I was raised in a Mormon family and went to church regularly with them. I loved the stories of Jesus – particularly how He loved and blessed the little children. I accepted His “reality” in the simple faith of one raised in this kind of home.
Then, one day during my teens, I was reading The Book of Mormon and found the most astounding passage in Ether chapter 3. It records an actual visit by the Savior to a man known as the “brother of Jared” whose people were preparing to leave the area near the Tower of Babel, after its destruction by God as told in the Old Testament. The brother of Jared was praying for guidance. It would be thousands of years before the Savior would be born to Mary and Joseph.
As the brother of Jared prayed, Jesus actually appeared to him! Jesus looked like a man with a body and that greatly surprised the brother of Jared. The verses I have quoted here deeply touched me and have been a strong base of my abiding faith in the Savior and His atoning sacrifice ever since. He died that we might live again!
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I grew up in a home where the Gospel of Jesus Christ was taught and lived by example by my parents, five older siblings, and extended family. I remember on Sundays lying outside on a blanket next to my Mom as she read scriptures aloud to me. Mother and her siblings also liked gathering on Sundays to discuss the scriptures. As a child I was encouraged by my Sunday school teachers and parents to memorize many scriptures that have stayed with me all my life.
At the age of 15 while attending junior high school I chose to take “release time” from school for religious study called “Seminary.” Our teacher challenged each of us to read The Book of Mormon from cover to cover and to pray and ask Heavenly Father if it is true. That day we read together as a class in the Book of Mormon from Moroni 10:4-5.
This passage of scripture hit me hard. I accepted the challenge and read in my bed each night. It seemed to me that I felt happier each day and I found myself reading earlier in the evenings. My personal prayers became more intimate and I listened and felt the promptings of the still small voice of the Holy Ghost more noticeably. Even the discussions on The Book of Mormon in class became more meaningful to me because of my preparations the day before.
My personal testimony of the mission of Jesus Christ was strengthened as I read of Him visiting his followers in the Americas after His Resurrection. After finishing the last chapter of The Book of Moroni in The Book of Mormon, I knelt and prayed to ask if The Book of Mormon was true, and the feeling came over me that I had already been given that assurance. I never doubted it, nor doubted that Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and restored his Gospel in its fullness to the earth.
It has been more than 45 years since those days in junior high school, but those feelings I felt at that time have been confirmed and enlarged many times over as I have read and reread The Book of Mormon all my life. I love feasting on the scriptures and I feel its influence in my life each day.
When asked about my Mormon Faith, my initial response is always the same. I passionately embrace the concept of an Eternal Family. Many of our beliefs are taken on faith. That is, I do not have a perfect knowledge of their validity, but I strongly believe them to be so. While I may not have a “perfect knowledge” of a family that lives on eternally, I do have such a knowledge of the temporal impact in my life.
The Book of Mormon teaches and reminds me to be a more loving, supportive and understanding spouse and parent. Love for my family is not just something in which I “believe,” but rather a tangible emotion I can grasp with certainty and conviction. Love for family drives my hope and bridles my selfishness. Family brings love, faith, joy and fulfillment into every aspect of my daily life.
While I may not have a perfect knowledge of Heaven, I am blessed to have a perfect knowledge of Family here on Earth. For me, it is everything.
This verse is important to me because it tells me that if the Lord asks me to go or to do something, then I should be obedient and listen to the Lord. My family was deciding whether to move to the U.S. or to stay in Vietnam. We were living in Vietnam at the time. We had a hard decision to make, so my parents went to the temple to pray and ask if we should move to the U.S. or not. The Lord gave them the prompting to go look for a house in the U.S., so they went and looked at different houses. When my Mom came into the house we are now living in, she said that we were going to get this house. My parents went back to the Provo temple just before we went back to Vietnam. They were comforted and decided we would move back to the U.S. Now we live in the house my Mom said we would buy. If I listen to the Lord and do as He asks of me, then I will be blessed in many ways.
The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. As the prophet Nephi explains in this verse, it exists to persuade us to believe in Christ, that through his sacrifice for us, we may be saved by His grace. It is also a powerful reminder that Jesus expects that we follow Him and live what He taught us.
Reading The Book of Mormon changed my life. Because of the teachings it contains about Jesus Christ, I know that He is my Savior. I know that because He died and was resurrected, I can return to live with Him, our Heavenly Father, and my family forever. Even though I am far from perfect, I know that as I work to follow his teachings, He blesses me with joy and peace.
When I was fourteen, it was my freshman year of high school. I was really struggling to get good grades and make friends. I was also beginning to have doubts about participating in church activities. Life was miserable and I wished for a change but I didn’t know how to make it.
One day in my math class I heard that if you write down three things you’re thankful for every day, you will get better grades. I thought why not give it a shot? So I started to write down three things I was thankful for every day.
At first I didn’t notice but I began to get gradually happier. Although I was getting better grades, I hardly noticed because everything else around me was going so well. I began to have better relationships with my family members and my Father in Heaven. I did so by studying my scriptures, not just reading them. I also started to make my prayers more meaningful. I would talk to my Heavenly Father and express how thankful I was for the many wonderful things he had given to me. I would talk about how life was going and asked for help with whatever struggles I was having. I also asked questions. I learned that prayer is a powerful yet simple way of connecting with my Father in Heaven.
