The Lord Spoke to Joseph Luff
By Elder Joseph Luff
The following testimony is found in the Autobiography of Elder Joseph Luff, pages 131–138. This book is available for purchase at the Restoration Bookstore and online.
On the following morning I heard Elder J. J. Cornish preach on the first principles, and he announced the "Book of Mormon" as his subject for the evening. During the afternoon service of prayer and testimony there were manifestations in prophecy and tongues, which, though producing considerable enthusiasm and furnishing comfort to the Saints, did not bring any conviction to my mind or pleasure to my heart. The old question of questions worried me, "Are they of God?" What would I not have given that day to have known just that one thing.
At night I attended, expecting to take notes on the strange subject; but becoming interested, found it impossible to follow closely and do much writing. At the close of the service I stepped upon the platform, met the elder, and congratulated him upon his success in making out so apparently clear a case for the Book of Mormon. That while I could not say he was right, I was satisfied the subject was worthy of a careful study, and it should be so treated by me....
For the following evening a prayer and testimony meeting was announced at the home of my wife's parents. It was customary among them at that time to hold several meetings of this kind during the week, so full of zeal and fervor were they. Having heard considerable about the Book of Mormon, I secured a copy and shut myself up in the parlor nearly all day to read it. While thus engaged I was visited several times by as peaceful an influence as ever pervaded my frame.... The persuasive force of that influence drew tears from my eyes and praise from my lips almost involuntarily, and my suspicions regarding the book melted under it. Just why such was the case cannot by me be explained in a philosophical way, but some, at least, of my readers who have been under like influence can appreciate the condition as presented.
It was strange to me then, for it was no mere feeling of gladness or ecstasy, but the distinct consciousness of a presence and power near me that was associated in some way with the book. Whatever my will may have been concerning the Book of Mormon, I certainly could not, while under such an influence, condemn nor speak lightly of it, for to have done so would have seemed like talking against God. To urge any objection against the work one must get out from under that halo; but no one while under it ever desires to get away. I can easily understand how, had I been in a more susceptible or receptive condition of spirit, the enlargement of this presentation could have made Heaven feel very near, and the book exceedingly precious.
At the prayer meeting quite a number were present, and all seemed to be full to the brim of some gladdening grace, which was pleasing to witness. When liberty was given for any to speak, I rose in turn and expressed my confidence in God and my pleasure in beholding their happiness. As to their religion or doctrine and church I could not, like them, say I knew it was of God. One thing I did know, however, namely, that my Heavenly Father had blessed to me the church I was in; and, while I was anxious to obtain and do all the good possible, yet I could never think of discarding or renouncing that church and entering another until I was certain that by so doing I would please Him better than by remaining. I wished them well, and hoped their joy might never be less; but I was in God's hands and did not feel like speculating or experimenting with my soul or with its interests.
The meeting continued, and somewhere during its progress, when all were kneeling and some engaged vocally in prayer, I mentally commended my case to Heaven, asking my Father to overlook my presumption if it appeared as such and to answer me that night whether or not this was indeed His Church, whether I should be baptized therein, and if that peculiar power which had visited me occasionally, while investigating the doctrine, was really the Holy Spirit. I further entreated that the answer might be given through my wife's brother, Robert Parker, who was a member of the Church and present, though not over ten years old. I knew there was no guile in him; and I promised obedience to the first principles upon being satisfied as to God's will being so. No mortal heard that prayer, it was not voiced in human speech; but it ascended, and I believe God heard it and forgave my presumption.
When the number so desiring had prayed vocally, the company rose and was seated, and the singing and testimony were resumed. Soon Robbie, as he was familiarly called, stood up and began to speak as any child of that age would in testimony. He had not uttered many words till his face became waxen and the tears started from his eyes and flowed profusely down his cheek, and turning till he faced me, he raised his hand and said, as nearly as I can remember: "Verily, thus saith the Lord God unto you, O son of man, Go now and obey my gospel, for this is indeed my Church. It is my will that you shall be baptized at the hands of one of these my servants, for you have received of my Spirit, saith the Lord." Here was just what I had asked for. It had come through the channel I had designated. It had brought the very information I had desired. I knew the lad was not aware I had asked for it, and I believed he had not power in himself to frame the answer as it was given, even though the question had been known to him. Reader, what would you have done under such circumstances? But, pardon me, I am here to tell what was done by me, and not to interrogate others. Rising from my seat, without emotion or display of any kind, I told them all how I had asked for that revelation through the boy, and that I now accepted it; that while I could not yet see as far, perhaps, as they could into the doctrinal or prophetic mysteries, I was, nevertheless, now ready to move forward as far as the light shone ahead of me. I could see baptism and the laying on of hands, and was ready for those ordinances. The question of authority with me was not completely settled. I knew the elders had at least as much authority as other ministers, with a strong showing of more. The revelation just given implied the genuineness of their calling, and I was content to use what light I had and test the matter by obedience, trusting for more light when it was really needed.
The entire company wept and rejoiced and when I took my seat, Elder Cornish arose, and, walking over to me, spoke in tongues, the interpretation of which was given and was of a nature to comfort me in view of the step I had decided to take. It was about half past ten, I believe, when the meeting closed, and it was supposed that I would be ready to go with others for baptism two days later, but as I expressed a desire to go at once, arrangements were made for me. Quite a company repaired to the river Thames—scarcely a quarter of a mile away, and in their presence, witnessed also I hope by the angels and our Master and God, I took the most solemn and important step of my life. Elder J. J. Cornish performed the ceremony, and I arose from the liquid grave with a calm consciousness that a just God would at least credit me with honest purpose in what I had done.