In reading the introductory material that precedes the beginning of the Book of Mormon (which is the book of First Nephi), and after attending my Honors Book of Mormon class at Brigham Young University, I’ve decided to reflect upon the nature of truth and the relationship between truth, us, and God our Heavenly Father.
In the history of our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the “Mormon Church” by friends of other faiths), there were twelve official witnesses of the Book of Mormon. The words in the Book of Mormon were engraved on gold sheets, which were actually seen and handled by these twelve people within the later 1800’s, one of which was the first modern-day prophet of our church—Joseph Smith. All twelve contributed to written testimonies of the reality and truth of the Book of Mormon, and three of those people wrote a testimony largely about the spirituality of their witness and of the modern revelation. There are two passages within this testimony that stood out to me:
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record…
…the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony unto these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment seat of Christ, and we shall dwell eternally in the heavens (introduction of the Book of Mormon).
These passages strike me because they serve two basic purposes: to testify that the words and teachings of the Book of Mormon are truly from our Heavenly Father and our lord Jesus Christ, not from just Joseph Smith, but though the translation of the book and the return of the true Gospel to the Earth wouldn’t have been possible without him; and to outline the end goal resulting from their decision to follow God’s commands and testify of the Book of Mormon. This end goal – to have eternal life with Heavenly Father – is and should be all of our goals. It is the reason for the Atonement, which is Jesus Christ’s suffering for our sins and dying and resurrecting so that we may follow in His footsteps, live as He did, repent of our own personal sins, and live forever in the presence of our Heavenly Father. The life that we must choose to lead – a life with Jesus Christ’s perfection as its model – is essentially the symbol of our Church. It is the life of the faithful, of the Latter-day Saints, and it means more to me than I can ever say, but I will try.
First, the words of the witnesses and the truth the church teaches make me reflect on a lesson we had in my Honors Book of Mormon class at Brigham Young Universtiy. My professor spoke of the nature of God and truth – a fact, a truth, will always be true, no matter who believes in it or not. My professor told us, “Truth is independent from people.” I think of it this way: horses exist. They are there. But what if, for some reason, not one person on the entire planet believed that horses existed? That doesn’t change the fact that horses exist. This idea, I think, is what gives me the courage to act on my faith as a Mormon – to be one of the only people in my high school who doesn’t go to that one party, or who won’t say that word, or who doesn’t hang out on Sundays. The Truth that I know to be true gives me the strength I need to believe in it and act upon it. My faith in that truth gives me incredible courage. This is how Latter-day Saints live in the world, but do their best to live by the gospel, no matter what outside influences may dictate. The following is my own personal testimony on the Church, the Gospel, and its truth, and how I can know for a surety that “the horse exists.”
When I read the testimony that those three witnesses wrote, I can honestly tell you that my heart burns in my chest. I can feel their faith, belief, and dedication – it is in line with my own. The Holy Ghost, the third member of the Godhead along with Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father, testifies to me that those words that they wrote were and are true, along with the words of the rest of the witnesses, Joseph Smith, and the words of the prophets contained in the Book of Mormon. Years ago, I often wondered how I could truly believe for myself that the Book of Mormon was from God, and how I could believe that I could live forever in God’s presence rather than just die – end. I found out for myself the answer to both of those things.
I poured my heart out to Heavenly Father both silently and aloud in prayer, on my knees, when I was alone, anywhere, whenever those thoughts struck me. The answers didn’t come right away. They came more from life experiences and physical manifestations of the truth of the gospel on the Earth today – comfort for the deaths of family friends, miracles of healing in my immediate family, the warm presence of the Holy Ghost and his promptings and instructions – my own personal revelations – for me, and much more that I do not have time for in this reflection. After all this, I realized that I simply no longer had questions – I read the Book of Mormon, and the spirit of the Holy Ghost burned within me, testifying of its truth. The truths in those scriptures gradually but surely made me a better person, helped me make better decisions, and guided me toward happiness and success in my daily life. I have powerful faith in the purpose of our lives here on Earth – to be tested, to be examples to others, to learn, to serve each other, and to live the best, most righteous lives we can so that we may return to our Father in Heaven. Eternal life is a real, beautiful truth. Joseph Smith, and countless others, helped restore this truth to the Earth in the latter days, and I know and believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one, true church on the Earth today. God is our Heavenly Father, and He loves us all and knows us individually. Jesus Christ is our Savior, our brother, and He has suffered for our sins so that we may follow His Word and return to heaven someday. The Book of Mormon is a true book, the most correct book ever written, and is an additional and essential testament of Jesus Christ and His gospel to the Bible. There is a prophet on the Earth today – he is President Thomas S. Monson, and he is God’s mouthpiece. These things and many more I believe and know.
This article was written by Andrea V., a student at Brigham Young University and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.