In the last words of Moroni, an ancient prophet and a modern messenger, he testifies of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon with a promise to all who will ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, that by the power of the Holy Ghost they, too, may know the truth of all things. As surely as this pattern is followed, the promised blessing of a testimony of the Book of Mormon will come.
The first member of every family to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon and stay true to that testimony begins a legacy of faith for generations yet to come. For many, the legacy began generations ago. For others, such as recent converts, the legacy begins with their own testimony, a priceless record to all future generations.My parents, with modest accumulations of this world's wealth, left to their children a document concerning the dispersement of their valuable possessions. The document begins: "The last will and testament of Edwin Kent Greene and Julia Leavitt Greene to their family, their companions, and family as are or may be. We leave with you our testimony that God lives, that Jesus Christ, the only Begotten in the flesh also lives and has restored the everlasting gospel in our day through His prophet Joseph Smith by revelation and heavenly messengers as needed for the salvation of mankind."
They continued their testimony and closed with these words: "May your hearts ever be open and your feelings tender towards these great truths is our humble prayer." They departed this life leaving to their posterity their most valuable possession - their testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ as contained in the Book of Mormon.
How priceless this bit of history to those in that family line! However, the story has a much earlier beginning. My father's mother, Adeline Allen, born in Syderstone, Norfolk, England, April 19, 1865, met missionaries when she was 21. She read and gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon, joined the Church and immigrated to America, where she married Daniel Kent Greene.
Daniel's mother (and my great-grandmother) Susan Kent Greene, was 16 when she received her testimony of the Book of Mormon. That testimony changed the course of events for her and those of her posterity.
On June 1, 1925, Lula Greene Richards (my paternal grandfather's sister and a daughter of my great-grandmother Susan Kent Greene) wrote concerning the testimony of Susan's grandmother Rhoda Young Greene: "When Rhoda was 24 years old she was married to John P. Greene. He was a Methodist circuit preacher. All the Youngs and their close associates were Methodists at that time. Their first introduction to the Mormons or Mormonism was through a Book of Mormon being left with Rhoda by Samuel H. Smith, the Prophet's brother. Samuel was impressed before he departed to make her a present (the Book of Mormon) explaining to her that `the most profitable manner of reading the book, was to ask God, as she read it, for a testimony of the truth of what she read. . . .' " (See History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith, p. 187.)
My great-great-great-grandmother, Rhoda Young Greene, requested my great-great-great-grandfather, her husband, John P. Greene, to read the book, telling him the manner recommended by the missionary of how he could receive a testimony. He read the sacred volume; he prayed about what he read: He was convinced of the truth found within its pages. Within a short time he and Mrs. Greene were ready for baptism. The Greenes loaned this copy of the Book of Mormon to Phineas Young, Mrs. Greene's brother. It was next handed to his brother Brigham Young, and from him to Mrs. Murray, his sister, and the mother of Heber C. Kimball's wife. She believed it. Heber and his wife read it. They received the work without hesitancy."
Mother Smith, commenting on this said, "Thus was this book the means of convincing his whole family, and bringing them into the Church, where they have continued faithful members from the commencement of their career until now. And through their faithfulness and zeal, some of them have become as great and honorable men as ever stood upon the earth." (Lucy Mack Smith, p. 188.)
Testimonies of the Book of Mormon are also carried through the family line of my mother, Julia Leavitt Greene. From the history of her great-great-grandmother Sarah Sturdevant Leavitt, we read: "Raised in New Hampshire by Presbyterian parents young Sarah Sturdevant regularly studied the Bible and prayed on her own. She married Jeremiah Leavitt (my maternal great-great-grandfather) in 1817 and the young couple moved to Hatley, Quebec, Canada. There were Mormon elders in Canada in the late 1830s but none of them found their way to Hatley. A traveler who had attended a Mormon gathering elsewhere loaned the Leavitts a copy of the Book of Mormon and Parley P. Pratt's A Voice of Warning. "We believed them without preaching," Jeremiah Leavitt later wrote. (Women's Voices, An Untold History of the Latter-day Saints, p. 26.)
