Tuesday, June 17, 2014

God's Not Dead, and Hasn't Given Up: My Testimony of the Book of Mormon

Throughout the Bible, God calls prophets. He sends them to preach that which some people choose not to follow, or believe. These prophets do the will of God, no matter what, even if death is on the line. So many wonderful prophets and apostles' words and lives are recorded through this sacred Holy Bible:
Noah, Moses, Abraham, John, Peter, Paul, and the list goes on and on. Even the beautiful words of Jesus Christ are found in the Bible: the One who also preached to the people things which they would not believe, not even His purpose and divinity as "the Christ" (Luke 22:67, KJV).
Yet throughout the Bible, amidst the death of the prophets, the persecution of the believers of Christ, and the beatings and the stonings of those who preached His word, our Father in Heaven continued to give what seemed to be impossible tasks to these beloved prophets and to Christ Himself. Why?

Because first and foremost, God loves His children. All of them: even those that will not believe, even those that cast the stones, even those who lifted His Son upon the cross and drove nails into His hands and feet. He loved them all, and was anxious for them to hear His word, and His message. He, as God, loved these people so much that He let them know they needed to repent. They needed to come unto Christ. They needed God. And because of His love, He was never going to give up trying to deliver that message to His children: that there is hope and forgiveness in Christ, to "repent" and to "be baptized" (see Matthew chapter 3, KJV), and therefore receive the kingdom of heaven.
It would almost seem redundant: that repeated pattern of prophet, preaching, and persecution, if we didn't recognize that every time this cycle comes around: God is giving His children another chance.

So here's my question: Why would He stop now? Why, after the time of the Bible, from the very beginning of the world to the end of Paul's words, would the evidence of a church of God, prophets, prophesying, and much more be diminished? Why would God, in a sense, cease to be God? Why would He stop trying to lead His children through a prophet? Why would He not call them to come unto Him: to repent and be baptized, if He had done it for years and years and years and years before? Why would God choose now to give up on His children?

My answer is: He hasn't.

God loves you. Whoever you are, reading this post. He knows you have struggles and trials and pains. He knows some days don't go as planned, He knows some days you feel like you can't go at all. He hears your prayers, if you pray, and if you do not, He desires to hear from you. God isn't dead. He didn't give up on anyone, especially you. GOD LOVES YOU.

And with that love, I testify that He has a Church on this earth that you can come unto. This church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

He has a prophet that will guide you directly back to Him. His name is President Thomas S. Monson.

And just as God continued to give revelation and scripture unto the ancient inhabitants of the earth, He continues to do the same today, and has given us the Book of Mormon, additionally to the Bible, as the Word of God. If you are not familiar with my previous post, "I'm a Mormon, and I believe in the Bible", I invite you to read it. In part of the post I mention the Articles of Faith (essentially statements that summarize our main beliefs as a Church). The 8th Article of Faith declares: "We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly, we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God." In my previous post I also declare, and repeat again: I believe that Joseph Smith did the work of God, the same God who called so many prophets before our time, by translating the Book of Mormon.

Because there are many misconceptions about this Book, I would like to explain some simple facts to you:
It's proper title is, The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Other testaments? The Old and New, found in the Holy Bible.

The Introduction to the Book of Mormon states: We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message which it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the Book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost" (Book of Mormon Introduction, emphasis added).

It's not a secret book, it doesn't contain anything that Joseph Smith made up, rather, it is the words of prophets, just like those in the Bible, who testified of Christ previous to and after His coming, as well as the record of Christ coming the Americas after His resurrection.

Might sound a little crazy, right?
But if God loved His children so much in the Western Hemisphere, wouldn't the all-knowing, all-loving God love His children in the Americas just the same?

"The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God's dealing with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and it contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting Gospel" (Book of Mormon Introduction).

As a latter-day apostle boldly declared:
"[The Book of Mormon] came forth in our day proving to the world that the Bible is true; that Jesus, by whom the Atonement came, is the Lord of all; that Joesph Smith was called of God, as were the prophets of old; that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one place on earth where salvation is found" (Elder Bruce R. McConkie).

