“How to Know the Truth,” New Era, May 2004, 5
I once was the student of a great seminary teacher. He was a part-time seminary teacher who had been a missionary in Czechoslovakia before World War II. He said that they had no missionary lesson plan then. The missionaries wrote their own discussions.
The man who became my seminary teacher and his companion prepared carefully what they would teach each day. Each evening they prepared a first discussion for the next day. On one day, in the morning, they went out tracting. Late in the day, they finally found a woman who reluctantly allowed them into her home.
My future teacher’s companion began to present their prepared discussion. The junior companion watched the woman’s face and her eyes. He could sense anger and almost hatred. He became puzzled and then alarmed enough to speak.
He interrupted his companion and said, “Excuse me, I sense … ,” and then described what he felt was her anger and irritation. She said something like this: “Yes, I’m angry. I hate you, and I hate all ministers of religion.”
She said that she’d had a child born, and the child had died as an infant. Her priest had told her that the child would go to hell because of not having been baptized. Then she said, “I hate all religion, and I hate you.”
The young junior companion said, “We’re here to help you.” Then he opened the Book of Mormon to Moroni, the eighth chapter, verse 14. He read to her: “He that supposeth that little children need baptism is in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; for he hath neither faith, hope, nor charity; wherefore, should he be cut off while in the thought, he must go down to hell.”
The woman was interested.
“For awful is the wickedness to suppose that God saveth one child because of baptism, and the other must perish because he hath no baptism” (Moro. 8:15).
And on to verse 22: “All little children are alive in Christ, and also all they that are without the law. For the power of redemption cometh on all them that have no law; wherefore, he that is not condemned, or he that is under no condemnation, cannot repent; and unto such baptism availeth nothing.”
When I heard this story more than 50 years ago, I was impressed. Think of the miracles that came to that young missionary! He sensed her heart. He acted on her need. He remembered the message of the scriptures. The Spirit told him which scriptures would help her and where they are in the Book of Mormon. What miracles! If it could happen then, it can happen again, and often.
For missionaries to have the Holy Ghost as a companion, they must find a way to keep the covenant they make every time they take the sacrament. It is that they must always remember Christ and keep His commandments that they might have His Spirit to be with them.
Now I can promise you that if missionaries find a way to think of Him with faith and gratitude, the Holy Ghost will be their companion in a practical and constant way.
There is at least one great tool provided by the Lord that will be a major force in allowing missionaries to have that experience. It is this: the Book of Mormon. That power stems from one important fact. The Book of Mormon is a testament of Jesus Christ.
I have felt the effect that brings. Since I was very young, I’ve read the Book of Mormon regularly. I have never picked it up and read more than a verse or two when the Holy Ghost did not come again and testify of truth to me.
The Holy Ghost is charged to testify that Jesus is the Christ. That is the reason I can promise missionaries and the people they teach that the Holy Ghost will come to them as they read in the Book of Mormon. It is a witness of Jesus Christ. If they will study with faith, the Holy Ghost will come to them.
Here, then, is a simple summary: the Holy Ghost’s mission is to testify of the Savior. The Book of Mormon is a testament of Jesus Christ. So the Holy Ghost always comes to those who read and ponder the message of the book that Jesus is the Christ.
Turn to the very beginning of the book, to the title page, written by Moroni. If I were introducing the gospel to someone, I would find a way at least to read these last words written by Moroni: “Which is to show unto the remnant of the House of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers.”
Now, I realize that we may often be presenting the book to someone who doesn’t believe in God, who knows nothing about Jesus Christ, and who has no religious experience. But read these words: “and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever.”
I promise you that even the most worldly, sinful person that our missionaries will encounter will have had a feeling of being cast off. They may not know that’s what they feel. They may not even recognize what the Spirit of Christ is. But they will have a feeling of being lost and cast off. Unforgiven sin has that effect. And so they will respond with at least a feeling of hope to the assurance that they are not cast off forever.
