“And thou [Jerusalem] shalt be brought down, and shall speak out of the ground, and thy speech shall be low out of the dust, and thy voice shall be, as of one that hath a familiar spirit, out of the ground, and thy speech shall whisper out of the dust.” Isaiah 29: 4.
Nephi, the first prophet of the Book of Mormon, wrote the following about 40 years after his family arrived in the ancient Americas after having left Jerusalem – about 560 B.C. – (see 2 Nephi 33: 3, 10, 13):
But I, Nephi, have written what I have written, and I esteem it as of great worth, and especially unto my people . . . And if ye shall believe in Christ ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and he hath given them unto me . . . I speak unto you as the voice of one crying from the dust.
The following account is the personal story of Vincenzo di Francesca, an Italian priest, regarding how he discovered the familiar message of this book in the early 1900s.
As I think back to the events in my life leading to a cold morning in New York City in February 1910, I am convinced that God had been mindful of my existence. That morning the caretaker of the Italian chapel delivered a note to me from the pastor. He was ill in bed and wished me to come to his house, as he had important matters to discuss regarding the affairs of the parish.
As I walked down a street near the harbor, the strong wind from the sea moved the pages of a book lying on a barrel full of ashes. The appearance of the pages and the binding made me think that it was a religious book. Curiosity pushed me to approach it. I picked it up and beat it against the barrel to knock off the ashes. It was printed in the English language, but when I looked to the title page, I found it was torn away.
The force of the wind turned the pages, and I hastily read Alma, Mosiah, Mormon, Moroni, Isaiah, Lamanites—except for Isaiah, all were names I had never before heard. I wrapped the book in a newspaper I had bought nearby and continued my walk toward the pastor’s house.
After a few words of comfort there, I decided what I should do for him. On the way home, I wondered who the people with the strange names might be. And who was this Isaiah? Was he the one in the Bible, or some other Isaiah?
At home, I seated myself before the window, anxious to know what was printed in the book. As I turned the torn pages and read the words of Isaiah, I was convinced that it was a religious book that talked of things to come. But I did not know the name of the church that taught such doctrine, because the cover and title page had been ripped off. The declaration of the witnesses gave me confidence that it was a true book.
I then bought some cleaning fluid and some cotton at the neighborhood drugstore and began cleaning the pages. For several hours I read the remainder of the pages, which gave me light and knowledge and made me wonder about the source from which this fresh revelation had come. I read and reread, twice and twice again, and I felt that the book was a fifth gospel of the Redeemer.
At the end of the day, I locked the door of my room, knelt with the book in my hands, and read chapter ten of the book of Moroni. I prayed to God, the Eternal Father, in the name of his son, Jesus Christ, to tell me if the book were of God, if it were good and true, and if I should use its words with the words of the four gospels in my preaching.
I felt my body become cold as the wind from the sea. Then my heart began to beat faster, and a feeling of gladness, as of finding something precious and extraordinary, comforted my soul and left me with a joy that human language cannot find words to describe. I had received the assurance that God had answered my prayer and that the book was of greatest benefit to me and to all who would listen to its words.
I continued my services in the parish, but my preaching was mixed with the new words of the book. The members of my congregation were so interested that they became dissatisfied with my colleagues’ sermons. When members began leaving the chapel during their sermons and remained when I occupied the pulpit, my colleagues became angry with me.
The beginning of real discord began Christmas Eve, 1910. In my sermon that evening, I told the story of the birth and mission of Jesus Christ as given in my new book. When I had finished, some of my colleagues publicly contradicted all I had said. They denounced me and turned me over to the Committee of Censure for disciplinary action.
When I appeared before this committee, the members gave what they supposed to be fatherly advice. They counseled me to burn the book, which they said was of the devil, since it had caused so much trouble and had destroyed the harmony of the pastoral brothers. I replied, “I will not burn the book because of the fear of God. I have asked him if it were true, and my prayer was answered affirmatively and absolutely, which I feel again in my soul as I defend his cause now.”
Four years later, Vincenzo found himself again before the Committee of Censure and this time they stripped himself of his rights and duties as a pastor in the church.
Then, in May 1930, while looking in a French dictionary for some information, I suddenly saw the entry “Mormon.” I read the words carefully and found that a Mormon Church had been established in 1830 and that this church operated a university at Provo [Brigham Young University, Utah]. I wrote to the university president, asking for information about the book and its missing pages. I received an answer two weeks later telling me that my letter had been passed on to the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On June 16, 1930, President Heber J. Grant answered my letter and sent a copy of the Book of Mormon in Italian. He informed me that he would also give my request to Elder John A. Widtsoe, president of the European Mission, with headquarters in Liverpool, England. A few days later, Elder Widtsoe wrote to me, sending me a pamphlet that contained the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the gold plates, and the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Finally, I had learned the rest of the story of the torn book I had found on top of a barrel of ashes.”
Toward the end of the Book of Mormon, Moroni wrote the following:
And I am the same who hideth up this record unto the Lord . . . the record is of great worth; and whoso shall bring it to light, him will the Lord bless. For none can have power to bring it to light save it be given him of God.
I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things . . . and ponder it in your hearts . . . that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
For the time speedily cometh that ye shall know that I lie not, for ye shall see me at the bar of God; and the Lord God will say unto you: Did I not declare my words unto you, which were written by this man, like as one crying from the dead, yea, even as one speaking out of the dust?
And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God.