My Testimonies: Example 2

Poor Wayfaring Man

I have had experiences with testimony. Lots of them. Here is Example 2:

When I was 18 years old, I realized that I was mere months away from high school graduation, and that I was expected to follow through on my lifelong plan to go on a two-year mission for the LDS Church, during which time I would work to persuade people to join the Church. I decided that I should prepare for my mission by making an effort to learn more about the Church than I had learned in Sunday school and daily seminary classes.

I found a book on my dad’s bookshelf titled Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon. I thought that would be a great place for me to start supplementing my understanding, since the Book of Mormon–a key proselyting tool for LDS missionaries–is about the Semitic ancestors of the present-day Native Americans. I stood at the bookshelf thumbing through the book, and soon my excited curiosity turned to confusion, and then to alarm, as I realized that the author of the book was coming from the perspective that Joseph Smith had written the Book of Mormon himself, and that it wasn’t actually a literal history of the ancient American inhabitants merely discovered and translated by Joseph Smith. I was astonished that a scholarly book with that thesis could be published, since it seemed so mind-blowingly counter to all I had been taught about the “keystone of our religion”.

I immediately went and asked my dad about the book. Why did he have it? Did he believe its assertion that the Book of Mormon is not a product of divine intervention?

I know what you might be thinking. This is the part where my dad smiles at me and says “Congratulations son, you have just discovered one of the secrets we adults in the Church keep from the kids until they are ready to take the next step into adulthood. You are mature enough now to learn that there is actually no hard evidence substantiating Joseph Smith’s claims about the Book of Mormon–no ancient American artifacts pointing to the Semitic people described in the book, no proof that Joseph dug the plates out of the ground at the direction of an angel, and not even any evidence that Joseph Smith had the ability to translate ancient languages into English (in fact, he feigned that ability more than once, with disastrous results). Even if you aren’t convinced that the book is literally true, there are valuable lessons and principles in it that I hope have shaped your understanding of yourself and your culture, and have given you reference points for exploring and conceptualizing your newly-expanded world. I’m proud of you for autonomously reaching for knowledge beyond what you are spoon-fed, and I am certain that if you continue actively pursuing knowledge, you will reap great rewards throughout your life. Lets go grab dinner and celebrate. My treat.”

That’s not what happened. My dad seemed taken aback by my questions. He told me that he had read a lot of books contradicting the claims of Mormonism, but he had never read anything that overcame his feeling–his testimony–that the LDS Church is absolutely God’s one true church. My anxiety was assuaged to some extent just by the notion that my dad had faced down those competing theories about our religion, but was still convinced of its truth. I thought maybe I could still consider serving a mission, despite realizing that there was serious, reasoned (published) opposition to my worldview out there that I knew very little about. I wondered if, instead of engaging that opposition, I could simply pray to Heavenly Father and ask him to give me a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, like my dad had.

I went to my room, closed the door, got down on my knees and prepared to pray for a long time. This wasn’t going to be easy. Anxiety and doubts kept coming over me in waves. I began the prayer, concentrating all of my energy on communicating with God. Then, suddenly, I couldn’t remember why I was praying. I knew that I had been very worked up and worried about something, but I just couldn’t remember what it was. The burden was gone; I felt free and light. I remember wiping the tears from my eyes and laughing out loud to myself about the whole crazy situation. I got in bed and went peacefully to sleep.

The next morning, I was able to remember the whole incident. I still had the same questions about the Book of Mormon, but they just didn’t seem as intense or important as before. I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t had a stereotypical “Holy Ghost” feeling confirming the truth of the Book of Mormon, but then I remembered a passsage of scripture that seemed applicable. I opened Doctrine & Covenants 9:8-9:

8. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

9. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong…

I read that and realized that I had been looking for a verse 8 “bosom shall burn within you” feeling confirming that the Book of Mormon was true, but when I forgot my worry that the Book of Mormon might not be true, I was actually having a verse 9 “stupor of thought” causing me to “forget the thing that was wrong”. I was very pleased and relieved to realize that I had gotten the message from the Holy Ghost, and could say that I had a testimony that the Book of Mormon was true. Whatever books were out there denying that fact could wait until I completed my mission.


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