A Priceless Possession

“A Priceless Possession,” New Era, Oct. 1986, 47

A Priceless Possession

One of the most priceless gems you can obtain in this life is a knowledge of how to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon

Many young people are presently struggling to discover for themselves if the Book of Mormon is really true. If you are one of these people you may wonder why the Lord has not made it easier. Why doesn’t he just give you some undeniable sign and remove all doubt?

We have all heard the truism “God will force no man to heaven.” It is also true that God will force no man, woman, boy, or girl to obtain a testimony of the Book of Mormon.

One of the major purposes of our existence upon this earth is to learn to walk by faith. To help us realize this purpose, the Lord has removed the memory of our pre-earthly existence; thus we can truly learn to develop our powers of faith in him here in this life. God does not let our faith go unanswered, however. He has promised that certain evidences or witnesses shall “follow them that believe” (see Mark 16:17–18); therefore, we can know our faith in him is not in vain.

A testimony of the Book of Mormon is based on spiritual power. After all, the foremost claim of the Book of Mormon—that Jesus is the Christ and is the divine Son of God—is of a spiritual nature, and the things of the Spirit are known only through the power of the Spirit. You cannot gain or measure a spiritual truth, such as a testimony, by physical things alone. The charts of physical weights and measurements do not help in spiritual matters.

However, our Heavenly Father is willing to provide us with additional types of “witnesses” or “proofs” or “signs” that the claims of the Book of Mormon are true. There is a great misconception among some that the Lord is adverse to giving signs or proofs. Evidently this idea comes from the words of the Lord in the New Testament: “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign” (Matt. 12:39). A key word in this verse is seeketh.

However, the scriptures also teach:

“And these signs shall follow them that believe. …

“And they [the disciples] went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following” (Mark 16:17, 20; italics added).

As Daniel exclaimed: “I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders!” (Dan. 4:2–3).

Peter testified on the day of Pentecost: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22).

And finally, the Apostle John: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book” (John 20:30).

The Lord is not adverse to giving signs. He loves to give signs; he greatly desires to provide evidence; he is willing to prove all his works. But, these signs, evidences, and proofs have real meaning and significance only to those who have faith. Signs follow faith; they do not precede it. Signs are given to help develop faith already present; they are not given to produce or replace faith. Thus if we are interested in finding proof of the Book of Mormon we should begin by seeking faith rather than by seeking signs.

If the world understood this principle and also the scriptures pertaining to it, they would also understand why the Lord does not have the gold plates displayed in the Church museum, or why he does not send an angel to demonstrate the Urim and Thummim on television. Now we can better understand the words of the Lord to his prophet in March 1829: “I have reserved those things which I have entrusted unto you, my servant Joseph, for a wise purpose in me, and it shall be made known unto future generations;

“But this generation shall have my word through you” (D&C 5:9–10).

And, in section 105: “It is expedient in me that they should be brought thus far for a trial of their faith” (D&C 105:19).

This scripture ties in beautifully with Ether 12:6: “Ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.”

Perhaps in the scriptures the two best-known definitions of faith come from Paul and from Alma:

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

“Faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21).

You will note that hope is closely allied with faith in both of these definitions. Alma continues with his explanation: “if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words” (Alma 32:27).

Note the key words: hope, desire, believe. If you want to know if the Book of Mormon is true, the steps seem quite clear:

  1. You desire to know that the Book of Mormon is true.

  2. You hope the Book of Mormon is true.

  3. You read the Book of Mormon, and ponder its teachings (see Moro. 10:3–5).

  4. You ask God whether or not the Book of Mormon is true.

(Who would know better than our Heavenly Father whether or not the Book of Mormon is indeed “Another Testament of Jesus Christ”?)

The degree to which you can or will accept an evidence or proof of the Book of Mormon will be in exact proportion to your desire to know if the Book of Mormon is true and your hope that the Book of Mormon is true.

Far too many of us who have received a witness that the Book of Mormon is true are content to rest on this knowledge. We must go beyond mere knowledge in order to be really converted to this book. We must actually live the principles of righteousness contained therein.

Note the words of the Lord concerning this matter:

“And your minds in times past have been darkened because of unbelief, and because you have treated lightly the things you have received—

“Which vanity and unbelief have brought the whole church under condemnation.

“And this condemnation resteth upon the children of Zion, even all.

“And they shall remain under this condemnation until they repent and remember the new covenant, even the Book of Mormon and the former commandments which I have given them, not only to say, but to do according to that which I have written—” (D&C 84:54–57).

