On September 21, 1823, Joseph Smith was visited by the angel Moroni and was told of an account of an ancient people recorded upon gold plates and deposited in a nearby hillside. This record contained the “fullness of the everlasting Gospel… as delivered by the Savior” [Joseph Smith—History 1:33–34].
It wasn’t until the fall of 1827 that Joseph Smith finally received the plates and began translating them the following spring while living in Harmony, Pennsylvania. After subsequent temptations and trials and a brief period of little to no translating, by the summer of 1829 almost all of the translation was completed. In a little over 80 days, Joseph Smith translated the entire Book of Mormon. That is about 270,000 words total, with approximately 4,000 words a day or the equivalent of about 10 pages a day. The translation of the Bible was completed by a group of about 50 scholars and they translated at the rate of about 1 page per day… completing the translation in about 7 years. To me, this is the greatest evidence that the Book of Mormon was translated by the power of God. Joseph Smith, a young and humble man with little formal education, could not have brought forth such a book as the Book of Mormon in such a short period of time without the power of God.
Despite the different means by which he translated the ancient text in a language known as “reformed Egyptian,” and regardless of the critics of this and former times, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon does not rest upon the methods of translation nor the time period in which it was brought forth. The Book of Mormon stands as a testament of Jesus Christ. It contains the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is the means by which we return to live with our Heavenly Father. I know Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God and I KNOW he brought forth the Book of Mormon by the power of God. As Oliver Cowdery said while assisting in the translation as a scribe to the Prophet, “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven.”
We learn from the title page of the Book of Mormon that its purpose “is to show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations.”
The Book of Mormon has the power to change lives. It can change our families, the spirit of our homes, the turmoil of the world around us, and ultimately it has the power to change us individually. President Marion G. Romney said: “I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase; mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the pure love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness” (“The Book of Mormon,” Ensign, May 1980, 67).
President Thomas S. Monson said: “As we read and ponder the scriptures, we will experience the sweet whisperings of the Spirit to our souls. We can find answers to our questions. We learn of the blessings which come through keeping God’s commandments. We gain a sure testimony of our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ, and of Their love for us. When scripture study is combined with our prayers, we can of a certainty know that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. … As we remember prayer and take time to turn to the scriptures, our lives will be infinitely more blessed and our burdens will be made lighter” (“We Never Walk Alone,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2013, 122). The key to gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon is prayer. When you pray to know of its truthfulness, the Holy Ghost can manifest itself unto you and testify of its divinity and of our Savior Jesus Christ.
“As you dedicate time every day, personally and with your family, to the study of God’s word, peace will prevail in your life. That peace won’t come from the outside world. It will come from within your home, from within your family, from within your own heart. It will be a gift of the Spirit…Through daily, consistent scripture study, you will find peace in the turmoil around you and strength to resist temptations. You will develop strong faith in the grace of God and know that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ all will be made right according to God’s timing.” [Elder Richard G. Scott “Make the Exercise of Faith your First Priority, Ensign Oct. 2014]
I honestly don’t remember the first time I read the Book of Mormon all the way through, but I know I didn’t comprehend a lot of it. As I’ve been thinking about my own conversion process, I’d have to say it all started with prayer. I was reading the Book of Mormon, but as I began to sincerely pray when I was about 15 or 16—it was then that my testimony began to build. I had prayed here and there, but after I began to consistently say my prayers both morning and night, I felt myself changing.
It was the spirit that came with communication with God that opened my heart to sincerely reading the Book of Mormon. And prayer with consistent study of the scriptures, like what President Monson said, truly strengthens our testimony of the Book and our burdens are made lighter.
On an individual basis, the Book of Mormon can influence us to make changes in our lives, become better human beings, and even provide the basis of a desire to serve a mission on behalf of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon changed me. By reading its pages I came to know its characters, the heroes and the villains, and by doing so have been taught by them. It is definitely the people of the Book of Mormon who have made the most impact on my desire to serve a mission.
Like I said before, I never thought I’d be here. If you had talked to me a year or so ago, maybe two years, about serving a mission, I could not have given you a straight answer. I probably would have nodded and expressed a bit of enthusiasm about the idea of being a missionary, but honestly I did not think missionary service was for me—for a lot of reasons. I didn’t know if I could do it. I didn’t know if I was worthy enough to do it. I felt like a hypocrite who wanted to be a missionary yet who had a very minimal understanding of what that actually meant.
