“My Odyssey of Faith,” Ensign, Apr. 1991, 28
Before I was baptized, I struggled with certain parts of the Book of Mormon as I read it for the first time. Almost every day I sat down for a few minutes to discuss the gospel with Frank, my LDS co-worker. I asked Frank tough questions about the Book of Mormon, and he always answered in a practical way that helped me at the time.
When I finished reading the Book of Mormon, I tried to pray about it. I did not get a burning testimony, yet I sensed that it was an important Christian document. It contained truth, and although I wasn’t sure it was literal, I believed that it definitely qualified as being Christ-centered. I concluded that the Book of Mormon was inspired.
As I looked at the Church and its members, I found a blending of spirituality and gospel application in daily life that reached out and touched others’ lives—including mine. I felt that Mormonism was New Testament Christianity in action. Thus, I was excited at the possibility that I might have discovered a church that was the best example of true Christian living on earth. This led to my decision to ask Heavenly Father, in humble prayer, a simple question: “Should I join this church?”
I remember that as I knelt in the darkness by the living room couch, I poured out my heart to the Lord and told him of my search, my struggles, and my desire to do his will. I was ready to act on whatever answer I received. After my prayer, I reached for the armrest at the end of the couch, where my Bible was lying. As I searched its pages, I came across a significant scripture—a scripture that communicated an unmistakable directive to my soul: “Yes, you should be baptized!” was the message I interpreted. I wept for joy. Finally, I knew what I should do.
Since that time, I have found that my testimony of the gospel has grown at the same rate as my conviction about the truth of the Book of Mormon. But the growth of my testimony has not come without its struggles.
When I told my family about my decision to be baptized, my father turned away in disgust. I was devastated! The man whom I loved and respected more than anyone else in the world was violently opposed to my decision about the most important matter of my life!
Later, a few months after I was baptized, I had my first encounter with anti-Mormon material. My parents had been given some tape recordings made by an individual known for his criticism of the Church, and they were really worried about what I had gotten myself into. When I listened to the tapes, I too was concerned.
Even though some of this negative information seemed plausible, my deep reaction was that it couldn’t be right. I had felt the Spirit too many times while I was studying the Church to deny its truthfulness, so I decided to investigate the anti-Mormon claims. I turned to the scriptures in prayerful study—especially the Book of Mormon. Knowledgeable Church members helped answer my questions. Afterward, I was more convinced than ever that I had made the right decision by joining the Church.
As a result, I made my own tape recording, personalizing it for my parents, and answered the major charges in the anti-Mormon material. I played the tape for my parents, and afterward my dad looked at me through his tears and said, “That was quite a sermon, son!” Then we hugged each other. This experience became the start of a new relationship between us.
The day after I was called to serve as stake mission president, my mother, who was unaware of my new calling, told me that she had dreamed about me. She said that in this dream I had received a new position of responsibility in my church and that an older man had put his hands on my head as if he were anointing me while a roomful of people watched. Then I told her about my new calling and explained the process of being set apart. I said that I would probably be set apart by an older man. I was electrified when my mother said, “I would recognize him if I saw him.”
I invited my parents to attend the meeting. After Elder S. Dilworth Young set me apart, my mother wept as she said, “That was the man in my dream!” I took this opportunity to bear my testimony to my parents and to assure them that they need not worry about me. For the first time, my dad opened up and asked me several questions. My mom just cried tears of joy as we all enjoyed the influence of the Spirit of the Lord.
A major increase in my testimony of the Book of Mormon came as my wife, Jan, and I were called to serve a full-time mission as leadership trainers in the Ecuador Quito Mission. Our time at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, provided constant spiritual nourishment and another reading of the Book of Mormon for me. During this reading, the words of each page seemed to flow into my mind uninterrupted by doubts about the book’s truthfulness or historicity. I knew it was true, and my main concern was to live true to the principles it taught.
During our mission, my testimony of the Book of Mormon increased again as I heard the testimonies of the Ecuadorian Saints. To me, some of the most moving of these special testimonies came from the members in Otavalo, Ecuador. These people are virtually pure descendants of the ancient Incas, and their oral history, which has been passed down from father to son, is so similar to the Book of Mormon stories that the Otavalonian Indians feel that it is their book.
After we were released from our mission, we decided to heed the call of President Ezra Taft Benson and read the Book of Mormon again. This time as I read it, I was aware of my experiences with the members in Ecuador and their testimonies. My study included multiple readings, pondering, underlining, and cross-referencing. Because of my experiences, I could testify that I knew the Book of Mormon was true.
It has been twenty years since my baptism. I have read the Book of Mormon at least ten times since then, and each time I ponder that unique volume, I gain new insights. My parents know absolutely that Mormons are committed Christians. We have mutual respect for each other’s religious dedication. We visit each other’s churches, pray together, and have devotions as a family, with scripture reading and discussion of gospel principles. Sometimes these discussions include scriptures from the Book of Mormon. My testimony is strong, yet I know it will continue to grow in harmony with my study of the Book of Mormon.