I Had to Try


I always thought the moment of truth would come when I was older. But now, here I was, praying alone in the woods, just like Joseph had.

I Had to Try

We sat huddled on the wet lawn in front of the Joseph Smith Monument in Sharon, Vermont, draped in ponchos and plastic garbage bags in a vain attempt to keep dry. We strained to hear the speaker over the sound of the rain, as he explained to us the final activity of the wilderness youth conference we were taking part in.

In a few minutes, we would be sent off to be alone in the woods. We were given a list of things to do, including self-evaluation and scripture reading. The last thing we were to do, however, was what really excited me. Alone in the woods, we were to kneel and pray aloud to our Heavenly Father and ask if the Church was true.

Earlier, the speaker had related to us a story about David O. McKay receiving his patriarchal blessing. President McKay was, at the time, a champion marble player, an activity which, the speaker pointed out, required quite a bit of skill. After the blessing, however, the patriarch told 13-year-old David that he had more important things to do than play marbles. The speaker now gave to us that same wise counsel. “Brothers and sisters,” he pleaded, “please, put away your marbles, and take advantage of this opportunity to find out for yourself if the Church is true.”

It was almost silent as we entered the woods and began to break up into smaller and smaller groups. I think everyone could sense, as I did, the importance of what was about to happen. I pulled my poncho over me and took out the worksheet and program we had been given to write on. To begin my solo experience, I sang all of the songs on the program. After completing the other activities, I came to the prayer.

I was excited to pray, but I was also nervous because I had always thought that I would find out whether or not the Church was true when I was older; I had always put it off. I had felt the Spirit before in fast and testimony meetings and when I received a testimony of the Book of Mormon, but I couldn’t honestly say that I knew the Church was true. What if I prayed and there was just nothing? What if, out here in the woods, kneeling and praying aloud got me nothing but wet?

I decided that I’d never know unless I tried, so I knelt on the soggy leaves and bowed my head in prayer. I spoke in a whisper, fearful that someone might eavesdrop, and I asked very simply to know if I really belonged to God’s true church. I finished my prayer and remained kneeling to await an answer.

At first, I received an impression that I already knew the truth of those things. But I figured that must have been my own thoughts, so I prayed again.

“You already know,” came my answer, along with the warm and calm feeling of the Spirit that enveloped me with peace and joy.

My heart quickened, and I couldn’t hold back the smile that soon covered my face. I realized that through my seminary and personal study, I had built my testimony step by step, precept upon precept, so slowly that I didn’t even realize I had it until I put it to the test.

Now I knew that the Church was true and I could put away, or at least put aside, the less important things in my life and get on with my spiritual growth. I felt so relieved, so content, and so grateful that the Lord had taken the time to let me know personally that the Church was true. Already kneeling, I bowed my head again and gave a prayer of thanks to the Lord for his witness to me that, although I hadn’t recognized it before, I already knew.

[illustration] Illustrated by Mitchell Heinze