How do I know it’s true? That is a big question!
I was born to LDS parents. My mother is a convert but my father’s side of the family has been LDS for several generations. While they were not technically pioneers (no handcarts or west-ward treks) they were among the first members of the church in North Carolina.
This legacy is not separate from my own testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As the story goes, my 3rd great grandmother was praying to find the church described in the New Testament with apostles, etc. When she heard there were strangers in town she described them perfectly, saying that she had seen them in a dream. These men were missionaries from the LDS church. She and her entire family were baptized. Her descendants are scattered across the country and continue true to that faith.
It is common in the LDS church to hear people say “find out for yourself” and “Don’t live on borrowed light”. No one is ever asked to simply accept what they are told. Latter-Day Saint children are taught to pray almost from birth. My children have generally started saying prayers on a regular basis around 2 years old. They all have been eager to fold their arms and bow their heads by 18 months! Prayer is a very important component in our religion. It is the key that opens the door to God.
This picture of Jesus standing outside a door without a knob is often used to illustrate the need for us to open ourselves to all things spiritual: commandments, revelation, salvation, etc. We recognize that God will not force us to seek him or obey him. He has given us that wonderful gift of agency.
With these messages and many others being regularly taught to me, I knew there would come a day when I would have to actually follow through and ask the “big question”. I guess a part of me was nervous about this. What if I didn’t get an answer? What if I didn’t get the answer I expected? What if I got a really amazing, undeniable answer and then I messed up? Would I be more accountable if I knew more?
In the mean time I attended church on Sunday, first Primary, then Sunday school and Young Women. When I started high school I also started attending early morning seminary. These early teen years were undoubtedly defining years for me. I made many decisions during that period of my life that have ultimately set me on the right path. I am sure that the 2 years of homeschooling and having sister missionaries living a few blocks away helped reinforce the lessons that were becoming very real to me.
Although I studied the Book of Mormon in church and knew a lot of the “important parts” I didn’t actually read it cover to cover at this time. I read a lot of it but I am pretty sure I didn’t finish it. I did read much of the Old Testament, all of the New Testament and the Doctrine and Covenants. I had made a goal to read the scriptures every day and kept that goal all through high school. I prayed often. I continued to attend every church activity I could. I soaked it all in like a sponge.
There was no lightening bolt, no earth quake or booming voices from heaven. But over these years I came to know many truths about myself and my Heavenly Father. I knew he was real. I knew he loved me. I knew he heard and answered prayers. This knowledge came in hundreds of small, sometimes forgettable ways, like drops in a bucket. I was sure that I knew the gospel was true.
And yet, I hadn’t actually asked. Some of my youth leaders were kind of nasty about this.”If you didn’t ask, you don’t really have a testimony. You are relying on someone else’s testimony and someday you will be led astray.” I kind of resented that. But it was always the message. ALWAYS! Ask=testimony. No ask= no testimony.
Finally I decided it was time to be sure. I don’t remember all the details but I know that I went through a period of preparation. I wanted to get it right. I was still nervous for all the reasons I mentioned before.
One night, after my family had gone to bed, I knelt by my bed and began to pray. I asked if the Book of Mormon was true scripture. I asked very specifically if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter –Day Saints was God’s only true church. I asked if Joseph Smith was a true prophet.
Then I waited.
I didn’t have to wait long. I first had one thought come into my mind: “Why are you asking? You already know.” As these words came to my mind I felt as though I was wrapped in a warm blanket. I felt overwhelmed with a feeling of love. I had a feeling that my Heavenly Father was pleased with me for asking. I knew in that moment that the church is true, that Joseph Smith is a prophet and the Book of Mormon is the word of God.
This experience was only one of many over my lifetime. Since that night I have read the Book of Mormon many times. I have studied the Bible and read the Doctrine and Covenants. Each time I read from any of these books I learn more. Often a passage that was really boring last time is filled with insight and guidance later. I have had confirmation of the truth in what I read in the form of a warm feeling in my chest. I have had seemingly unrelated ideas come together as I read, bringing new understanding. Sometimes I read something that fits perfectly with an issue I or my family is struggling with.
Have there been times when I needed to ask questions again? Yes. I wrote about one example a few weeks ago. That is only one. I have been amazed by the answers I have found in the scriptures. My testimony of the truth has grown and developed through continuous study, prayer and application of the things I have learned in those pages.
There are scholars who try to prove or disprove the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. These have no effect on my testimony one way or another. The supposed proofs are merely interesting. The disproof is often interesting , too. My testimony is not built on those things. It comes from the Holy Spirit, a confirmation taht is available to anyone, anywhere, at any time.
Our loving Heavenly Father has told us many times to ask for his guidance and test his counsel.
“Ask and ye shall receive”
” If any of ye lack wisdom, let him aks of God…and it shall be given him.”
“Prove me now herewith…if I will not open the windows of heaven”
“If any man will do his will he shall know of the doctrine”
His promises are sure and he will never fail us. He stands at the door, waiting.