Today is Emma Smith's 208th birthday. When I thought about what she might most appreciate as a gift the thought came powerfully to me that what she would want is to hear people bear testimony of The Book of Mormon. Emma literally sacrificed everything she had, her family, her home, her children, her physical comfort, her health and even her husband, to help bring forth the Book of Mormon and The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints (LDS). I can't imagine that anything would bring her more joy than to know that her sacrifices weren't in vain and that the Book of Mormon has been one of the most powerful forces on the earth for bringing millions of people to their Savior Jesus Christ.
So this is for you Emma.
When I was in the 9th grade my English class read the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. I don't remember especially liking the book very much, but I do remember the assignment our teacher gave us after we read it. Part of the story is that in the future all books have been burned but certain people take it upon themselves to memorize whole books so that they can preserve them, therefore "becoming" the book. The assignment that my teacher gave us was to choose a book that we thought was important enough to memorize, and then present to the class the book that we would "become". I stewed over this assignment for a long time, because the only book I could think of important enough to memorize was the Book of Mormon. This is the book that has done more to change and shape my life than any other book. It has taught me the nature of God and I owe my sense of purpose in life to the knowledge that it has given me. It means everything to me. Yet as a ninth grader I was so hesitant to choose to "become" the Book of Mormon because 1) my teacher wasn't a member of the LDS church and 2) because I was afraid that the other members of the church in my class (which was nearly everyone, except for one boy who was Jewish) would think I was being "self-righteous" by picking to memorize the scriptures. I was afraid they would think I was preaching to them. I stewed over it for weeks and in the end I chose to ignore the prompting of the Holy Ghost and chose to "become" The Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingles Wilder. This was the first book that I ever read all by myself. It was the book that first opened to me the beautiful world of words and got me hooked on reading. If I remember correctly, which I do, my presentation was very poorly done and kind of pathetic.
After all the presentations were finished our teacher got up and with a surprised look on her face told us that we were the first class she had EVER had in all her years of teaching (which let me tell you were many) where no one had chosen to "become" the Bible or the Book of Mormon. She didn't say anything else about it and moved on with her lesson, but that remark has stung me to my soul ever since. It has haunted me that in our class of 20+ Christian teenagers, not one of us had the courage or strength to bear testimony of our faith. Perhaps others had different reasons for not speaking out, but I realize now that I let fear and insecurity stop me from bearing witness of Jesus Christ and of the importance of the scriptures in my life. After this experience in 9th grade I promised myself that I wouldn't ever let an opportunity to bear my testimony, whether it was to people of my same faith or not, go by without acting upon it.
I am so grateful for The Book of Mormon and for the beautiful truths it contains. Reading it has enhanced my understanding and appreciation for the Bible and opened my heart to the idea that God speaks to, and loves, all the people on the earth. The Book of Mormon contains an ancient account of God's workings and teachings with the people who lived on the American continent and of Christ's visitation to them. It bears a powerful testimony that God loves all His children-- male, female, black, white, Jew, Gentile, righteous, wicked-- the same. His love is all encompassing and every time I read The Book of Mormon I feel that. Because of this book I better understand the nature of God and why I am here on the earth. I treasure that knowledge above all else.
I am so grateful for the many men and women who sacrificed so much to bring it forth into the light. They deserve my unending gratitude. Especially, thank you Emma for all you gave so that I could have this book in my hands today.
If you would like your own free copy of The Book of Mormon please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you one!
If you would like to share your own testimony of The Book of Mormon or a post about Emma for her birthday present please link to it below or share it on Facebook or Twitter. I will have the linky list up all week so if you can't do it now do it later-- and even if you can't do it this week I am sure she would appreciate it anytime you can do it.
Don't be afraid to share your testimony. The world needs this book.