As many Jews discussed who they thought Jesus was, our Savior asked his disciples, “Whom say ye that I am?” Peter readily responded, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”1 Peter had received this confirmation through personal revelation from his Father in Heaven. The same question is asked of us, with the following addendum: Has the Son of the living God restored what he established during his ministry, but which was lost through apostasy? My answer to the question, like Peter’s affirmation, is “yes.” This personal testimony has been confirmed many times by the peace and assurance that have come to me through study, prayer, and experience in His service. It is true that by doing His will we come to know the truth of His doctrine.2 My testimony prompts me to use a few more of Peter’s words. When some of his disciples took offense and “walked no more with him,” Jesus asked the twelve whether they, too, would go away. Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.”3 These are my words, too.
Personal testimony is a source of comfort and motivation in a postmodern world that seems to have lost its moral compass and is drifting with whatever wind prevails. The knowledge we have received through the restoration of the Gospel provides us with principled direction and firm anchors in troubled seas. Much of the restored knowledge is in the form of modern scripture, and it supports, clarifies, and adds to what we have in the Bible. The Book of Mormon, for example, is a remarkable source of information that clarifies doctrines alluded to in the Bible.
I believe there is enough evidence in the content and structure of the Book of Mormon to convince any fair-minded jury, or individual, beyond reasonable doubt that it is an ancient text. Once that verdict is established, one must face the conclusion that Joseph Smith’s explanation of how he received the book is true. For nearly two centuries detractors have suggested other origins for the book, only to have their theories debunked. Their theories have not resulted from a study of evidence; rather they have been built on hope that the book is false and on attempts to find evidence to support that hope. It is telling that many of the book’s detractors dismiss the book out of hand, confessing that they haven’t even read it. I have read it, and I find it to be a marvelous source of truth, wisdom, guidance, and a testimony of our Savior’s mission. Its harmony with the Old and New Testaments is both exciting and satisfying.
I confess to personally receiving the guidance of the Spirit in unlikely and unanticipated ways that have blessed me in both professional life and in church service. A series of unlikely events led me to complete a PhD in linguistics, which in turn led to a rewarding professional career and to enjoyable Church service. In retrospect I, like the men on the road to Emmaus,4 can recognize the spiritual element in those events with more clarity now than I did at the time they took place. On the other hand, there are times when the spiritual element has been clearly obvious. Such was the case when, as a young missionary in Finland, I found myself in a challenging situation, with only rudimentary language ability, trying to explain a gospel principle to a member of another faith. Suddenly I found myself putting words together and expressing myself at a level that I had never experienced before or for some time thereafter. Somehow, I knew what I was saying was correct and that I was experiencing a gift of the Spirit. It was such an impressive event that, upon returning to our apartment, I thanked my Father in Heaven for the gift, and promised myself that I would never forget that wonderful moment. Perhaps it was an early indication of a career in linguistics that was one day to follow.
Many years later, as a mission president responsible for the welfare of over one hundred young missionaries in Finland, I experienced the guidance of the Spirit in making decisions that affected many lives. With the passing of time, it is gratifying to confirm that more wisdom than my own was involved in many of those decisions.
As I have studied the doctrines of other churches, I have found they contain much that is good and true. They have much to respect and emulate, but I have never found the spirit, or the fullness of understanding, that exists in the LDS faith. Its doctrine welds the Old and New Testaments and modern-day scripture together in a satisfying, complementing fullness that confirms for me that much, indeed, has been restored, that Christ is our Savior, and that in this church and in its temples are the “words of eternal life.” Where else would I go?
1 Matthew 16:13-17.
2 John 8:31-32.
3 John 6:66-68.
4 Luke 24:13-35.
Melvin J. Luthy received his undergraduate degree from Utah State University and a PhD degree in linguistics from Indiana University. His teaching experience has been at Indiana University, Wisconsin State University-Oshkosh, and Brigham Young University. He served as a Captain in Military Intelligence in Washington D.C and Vietnam. He has served on the Academic Advisory Board of the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, California; as a national officer in the Society for Scandinavian Studies; and as a linguistic adviser to WordPerfect and Novell Corporations. He has authored and coauthored books on Finnish linguistics, and has published chapters in textbooks as well as articles in journals such as Language Learning, Scandinavian Studies, College English, College Composition and Communication, and Ural-Altaische Jahrbücher. He has been a Fulbright Scholar in Finland and has received the designation of “Finland’s Ambassador of Goodwill.” At BYU, he has been the linguistics department chair, chair of the Faculty Advisory Council, associate dean of the College of Humanities, and founding director of the Center for Language Studies. In church service, he has held many positions of responsibility, including mission president and later temple president in Finland. He currently serves in the Provo Temple. He is married to the former Anne-Maj Savstrand and they are the parents of four children and grandparents of eleven.
Posted September 2010