Sunday, May 26, 2013

How the Book of Mormon Can Change A Life

[My last talk given in my ward before I left on my mission]

May 26, 2013

It is so wonderful to see so many friends and family members here this day. Many of you know I have been called to serve a full time mission in Manchester, England. My mission area is a beautiful and historic part of the world. It encompasses the northwest of England from the Scottish border and drops all the way down into North Wales and includes the Isle of Man. I feel very blessed to be serving here considering that my family roots run deep within the area surrounding Manchester. I can’t wait to go to the land of my forefathers and invite all to hear about the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Book of Mormon has been called the Keystone of our Religion. With all the Book of Mormon has to offer mankind it may well be known as the most remarkable and important religious text ever given to the world. It testifies to the world that when men and nations walk in the fear of God while obeying his commandments, they prosper and grow. If they disregard Him and His word, there comes decay that, unless stopped by righteousness, leads to impotence and death.

Prophets Testify of the Book of Mormon for our Generation

Throughout the Book of Mormon prophets continually testify of the importance of the Book of Mormon and how important it is to our generation today. One example is found in the Book of Enos.

As Enos journeyed into the wilderness the words that his father spoke concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into his heart and his soul hungered to know the truth. He then began to offer up the desires of his heart to God. He prayed all the day long and when the night came he still was found raising his voice high to the heavens.

The Lord spoke to Enos and forgave him of his sins.

When Enos heard this his faith became unshaken in the Lord and he began to pray for the Lamanites and after diligently praying with all his heart the Lord granted his desires.

This is the desire which Enos had for his brethren..

Enos says “… if it should so be, that my people, the Nephites, should fall into transgression, and by any means be destroyed, and the Lamanites should not be destroyed, that the Lord God would preserve a record of my people, the Nephites; even if it so be by the power of his holy arm, that it might be brought forth at some future day unto the Lamanites, that, perhaps, they might be brought unto salvation.”

Enos along with many other prophets, knew the significance of the book. He knew that through this book men would be brought unto salvation and if they followed the teachings given they would develop faith in Christ and draw nearer to God.               

Becoming Converted to Christ through the Book of Mormon

Why is the Book of Mormon such a powerful tool in one’s conversion to the gospel? As Joseph Smith once said “..the Book of Mormon [is] the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”

The central purpose of this book is to testify that Jesus is the Christ. It testifies of Christ by supporting His life, mission, and power.  Those who know little or nothing about the Savior will come to know Him by reading, pondering, and praying about the Book of Mormon. I have gained a stronger testimony of Jesus Christ as I have read the Book of Mormon. I want to add my living witness of the truthfulness that this book truly testifies that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world.  

A Prophets Promise

President Gordon B. Hinckley has emphasized the need for every Latter-day Saint to read and re-read the Book of Mormon. He gives a wonderful promise to mankind when he gave this prophetic statement.

“Without reservation I promise you that if each of you will read the Book of Mormon,… There will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.”

Brother and Sisters, every single soul in this room can benefit from this prophetic statement given by Gordon B. Hinckley, but we must take action. As we go about our daily lives do we strive to read this sacred text? Do we take full advantage of the promise that has been given to us? We must not neglect this book. No member of this Church can stand approved in the presence of God who has not seriously and carefully read the Book of Mormon. This Book can change your life. It will fortify you against the evils of our day and will bring a spirituality into your life that no other book will. It will be the most important book you ever read.

President James E. Faust related an experience that demonstrates the converting power of the Book of Mormon: 

“Sister Celia Cruz Ayala of the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission decided to give the Book of Mormon to a friend. She wrapped it in attractive paper and set out to deliver her present.

On the way she was attacked by a bandit who stole her purse and with it the wrapped copy of the Book of Mormon. A few days later she received this letter:

Mrs. Cruz:
Forgive me, forgive me. You will never know how sorry I am for attacking you. But because of it, my life has changed and will continue to change. That book [the Book of Mormon] has helped me in my life. The dream of that man of God has shaken me. … I am returning your five pesos for I can’t spend them. I want you to know that you seemed to have a radiance about you. That light seemed to stop me [from harming you, so] I ran away instead.
I want you to know that you will see me again, but when you do, you won’t recognize me, for I will be your brother. … Here, where I live, I have to find the Lord and go to the church you belong to.

The message you wrote in that book brought tears to my eyes. Since Wednesday night I have not been able to stop reading it. I have prayed and asked God to forgive me, [and] I ask you to forgive me. … I thought your wrapped gift was something I could sell. [Instead,] it has made me want to make my life over. Forgive me, forgive me, I beg you.
Your absent friend.  

Such is the conversion power of the Book of Mormon.”

