There is a hill called Cumorah in the eastern part of the United States of America. It may appear to be an ordinary hill, but for hundreds of years an extraordinary treasure lay hidden in it. When this sacred treasure was finally brought forth, it began to change the world.
More than 1800 years had gone by since Jesus lived upon the earth, and people had changed his doctrines and teachings. These changes caused a great deal of confusion, especially for 14-year-old Joseph Smith Jr. Joseph believed in Jesus Christ and wanted to follow his teachings, but the religious leaders in the Palmyra, New York, area where he lived all had different ideas about how that should be done.
Finally Joseph decided what he must do. One sunny morning he walked through his father’s fields into a grove of maple, hickory, and beech trees where he could be alone. On winter days Joseph went to the grove to tap trees for rich maple syrup, but this spring day he had something else in mind.
Joseph had read in the Bible that if a person doesn’t know something, he can ask God for wisdom. So Joseph found a secluded spot in this grove and knelt to ask God which church was right.
As Joseph began to pour out the feelings of his heart, a powerful darkness overcame him. Just as he felt he was about to be destroyed, he called to God for help. A glorious light appeared directly over his head, breaking the grasp of the horrible power. In the light he saw two divine beings. One pointed to the other and said, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”
The Son, Jesus Christ, told Joseph that none of the churches was true.
Later, to Joseph’s surprise, when he told people this wonderful message, they became angry and began to persecute him and his family. But he knew he had seen a vision, and all the persecution in the world could not make him deny it.
Three years later, while Joseph was praying for further truth, light spread throughout the dark room where he slept in his family’s log home. An angel who called himself Moroni told Joseph about a book of scripture containing the fulness of the gospel. The book was written on gold plates and hidden in a nearby hill. After Moroni left, Joseph lay thinking about the experience. Suddenly the room grew bright once more, and Moroni again appeared and delivered his message. And he appeared yet again that night to instruct Joseph. Right after Moroni left the third time, a rooster outside crowed and sunlight began melting away the night. Joseph got up and went to the fields to do his chores. He was so tired that he could not work, so his father sent him home to rest.
Joseph started home, but as he tried to cross a fence he fell exhausted to the ground. As he lay there, Moroni once more came and repeated the message of the night before. He then told Joseph to tell his father about all that had happened.
Joseph’s father recognized that the message was from God, and he directed Joseph to do as Moroni had instructed. Joseph hurried to the hill, Cumorah, where he found the sacred record inside a stone box beneath a large stone. Once more Moroni appeared. This time he told Joseph to come back again a year later.
Once a year for four more years Joseph went back to the Hill Cumorah, and Moroni taught him each time. Joseph’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, later wrote that Joseph occasionally told the family some of the things he had learned. He would describe the people who once lived on the American continent—their clothes, means of travel, cities and buildings, methods of warfare, and religious worship—as if he had lived among them.
During this time Joseph married Emma Hale and continued to tell others about the revelations he received. Still, few people believed him, and many continued to persecute him and his family.
In 1827, Joseph received the plates and began translating them. In 1830 the Book of Mormon was printed and the Church was officially organized. Within a few months, missionaries were taking the Book of Mormon to other parts of the United States and to Canada. Many people were touched by the wonderful Spirit that accompanies the book.
Zina Diantha Huntington Young first encountered the Book of Mormon when she was 14 years old and living in Watertown, New York. She later wrote, “One day on my return from school I saw the Book of Mormon, that strange, new book, lying on the window sill of our sitting-room. I went up to the window, picked it up, and the sweet influence of the Holy Spirit accompanied it to such an extent that I pressed it to my bosom in a rapture of delight, murmuring as I did so, ‘This is the truth, truth, truth’” (see Ensign, March 1984, 37).
From the Hill Cumorah in New York, the Book of Mormon is going out to all the world. The book is now available in 40 languages; selections from it are available in 48 more.
The Book of Mormon is a great treasure! Its truths are worth far, far more than the gold it was written upon. It has changed and will continue to change the world.