Stepping-Stones to Truth
October 1997

“Stepping-Stones to Truth,” Ensign, Oct. 1997, 21

Faith in Every Footstep 1847–1997

Stepping-Stones to Truth

I often prayed that someday someone would tell me who the person on the calendar was so I could learn more about him.

I was born of goodly parents in Punjab, India, in 1958. Our large, happy family strictly followed locally predominant religions. No fish, meat, or poultry was allowed in our home, and every morning and evening we would gather to sing hymns, read scriptures, and say our family prayer at an altar my father built. Our house was filled with love for God and for one another.

We looked up to my father as the patriarch of the family. Many nights before going to bed, I would ask him questions about God, His wonderful creation, and the purpose of life. My father was very kind and patient in answering these questions to the best of his knowledge and understanding. People in our part of the world often sleep under the open sky during spring, summer, and fall, and I remember reading scriptures with my father by moonlight. His influence helped me build a strong spiritual foundation that many years later would enable me to recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost as I encountered the restored gospel.

When I was seven, one of my brothers passed away suddenly in his late teens. He was a good brother and a wrestling champion, and I loved him and was proud of him. My family’s religion taught the concepts of reincarnation and transmigration of souls, so I believed my brother would have to pass through many cycles of life and death before he was reborn as a human being. As I watched snake charmers and entertainers with elephants, bears, camels, horses, and monkeys who would occasionally visit our neighborhood, I thought about my brother being a plant or animal. I would shiver to think of the process he had to go through, and I felt very scared of dying.

Learning about the Savior

In my teenage years, I began following my parents’ example of fasting two or three times a week as part of practicing our religion. My mother was particularly faithful in observing those fasts. As I became more aware of spiritual concerns, I would go to temples to offer prayers and worship. However, often I returned home confused and puzzled. I wanted to have a rich and meaningful relationship with God through fasting and praying, but as I knelt down before images of gods and goddesses I felt emptiness instead of fulfillment. Often I meditated for hours before the idols, but still I felt little peace and was unable to find answers to many of my questions about the purpose of life. Even so, I did greatly appreciate some of my religion’s more practical teachings, such as universal love and unity and service toward God and man.

Although prayers and religious instruction were part of my high school’s curriculum, students were not directly taught anything about Jesus Christ. However, I came across a beautiful story by Oscar Wilde in our English textbook about how a very mean and selfish person is saved by the grace of God and the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. I was deeply touched by “Selfish Giant,” and I often reread it and pondered how the main character had received a forgiveness of his sins. I contemplated that if Jesus Christ could save a very mean and cruel giant, he must also have power to bring peace into my life. But I did not know where to find this Savior.

Meanwhile, I continued my fasting and prayers and my visits to temples. I would often have serious religious discussions with my father and other religious pundits. One afternoon while I was helping out at the pharmacy that my father opened after his retirement, I went to a shoe shop to collect some money. The owner was not there, so I waited. While I was admiring the shoe displays, my attention was directed toward an old calendar hanging on the wall. Pictured was a shepherd with a staff in his hand, surrounded by his sheep.

As I beheld that picture, I felt a very strong stirring in my heart. Then my attention was drawn to a verse written in Hindi, which translated as: “The Lord Yahovah is my shepherd; I shall not want” (see Ps. 23:1). I had never heard the name Yahovah before and did not know who he was. But looking at his picture and reading the verse brought a tremendous peace, joy, and comfort to my hungry soul. I must have gazed at the calendar for half an hour.

Over the next few months, I returned to the shoe store several times a day to see the shepherd and read the verse. Whenever I felt pangs of suffering or disappointment, I would say to myself, “I really don’t have to worry because Yahovah is my shepherd and he shall provide for my needs.” I often prayed that someday someone would tell me who Yahovah was so I could learn more about him and better worship him.

Finding Christianity

One beautiful Sunday morning, I was serving a customer in my father’s pharmacy. To my amazement, I heard a voice telling me to go to church. I had never visited a Christian church, and I did not know where to find one. I resisted the impression, but it was repeated again and again.

Finally I decided to obey. I took leave of my father and pedaled off on my bicycle. I had no idea where I could find a Christian church. I rode across the bridge to the railway station and soon found myself in front of a small church. Though it was not far from my home, I had not known it existed.

The door to the chapel was open. The congregation was listening to a sermon preached by a pastor. I did not dare go inside. Before one enters a Hindu temple, one must perform certain rituals, and I thought something similar would be required here. I stood outside for five or six minutes until someone invited me in. I do not recall what was said in the sermon, but after the service I met a missionary from a nondenominational organization. I related to him the circumstances that had led me to the church service that morning, and I expressed some of my religious yearnings and frustrations. He invited me to come to his home for lunch.

“Do you know that we have a living Heavenly Father?” he asked me after we ate. I was not sure what he meant.

“Do you know that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God?” he asked. I could not answer that question either.

