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Home Scripture Testimonies Great Testimonies 4

Great Testimonies 4

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Edna K. Bush
Irvin H. Cohen

Edna K. Bush

"What a tall tale—an angel with gold plates? That was Edna Bush's response to the Book of Mormon story she heard on Temple Square in 1939.

But eleven years later she met the book itself, as lady missionaries introduced it to her in her New Orleans home. She began reading it from curiosity—but when she reached verse three on page one she had received "a verification from within."


The book was to become the great study of her life. Her insights into it and her deep conviction of its truth inspire others. In missionary and study groups she is a popular teacher, lecturer and writer.

At first unable to be baptized, she suffered the loss of the Spirit which had brought her great peace and joy. Spiritual strugglings and earnest prayers were her recourse. She rejoices that today she is blessed with the Comforter.

The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. (Isaiah 9:2.)

They also that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and they that murmured shall learn doctrine. (Isaiah 29:24.)

Yearly, thousands of visitors to Salt Lake City walk away from Temple Square unimpressed with the Mormon story. I was such a visitor in 1939. What a tall tale—an angel with gold plates! [p.38] Having grown up in the south where I'd heard spirituals sung about golden slippers for walking the golden streets, I immediately thought, "Oh, sure the plates were gold! The slippers were gold, the streets were gold. If they'd said the words were written with diamonds, it would have been an even better story!" So with the "superior" intelligence I possessed at the time, I walked away—to hear no more about the Mormons for years.
What happened to me in the interval included some government and civic work in Washington, several moves, the production of two sons, the development of a real rattlesnake disposition, and the obvious loss of the "superior" intelligence I'd possessed in Salt Lake City.

I began to look about for something. In Atlanta, my home town, I visited a book fair held in the city auditorium. The building was packed with what seemed an endless number of publisher's works, but I came away disappointed at not finding the something my spirit was seeking. What I was seeking I didn't know, and soon forgot.

Another move, and my family found ourselves in New Orleans. Our two chaise lounges in the living room typified what life was like for me in 1950—a lazy, leisurely life, juleps flavored with garden mint, and so on. Mornings were for working in the strawberry and flower beds, for filling crawfish holes with camphor balls; afternoons, when the heat was greater, were for straightening the house. Shorts and halter were the usual attire. Our pretty, grey brick home, with its verbena-lined sidewalks, its gardenias, azaleas, camellias, shrimp plants, and poinsettias, made New Orleans a dreamy place for me.

I still had the rattlesnake disposition, though, and should not have been shocked but was to hear our poetical pre-schooler, Larry, reciting:

Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep
And can't tell where to find them.
"Leave that alone!!!"
And they'll come home
Wagging their tails behind them.

Another shock came when Les, Junior, our second-grader, innocently asked, "Mother, what people do you stand?"

The question made absolutely no sense to me. "What do you mean?" I queried.

"Well," he responded, "You can't stand Mrs. Jones, and you can't stand Mrs. Smith, what people do you stand?" What was I teaching my children!

We were attending no church. I tried several but quit them all. One church could have passed as a country club; another, humble and sweet, offered no challenge. I thought, "A God who could create a world as complex as ours would certainly have more to his church than Sunday meetings and Friday-night suppers."

One church I attended required healings for membership. I could have passed that test, but the requirement seemed wrong—at odds with God's love for all men. Why not require one to speak in tongues, or to see visions, for membership? There were, of course, no longer such things as visions; though I did feel that we moderns were treated unfairly since we face greater dangers today than people of ancient times when God was occasionally around. You can see, a "Luciferite" had intercepted most of the Mormon guide's message I should have heard on Temple Square—nothing came through about a recent visit from God; just that queer story about an angel with gold plates.

"Why aren't you taking the children to Sunday School?" my husband asked one day.

"I will when I find the right one," I replied, without a thought that I'd ever find one.

"Do you think you have to set up your own?" he asked. I almost supposed I'd have to.

So Sundays were spent swimming or crabbing at Lake Pontchartrain, picnicking at Grand Isle, or sometimes just doing chores around the house. The days drifted by. The wonderful weather of New Orleans provided another reason for thinking the place a dreamy one.

Then there came a real dream—real and unforgettable. The dream contained a powerful message which had such an effect upon me that I wrote to the newspaper. My remarks appeared in the letters column. The message of my dream was that I had to contribute something in this life in order to attain a certain desired position in the life to come. This deeply bothered me. What contribution could a housewife make! The letter, having been published, now gives me the date of the occurrence-October 23, 1950.

Three mornings later, instead of my usual a.m. condition—scantily clad for gardening, rooms yet to be straightened—I was dressed in a pretty print pongee, and the house was tidy. There came a knock at the door. It took me a few minutes to reach the front. I arrived to find two young ladies walking away.

"Did you knock?" I called. That's when I met the Mormons again!

Obviously the girls had come quite a distance, walking. I invited them in to rest on the chaises. Instead they perched on the edges and began telling me their story.

Even though I had thought the Mormons gullible to swallow such an outlandish tale as they put out, still I had thought Salt Lake City beautiful and carried fond memories of my visit. After some conversation the girls asked if I'd like to buy a copy of their book. "They are pleasant, but just sellers of books," I thought. I experienced a deep depression, but I did not want the pleasant girls to feel as badly as I, so I made the purchase. They left, and instantly I was into the book.

The visit of the angel Moroni to Joseph Smith and Joseph's description of the angel's bodily appearance, as given in the pages on the origin of the Book of Mormon, made a striking impression on me. It was the first description I'd ever read that made an angel seem believable. Previously, angels and fairies had somehow belonged to a sort of never-never land.

I began reading strictly for curiosity. That I should ever be interested in the Mormons would have seemed farfetched indeed. What a surprise it was, then, to receive a verification from within when I'd reached only the third verse on page one. It seemed [p.41] undeniable that Nephi was speaking the truth, that it was he who had made the record I was reading.