More than one hundred years later Edwin Kent Greene and Julia Leavitt Greene gave me, their daughter, my own copy of the Book of Mormon. I had read the Book of Mormon before, but one day it was different. I was young but I wanted to know for myself if the Book of Mormon was true. On a particular day I came to the part about faith in the 32nd chapter of Alma. As I finished that chapter I experienced a feeling that I recognized as a witness from the Holy Ghost. I knew the Book of Mormon was true. I wanted to stand up and shout. I wanted to tell the whole world what I knew and how I felt, but I was alone. So with tears of joy streaming down my face, I wrote on the margins all the way around the page, the feelings in my heart at that moment. I made a big red star in the margin at the top of the page and wrote: "May 31, 7:30 a.m., this I know written as if to me." Then I wrote in the margin on the other side. "I have received a confirmation. I know the Book of Mormon is true! This I know."
Early one morning years later on a survival camp in the high Sierras, the youth were presented a letter from their parents that had been written in advance without their knowing it. They were invited to go by themselves to a private place in the woods and read their letters. I, as a leader of youth, had no letter presented to me from my parents. However, I took occasion to go into the woods in what for me became like a sacred grove. I sat at the base of a large tree with my Book of Mormon in hand and realized for the first time that surely the words written on the pages in the Book of Mormon were like my letters from home. Ever since that time as I read the pages of the Book of Mormon the sense of a personal message to me like a letter from my Father in Heaven has given a new dimension to the profound message of this book.
In October 1979, a little over 166 years from the time Samuel Smith presented my great-great-great-grandmother Rhoda Young Greene with the Book of Mormon which changed her life, I was called into Bishop Dallas Bradford's office. He asked me if I would accept the calling to have every young person in our ward, the Bountiful (Utah) 29th Ward, read the entire Book of Mormon by May of the following year, in hopes of changing their lives.
During one late evening as I sat by my mother's bed just days before her passing, I pondered this challenge. There was something about the spirit of that evening with my mom's life hanging in the balance and thinking of eternity and the importance of life and how quickly it passes. In the dim light I listened to the ticking of the clock as my mother's life was ebbing away. I thought of the Book of Mormon and how young people might be motivated to read the book in such a way that they would have an unwavering testimony. I thought I heard a voice in my mind, maybe my mother's with clarity, "Try Moroni's promise." Surely that was the answer. The youth needed to try Moroni's promise and use the same pattern that had been used by all who wished to gain a testimony of this book.
Ten young people were called as captains of ten. Together we came up with a program called "The Moroni's Promise Project." The day we were to launch the program was a memorable Sunday for me. That very morning, as if to test my commitment to the Book of Mormon and this project helping young people to gain a testimony, my mom passed away. For me the project then became a tribute to my mom and the inspiration I had received from her while sitting at her bedside.
As we read and study the Book of Mormon, the spirit of the book penetrates into our hearts and we come to really know and love our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We become more aware of His infinite love for us. We learn of the atonement and how our Father in Heaven has provided a way through the ordinances and covenants through the gospel of Jesus Christ to qualify ourselves for all the blessings our Father has in store for His children who are obedient. We learn how to repent and how to forgive and how to love one another like our Savior loves us. We gain a longing and intense desire to want to be like Him and to one day be with Him. We understand the purpose of this life and why we need to be tried and tested and we learn to walk by faith.
While some will have a long history of connection with the Book of Mormon, others have only a beginning. In the mission field we encouraged the missionaries as they studied the Book of Mormon every morning to write their own brief commentary of each chapter concerning what the message meant to them personally. At the conclusion they were asked to write their own testimony to future generations, even as Moroni had done. Who is to say what will be the worth of those testimonies to their posterity in 20, 40, or 100 years from now.
It has been my experience that while skimming through journals past and present, those entries relative to the Book of Mormon become beacons of light from one generation to the next. Wherever each of us stands with either lengthy or brief family histories related to the Book of Mormon, they become a powerful legacy of faith.