believe

“There have been many people who have prayed, as your Mormon friends suggested, and felt that God was not leading them because of the “off the wall” doctrine. Did God lead them in a different way or do we assume that those people were not sincerely open to God’s leading?”

A few weeks after I became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints I received a letter from a very dear friend, asking me this question. I had no idea how to respond at that time. I’ve often pondered that question. Even today, what can I say?

God gave me a powerful witness of the Book of Mormon so that I know with all my heart and mind that it truly is a historical work and that it is a third testament of Jesus Christ. Why me? And why do others not receive the same?

I believe my instincts kept me from searching the internet for anti Mormon literature. And instincts kept me from approaching my past leaders to ask them for their opinion or guidance.

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord” Jeremiah 17:5

I just knew that a biased opinion, even if knowledgeable on some important issues would make my way very murky and would more than likely, completely add confusion to an already seemingly overwhelming task-that of learning the truth for myself.

Based on what I’d learned from reading my Bible, I believed that God was interested personally in me, desired for me to do His will and would lead me in the direction of His choosing. I chose to remain completely dependent on Him to reveal His truth to me. So, I followed direction, and sought first to read the Book of Mormon and then pray as instructed.

Though it may not be necessary for everyone to receive a testimony as soon as possible when investigating the church, it is a great advantage in my opinion. True, I didn’t study everything about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints before I received my witness. True I knew very little about the church, which scared everyone around me to death!

Putting first things first enabled powerful enough evidence for me to withstand naysayers. Powerful enough to endure others anger, contention, bitterness and difficult questions.

And especially, powerful enough to endure the fiery darts of the adversary-with truths that immediately got thrown in the path -twisted and bent out of shape to be almost unrecognizable as good and holy and pure as their origin.

Was it not for Heavenly Father’s faithfulness and the priceless gift of the Holy Ghost to help recognize and discern the differences between truth and error, how very lost I would be.

There are many people desiring to know the truth and desiring to know which church is true but don’t know where to find it. Just as sad is the reality that people feel dependent on knowledgeable men, scholars, books or the internet to point the way to truth, rather than asking and seeking of God.

For example, just about that same time, one of my family members stated that a preacher friend said that he had studied Joseph Smith for 2 years and had decided he was a fraud. Again, I was not sure how to respond. (I had not yet received a testimony of Joseph Smith as God’s true prophet.)

Today, I would say, “One does not study Joseph Smith. Study Jesus Christ. Look only to Him, give Him your whole heart, mind and soul, trust Him and ask Him what the truth is that He would have you seek. Believe that He desires to answer you.”

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in Him”  Jeremiah 17:7

While you are seeking, first and foremost, seek a testimony of the Book of Mormon. Read it. Ponder upon the words. Pray. Ask. Once you know the truth for yourself, once you commit to this marvelous church and have the companionship of the Holy Ghost, you will be able to discern and sift the truth of all other matters regarding this marvelous church.

Afterwards, when you find yourself mired in controversial stuff, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost will strengthen and guide you into all truth. Even then, be vigilant in praying and seeking the Lord for answers, as the adversary may be be hard at work, seeking your downfall.

Do you have a testimony of the Book of Mormon?

Brothers and Sisters, those of you that are converts to the church, are welcome to share your testimonies or conversion experience here.

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Next week, in “Addressing the Book of Mormon, Part 2”, for your interest I’ll post a transcript of an interview including a couple of commonly asked questions regarding the Book of Mormon. Terryl Givens, professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond and commentator, elucidates.

You’d like your own Book of Mormon? Do contact me.

Or call 888-537-2200 and ask for one. It’s free!

 

I once met an engineer from England. He felt impressed to share his story with me. I appreciated it and wish now that I’d be able to give you more details. Agnostic as a younger man 35 years ago, he was investigating our church and not receiving the assurance he sought.

Fasting for a day, he went into the bush to kneel and pray and asked God five questions pertinent to his life. Nothing happened. No answer from the Lord. Disappointment.

Some days after this while he was driving, abruptly all five of his questions were answered in succession. He pulled over by the side of the road and sobbed. When he got home his wife greeted him and noted he was ‘white as a sheet’. He shared with her that he knew the church was true.

Unbeknownst to him, she already had her testimony and had been waiting for him to learn the truth for himself. That happened over 30 years ago, yet as he related his experience, a tear rolled down the cheek of this humble and gentle man.

Each of us has something divine within us, in our core, which draws and connects us to God.  We long to be reunited with the Divine. Even more so, God longs to reunify with us. But we have the freedom to choose-to accept or to dismiss.