How many of Lucifer's spirits were assigned to me while I read, I may some day know. They were certainly doing nothing to let light through as I read the visions of Lehi and Nephi and the Isaiah parts. When I reached the statement attributed to Joseph of Egypt about a man named Joseph bringing forth a book, one spirit whispered, "And if you had written the book, your name would have been right there."

Curiosity kept me trying to find out who Mormon and Moroni (I called him Moroney) were, so I plunged on through the darkness. Finally I came to the Words of Mormon, where I met the two, but the account was too sketchy to be satisfying. I continued the search.

The Book of Mosiah—what confusion! I was completely lost, but I was intrigued with the dry bones and ancient ruins. With each page I turned I thought I'd learn their origin. (For the new reader, a hint: turn to the Book of Ether, in the back of the book. If I'd glanced at the footnotes I'd have solved the puzzle before I gave up on it, but how many first readers give heed to that voluminous collection?)

A charmer was the Book of Alma—the first half, that is. So forcefully did one of its messages come through that I later spent much time trying to find it again. If it interests you to learn what passage it was, it was Alma 32.

But the second half of Alma! Almost congealing were its bloody, endless wars. I didn't like that part at all, though today I find much meat in the accounts, for actions do make better sermons than words.

The "whodunit" story in the Book of Helaman was most interesting. But Samuel's sermon about the birth and death of Jesus—the effect of his birth and death upon nature—was such a divergence from anything I'd ever been exposed to that it was not difficult to believe the whispering spirit who was repeating in my ear; "This is wrong! Jesus in ancient America! It's sacrilegious!"

I read on. Third Nephi recorded the possible origin of Indian tribes. Here was something not at all hard to believe. Then chapters eight through ten, with the story of the terrible destruction in America, explained how the great Rocky Mountains could have been broken into the huge fragments I'd seen out west. That had nagged at my mind for years. So had another question: "Why doesn't man live as long as a dumb turtle when it is man who has the brains?" Third Nephi gave me the answer to that puzzler also—man is on earth for a test; it is unnecessary that he live a great length of time.

When I'd finished the accounts of Jesus' several visits to the ancient Americans, I could not have believed the story more if I had been one of the Nephites at Bountiful in A.D. 34. I felt a wonderful warmth as I read Jesus' words to those people. To have learned of Jesus' importance insofar as this planet and its inhabitants are concerned (Jesus, the Creator and the Judge) came as a terrific surprise, for I'd been taught only that he was a great teacher who lived and died long ago.

Fourth Nephi and Mormon's own small book brought sadness, again, and I concluded that wars would never cease until the return of Jesus. But I finally met Mormon and Moroni!

The Jaredite story, in Ether, answered yet another question for me, with its account of the premortal visit of Jesus to the brother of Jared. The theory that I'd come into existence at my birth to mortal parents had never been acceptable to me. The early part of Ether was a sweet, consoling story, but then came another account of complete destruction, plus warnings to us who live today.

Then came Moroni's own book, with its instructions, two letters from Father Mormon, and a marvelous sermon Mormon had given before his death. From these writings I learned much. The sermon indicated that not everyone was in unsatisfactory standing in Mormon's day, a fact easily overlooked when reading Mormon's small book. The letter in Moroni chapter 8 answered another matter I'd thought upon from time to time, the inappropriateness of baptizing babies. Obviously this mistake was being made even in Moroni's day, or Mormon would not have written the letter.

Finally, in the tenth chapter of Moroni, was a verification promised to the sincere reader. Without my even asking, a wonderful, burning testimony came to me. I put a thermometer into my mouth, thinking it would register 104 degrees (it registered normally), for there was a real, physical burning going on. I could feel the fire on my cheek with my hand. Without any question whatever, I knew the book was of God, not of man. How unspeakably marvelous! God had not forgotten man. And he promised even more knowledge to the believer.

Though I came away from my first reading of the Book of Mormon with a positive knowledge as to the greatness of Jesus Christ, I came away also with a knowledge of the greatness of my ignorance, and I was determined to go through the book again with a pencil to figure out those dark passages. But one pencil didn't do it. I switched to colors, marking what I considered to be important passages. Oh, the folly of that idea! The book is a riot of color; there were no unimportant passages. The result? Pure confusion. Today that copy makes an excellent visual aid as I try to explain to others the vast contents of the Book of Mormon.

Though I had no idea what the Mormons believed, I wanted to be where that book was. Those pleasant girls were visiting me regularly and my head swam from all the information they so easily brought forth. I had a deep desire to go right through the Bible. I remember excusing myself from the nomination of PTA president, with "Ask me next year; this year I have to read the Bible." What a storehouse of knowledge I'd been ignoring, and how stupid I felt that I didn't know whether Moses was Abraham's ancestor or vice versa, to say nothing of my ignorance as to where to find Chronicles or Corinthians!

I soon knew I had to be baptized. How strange! I'd always thought water baptism was for the great unwashed, not for the sophisticated souls. For the first time in my life, I really wanted to join a church. The gift of the Holy Ghost was something I deeply desired. I learned that the Church makes an unusual requirement for membership; in some cases written approval is required. This written consent or approval was unavailable in my case.

Soon the lady missionaries were transferred away; then a stream of elders came visiting. How many sets I sidetracked with my constant questions I don't know, but finally one said, "Let's have the lesson first; then we'll answer questions." Until then I never knew they'd been trying to teach me lessons!

Surprisingly one day—a sad, sad day—that wonderful warmth, the manifestation of the Spirit, was suddenly gone. What a period of bleakness and sorrow followed! How many tears I shed! I tried reasoning with God, "If it were up to me, I'd be baptized!" But there was no return of the Spirit.

