My best friend in high school was an agnostic. My friend said he didn’t know if there was a God, but if a God created us, He must have gone far away and left us all alone. Why else would so many bad things happen in this world? How could a God who watched over His children let them be hurt so much?
I understood why some people did bad things. I knew about agency and the effects of choices we make. My widowed mother had taught me about those things at home. I knew the gospel was the right way to live. I saw it work for my mother in her life, and I knew in my mind that it was the way Heavenly Father wanted us to live.
But I didn’t know this where it really counted—in my heart. I thought I was sure of the truth, but sometimes I had my own “why” and “what if” questions about God and His plan for us. I wasn’t so sure of what I “knew” that I could tell my friend and mean it with every part of me.
That kind of knowing did not come until I took a Book of Mormon class while I was in college. Sister Irene Spears taught the class as if the Book of Mormon were completely new to us. In a way it was for me; I had never read the book all the way through. When I reached the end, I found Moroni’s promise to readers: “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost” (Moroni 10:4). I knew this promise was to me. I got on my knees beside my bed to ask.
I didn’t expect an answer to be so strong or to come so fast. Before I could finish the words of my prayer, I knew that the Book of Mormon was the word of God and that Joseph Smith was a prophet. If those things were true, then David O. McKay was also a prophet, and he had said that every young man who was able should go on a mission, so I was going on a mission.
I was called to Central America. After several months in the mission field, I realized what a blessing had come to me in that call. While I was helping to find people who loved the Lord, I was also walking in places where much of the Book of Mormon may have happened. This was a second witness to the testimony of my grandfather, who had learned to love the Book of Mormon the first time he got his hands on one in the 1920s. His father was a salesman and trader who traveled widely in Mexico. My great-grandfather had told his children stories of ruined cities and highways in the jungle, and my grandfather had always wanted to know who the people were who built them.
Since my mission, I have had the opportunity to visit many of those ruined cities in Mexico and Central America. I have read what experts say about those places and about the history and greatness of their people. I am very grateful for the added knowledge I have received.
But I have never been more sure of the Book of Mormon than I was that day when I asked the Lord if it was true and He answered me just as Moroni promised. I only wish I had asked sooner. My Heavenly Father wanted me to know the truth for myself all along, and I might have been able to share it with my friend.
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