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"The Burning of the Book" is the personal conversion story of Jerry C. Mathews to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jerry Mathews was a Texas Baptist Minister who served for over thirty-five years. His conversion story, written by his own hand, so touched me that it inspired this poem. Although sentences have to be made with rhythm and rhyme for poetic purposes, the story line of this poem is as exact as I could make it to his own story. In fact, most of the words, phrases and even sentences used, are his. What a valiant soldier in the Lord’s army this man was ...and is.

             The Burning of the Book...

"It all began in June of nineteen hundred and forty-two.
       I remember these incidents as if they were fresh and brand new.
There was a time when I had only harsh words to angrily speak
       against this church known as ‘Mormon’ and the members I did meet.
The hatred began to climax when my beautiful daughter named Belle,
       fell in love and then married a man, I believed under a satanic spell.
He was the branch president of the local Mormon church, those that I hated.
       A church of the devil that infested our neighborhood, one I constantly berated.
One day she said, ‘We’re moving to Salt Lake and I’ll leave you a vow,
       we’re never coming back, so this is the last you’ll see us now.’

The bonds of peace were broken, they left behind a pall of gloom.
       My world came crashing down around me, all I felt was pending doom.
Thoughts of separation cut deep, ‘I will never see my grandkids,’ I said.
       Immediately I began to pray, ‘Oh God of Heaven, help me,’ I pled.
My grief was great and my heart was heavy with severe unhappiness.
       Inside my soul there was no pleasure, there was instead deep sadness.
About six weeks later, after Belle’s distressing and painful leave,
       a strange and remarkable event, began to change what I believed.
On a business trip in a neighboring town, in my room I fell to my knee,
       laboriously praying for guidance for this burden now thrust upon me.

It had been six weeks since things blew up, inside I felt fear and enmity.
       But within this humble motel room, those feelings changed to serenity.
It was these words that came to my spirit, in a whisper not a yell,
       ‘Weep no more, all is well. Weep no more, all is well.’
I pondered these words and this occurrence for several more days.
       But I had no idea of the magnitude or the significance that it would play.
It was a still small voice that came out of nowhere, entering into my soul,
       so discernable and understandable, that inside I could feel a glow.
In nineteen twenty-four, a missionary gave me a Book of Mormon.
       It had sat on my shelf from then to now, not once was it ever open.

I had been a Baptist Minister, I began over thirty-five years ago.
       The Bible was all I believed in, there was nothing else I cared to know.
No one could induce me to believe there was a similar record of mankind,
       that bore the gospel of Christ, one I could see if I’d open my mind.
The next month in mid July, when my wife and I were doing spring cleaning,
       she came across that old Book of Mormon, on the self she found it leaning.
In my anger and indignation I grabbed the book and hastily threw it in the fire.
       I didn’t care what this book had to say, I believed it was full of liars.
I wanted it to burn but it seemed that the pages could not be consumed by fire.
       So in anger I threw kerosene on it, and watched as the flames shot higher.

As I was throwing the kerosene, my anger was slowly beginning to relent.
       I said, ‘If this book be of men and devils, let it burn, otherwise I repent.’
The flames leaped several feet into the air in a burst of crimson fury.
       This time I commanded it to burn, and I watched and waited for it to hurry.

Then the Spirit that visited me before, returned and my attention he broke,
       saying twice, ‘Don’t do it. The book is truth,’ those were the words he spoke.
In shock I quickly looked around to see who was talking and standing near,
       but no one was there or even close by, the fact that I was alone was clear.
I did not listen, I stubbornly and defiantly threw more kerosene on the fire.
       I was filled with anger and hatred. The burning of the book was my desire.

The swirling fingers of fire and smoke were flying upward in angry slashes.
       In great satisfaction I watched, knowing this book would soon be ashes.
Then twice again, these words I heard, ‘Don’t do it. The book is truth.’
       Suddenly my anger swept away as I knew it was an angel of reproof.
It was at this second reprimand that I needed no further remonstration.
       So with a stick I tried to save the book from any further destruction.
Immediately I sought forgiveness from the Devine One for this–my evil plan,
       as I rubbed the fire off the burning pages with the palm of my bare hand,
the passionate hatred I had for the Book of Mormon, was now all but gone.
       My deep gall had turned to sweetness. It was like the break of a new dawn.

I now wanted to read this book, but because it was burned, I decided instead,
       to place it out behind our house on one of the shelves in my shed.
It was a week later that I went back to get it, but it had vanished from sight.
       Neither me nor my wife moved it and we’ve no explanation for it’s flight.
But now I desperately wanted to learn the secrets hidden between it’s covers,
       with a promise to God that if it be true, I would tell my testimony to others.
I told no one what had happened when I tried to burn the book that day.
       I felt to keep it inside, to say nothing and just wait and continue to pray.
It was six months later when I received a letter from my daughter, Belle.
       She said, ‘Dad, I dreamed you have a testimony, if this be so, please tell.’

I was almost shouting with happiness and the spirit inside me poured out.
       This had been the workings of the Lord–my God, of this I had no doubt.
With bounding joy I sent Belle a letter, telling her about my experience.
       Joyfully she wrote back and said, ‘Dad, this is the hand of providence.’
After I had studied sufficiently to explain what had been revealed to me,
       I bore my testimony many times, helping others come to the truth and see
that God The Father and His Son Jesus Christ have one true gospel plan.
       It’s there for those who want to find it. They beckon you with Their hand.
I’m a baptized member of the Church and I know the Book of Mormon is true.
       And I know that if you will seek God in prayer, can know this too."

       Officer Samuel Jeppsen, #3751 (Ret) R# 140, March, 2001-b

"I was baptized in 1940. My father was baptized in 1942. In 1946, my father baptized my mother, Virginia Matthews, in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. As my father said, it was six months later that I had that dream. I dreamed I was climbing a tall building and I saw my father standing near the edge of the roof, preaching to multitudes of people...and I could not help hearing the wonderful words he was saying...He was bearing his testimony that he knew Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and that he had accepted the everlasting gospel. My father died in 1956. [Throughout the rest of his life] he told just about everyone he came in contact with about the Book of Mormon. He spent much time reading and studying and up until his very last days in this world, he would bear his testimony and tell as many as he could about the beautiful Everlasting Gospel he had embraced. He wanted so much to go on a regular, fully authorized mission...but this was not to be. His dream was not fulfilled in this life.

My father is now fulfilling that mission which he dreamed of here, over on the other side–this I am sure. One of my greatest desires after I accepted the gospel was to go to the Temple and do work for my ancestors. If we believe the gospel, we must believe that being sealed to our loved ones is the most important part of the gospel. Going through the Temple is the key to the Celestial glory and eternal life with those we love. Should we settle for less? I love my parents and I can’t imagine what it would be like not to spend eternity with them. ...I know the Gospel is true, never a doubt, and that God lives and cares for His own and I shall never be moved. I hope someday to see my dear Lord and God and be with them forever. This I want more than anything in the world to come, and I tell you these things from the bottom of my heart and bear you my testimony in the name of Jesus Christ, our dear Savior, Amen."

Mattie Belle Haley, daughter of Jerry C. Matthews.


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