In the very last chapter of the Book (It is divided up into chapters and verses, just like the Bible.), the Book of Moroni (yes, the same one who appeared to Joseph to tell him about the gold plates.) Chapter 10, verses 3-5, it reads:
Behold, 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.
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.
So how do you find out if it is true? Ask God, just as Joseph Smith did. He got his answer. I got my answer. You can get yours, too. But you have to do it the way the Lord instructs us. You must,
- Be sincere. Don’t do it just because someone asks you to. Do it because you really want to know.
- Have real intent. That means that you are not just a curiosity seeker but intend to accept and follow it if and when God answers you.
- Have faith in Christ. In other words, believe that he will answer you, one way or another, without skepticism.
And how exactly will he answer you? Will he appear to you like he did with Joseph Smith? It’s possible, but unlikely. One of the purposes for our life on this earth (which I will discuss in more detail later on) is to develop faith. Faith is not simply a blind belief as you may have been led to understand. It is a strong belief in something that is true, and which becomes a principle of great spiritual power as it is developed. For this reason, only a handful of people have experiences similar to Joseph Smith’s, and they then often record them and publish them to the world – so others can believe on their words and develop that faith. Eventually, all who develop that faith will have the experience of meeting God face to face, whether in this life, or in the next. It is an experience which is sacred and personal, and if it happens in this life it is usually not shared with others.
So, how will he answer? In my experience, God has answered different people in many different ways. But a good rule of thumb can be found in one of the revelations given to Joseph Smith, which can be found in another book of modern scripture called the Doctrine and Covenants. It is divided in Sections rather than chapters, each section containing one or more revelations. In Section 8, the Lord says:
. . . assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even so surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive. . .
. . . Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation. . .
Therefore this is thy gift; apply unto it. . .
. . . Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith. Trifle not with these things; do not ask for that which you ought not.
And in Section 9, the Lord continues:
. . . you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong. . .
So, after you have studied it out in your mind (thought about it, pondered it), you ask if it is right or true, and you will feel it “in your mind and in your heart”; He will cause that your bosom will burn within you (a very warm feeling, not just in your mind, but an actual physical reaction), and you will feel that it is right.
This may still sound a little vague. How does it work in actual practice? Let me share with you my personal experience. It happened when I was 20 years old.
I began an intense study of the religion that I had belonged to for the first 20 years of my life, wanting to know for myself if it was true. I read the Book of Mormon. I’ll talk more in depth about the Book of Mormon, and what exactly it is, in a later post. Suffice it to say now that it is an important book of scripture for Latter Day Saints which accompanies the Bible and is just as important to us as the Bible.
I started reading the Book of Mormon. I read and studied and pondered for a long time every day. I didn’t just read - I studied, I thought about what I was studying, and then I prayed about it, fully expecting to get an answer. Some people have reported miracles. Some say that they have heard voices, or in some very rare instances actually received a visit from a heavenly messenger. Many have dreams and visions. But the most common answer comes in the form of that warmth accompanied with a peaceful assurance of the truth of that matter which they are praying about.
As I studied and prayed, I received no answer at all, no confirmation. I fasted. In other words, along with prayer I went without food and water for a 24-hour period. This is a common biblical practice and is also practiced in other religions as a way to focus the mind on matters of the spirit. Nothing seemed to be working. Then, two weeks after I began my search I awoke one morning and began to pray, and I heard a voice. To this day, I don’t know if it was a real voice, a physical voice or just something that spoke so loudly in my mind that it seemed to me to be a real physical voice. Have you ever had that happen? It’s an interesting experience. It is not a sign of psychosis! The voice said to me, “You know it's true! You have always known it was true.” And at that exact moment, I did, and I knew that I had. All doubt fled. It was like a flood of water washed over me in an instant, and took away all my doubts and fears, and left me having more certainty about something than I had ever felt about anything else. And of course, along with this “knowing” came the warm physical feeling, not just in my bosom, but throughout my body. It was overwhelming, almost taking away my energy to do anything else.
I sat in my room for a long time, basking in the moment and pondering the experience. I continued to study over the next several days, and had the scriptures opened up to me in a way that had never happened before, and I gained great new insights and knowledge. I read the four gospels of the New Testament from beginning to end, for the first time, and had an amazing experience that changed me in yet other miraculous ways. Within a few weeks, I was a totally different person than I had been most of my life; much different than the person that many of you knew as a teenager. The whole “born again” experience is real; I lived it; I know.
Now, I would like to invite all who have read these first few posts in this blog, to try to find out for yourself if the things that I have written about are true. This may be a new kind of experience for you, or it may be something you have heard all your life and just never really applied it. Or it may be that you have had this experience, long ago, and you just drifted away, and allowed yourself to forget the experience or to even doubt that it ever actually happened. Try it again. You can get that feeling back again. The experience that I had? I have relived it over and over again in my life, and that is how I have continued forward in faith, in the face of many challenges to that faith. Every time I read the Book of Mormon, I ask God to confirm its truthfulness to me again, AND HE DOES! EVERY TIME!
I am not someone who is comfortable talking about my religious beliefs or experiences, to people who do not believe as I do. To be honest, I am a bit of a wimp about it. I know how many people feel when they hear these kinds of things. They will think that I am some kind of a fanatic, that I am a nut. And I don’t take rejection well; I want to be liked. I have unfortunately lost friends because I spoke to them about my beliefs and invited them to learn about them. So, as important as my beliefs are to me, I avoid talking about them with others; I never bring them up, and I am perfectly happy with people not knowing how deeply held those beliefs are. Because, you see, I have passed the point of just believing; I now know; there is absolutely no doubt. And that is exceedingly difficult for many people to understand or accept (although in a future post, I will talk about how unbelief becomes doubt, becomes belief, becomes faith, becomes certainty, and finally becomes perfect knowledge).
But recently, I have felt strongly that I need to write this down, to publish it for all to see and know who I really am. This is my declaration to the world of what I know to be true, and my invitation for all to know it as well. I have rarely been able to do this face to face, but I can write it, because I am not looking you in the face right now, seeing the incredulity in your eyes, the smile that comes from thinking I am a funny fool. I’m just looking at my computer screen, trying to imagine how this will go over once I actually publish it. It’s easier that way because I really am a coward. I don’t want to be laughed at. And even if people don’t make fun of me, like I said, I don’t handle rejection well. The thought of not being taken seriously, or of someone mocking my beliefs, really bugs me.
So here it is, my inner thoughts laid bare for the world to see and judge. If it has been of any interest to you, if you felt anything good while reading it, come back. I am not finished. My next posts will include more of the teachings the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Some of you may think these doctrines strange; many of you will feel that they are things that you have always believed, and just never knew of a church that actually taught them as truth. I hope you will join me again on Monday, September 13, 2021. Until next time.