After many yearnings and tearful prayers, a voice spoke to me in the night. "Study the beatitudes," it said. How odd, I thought. Those blessings are for people who have died and who were "those things" in this life. I used a thesaurus, and began making a list of synonyms for the words in the beatitudes. I was surprised to learn that "blessed" meant "happy," and "meek" (instead of meaning a milquetoast, which I would never be) meant "humble." I went on through the list. The Spirit whispered, "If you let these be your attitude, you will be happy." Beatitudes became: Be Attitudes! I typed the list, taped it inside a kitchen cupboard where it could be checked constantly, and tried hard to adjust my behavior. It was not long afterwards that the written approval needed for baptism was obtained.

While waiting for baptism, I'd been made president of the new Primary in New Orleans and had made many friends who rejoiced with me at the great news. For years I'd downgraded baptism, now I felt like sending out engraved announcements. But the strangest things happened on the big day when my baptism was to take place. Doors slammed, things fell, it was queer! There was no chapel in New Orleans at the time; we drove to Baton Rouge for the service. By now it was August, 1951. It was sundown when we made the trip. The beautiful pink of the sunset seemed a love message from heaven, and I was serenely happy. A couple of days later, I was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and received again the marvelous warmth of the Spirit, this time as a permanent gift.

Today I vividly remember my sorrow at the departure of the Spirit after the Book of Mormon verification visit. I remember the [p.45] tears, but I treasure the experience for I know doubly what it is to be without the Comforter and to be blessed with the Comforter. How appropriate that name, the Comforter. It truly comforts—just as in my childhood, at bedtime, when I'd be knotted up with cold, and mother would add a comforter to the covers. What lovely warmth, how the tensions eased!

Like many another convert, I was certain my family and friends would be as overjoyed as I was to learn that Jesus had said much more than is found in the Bible, to learn that he'd been back to the earth in these latter days more than once. Enthusiastically I began telling them about my discovery and dispensing copies of the Book of Mormon. To my great surprise, they were almost totally uninterested.

At first I couldn't believe it. Sadness weighed me down. For quite a while I was like Peter in wanting to cut off ears, or like James and John who wanted to call down fire from heaven. Then I discovered that my nonmember friends were not alone in their reluctance to read the Book of Mormon, that many Church members had not read it. I wanted to shake such members and say, "Don't you realize what you have!"

Slowly I learned that this is not the way God operates. He allows man to make his own decisions, and forces no man to heaven. If man doesn't care to learn more about his Heavenly Father it is his privilege to have this attitude, though he will come under judgment for this lack of attention. It has been extremely difficult for me to understand this. I have mourned much in the process. Today, after nearly twenty years, I can almost accept the fact that what is, is. I pray often that my heart will not hurt so much about the lack of interest on the part of my loved ones. As for Church members, occasionally I have to stifle the urge to nudge them and cry, with Isaiah, "Awake! Awake!"

For years I searched Church publications for the writings of some other convert who'd felt the loneliness of being in a part-member family, but I found none. Perhaps someone who today is sorrowing over a similar situation may read these words and take courage to continue the struggle. From an Old Testament story I found a stimulant to help overcome the sadness. In speaking to [p.46] Samuel concerning the downfall of Saul, the Lord asked, "How long wilt thou mourn?" Then I realized there should come an end to mourning.

I have found comfort in working closely with God's word in the Book of Mormon, hoping someday to fulfill the requirement that I must make a contribution in this life. Realizing how little treasured is the Book of Mormon, I could see an opportunity to use my business training to make it more understandable through marking, simply, some of its passages. Finally, after years of searching and after coloring dozens and dozens of copies of the Book of Mormon, I have evolved a simple dissection study system, a system which has been found useful by not a few members, nonmembers, and missionaries. Perhaps that is my contribution.

If my large collection of marked copies of the Book of Mormon served no other purpose, it certainly furnished my two sons with an intellectual testimony of the truth of the book. Indeed a seeker after truth, an earnest seeker, would be hard pressed to ignore the seemingly endless detail which my almost twenty years of research has made so visual. With such research, errors would long ago have been detected, but each avenue of approach has strengthened my faith that Joseph Smith did not concoct the story but translated an ancient record as he claimed.

Alma 32, the chapter that shone through during my first reading of the Book of Mormon, declares that the word of God will expand the mind, enlighten the understanding, and enlarge the soul. It declares also that the word is delicious. I bear testimony to that truth. The book provides a marvelous route to personal growth and a magnificent means for gathering Israel, as promised by Bible prophets.

The Comforter, received upon baptism into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a consoler and inspirer, and an ever present help in times of troubles and distress.

Though once I walked in darkness, today I see a great light. Though I erred and murmured, today I am continually gaining new understanding and learning much doctrine.
Thank God For The Missionaries
Immo Luschin Von Ebengreuth

The spark which ignites the spirit of conversion differs with individuals. As much as anything, that spark for Immo Luschin von Ebengreuth was eternal marriage.

A full-time translator for the Church in Frankfurt, Germany, Immo is a well-educated man who speaks five languages and has studied both medicine and law at the University of Graz, Austria, his home town. He has always been deeply religious. Blessed with a happy marriage which they had deliberately oriented toward religion, Immo and his wife could not accept that that marriage must end at death. In their thoughtful and prayerful approach they found other basic problems too which were not answered by their Roman Catholic faith. For all that, they were reluctant to seek answers outside of their religion.

The following account tells how the missionaries faith and persistence prevailed in providing the answers. "Someone had to be courageous and persistent enough…,"says Brother Immo Luschin, as his Church friends call him. "Thank God for the missionaries."

For several months prior to our wedding, my fiancé and I spent our evenings discussing every phase of our future. Among other things, we decided that we would make religion a very substantial part of our marriage. Our children, we felt, would have to be protected from the evils of the world, and this could best be done by making religion the foundation of our moral lives.

