Heidi's Missionary Farewell talk - " Gaining a Testimony of the Book of Mormon" (June 9th, 2013)
In the 8th Article of Faith it states, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. Many of us have this Article of Faith memorized from primary but can we say we have this belief as an individual and not just as a church. Do we all have testimonies of the Bible and of the Book of Mormon? Today I was asked to speak on gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon, so today I will direct my comments to that part of the question.
As the 8th Article states, We believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God- and it is another testament of Jesus Christ, just like the Bible. The Book of Mormon is such a powerful book and I am really glad I can give this talk today because of all the topics I feel this is the topic I can speak most from the heart on. The Book of Mormon has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I consider myself to have a really strong testimony of this book. I wanted to say a few things about the Book of Mormon before I speak about gaining testimony of it. The Book of Mormon can change our lives, change our hearts and change our minds.
The thing that I find most incredible about the Book of Mormon is that it was written for us in our day. In the ending of the Book of Mormon, Moroni , who is the last prophet in the Book of Mormon, saw our day and our time. In Mormon chapter 8 Moroni says, “ Behold, the Lord hath shown unto me great and marvelous things concerning that which must shortly come, at that day when these things shall come forth among you. Behold, I speak unto you as if ye were present, and yet ye are not, But behold, Jesus Christ hath shown you unto me, and I know your doing”(Mormon 8: 34,35). When Moroni says “these things”, he is talking about the Book of Mormon, and we have that amongst us today. The Book of Mormon is available to all of us and yet not all of us have read it. Not all of us can necessarily say that we have a testimony of the Book of Mormon. And even though we might be members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints we might not have actually taken the step to read such a vital part of our religion. We all have access to the Book of Mormon but we are also all entitled to having a testimony of the truth of the Book of Mormon. In Preach My Gospel it says, “In order to know that the Book of Mormon is true, a person must read , ponder, and pray about it.”.That’s how we gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. The Mormon.org website defines a testimony as “a spiritual witness given to an individual by the Holy Ghost.” But how do we actually have that witness? It is by reading, pondering and praying about it. Today I would like to talk about these three parts of gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon.
First, we have to read The Book of Mormon. This makes the most sense to me because how can we say we believe in something, or not believe in something, if we haven’t actually gone to the source. If we haven’t actually read it. When we read the Book of Mormon we can’t be passive ; we have to be active. We cannot casually read a verse here and there every once in a while and expect to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. That’s not how it works. It is “by diligently searching the scriptures [that] we come to understand the truth” (PMG). “We have to study the Book of Mormon diligently, applying its principles to our lives and doing our best to understand the lessons that God wants us to learn” (Mormon.org). I started reading the Book of Mormon for the first time when I was nine years old. When I was nine years old I wasn’t the best reader and my mind would wander when I would read. I didn’t understand almost anything. But I read because I knew that I was supposed to. I started making it a habit to read every day. I think what I’ve learned from that and what we can all learn from that is that God wants us to do our best. He wants us to be diligent and put forth the effort. He wants us to make reading the scriptures a part of our lives. We have them and they are written for us so we should take advantage of that. I like the verse in 2 Nephi 9 that says, ”Come , my brethren, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters; and he that hath no money, come buy and eat; yea, come but wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore, do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy. Hearken diligently unto me, and remember the words which I have spoken; and come unto the Holy One of Israel, and feast upon that which perisheth not, neither can be corrupted, and let your soul delight in fatness” (2 Nephi 9: 50-51). I love the word “feast” in this verse. It’s talking about feasting on the word of God and the Book of Mormon is the word of God. Can all of us say that we feast upon the word of God? Can we say we have a spiritual feast when we read the Book of Mormon? This last semester at school as I was preparing for my mission I was reading the Book of Mormon again and it was so amazing to me because as I was reading it I felt like I was having a feast . I would come home every day from school and I had reading assignments from my Book of Mormon class and my mission prep class and I would read for at least an hour every day. I came home every day so excited to pick up my Book of Mormon and Bible and read from their pages. The more you read the more you crave to read. The more you want that feeling that it gives to you … the feeling of the spirit. The thing that we need to remember is that we can’t just be passive. We have to be active. We have to read continually whether it’s our first time reading the Book of Mormon or it’s our hundredth time.
The second part of gaining a testimony of the Book of Moron is pondering what we have read. In the end of the Book of Mormon the prophet Moroni saw our day and in the conclusion of the Book of Mormon he actually addresses the people of our day when he said, “ Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things , [these things being the Book of Mormon] if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts” (Moroni 10:3). Ponder. President Eyring said, “ as you read and ponder the Book of Mormon , verses you have read before will appear new to you and bring you new ideas “(“How Do I Gain A Testimony,” Henry B. Eyring). I have read the Book of Mormon several times as I am sure so many people in our ward have and every time there are so many new things we can learn. Two things I do to help me ponder deep about the things that I read are marking my scriptures with a pencil as I read and I writing down things that come to my mind . As I was preparing for my mission I read with four different colored pencils and I read and marked scriptures relating to the four discussions, The Plan of Salvation,The Restoration, The Commandments, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was amazing to me as I read and was pondering those four topics how I learned so much about the gospel that I didn’t even know existed before. I was able to think so much more deeply about the things I am going to be teaching the German people very soon. Another thing I do personally is keep a scripture journal. One of my professors at BYU recommended that we try this for a few weeks. He suggested that after we read we take time to write a little bit. At first I wrote summaries and they were a little bit boring , but after a while I noticed that the more I thought about the scriptures and the more I contemplated about the things that I had read the more they became a part of me. I wasn’t just writing summaries . I was writing about me and my friends. I was writing about applications, about how I can act. The scriptures are there for us to learn from so by pondering the words we read increases our level of learning and understanding. Pondering should be coupled with prayer.