A Personal Conversion Story

This was my first Book of Mormon. I received it around the time I turned six. I found it very useful to write in, and by that I mean drawing little pictures and practicing my spelling here on the bottom of the first page. I loved to carry this Book around with me. I would try to open it and read it many times but I could not understand it. I would just flip through the pages and wonder what stories were held within this hardcover. Even though I could not read I knew that this was no ordinary book. I knew that there was something more and as a little child I had known that this book was special.

Little did I know that this small blue book would become the most precious volume of literature I have ever read.

Throughout middle school and high school I would just read snippets of the Book of Mormon, or look through the index and find a word that would help me with what I was going through in the moment. If I felt lonely I would look up comfort, if I felt scared I would look up hope. I would read a chapter or two and would find happiness. But it would only last for a small time. Throughout the years I have started the Book of Mormon many times without the success of finishing. I would become discouraged at the fact that I didn’t understand what was being taught, I was really slow, and it took a lot of time.

 When I began my senior year of high school one of my really good friends and I decided that we would start the Book of Mormon and read it cover to cover. We began sometime in September and would encourage each other a lot. It took me a long time to read it but I persisted. Every night before bed I would pull out my Book of Mormon and would read a chapter or two. As I did this, day by day, I could feel myself changing. Everything in life seemed clearer, I was happier; I could feel the spirit with me throughout the day, and I was gaining a testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.  I was growing to love the Book of Mormon more and more. The stories were incredible! I was sad when I would put it down because I just wanted to read more.  

I am a very slow reader and it took me at least 8 months to finish reading all the way through to the end. On March 14, 2012 I was driving home from mutual and I just decided it was time for me to finish. I felt prompted to go and drive to the temple and read. I was really excited because I knew I was finally going to gain that rock solid testimony of my own. I was going to have one of those stories where I prayed sincerely after reading that promise by Moroni and I would gain an overwhelming feeling that this book was true. I parked in front of the temple and focused on the book. When I finished I began to pray. I closed my eyes and I asked Heavenly Father if it was true or not and I didn’t feel anything. The answer came in its own time. The next night I began writing in my journal. As I started to write about my experience I instantly remembered who I was 8 months previous to this time. I had changed and grown so much in that short period of time. I started to write down my feelings of the Book of Mormon and what I learned. The spirit began to enter my heart again and it testified to me that it was true. I always felt it was true but now that I finished it and sincerely prayed about it with real intent and having faith in Christ.  I knew it was true.

I exhort you, my brothers and sisters, to make it a priority to study out of the Book of Mormon each and every day. Find a time of day where you can sit down and focus on the scriptures and then study at that time every day. Read carefully so that you understand what is being taught. Open up each of your study sessions with a prayer to Heavenly Father so that you may receive inspiration through the Holy Ghost. Write down a study plan and study for the same amount of time each day. Keep a journal next to you so that you can write down and remember the precious teachings you learn through the Holy Ghost. Keeping a journal can help you organize your thoughts and I have learned that as I write what I’m feeling things become clearer to me. Writing notes down into a study journal is how I ponder of the scriptures; my journal is the conduit for my thoughts. I learn what Heavenly Father is trying to teach me by writing in my study journal as I study.

“If you want to talk to God, pray. If you want him to talk to you, read your scriptures.”

My prayer is that each of you will leave here today with a renewed conviction to read the Book of Mormon prayerfully and diligently. I promise you that if you do, you will receive so much happiness. You will have the added measure of the Spirit of the Lord in your lives and in your homes, you will have a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience and follow His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.

I promise you that if you read this book again, with a sincere heart and having real intent to follow its teachings, you can know with surety that Jesus is the Christ and He came here to redeem the souls of all mankind that they might dwell in the presence of God forever and ever.

I cannot wait to share this Book with the people of England. It has truly changed my life and has been one of the biggest factors in making me into who I am today. It has given me hope, peace, joy, and happiness and I know it can do the same for those I teach in England and I know it can do the same for you. I know that this church is the Church of Jesus Christ. I know that it was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith and I know that he is man who truly fought for our religion. I am grateful for his example. I know that we have a loving Father in Heaven. He loves each and every one of you so much. So much that we can’t even begin to understand how deep his tender love is for us. I know that because He loves us so much He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for us and to take upon Him our sins so that we may return to live in His presence once more. I know that Jesus Christ loves us and that He lived a perfect life. I know that the Book of Mormon truly is another testament of Jesus Christ and teaches the true doctrines of the gospel right along side of the Bible. I know that families can be together forever and I am so grateful for all of the family I have here. I love them so much. I’m grateful for this wonderful ward that I have had the privilege to grow up in. Thank you to everyone who has helped shape me into the person who I am today. I know that I would not be who I am without the wonderful priesthood leaders, teachers, scout leaders, primary teachers, and others who are this ward. You have all blessed me so much. Thank you to my friends who have pushed me to always me best in all situations of life. I am grateful to have such good friends who share principles and ideals similar to my own. You have all been examples of righteousness to me. I testify to you that I know that this Book will change your life.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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