Both Helmi and I were Catholic, after the tradition of our parents and forefathers, which means, in our case, that we were [p.48] baptized when less than one month old. We attended Catholic classes in school (because we had to), and went to church (only when we were made to do so). Otherwise, we had no religious activity, no reading of the Holy Bible, and after we were graduated from school, no going to church either. But because of our commitment to each other, our religious activity increased after marriage.

On the day of our wedding, a beautiful September morning in 1947, we went to confession, partook of the sacrament of the Eucharist, and were married, first at the registrar's, according to the Austrian law, and then in the Catholic Cathedral, that is, the Herz-Jesu-Kirche at Graz, Austria, our home town. From then on we attended mass on Sundays, went to confession at least once a year, and fasted on the day preceding Christmas Day and on Good Friday. We tried to be in harmony with all the ritual injunctions of the Roman Catholic Church. As our four children came along, each was baptized within the week of its birth; later we taught them to pray to our Father in heaven and went to church with them every Sunday.

Previously, during the Second World War, I had been required to serve in the German Army. My wartime experiences were such that I could not but believe in a Divine Providence, having been spared many times and under very unusual conditions. All during these years, something within assured me that I would not die before I would become the father of a family, and I always felt that the Lord had given me that promise because of some important task which might be mine in the future.

Compared with what we saw around us, ours was a singularly happy union. Before we were married, Helmi and I had agreed that there would be no divorce in our life. Moreover, we seemed to be a little different from our friends in that we were probing and questioning as to what the purpose of life should be. Many of our friends seemed to have the attitude that life was given in order that we get out of it what we could—namely, "eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die." Enjoyment rather than joy, self-assertion rather than righteousness, seemed to be typifying the general attitude we encountered among our associates. Problems, [p.49] they believed, should be covered rather than solved, especially if the solving implied self-restraint. The most desirable thing was not to eliminate transgression, but not to get caught at it.

After some six years of continued happiness in our married life, I said to Helmi one evening, "You know, I don't believe that we shall be separated in the hereafter, as the priest who married us said we would be. We shall be together forever." "But how could this be possible?" she asked.

"I do not know. But one thing I know for sure. If they don't have this kind of provision yet, they must invent it for our sake." More and more we felt the need to protect our four children from the all-too-liberal influences of the world. Who, or what guidance, was going to help us select the right way of life for them, as well as for ourselves? This problem was constantly on our minds. Can our religion assist us in solving it? I started to read the Bible, because I hoped to find an answer there. Occasionally, I read from the Bible to my family.

Helmi and I discussed several aspects of our religion wherein we either disagreed with the officially accepted doctrine, or were not fully satisfied. There were also some passages of scripture which aroused my concern. I felt that there was inconsistency in what was written there, or at least that I was not intelligent enough to see past the letter and reach the spirit of the doing.

Then 1960 came. In March I had reached a state of mind wherein I felt distracted and worried about almost every aspect of life, and I decided to take a step which heretofore had not occurred to me. One morning, I entered a small chapel not far from my downtown office, at an hour when I knew no one would be there. I knelt and asked the Lord for his help. I came away with a feeling of peace in my heart-but still nothing happened, so far as I could see.

Life went on as usual. We were guests at two society weddings, and later found out that in each case the wedding date had been a little late. Our thoughts were heavy, because we wanted desperately to help our children avoid this type of experience. Yet, the society in which they were developing was condoning immorality more and more.

Helmi and I began to enjoy a very close association with Reginald, a former school friend of mine, and his wife. They were the parents of three children. This friendship turned out to be not at all what we had hoped it would be, namely, the pooling of information and experiences for the purpose of mutually improving our lives. Several times our social evenings with them ended the same way as did the evenings spent with our other friends: after meaningless discussions of meaningless topics everybody was spiritually enlightened only by some high percentage spirit out of a bottle.

On July 13, Reginald died suddenly. In the small hours of morning, after having spent much time in a bar, he had run his small car head-on into a big truck. Helmi took his children into our home for several days, caring for them while waiting for things at their home to get back to normal. During this same week, two young men called on her and wanted to bring her some religious message. They were clad in dark business suits and obviously were foreigners. Helmi did not listen to them, but agreed that they could return the next week.

The following week, the two young men returned. Helmi was watering and weeding the flower beds, and they persuaded her to be seated with them at a nearby table in our garden. They asked her permission to open the discussion with prayer. They asked her about her family, introduced religious matters, and started questioning her. Helmi warded off all inquiry by telling them that they should come back on Saturday when her husband would be home. They then again offered prayer. Helmi says, "This is the thing which impressed me most, and for many years will be stamped into my mind. They included me and my children in their prayer, asking him to bless us and to look after our needs."

I scarcely paid attention when, on Saturday morning, she told me that two young men, possibly Americans, would come at 2 p.m. and try to see me. At two o'clock I was in my downstairs workshop, working on a birthday present for Helmi, when the doorbell rang.

"Good day. We are missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we have a very important message  to impart to you," said one. He introduced himself as Elder Bryner and his companion as Elder Johnson.

"We want to tell you that there is a living prophet of the Lord today," he continued, "and that the full gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored in our day and age by a modern prophet, Joseph Smith." His German was quite good, although his sentences sounded as though they were rehearsed and somewhat worn out by too frequent repetition. His companion remained silent except when, after some inaudible exclamation mark in his friend's statements, he would utter, "Ik uais auch dahs dahs uahr iist," (meaning, "I, too, know that this is true"), spoken with a heavy American accent. As a linguist, I was particularly aware of these external matters.

