While serving as a missionary in Cayambe, Ecuador, my companion---Elder Flavio Ortiz, a native of Guayaquil, Ecuador---and I were knocking doors one day in the early afternoon. It was rare for us to find someone at home at that hour and even more rare to be invited in.
We came to a modest home. Like most homes in Ecuador, it was a one-story, flat-roofed, cement home. This home had a small yard with a few patches of grass mixed in with dirt. A metal gate separated us from the home, and so my companion used a coin to knock on the gate.
After a few moments, a man in his late thirties came toward us. We introduced ourselves as representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and asked him his name.
"William," he answered.
Recognizing he didn't look or act like the typical Cayambeño, I asked, "Where are you from?"
"Guayaquil," William answered.
"So's my companion," I said. "What do you do for work?"
"I'm a missionary," he answered.
"So are we," I said. "We have a message we'd like to share with you, may we come in?"
To our surprise, William opened his gate and let us in. William's home was comfortable, for an Ecuadorian home. He had a couch or two and a few chairs. Instead of dirt, he had cement floors. He lived there with his spouse and their daughter.
We taught William the message of the Restoration of the Gospel Jesus Christ through the prophet Joseph Smith. The power of the Holy Ghost was there while we shared our conviction with William, and as he shared his ample knowledge with us.
William impressed me as a man who loved Jesus and who was completely devoted to Him. During our visit, over and over, I thought how wonderful it would be if William would accept our message and join the Church. The branch in Cayambe was struggling and needed strong leadership, and I could see a time when William would serve as the Branch President.
At the end of our discussion, Elder Ortiz and I offered William a copy of the Book of Mormon and invited him to read the account of Jesus Christ's visit to the American Continent after He had been resurrected. He took the Book and promised to read it. We also invited him to pray to discover for himself that the Book of Mormon is a True book. He said he would.
Because of conflicts with his schedule, we were not able to see William again for several weeks. When we finally caught up with him, he invited us into his home again. We sat down and we asked how he had enjoyed the Book of Mormon.
Trying to hide his disgust, he opened the Book of Mormon to Alma 46. In this chapter, those who believed in Jesus Christ called themselves Christians. But the events of Alma 46 occurred 72 years before the birth of Christ.
"This book can't be True," William said. "The followers of Christ were called Christians first in Antioch after Jesus had finished His ministry."
My heart sunk. William had dismissed the powerful message of Jesus Christ's divinity contained in the Book of Mormon just because there was a group of people on the American continent who called themselves Christians before those who followed Christ in the Middle East.
I often wondered why William, after having such a powerful meeting with him, rejected the Book of Mormon. And I wondered how something so trivial would be enough for William to deny the veracity of the Book of Mormon.
Then it hit me: William didn't start reading to know whether or not the Book of Mormon is True; rather, he already decided it was wrong and was determined to find out why. He read the entire Book of Mormon from cover to cover with the sole purpose of disproving it.
We continued to meet with William from time to time. But with each visit he became less and less willing to listen to what we had to say. Yet I will always be grateful to William for one thing: It was because of him that I became a more serious student of the Bible.
Up to the time I met with William, I had read the New Testament several times, and I had studied passages from the Old Testament. But I had never read the Bible from cover to cover. During our visits with William, he would encourage us to search the Bible, often implying that we were wrong. He also implied that if we would just read the Bible, we would realize how wrong the Book of Mormon is.
I took William up on his challenge, and I began reading the Bible trying to discover if William was right. After all, he had devoted his life to the Bible and to teaching it. As I studied the Bible, the depth and beauty of the Gospel deepened for me. And so did my testimony of the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ through His prophet, Joseph Smith.
The Bible outlines the pattern of God's dealings with His children. Throughout the Bible, God constantly revealed Himself to inspired men, the prophets. The prophets received glorious visitations, ministrations, and visions. They also received Divine commissions to share what they had received. Even after Christ came, fulfilled His ministry, was crucified, was resurrected, and ascended to heaven, His servants, the apostles, continued receiving visitations, ministrations, and visions.
I learned from the Bible that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Yet knowing the history of mankind, I realized that the glorious visitations, ministrations, and visions ceased. So what changed? The Bible teaches that before the second coming of Jesus Christ, there would be a falling away. That the children of men would fall away from the fulness of the Gospel. But in time, God would send another angel to declare the fulness of the Gospel to the inhabitants of the Earth.
My understanding of the doctrines of repentance, the Atonement, the fall of man, fasting, and prayer expanded, and my love for Jesus did too. I found parallels between ancient temple worship and the modern practices of Latter-day Saints in our temples (I can't talk in detail about these practices other than that we don't practice animal sacrifice).
And I could go on and on. I love the Bible. But I never would have learned what I know had I not accepted William's challenge. Really, I'm indebted to him. I am grateful that I didn't dismiss his words. I'm grateful that I was willing to use the Bible to investigate my own beliefs critically.
Had I merely dismissed William's challenges because I didn't agree with him, I wouldn't know now what I do.