It seemed like any other ordinary Sunday morning. It seemed like most other deacons quorum meetings of previous weeks. But what happened during the next fifteen minutes was extraordinary to me, a twelve-year-old boy who was still affected by what had happened the preceding Thursday.
Motivated by an enthusiastic mission leader who had spoken about the Book of Mormon in sacrament meeting, I had felt impressed to give a copy of the Book of Mormon to my best friend and school classmate. The decision had not been an easy one. What if my friend didn’t accept it? What if he did take it but rejected its message? What if he thought I was some kind of religious fanatic? And worst of all, what if my action ruined our friendship?
Nephi’s powerful testimony about obedience had given me courage: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded” (1 Ne. 3:7). I had been taught that every member should be a missionary. So the next day I had given him the book during lunch break, complete with my testimony that the book was true, that it contained the account of Christ’s appearance to an ancient people right here in America, and that it would lead to an even greater understanding of the Bible. My friend had received the book with appreciation and with a promise to read it. It had been a normal exchange between two young friends who shared a mutual trust and understanding.
Two days later the book had been returned. “Have you read it already?” I had asked.
“No, and I am not going to read it.”
“Why not?” had come my anxious reply.
“Because my parents won’t allow it and, after what happened last night, I agree with them.”
“What happened last night?”
“If you will meet me after school,” he had said, “I’ll show you.”
After school he had led me straight to the public library, then to that section of the library marked “Religion,” the same place he had been taken the night before by his parents. Reaching up to a shelf, he had brought down the largest volume of all the books, titled Religions of the World. Turning to the front pages, he had first shown me the list of authors. There must have been at least twelve prominent educators, theologians, and scholars listed. Anyone would have been impressed. Surely this was a well-documented and authoritative compilation on the world’s best-known religions, written by those who were qualified.
My friend had then turned to the section entitled “Mormonism.” After reading it for just a few seconds, I had been completely shocked to find such ideas as “The Book of Mormon is a fraud,” “Joseph Smith was misguided and had hallucinations,” and “The entire story about the restoration and the Book of Mormon was made up of falsehoods, deceit, and counterfeit ideas.” I had been totally devastated by what I read.
Had my parents tried to hide something from me all these years? Had my bishop and Sunday School teachers failed to tell me the whole truth? I had stood there feeling that I had lost the foundation of my life, for I loved the Church. I had felt strongly about the Aaronic Priesthood that had been conferred upon me just a few months before. My knowledge of the Church now seemed to be crumbling in just a few minutes—after all, it had been the largest book on the shelf and the background of the authors seemed too good to doubt what they had written.
I hadn’t told anyone about the deep hurt inside—not even my parents. I had to think about it for a few days. But I had let my Heavenly Father know about my concern and frustration, for He was the center of my boyhood faith. I had even thought back upon the Prophet Joseph Smith when his adversaries tried to ridicule his remarkable experience in the Sacred Grove. He had said: “I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation” (JS—H 1:25).
On Sunday, three days following my disturbing hour at the public library, I sat in what seemed like an ordinary deacons quorum meeting. But what happened during the next fifteen minutes was extraordinary to me.
Following the opening prayer, we were introduced to Brother Corbridge of the stake high council. Brother Corbridge told us that he and his family had just returned from a wonderful vacation trip that included a visit to the Church historical sites, the Hill Cumorah and the Sacred Grove near Palmyra, New York. Then he told us in great detail of his family’s experience while in the Sacred Grove. An unmistakable manifestation of the Spirit had come to them to confirm without a doubt the truth of what had happened there on that early spring morning of 1820 when God the Father and the Savior appeared to Joseph Smith.
Then, in answer to my urgent but humble prayers, the inspiration of the Holy Ghost began to flood into my mind as Brother Corbridge spoke to us with emotion about his family’s experience. I marveled that a well-dressed, successful businessman would stand unashamed with tears in his eyes and tell his innermost feelings to a group of young deacons. I know now that he had been sent by the Lord to say something that was meant especially for me, a twelve-year-old Aaronic Priesthood boy who had been praying earnestly and who needed help urgently.
Brother Corbridge’s experience in the Sacred Grove became my experience. The gift of the Holy Ghost manifested itself to such a degree that even to this day, sixty years later, I can bear witness as though I had actually been there and observed for myself that remarkable experience we call the First Vision and I can testify that the Book of Mormon is truly the word of God.
Yes, Heavenly Father does hear the prayers of His young people, and He very often sends us our answers through His appointed priesthood leaders and other good people. May we listen well as they speak to us. May our thoughts and actions be such that we might invite the confirming Spirit of the Holy Ghost to enter our hearts and minds. I shall ever be grateful for the sustaining witness that came to me as a young man holding the Aaronic Priesthood.