When I was a little girl, my family traveled to Palmyra, New York and visited the beautiful spot of sheltering trees in which a fourteen year old Joseph Smith, Junior knelt and vocally prayed to God for the first time in his life. As the story goes, he was seized upon by a dark power which seemed intent upon destroying him, body and soul. Gathering all of his powers he used the last of his strength to call upon God and immediately was delivered from this unseen adversary. Above his head stood two glorious personages who introduced themselves as God the Father and Jesus Christ.
No one knows exactly where Joseph knelt in this marvelous interlude. No church doctrine prescribes the exact place within the grove. But as my small feet carried me into the grove my little heart burned and I felt tempted to believe that within my own heart, I knew not only that this story was absolutely true but I felt that this was truly where the hallowed moment occurred.
The story of the Sacred Grove has always caused my soul to burn, but as adulthood neared I learned to think more broadly, to question my own understandings, and to doubt some very obvious truths. Some days ago, my somewhat larger 9.5 sneakers carried me once again into Palmyra and the Joseph Smith farm. I had determined to keep my mind clear, to prove mentally objective, to place all my doubts of life, the gospel and the Joseph Smith story to the foreground of my mind. I have never wanted to follow any religion from blind obedience, but to put to the test every last jot and tittle, for if it is not true, I do not want it in my life.
As I neared the grove, the quiet peace of love and glory began to wash over me. I held fast to all the cynicism, skepticism and doubt I could muster, trusting that inasmuch as I honestly sought only the truth with all my heart and wanted only to do rightly, God would direct my path. My heart burned and all the arguments I could muster melted away into perfect, unyielding, unmistakable surety.
No voice spoke in my ears but these words formed overwhelmingly and unmistakably in my mind, “The story is true. And this is the spot.”