Amy Williams: Seeking and receiving personal revelation

By Amy Williams

Deseret News

Published: Tuesday, June 19 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Amy Williams is postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard Medical School.

Editor's note: This week, Mormon Times shares the testimonies of five scholars who are faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Click here for the list of scholars.

My testimony of the truth of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and that of the Book of Mormon is certain. I say without any hesitation that I possess a knowledge that there is a God in heaven and that he has revealed himself to me. That knowledge has come not through physical demonstrations or by reason alone, but by God's Spirit speaking to me personally, in a manner that could only have come from God.

This knowledge and the relationship I have developed with my Maker have carried me through many difficulties and I am grateful beyond measure to know these things for myself. Without a doubt, knowing the reality of God and of the truthfulness of His Church is the greatest blessing of my life.

Although my belief is certain now, it was not always so, and answers to my inquiries about God and religion did not come immediately when I asked.

I gained my knowledge of the reality of God and the truth of the Book of Mormon at a time of personal struggle. At the age of 18, having just finished my freshman year in college, I came to feel that I needed to know for myself whether there was a God and whether the things I had been taught in Mormonism as a child were true.

To that point, I had prayed intermittently and had read — though somewhat irregularly — from the Book of Mormon, with an occasional inquiry to God asking to know if it was true. No answer that I could recognize came, and I wondered why my asking did not produce the answer that the Book of Mormon promises and whether I was asking in the right way.

However, despite the lack of an answer, I continued to believe in Mormonism since so many of its teachings made sense to me. The most compelling claims to me included the belief that God continues to send prophets to the earth in modern times, that God can and does speak by personal revelation to ordinary, lay members of the LDS Church and not just to its leaders, and that spiritual gifts are available now, just as in ancient times. On this basis I formed a belief, yet I wondered when and whether my prayers to know definitively concerning God and religion would be answered; I was sure that if Mormonism was true, I too had claim on personal revelation.

In my early teenage years, I made the determination to stay true to Mormonism for at least a period of time since I could not then decide if it was true or not. If, by the time I reached 21, I had not experienced divine revelation, I planned to reevaluate these questions.

It is now clear to me that the primary reason I did not recognize any answers to my prayers or perceive a witness about the Book of Mormon as a young teenager was because I put forth little effort and had only a small desire for an answer. Though I did want to know, I did not put my heart and soul into prayer the way I did years later.

My freshman year in college was an exciting one, as I had the opportunity to deepen my understanding of subjects I felt passionate about and also had the chance to interact with a wider range of individuals than I had grown up with. I attended the University of Utah, and although this campus is located in Salt Lake City, there were a large number of students who were not Mormons, and this was especially true in the sciences and in engineering.

I became good friends with a small group of atheists and agnostics and felt eager to share my beliefs with them, thinking that they would see the uniqueness of the tenets of Mormonism and would want to learn more about the church. I am grateful for these friends and the discussions we had, because I have had dozens more since then with other sincere disbelievers among my classmates, colleagues, and friends in academia.

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