Then the man bore his testimony. I had believed in a supreme God, but I had never thought of him as a living God. My understanding at that point was that God was a being of spirit whom men and women feared because he always punished those who did not obey him. My religion taught that Rama and Krishna were incarnations of that supreme being, but they were not living beings.

“If we are sincere and kneel down beside our own bed and pray to God in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, he will answer our prayers and make himself known to us,” the missionary told me. His testimony was powerful, and I was touched by his love for the gospel of Jesus Christ and his zeal to serve the Lord. He prayed with me before I departed, and he gave me a copy of the New Testament to read.

After I closed the pharmacy that night, I began reading the book of Matthew. Never before had I felt a greater peace and comfort as I did from reading sacred scriptures. The Spirit of the Holy Ghost testified to me of the divine mission of Jesus Christ. I felt a strong desire to search this holy book diligently, and I began to look forward every night to reading the New Testament.

Gaining a Testimony

I continued to visit the Christian church every Sunday, and I kept in touch with my missionary friends. One day I came home feeling sad and anguished. I felt empty, but I had no appetite for food. I went to my room and read the New Testament for some time. Still feeling sad and spiritually empty, I started to take a close look at my life. Going to church and reading the scriptures were good, but most of my religious questions remained unanswered, and I did not have a meaningful spiritual connection with my Heavenly Father.

As I was pondering, the unseen voice came to me again and asked me to pray to the living God in the name of his Son. I humbled myself and obeyed by uttering my first prayer to God, the Eternal Father. I do not remember exactly what I said, but I pleaded with him to make himself known to me. As I poured out my heart, I felt the burden I had been carrying for years lift off my shoulders. I felt light and invigorated. I felt a complete change within myself. The Holy Ghost whispered peace to me, and I came to know that my Heavenly Father is a living God and that Jesus is the Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God. I also learned the truth of prayers being answered.

After this experience, I devoted even more time to reading the Bible and attending Christian prayer meetings and services. I never failed to say my daily prayers, and that brought me very close to God. I often went out with my missionary friends to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. We would travel almost 150 kilometers a week on our bicycles.

A few months later I was baptized a member of that Christian church. By then I had completely stopped my visits to the temples of my family’s religion and ceased worshiping its gods and goddesses and taking part in its rituals and prayers. However, I did not tell my family members that I had become a Christian.

As I looked for greater friendship and brotherhood in my church, I found that many in the small congregation were involved in politics, strife, and conflicts with one another. As a new convert I felt discouraged. But the fellowship of my missionary friends and my own study and prayer kept me going.

Then something remarkable happened to me in December 1980. I had been a Christian for almost five years, and it was my last year in college. I was enjoying Christmas vacation at home. The sun was shining, and a gentle breeze was blowing. I took a chair and a small table up to the roof so I could study for my approaching final exams. After reading from the Bible and praying, I began reading a philosophical essay. I stopped in the middle of it and found myself asking some intense questions about my future. I started crying, and I prayed: “Father, please lead me to the path of righteousness. I am lost and do not know what to do.”

I took the Bible in my left hand, and it felt as if someone were sitting next to me gently turning pages. When the pages stopped, four verses flashed in front of me as if they were the only verses on the page:

“Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philip. 4:4–7).

As I read this scripture, the Spirit helped me understand that the Lord did not want me to worry about my future. He wanted me to rejoice and be happy. He wanted me to continue to read the scriptures and pray without ceasing. The day would surely come when I would be led to the path of righteousness. I would come to know the truth, and the truth would make me free (see John 8:32).

I do not doubt that Heavenly Father spoke to me that day through the scriptures. I was comforted and knew that my future was safe as long as I did what I was asked to do. After that experience, I never worried much about my future. I continued to go to church and proselyte with my missionary friends. Whenever I felt discouraged or worried, I turned to my Heavenly Father in prayer and was solaced and comforted.

Closer to the Truth

I received a bachelor’s degree with honors in the spring of 1981 from Punjabi University in Patiala, a city about 150 kilometers southeast of where I lived with my parents. When I decided to pursue a master’s degree, Punjabi University invited me to join its master’s program and live on campus. However, as time passed I felt inspired to go to Panjab University in Chandigarh, another 75 kilometers away. On the last day of admissions I decided to follow my inspiration. I had to struggle to get my papers turned in before the deadline. I prayed for help and was able to quickly obtain a crucial document that often takes hours to obtain. I soon learned that the Lord wanted me to go to Panjab University for a reason.

January 1982 was cold and wet, and I had caught the flu. I did not leave my hostel for three days. Meanwhile, a highly publicized event was happening at the university: the Young Ambassadors from Brigham Young University had arrived to perform dances and sing songs. On the last day of the group’s visit, some friends came to my sickroom and told me about the spectacular performance. The group would give two last concerts that afternoon. My friends persuaded me and insisted, and though I didn’t feel well I finally agreed to go.

