Most of my posts until now have dealt with “intellectual” evidences for the truth of the Book of Mormon and, consequently, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These are evidences that can be shared and evaluated among people more or less objectively using their intelligence, knowledge and reasoning skills.
I believe this is important evidence. But for me personally, concerning the state and fate of my own soul, intellectual evidence alone is not the most important evidence. It never has been.
For me, the most important evidence is the many times when the Spirit of God has spoken directly to my heart and mind concerning the truthfulness of the Gospel as revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith. These experiences led me toward conversion, and my response to these experiences has kept me converted and (I hope) moving forward for almost 50 years.
In this brief blog, I want to share a few personal experiences that have spoken directly to my heart and mind about the truth of the Book of Mormon and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as revealed by the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The first of these experiences came during my initial reading of the Book of Mormon. The missionaries who were teaching me asked me to read it so that I could know for myself if what they were telling me was true. It is never difficult to convince me to read something new, so I started reading the Book of Mormon.
Thus began my love affair with that “book of books” (as Parley P. Pratt once called the Book of Mormon). My love affair with the Book of Mormon continues to this very day, and is more passionate, committed and all-consuming than ever. (If it sounds like my love of the Book of Mormon is personal; that is an accurate impression.)
It was a beautiful fall evening in 1966 in the little mining town of Kearny, Arizona. I was lying on top of my bed reading the Book of Mormon. The window was open and a cool, gentle breeze was blowing, moving the curtains slightly and bringing fresh air into the room I shared with my brother Barry. I was reading in Second Nephi, having enjoyed but not having been particularly touched by First Nephi.
That all changed as I read Second Nephi, Chapter 2 and began to be moved by the power and the beauty of the language and the ideas. Then I read verses 24 and 25:
“But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things. Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.”
As I read these verses I felt my mind and my heart expand with the power and the truth of the words. I felt deep in my heart and mind that this statement was true. God knows all things and all things have been done in his wisdom. I can trust God. We are created to have joy. Joy is the purpose of our existence.
I felt an intense weight of peace, joy and warmth settle on me. It was physical as well as mental. I felt as if a heavy, but not oppressive, not suffocating, weight was wrapped around me. It was like a very heavy, warm quilt, so that I could not move. I could not move my arms and legs…and I didn’t want to. My mind was very clear and lifted up toward God. I seemed to see myself on the bed below, from a point above me. The feeling persisted for about a minute, long enough for me to be completely conscious of it, to look around and think about what was happening, and to reflect in my mind “Wow! This is really cool!” After a while, the feeling gradually withdrew.
That was the point at which I started taking the Book of Mormon seriously. I began to read it very, very carefully. I started asking God if it was true…and I received answers. But I never again received such a spectacular answer as this first one.
A month or two later, I had finished reading the Book of Mormon, and I wanted to become a Mormon. I was working up the courage to ask my parents for permission to be baptized. I was sitting on the back porch at night, looking up at the hill in back of our house where there were many large sahuaro cacti. There was a full moon and the whole hillside, especially the sahuaro, seemed to be full of light. I was praying in my heart, and once again I felt a weight of peace and comfort and joy settle on me. Both my mind and my heart were clear and happy and at peace.
It was enough. I knew what I should do. I asked, and my parents said yes.
I found out later how hard this was for my folks. They were raised in a generation and time in which prejudices against Mormons and Mormonism were widespread and deep-rooted. They had been affected by those prejudices. But they gave me the freedom to follow my conscience. God bless them forever for letting me be baptized.
The next time I received this feeling was the evening when I was baptized. My whole family attended my baptism in Tucson, Arizona, in the chapel on Broadway. I remember the feeling of coming up out of the water, at peace and happy.
But on the way home, surrounded by my family, during a beautiful Arizona sunset, I once again felt the same physical weight of peace and joy on me and in me and around me. My mind was lifted up and very clear so that I seemed to be able to see everything around me all at once. It only lasted for a few moments, and was not as intense as the first experience with 2 Nephi Chapter 2…but it was enough.
I have received this physical and mental confirmation of peace a number of times since then, but never again as intensely as that first time while reading 2 Nephi Chapter 2. I do not need another very intense witness. I have received multiple witnesses and it is my job to remember the ones I have had.
I believe these experiences of peace come from God.
The Doctrine and Covenants is a compilation of revelations, mostly given to Joseph Smith, to guide the establishment of the Church. After I had been baptized, I started reading the Doctrine and Covenants also. In Section 6 verse 23, God spoke to Oliver Cowdery and reminded him of the witness Oliver had already received of the truthfulness of the work in which Oliver was engaged with these words:
“Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?”
Although these words were given to Oliver Cowdery, I felt that God was speaking, again, directly to me. God had spoken peace to my mind. What greater witness could I wish for?
I recently had the same experience during a visit to Sicily in October 2015. I had gotten up really early to catch a cab to the airport. I was concerned and worried about a number of things, both personal and professional. After showering, I read the Book of Mormon (Alma 32) and meditated on how the Gospel had truly brought forth good fruit in my life.
As I sat on the outside deck of my hotel room, looking out on the Mediterranean Sea, watching the play of moonlight on the waves, the same physical, tangible, real sensation of peace and warmth and comfort filled me. My mind and my heart were once more at peace. My trust in God and in His plan for me, the individual child of God, the person known as Bruce Edwin Dale, son of Marshall Sommers Dale and Dorothy Emma Davis, was renewed yet again.
In all my reading of thousands and thousands of books, from William Shakespeare to Louis L’Amour, or my experience of art, poetry or music, from Bach to the Beatles, I have never had a similar experience of peace and joy. Not once.
I only have these experiences of peace and joy with the Book of Mormon and other scriptures, or when participating in the ordinances of the Gospel, including the ordinances of the Holy Temple, or when I am with Gina or others of my family in times of worship, or when I am out in the natural world and stop to think about its Creator. I never experience similar mental clarity and intense inner joy and peace in any other way. I know that these experiences are from God and have been given to me to light my way home to my Heavenly Parents, to my Father and my Mother in Heaven.
I cannot share the actual physical and mental experience of this peace and warmth and comfort and clarity with anyone. These experiences are intensely personal. They are also real.
But I can witness of them. I do witness of them. I know these experiences come from God. They do not and cannot come from man or from any human source.
I have never asked God for anything out of mere intellectual curiosity—to tickle my brain. I have always intended to act on the knowledge God gives me. And so God has told me, again and again, in my heart and my mind, because I have asked in faith with an honest heart, as He has promised (Doctrine and Covenants, 8:1-2). We must ask, being fully committed to act upon the answers given to us.
My friends, you are now responsible for the witness I have borne to you.
I invite you to seek and find your own experiences of peaceful, joyful witness. Then be faithful to these experiences, remember them, and act upon them in faith and trust.
If you do so, you will receive additional experiences, at the time and place of God’s choosing, and in His own way. It will be sufficient for your needs. It will be enough.