"This year, as you read the Book of Mormon, pray about it, and apply its teachings, you will invite its power into your life, and you may feel to say, as the Three Witnesses did in their testimony, "It is marvelous in [my] eyes."" -Come, Follow Me-For Individuals and Families: Book of Mormon 2020
I absolutely love The Book of Mormon and have a sincere testimony that it was brought forth by the hand of God. My first sincere study of this book had life-transforming results and created in me an unshakable faith in Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and my identity, among other beautiful truths.
It was during that first true reading of this book that I had a divinely-inspired experience that has stayed with me and I recall often. I opened my nightstand to get my scriptures out and as I did so, it was as if I was transported for a brief time to Cumorah and, as I reached for my scriptures from a drawer, I instead retrieved brass plates from a hillside. This lasted a maximum of 5 seconds, but it was a very real experience for me and is seared into my soul. That was only one of many things I experienced during that time that truly changed me from the inside out. For many years after that event, every time I reached for my scriptures, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the multitude of events that preceded my ability to access these records now.
Ever since October's conference when President Nelson invited us to prepare for April's general conference and suggested a study of Joseph Smith's first vision among other things, I have enjoyed pondering these events and much of what has been written or created about them. Among other things, I took my family to watch this video:
I think this video is wonderfully done, but I especially love watching it in the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City. It is shown in a small room with video showing all around and exceptional sound quality. You truly feel as if you are in the grove with Joseph in this experience.
It was so hard for me to focus when I took my family because I wanted to watch my special needs daughter, who experiences either a very thin veil or possibly no veil whatsoever. It is honestly unfair, I think, that I get to be around her all the time. It's as if faith is no longer required because I can KNOW things with more certainty as I watch her interact with the unseen on such a regular basis. So I was watching her and noticing my 6-year-old son's reaction as well. My daughter did not disappoint as she engaged with whatever it was she could see and my son was absolutely captivated. When it was over, he said,
"Mom, Heavenly Father made that movie just for me so I could know that really happened. And I do know, Mom. I really do know."
His sincere testimony in that moment caused me to reflect on moments when I could say "I really do know," about Joseph Smith's accounts and his role in the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Though I have had other experiences, I'll share just one.
I had been asked to play a piano solo for sacrament meeting on a Sunday and had been told the topic of the meeting would be the restoration of the gospel. I had been practicing a version of Praise to the Man for several weeks and it was a little challenging for me so I hadn't decided for sure if I would play that or something I felt more confident about playing. I kept messing up one particular part. My son was a toddling baby at the time and he kept "helping" me play, while my daughter, who loves the piano, laid on the ground near me as I practiced. I was feeling frustrated that I couldn't master this one section and I decided to stop trying on my own and pray for help. So I stopped, knelt by my daughter while my son crawled all over me, and asked that the Holy Ghost be with me and that I would have help learning this song. After that prayer, as I played, an actual light filled the room. I played the song with no errors and with different emphasis/artistic subtleties. The light filled my soul to overflowing and I felt the testimony of innumerable angelic visitors who came to help me learn not to play the song, though I was given help with that endeavor. These witnesses came to help me learn in a profound way the truth of the message of the song. My daughter was kicking and squealing, her way of showing joy, and my son was laying beside her doing the same. I was overcome with emotion as I concluded this attempt at mastering this song. I got on my knees and thanked my Heavenly Father for this witness borne to my soul.
There had been a recent increase in controversial claims about Joseph Smith swirling the internet at that time. I had read many of these things only to understand why several close friends had left the church as a result. I had thoughts and opinions supporting my faith in Joseph Smith, but I also had unanswered questions. I had been praying for light and understanding about these things for weeks, possibly months, before this. This experience was so real and the literal light I received dispelled all questions from my mind. It was in that new light-filled space in the days and weeks that followed that I was able to find clear answers to my questions and those questions ended up strengthening my testimony in profound ways. I am so grateful a loving Heavenly Father is eager to answer our questions if we will ask, if we will act in faith, and if we are willing to wait on His timing and trust in His ways.
This leads me to a more recent experience. I had been studying an article about Joseph Smith's family - his parents and siblings - what their spiritual life was like. I have had a long-time desire to understand Lucy Mack Smith. I'm not sure of all the reasons for that particular curiosity, except that I have a loved and distinct memory of my grandma, serving as a missionary in Nauvoo at the time (in the 1990's), dressed in pioneer-era clothing in Lucy Mack's home, knitting. Something seared into my soul to remember this moment because it was significant and meaningful. So recently I had just finished reading and pondering that article, when I went to grab my phone to look up something in the Book of Mormon. As I reached for my phone, I had an overwhelming remembrance of the moment I referred to at the beginning of this post, when I felt to be reaching for my scriptures from Hill Cumorah. Well, following that brief recollection was something that I guess I'll have to call 'divine discontent.' It was a spiritual chastening of sorts, though it was very loving. It was a sharp invitation to recognize that reaching for the Book of Mormon to read it on my phone, to use the search option, cross referencing, internet searches, dictionary tools, etc., etc... that my access to those tools on this compact device, along with the Family Search app and the many additional tools in family history and temple work endeavors on the same device -- that is EVEN MORE amazing than if I had actually retrieved brass plates from Cumorah. The sense was to wake up to who I am, when I live, what I have been called to do, and my ability to accomplish it. Though it was a bit of a rebuke, I was left smiling and almost chuckling because I really understood how true it was. It's just amazing how blessed we are! How abundantly we have been blessed and will continue to be blessed with everything we need to accomplish the gathering of Israel and any specific things we are called, as a group or as individuals, to do in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. We are witnesses and are invited to be participants in the restoration of ALL things. It is SO amazing! It is TRULY 'marvelous to my eyes.'
This brought to mind a couple of quotes I heard in a BYU-I devotional:
The First Vision wasn’t only the beginning of the restoration of Christ’s Church on the earth after a long period of apostasy, it was also the beginning of a resurgence in secular knowledge inspired by heaven.
At a BYU-Idaho devotional in 2007, Elder Merrill J. Bateman said:
“It is apparent that secular knowledge has flowered since the time of Joseph Smith, that the Lord has been flooding the earth with temporal knowledge as well as spiritual.”
Elder Bateman referred to a book titled, “The Birth of Plenty” by William Bernstein. In the book Bernstein wrote:
“Beginning around 1820, the pace of economic advance picked up noticeably, making the world a better place to live in. What happened? An explosion of technological innovation the likes of which had never before been seen.”
We are swimming in the reality of these truths right now, so I hope we don't miss the magnitude of the culmination of events that have occurred over millennia, then hastened beginning in 1820, to bring us to this eternal now... this time, this people, this potential influence, this capacity to testify, this opportunity to gather truth and souls on both sides of the veil. It's astonishing. If you are not left in awe, then I would boldly say you are missing it, and would encourage you to look again! Don't miss it! Don't miss the chance to see God's mighty hand at work in the world and in your life. Don't miss the chance to participate and be an instrument in His divine hands.
Don't miss the chance to follow Jesus the Christ who commissioned His true disciples through all eternity to:
"Come, Follow Me."