After I read and studied the “Introductory Pages of the Book of Mormon” as outlined in the December 30, 2019-January 5, 2020 Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families, I was particularly impressed with Joseph Smith’s promise that a person could “get nearer to God by abiding by [the Book of Mormon’s] precepts, than by any other book” (introduction to the Book of Mormon). As I reflected on my life experiences in seeking a closer relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, I found the Prophet’s assertion to be true. In particular, three personal faith-building experiences come forefront to my mind.
Lessons Learned from Age of 12 to 18
When I attended my first Young Men’s and Young Women’s opening exercises at the age of 12, all the youth stood and repeated in unison: “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). Those words inspired me to want to be obedient. In particular, they encouraged me to desire to live a modern world commandment—the Word of Wisdom (Doctrine and Covenants 89).
This was not easy for me because tobacco, alcohol, coffee, and tea were common in my family home. Additionally, many of my peers during the late 1960’s were openly experimenting with and advocating lifestyles that involved cannabis, hallucinogenic, and opioid drugs. At times, I wavered in being obedient. I was never, however, without righteous help and counsel. Interviews with the bishopric and lessons taught by Young Men’s advisors and Sunday School teachers seemed to come at times when I most needed them.
Ironically, the strongest encouragement that I ever received came from a Catholic classmate during my final year of high school. She wrote me a private letter telling me how disappointed she was when she saw me attending a drinking party. Somehow she knew that I was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and she encouraged me to live according to the beliefs and standards of my faith. Her candid counsel helped me resolve to obey the Lord’s law of health. I decided to apply and was accepted to begin my undergraduate studies at Brigham Young University (BYU). As a result of those decisions, I have been repeatedly blessed with not only good health but also “treasures of knowledge” (Doctrine and Covenants 89:19).
Praying for Guidance
As a youth, I had never read beyond the Isaiah chapters in 2 Nephi. My first religion class at BYU encouraged me to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover. When I first read the Book of Enos, I was deeply touched. I had heard my grandfather and my uncle on the maternal side of my family frequently speak “concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints” (Enos 1:3). I resolved that I also needed to go into the forest and kneel in humble prayer “for mine own soul” (Enos 1:4). I lacked the stamina of Enos to pray all day and night. Nevertheless, I received clear direction—I needed to meet with my university bishop, confess, and begin the repentance process. Part of that bishop’s counsel was for me to meet with my home ward bishop, which I did during the Christmas break. He counselled me to take another year of studies at BYU in order to prepare to serve a mission. This seemed like wise counsel for me.
After completing my final exams and enrolling for another semester, I decided to go home again for a brief break at the end of January. Surprisingly, my home ward bishop called me to come in for another interview, and this time he encouraged me to submit my mission application papers immediately. My grandmother, who had raised me and was not a member of the Church, was adamantly opposed to my dropping out of school. She called my mother, who lived in another town, and together they tried to convince me not to accept a mission call at that time. I remember feeling very alone and lost. I resolved to seek answers through prayer. Within three days, I received personal confirmation that I should sell my car, drop out of university, give up all of my belongings, and answer the Lord’s calling according to His timeline.
When I left to serve a mission in Germany a month later, my grandmother reluctantly supported me. On her deathbed nine years later, she looked me in the eyes and told me that my decision to serve a mission was one of the best choices I had ever made in my life. I had learned that prayer is a critical key to finding my way through life’s challenges.
Desiring to Counsel and Bless
Now that I have “waxed old” (Mosiah 1:9), I identify more closely with King Benjamin. Like him, I desire to admonish my family to: “consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven” (Mosiah 2:41). My wife and I pray for each one of our children and grandchildren daily. Even though they are scattered around the world, we continually search for ways that we can teach them that Christ’s “way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come” (“The Living Christ”).
I also long to be like Lehi who, when he “waxed old,” did bless each of his family members and spoke “unto all his household, according to the feelings of his heart and the Spirit of the Lord which was in him” (2 Nephi 4:12). In my final days, I pray to know ways that I can also bless my family and others. I especially hope to find ways to bear my testimony of the truth and power of the Book of Mormon. I know that it is truly Another Testament of Jesus Christ and that everyone can grow “nearer to God by abiding by its precepts than by any other book” (introduction to the Book of Mormon).