I had just turned 14 and my bishop had invited me to enroll in seminary. By a stroke of severe timing, my bishop’s invitation came right when I was embarking on a system of scholarly torture known as the General Certificate of Secondary Education. In England (I live in Manchester), we refer to it as the GCSEs. So here was the bishop inviting me to seminary while the never-ending storm of exams, homework, mock exams, projects, tests, and experiments that are the GCSEs were just beginning.
Consequently, apathetic would be the best word to describe my approach to seminary. There was the initial excitement of studying in the same class as my big brother, but that quickly wore off. It wasn’t until I decided to find out about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon that I began to appreciate what seminary could do for me.
When I began the course, we had been taught that Moroni 10:4 [Moro. 10:4] was our key scripture for the year. I had marked that scripture in red and green, and I had felt prompted to pray to Heavenly Father and ask for a special witness concerning the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
As I knelt by my bed to talk with my Father in Heaven, I realized I had not prepared myself very well. I remembered the passage in the Doctrine and Covenants when the Lord told Oliver Cowdery that he “took no thought save it was to ask me” (D&C 9:7). I knew I was doing the same thing, and when I prayed to Heavenly Father I felt nothing different except a feeling that I was right to ask. But I didn’t feel like I’d received an answer to my prayer. I knew I had to do all that the Lord asked of me before I was to find out whether the Book of Mormon was a book of scripture or just a very clever novel.
Then one night I was alone in the house when my answer came. My homework was already completed, and usually such times are a welcome opportunity to veg out in front of the TV or get stuck in another science-fiction book. But that night I felt like doing neither.
On impulse, I went upstairs to my room and brought down my new brown triple combination. I sat in the living room and searched for the final chapters of Nephi’s life in 2 Nephi.
Somehow I felt that these were important chapters, so I said a short and simple prayer before I began to study, asking that the Spirit be with me. I had often asked for the same thing when I would pray before seminary lessons, yet this time my request seemed to mean more. I felt I needed to feel these words as I read them, so I began to read the scriptures out loud to myself.
As I read one chapter, then another, I began to feel as if I could actually hear Nephi himself saying those things to his people. As I read of his love for his people, I could feel the words of a prophet crying out, each sentence filled with the anguished cries of a loving man who had served God all his life. I read through chapter 32 [2 Ne. 32], spellbound by the words of a man who was suddenly becoming so real to me. The things he said were so beautiful and right. When I turned the page and began to read chapter 33 [2 Ne. 33], my empathy for this man overflowed. I could not contain my tears as I read how this prophet cried day and night for his people, and so I cried with him—desperately aware that those words were the last written in the Book of Mormon by such a great man.
I finished the final testimony of Nephi with a clogged throat and bleary eyes. Yet inside I felt on fire, alive with a knowledge that had settled in my heart. Nephi was a prophet of God, a real man, with a real life.
Many weeks after I had first prayed to know if those words were God’s words, I had fulfilled my end of Moroni’s promise and received a testimony that I hope will stay with me forever.