When I was a teenager, my Young Men president invited the young men in our ward to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year.
I didn’t accept that invitation. I’ve usually been someone who is ready to take on any challenge, but I was at a really low point spiritually.
Interestingly, during this time, I was “preparing” to serve a mission, but I was only going through the motions. My testimony was weak, and I told myself I would serve just to make my parents happy. I had decided that after my mission, I would figure things out for myself. I would believe what I wanted to and do my own thing.
Although I was exerting myself in my schoolwork at the time, I had fallen into a pit of spiritual idleness. I felt so distant from God that I started questioning His existence. I had doubts concerning the authenticity of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s call to be a prophet. I struggled with self-esteem and self-hate, and I had no strong conviction regarding the purpose of life.
“I was in the darkest abyss” (Mosiah 27:29), so I had little desire to read the Book of Mormon.
One night, I was reading a novel when an impression came to me that I believe and know with all my heart was from the Spirit. I found myself getting deeply wrapped up in the plot of this book, and then the thought came to me that I had never studied the Book of Mormon seriously—at least not as seriously as I was reading and pondering this particular book.
I had casually studied the Book of Mormon, taken notes, and prayed about it multiple times before, but I’d been missing a crucial part of Moroni’s admonition in the last chapter of the Book of Mormon: to ask “with a sincere heart, with real intent” (Moroni 10:4). I knew that it was the perfect time for me to ask my Father in Heaven again for answers. I felt spiritually hungry, and this time the answer actually mattered to me. Without realizing it, I had arrived at a spiritual crossroads, where my faith in the gospel hinged on knowing whether or not the Book of Mormon was true.
The same night I received that impression, I began to read the Book of Mormon—but this time with purpose.
Now eager to accept my Young Men leader’s invitation and finish reading by the end of the year, I read my pocket-size copy at every opportunity possible: on the train, during bus rides to school, in between classes, in between chores, before and after meals, and before bed. At every possible opportunity, I read. And every time I read, I kept praying: “I need to know. I need to know.”
One day my family and I went to the Manila Philippines Temple, but I forgot to bring my temple recommend. I did have my tiny copy of the Book of Mormon with me, though, so I sat in a waiting area and continued to read. Occasionally, I would stop to admire the beauty of the temple—the chandelier, the staircase, the stained-glass windows, and the people coming and going ever so reverently with great love for the Lord in their hearts.
At some point while I was reading, I received a very distinct impression from the Spirit in my mind. When it came, it spoke to me on many different levels. I was actually so shocked when it hit me that I sat up a little straighter. I felt such a powerful feeling that I could not dismiss it as a passing thought or a fleeting emotion.
“Totoo ‘to,” is what I heard in my mind.
A simple yet profound statement in my native tongue, Tagalog, that means, “This is true.”
I had received a confirmation that the Book of Mormon was true—that it was the word of God. I finally knew it with all my heart because I knew that impression had come from heaven.
But that’s not all that I learned.
Growing up, I had read the Book of Mormon and learned about the gospel in English. As a matter of fact, during the first few years of my life, I had a better grasp of English than Tagalog. But receiving this spiritual impression out of nowhere in Tagalog—the language native to my country—spoke truth to my heart.
I knew in that moment that God knows me in a very real and personal way.
I knew that He really is there. I knew that He speaks my language, that He loves me, and that He is aware of my struggles and weaknesses. I had that confirmation, but there was something else I needed to know for sure, so I sought out the answer immediately: “Heavenly Father, is Joseph Smith really a true prophet?” The feeling came again, this time more powerfully into my heart: “Totoo ‘to!”
I knew then that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. He saw both the Father and the Son. Through Joseph Smith, the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored in its fulness.
What peace and comfort and knowledge did I receive! At that moment, I wanted to rush out on the temple grounds, waving my small copy of the Book of Mormon in the air and exclaiming, “Totoo ‘to! Totoo ‘to!” I felt like Alma when he exclaimed, “Oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold” (Alma 36:20).
After this experience, my reason for going on a mission immediately changed. Soon my papers were in, and I got my call to serve in Colorado, USA. I was so excited. I knew that someone out there was experiencing what I had gone through—crying out for help and longing for happiness and truth. And I knew that through the gospel of Jesus Christ, they would find that help and happiness, just as I had.
I hope that we may all come to know: “Totoo ‘to!”