Today I am teaming up with 65+ other Mormon bloggers to share with everyone our testimonies of faith and encourage you to watch a film coming out in theaters across the country, starting today, October 10, 2014, called “Meet The Mormons.”
Meet the Mormons is not meant to be an in your face, you must join our church, film. It is simply designed and produced with the purpose to uplift and inspire you through six stories of Mormons from around the world who have followed the promptings of the Holy Ghost to follow Jesus Christ more fully in their lives. We hope you take the opportunity to view and enjoy this film. We hope your hearts are made light as you feel the goodness that comes from following our Christ and Savior. Plus, all proceeds from the film will be donated to The American Red Cross. So not only will you be uplifted and inspired, your money will be going to an amazing charity! Check out a trailer for the film below:
My Conversion Story
I was born into a practicing Mormon household. My parents were sealed in the Salt Lake City temple. My mother converted to the church in her 20’s, while a single mom living in Washington DC, and my dad was born and raised in the Mormon faith, growing up in Wyoming and Utah, land of the Mormons, with a long Mormon heritage. But, I know all too well that just going to church will not convert you to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and that saying mediocre prayers and giving half-hearted efforts into scripture study and this thing called faith will not change your heart or your life.
As the youngest of nine children, growing up in Wisconsin, where there are very few members of the LDS church, I saw the effects of such poor attempts at true faith among my siblings and friends. And I saw how poor decisions, inactivity, and lack of a personal testimony led my siblings and friends down paths that I never, ever wanted to go down. I saw the damage that it caused to my parents, to the individual’s lives and their futures, and to their very souls. So, I wanted to be better than them. I wanted to be that good child, the one who took her study of religion and faith seriously. And so I did so from a very young age. And while I know that this idea of “pleasing the parents” and being better than someone else, are lousy reasons to be pious, it ultimately, and quickly, became so much more about my need to know for myself.
I had to know: were the things I was being taught week after week in church really true? Did scripture study make a difference in my life? Did saying meaningful prayers affect my heart? I decided to take the challenge found in John 7:17 “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” by living the tenets and edicts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that of the Mormon church. And then I was taking things I was learning and questioning to the Lord, testing His doctrine of answering prayers, as found in James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
By the time I was 11 years old I had read the entire Book of Mormon cover to cover, by myself. No, most of it didn’t make a whole lot of sense, with all those big words, mature concepts, and names I could not pronounce. But, I had read it, and followed the commands of the prophets to read it for myself and take the challenge issued in the Book of Mormon, found in Moroni 10:4-6, which says:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you 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. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.
And so I got down on my 11-year old knees, alone in my bedroom, and prayed to know if the Book of Mormon was truly written by ancient prophets and leaders who inhabited the American continents, or if it was all just made up and written by some guy named Joseph Smith, Jr. And honestly, I don’t know if I really received a witness that day that it was true, which frustrated me. I had done what my church leaders had told me, and testified that I would know if I read it and prayed about it myself. But, I didn’t get the burning in the bosom, or that overwhelming feeling of peace. What I felt was nice, but it wasn’t quite what I wanted or expected.
And that bugged me for a while. But, I know that over the course of my life this pattern has repeated itself. God doesn’t always answer our prayers how we think He should. Sometimes it does feel like the heavens are silent. And I have often been frustrated that it does not seem like Jesus answers when you knock, or opens a door for me. But, I have also come to assess myself over my, relatively short, lifetime as well. And through some various spiritual experiences have learned that God trusts me tremendously. And He trusts me to figure things out on my own. I think as I am not an especially emotional or sensitive individual, but am rather hard-headed and stubborn at times, that God works differently in me. He doesn’t speak to me the same way He speaks to others.
For me, gaining a testimony of the gospel came through persistent effort, my stubborn attitude, and an undying desire to believe in its truthfulness.
After my initial reading of the Book of Mormon, I would go on to read it again, cover to cover, about four more times before I finished high school, and read it several more times in its entirety while in college and more afterwards. But, also while in high school I attended Early Morning Seminary, and I was the obnoxious good student who was wide awake and participating every day, and who actually read the assigned scriptures the night before. Over the four years of high school and seminary, I not only read the Book of Mormon cover to cover, but the Old Testament and the New Testament of the Holy Bible (KJV), and the Doctrine and Covenants (history of the founding of the Mormon church). And I also listened to uplifting music, associated with great friends, all of whom were of different Christian faiths.
And through all of my pursuits, my righteous living, my friendships, my associations, my learning about the real consequences of sin and disobedience through loved ones, I got it. I grasped it. I knew. I knew it. I knew that everything I had learned, studied, and prayed about was true. The great things, the fruit, of my righteous living was just too good for it not to be true. My life had purpose, direction, hope, and a Savior. And oh, how I relied upon Jesus Christ during my turbulent high school years. I came to love Him, to know Him, to understand His atonement for me, personally.
In high school there was a time when some negative emotions blackened my heart and and thoughts about someone I loved. And I hated that I felt this way, but I couldn’t get the anger and disappointment out of my mind and heart. It was in this moment that I turned to God to ask Him to take that burden off my shoulders, to help me forgive them, to help me love them again. And He did it. He lifted that burden from me and changed my heart, my attitude, and my outlook. I was able to move on, and it was only because of His grace and the blood of His atoning sacrifice.
There were also countless other spiritual witnesses during my teenage years that came from my personal scripture study, from my righteous living, from Young Women’s Summer camps, from Church Youth Conferences, from personal dreams, and wonderful individuals, that I can never deny what I know.
Here’s the thing people, friends, readers, whoever you are: I choose to believe. And I don’t make choices lightly. And God sustains my choice.
I bear solid, strong witness to you, that I am not a fool. I have examined this church from many different angles. I have explored its origins. And I have read, and re-read scriptures, examined other faiths, and so I am not just a Mormon because it’s a good thing to do, or because I want to please somebody. The only person I care about pleasing is my God.
I know in whom I trust. I know my Heavenly Father lives, that I am His daughter, and that He loves me more than I can ever imagine. He is watching over me, guiding my life, and helping me down the path of righteousness, because He wants me to succeed. He wants me to live with Him again someday. And He lovingly, wonderfully, provided a Savior so that I could. And Jesus Christ’s atonement is my most favorite thing in the whole wide world. It is in the power of the Atonement that I believe, that I learn, that I grow, that I receive answers, that I feel peace and comfort, and that I can be forgiven by. The atonement is marvelous. And I am in awe of the one who overcame sin and death, so that I don’t have to suffer, as He did, for my sins.
I believe that the Book of Mormon is inspired writing from people who actually lived. I believe Joseph Smith, flawed and imperfect, was called as a Prophet of God, and helped usher in the living church of Christ on the Earth again. And I am proud to be a member of that Church. It’s doctrine is beautiful, perfect, and joyous. It’s fruits are good. And I am happy and blessed to be dubbed a Mormon, a Latter-day Saint, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I get to associate with some of the most wonderful people on Earth. I get to give my time and talents to glorify God and His work. I am a Mormon. I know it. I live it. And I love it.
I testify these things in the name of my wonderful Savior Jesus Christ. Amen!