I was not interested. I did not invite them in, even though it was raining cats and dogs outside. Not even their clear, bright eyes could move me to let them come in; neither did their purposeful sincerity, which I sensed. I was a Catholic, and I intended to remain one. Suddenly a thought crossed my mind. It must be a very humiliating task to go and preach religion, having every other door slammed in their faces, as I was about to do to them. I knew that my neighbors down the street were not going to listen to them either. Very embarrassing and most humiliating, I thought. Their payment could not amount to much, the way they were dressed. And yet they did their work. What power motivated them?

"Could you come and see me on Monday, two days from today, at nine o'clock in my downtown office?" They assured me they would. They also tried to give me some literature, which I would not accept.

Later that day, when the rain had stopped, I found in our driveway a small brochure, completely soaked. Its title was "Joseph Smith Tells His Own Story." Now it came back to me: These were Mormons, the ones connected with polygamy!

On Monday their exactness in meeting our 9 a.m. appointment impressed me favorably. I led them into my private office and invited them to sit down. One of them then said a prayer, asking the Lord to let His Spirit be with us. Elder Bryner then  proceeded to embark on an apparently memorized recitation of a religious nature, using several sheets with stick figures on them to illustrate his argumentation. I waved these aside, cut short his presentation, and said to them, "Now, gentlemen, I don't want to offend you. I have read about your precious Joseph Smith and his own story. But before we go on, I should like to ask you a few questions."

"During our marriage, my wife and I have both felt that we should also be together in heaven, even though we fail to see at the moment how this is possible. What stand do you, or rather, does your church take?"

Elder Bryner reached for a book in a black leather cover, rapidly turned the pages, then read a few sentences to the effect that a marriage covenant, if entered into under the right conditions, could be sealed up for eternity. He explained to me a very convincing doctrine of his church on that matter.

I posed the next question: "If a child were born, and, without even a chance of being baptized, died, why should it be condemned to go to the kind of hell my church has devised for it? I simply cannot bring myself to believe that my Father in heaven can be as cruel and unjust as all that. What is the transgression of Adam to me? I do not believe in any original sin. I never had a chance to disapprove of anything our first progenitor might have perpetrated. By the way, do you really think God tempted Adam knowingly to bring about his fall? This would have been rather a 'Pontius Pilate' sort of behavior, wouldn't it?"

I was told that little children were redeemed from the beginning through Jesus Christ; also that Adam, in making his decision, was fully exercising his own free agency. Our discussion lasted three hours, until noon. I invited them to come again two days later, and then again, and again. There were more questions that had been vexing me.

"Do the rich and the poor, in your church, have the same opportunity to reach their salvation?" I asked.

I had a very special reason for asking this question. From what I had seen all around me, I had certainly come to the conclusion that a person who had sufficient means was far more [p.53] likely to escape eternal damnation, or at least purgatory, than the other fellow with no worldly purchasing power to his credit.

"In my wife's and my opinion, it is a great sin to confess a transgression, to take penitence for it, knowing at the same time that one is very likely to commit it again and again. Should not true repentance consist of: being sorry, the restitution, the promise never to do it again, and then the asking of God's forgiveness?"

This question had been prompted by an experience I had had. About two months previously there had been a mass meeting at Graz, at which a famous Jesuit Father preached. Thinking he might be able to help me, I asked him for an interview. He agreed to meet me the next day. My problem was that, under the rule of the Catholic Church, a certain action on my part was considered a sin which I was obliged to confess, and I felt grave concern about it, but each time I confessed it to a priest I knew that I would do it again. How could I hope to extricate myself from this dilemma? This Father told me that he could not help me either, except that he was willing to grant me general absolution if I were to confess to him, which I did. But after that, I felt more doubts and qualms than ever before. Something must be wrong in this reasoning, I thought.

I had another question to put to the missionaries. "In the Bible I have read about Cain and his offering not having been respected by the Lord. From what I can find in Genesis, I cannot but conclude that God must have been partial or arbitrary in his dealings with these first sons of Adam and Eve. Could you explain to me the full story or meaning of this?" They could. Out of a book in a black leather cover.

The elders knew an answer to every question I had; and what is more, it was the right answer, the one I had been looking for all along. I felt as if I was approaching my old home town after many years of absence. At the conclusion of their second visit the elders asked me to kneel with them and offer the prayer, which I did.

They gave me a Book of Mormon, the army edition. I had asked them to let me have it in English. I read the Book of Mormon in the course of one night. At that time, I told Helmi of [p.54] my recent experiences. She was somewhat surprised. I guess I showed much enthusiasm explaining to her what I had learned. The missionaries gave me a German edition of Lowell Bennion's book, An Introduction to the Gospel. Helmi asked me to read it to her, and after each chapter we discussed it. It gave us many of the answers which we had been looking for practically all our lives.

I do not know just at what time I was converted. It would be hard to tell. But when she asked me, "Now, do you really believe all this story about an angel and golden plates and so on," I sat there for some time and tried to decide whether I did or not. Is it any harder to believe in a prophet who wears a necktie and a modern hat than a prophet with a long white beard who lived many centuries ago? I told Helmi I really believed it to be true. Perhaps I did not so much believe it as I hoped it was true, and this was my reasoning. All the answers I had received from the elders were what I knew they should be. So for the rest of the doctrine and teachings of this church, I just hoped they would be true also. Everything was so consistent, so appealing to every fiber of my being.

On the 14th of August the elders asked me to quit smoking. I had been using tobacco constantly for twenty-five years. Several times I had made an attempt to give it up, without success. They told me I could do it with the help of the Lord. On that day I smoked the last cigarette of my life.

We were used to a church tax in our homeland. They told us (and it was Helmi who in her practical way put the question to them) that nowhere was there a government tax levied to help support their church. Instead, they said, members of their church were privileged in that they had an opportunity to return to the Lord one-tenth of their income annually, or in other words, to pay their tithing. And it was Helmi who from the day of our conversion supported and strengthened me in making myself and my family eligible to receive all the blessings that come through keeping this commandment.

