The morning rain tapped lightly on the roof of the van, then danced into tiny rivers down a fogged windshield. I waited in the backseat with my books on the floor, trying to warm my fingers with my breath. After early-morning seminary, our teacher would usually offer to drive some of us to school if we couldn’t find a ride.
Sarah sat next to me in the backseat, filing her nails. The sweet smell of bubble gum filled the air as she unwrapped a piece and began to chew. Wendy Turner was up front, and we all sat in silence as we waited for our teacher to finish in the classroom.
Then Sarah snapped her gum loudly and started a sudden burst of words.
“You know,” she blurted, still smacking, “seminary is such a waste of time. I mean it’s just such a drag!”
I didn’t say a word as I looked in her direction. I guess it took me by surprise, and I really wasn’t sure what to say.
“It’s just that we have to get up so early, and for what?” She continued, “Just to hear someone preach at us for an hour before we go to school. It’s not like church isn’t already long enough on Sundays. Why should we have to torture ourselves through the week too?”
It’s not really a torture, I thought to myself. But I still wasn’t sure of what to say. Then just when I started to get a grip on what was going on, she added something else that really threw me for a loop.
“Besides, the Church isn’t really true anyway—only a total fool would actually believe that stuff!”
For the first time in my life, I really started to think about what I believed. Did I believe that the Church was true?
My parents had been converted when I was six years old, and the Church had been part of our lives ever since. My parents had taught me that it was true, and I could tell by their actions that they really believed it. But what about me? What did I believe? I guess when it came to the Church, I was just “along for the ride.” I had been baptized when I was eight years old, I had finished Primary, I held the Aaronic Priesthood, and I went to all my meetings and Young Men activities. But what did I really believe in my heart? I didn’t know.
Wendy finally spoke from the front seat. “I believe it is all true. I believe it is because I found out for myself, and I know it is in my heart—and that’s enough for me.”
Those words really impressed me—“I believe because I found out for myself.” I remember wondering how she found out for herself, but I didn’t ask. In fact, I didn’t say one word the entire ride to school. What do I really believe? I kept asking myself.
Time moved on, and soon my family moved to New Hampshire. We were no longer part of a large ward or an overflowing stake, but now members of a tiny branch which spread over several small towns. We soon discovered that my sisters and I were the only LDS youth in our town. I really had to cling to what the Church taught. I found myself defending it many times, but in my heart the question still lingered.
Was this what I really believed? I still couldn’t come up with the answer, and the question wouldn’t leave. It just kept getting bigger and more urgent. I had to find out for myself, but I didn’t quite know how to go about it.
The years passed by, and finally graduation was around the corner. It would soon be time to take the next step—serving a mission. Going on a mission seemed to fill every conversation I had with my parents, but the truth was, I didn’t know if I should go. How could I teach people the gospel if I didn’t know for myself if it “I believe because I found out for myself.”
It was time to stop living off of “borrowed light.” I was determined to find out.
I didn’t know where to start, but I decided the Book of Mormon would be a good place. I started to study it, not just read it. I also decided to study it prayerfully. While I was doing this, I realized that I hadn’t been having personal prayers very regularly. I also realized that this was the first time I had honestly studied the scriptures. Maybe the reason I didn’t know if the Church was really true was that I had never prayerfully tried to find out.
I kept a list of questions I had about the Church in the cover of my Book of Mormon. At nights I made an effort to pray about a certain question, and quite often I would find the answer to that very question as I read. This happened too often to be just a coincidence. My prayers were actually being answered, and every time a prayer would be answered, it gave me a deeper incentive to continue in my investigation.
I finished the Book of Mormon and started on the New Testament. I had seen books like A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, and Jesus the Christ sitting on my parents’ bookshelves, and now I had an intense desire to learn what they had to say. I didn’t really read anything that I hadn’t heard before, but for the first time, I understood it. As I continued in my study and prayers, a strong testimony began to grow within me, and sometimes when I prayed, a warm feeling would overcome me entirely. I soon learned that the Holy Ghost was real.
I noticed one night that every question I had written on the list had been crossed out. Although it hadn’t happened all at once, my questions had been answered—every one of them.
Then I realized I knew that the Church was true. I knew it was true, not because my parents had told me it was true, not because the leaders of the Church had told me it was true, but because I had found out for myself.
The New Era is adding a department called “How I Know.” It will include short articles from our readers about how they learned the Church was true or how they learned to recognize answers to their prayers. If you have an experience that you’d like to share with other readers, please send it to the New Era, 50 East North Temple, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84150.