Editor's Note: The following story is an excerpt adapted from the LDS Living podcast, This Is the Gospel. You can also listen to the full episode with other stories here or read a full transcript here.
I hadn't done a lot of studying before my mission, I kind of went out unprepared. And, you know, I was kind of a scared, timid little boy, with a weak testimony and poor knowledge of the gospel at that point.
My parents decided to buy me a brand new set of scriptures. This set of scriptures that they got me became kind of important to me, because it was my first set that I was going to be able to go through and read and mark the way that the Spirit directed. While I was excited when I opened my mission call to Nashville, Tennessee, when I finally got out there, I realized how hard and trying it was to be on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ.
Because I went out so unprepared, I found myself in a situation where I would just lock up all the time when teaching discussions. I realized that you can't teach the gospel unless you've prepared yourself in such a way that you know and understand the scriptures and you, more importantly, understand how the Spirit and the Holy Ghost works are able to use that to communicate your testimony to others.
I'd been in the mission field for about a year, and I had finally begun to feel comfortable with my teaching skills and my knowledge of the scriptures. And this level of comfort came in part because of the time and effort I had spent marking my scriptures in such a way that I could find things easily. There was even a spot at the end of the Book of Mormon where my mom had written in the margins that she loved me and was proud of what I was doing.
These scriptures were somewhat of a security blanket to me, especially as I got them marked in the way where I could find things easily and teach out of them. Leaving my apartment one day to go to zone conference, I set my scriptures on top of the car. I jumped in the car and I forgot that the scriptures were on the roof. Now as you can guess the scriptures didn't make it to zone conference. Well, I was devastated. They were the one thing I had that helped me to feel comfortable as a missionary.
I wanted to go back and find the scriptures, but the Spirit had really told me in my heart that they were gone, that I needed to go get a new set and start over. I think part of the reason that my Heavenly Father wanted me to lose this set of scriptures was because He realized I was probably leaning on them a little too much rather than teaching by the Spirit.
I began to understand how our Heavenly Father works. I realized that you can't just go in and teach the same lesson to every single person, because our Heavenly Father loves each one of us individually, and knows us individually. And each person is going to need something a little bit different. My testimony was strengthened of the love that our Heavenly Father has for us.
Fast forward five years: My brother Seth received and opened his mission call to Nashville, Tennessee, mission. Seth had been out in the field for about two weeks. Sunday morning, he and his companion entered the chapel. One of the members just walked up to him and handed Seth a set of scriptures. Seth took the scriptures with a kind of a confused look on his face, he tells me, and he said, "They're not my scriptures." And the brother was sure they belonged to him because he had Elder Mays written on his name tag.
Seth just took the scriptures, and he brought them home with him. The next morning, he said that he finally opened up the scriptures and he flipped right to the part where our mom had written in the margins. He then looked on the front page and saw my name and address recognizing it was his home address as well. This is when the Spirit fell over him. And he realized what the Lord had done for him at this difficult time at the beginning of his mission, and it brought great peace to him.
Seth asked the member that gave him the scriptures, where they had come from. The story was that this member’s brother was a highway worker. He was doing some work on the highway one afternoon and he came across my set of scriptures that was laying in a ditch. He was interested in them because his brother had recently been converted to the Church. He kind of had hard feelings with his brother because he had joined the Church and he decided that this was a sign from God that he should mend things up with his brother. He went to his brother and told him he was sorry for kind of disowning him and gave him the scriptures and asked him to return them to the owner.
When I found out that Seth had the scriptures back in his possession, I can't describe the feeling but just a feeling of great joy. Just the thought that our Heavenly Father could show up for my brother during that time of difficulty. In such a personal way that I could never have done on my own.
As time went by, I began to have some doubts and questions about church. During this time, I had been studying pretty much everything on the Church other than the actual scriptures that I should have been reading every single day. As I sat thinking about this, I caught a glimpse of my scriptures up on the shelf. And the Spirit whispered to me, "Mark, these are the words of eternal life. Quit putting so much of your time and effort into the opinions of men." The Spirit just confirmed to me that I needed to read them every single day to get my testimony back. And as I read them every day, everything came together for me. My experience with losing and then finding these scriptures has changed my testimony in such a way that, that there's no doubt.
Heavenly Father is so personally aware of where we're at and how we need things to happen in our life in order to truly understand that He's there for us and to help our faith grow. That He will do things for us like He did for my brother and I with the set of scriptures in such a personal way, there's no doubt that He is with you as an individual person, at all times and in all places.