I felt far away from God. I sort of felt like I had been pushed into the margins and was just biding my time until something happened that would push me in either direction—either toward God or away from Him. I’m sure a lot of you are wondering what made me decide to serve a mission and sometimes I ask myself that, too. As I have thought about it, I have been able to pinpoint my desire to serve in one verse of scripture. In Doctrine and Covenants 18:15 it says, “And if it should be that ye should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my father!” In seminary and such, this scripture is often categorized with the typical missionary scriptures because it talks about laboring in the field, looking for at least one soul who can guarantee your joy in heaven. However, for me, I’m not going to Anaheim to find at least one person who will accept the Gospel. That “one soul” isn’t someone I will lead to the waters of baptism. That “one soul” is myself. The ONE SOUL that will give me the most joy in heaven if I can bring it unto Christ is my own.
And the word “bring” really stands out to me. I knew I couldn’t—and I didn’t want to—stand back and point in the general direction of Christ and have that suffice for helping others find Him. "To Bring" literally means to come to a place WITH someone or something. I knew that if I wanted to have any chance of being a missionary, a good example, or a mother I would have to find Christ, first. I would have to go to Him myself so I would know in which direction I could lead, or “bring,” others. It was this that motivated me to become a missionary. I thought if I could spend 18 months in the field and with all of the preparation time beforehand, by the time I came home I could almost guarantee I would return able to say I had found Christ and that I knew Him.
To begin my preparations, I began to seriously read the Book of Mormon because I knew it is what I would be teaching and I figured I would need to know its story if I was to tell others about it.
The first story in the Book of Mormon that came alive for me was the story of Enos. I am fairly certain the reason I first read Enos so much was because it was short and I felt accomplished when I could say I read a whole book in the Book of Mormon in one day. But then, I want to say it was in a lesson one Sunday either in Sunday School or Young Women’s when we REALLY talked about Enos. And it was then that I heard about his conversion story. I remember reading the first part of the book of Enos again and again after that lesson and being so fascinated by his “wrestle…before God” [Enos 1:2] and his prayer that lasted all day before he received a remission of his sins. It was his remission of sin that captivated me and the Lord’s response to his prayer: “go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.” The idea of faith having the power to bring about a conversion in someone like Enos gave me hope that the same sort of change could occur in me. For a while, Enos was my golden standard. He was the only character I felt I knew really well and I tried to live like him. I held his story in my mind when I prayed and as I tried to develop my own faith to equal his.
There are a lot of characters who have influenced me in their courage and strength, such as Lehi, Ammon, Amulek, King Lamoni, the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, Abinadi, the Brother of Jared, the Stripling Warriors, Pahoran, Moroni, and Mormon. But the figure in the Book of Mormon who has had the most profound impact on me is Alma the Younger.
Alma the Younger spent many of his days going against the Church. He tried to lead people away and with the sons of Mosiah, became a wicked man. Because of them and their behavior, a lot of people left the Church. However, because of the prayers of his father, Alma the Younger and the sons of King Mosiah were visited by an angel of the Lord and brought to a knowledge of their sins. Thus, from Alma we learn the repentance process. In Alma 36:14-15 he describes his suffering as, “the very thought of coming unto the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body.”
But he did cry out saying, “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, I say unto you…that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you…that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy. Yea, methought I saw, even as our father Lehi saw, God sitting upon his throne, surrounded with numberless concourses of angels, in the attitude of singing and praising their God; yea, and my soul did long to be there. [Alma 36:18-20]
Alma changed from wanting to be extinct to longing to be in God’s presence. This is repentance. And I wanted to feel this way. It was Alma’s example that helped me to see and to understand the concept of repentance. I learned I did not have to remain in my sins. I realized that if someone who had been as wicked as Alma could be forgiven, I could be forgiven, too. As I stand before you today, I can now testify of the joy Alma felt upon receiving a remission of his sins. I have felt the power of Christ’s redeeming love and I have come to know the cleansing power of the Atonement. It is real. And it was Alma the Younger who brought ME unto Christ. I owe so much of my personal conversion to him. The power of repentance changes people and I know it because it has changed me. It is because of the Atonement I am serving a mission. I want others to feel the same joy and cleansing I have felt.
