At this time of year my thoughts turn to the Savior and Joseph Smith, and I love to read about them in the scriptures. The most important gift I received for Christmas as a teenager was my triple combination: the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. It was leather bound with a dedication in the flyleaf by my father. That gift was not important to me then. In fact, I was disappointed.
Since then that triple combination has become precious to me because it reminds me of the things I learned as a teenager about the Savior and His life. That triple combination went with me on my mission. It served me while I was a bishop. It became a precious possession to me and still is. I wore out the first binding, and it has been rebound.
I think the most significant scriptures are personal testimonies, like Joseph Smith’s. I have never doubted from the first time I read it that Joseph Smith saw what he said he saw in the Sacred Grove.
I’m grateful Joseph prayed and had that sacred experience, the First Vision. We don’t always receive visions or answers as powerful as Joseph’s answer was, but our answers can be just as clear, whether they are ideas, answers to questions, or confirmations of decisions.
I understand Joseph Smith’s need to pray. I had always prayed before I went to bed at night. When I became a teenager I didn’t stop believing, but I stopped taking the time to pray. One day that changed.
I had gone on a campout with some young men, and one of my good friends and I were in a tent together. I jumped into my sleeping bag, and I looked over to see my friend kneeling on his sleeping bag and praying. When he got into his sleeping bag, he said, “Lynn, don’t you pray?”
I answered, “Not as much as I should.” And I made up my mind then that no one would question again whether I prayed.
I also understand Joseph Smith’s wanting to be alone as he prayed. On another occasion a few years later, I was in a similar situation, this time with a young man I didn’t know. I was nervous about praying in front of him, so I waited for him to go to bed so I could kneel and pray without him watching me.
But he wouldn’t go to bed, so I finally knelt and prayed and got into my sleeping bag. When he got into bed a few minutes later, he said, “Lynn, do you always pray like that?”
“Yes, I try to. If I ever hurry and get into bed forgetting to pray, I get out of bed and kneel and pray.”
He said, “I should do that.”
I am so grateful to the Prophet Joseph for his courage and faith to ask and his preparation to believe the things he came to know. I love the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Through the revelations of Joseph Smith, I came to understand my need for the Savior. I knew about Jesus Christ, and I knew He was the Son of God. But the more I’ve come to understand how the Atonement works, the greater my testimony and love of the Savior is. Only His Atonement can allow us to be forgiven of our sins. We can repent, but that does not forgive us; it only qualifies us for His forgiveness.
We need to gain a testimony of who we are, to know we are spirit children of our Father in Heaven. When we know that, we can feel His love for us and His great desire for us to return to live with Him. When we have truly repented and He forgives us, we become clean. We become new creatures, as if the sin had never been committed. And when we understand that, then we really come to know Him.