The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ has been called the keystone of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Church members have been continually encouraged to read, study, and ponder the Book of Mormon’s contents since it was first translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph himself said that “a man would get closer to God by abiding by its precepts.” But how can we know this is true?
All members of the Church have faced or will face this question at least once in their lives, and every individual will find an answer in their own unique way. But we can learn from the experiences of others to help us get started in our search for truth.
Wilford Woodruff, an early prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was just 26 years old when he first heard of and read the Book of Mormon. He continually shared his testimony for the rest of his life. While Wilford never recorded the exact experience he had when learning of the Book of Mormon, he did record several actions he had taken previously to understand the will of God in his life. Speaking of the Church of Jesus Christ, he wrote:
I believed the same gifts, graces, miracles and power would be manifest in one age of the world as in another, when God had a church upon the earth . . . These principles were riveted upon my mind from the perusal of the Old and New Testaments, with fervent prayer that the Lord would show me what was right and wrong, and lead me in the path of salvation, without any regard to the opinions of man, and the whisperings of the Spirit of the Lord for the space of three years, taught me that he was about to set up his church and kingdom upon the earth in the last days. . . . When I heard [the missionaries] preach[,] My brother Azmon and I believed their testimony, entertained the elders and offered ourselves for baptism the first sermon we heard. We read the Book of Mormon, and I received a testimony that it was true. 1
From this explanation, we can learn three things that Wilford Woodruff did, and that we can do, to learn of the truthfulness of this testament of Jesus Christ.
First, read. Wilford Woodruff had been reading and studying the Book of Mormon. To know if something is true, we first need to know what it is. We will never know if a story is true unless we read it first. Wilford had also studied the Bible and knew other truths of the gospel of Christ.
Second, pray. Wilford Woodruff “fervently” prayed to Heavenly Father to know what was true. He sought truth from the font of all truth. As we seek direction from God, He has promised that He will answer and help direct our paths.
Third, trust. Wilford Woodruff had been searching for the truth for a few years before he found it. Some wait a lifetime while others wait a short time, to feel that the Book of Mormon is true. But all who receive an answer trust in their Heavenly Father that they will receive a personal witness, and trust in themselves to listen and hear what the Lord is telling them.
As we seek to believe and know of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, we will be directed in our efforts to receive revelation from God, and “he shall direct [our] paths.” 2
Some original text has been edited for clarity and readability.
1. Autobiography 1858 Deseret News, p. 1, The Wilford Woodruff Papers, wilfordwoodruffpapers.org/autobiography.
2. Proverbs 3:6.
The “Asking Big Questions” series is made in cooperation with the Wilford Woodruff Papers Project. The Wilford Woodruff Papers Foundation’s mission is to digitally preserve and publish Wilford Woodruff’s eyewitness account of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ from 1833 to 1898. It seeks to make Wilford Woodruff’s records universally accessible to inspire all people, especially the rising generation, to study and to increase their faith in Jesus Christ. For more information, visit wilfordwoodruffpapers.org.