And the most recent hero I feel I have come to relate to is probably the most well-known character of the Book of Mormon: Nephi, the son of Lehi and brother of Laman and Lemuel. I never really considered myself to have any commonalities with Nephi—I had never been asked to build a boat or leave my home with my family to begin a new life in a foreign and distant land. However, as I have been preparing for a mission I have discovered I am a lot more similar to Nephi than I had originally thought.
In 1 Nephi 3:7 it says, “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” When I accepted my call to Anaheim, I did exactly what Nephi did—I told Heavenly Father I would go and do and serve where He had “commanded” me to go. I am so grateful to be going to Anaheim but I honestly have no idea why I am going there. Some people know why they are called certain places—family, language, heritage, etc. I am not aware of any reason like that awaiting me in Anaheim. But I know God needs me there. I have a witness that if for no other reason, God needs ME to be THERE. And I know, just as He provided a way for Nephi to accomplish all that he was commanded to do, the Lord will provide a way for me to bring the message of the Restored Gospel to the people of Anaheim. He will provide a way for me to find people.
Therefore, I go to the MTC this Wednesday. I’m blind to what the next 18 months hold for me and I have no idea what trials and blessings the Lord has in store for me but I know in whom I have trusted. I know by whom I have been called and I know who I will be representing. I trusted in Him throughout the whole process of deciding if I should serve a mission, preparing to serve, and accepting my call. He has gotten me this far and just because I don’t have a full view of the future does not mean I’m going to stop trusting now.
“It may not be on the mountain height or over the stormy sea. It may not be at the battle’s front my Lord will have need of me; but if by a still, small voice He calls to paths that I do not know, I’ll answer dear Lord with my hand in thine, I’ll go where you want me to go.”
I add my testimony to that of President Gordon B. Hinckley when he said: “Without reservation I promise you that if each of you will observe this simple program, [of reading the Book of Mormon and learning from its pages], regardless of how many times you previously may have read the Book of Mormon, there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God” (“A Testimony Vibrant and True,” Ensign or Liahona, Aug. 2005, 6).
I have come to better understand faith, repentance, and obedience as I have read the Book of Mormon. I know it is true and I feel so blessed to be able to say that. I have read it. I have prayed about it. I KNOW it to be the word of God, translated through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I know Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God and I know our Prophet today, President Thomas S. Monson is led and guided by the same power that directed Joseph Smith. I know this because I have the opportunity to go serve the people of Anaheim in three days. I have been called of God—the same God who speaks to the Prophet. And it is that same God who inspired the lowering of the mission age. It is because of that same God I am able to serve in place of my Savior, Jesus Christ at the age of 19. It is a big responsibility but I now enter the field having already found Christ. Ultimately, the crowning event of the Book of Mormon, the keystone of our religion, is when Jesus Christ, the cornerstone of the Church, visits the people of the Americas. The Book of Mormon literally is Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, “it was the keystone that led me to the cornerstone.”
In closing, I echo the testimony of Alma, the High Priest, the father of Alma the Younger. [Alma 5:45-49]
“For I am called to speak after this manner, according to the holy order of God, which is in Christ Jesus; yea, I am commanded to stand and testify unto this people the things which have been spoken by our fathers concerning the[se] things...Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true…Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit…I say unto you, that I know of myself…concerning [Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon that it] is true; and I say unto you, that I know that Jesus Christ shall come, [has come], yea, the Son, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace, and mercy, and truth. And behold, it is he that cometh to take away the sins of the world, yea, the sins of every man who steadfastly believeth on his name. And now I say unto you that this is the order after which I am called, yea, to preach unto my beloved brethren, yea, and every one that dwelleth in the land; yea, to preach unto all, both old and young, both bond and free; yea, I say unto you the aged, and also the middle aged, and the rising generation; yea, to cry unto them that they must repent and be born again.”
I’m grateful for my family and for all they have done for me. I’m so grateful for the knowledge of the Plan of Salvation and that I will be able to be with all of them for eternity and hopefully all of you, as well. I love you all and I am so grateful for the support I have received from each of you as I have prepared for this experience. I know it is what the Lord would have me do at this point in my life. I know it because I believe in Christ. It’s going to be hard. I’m going to have good days and bad days but as long as I put my faith in Christ, I will always have success. Because even if no one accepts baptism, I will have come closer to Christ. And that will change everything.