August 28, 1960. This day I was baptized by Elder David F. Johnson, and was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Elder Lowell L. Bryner.

Helmi was baptized two weeks later; the two older children, Astrid, 12, and Hanno, 10, after three months of instruction, were baptized in December of the same year. Gero, who was then 7 years old, and Iris, 5, were later baptized by myself when they were old enough to be baptized.

The most important day in my life, and in Helmi's life, was the 21st of August, 1961, when we were sealed for time and all eternity in the temple which is located in Switzerland. And I know that if we prove true and faithful, we will not be separated in the hereafter.

I knew this was the truth; I had known it all along. But someone had to come and show it to me by breaking down the walls which tradition and other worldly considerations had built around me. Someone had to be courageous and persistent enough to disregard my reluctance to do as the Lord wanted me to do.

Someone had to tell me. Thank God for the missionaries.


A Jew Finds The True Messiah

Irving H. Cohen

Born an orthodox Jew, Irving Cohen was converted to the gospel with the help of a fellow officer while serving with the armed forces in Korea. This involved his making a radical change in the attitudes and understandings that were a part of his traditional background. Both as stake missionary and high councilor he has continued to bear a fervent testimony on all possible occasions and this has resulted in many other conversions to the gospel.

A dentist by profession, Irving Cohen lives in Schenectady, New York. He here gives the moving story of how he found the true Jewish Messiah in the person of Jesus Christ, and of some of the trials and joys this discovery brought him.

I was born into an orthodox Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York. My parents had five children. I was their third child and first son. Like so many of the Jewish boys at the time, I attended Hebrew school and was prepared for my bar-mitzvah—the ceremony held for a Jewish boy when he reaches the age of thirteen and is considered a man by the Jewish community and he can then stand before the congregation and say certain prayers.

Right after my bar-mitzvah, as I continued to have my Hebrew lessons, I asked my rabbi: "Why is it that the Jewish people haven't had a prophet for two thousand five hundred years? I don't expect a hundred prophets, maybe not even ten prophets. But I do expect one prophet. Surely there must be one Jew somewhere who is worthy to be a 'nauvey' (prophet)!"

My rabbi could only shrug his shoulders at the question. I then took the problem to my wonderful father and he, too, could not answer the question. All the evidence for the fact that there would be no more prophets referred to the words of a Psalm (22:1): "Eli, Eli." "Eli, Eli" has the ring and cry of how the Jewish people have fallen away from God's graces and how they have been persecuted, burned, and spat upon throughout the ages, and how they yearn to be back again as God's chosen people.

I entered college a few years after my bar-mitzvah, and one of my classes was a course in philosophy. All term long we argued, "Is there or isn't there a God?" At the end of the term, each person in the class was required to write a thesis. My thesis was that God once lived but had died. I reasoned in this way: Supposing a great architect constructs a building. The building stands five hundred years, but the man who created it, the architect, dies at the age of one hundred. Somebody else comes along two hundred years later and discovers the building. In studying it he realizes that it took an intelligence to create the building. Similarly, I realized that it took an intelligence to create the world. But since the Jewish people haven't had a prophet for two thousand five hundred years and the Christian people basically can't claim a prophet for almost two thousand years, and since the world is in a horrible condition, the God who created this world must have gone off and died. I was sure that if he still had control over it, he wouldn't let it be in its present state.

So much for my philosophy! But as the years went by I tried, at least, to do the right thing by my fellowmen.

In the course of time I became a dentist. In 1953 I received a call to serve my country and I complied gladly. I was made acting company commander for one hundred dentists at Fort Sam Houston. My platoon leader, a dentist from Phoenix, Arizona, named Junius Gibbons, was somehow different from anybody else around him. Here were ninety-nine other dentists, and this one young dentist stood out head and shoulders above the rest. Not that he was taller; but his character shone forth. I said to myself, "This guy is different, and I want to get to know him so I can see what makes him tick." Later on he told me that he had  had similar thoughts about me and had watched for the opportunity to approach me.

One day we were waiting to be interviewed by the commanding general, and Dr. Gibbons said to me, "Captain, what religion do you profess?"

I said, "I don't profess any religion; however, I am not ashamed to say that I am of Jewish background. But I don't believe in Judaism. I have searched Christianity and I don't believe in Christianity either—not the Christianity that I've found. I have also studied the other religions of the world, and I have come to the conclusion that religion is a man-made situation. If I'm going to be religious, it is not going to be in a man-made religion. I want to find God and worship in his religion, if there be such a thing."

He took me by the hand and said, "I'm a fellow Israelite."

I said, "You mean you're a Jew?"

He said, "No, no. If you are a Jew, you are probably of the tribe of Judah, and I'm of the tribe of Joseph. These are two tribes within the House of Israel." He continued to pump my hand.

He stunned me by that remark. I went home, and I said, "You know, I met a fellow who claims he is of the house of Israel, and he is not Jewish. How do you account for that?"

"Oh, don't pay any attention to him," was the reply. "Everybody is trying to get into the act!"

But I asked myself right then and there: "Does Gibbons know something that I don't know?"

Junius Gibbons and I were among those assigned to the Far East theater of operations, the Korean conflict, and we met next at Ft. Lewis, Washington. I saw him at breakfast. We were confined to the base, because we were leaving within twenty-four hours.

I said to him, "I'd like to hear more about what you have to say about the Israelites, the Jews, and the tribe of Joseph."

He was very anxious to help me. He said, "Fine. After breakfast let's find a little quiet place where we'll have some privacy, and we'll go over some of the Bible."

After we found our spot, Dr. Gibbons told me, among other things, that he had another book, similar to the Bible, called the Book of Mormon, and that he believed that book to be scripture also. And he told me a little about the origin of the book.