Some may ask, what is the difference between (1) knowing that the Book of Mormon is true and (2) being converted to the truths of the Book of Mormon. My understanding is that a person can know something and not do anything about it. There is no causal relationship between knowing and doing. However, when a person is converted there is a change; his actions become consistent with his knowledge; otherwise he is not truly converted.

Our challenge as believers is to become truly converted, so we cannot only say that the Book of Mormon is true, but we will also do what the Lord has commanded to be written in his holy record.

I would like to bear my testimony concerning the Book of Mormon.

May I introduce it by quoting several excerpts from Elder Spencer W. Kimball’s masterful general conference address of April 1963, entitled “A Book of Vital Messages.”

“[There is a book I have read many times, yet each time I read it I find it engages my interest the more.] It is a story of courage, faith, and fortitude, of perseverance, sacrifice, and super-human accomplishments, of intrigue, of revenge, of disaster, of war, murder, and rapine, of idolatry, and of cannibalism, of miracles, visions, and manifestations, of prophecies and their fulfillment.

“I found in it life at its best and at its worst, in ever-changing patterns. …

“It is a fast-moving story of total life, of opposing ideologies, of monarchies and judgeships and mobocracies. … Class distinction is there with its ugliness, race prejudice with its hatefulness, multiplicity of creeds with their bitter conflicts. …

“Its story has a vital message to all people. The gentiles will find the history of their past and the potential of their destiny; and the Jewish people, the blueprint of their future. …

“Archaeologists may be excited as they read of ruins of ancient cities, highways, and buildings; and there may yet be hidden buried gold and priceless records. …

“Engineers will learn from this great book that those centuries ago, men erected buildings, temples, and highways with cement, and paved roads connected city to city and land to land. …

“The psychologists may find studies in human behavior and the workings of the human mind and the rationalizing processes where men convince themselves that ‘good is bad, and that bad is good.’ Here they will watch history unfold for thousands of years and see not only episodes in the lives of individuals but causes and effects in a total history of races. …

“This comprehensive book should be studied by politicians, government leaders, kings, presidents, and premiers to see the rise and fall of empires, and the difference between statesmanship and demagoguery. They will see nations born in war, live in war, deteriorate in war, and die in war through the centuries. They may find answers to problems of capital and labor, of dishonesty, graft and fraud, of dissentions, internal rupture, and civil wars. …

“This single volume records for historians about twenty-six centuries of stirring life, not generally known even to the most highly trained professors of history. It tells of the ancestries of those whose spectacular monuments are now observed in South and Central America and in the Mexican jungles.

“In this wondrous book, ministers and priests can find texts for sermons, and men generally can find final and authoritative answers to difficult questions. …

“It is the word of God. It is a powerful second witness of Christ. And, certainly, all true believers who love the Redeemer will welcome additional evidence of his divinity.

“This inspiring book was never tampered with by unauthorized translators or biased theologians but comes to the world pure and directly from the historians and abridgers. The book is not on trial—its readers are.

“Here is a scripture as old as creation and as new and vibrant as tomorrow, bridging time and eternity; it is a book of revelations and is a companion to the Bible … and agrees in surprising harmony with [the] Bible in tradition, history, doctrine, and prophecy; … the two were written simultaneously on two hemispheres under diverse conditions. …

“In the final chapter of the book is the never-failing promise that every person who will read the book with a sincere, prayerful desire to know of its divinity shall have the assurance.

“The book of which I speak is the keystone of true religion, the ladder by which one may get near to God by abiding its precepts. It has been named ‘The most correct of any book on earth.’

“My beloved friends, I give to you the Book of Mormon. May you read it prayerfully, study it carefully, and receive for yourselves the testimony of its divinity” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1963, pp. 62–68).

This would be my prayer, and is also my testimony. I honestly believe, my dear brothers and sisters, that at the final judgment we will give an accounting of what we have done with the Book of Mormon and its teachings. I believe the questions will be asked of us in about the following order:

  1. Did you have an opportunity to read the Book of Mormon while you lived on the earth? (Most of you reading this article would have to answer yes to this question.)

  2. Did you read the Book of Mormon?

  3. Did you learn the great principles of righteousness contained in the Book of Mormon?

  4. Did you apply these principles in your life?

  5. Did you teach these principles to your children and to others?

It may be that if we can honestly answer yes to all of these questions, we will then hear those gladsome words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant … enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21).

The Book of Mormon is the word of God—Another Testament of Jesus Christ. May we learn it—and love it—and live it.

Inset photography by Jed Clark

Background photography by Nancy Henderson