I and many individuals believe that communications from the Divine are meant to be the common experience of mankind. However, we don’t get to choose how, when or where He will meet us.

“if the Gentiles shall hearken unto the Lamb of God that in that day He shall manifest Himself unto them in word, and also in power, in very deed, unto the taking away of their stumbling blocks-And harden not their hearts against the Lamb of God, …they shall be a blessed people” 1 Nephi 14:1-2 (BOM)

There are steps we can consider when we are investigating the church. We are promised that if we ask Heavenly Father in the name of Christ with a sincere heart and with real intent He will manifest the truth by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Once He has confirmed the truth of the Book of Mormon, of the restored gospel, and we commit our lives to living it, our learning does not stop.

Heavenly Father desires that each of us continues to progress-that we keep asking and seeking in order to receive ‘higher education’. How to go about this took me way too long to get and lately has been impressed on me again.

“For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds;
and to him who knocks, the door will be opened” Matthew 7:8

We continue to ask, seek and knock if we would like to learn more from Him. The method of approaching God with our queries does not change, though it may not be easy to implement consistently.

  1. Pray– Begin by praying.
  2. Believe-Reach a point where you say “Heavenly Father, I want to believe”.
  3. Ask– Ask your question. (It is not unusual to begin to believe, and then it can take awhile and some effort before getting an answer.)
  4. Wait-The Lord will meet you and proceed to soften your heart.
  5. Receive– Your softened heart enables you to believe our Father.  And enables you to receive His message.
  6. The Answer-An answer comes into your mind and into your heart. This answer to prayer is going to lead you to do something.
  7. Do– Once you do receive an answer, it is important to do what you have been instructed to do. Your behavior then harmonizes to what you believe to be God’s will. This will lead you to know it was of God.

An authority I am not.  These ‘steps’ have been helpful in my experience. They may or may not be as helpful for you. I wouldn’t have minded if someone had clarified this process for me. And then, perhaps I was meant to learn it “line upon line”.

Note:

Answers from our Heavenly Father are not always our only spiritual encounters. We are all acquainted with both light and dark influences. There is the deceiver- and forces that would like to mislead and delude. You must plow through that-keep pressing on- before receiving further Light and Truth.

“Behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask Me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong” D & C 9:8-9

For a long spell, during the times that the Lord did indeed connect with me and soften my heart, I knew His love and comfort, but had not considered this a part of my progression at the time. And I sure didn’t understand #4-“wait”, patience seeming to be the biggest hurdle in my life.

“Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart” Moroni 7:48 (BOM)

What did my engineer friend do? He prayed. He wanted to believe (he fasted).He asked. He waited. He received an answer. His heart was softened. (Okay…a little different order.) And he did ‘do’.

I know that our Heavenly Father is perfectly faithful.  When you believe enough to be able to accept His answer and when you act on that answer, great things will unfold in your life.

 

I am so NOT an intellectual. Nor am I the least bit attracted to what I call intellectual goble-de-goop. I LOVE learning. I don’t enjoy listening to intellectuals sparring.

When my friend, Graham impressed on me several times to listen to a five hour interview recently, I did so, because of his enthusiasm. Several times he has introduced me to jaw dropping tidbits of knowledge. This was no exception.  It was worthwhile listening and I gleaned a few fabulous morsels of wisdom and knowledge as usual.

However, in the forth hour I experienced a bit of an inner temper tantrum.  Once you read through these excerpts of this portion of the transcription, I’ll explain.

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John Dehlin is interviewing  Terryl Givens. “He did graduate work at Cornell University in Intellectual History and UNC Comparative Literature. He holds the James A. Bostwick chair of English. He is a professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond, where he teaches courses in 19th century studies, and the Bible’s influence on Western literature. As a commentator on Mormon religion and culture, he has appeared on PBS, NPR, and CNN. Author of 10 books”

J.D.

“ A lot of people trip up on the history (of the church)… So if it’s okay, I’m just going to ask you how you work through some of the more historical aspects that people struggle with.

I guess the very first problem if we look historically that many people have, is with the first vision and the multiple accounts and most of our listeners will know this but the very 1st historical account of Joseph Smith 1st vision is different from the second, different from the third. Some say substantively different and others say, like Richard Bushman, that it’s just different perspectives with age. How do you make sense of all that?”

T. G.

“Well, I don’t find any real substantive problems in the differing accounts of the 1st vision. I think Joseph is writing these under very very different historical conditions and circumstances so I think one evolution that we see, is a sense in the 1st vision, the 1st account, that he hadn’t fully, I think, captured the implications of his experience in terms of the global future and destiny of the church that grows out of these initial spiritual experiences.

