Nearly forty years ago I spent six months preparing to serve a mission for the LDS Church. I had graduated from High School, attended Ricks College for a year, worked for six months and was now engaged in extensive preparations to understand the doctrines of Mormonism I would soon be teaching. I was blessed with the time and financial ability to do nothing but study the gospel.
What I wouldn’t give to have that blessing in my life again. My years since have been consumed ensuring the computing needs of my employer are met on a daily basis. On days I make the time and effort to study the gospel I think back on that long-ago year when I did nothing but ponder, read, study, fast and pray about what the Lord is going to do before He returns in the last days.
In the spirit of Oliver Cowdery, those were days never to be forgotten. My tutor was the Holy Ghost. My texts were scriptures and commentaries I had obtained from a local book store that carried LDS books. I especially enjoyed studying the Doctrine and Covenants Commentary from Hyrum M Smith and Janne M Sjodahl, the 1972 reprint edition. It’s a lengthy book at 864 pages.
A Promise From the Lord
I lived with two of my unmarried siblings who worked or attended college, my parents having sold their home and sent us out in the world to fend for ourselves. The summer before I attended Ricks College was a spiritual awaking for me, filled with sacred moments in prayerful revelation to my mind’s eye. Asking in faith, the Lord opened my mind to visions of personal future events.
It was at Ricks, after many hours of heart-wrenching prayer, I obtained a promise from the Lord which remains with me to this day. He has not left me, even in my darkest hours. He can and will walk with us through our life’s journey. He will speak to our minds. We can hear His voice. As part of that meeting, detecting the voice of the adversary and his emissaries also became clearer.
I have shared this story before, but have visited it again with a different understanding. Having resigned my membership in the LDS Church, I wanted to know if anything had changed about the revelations I received in my youth. Were they still valid? Had I been deceived? I asked the Lord recently. He answered, assuring me it was He that spoke to my mind that long-ago night.
Always Knew the Book was Scripture
After a few difficult retirement years in Utah my mother moved back to California and stopped attending the LDS Church. I have shared her story previously, including her disappointments with what she found in the Utah LDS culture. Upon returning, she gave me many of her church books along with her journals and papers, asking only that I not share them before her death.
In the ten years since her passing I have reviewed most of her papers. Recently, I have felt the desire to make one of her papers available online. It is entitled “How I gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon.” Mother was a teacher and scholar, well-read, endowed with a keen intellect and a profound ability to teach. She loved preparing lessons, passing her love of learning to me.
If you can, take a moment to review mother’s story. She and I were very close in the years just before and after my mission. She wrote this paper while taking Institute classes. We had many deep discussions about the gospel and church history. She knew so much about Joseph Smith. I was amazed to discover her difficulties with the Book of Mormon and why it troubled her so.
Didn’t Always Know About Joseph
I prefaced what I am about to share with reference to my mother because it was she who gave me the intellectual curiosity to ask the Lord about things which she herself did not know. Her habit was to refer me to a book, then encourage me to take my questions to the Lord. I have her papers on Joseph, the Savior, temple ordinances, celestial marriage and more on the Book of Mormon.
I learned to read at my mother’s knee. We read the Book of Mormon together when I was young. I experienced first-hand her lining out all the instances of “and it came to pass,” as she shared in her paper. She had a hard time with the Book of Mormon. I loved it from the first time I read it with her. I knew it was the word of God. Always have. But I didn’t always know about Joseph.
That’s what I really want to share in this post. From my notes in front of the D&C Commentary, I’ve recorded the dates I consumed the book. Fifteen pages a day is not much. I also noted a few choice observations the Lord shared with me as I read, one of them being, “No amount of study can take the place of obedience,” and “When ignorance is removed, obedience is expected.”
Some Things Not Lawful to Share
When I finished the book, I felt inspired to take it to the Lord in prayer. I wanted to know if the revelations recorded from Joseph were from the Lord. It was an interesting experience. I did not expect it to take three days. I expected it would take a few hours at most, similar to what I had experienced at Ricks College. I think this was the only time in my life I fasted for three days.
I would study during the day and pray for hours at night. I took literally the admonition to enter into my closet and pray in secret. Sometimes, after a few hours of study during the day, I would continue my quest in prayer. I wanted an answer. I needed to know. I burned with the desire to receive a response. I had talked to the Lord previously. I had heard his voice at Rick’s College.
As I recorded in my journal and in a previous post, I was surprised at the answer. I want to be very clear about this. We can hear the voice of the Lord. He told me the commentary was written with the intent to encourage faith. But He was more emphatic when He said to me, “Joseph did not tell everything he knew and neither can you. Some things can only be experienced in prayer.”
Joseph Was No Fallen Prophet
At the time I was satisfied with the answer. I should not have been. I should have pressed for more. But it was apparently sufficient for that season of my life. Now I want more. In fact, I have wanted more for many years and have been pressing the Lord to share. Each time He tells me the day will come but is not yet. He and I both know I have not yet met the requirements. So I wait.
I want to keep this post short. There are only two things I wanted to share. I hope I have been clear. The first is that we can speak with the Lord, we can hear His voice. We can enter into His presence. He is willing to reveal Himself unto us. The second is that the Lord does call men to speak for him as prophets today. Joseph was the Lord’s prophet and still holds keys given him.
The restoration of the Lord’s work with men on the earth commenced with Joseph Smith. He performed his mission admirably, as did Hyrum. I have been studying the Book of Mormon for over fifty years and have never felt any doubts of the authenticity of Joseph’s claims. The Lord will bless those who speak up for Joseph. I do so with this post. Joseph was no fallen prophet.