Parley P. Pratt writes about how he found the Book of Mormon and how he felt when he read it.
We visited an old Baptist deacon by the name of Hamlin. After hearing of our appointment for evening, he began to tell of a book, a strange book, a very strange book! in his possession, which had been just published. This book, he said, purported to have been originally written on plates either of gold or brass, by a branch of the tribes of Israel; and to have been discovered and translated by a young man near Palmyra, in the state of New York, by the aid of visions, or the ministry of angels… I felt a strange interest in the book. [The] next morning… for the first time, my eyes beheld the “Book of Mormon”- that book of books – that record which reveals the antiquities of the “New World” back to the remotest ages, and which unfolds the destiny of its people and the world for all time to come; - that Book which contains the fullness of the gospel of a crucified and risen Redeemer; - that Book which reveals a lost remnant of Joseph, and which was the principal means, in the hands of God, of directing the entire course of my future life.
I opened it with eagerness, and read its title page. I then read the testimony of several witnesses in relation to the manner of its being found and translated. After this I commenced its contents by course. I read all day; eating was a burden, I had no desire for food; sleep was a burden when the night came, for I preferred reading to sleep.
As I read, the Spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I knew and comprehended that the book was true, as plainly and manifestly as a man comprehends and knows that he exists. My joy was now full, as it were, and I rejoiced sufficiently to more than pay me for all the sorrows, sacrifices, and toils of my life.
Can anyone read the preceding passage and doubt the sincerity of Parley P. Pratt’s conversion? I suppose some could. But when you consider his life, and read his sermons, and read all the poems he wrote about God and the Restoration, the only rational conclusion is this: Parley P. Pratt really believed in Mormonism.
Why is this a reason you should stay LDS? Because you need to remember that the founders of the Church were not con-men. There are so many reasons to be proud of our heritage. There are so many reasons to be proud of the men and women who brought this Church to what it is today. Were some lies told? Yes. Did some leaders practice unrighteous dominion? Yes. But overall, the founders of the LDS church were sincere people seeking after the will of God.
Like Parley P. Pratt, I have also felt joy when reading the Book of Mormon. Though I no longer view it as a literal historical record, I still appreciate its warmth and goodness. The Book is beautiful. It has a proven track record of facilitating communication between humans and God.
God works in mysterious ways. I think God had an interest in getting the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints started, so that people like me nearly two hundred years later could get close to God through living the Mormon lifestyle, and so that people in the Philippines could be given some relief after the devastating typhoon Haiyan. And to get the Church started, God led men like Parley P. Pratt to Joseph Smith.
What Pratt felt and thought when he first encountered Mormonism was neither neurosis nor wishful thinking. He wasn’t being duped or brainwashed. He was converting to a legitimate, albeit colorful, Christian denomination. The Spirit of God was moving in his life.