“And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God.” Again, you may be going to serve a mission in a place where they hardly know the Savior. They don’t know His name. Saying “Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God” alone will bring the Holy Ghost. He will testify, even to someone who does not understand the words.
“Manifesting himself unto all nations—And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God, that ye may be found spotless at the judgment-seat of Christ” (Book of Mormon title page; emphasis added).
The people our missionaries meet don’t know the doctrine of being cleansed. Some missionaries may not be very clear about the doctrine. But when they read the Book of Mormon carefully, time and time again, they will have the Holy Ghost tell them things are true which are new to them and yet will not seem new, but rather familiar.
Read from the introduction of the Book of Mormon. The introduction was written by members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and was issued by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. It says the Holy Ghost will confirm that the Book of Mormon is of divine origin, and then it promises: “Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah.”
Count how many times the Savior is mentioned in that passage, and then you’ll know exactly why—even to someone to whom the words will be strange—there will be a testimony of the Holy Ghost come to them that there is truth in the book and in the Church and in what the missionaries teach.
Read more of the 10th chapter in the book of Moroni. Missionaries may miss understanding what the promise is. And they may not know how to tell the people what the promise is.
I had always thought that the promise was about the Book of Mormon, as a book. But it is far more than about the book. It is about the message of the book. Listen carefully to these words from Moroni:
“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.
It is a promise that you would have all truth manifest to you by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Moroni goes on: “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
“And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
“And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen” (Moro. 10:32–34).
The truth confirmed to me, as I read that, was to see a picture of the future, of the day I meet my judgment. I see myself coming before the Savior. I have been called as His witness. I have tried as best as I could so far to be His faithful disciple. I imagine Him calling my name and then taking me to the Father and saying words I long to hear: “He is mine. He is mine. He has been faithful.”
For me that happy picture comes when I read that verse. It is the Holy Ghost telling me that the Savior is real, that He lives, and that I will come before Him to be judged. For someone else it might be another verse, and the Spirit might convey something else. The Holy Ghost will teach each of us in individual ways. But I promise you that when you ponder and pray about the messages in the Book of Mormon, the Holy Ghost will testify of the Savior, you will remember Him, and the Holy Ghost can in time become your companion. It will bring truth to your remembrance. If you are a missionary teaching the gospel, it will reveal the hearts of people to you.
Any time truth is confirmed to you by the Holy Ghost, there comes with it some obligation to obey. If I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God, if I know Joseph was a prophet, I must be baptized. I will know that by the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost will confirm to you truth, and with it, always, if you ask for it, an obligation of what you should do.
It’s not the book alone. It is its testimony of Jesus Christ that the Holy Ghost comes and confirms. I testify to you in the name of Jesus Christ that is true.
Some missionaries may wonder whether they are in the right place, in the right mission. It is no accident for them to be where they are assigned. The Lord knows the missionaries. He knows their mission presidents. I think He knows who their companions will be. I don’t know the detail to which He knows the future, but my impression is He knows a great deal. He calls missionaries to the places they are assigned. So, even when it’s difficult, you can have confidence that the Lord knew the difficulty in advance, and just as He assured Nephi that He wouldn’t give a commandment save He prepared a way for it to be accomplished, missionaries can have that same assurance, tough as it may be, whatever the situation, that the Lord knew the difficulties would be there. He has prepared a way. Have faith. Go forward.
One of His preparations is the Book of Mormon. I am grateful for the Book of Mormon. I am convinced that I have survived as well as I have survived to this day and been blessed beyond my fondest expectations by having received the Book of Mormon. I am so grateful that early in my life I began to read it every day—and every day had the Holy Ghost come and confirm that it was true, not just the book, but the message, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph was His prophet, and that this is His Church.
Which testimony I leave with you as a witness. He lives. He will send the Holy Ghost to all those who always remember Him and remember Him for who He was, which is better described in the Book of Mormon than anywhere else in scripture.