We (on this website) have emphasized the role of prayer in learning truth from God, but I must admit we have been leaving something out.
Some may get the impression that if any question arises, a good Mormon will kneel, ask God, and then ‘pop!’ the answer appears in their heads. This approach does work sometimes:
I knew a guy named Seth that couldn’t for the life of him remember the name of an essay he was trying to explain to me. He was agonizing over it. You know the feeling — it’s on the tip of your tongue… I suggested he pray about it. At first he thought that was a silly idea. Then he went into another room and came out a few minutes later, beaming. “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Seth said triumphantly, “I said a prayer and it just came to me.”
This process is very similar to the scientific method: identify a problem, devise a test (prayer), perform the test, document the results, and adjust your actions to fit your new knowledge. The issue is that sometimes God wants to see (or wants us to see) how well we will adjust our actions before he gives us the answer. For example, it makes little sense for Him to affirm that Jesus is the Christ if you don’t intend to ever become His disciple.
The Book of Mormon puts it like this, “…I would show unto the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore, dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” Ether 12:6
Thus, the action comes before the answer. This is called a ‘leap of faith,’ and shows God a token amount of trust in Him and His messengers. Elder David A. Bednar, an Apostle in the Church, gave this illustration:
Recall how the Israelites came to the river Jordan and were promised the waters would part, and they would be able to cross over on dry ground. Interestingly, the waters did not part as the children of Israel stood on the banks of the river waiting for something to happen; rather, the soles of their feet were wet before the water parted. The faith of the Israelites was manifested in the fact that they walked into the water before it parted. They walked into the river Jordan with a future-facing assurance of things hoped for. As the Israelites moved forward, the water parted, and as they crossed over on dry land, they looked back and beheld the evidence of things not seen. In this episode, faith as assurance led to action and produced the evidence of things not seen that were true. (Seek Learning by Faith, David A. Bednar)
So, when you ask God if the Book of Mormon is true, do it with real intent. Read it. Invest some time in it. Show the Lord that you are willing to step into the baptismal font if this really is His church. These are the prayers that receive mighty answers.
‘You must learn to walk to the edge of the light, and then a few steps into the darkness; then the light will appear and show the way before you’
- Harold B. Lee, 11th president and prophet of the LDS Church