It seemed like any other ordinary Sunday morning. It seemed like most other deacons quorum meetings of previous weeks. But what was to happen during the next 15 minutes was extraordinary to me, a 12-year-old boy who was still reeling under the effects of 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 present 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? And worst of all, what if he felt that the gift was a sign of religious fanaticism that would threaten our friendship?
Nephi’s fervent testimony regarding 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 presented 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, he had brought down the largest volume of all—Religions of the World. Turning to the front pages, he had first shown me the list of authors. Each contributor had many letters after his name indicating his qualifications. There must have been at least a dozen prominent educators, theologians, and scholars listed. One couldn’t have helped but be impressed. Surely this was a well-documented and authoritative compilation of 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 shocked beyond belief to find such ideas as “The Book of Mormon is a fraud,” “Joe Smith was misguided and given to 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 shield me from something through the 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 very 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. The Church, which had become the very foundation of my life, 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 beyond reproach.
I hadn’t told any one 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 demean 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 15 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 Hill Cumorah and the Sacred Grove near Palmyra, New York. Then he related in great detail his family’s experience while in the Sacred Grove. An unmistakable manifestation of the Spirit had come to them to confirm beyond question the truth of what had happened there on that early spring morning of 1820.
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 share 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 12-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, 60 years later, I can bear witness as though I had actually been there and observed firsthand that remarkable experience we call the First Vision and I can testify that the Book of Mormon is indeed 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 influence that came to me as a young man holding the Aaronic Priesthood.