As I continued this pattern I became more happy every day. I was sooo thankful for all that Heavenly Father had done for me. I gradually started making regular trips to the temple.
Although at the time I had not read the scripture verse I have quoted above, I now know how powerful its words are, because thankfulness had such a huge impact on my life for good. Before, I would never have realized how doing one little thing could be such a blessing in my life. Now I am sixteen, and I keep a small notebook by my bed in which I write things I am thankful for every day. I feel that being thankful is a powerful way to become happy in life. I’m so thankful for my Heavenly Father and that He blesses and cares for me every day. I love this gospel, and I’m thankful I’ve continued to attend church meetings through all my doubts. I invite others to “experiment upon (the) word” (Alma 32:27), and come to know of its truthfulness.
I have always loved The Book of Mormon. As I grew up, our family would read it or the Holy Bible every day. I learned scriptural principles just like I learned my letters and numbers, little by little, each day building upon the one before. My well of faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world was being filled by learning and living what my parents and the scriptures lovingly taught to me.
Fast forward to my 7th grade year in school. Something happened in one of my classes and I was met with the decision to be honest or silent. I chose honesty. In so doing, I lost all the friends I had since childhood, and threats of bodily harm started coming daily. I was lonely and scared. I didn’t tell my parents because I mistakenly thought that it would make things worse. I found a place to hide outside during lunch and decided to read The Book of Mormon to calm my troubled heart.
This became my lunchtime routine for a couple of months. During this time, I journeyed with the Book of Mormon prophets who kept the records of the Lord’s work among His children. Prophets like Nephi, whose own brothers tried to kill him for doing what was right, but whom he “frankly forgave.” (See 1 Nephi 7:21) Or Enos, a record keeper, who prayed all day and night not only for himself and his family, but for his enemies “that . . . they might be brought unto salvation . . . .” (See Enos 1:11-17) Or Alma, a wicked priest who (at the peril of his own life) repented of his many sins and taught his people so that many became desirous “to come into the fold of God, and to be called His people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light . . . and stand as a witness of God at all times and in all things and in all places.” (See Mosiah 18:8-9)
It was a welcome and peaceful escape from the nervous worry that I felt daily. My constant companion in this journey with the prophets was the Holy Ghost, whispering to my heart that I was not alone, nor was I the only one who had suffered or been threatened for choosing right.
My greatest friend that I quietly found journeying with me was Jesus Christ. I came to know Him and His yearnings for us. His desires became my desires as well, and I found that I could face those who were bullying me with a courageous but forgiving heart. Though I am far from perfect, through The Book of Mormon I have felt that the Lord has “encircled me about eternally in the arms of his love.” (2 Nephi 1:15) I know that I can always count on Him to be with me when I open my scriptures to find answers or peace.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ brings me and my family joy. Why? Because when we have the love of God in our hearts, we share that love with each other and help each other no matter what life may bring. There is no trial that we cannot face if we have each other. Family is why we are here on earth.
My soul hungered. My legs were burning from the climb. A moment’s rest at the top of the mountain was a needed reprieve. Beads of sweat pooled where my bicycle helmet met my forehead. Behind me I glimpsed the hair pin curves and twists of the narrow asphalt road exposed between the openings in the dense pines and oaks.
The view was spectacular, but my mind was elsewhere. During the arduous press up the incline, the words I had read were stirring deep in my heart. A seventeen year old boy raised in the Mormon faith, I had often heard my parents speak of the joy of the saints. I wanted to know with greater surety of the things of God. My heart was filled with desire for assurance and conviction of what I had been taught and what I hoped and professed to believe. I had felt God’s love for me and felt he cared when I prayed to him. Jesus’ teachings in the Bible were profound and brought out the best in me. My desire was to ask God about something else: the Book of Mormon.
I remembered the story of Enos, a hunter. He had been out hunting in the forest. Like me, he reflected on what his father had taught him and was filled with desire. Like him, I decided to pray. Climbing a large boulder and kneeling in the moss, I vocalized my desire to know what I believed to be true. I cried out for help. I pleaded for God to help me be a better person. I wrestled with the intensity of my soul, a wrestle that did not fully begin that day or end that day. I felt the love of God. My faith in Him and His Son grew. I trembled with the distinct knowledge of his love for me.
Like Enos, I turned my thoughts to others, and I knew of God’s love for all mankind, for each of his children. I felt strongly that God loves each one individually and I prayed for my family, my friends, and then for those I did not know, and finally for those I didn’t even like.
My conviction of the Book of Mormon solidified. I felt the truth of that book. God had given answer to the desire of my soul. I did not see angels, I did not hear a voice, but I felt deeply of God’s concern for me.
My journey that day had been a hunt that brought me nearer to God. Life is full of twists and turns and mountains to climb, replete with highs and lows, pain and joy, and sorrows and happiness. I still have much to learn and I still make mistakes. I know better that God cares about me, and that the story of Enos’s hunt in the Book of Mormon brought me closer to Him. My journey in life remains a hunt that draws me nearer to God.