“In this new school year I want each of you to take a turn at the beginning of class in discussing with us the book that has impressed you most in life,” said our literature teacher, Mrs. Protschka.
I wondered what book I should present. Mother and I were living in Bonn, West Germany then, and I had just started ninth grade. I thought maybe I would introduce Lew Wallaces’s Ben-Hur. But was that really the book that had impressed me most in life?
No. I knew it was the book the two young missionaries who had baptized my mother and me had given to me a few years before—the Book of Mormon.
But I was the only Latter-day Saint in the school; could I dare to introduce this new scripture in my class?
I remembered how I had read this book, prayed about it, and received a confirmation that it was holy scripture.
When I told my mother about my idea, she encouraged me to do what I felt was right. The hard work began. I decided to start by explaining the Book of Mormon like a story, beginning with Lehi and his family’s departure from Jerusalem. After much prayer and thought, the right words began to flow into my mind. God was answering!
As I waited for my turn, I noticed that many of the other students presented books that in some way dealt with Satan and the dark side. Now more than ever, I wanted to be the Lord’s advocate to these people.
At last it was my turn. Usually the students wrote the titles of their books on the chalkboard at the beginning of their presentations, but I asked our teacher’s permission to save it until the end. I told her I wanted it to be a surprise.
Mother told me later how she had spent almost the entire morning of my presentation praying that my report would go well and that the class would be receptive. And indeed her prayers helped. At the beginning, when I started explaining Lehi’s vision and his travel through the desert, some students wanted to make fun of it, “It’s the Bible! It’s the Bible!” But suddenly the class became quiet, and I related the history of the Book of Mormon smoothly and calmly, bearing testimony of its truthfulness. The Spirit of the Lord was so strong it seemed almost tangible.
After about twenty minutes I finished, leaving my teacher and the class speechless. Then Mrs. Protschka asked what they thought. They all began to speak very highly of me and expressed admiration for my courage in presenting such a religious book at school.
I was asked to talk more about the Church and my mother’s and my conversion. After class, some of the students even asked me for a copy of the Book of Mormon.
From that day, I made friends to whom I still feel very close, friends who defended me later in front of others. They even wrote and supported me years later when I served a mission in Spain.
Weeks went by, and in our history class, with the same teacher, we began to study the ancient civilizations of America.
One night while doing my homework I felt the strongest desire to speak in class again about the Book of Mormon. I knelt in prayer and asked Heavenly Father to grant me an opportunity to do so. After praying, I felt I should again prepare a discourse on the Book of Mormon.
The next day as Mrs. Protschka began class I raised my hand. But before I could say anything, she looked at me and said, “Yes, Robert. Last night when I was preparing my lesson for today, I suddenly thought of you, and wondered if you wouldn’t have anything else to tell us about the Book of Mormon?”
This time I focused mainly in Christ’s visit to the ancient Americas. I quoted from a book which related the legend of the Great White God Quetzalcoatl. The similarity between Christ and this Indian God was obvious. Again, I told my friends and teacher that Christ had indeed visited the people in the Americas; he had indeed taught them the gospel.
At the conclusion of my speech, Mrs. Protschka wrote on the blackboard: “The Book of Mormon is the best theory of how the ancient civilizations of America came to be,” and asked us to write it down in our notebooks. What a triumph! I felt like jumping for joy. God hears and answers prayers. He is indeed a God of miracles. And he knows how to soften the hearts of men for his purposes.