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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“Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward . . . .” (Alma 41:14)
One of my goals in life has been to be a good father to my children. I have watched the example of others, read many suggestions in many places, and listened to counsel as to how best to do this. It seems that the learning curve is slow so that by the time one learns how to be a parent, the children are soon gone from the home. It is my belief that fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness. In The Book of Mormon I found some wonderful chapters in Alma 36-42 where Alma gives instructions to his sons that have helped me in doing this. I have tried to pattern some of the things that I teach my children as a father after his words. Those I have quoted above, and many other instructions given by Alma to his sons, have made this book very valuable and special to me. I have received a personal witness that The Book of Mormon is true, that its teachings have helped me as a father and in every aspect of my life, and that it has helped me draw nearer to God.
As a young mother, I watched some of my children express doubt because their prayers were not always answered immediately or in the way they wanted. I, myself, felt that God’s love for me was manifest in the blessings I received at His hand. So when trials came along, and lasted a long time as they often do, I had the feeling that I had displeased my Heavenly Father in some way and was not worthy of the blessing I badly needed. Then I read, again, the counsel from these two great prophets and I realized that my children and I both needed to learn that hope and faith always precede the miracle. Answers to prayer, and especially miracles, do not happen in order to prove our faith is justified. I told my children that asking for blessings to prove there is a God makes faith unnecessary, and that is not the way God operates.
I know God is there and hears my prayers and loves me, weak as I am. I have learned that “no” is an acceptable answer to a requested blessing. Thanks to Ether and Moroni, I continue to have faith that Heavenly Father’s wisdom is greater than my own, and that is what I now share with my grandchildren.
“Yea, blessed are the poor in spirit who come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
And again, blessed are all they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.
And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
And blessed are all they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled with the Holy Ghost.
And blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
And blessed are all the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
And blessed are all the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” (3 Nephi 12:3-9)
I haven’t always been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but I grew up in a home that studied about Jesus Christ, and the scriptures were very important to me in learning about Him. I belonged to a different church and I got to go to Sunday classes that studied the Bible and in the summer I went to a Bible summer school where we also studied about Christ. I memorized scripture passages from the Bible and learned about the stories in the Bible. The Bible was a very important part of my life.
When my mom and sisters and I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the missionaries told us that the Book of Mormon was another testament that taught of Christ too. I can remember reading in the Book of Mormon in the book of 3 Nephi, chapter 11, that Christ had come to ancient people and showed Himself to them. It is a great chapter that tells of His visit there, and the joy they felt as He was there and taught them.
Now I love studying both the Bible and the Book of Mormon too, and learning about Christ from both of those scriptures. I love the stories and being able to use them as I teach my children principles to live by. I like to look for ways that I can compare them to my life and improve as a person. For example, in both the Bible and the Book of Mormon, Christ teaches the beatitudes and ways we can be better individuals, and how we should treat each other. I really like being able to understand better ways of treating others. The Book of Mormon has had a great impact on my life and of the lives of my children.
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.