As a young man in my mid-teens, I became aware of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through a pretty young lady. After two years of missionary lessons, I was still not interested in membership. I had only one focus—the pretty young lady! Realizing that I was not serious in my investigation of the Church, she decided to end the relationship. I was devastated. I decided that the only way to win her back was to embark on a personal study of the restored gospel. The institute program had just started in South Africa, and I was invited by a wise institute teacher to study the Book of Mormon and put to the test the promise given by Moroni.1
Despite the feelings of disappointment and frustration, I continued to attend institute and read the Book of Mormon. In subsequent weeks, on two other occasions, I repeated my journey to Rhodes Memorial, and each time I returned home saddened and disappointed. Why was the Lord not answering my righteous request? Maybe no answer was, in fact, my answer. But I could not stop reading the Book of Mormon. Something compelled me to continue reading.
One day, many months after first seeking a witness of the truth, I sat on the floor in my bedroom with the Bible in one hand and the Book of Mormon in the other. In my mind were the same questions: Is what I have learnt of the restoration true? Is the Book of Mormon true? I felt it should be, but I really needed to know! I knelt next to my bed and once again asked Heavenly Father to provide me with a witness. Language cannot describe the feeling that came over me, the assurance that permeated my soul. Every fibre of my being knew that what I had been pursuing and studying was indeed a key aspect of the restored gospel of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon is holy scripture. I’d had no vision, no angel appeared, I’d heard no voice, but I knew, as well as Joseph knew, that a marvellous work had come forth and that I could have a part in it.
So why did I have to ‘struggle’ to get to know the truth? I believe one of the reasons is that I’d made light of sacred things. I had challenged the missionaries on every point of doctrine, and only continued with the discussions because I had wanted to continue my relationship with the young lady. Yet, despite my lack of sincerity, there were times when the Spirit had witnessed to me the truth of the missionaries’ teaching, but I had set these confirmations aside. In effect, I had turned my back on the Holy Ghost. Then when I decided that I really wanted to know for myself, I had to demonstrate, through extra effort, that my intent was pure. Further, I needed to “study it out in [my own] mind; then [I needed to] ask if it be right, and if it is right,” as I found that it was, “your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.”2 That sure witness, obtained in the quiet of my bedroom, has been the foundation upon which many other witnesses of the truth have been added over the years. Each witness has required faith and effort, but each has built upon and strengthened the others. Each was a merciful and tender gift from a loving Heavenly Father.
How grateful I am for this experience. I learned first-hand to “trifle not with sacred things.”3 I had not valued the missionaries’ messages, and I had not given heed to the witnesses I had received from the Holy Ghost. I have learned that the Lord will answer “in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.”4 What a blessing this has been as I have on many occasions waited in faith for answers to prayers. And I have learned to trust Heavenly Father enough to trust His plans for me and for my family. Elder Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said: “The issue for us is trusting God enough to trust also His timing. If we can truly believe He has our welfare at heart, may we not let His plans unfold as He thinks best?”5
Too often in life we expect immediate answers to our prayers. The moment a problem arises, we expect a solution. But the pattern of revelation is different. Revelation and answers will come, but “in the Lord’s way and according to the Lord’s timetable.”6
Today the young lady from my teen years is my eternal companion and the mother of our four children. Together we continue to learn through faith and trials that His timing and plans for us are always better than ours.
1. Moroni 10:3-5
2. D&C: 9:8
3. D&C 6:12
4. D&C 88:6
5. Even as I Am, Elder Neil A. Maxwell (1982), p93
6. “In His Own Time, in His Own Way,” Elder Dallin H Oaks, Ensign, Aug 2013