Joseph Smith was a young, fourteen year old boy who was humbly looking for a church to join. When he read James 1:5, "If any of ye lack wisdom, let him ask of God", he recognized that "if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; and how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passage of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible...At length I came the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God" (Joseph Smith History, 1:12-13;emphasis added).

With this pure and simple motive, Joseph went into a grove of trees near his house and knelt to pray. He described his experience, "I saw a pillar of light, exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me...When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other-- This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him!" (Joesph Smith History 1:16-17).

God and His Son, Jesus Christ, had come to the boy Joseph. They told him not to join any of the churches, for they "were all wrong", declaring that "they [the churches] draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof" (Joseph Smith History 1:19).

After years of preparing the boy Joseph to be the man and the prophet that God intended for him to be, Joseph was entrusted with ancient plates of gold and through the power of God was able to translate the Book of Mormon, making these ancient prophet's words available now to all who would hear it, giving to the world a companion to the Holy Bible.

Joseph Smith went on to do great things as a prophet and servant of God. Just as prophets before, many disbelieved his words. Just as prophets before, he and other people of the Church, faithful followers of Christ, were persecuted, and just as before: Joesph Smith, prophet of God, was killed: for he would not deny it.

Why so much persecution, you might ask, if he was doing the supposed will of the Lord?
As Elder Corbridge taught in our most recent Conference:

"Opposition...[and] criticism are companions to the truth. Whenever the truth with regard to the purpose and destiny of man is revealed, there will always be a force to oppose it.... there has always been and will ever be a an effort to deceive, derail, oppose, and frustrate the plan of life.
"Look for the biggest dust cloud billowing above the most dirt that is kicked at the One who was most opposed, challenged and rejected, beaten, abandoned and crucified, One who descended below all things, and there you will find the truth, the Son of God, the Savior of all mankind. Why did they not leave Him alone?
"Why? Because He is the truth, and the truth will always be opposed.
"And then look for the one who brought forth another testament of Jesus Christ and other scripture, look for one who was the instrument by which the fulness of the gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ were restored to the earth, look for him and expect to find the dirt flying. Why not leave him alone?
"Why? Because he taught the truth, and the truth will always be opposed" ("The Prophet Joseph Smith" Apr Conference 2014;emphasis added).

So am I, Audrey Burton, saying that Joseph Smith is similar to Christ? YES.
Joseph Smith, though imperfect, was one of the most Christ-like men this world has ever seen.
Am I, Audrey Burton, saying that I believe that he knelt down in a grove of trees and actually saw GOD the Father and Jesus Christ? Yeah, I am.
And am I saying that I, Audrey Burton, believe that the Book of Mormon isn't made up, isn't a bunch of bologna, but is actually from the very God that gave us life and contains exactly what we need to hear and do to get back to live with Him again?

No. I'm not.

Because I don't just believe that. I know it.

God didn't give up on us in these last days. He's not dead. He didn't stop giving us guidance and revelation.
He loved us so He sent His Son, He loves us so He sends us prophets.
And with prophets, comes revelation.

After Joseph Smith was killed by those who opposed him, Brigham Young was called by God to be the next prophet, and so it has continued until this present day and there stands President Thomas S. Monson, prophet of God, leading the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"Either the Book of Mormon is true, or it is false; either it came from God, or it was spawned in the infernal realms... it either came from heaven or from hell" (Elder Bruce R. McConkie).

I testify before all of you reading this post that the Book of Mormon is of God, and comes from on high, for it testifies of His love for all of His children, across all time. I invite all of you to go to mormon.org and order a free copy of your own, get one from your local Mormon missionaries next time they try to stop by, or ask one of your friends who is a member of the Church if you can have one! Don't be afraid. Then search it, read it, learn to love it, and pray in faith whether it is true, or whether it is false.

I have read every word, every page, over, and over and over again. I have prayed in faith. I know it's true, and I LOVE it.

I echo the words of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, Apostle and Witness of Jesus Christ, "I want it absolutely clear when I stand before the judgment bar of God that I declared to the world, in the most straightforward language I could summon, that the Book of Mormon is true, that it came forth the way Joseph said it came forth, and was given to bring happiness and hope to the faithful in the travail of the latter-days"(emphasis added).

Learn for yourself: because God loves you, hasn't given up on you, and wants you to know.

I know it.

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