I said, "You mean to tell me that you had a prophet by the name of Joseph Smith, and he had the courage, the temerity, and the audacity to write these things in a book?"

"Joseph Smith didn't write them, he only translated them," he replied. "But here's the book."

I said, "You know, I'd like to have a copy of that book."

"I'll give it to you on one condition…"

"Okay," I said, and I reached for my wallet.

"No, no. That's not the condition," my friend Gibbons said, handing me the book. "Just promise me you'll read it."

I made the promise. By this time it must have been about one o'clock in the morning. My plane took off about 3 a.m., so I said goodbye to Dr. Gibbons and, taking his book, I went off for Japan on the way to Korea.

When I arrived in Korea, I didn't feel that I wanted to do what the other officers were doing—gambling, drinking, carousing. I had this book, the Book of Mormon. Reading it was worthwhile to me, but I was not about to believe that it came from the source it claimed. I thought I could disprove it by finding obvious errors, so I spent my time reading.

As I read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover, there were parts that I didn't absorb too much. I decided I'd better compare it with the Bible, so I asked one of my chaplain friends for a Bible, which he gave to me.

Now I read through the Old and New Testaments for the first time in my adult life. I was looking for errors, for contradictions between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I couldn't find any the first time through, so I knew I'd just have to try harder. I read the Book of Mormon for the second time, and this time I began to understand a little more about what was going on. Then I decided I had better read the Bible through again, and this I did, [p.60] from cover to cover, for the second time. And then I went back to the Book of Mormon for a third time, and within the last chapter I read this:

Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that you should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord has been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down unto the time that you shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
(Moroni 10:3-5)

Obviously that is written for a Christian. Here I am, Jewish. So I would like to reword verses 4 and 5 for my Jewish readers.

"And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that you would ask God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the name of the Messiah, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in the Messiah, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Ruach Elohim (literally translated, 'the Spirit of God,' and in Christian terminology, 'the Holy Ghost'). And by the power of the Ruach Elohim (or the Spirit of God, or the Holy Ghost) you may know the truth of all things."

This hit me, and I said, "If this is a book of God, then Irving Cohen is entitled to a revelation." But I had two problems.

Problem No. 1: The book said I had to ask in the name of Jesus Christ, and I didn't know whether or not Jesus Christ was the Messiah.

Problem No. 2: I could say a prayer for bread, a prayer for food, but there was no prayer in Hebrew covering the Book of Mormon. I was stuck!

At this time I was the regimental dental surgeon. My regiment had been moved down to the Isle of Koji where we were [p.61] guarding the prisoners picked up on the 38th parallel. For some reason a great many operations were coming up and I didn't have enough supplies. I went to my colonel, and I said, "I need supplies desperately. I have a friend over in Pusan (on the southernmost tip of Korea), and if you will give me a three-day pass, I will get my supplies." He granted me permission for a three-day leave.

At Pusan, I went to see my friend, Junius Gibbons. He gave me my supplies and asked me, "By the way, did you keep your promise?"

"Yes, I did," I replied proudly. "I read it three times, not once." And then I told him about my two problems.

He said, "All right, Irving, I'll tell you what we'll do. Let's go through the Old Testament, the book of your people, and cover all of the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah, and then see where we go from there."

The Old Testament is a record of my ancestors, and the Jews still believe in the coming of the Messiah, so I agreed. We began with Deuteronomy chapter 8, verses 15 and 18; then we read from the Prophets, and finally we came to the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. I am going to change some of the words here again; I'm not going to take any of them out, but I am going to add a few words for clarity. Since the Old Testament is the book of the Jews, wherever it says "we" or "us," it means the Jews; wherever it reads "he" or "him," it refers to the Messiah.

"Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he [the Messiah] shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he [the Messiah] hath no form nor comeliness; and when we [the Jews] shall see him, there is no beauty that we [the Jews] should desire him.

"He [the Messiah] is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we [the Jews] hid as it were our faces from him; he [the Messiah] was despised, and we [the Jews] esteemed him not.

"Surely he [the Messiah] hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we [the Jews] did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

"But he [the Messiah] was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we [the Jews] are healed.

"All we [the Jews] like sheep have gone astray; we [the Jews] have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him [the Messiah] the iniquity of us all.

"He [the Messiah] was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he [the Messiah] is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he [the Messiah] openeth not his mouth.

"He [the Messiah] was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he [the Messiah] was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people [the Jews] was he stricken."
(Isaiah 53:1-8)

As we arrived at about this point in the Old Testament it seemed to me that a brilliant light started to come into the room where we were. I am not able to explain how it happened; all I know is that it did happen. And with this light came the Ruach Elohim, or the Spirit of God. Something leaped inside of me, causing me to jump up, and I shouted to my friend, Junius, "I've got it! I've got it!"

He asked, "What have you got?"

"I know now that Jesus is the Messiah!"

I found myself sobbing with joy and relief, and, for a few minutes we were silent. My mind raced. "Why do the Jews not believe in Jesus as the Messiah?" I asked myself. Because they are taught this idea by their parents. Were their parents there at the time? No. How did they know what was right and what was wrong? They failed to believe because they were also taught not to believe. Were their grandparents there? No. But because somebody made a mistake two thousand years ago, do I have to close my eyes and make the same mistake? In college I had always been taught to recognize truth. My parents had always taught me to be truthful and to defend truth. If God reveals to me that Jesus is the Messiah, am I supposed to close my eyes and go along the wrong path just to be agreeable with my mistaken ancestors? NO!

In New Testament times the original followers of Christ were all Jews. They could be compared to the radical element, while those who did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah remained the [p.63] conservatives. As the years went by, those who accepted Christ became known by the new name, "Christians." The conservatives kept the old identification, Jews. But both of these groups had originally been Jews. And if one of my "Conservative" ancestors two thousand years ago could not believe that Jesus was the Messiah, then do all of his descendants have to follow that same tradition? Suppose Jesus is the Messiah. The question is, are we, the Jews of this generation, going to be big enough to accept him?

