A Testimony of Jesus Christ

Over the years my testimony has grown in many different ways, but during the last few years I have worked diligently to have the core of my testimony be focused solely upon Jesus Christ. In the early years of my testimony I believed in Christ, but unfortunately he was not at the center of my beliefs.

I didn’t realize that the Savior wasn’t the foundation of my testimony until I was a missionary. I went English speaking and it seemed that every other door I knocked on had someone who wanted to verbally battle with me over my beliefs.

After a while I reached the point that when someone wanted to argue about the Church I would ask them one question. The question was, “If Jesus Christ were to come to you today and tell you the Book of Mormon was true would you believe Him?”

The first time I asked this question was with an elderly gentleman who was quite devout in his own beliefs. I was astonished to hear that his response to my question was a defiant no. In fact, his answer took me so much by surprise I actually took a step back as if someone was about to hit me.

I was just so certain no one would say no that I wasn’t prepared when someone did. After hearing his response I ended our conversation with the parting statement that if Jesus Christ couldn’t convince him than there was no way a 20 year old boy, far from home, would be able to do any better.

As I biked home from this encounter I pondered on the scripture from the Doctrine & Covenants that states, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken…whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). For me, having this man tell me no was an example of the voice of the Lord and the voice of His servant being rejected.

For the next few weeks I continued to ask this question when people wanted to argue about the Gospel. Each time I received a no, and each time I was surprised to hear the answer. It really bothered me to hear so many people say they wouldn’t follow Jesus Christ.

It wasn’t until I was reading Moroni 10:3–5 to an investigator that I stumbled across the reason why people were telling me no. In verse four I read something I had never seen before (and up to that point I had read this verse at least once everyday for over a year). It says: “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” (emphasis added).

The words, “…ask God…if these things are not true…” struck me with such intensity. I had never before asked if the Book of Mormon was not true. I had only asked if it was true.

Asking if the Book of Mormon is true, or asking if the Book of Mormon is false may sound like the same question, but in reality the questions are worlds apart. I found it a lot easier to accept something I have always believed in to be truth, than to fight against my spiritual upbringing and ask the Lord if it is all an illusion.

Once I realized the difference I finally understood why people were telling me no. In their understanding of truth, it was absolutely ludicrous for the Savior to say the Book of Mormon was true. For them they knew the Book of Mormon was false, and no one, including Christ could convince them otherwise.

This realization helped me see how important it was to ask if what I believed in was false. Having this intellectual and soul awakening experience really turned my world upside down and inside out. I realized I couldn’t continue preaching the salvation of Christ using the Book of Mormon (or even the Bible for that matter) as a source without first knowing that these words were the fruits of truth.

I knew the Book of Mormon was a book with powerful teachings, and  those who argued otherwise had never read the book in its entirety. However, I wanted to know for certain that the teaching which flowed from the Book of Mormon where more than powerful, but eternal. I had read many religious and spiritual books that had good teachings in them, but now I sought to know what Christ felt to be true.

I clearly remember the night I decided to pray on the possibility of the falsehood of the Book of Mormon. I waited until my companion was asleep before I slipped out of my covers and knelt by my bed. I had made up my mind that the only thing that mattered to me was to follow the Savior. If that meant forsaking all that I had been taught and going a different path than I was prepared to do so.

I remember praying that I was prepared to remove my missionary badge and my temple garments and go home if I discovered that Christ did not want me to follow the teachings of the Book of Mormon. I must also admit that it was a difficult prayer. Not only was I trying to come to terms about the possibility of giving up my mission and Church membership, but I also found it extremely hard to move past my own personal bias beliefs.

It was a struggle entertaining thoughts that the Book of Mormon was a lie. However, in order to succeed in my desires I knew it was necessary. Quite frankly I was scared, the sacrifices I was considering seemed to loom over me while I spoke with God on that quite April evening.

Yet, if the Book of Mormon was true I wanted it to be an appendage to my testimony of Christ, not the center of my testimony. I deeply wanted to understand what the Master wanted and to follow it no matter the cost.

I had been testifying of Christ, but I only believed in Christ because I believed in the Book of Mormon. For me I didn’t feel that was the testimony I wanted. I just couldn’t see how this was any different from the testimony of someone who grew up only knowing the Bible or the Quran. Do they believe because it is true or do they believe because it is familiar and comfortable to them?

I don’t know how long I spent on my knees but I know I spent considerable amount of time working through this question. It took time for my heart to accept the challenge I was giving it. I knew the real consequence of what I could be giving up. My family, friends, and how I viewed the world were centered around the Church and my belief in the Book of Mormon. I knew I wouldn’t just be giving up a religion but I would be giving up a way of life.