Prayer is the last step in gaining a testimony of the Book of Mormon. In Doctrine and Covenants 88 the Lord is talking to us and says “My friends, I leave these sayings with you to ponder in your hearts, with this commandment which I give unto you, that ye shall call upon me while I am near – Draw near unto me and I will draw near unto you; seek me diligently and ye shall find me; ask, and ye shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (D&D 88:62-63) This is an invitation for us to come unto Christ. He wants us to come to him. He wants us to ask him. He wants us to be thinking about the scriptures, making them a part of us and then coming to him. This is such an incredible thing that we have these scriptures here and we are given a layout of how we can gain a testimony of them and how they can influence our lives and all we have to do is just ACT. I am sure we are all familiar with Moroni’s promise. It is in the conclusion when Moroni is talking to us still; he is talking about the Book of Mormon and what we should do when we finish reading it. I read verse 3 already but I am going to read it again. “I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things , if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. [So there is that word again. Ponder.] And when ye shall receive these things I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true,; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:3-5). I think this is a beautiful promise. I know I have personally had the power of the Holy Ghost witness to me that the Book of Mormon is the truth. We have to have our hearts in the right place when we read the Book of Mormon. We have to read with faith and we have to be reading for the right reasons. I like how in verse 4 it says that if we ask “if these things are not true”, because I think that if we are asking if the Book of Mormon is not true that we have the assumption already that it is true. I have found that if I read the Book of Mormon cover to cover it does something to you. You are not just reading the Book of Mormon, you are experiencing it. And I think that by the end as you are reading it you can’t read the Book of Mormon and not have the spirit with you the whole time thinking that it is true because you will already will have that feeling in your heart and in the end all you are doing is taking the final step and just saying a prayer and asking so you can have that final confirmation. The Book of Mormon has been a part of my life for my whole life. My family has been reading and having family scripture reading for as long as I can remember. I started reading on my own when I was nine. And I have been reading almost every day without fail since then. I can testify of the power of reading and the very easy possibility of gaining a testimony of it.
I have watched this book change the lives of so many people. Just recently my friend Hali King was baptized and I have watched how this book has changed her life. It’s been amazing as I have watched my friends who are members of this church and also nonmember friends read this book . For my friends who were already members , this is what converted them to the gospel. They were already members; they were already baptized but this is what converted them. As I watched my friend Hali read this book, I watched it change her. Just like I said in the beginning of my talk, the Book of Mormon can change our hearts, our minds and our lives. And I have watched that happen. I‘ve watched as Hali’s persona has changed . She is happy all the time and she has this glow and I know that without the Book of Mormon and without feeling of the spirit and praying about it I don’t know that she would have been baptized. But I know there is power in this Book; it has the power to touch all of our lives. I have watched friends read this book and I have watched as they have made the commitment to begin reading every day how they make gradual changes and the Book of Mormon is what gives them that desire.
In the introduction of the Book of Mormon is a quote from the prophet Joseph Smith. He said, “The Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on the earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” I know that this is true. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and that when we read it, it brings us closer to God. It invites the spirit into our lives and it helps us every day by giving us direction , by helping us make the small changes, By giving us courage to stand strong. The Book of Mormon is an incredible book and having a testimony of it is essential because having a testimony of the Book of Mormon leads to a testimony of many other things. My testimony of the Book of Mormon is what has given me my foundation in this church. [The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints] It is what has brought me to church very week because it is where I initially felt the spirit so strongly as I was reading it. I feel the same thing when I come to church. A testimony of the Book of Mormon leads to a testimony that the prophet Joseph Smith was in fact a prophet of God. It leads to the testimony that our prophet today, Thomas S. Monson, is a prophet of God. Because he has had the same priesthood keys passed down from prophet to prophet, from the first prophet in this dispensation, Joseph Smith. A testimony of the Book of Mormon leads to a testimony of Jesus Christ because the Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ.You can honestly feel so much of his love as you read this book. I want to invite everyone in our ward to read this book just as I have. If you have already read it, continue to read it. If you haven’t…pick it up. There isn’t anything scary or bad that will happen if you pick it up. It is a beautiful book and the only thing it can do is bless your life. It can only bring you happiness and bring improvement . As I said, my testimony of this book has really helped me get to where I am today. One of the main reason I want to go on a mission is because I want to share this Book with the world.
I want to be able to go to the German people and I want to be able to give a Book of Mormon in their native language and I want to be able to give them my testimony that I know it is the word of God. I want them to be able to see it in my eyes that I know and then have a desire to read it themselves. As I mentioned I am going to be serving the German people. I have been called to the Germany Berlin mission and I am incredibly excited. I will be entering the MTC in three days and I am little bit scared and nervous but mostly excited. I want to thank people in our ward for helping me get to this point in my life. So many of you have taken me under your wing. When my family moved here six years ago so many of you treated me like your own daughter and loved me and my family. So many of you are supporting me even now and when I am on my mission I know I will continue to receive your support. My parents have been amazing examples to me and so many other parents here have set the example high and helped me want to live up to high expectations. I never thought the day would come that I would be serving a mission because I never thought it was in my future. I was always the girl who was like “I’m not going on a mission.” I am going to school. I am going to get married. But when I received my answer that serving a mission was right for me there wasn’t any going back. There wasn’t any putting in my mission papers and then thinking, “Oh, maybe I shouldn’t be going”. It was from day one getting my answer , going to my family and telling them, “I’m going on a mission!” And then following through every step of the way. I want to close with my testimony again that I know this church is true. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I know that God loves all of us. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that he restored the true church to the earth today; that Thomas S. Monson is the prophet today and that he is called of God. I want to thank you all again for everything you have done for me. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.