Happy St. Patrick's Day.
I wanted to share with 3 things this morning.
1. While some may consider me an emotional guy, there's a real part of me that appeals to logic. My logical side loves math. My logical side loves games like Sudoku. And, interestingly enough, my logical side is part of my testimony of the church.
Years ago I was at lunch with another teacher, and for reasons I can't recall, our conversation turned religious. His name was Matt, he was Catholic, and I admitted to him that one of the strengths of the Catholic Church was time. They were the only Christian church to claim authority all the way back to Jesus, and every other Christian church, in one way or another, was a break off of the Catholic Church. It started with the Lutheran's disagreeing and then forming their own church, then the Wesleyan’s, and then other churches broke off from those churches and formed others. Matt laughed and admitted something like, "And you guys don't even appreciate that what you have as the bible is because of us!" I agreed, and history proves this. Then I suggested that so many churches have broken from Catholic theology, that one can't even determine what's true and what's theory, and there is so much confusion out there, that either the Catholic's must be right, or God himself would have to come down and set things straight. He laughed and agreed. I laughed and told him, "And that's what we believe. We believe God came down and fixed it.”
I've never had this argument work in conversion. But it really works in my heart. I believe God appeared to Joseph Smith because there was so much confusion, that the only way to get things back on track, was for Him to put it on track. And such was always the plan.
2. Part of that getting things back on track was the Book of Mormon. I love that book. I'm ashamed to say that I didn't read it completely and by myself until I was 18. But then I read it again, and again, and again. I could keep repeating those "agains" because I have kept reading and rereading. Bruce McConkie once said something along the lines that the most important question to face humanity in the last days is whether or not the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I've made my study of that book a priority in my adult life, and I believe, with all my heart, that it's true. My life has been shaped and guided, and many times my survival as an adult has come from the way that book has assisted my life.
3. This one is reflective of #2, but I'll give it it's own number anyway. In the Book of Mormon, Lehi's has a dream of the Tree of Life. Part of that dream included the Iron Rod that led to the Tree of Life. There are 3 types of people described in this vision in relation to the Iron Rod. 1. The people who never find it, wander off, and are lost. 2. Those who find it, cling to it, and make it to the tree, only to fall away and wander to the Great and Spacious Building. I've heard many people describe this "clinging" as a powerful thing, like they're holding on for their dear life. But clinging is what a dryer sheet does to your clothes as you pull them from the dryer: it barely hangs on and can sometimes be detached simply by shaking hard enough. These people fell away because the Word wasn't important to their life, and the sound and mocking of the Great and Spacious building led them away. 3. These are those who, "held fast," to the Iron Rod. They made it to the Tree, partook, and ignored those in that building, never falling away.
I think everyone in the world falls into one of these 3 categories.
Another focus here: what is the Iron Rod? One could say it is the Bible and scripture and teachings of Jesus. One could properly argue it is Jesus himself. One interpretation that really works for me: Notice that Lehi found the Tree, looked about for his family, then Nephi, Sam, and Sariah found the Tree, and only then did Lehi see the Iron Rod, as if they all made it there without it. Odd. My interpretation of this: Lehi's vision went from specifically about him and his family to a vision of the world, and, perhaps, the Iron Rod he saw wasn't available to the world until later, until near the end. Which means, perhaps, the Iron Rod he saw was the Book of Mormon. Which means, perhaps, whether or not we partake of the fruit and fall away or partake and stand firm, could be how important the Book of Mormon is in our lives.
This is my testimony. The Book of Mormon is the Word of God. Joseph Smith was God's instrument to bring it forth and reestablish His truth on earth. I don't have this testimony because others have convinced me or I've been brainwashed. God has revealed Himself at various times in my life in ways that I cannot doubt the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. And perhaps the most amazing thing about the Book of Mormon: God promises us that if we read it, ponder it, and ask Him if it's NOT true, He will prove to us it is.
And that's all I'm going to say about that. This morning.