I was about nine years old when two foreign missionaries first visited my family in the Philippines. I was impressed with their grooming and friendliness, but I couldn’t understand a word they said. They taught in English, and only Mama and Papa understood them, because both were schoolteachers.
I still recall the day Mama threw down the Book of Mormon and refused to read any more. She had heard some lies about the Church and was upset that Papa was allowing the missionaries to teach us.
Papa just picked up the book and calmly said, “Open your heart and listen to the teachings. This book is true. Read this, and you’ll know it is true.”
I don’t know exactly what happened, but six months later I was surprised when Mama announced we were going to be baptized. I knew little of the Church, and I didn’t want another baptism. But I couldn’t resist my parents’ will, so I was baptized.
Joseph Smith, however, remained a big concern. I couldn’t believe he was a prophet of God, and every time someone taught about him I wanted to shout, “That’s not true!” But I couldn’t utter it. When I was asked to share my testimony, I repeated words I had heard others speak.
Though I did not believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, I did believe some of the Church’s teachings and enjoyed attending church—except for the first Sunday of the month. Over and over I would hear the members bearing testimony that Joseph Smith was a prophet. It irritated me. I eventually became so angry that I didn’t want to attend church. I made up excuses not to attend, but Papa wouldn’t allow any of his children to be left at home on Sundays.
I was about 14 years old when Papa enrolled me in seminary. That really bothered me. I wasn’t interested, and I felt forced to attend. The first meeting, I purposely arrived late. But to my surprise, no one was at the chapel except Brother Cedillo, the custodian. He turned out to be my seminary teacher.
When the other students arrived, Brother Cedillo asked if any of us had read the Book of Mormon. Nobody answered. He opened the book and asked us to read with him, beginning at 1 Nephi 1:1. I do not remember what else my teacher said that day, but I do remember the powerful testimony he bore of the Book of Mormon. I was touched in my heart, and as I walked home I felt happy. I couldn’t understand why.
That night I resolved to read the Book of Mormon. I started reading after dinner, with a prayer that I could understand. I kept reading till midnight. As I read, I imagined the characters in the Book of Mormon acting out the scenes as if I were watching television. I didn’t understand some of the words, but as I read of the sufferings the prophets in the Book of Mormon endured for testifying of the truth, tears rolled down my cheeks. I had been angry at members of the Church for doing the same thing the prophets had done! I pictured myself as one of those who had persecuted the prophets—and realized how ungrateful I had been.
I continued reading the next day and into the night. I couldn’t sleep until I finished reading the Book of Mormon. When I finally closed the book, I knelt and asked God for forgiveness. In my prayer, I testified that I knew the Book of Mormon was true. And I knew that if the Book of Mormon was true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, because he translated the book. As I said “amen,” my face was wet with tears. I felt at peace and filled with joy.
The experience helped me later when I served a full-time mission in the Philippines Cebu Mission. It helped me understand better my investigators’ concerns about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Today my heart still fills with gratitude for the great blessings God has given me and my family.