A couple of weeks ago the semi-annual conference for the Anchorage Alaska Stake was held, and Elder David L. Wright of the Seventy visited from the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During his remarks on Saturday evening, he shared an experience from his mission in South America (I cannot remember the particular country.) when he was a young man.
Elder Wright and his young companion met a preacher from another church in the area and asked if they could visit with him. He said that he was too busy at the present time but invited them to come back a week later. Then the preacher gave some conditions for the visit. The missionaries could not mention the Prophet Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ – or anything about them. The elders were excited about the opportunity to meet with him again.
During his personal study time for the next week, Elder Wright attempted to study about Jesus Christ to prepare for the visit. However, he found that the heavens were closed to him. He finally dropped to his knees and pleaded with God for help. He said that his answer was a kind and loving rebuke: “You cannot separate my prophets from me.” The elders went back to the preacher to explain the situation, and he refused to meet further with them.
The experience with the preacher is not a new one for missionaries or members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are many – maybe millions – of people who have rejected an opportunity to learn about the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ simply because they cannot accept Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon.
Millions of other people have listened to the missionaries tell the story of how Joseph Smith received an answer as to which church to join and accepted it as truth. Joseph lived in a time when there was much religious fervor in his area with several different preachers proclaiming that they had the truth. He realized that all of them could not have the truth because they were preaching different doctrines. He wondered how he, a fourteen-year-old boy, could possibly determine the truth.
In the spring of 1820 Joseph heard one of the preachers speak about asking God for wisdom. He went home and found the following scripture in the family Bible.
5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. (James 1:5-6)
Determined to ask God which church to join, Joseph went to a quiet place in the woods near his home and knelt down to pray. He wanted an answer to his question, but he did not expect to receive it as he did. As he prayed Joseph saw a “pillar of light” that was brighter than the “brightness of the sun” above his head. The light slowly descended until it fell upon directly upon Joseph.
… When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other –This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him! (Joseph Smith – History 1:17)
Joseph was so surprised that he was struck dumb. When he was able to speak he asked the Personages which church he should join. He thought that one of them must have the truth, but he received a much different answer than he expected. “I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong….” (Joseph Smith – History 1:19)
Joseph Smith learned for himself that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are two separate heavenly Beings with bodies and who have a powerful interest in each of us as individuals. People have a difficult time believing Joseph’s story because they have been taught that there is no God or that God does not have a physical body or that God no longer speaks to mankind. For nearly 200 years people have tried in vain to disprove the experience of Joseph Smith. Many of them are afraid to even listen to the story or to read the Book of Mormon, and they miss the greatest opportunity of their lives to come to know Jesus Christ.
Along with millions of other people, I believe this story. I have studied the Book of Mormon many times – maybe hundreds of times, and I learned for myself through personal revelation that the book is true. Because I know that the Book of Mormon is true, I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. Because I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God, I know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in truly the Church of Jesus Christ on earth today. Because I know that this church is His church, I know that there is prophet on earth today, even Russell M. Nelson, leading His church. I have learned for myself that I cannot separate Jesus Christ from His prophets! I encourage you to read the Book of Mormon and gain this knowledge for yourself.
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