw tears roll down his cheeks as he spoke of the Savior’s sufferings.

More than a year after my visit to Salt Lake, I had a strange dream. I was sitting in the midst of a testimony meeting. Now, I had been to many of these as a boy, but nothing like this one. Everyone was dressed in white robes. They went to and from a podium testifying of a book and of a gospel that had transformed their lives. I wondered at this and turned to my father, who was sitting next to me.

He was also dressed in a white robe and had his Bible clutched in his hand. Seeing the question on my face, he looked at me intently and pointed to his Bible. “The kingdom of God is coming soon,” he said. “The kingdom of God is coming soon.” Then I woke up, wondering what he meant.

I went into the living room, where my buddy’s mother—I called her my Mormon mother—was sitting. I told her about my dream and asked her what she thought it meant. She told me to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it, and that would give me my answer.

A few days passed, then my buddy and I left once again to visit Utah. As I rode along, I opened the Book of Mormon and began to read. Almost immediately I found that I could not put it down. I felt a strange stirring within, and I knew that this was not just another book of philosophy. This was something different, something wonderful. I remembered the words of my “Mormon mother” and decided to pray.

My parents had taught me always to kneel when I pray, so although it was somewhat of a trick in a moving truck, I knelt to pray. When the answer came, I felt great joy. I knew that the book was true! I knew all of it was true! It was the word of God.

So many wonderful things have happened since I started my journey to truth. I was baptized and have now received the Melchizedek Priesthood. I pray daily that God will use me to bless others. I have received my endowment and have done the work for my father. I felt him near me on those days in the temple, and I believe that he, too, has begun his journey to truth.

Seeing with New Eyes

My grandparents were plains-walking pioneers. As their children, my parents never questioned the truthfulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ; consequently, the Book of Mormon has always been a part of my life.

When I grew up, I became the wife of a farmer in Castle Valley, Utah, and life became quite hectic. Although I had prided myself on my gospel knowledge as a seminary student, I found it increasingly hard to study after my marriage. I reasoned that it was not necessary for me to spend a lot of precious time reading the Book of Mormon; I already knew it was true.

One day I suffered a stroke and lost the sight of my right eye. For a while I was despondent, but as the years hurried by, I learned to live with vision in only one eye. In time my children left home to raise families of their own, and then my beloved companion was taken in death. I was left alone in a house that seemed to grow lonelier by the day.

Then our stake president asked all stake members to read the Book of Mormon before the next conference. With loneliness crowding my hours, I enthusiastically accepted the challenge. I had no idea of the obstacles that were ahead of me.

They began with news of my niece’s death in California. I made a hasty trip, and while there I noticed an annoying problem: a gray block seemed to be covering my left eye. All the way home I kept praying that it would go away, but it didn’t. I panicked.

A trip to an eye specialist terrified me even more. After a thorough examination, he flatly declared I was going blind. “There’s nothing you can do about it,” he said.

After some deliberation, I said to myself, That’s what you think.

Back home I called my home teachers and asked for a priesthood blessing. The next day, I noticed my Book of Mormon on a reading table. I picked it up, remembering my determination to finish reading it. As I held it in my hands, I bowed my head and offered a prayer to our Father in Heaven to help me finish.

I read painfully for a few days. Then one morning, as I sat in a rocking chair, the Book of Mormon in my hands, the sun suddenly seemed to shine more brightly. A feeling of elation swept over me, and I glanced at the open pages in my hands. I could see! Every word on the page was clear and easy to read. The little gray patch was gone! In a moment I couldn’t see anything because of the flood of tears streaming from my eyes.

Today, my home no longer seems lonely. I keep my special friend, the Book of Mormon, near me. Every evening, with few exceptions, I thoughtfully read its messages of comfort and testimony, of instruction and joy. In its pages I have come to know Jesus the Christ, our beloved Redeemer. I marvel at the love he extends to us and am thankful for the sight—and insight—he has given me.

[photo] “Our spirits have been growing.” The Sorensen family of Oak City, Utah, have read the Book of Mormon fourteen times in their family devotionals. Sister Sorensen says the book brings a spirit of peace into their home. (Photo by Jed Clark.)

[photo] “An indescribable feeling came over me, a cleansing sensation.” Robert Hogge’s most intense interest was racing cars—until a friend read the Book of Mormon with him. The experience changed his life. (Photo by Jed Clark.)

[photo] “I believe that I have received a gift of tongues.” Norma C. Tolentino, a disabled member living in the Philippines, says the Book of Mormon convinced her that if she participated fully in Church meetings, she would be understood.

[photo] “It hit me like a high-explosive artillery shell.” Tim Heavrin began studying the Bible while in the army. He came to love the book but felt that something was missing. After nine years of searching, he found it in the Book of Mormon.

[photo] “They went to and from a podium, testifying of a book.” A dream about his deceased father, and advice from his “Mormon mother,” prepared James McPeak to receive a testimony of the gospel—on his knees, in a truck. (Photo by Jed Clark.)

[photo] “I couldn’t see anything because of the flood of tears streaming from my eyes.” Though Beulah McElprang’s sight was dimmed by a stroke and other physical problems, faith opened her eyes to the pages of the Book of Mormon. (Photo by Jed Clark.)