Elder Gary E. Stevenson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, shared the story of Mary Elizabeth Rollins to show the rising generation "how to get closer to the Lord and access greater power to resist temptation," as he addressed the Saturday afternoon session of the 186th Semiannual General Conference on Oct. 1.
As a 12-year-old girl living in New York, Mary had a special feeling in her heart when she heard missionaries — two of whom were Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer — speak about the Book of Mormon and of the Restoration of the gospel. Brother Whitmer left one copy with Isaac Morley, a friend of Mary's uncle.
After pleading with Brother Morley to borrow the book, he relented, allowing her to take it home and read it for the night. She ran home and stayed up nearly the whole night reading it. Impressed by how much she had read and learned in such a short time, Brother Morley allowed her to keep it until she finished.
"A short time later Mary finished reading the book and was the first person in her town to read the entire book. She knew it was true and that it came from Heavenly Father," Elder Stevenson said.
"Through Mary's example, along with other experiences in my life, I have learned that one is never too young to seek and receive a personal testimony of the Book of Mormon," he said. "Each of you young men, young women and children can have the same feelings she did. When you read the Book of Mormon and pray with a desire to know it is true, you too can receive the same impression in your heart that Mary received."
Elder Stevenson said that the Book of Mormon can become the keystone of one's testimony. "In gospel terms, it is a gift and a blessing from the Lord that the keystone of our religion is something as tangible and graspable as the Book of Mormon and that you can hold it and read it. Can you see the Book of Mormon as your keystone, your spiritual center of strength?" he asked.
While first serving as a missionary in Kumamoto, Japan, Elder Stevenson received a powerful witness of the truth of the Book of Mormon that was one of many experiences that helped build his testimony. As he was offering his testimony to a Japanese grandmother in the entryway of her home, he felt "the strongest impression, accompanied by a warm feeling of comfort and serenity inside my chest." Elder Stevenson said, "This feeling reaffirmed to me in a powerful way that the Book of Mormon truly is the word of God."
The Book of Mormon, which was written for the people of this day, is one of the blessings of living in the dispensation of the fullness of times, Elder Stevenson said. "You now have easily within your reach the sacred record that prophets, priests and kings treasured, embraced and preserved! You have the benefit of holding in your hands the complete Book of Mormon."
In many countries, young people spend an average of nearly ten hours a day looking at a TV, computer or cell phone. Elder Stevenson offered a challenge: "Will you replace some of that daily screen time, particularly that devoted to social media, the Internet, gaming or television, with reading the Book of Mormon?"
The Book of Mormon is centered on Christ, Elder Stevenson taught, with some form of His name mentioned nearly every 1.7 verses. "You will pore through the passages of this precious book and encounter your beloved Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, on nearly every page," he said.
"I bear testimony of the Restoration of the gospel in these the latter days and of the Book of Mormon as tangible evidence of that Restoration," Elder Stevenson said. "Just as the words of this book inspired a 12-year-old girl to embrace the restored Church of Jesus Christ nearly two centuries ago, the truths you will find there will uplift and inspire you in a similar way. They will strengthen your faith, fill your soul with light, and prepare you for a future you scarcely have the ability to comprehend.