Over the years, my testimony has grown in many ways, but during the last few years, I have worked diligently to have the core of my testimony be focused solely upon Jesus Christ. In the early years of my testimony, I believed in Christ, but he was not at the center of my beliefs.
I didn’t realize that the Savior wasn’t the foundation of my testimony until I was a missionary. I went English-speaking, and it seemed that every other door I knocked on had someone who wanted to verbally battle with me over my beliefs.
After a while, I reached the point that when someone wanted to argue about the Church, I would ask them one question. The question was, “If Jesus Christ were to come to you today and tell you the Book of Mormon was true would you believe Him?”
The first time I asked this question was to an elderly gentleman who was quite devout in his beliefs. I was astonished to hear that his response to my question was a defiant no. His answer took me so much by surprise I actually took a step back as if someone was about to hit me.
I was so confident no one would say no that I wasn’t prepared when someone did. After hearing his response, I ended our conversation with the parting statement that if Jesus Christ couldn’t convince him, then there was no way a 20-year-old boy, far from home, would be able to do any better.
As I biked home from this encounter, I pondered on the scripture from the Doctrine & Covenants that states, “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken…whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D&C 1:38). For me, having this man tell me no was an example of the voice of the Lord and the voice of His servant being rejected.
For the next few weeks, I continued to ask this question when people wanted to argue about the Gospel. I was surprised to hear the answer each time I received a no. It really bothered me to hear so many people say they wouldn’t follow Jesus Christ.
It wasn’t until I was reading Moroni 10:3–5 to an investigator that I stumbled across the reason why people were telling me no. In verse four, I read something I had never seen before (and up to that point, I had read this verse at least once every day for over a year). It says: “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” (emphasis added).
The words, “…ask God…if these things are not true…” struck me with such intensity. I had never before asked if the Book of Mormon was not true. I had only asked if it was true.
Asking if the Book of Mormon is true or asking if the Book of Mormon is false may sound like the same question, but in reality, the questions are worlds apart. I found it easier to accept something I have always believed true than to fight against my spiritual upbringing and ask the Lord if it is all an illusion.
Once I realized the difference, I finally understood why people were telling me no. In their understanding of truth, it was absolutely ludicrous for the Savior to say the Book of Mormon was true. For them, they knew the Book of Mormon was false, and no one, including Christ, could convince them otherwise.
This realization helped me see how important it was to ask if what I believed in was false. Having this intellectual and soul-awakening experience turned my world upside down and inside out. I realized I couldn’t continue preaching the salvation of Christ using the Book of Mormon (or even the Bible for that matter) as a source without first knowing that these words were the fruits of truth.
I knew the Book of Mormon was a book with powerful teachings, and Â those who argued otherwise had never read the book in its entirety. However, I wanted to know for sure that the teaching which flowed from the Book of Mormon was more than powerful but eternal. I had read many religious and spiritual books with good teachings, but now I sought to know what Christ felt to be true.
I clearly remember the night I decided to pray on the possibility of the falsehood of the Book of Mormon. I waited until my companion was asleep before I slipped out of my covers and knelt by my bed. I had decided that the only thing that mattered to me was to follow the Savior. If that meant forsaking everything I had been taught and going a different path, I was prepared to do so.
I remember praying that I was prepared to remove my missionary badge and temple garments and go home if I discovered that Christ did not want me to follow the teachings of the Book of Mormon. I must also admit that it was a difficult prayer. Not only was I trying to come to terms with the possibility of giving up my mission and Church membership, but I also found it extremely hard to move past my own biased beliefs.
It was a struggle entertaining thoughts that the Book of Mormon was a lie. However, to succeed in my desires, I knew it was necessary. Quite frankly, I was scared. The sacrifices I was considering seemed to loom over me while I spoke with God on that quiet April evening.
Yet, if the Book of Mormon was true, I wanted it to be an appendage to my testimony of Christ, not the center of my testimony. I deeply wanted to understand what the Master wanted and to follow it no matter the cost.
I had been testifying of Christ, but I only believed in Christ because I believed in the Book of Mormon. For me, I didn’t feel that was the testimony I wanted. I just couldn’t see how this was any different from the testimony of someone who grew up only knowing the Bible or the Quran. Do they believe because it is true or because it is familiar and comfortable to them?
I don’t know how long I spent on my knees, but I know I spent a considerable amount of time working through this question. It took time for my heart to accept the challenge I was giving it. I knew the real consequence of what I could be giving up. My family, friends, and how I viewed the world were centered around the Church and my belief in the Book of Mormon. I knew I wouldn’t just be giving up a religion, but I would be giving up a way of life.
Through the turmoil and strife, I did receive my answer. The answer was so strong and specific that over two decades later, I continued to feel the conviction of the answer. That night I felt the power of the Holy Ghost, and I knew the Book of Mormon wasn’t false. However, my belief in this book came that night because, in prayer, I gained an in-depth understanding of whom the Son of God is in my life. I now know the Book of Mormon to be a sacred document given to us to understand salvation because I now know that Jesus Christ lives and is the true source of this book.
I share this sacred experience because I believe it is more important to follow Christ than it is to follow anything else. It is great to have other things like the Book of Mormon and the Bible as further evidence of Christ’s divinity, but these things should not be our rock. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and He is more powerful than any word, book, or person. He uses these tools to help us find him. Yet, the only way to know for certain His divinity is to strip away the restrictions we place upon Him. We must be willing to lose what we feel is important in this temporal world to gain what is essential in the eternities.
Testimony by Paul Wilson