Chat With a Mormon Online
Along with reading books on philosophy and religion, my main interests are writing and art. Mine is a family of artists, musicians, poets...not a very practical lot, but very interesting. Few of us, however, have made a profession of it. I am a lawyer by trade. My wife is a teacher. Our children have potential to pursue it professionally, but there's no telling where their choices will ultimately take them.
From a very young age I was inclined toward religion. Although my family did not subscribe to any particular denomination, I had a basically Christian upbringing, influenced by attendance at both Catholic and Protestant Churches. I learned the stories of the Bible very early in life, and in my pre-adolescent years, even when none of my family could join me, I took myself to church, initially at a non denominational Christian church, and eventually at the United Church of Canada. My family also explored many facets of other spiritualities and religious paths. In effect, I was a seeker, and in my teen years began particularly seeking for things I could really believe in. I joined the LDS Church when I was 17. I had thought, before then, that I had learned a good deal through my studies and experiences about God, religion and the purpose of life. However, it was not until I embraced the restored gospel that I found real confidence to say I have found what is true. Despite my primarily Christian background and upbringing, I had never truly understood the role of Jesus Christ, his divinity and the power of His Atonement. Through the restored gospel, The Book of Mormon, and particularly through the gift of the Holy Ghost, I have obtained a deeper knowledge and appreciation of Jesus Christ, his mission, his nature, and his role in my life as Saviour and truest friend. To this day I continue learning, but I am profoundly and inexpressibly grateful for the testimony of grace that has come to me through reading The Book of Mormon and listening carefully to the teachings of the latter-day prophets, as well as through many direct and personal spiritual experiences. Though I continue to be a desperately flawed human being, I know who my Redeemer is, and I am so thankful that He has blessed me to find His Church and the avenue through which the fulness of salvation is found.
God's wisdom is progressive and accumulative. Each right choice we make results in increased understanding and a strengthened testimony, helping us to make more right choices. It also strengthens our relationship with God and confidence in dealing with the next moral crisis or challenge, knowing that He can be trusted and that, if we will put in the effort, so can we.
I am strengthened spiritually every Sunday at Church. I am helped to focus more sincerely on my personal spiritual journey and desire for righteousness when I participate in the Sacrament (what is usually called The Lord's Supper or Eucharist in many other churches). Even if I do not have particularly close relationships with other members, I am refreshed by the atmosphere of love and the desire we all share to grow closer to our Heavenly Father and be better people. And, though I have heard many mediocre speakers and untalented teachers, I have never yet heard a talk or testimony or been in a class from which I have not learned something - very often something profoundly important that, just at that time, I needed to learn. It is God's gift to make Church meaningful for us, regardless of human weaknesses involved in the presentation.
Though I frequently fail to attend as I should to the necessity for daily morning and evening prayers, these give comfort and feelings of peace. I seek continually throughout each day for God's influence, assurance and assistance, and often find myself praying in the midst of my work, while trying to teach or discipline my children, while communicating with my wife, while driving, and in all sorts of regular daily experiences. I especially appreciate those moments when I am able to recognize the good things in my life and feel immediately the desire to lift up a prayer of gratitude. Prayer is communion, as well as communication, with Heavenly Father. A good prayer is one in which I have dialogue with our Heavenly Father, and receive precise answers to specific concerns. I can assure you that He does answer our prayers; that He attends to every sincere inquiry and request; that he wants us to seek that connection with Him.
There can be many reasons for serving a mission. I went on a mission because I thought I wanted to serve God. However, I think He wanted me to serve a mission in order to have challenges that taught me a measure of humility, a degree of reliance on Him, and faith that He would sustain me throughout the rest of my life. Some people serve missions to please family members or because of a sense of duty. All of these are good (or good enough) reasons to serve a mission, provided that when we serve we truly *serve*. That is, that we give ourselves over to do whatever the Spirit directs us to do to bless the lives of others. Then, regardless of our reasons for going, we all return having been changed for the better by the experiences He has given us.
I have felt the power and influence of the Holy Ghost from time to time in my life. I have missed it in periods where, because of my own bad behaviour, distractions and choices, I have not been able to feel or be conscious of his presence. I believe that it is through the Holy Ghost that all gifts of God are presented, and I have been especially grateful for the gift of a testimony, the feeling that has on one or two occasions flooded my body and mind with a convincing power asserting to my mind and soul that the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. Other times I know that I have been guided in words that I have spoken that have touched the hearts of others or helped them to come to a better understanding of the gospel.
We have not been as successful in this regard as we would like. However, we have tried to help our children be aware of good and bad influences, and to think critically about what is presented to them in the media, in school, in the marketplace and amongst their friends. We also encourage them to read the scriptures, attend church meetings and try to understand and apply the principles of morality and spirituality that will help them make wise choices and not be decieved. They naturally make some wrong choices, as we have also done, but I believe our children have the tools they need to be protected by wisdom and God's Spirit, if they want it.
Before I served as a full-time missionary, my bishop challenged me to read The Book of Mormon straight through, from the title page to the final chapter. I did that. It was an enthralling exercise. At the end, he asked me what I had thought was the message of The Book of Mormon. I told him: "Repent". Of course, that one word says a lot. It is more than just, "Change" and more than simply, "Be Good". It means, more importantly, "be what the Lord wants you to be" and "give your life to Him." I didn't fully understand that at the time, but that was the starting point for this understanding. At a later time I had a profound experience while reading in the Book of Alma (a section of The Book of Mormon), where Alma is writing about the necessity for a Saviour. I was confused. I didn't understand what Alma was trying to say. I knelt to pray and felt moved to phone a member of our ward, a senior priesthood leader (who later supported me financially so that I could serve my mission), and asked him what those passages meant. This kind brother gently, and simply, explained to me how there is no salvation except through Jesus Christ, and why it was necessary for Him to come into mortality and sacrifice himself so that our sins and weakness could be overcome allowing us to return to our Heavenly Father's presence. More powerful than the words he spoke was the convincing power that came to me through the Holy Ghost. When we ended our phone call I became overwhelmed by the Spirit and fell to me knees expressing a tearful prayer of gratitude. That moment solidified my testimony of Jesus Christ - a testimony that relies wholly on the gift of God's Spirit, mediated by the teachings set out in The Book of Mormon. It truly is "Another Testament of Jesus Christ".
Real religious faith and love of God is shown in the service we give to those who are in need. I have tried to be a help to my neighbours and colleagues, and a support to charitable activities and organizations in my community. I have also had many opportunities to serve in various capacities in the Church. From a teacher in the Primary (children's Sunday School) to priesthood group leader, from full-time missionary (serving two years in the Far East) to "High Councillor" (a member of a council that supports the work of 'stake' [like a diocese] ecclesiastical leaders) and Director of Public Affairs. In the 30 years I have been in the Church, I have rarely had any calling last for longer than 2 years...hopefully that means they've wanted me to do lots, as opposed to tiring of me quickly :) but mainly it has provided me with a lot of experience and insight into the operation and services of the Church.