The Jewish people have an expression which they use in the synagogue: "Vawohovtah adonoi eloechchaw, becall levovchaw, vebecall nafshechaw, becall moadechaw," which in English means: "Love the Lord with all thy heart, with all thy might, with all thy mind, and with all thy soul."

Now that I knew that Jesus was the Messiah, I did love him with all my heart and soul, and with this love, the Ruach Elohim bore testimony to me (and still does) that indeed the Messiah is Jesus Christ. But I still didn't know how to pray. So Junius said to me, "If you want to pray, you begin by getting down on your knees."

"Just a minute. I'm a Jew, and Jews never get on their knees, not even on the Day of Atonement."

"But," he said, "if it's good enough for a prophet, it's good enough for Irving Cohen. Right? The Old Testament tells us that Daniel 'kneeled upon his knees…and prayed, and gave thanks before his God…,' even after King Darius had decreed that anyone who did so would be cast into a den of lions." (Daniel 6:10.)

And I agreed that if it were good enough for a prophet, it should be good enough for Irving Cohen. So Irving Cohen got down on his knees.

Then Junius said, "And when you pray, address the one to whom you are praying; after all, God is your Father."

The Jewish people pray "Auvenu Malkaynu," a chant meaning "Our Father, our King." "God is our Father," I thought, "and what righteous father doesn't want to hear his child talk to him directly?"

Junius said, "You address your Father in heaven." And then he taught me something—something I had never known before. He said, "You have to thank God for what you already have, because unless you appreciate what you already have, why should God give you anything more? See, he'd be spoiling you." (A wise parent doesn't want to spoil his child.)

It was at that time that I started to appreciate my blessings, which I had never done so fully before; I had not been properly aware of them. Junius said, "If you appreciate your blessings, you are in a position to ask for more, as long as it is done in righteousness. So then you ask whether or not this Book of Mormon is true; and then do it in the name of Jesus, the Messiah, Amen."

I said good night to my buddy, went into my own room, and then for the first time in my life—alone, by myself—I went down on my knees, and I made a prayer something like this: "Oh God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, forgive me for not knowing better in my youth. I am only interested in doing the right thing now. I don't want a man-made religion. I want a God-made religion. So I'll make you a proposition: If you will show me that this Book of Mormon is true and that the Mormon religion is your religion upon the earth, I'll take every opportunity to teach this to others. On the other hand, if this Book of Mormon is a false book, and you reveal this to me, I'll expose these Mormons as a bunch of frauds up and down the earth. And I say this in the name of Jesus, my Messiah. Amen."

I don't just believe the Book of Mormon is true; I know it. It was shown to me that night that God lives; that Jesus is the Messiah; that there are entities called angels; that there are prophets upon the earth restored to the house of Israel—not just to the Jews, but to the rest of the tribes of Israel as well.

The Book of Mormon, from the tribe of Joseph, is another record equal to the Bible, which is from the tribe of Judah. Now I understood what Ezekiel meant when he wrote:

The word of the Lord came unto me again, saying, Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick [p.65] and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions; And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand.
(Ezekiel 37:15-17)

In Ezekiel's days they didn't have books. Instead they took a piece of parchment, wrote on it, and wrapped it around a stick, and this they called a "stick." The stick of Judah which Ezekiel mentions is the Bible, written principally by Jews, descendants of Judah the son of Jacob. The stick of Joseph is the Book of Mormon, written by descendants of Judah's brother, Joseph, in America.

As soon as I knew the Book of Mormon to be truly a book of God, I immediately knew that there were troubled days ahead. Nevertheless, I had to keep my promise. That meant joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and devoting my life to telling others about the gospel.

Upon being released from the service, I finally returned to my home in Brooklyn, New York, where my Jewish wife gave me an ultimatum: "Either give up your Christian Mormon nonsense, or give me a divorce."

I didn't want my wife to divorce me, and I didn't want to lose my infant daughter. I also did not want to go contrary to God's will. I realized that I was in a real dilemma. What was I to do?

Then the thought came that I should follow the same pattern that I had learned. "Ask and it shall be given." I went to my knees and asked Heavenly Father what to do. I needed guidance. As I was thus in prayer, it seemed that a distinct voice began to speak to me, and with it came the power of the Ruach Elohim or Holy Ghost.

I immediately picked up a pencil and began to write that which I heard. It is recorded as follows:

"My son, when I created this earth and put the human family upon it, I did so upon the principle of free agency. Therefore, if your wife insists upon exercising her right to do so, don't attempt to prevent her. However, let the record show that she obtained the divorce.

"Further, whatever you give up in my behalf I will return it upon your head, seven-fold. Since you will lose your little girl, the future will return seven for one.

"I, the Lord God, further promise you, that upon reaching the age of maturity, your daughter will leave her mother and come and join her father."

Well, the years passed, and during that time my Jewish wife did obtain the divorce, and I remarried. This new union has now produced the seven children which were promised—plus one more. And after sixteen and one-half years of separation, my daughter came to me in July, 1970.

I bear my testimony that the Book of Mormon is true, that God lives, and that he will answer the prayers of anyone, provided that that person wants to do his will-not seventy per cent of his will, not eighty per cent of his will, not even ninety per cent of his will, but one hundred per cent of his will. This is the prerequisite for us as it was for Moses. If you are willing to do his will one hundred per cent, you are entitled to receive an answer to your prayers, just as I did and still do. For this I am humbly grateful. This testimony I bear in the name of Jesus, your Messiah and my Messiah. Amen.

Last Updated on Sunday, 16 May 2010 19:19  

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