Whereas I think later there is more of a concern and an attention to what the implications were of what he learned for a dispensational history of apostasy and restoration.  So part of it is the difference between a personal conversion narrative he’s recounting, and the opening of a new dispensation.

I do think it’s significant that throughout his life Joseph referred to the year 1827, as the beginning of his prophetic career. So he always seemed to see his receipt of the gold plates as what really marked him as a prophet, and I think this is one of the mistakes we make in telling our history, is to refer to the young boy prophet. He’s not a prophet in 1820. He’s not called as a prophet. He didn’t see himself as a prophet and he never did see himself as a prophet in the year 1820 when he had those first visionary experiences.

The main contradiction that you probably have in mind is the sense that in the 1st vision there is only one God, one Being that he sees, whereas in subsequent descriptions there are two?”

J. D.

“In the 1st version of the First Vision, right? He says, “I was visited by the Lord, or something like that”.

T. G.

“What he says in the 1837 account, He says exactly this. “The Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and He spake unto me”.  So he says, I saw the Lord and then the Lord spake unto me. Now some church historians have suggested that he may have had in mind two different personages even in that retelling. “I see the Lord, God the Father and then the Lord Jesus Christ speaks to me”.

I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but I think there’s certainly enough ambiguity there that one can’t claim there’s an obvious ‘de facto’ contradiction between those accounts. So I think that there are a lot of other more difficult hurdles in early church history than that particular example.”

J.D.

“Okay, and for someone who is going to say “Look, if you see God and Jesus, you’re going to mention both of them kind of explicitly-you don’t buy that?”

(More discourse, including discussion regarding the role of apologetics, too lengthy to repeat here)

J.D.

“…Does that make sense?”

T. G.

“Yeah, it does and I have some sympathy with those who want to read it that way. I think that that kind of developmental paradigm has certain plausibility. I don’t buy into it.

I think that there is a much stronger case that can be made for the seeds of most of Joseph’s theological system being already present in the Book of Mormon in 1830 in many cases and ways that I don’t think that even he seemed to be self consciously aware of.

I think for example if you look at the vision of the brother of Jared. Christ appears to him as an embodied, right, a spiritually embodied deity before He’s born and says that man will be made in the image of that same spirit body and that seems to me to be fully consistent with everything that Joseph always taught about God. In his lectures on faith right, given very early in the Kirkland period-he’s already referring to God and Christ as separate beings…

I think some of that conventional language is without real theological weight in the way it’s being used.”

J. D.

“Okay. Okay, so you say you have sympathy to the argument, that it could be a growing story, but that for you the evidence isn’t compelling.”

T. G. “That’s right.”

J. D. “Okay, that’s fair.”

********************

Listening to this exchange my feelings became agitated. Had I been nearby, as though these men were my teenage sons kibitzing, I would have rudely burst upon them.

“Guys!! Guys!! What are you thinking?! Why must you expound with all this verbiage? What’s the point? Have you not heard of the simple solution? Why haven’t you tried it? What is the matter with you?”

“And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you.” Philippians 3:15

I was a bit disappointed but not surprised, due to the forum the discussion took place, that Givens couldn’t or wouldn’t mention somewhere in the exchange something to the effect that on some issues, as an active believing Mormon he has received a testimony  of the truth and that he KNOWS.

That, in my opinion, is the difference between intellectuals approaching contrasting points of view and the ‘unschooled’ fisherman.

I marvel that Heavenly Father is no respecter of persons. That means that He is willing to reach down to you and to me and let us know for ourselves whether Joseph Smith really did see two Personages.

God’s finger can touch my heart and my mind to allow me to know whether the Book of Mormon really is true. And whether it truly is a third testimony of Jesus Christ. And on and on.

I don’t need to study the history of the church to glean an answer for myself (although I LOVE learning all I can about its incredible history). I don’t need a degree. I don’t need to debate with learned men. I don’t need to wonder about its veracity EVER again.

All I need is faith and my lifeline to heaven-the precious gift of the Holy Ghost and His willingness to reveal all truth. All I need is to ask. And to believe that Heavenly Father will give me the testimony I seek.

Until I listened to this interview, I was not aware that there might be different versions of the First Vision.

However, I do know with all my being, this truth.  Joseph Smith went into the woods near his family home to offer his first vocal prayer to God.

He said: “I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me… When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith-History 1:16:17) 

How very grateful I am for a loving Father in Heaven who is willing at all times to extend His influence in order to confirm His truths unto the hearts of His children.

Do you believe the story of the first vision? Do you know for certain with all your heart and soul that it is true?