The Book of Mormon includes the testimonies of three witnesses who were shown the gold plates by an angel. It also includes testimonies of eight witnesses who merely saw and handled the plates, but were not visited by an angel.
The miraculous appearance of an angel to the three witnesses shines through in their testimony. You can feel the strength and power of it, the fervency inspired by it. The testimony of the eight, while valid and necessary, lacks some of the power of the testimony of the three.
I do not presume to wonder how someone, after having a face-to-face experience with an angel, could come to a point in their lives where they found themselves at odds with the LDS Church. To do that would imply that I feel I would not have done so under the same circumstances. I have no right to judge them, but I do feel a deep sadness for them. What a struggle it must have been to have that experience and yet have weaknesses in your character great enough to prevent you from living up to that experience.
I feel that same struggle in my own heart. In the pages of my journals, I have received and recorded the words of the Spirit in personal revelation. And yet, as I live through my day, I frequently find myself unequal to the task of walking by the light I have been given.
I am weak and selfish, filled with pride. I cannot even say, “There but for the grace of God, go I,” because I do go there. And I feel ashamed. I can only imagine that having experienced the greater light of angelic visitation, the inner struggle and heartache and disappointment in self would be all the more difficult to bear.
But I know that as I return to the light at the start of each new day—sincerely repentant and committed and willing to do better, to be better—I find acceptance, forgiveness and more instruction. And I know the same is available to any who seek it.
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