As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest—and last—hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?
Just pause for a moment here. I like to believe the best in people. Benefit of the doubt is something quickly disposed of these days. Our first inclinations are of cynicism and doubt. But pause here to realize the seriousness of our doubt. These two men were on their death bed. They knew it. They were being held in jail by men who were in team with the mob of over a hundred people surrounding the jail. The implication that they would die testifying of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon is profound. Such love, such goodness and such a foundation of knowledge could not have come from such fictitious beginnings.
Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be “houseless, friendless and homeless” and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor. Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as impostors and charlatans until the end of time? Theywould not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.
For 179 years this book has been examined and attacked, denied and deconstructed, targeted and torn apart like perhaps no other book in modern religious history—perhaps like no other book in any religious history. And still it stands. Failed theories about its origins have been born and parroted and have died—from Ethan Smith to Solomon Spaulding to deranged paranoid to cunning genius. None of these frankly pathetic answers for this book has ever withstood examination because there is no other answer than the one Joseph gave as its young unlearned translator. In this I stand with my own great-grandfather, who said simply enough, “No wicked man could write such a book as this; and no good man would write it, unless it were true and he were commanded of God to do so.”
I don't know that I've ever heard a better quote speaking of the Book of Mormon. No wicked man could... and no good man would... unless it were commanded of God. Amen.
I was reminded of this talk from Elder Holland as I sat and read this morning. The article I flipped to was from the Ensign June 2007 issue. The Quest for Spiritual Knowledge by Elder Robert Wood. I sat reading of a story when he was 16 years old and finding his own testimony of the Book of Mormon. It wasn't his humble prayer to know if the book were true that touched me. He had an experience that you hear a lot about in the LDS church.
He read one day and the stories touched him in a new way. He answered Moroni's challenge which is:
"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" (Moroni 10:4)
He prayed and received a witness of the Holy Ghost more clearly and powerfully than any other knowledge that he had ever received. It wasn't this that stood out to me however.
At school the following Monday, he spoke to a friend, not a member of the Church. He said that he had a list of 50 anachronisms in the book of Mormon that demonstrated the book was a nineteenth-century invention. An anachronism refers to something that is chronologically out of place, a bit like saying Julius Caesar drove his SUV into Rome. He told his friend that it was too late, for he had received a witness of the truth of the Book of Mormon. But he took his list and he kept it.
Over the years as more research was done by various academics, one item after another dropped off the list.
A few years ago when I was speaking to a group at Cornell University, I mentioned my list and noted that, after these many years, only one item remained. After my presentation a distinguished professor said to me, "You can remove your last item, for out studies indicate that it is not an anachronism."
Here is where I was touched my Elder Wood's words. Read the following carefully:
What would my life have been like had I withheld my conviction of the Book of Mormon until I resolved all the questions my friend had given me?
I have often said that when it comes to the most fundamental truths, I have no doubts... although I have some questions. There are some things for which we must have a certitude that transcends our incomplete understanding and immediate questions.
Why is it important to know with certainty? Why is it desirable to have strength in and understanding of the Book of Mormon? John 8:32 says that we "shall know the truth, and the truth shall make (us) free".
Free of what? Free of ignorance, sin, and the pangs of death. Not once have I ever in this church someone told to believe what is said. It is only said, pray to know if it is true. The lord blesses us through the Holy Ghost to have first hand confirmation of all truth.
What would my life be like? I think that this is a profound question. I'm grateful to be able to establish a framework of understanding in my life. It's this understanding that not only provides an unshakeable intellectual and spiritual foundation, but transforms my life for good.
Elder Holland finishes his quote that I mentioned earlier by saying:
I testify that one cannot come to full faith in this latter-day work—and thereby find the fullest measure of peace and comfort in these, our times—until he or she embraces the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom it testifies. If anyone is foolish enough or misled enough to reject 531 pages of a heretofore unknown text teeming with literary and Semitic complexity without honestly attempting to account for the origin of those pages—especially without accounting for their powerful witness of Jesus Christ and the profound spiritual impact that witness has had on what is now tens of millions of readers—if that is the case, then such a person, elect or otherwise, has been deceived; and if he or she leaves this Church, it must be done by crawling over or under or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit. In that sense the book is what Christ Himself was said to be: “a stone of stumbling, . . . a rock of offense,” a barrier in the path of one who wishes not to believe in this work. Witnesses, even witnesses who were for a time hostile to Joseph, testified to their death that they had seen an angel and had handled the plates. “They have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man,” they declared. “Wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true.”
The only way to know is to study, learn and ask. The only way to deny the truth is thereby the same.
Elder woods finishes his article stating:
Sanctified by the things we know, we attain the certitude that banishes doubt and fear. We may confront the challenges of life with "a perfect brightness of hope" (2 Nephi 31:20). And we shall know that nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39).
It's been a good Sunday morning. I feel my saviors love and am blessed in my life. I testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. I testify that Joseph Smith truly was a man of God directed to translate these ancient plates so that we in this day could learn from them together with the Bible, both the word of God. I have a testimony that God loves us, that he is present today and everyday in our lives if we allow it. I know that if we do choose to ask the questions, and listen for the answers.... peace and happiness is what will be found.