Sharing experiences from his past, Professor Larry Echohawk of Brigham Young University's J. Reuben Clark Law School discussed the influence of The Church of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon on his life when he addressed the university’s weekly devotional assembly.
Echohawk's devotional will be rebroadcast Sunday, Aug. 19, on BYU Television at 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and on KBYU-TV at 6 and 11 a.m.
Echohawk, a member of the Pawnee Nation, spoke about the prejudices and challenges he and his family faced growing up. When Echohawk's great-grandfather was 19, the Pawnee people were forced to give up their homeland along the Platte River to make way for white settlers. In the winter of 1874, Echohawk said, the Pawnee people were marched several hundred miles to a small reservation in the Oklahoma Indian Territory. Of an estimated 20,000 people who started the march, fewer than 700 survived, he said.
"As I look back through past years, perhaps the most painful thought is the realization that in my childhood my family had no expectation of achieving a higher education and becoming doctors, lawyers, or engineers. A college education seemed beyond our reach." His life began to change, he said, when the Church of Jesus Christ came into his life at age 14.
Because of the special interest of a priest quorum advisor, Echohawk made a goal to excel in football. Before the football season of his senior year, Echohawk received an eye injury that forced him to stay in bed for a week. During that time, he began to sincerely pray and to read and study the Book of Mormon. Upon finishing the book, he prayed to know of its truthfulness.
"At that moment, I had my first very strong spiritual experience," he recounted. "I knew then the Book of Mormon was true. . . Up until that moment, I had not realized that Heavenly Father had been watching over me and giving me answers to all my prayers – for healing, and for a witness of the truth."
Echohawk was later recruited by BYU to play football and during his time there,heardthen President of the Church Spencer W. Kimball speak several times. After listening to one of thosespeeches, Echohawk felt inspired to become a lawyer.
"At a certain point in my life, I read the passage where he said we could become leaders of cities and states, and it was as if it were directed specifically to me." Echohawk later served as an attorney for Idaho's largest American Indian tribe and successfully ran for the office of attorney general in Idaho.
Recalling the blessings of the gospel in his life, Echohawk concluded with his testimony of the Book of Mormon and the Church. "When I read the Book of Mormon, it gave me very positive feelings about who I am, a knowledge that Heavenly Father had something for me to accomplish in life, and how I could be an instrument in His hands in serving the needs of other people . . .That testimony is a precious gift given to me with the help of two missionaries, a priest quorum leader and a prophet of God. For this I am very grateful."
Writer: Alexis Plowman