I just want you to know some things that maybe I should have told you before. All through my teen years I went to seminary and read the scriptures -- I really, really studied them because I felt so behind everyone else because I never learned about the church or the scriptures at home. But never once did I feel like I felt the spirit. I also wondered if God existed. I had no problems believing the Joseph Smith story or that the Book of Mormon was true -- as long as there really was a God. Never did I feel Him reach out to me, even though I was trying to reach Him. But I just kept going, acting as if I had a testimony in the hope that I would get one. When I started university, and the university ward, for the first time I felt socially accepted at church. That went a long way to convincing me that church was a good place. So that year I decided again to fully commit myself to reading the book of Mormon to find out if God lives -- but maybe it was my second year -- I can't remember. Anyway, I did it -- I really read and studied -- not just read to get through -- I committed myself to church -- fasting, fast offering, visiting teaching, callings, social activities, reading lessons -- I did it all -- and guess what, when I read the Book of Mormon that time -- it was probably my third time through -- I just knew it was right. It wasn't a huge thing, a "burning in my bosom" or anything like that, it was just a feeling that this was right and good. A quieting of the questions, the doubts.
I knew the BoM to be true, so then I accepted that everything else had
to be true too...even though I had yet to feel that God loved me or that
He existed. But that feeling of rightness was enough to feel I had a
testimony and to believe firmly and completely in the rest.
back in time, sometime during my YW years - I was a beehive I'm pretty
sure, I had a teacher tell us to go home and pray to know that God loves
us. She told us to stay on our knees until we felt His love. So I did
-- and I felt nothing. Just an empty room. Guess when I had that
answer -- sometime in my 20s. 10 years later I knew that God loves me.
10 years of continual church commitment -- based on a desire to believe
and a willingness to continually do what was asked and required.
-- after that reading of the Book of Mormon in university, it wasn't as
if all doubt just departed, rather my own commitment increased. I
remember attending a lunch time lecture at the institute, and this older
lady who I really respected said something along the lines of realizing
that every time she had a doubt/crises/trial, she didn't need to go
back to square 1 and wonder if there was a God -- she'd already figured
that one out, and she could just accept that and build from there, no
matter what she was feeling/struggling with at the time. That hit me so
hard, I realized in that moment that since I knew the Book of Mormon
was true, then I had to know that God lived -- and I never, ever needed
to doubt that again. And so I didn't. From that moment forward I CHOSE
to believe in God -- to use that as my foundation.
I wish I could tell you of a defining moment -- a huge revelation that
tells me that He lives and knows me -- but I don't have that moment.
What I have instead is years of service, of commitment, of belief and
desire that add up to a knowing He lives and loves me. It's going to
the temple for the first time and feeling that it was so, so right and
made so much sense. It's meeting your dad and just knowing that we
would have a future together. It's a peace that comes on me when I read
my scriptures -- a quieting of the voices in my head. It's a softening
of my own harsh side, my anger, when I go to church. It's about
learning of the life of Jesus and feeling his love towards his disciples
and just somehow knowing that I'm one of them --- that that love
extends to me. The combined total of 20 + years of discipleship is a
firm knowledge that Heavenly Father and Jesus live and love me. It's a
choice to exclude doubt, to turn away the negative thoughts, and focus
on the light.
Even now, this morning, my mind was on a recent trial/struggle, and I went into
my room and prayed for comfort, for peace, for an assurance
of the eternal plan of happiness -- I got nothing. Absolutely nothing -- talking to the ceiling
again. But I got up, took the kids to the bus, all the time thinking
about these things. When I came home, I had the thought -- just sit down
and write these things in a letter to the kids -- and you know what, maybe they aren't
helping you -- but they helped
me. Because as I typed my testimony, that strong feeling of love, peace,
safety, assurance has come on me. Now I can shrug it off as emotion --sadness because of the trial and the pain of others-- because the spirit and emotion
feel so similar to me (mostly because I don't feel a lot of emotions
naturally, they mostly come as a gift from God) -- and I could say that
the idea to write this was my own -- because it came in my own voice
in my head -- but I know better. I know from experience that this was a
tender mercy from the Lord -- a gift to help me.
My mom lived her whole life waiting for a great revelation to know that
the church was true, and the God was real -- she was waiting for that
assurance and then she was going to start reading her scriptures,
attending church, and keeping the commandments -- I've seen first hand
that life doesn't work that way, and it led to a life of disappointment
for her. So that's why I chose my way -- to act first, and then wait.
And it took more than a decade --- but the wait was worth it.
I want to
tell you a story from the life of Pres. Lorenzo Snow. When he heard of
the death of Pres. Woodruff, he knew that he would be ordained the
president of the church. He went into the celestial room of the temple
to pray for guidance -- and do you know what answer he got -- nothing.
Not a thing. So, he did what he knew he should -- he stood up and
walked out the door ready to be the prophet anyway. He was able to
stand and move on because of experiences in his past that had led him to
trust, belief, and act whether or not he had an immediate answer.
That's what faith is -- kneeling and asking for help, but then getting
up and doing the work anyway -- knowing that the answer will come at
some time. And for him, what followed was the most significant
spiritual experience of his life -- when he left the room, he saw the
Saviour in the hallway. That great blessing, that ultimate knowledge
and assurance, came only after a lifetime of study and acting, and a
moment of complete and total faith.