Through the turmoil and strife I did receive my answer. The answer was so strong, so certain, that even a decade or so later, I continue to feel the conviction of the answer. That night I felt the power of the Holy Ghost and I knew the Book of Mormon wasn’t false. However, my belief in this book came that night because in prayer I gained an in depth understanding for whom the Son of God is in my life. I now know the Book of Mormon to be a sacred document given to us to understand salvation because I now know that Jesus Christ lives and is the true source of this book.

I share this sacred experience because I believe it is more important to follow Christ than it is follow anything else. It is great to have other things like the Book of Mormon and Bible as further evidence of Christ’s divinity, but these things should not be our rock. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and He is more powerful than any word, book, or person. He uses these tools to help us find him. Yet, the only way to know for certain His divinity is to strip away the restrictions we place upon Him. We must be willing to lose what we feel is important in this temporal world, to gain what is essential in the eternities.

The Value of a Free Bible

When I was a missionary we piloted a media program, which offered free bibles through the Church’s commercials. The Church had just started its aggressive media campaign giving out many types of  free offers. By far, the free bibles were the most requested items people asked for.

What was amusing was that these were not Church published bibles. This was easily discovered when one went to the dictionary of the bible and found the definition of the trinity, which was: “The Trinity is the true union of God the Father, and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit into one Eternal God” (I am loosely quoting here, but I know I am not that far off).

There were also definitions for the rapture, apocalypse, and many other modern Christian terms that are not found anywhere in the text of the Holy Bible. Often I was hesitant in giving someone these bibles. I knew there was so much more to gain from the bible that most LDS members used on a daily basis. However, I did hand these bibles out and in the end it proved to be a great tool in meeting sincere people who were seeking for truth and understanding.

You can still receive a free bible from the Church, but now it is the Church’s official King James version of the bible. I would be curious to see how much of a difference in missionary work these bible have over the bibles I handed out for free as a missionary.

I’ve been thinking about this experience because I believe there is a lesson to learn. Oftentimes I have found it not possible to give my friends and family the complete restored gospel. They may not be ready to receive, or I may not be ready to give. Either way, it doesn’t mean I can’t offer them a free bible—an analogously bible of kindness, or thoughtfulness. This bible may not be exactly everything I want them to have, but I have found that it opens up avenues which were not available to me before.

This line of reasoning is shown in the Book of Mormon when Ammon went to the Lamanites to preach the gospel. The Lamanites having a deep hatred to the Nephites made it nearly impossible for Ammon and his brothern to teach what they knew to be true. In Alma 17:14 we read, “…they had undertaken to preach the word of God to a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people; a people who delighted in murdering the Nephites, and robbing and plundering them; and their hearts were set upon riches, or upon gold and silver, and precious stones; yet they sought to obtain these things by murdering and plundering, that they might not labor for them with their own hands.”

Rather than battling this hatred and wickedness directly Ammon went another route:

“And as Ammon entered the land of Ishmael, the Lamanites took him and bound him, as was their custom to bind all the Nephites who fell into their hands, and carry them before the king; and thus it was left to the pleasure of the king to slay them, or to retain them in captivity, or to cast them into prison, or to cast them out of his land, according to his will and pleasure. And thus Ammon was carried before the king who was over the land of Ishmael; and his name was Lamoni; and he was a descendant of Ishmael. And the king inquired of Ammon if it were his desire to dwell in the land among the Lamanites, or among his people. And Ammon said unto him: Yea, I desire to dwell among this people for a time; yea, and perhaps until the day I die. And it came to pass that king Lamoni was much pleased with Ammon, and caused that his bands should be loosed; and he would that Ammon should take one of his daughters to wife. But Ammon said unto him: Nay, but I will be thy servant. Therefore Ammon became a servant to king Lamoni. And it came to pass that he was set among other servants to watch the flocks of Lamoni, according to the custom of the Lamanites.” (Alma 17:20–25)

From Ammon’s desire to serve King Lamoni the doors of the gospel were opened to the Lamanite’s and thousands of souls came unto Christ. Later these converts become known as the Anti-Nephi-Lehi’s and were some of the most righteous and diligent people found in the Book of Mormon.

This token of a free bible of service that Ammon gave to King Lamoni was more valuable than offering to teach the gospel right away. Had Ammon not followed the promptings of the Spirit his gift of the gospel to King Lamoni would not have been well received.

The Lord desires us to preach the gospel to all. Yet, rarely do we have the chance to present this precious gift in the manner we would desire. Kindness and service truly are like the free bible’s the Church once handed out. They do not have the entire message enclosed in their covers, but they do have the means to open the hearts and minds of others in order to receive the fullness of salvation.