...It is possible for a person to have the fruit of the tree of salvation readily available to him, but to no avail if he does not partake!
I am reminded of two young men who came in to see me some months ago. They had been recommended by their priesthood leaders. From the moment they stepped into the office, they began in a very sincere way questioning certain doctrines and teachings and procedures of the Church. Their attitude, however, was not antagonistic, as they were sincerely looking for answers.
I asked them finally if their questions perhaps represented the symptoms of their problem and not the cause. Wasn't their real question whether or not this church is true? Whether or not it is actually the Church of Jesus Christ? And whether or not it is led by divine revelation?
The young men agreed that perhaps if they were sure of the answers to these questions, they could take care of the other questions that seemed to arise in their hearts.
I asked them if they were willing to participate in an experiment. One of them appeared to be athletically inclined, and so I turned to him and asked, "If you wanted to learn about the chemical properties of water, would you go to the local sports stadium and run four laps around the track?"
He said, "Of course not."
I asked, "Why not?"
He said, "The two are not related."
We then turned to John, chapter seven, and read: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:17.)
If we are going to experiment with the things of Christ, then we are going to have to put these things to a spiritual test--a test that the Savior himself has outlined for all those who wish to know, a test of doing.
I asked them if they read the scriptures.
They said, "No."
I asked them if they prayed. They said, "Not often."
I asked them if they kept the Word of Wisdom.
They said, "Occasionally."
I asked them if they went to church.
They said they'd stopped.
I asked them if they would be interested in a three-month experiment.
They said they would try but were not anxious to commit themselves until they found out what I had in mind.
"During the next three months will you attend all your church meetings and listen carefully to what is being said, even taking notes of the principal points being made by the teachers and how these points might apply to your lives?"
They thought for a moment and said they would.
"During the next three months will you reinstitute in your personal life prayer, night and morning, thanking God for the blessings you enjoy and asking him to help you know if the Church is true and if the things you are doing are meaningful to your lives?"
One of these young men, who considered himself an agnostic, balked at this, but then he finally agreed to do it on the basis that for the sake of the experiment he would accept the premise that there is a God and would appeal to this God for the light and knowledge which he was seeking.
I asked them if in the next three months they would refrain from drinking, smoking, and drugs. Although this created some anxiety, they resolved to do it.
I asked them if in the next three months they would resolve to keep themselves morally clean and in harmony with the principles of virtue which the Savior taught. They said they would. And then I suggested they establish a schedule, on their own, during the next three months to read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover--a few pages each day, with a prayer at each reading that the Lord would bless them to know if the book is true and actually from him. They agreed.
Anticipating what might happen, I said, "Now, if you feel disposed to tell your friends about this, probably their first comment will be 'Boy, has Brother Dunn snowed you.' You may even feel that way a time or two during this experiment, but don't let it keep you from doing what you have agreed to do. If you think that might be a problem, then keep it in the back of your mind, and go ahead and honestly experiment, and let this three-month experience speak for itself."
I added, "If things go properly, you'll notice some by-products, such as a growing awareness and concern for your fellowman and greater appreciation and consideration for other people." They accepted the challenge and left.
Of course, what was really hoped for was the experience that every member has a right to enjoy and everyone else has the right to receive, and that is the knowledge of a personal testimony. I think Brigham Young described it best when he said:
"There is no other experience known to mortal man that can be compared with the testimony or witness of the Holy Ghost. It is as powerful as a two-edged sword and burns in the breast of man like a consuming fire. It destroys fear and doubt, leaving in their stead absolute unqualified, and incontrovertible knowledge that a principle or thing is true. ...
"This same testimony has sustained faithful saints to the present day and will be a lamp to their path forever. The effect of this testimony reaches above and beyond all physical or earthly things and makes relationship with God the Father a literal, pulsing fact. Every fiber of both body and spirit respond to the witness of that testimony and the soul knows and lives the truth."
And so to those who have tasted the water at many wells only to find that the unquenching thirst of the soul drives them on in search of that which will bring peace and nourishment to the heart--to you, whoever you are, member or nonmember--will you come and drink from this well, and taste and experiment and see if you have not found the waters of life where you can drink to your soul and thirst no more but be full with the joy of the true knowledge of Jesus Christ and his teachings and the purpose of your own life?
And to this invitation I bear you my witness that I know God lives. I know he lives and that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer and his Son. Joseph Smith saw what he said he saw, and we have a prophet of God sitting with us, presiding today. I bear you that witness in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.