(August 8, 2011)
There are a few things that I have come to know during my short time on this earth. These things have shaped my life in ways I cannot even understand fully, let alone express. They have brought me joy, given my life a direction and purpose, and filled me with a love for others and a desire to help them find the same peace that I have found in my life. Here are 6 simple truths that I have come to know for myself:
1. Our Heavenly Father knows us and loves us.
Some religions have a very fierce, detached notion of God. Some believe he is a strict taskmaster, and should be feared. Other religions view God as very impersonal, like Zeus, who treats humans as a sort of toy and finds entertainment from meddling in our lives. This is not the image of God in my mind, though. To me, God is a very loving character. We have a Heavenly Father who knows each of us individually, by name. He knows us personally, and He loves us personally. I know this because I have felt His love many times in my life. He has comforted me many times, when I have felt sad, lonely, frustrated, or insignificant. He has protected me multiple times from dangers that could, would, and should have been much more damaging. Because of this love, I also know that
2. Our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers.
I cannot count the number of prayers I have said in my life. And I cannot count the number of times I have witnessed an answer to those prayers. I am far from perfect, so I know that the answers that I recognize are vastly outnumbered by the answers that have been given which I have not understood as being answers.
Sometimes it is hard to remember this principle, when it seems like I have prayed endlessly for an answer or a result, and it just never comes. At those times, I try to remember that the Lord’s timing is different than ours. He sees the whole picture, not just the tiny portion we do. He knows what is best for us, and He will do what is best for us if we let Him. We must remember that sometimes what we desire and what we need are not the same thing. If we put our trust in the Lord though, everything will be given to us in the right time.
I have received many answers to prayers, some subtle and some very concrete. I have felt doubt emerge in answer to questions, I have experienced ideas and feelings being completely lost after a sincere prayer, and I have felt in my heart a genuine approval of certain choices after approaching my Heavenly Father. We are promised that if we will “ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ,” and “with a sincere heart, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.” I know that this is true, and because I have tested this promise, I can say honestly that
3. I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God.
The Book of Mormon is a treasure that is very dear to my heart. I love the New Testament, because there is so much profound wisdom and guidance contained within it. The Book of Mormon is Another Testament of Jesus Christ, and is a perfect companion to the Bible, verifying its teachings, and clarifying doctrine which, with only a single source (the Bible), could otherwise be misunderstood or misinterpreted. The Book of Mormon tells of the people who were living here in the Americas at the time before, during, and after Christ’s life on earth. Because I know Heavenly Father loves His children, it makes perfect logical sense to me that He would call prophets to teach His children the correct doctrine and commandments, wherever in the world they may be. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This is evidenced by the Book of Mormon and the Bible, from which we can learn so much about Him and His eternal plan for us and the things we need to do to return to live with Him after this life.
Both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon teach that “by their fruits ye shall know them.” This principle, along with sincere prayer allows me to say that
4. I know Joseph Smith restored the true Church in this last dispensation.
Living so close to Kirtland, and having lived in Nauvoo for a year, I have had the great opportunity to learn a lot about the early Saints and the beginnings of the Church. I have become well acquainted with the story of the First Vision, and the life of Joseph Smith. Each and every time I read the account of Joseph’s humble prayer, and the powerful struggle he endured and eventual answer he received, I feel the spirit wash over me, confirming the truth of those words. Having prayed about and gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon also testifies to me that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, who was given access to the plates which contained the account of the people in the Americas, and who was given authority and power to translate them for us to have.
I know that the Priesthood authority (the authority to act in God’s name) was restored to the earth through John the Baptist, and Peter, James, and John, who personally ordained Joseph Smith. This unique circumstance allows all current priesthood holders the amazing ability to be able to trace their priesthood authority directly to Jesus Christ himself.
John 7:17 teaches: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” I have gained a testimony of the teachings of the Gospel as I have applied them in my life. The times when I am living the gospel principles and commandments are the times that I am happiest. I have more patience, more love for others, and a general sense of peace and contentment in my life. Times that I neglect my prayers and scripture reading, or transgress other commandments, I can feel a loss of the spirit, I am much more easily frustrated with things, I argue with my friends and family more, and I notice a marked decrease in my self-esteem and confidence.
I am so grateful for the amazing truths that the Gospel has taught me. One principle that has genuinely changed my life is this:
5. I know that our Heavenly Father has a plan for us, His children.
I know that we lived in Heaven with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ before we came to this earth. We were sent here to earth to be tested, to prove that we are worthy to live with our Heavenly Father again, for eternity. Adam and Eve, our first ancestors, transgressed the Lord’s law when they partook of the forbidden fruit and introduced death, both physical and spiritual (separation from Heavenly Father) into our lives. With Christ’s atonement, crucifixion, and resurrection, Heavenly Father’s plan has provided us a way to overcome both. The resurrection allows all men and women to conquer physical death. After Christ’s Second Coming, our spirits and bodies will be reunited, and restored to their perfect state. Spiritual death is overcome through the process of repentance. Christ suffered in Gethsemane, taking upon him all our pains, sicknesses, sorrows, and sins. His perfect sacrifice allows us the opportunity to be forgiven of our sins and avoid the suffering that justice would otherwise insist upon.
After we die, we will be judged according to our works, our words, and the desires of our hearts. If we have proven ourselves worthy through obedience to the commandments, accepted the Gospel and been baptized by Priesthood authority, we will have the opportunity to live with our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ for the rest of eternity.
I am so grateful to have been blessed with the opportunity to learn these sacred truths. Knowing the purpose of my life has helped me in my attempt to live it according to the Lord’s plan. Trials are easier to endure when I remember that they are only temporary, and are providing me a chance to learn and grow and become closer to my Heavenly Father. The last truth I would like to mention is a scripture from Luke 22:32
6. “…and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
I have developed such a profound appreciation for missionary work. I am so grateful for the examples of faith, obedience, and sacrifice that I have seen from many of my friends who have served or are currently serving missions. Seeing and hearing their testimonies strengthens mine as well. And that is the last principle I would like to share:
The Lord loves us, he answers our prayers, he has given us scripture to lead and direct us, he has restored the Priesthood authority and instated a living prophet to receive revelation specific to our time. These things are all a part of His infinite and perfect Plan of Happiness. This is joyous news, and it should be shared. All men and women, everywhere, deserve the chance to learn of these principles, and to pray and learn for themselves of their truthfulness. Discussing religion can be very difficult sometimes, especially when we are unsure how others will react. It can be most difficult sharing your testimony with those who are closest to you, because you don’t want to alter a great relationship. I have felt this way many, many times. However, as I consider the ways that the Gospel has blessed my life, and the true joy I have received from abiding by it, I have realized that it is selfish of me to keep it to myself. This Gospel is perfect. It will bless the lives of all those who embrace it. It is not easy, but it is worth it, and the peace that comes from a personal relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is immeasurable and irreplaceable. I pray for the strength and courage to one day share this message personally with each of you whom I love and care for, but until that day, this simple message is what I offer.
I pray that if any piece of this simple testimony has touched your heart, that you will pursue that feeling. www.mormon.org offers more information about the beliefs of the church and other gospel topics I have not mentioned here. I invite you to visit the website, or please feel free to approach me with any questions or comments you may have. I would love to share with you this glorious gospel that has blessed my life so immensely.