At this season, Dear Friends –
- When all Mormondom is unitedly and simultaneously studying The Book of Mormon, I have some persistent observations. One pearl is that when properly approached, this amazing book has enormous powers of conversion. Without any embellishments or consultant commentary, the book’s powerful truths shine forth and are plainly evident.
|Parley P. Pratt|
Amid his journeyings he paid full passage for his wife and him to travel by boat to Albany, New York. Midway, at Rochester, however, Parley had a spiritual nudge which changed his direction and his life. He wrote:
I informed my wife that, notwithstanding our passage being paid through the whole distance, yet I must leave the boat. . . Why, I did not know; but so it was plainly manifest by the Spirit to me. I said to her: “we part for a season; go and visit our friends in our native place; I will come soon, but how soon I know not; for I have a work to do in this region of country, and what it is, or how long it will take to perform it, I know not, but I will come when it is performed.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, pp. 18 – 20).
Parley went ashore and walked from village to village successfully imparting his convictions as he understood them from the scriptures. One day in his travels, a Baptist deacon introduced to him a strange and unusual book, The Book of Mormon, which made claims that were stunning and appealing to Parley. He wrote:
I opened it with eagerness, and read its title page. I then read the testimony of several witnesses in relation to the manner of its being found and translated. After this I commenced its contents by course. I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.
As I read, the spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists. My joy was now full, as it were, and I rejoiced sufficiently to more than pay me for all the sorrows, sacrifices and toils of my life. I soon determined to see the young man who had been the instrument of its discovery and translation. (Ibid.)
We were assimilated into this fabric-truth during our missionary days in California, 40 years ago. The identical story-theme we found true was represented by the conversion stories we were telling in those days. I repeat it now to demonstrate that the power is still in that awesome book, which when approached with humble sincerity and desire to love and live its truths still has its capacity to convert.
On a Thursday night, far across the world from here and many years ago, another conversion story materialized, as related by Elder J. Thomas Fyans, First Council of the Seventy, at a stake conference of the LaPuente Stake on May 28, 1978.
A chance encounter on a bus between a Mormon elder and a Methodist minister unfolded. The young elder spoke of a strange book, The Book of Mormon, and the minister, a graduate of Northwestern University, went home with the book determined to prove it false. The words, “prove it false, prove it false” were riveted in his mind, challenged to do so by his seat companion on the bus.
At home that night, he said to his wife, Betty, “I’m on a special project. I want complete solitude and no food. I’ll be fasting.” He pleaded with the Lord on Friday, and he listened to the town hall clock peel off hours of the day until it struck 6 p.m. Then he returned to the elder’s apartment and boldly stated: “I want to talk about baptism, and don’t get out your flannel board. I want to be baptized now!”
Amazed, the elders phoned their mission president and said, “He’s back! What shall we do with him?” President J. Thomas Fyans, president of the Uruguay Montevideo Mission, answered, “Baptize him privately, then bring him to the mission home to see me.” Ninety minutes later the font was full and the elder baptized him.
On Saturday night, the minister phoned his wife, Betty, and announced, “I’m a member of the Mormon Church!” She laughed, unbelievingly. “It’s true,” said her husband. “I was baptized last night.” She asked so many questions and cried and cried. It was 3 a.m. before she settled down to seriously listen. It was agreed that he shouldn’t tell anyone until he reported to his superiors. So when he arose the next morning, Rev. Whitlock read in John 3:5 about Nicodemus’s visit with Jesus. He quoted that passage to his church leaders, saying, “Please study this passage, and next week I will come back and I’ll tell you the truth of this verse.”
The troubled couple then came to the mission home. Betty said, “I just can’t face our friends from our church.” They went as husband and wife into the President’s study to talk out their problems. Lunch intervened, and President Fyans opened the door and said, “I’ll not mention anything about the Mormon Church if that will make you feel better. But first, Brother Whitlock, would you like to hear the missionaries teach the gospel in the organized fashion we regularly do?” His wife, Betty, quickly answered, “You bet I would,” with her jaw defiantly set.
So the Whitlocks had one lesson taught to them every day. The plan of salvation brought happy resonance to Brother Whitlock all week. When the elders quoted 1 Corinthians 15:29, Brother Whitlock exclaimed, “Betty, I’ve wondered all my life about baptism for the dead, and they know the explanation!”
At the traditional Saturday night farewell for departing missionaries, this inspired elder tried to testify for the last time in the mission field, but he was overcome by his tears. In the presence of his converts, Brother and Sister Whitlock, he was without words. He couldn’t speak because of his joy. This was the elder, who on the bus had challenged Rev. Whitlock to prove The Book of Mormon false.
And so we say – The Book of Mormon is true! It will stand up to any scrutiny, even from those who are learned and think themselves wise, who want to disprove it.
Powerful witness also comes from Christ, himself, that the book is true (D&C 19:26), and that those who receive, read and believe the book shall receive eternal life (D&C 20:14).
Faithfully, your friend,
President L. Brent Goates