What touched me most was the way the group began by gathering together for a word of prayer. Their prayer was addressed to Heavenly Father in the name of his Son. The Holy Ghost bore witness to me that those students were something special.

The concert was great. We returned to our dorms, and I rested and began to feel much better. I did not want to miss the last performance. We ate dinner and went back to the auditorium. The performance once again was marvelous, and we were all touched by it.

After the last concert, the performers jumped off stage and started shaking hands and conversing with members of the audience. My friends and I went forward and shook hands with some of the Young Ambassadors. Then my friends decided to leave, but I felt strongly I should stay. As I pondered the performance and tried to understand who those students were, the Holy Ghost whispered to me that the day had come for the Lord to answer my prayers. The Lord had prepared one of the performers to help me. I would recognize him when I saw him.

Most of the performers had name tags on. As I looked at a man named Thomas Nelson, I knew this was the person who would help me find the truth. I approached him and said, “I would like to talk with you if you have a moment.”

He agreed, and I inquired about the religious beliefs of the performing group. Brother Nelson smiled and looked right into my eyes. “We are Christians,” he said. “But we are different from all other churches.”

He asked me if I had heard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon. I answered no.

Brother Nelson spent about 30 minutes explaining the Church’s beliefs and bearing his testimony. Those 30 minutes changed my life forever. I listened intently. His face seemed to be glowing. As he told the story of the restoration of the priesthood and the gospel, the Spirit brought the truth of those things to my soul. When he finished, I said “Amen” because I believed with all my heart that what he had spoken was the truth.

My soul was now hungry for more knowledge. I wanted to acquire a Book of Mormon as soon as possible. As I walked back to my hostel, the Spirit guided me to meet Horace and Edna Hayes, who were serving as full-time Church missionaries in New Delhi and who were accompanying the Young Ambassadors. Elder Hayes gave me a pamphlet about Joseph Smith’s testimony.

It was late when I got home, but I did not sleep. After a prayer, I read the testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith over and over. Before I retired, I knelt down and prayed again. The Spirit confirmed the truthfulness of the Prophet’s testimony to me.

I woke early and wrote a letter to Elder Hayes. I bore my testimony of the truthfulness of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of the divine calling of Joseph Smith. I requested that he send me a copy of the Book of Mormon.

A week later, the mailman delivered a parcel to me from Elder Hayes. My heart pounded and my hands trembled as I opened it. I knew it contained the Book of Mormon. It was the greatest prize I had ever received.

I started studying the Book of Mormon right away and soon wrote another letter to Elder and Sister Hayes, bearing my testimony and quoting from the book. They wrote to me often and sent more pamphlets. One pamphlet that brought me great joy and happiness was about the plan of salvation. The Christian church had taught me a little about the Resurrection of the dead, but I didn’t understand where my deceased brother’s spirit was until I read that pamphlet. I learned that he was in the spirit world. The Spirit bore witness to me that someday he would accept the gospel and I would have the opportunity to perform temple work on his behalf.

Joining the Church

Over the next six months, the missionaries taught me the discussions through the mail. As my faith and testimony of the restored gospel increased, I realized I must be baptized by the proper authority for a remission of my sins. I knew that the Holy Ghost, which had already helped me many times, could become my constant companion when I was confirmed by someone holding the priesthood of God.

I traveled to New Delhi and was baptized by Elder Hayes on 27 June 1982. The sacred ordinance took place early in the morning in Nehru Park as the sun was rising and birds were singing sweet hymns. I felt a great calm and peace, and my joy became full as I was confirmed a member of the Church and received the gift of the Holy Ghost.

After being baptized into the Lord’s true Church, I could not stop myself from telling others about the great joy and happiness I had received. I was no longer worried about being persecuted or ostracized. My relatives, friends, teachers, and associates were generally not very pleased with me, but I loved them more than ever before. I continued to pray that they would understand, and many of them softened toward me, including my parents. I was grateful to the Lord for that.

I had been blessed with the spirit and zeal of missionary work long before I joined the Church. Whenever I was able to travel to New Delhi for Church services, I would bring back Church pamphlets. Often I visited from bed to bed in the two large hospitals near my university, talking with and praying for the sick and handing out pamphlets. Then I received a call to serve a full-time mission for the Church in Fresno, California, from August 1983 to September 1985. On my mission I gained a stronger testimony of the gospel and a greater love for my fellow beings. I learned to rely on the Lord in everything.

Some time after my mission I was blessed with the companionship of a beautiful wife. She is from India, and she served a mission in Manila, Philippines. We have been blessed with four children, and we have received great joy and happiness as a result of our membership in the Lord’s Church. The Church has answered my questions and made me a better man, and I continue to improve. This is indeed the kingdom of God restored upon earth for the salvation and eternal joy of all mankind.

  • Raj Kumar serves as bishop of the Etobicoke Ward, Mississauga Ontario [Canada] Stake.

Illustrated by Keith Larson