I am a skeptic. I like to question things people say they know. I also love a good argument. Growing up, we loved debating things around the kitchen table. I grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or "The Mormon" church. I didn't really question things too much when I was little, but as I got into my teenage years I began to have serious doubts about what I had been taught. Suddenly I realized just how absurd the Joseph Smith story sounded and I wondered if I really believed it. I liked how I felt at church and I liked how I felt when I heard the prophet speak, but I wondered if I had been "brainwashed" into feeling good when I heard things that sounded so nice.
I really began to doubt. I decided to try out Moroni's promise in the book of Mormon. I was almost done with the book, I had been reading it with skepticism, but I had been taught that there was promise right there at the end of the book:
And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.So I finished the book. Check. I decided to ask. I knelt by my bed and asked Heavenly Father to let me know if the church was true. I waited. I felt good, but nothing that impressed me enough to where I felt I had an answer. Oh well, I thought, Maybe it's true, maybe it's not, but just in case I better keep going to church.
And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. -Moroni 10:4-5
I went on like this for a while. I can't say that things of eternity occupied my thoughts very much. I was usually thinking of boys and social things at school. I did hope it was true, but sometimes I didn't because I didn't want to feel guilty for my wrong choices. I still tried to live the gospel though.
One evening, my aunt called me and asked me to help her out because she had to work and her daughter was having a stake baptism presentation that she was supposed to attend and her daughter didn't have a way to get there. She told me she would show up to the presentation sometime, but she wondered if I could drive my cousin there and sit with her until she could arrive. I agreed and I went.
The presentation was nice. My aunt arrived and so I left. On the way home I was thinking about how neat it was that the gospel was spreading throughout all the earth (the presentation was in Spanish). I was waiting at a red light on the intersection of State Street and Center Street in Orem by McDonalds when suddenly I knew. I knew the church was true. It's hard to describe how I knew except that I felt that same feeling I had felt many times when thinking about these things, but magnified to the point that I could not doubt. It felt pure knowledge flowing into my mind and into my heart. Everything fit together so clearly in my mind - the church, the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith's vision - I knew that those specific things were really true. I felt an incredible amount of peace and light and clarity and joy! Such joy. I could not have been more sure of anything. I knew! I wanted to get out of my car and declare it to the world so they could feel what I was feeling! I stayed in my car though, no worries, but I almost felt like I could float away since I felt so light and happy.
I know not everyone has a "specific"' time when they gain a testimony. I don't know if my experience was a sudden knowledge. I had felt this feeling before, in a lesser magnitude, but having grown up in the church, I didn't recognize it for what it was. I often questioned it. Because of that experience, I now know how to recognize the Spirit when I feel it. It's not excitement or emotional confusion where I just get caught up in some moment. It's so real. I feel it when I listen to general conference, when I truly ponder the scriptures, when I pray with real intent - knowing He is listening, when I heed a spiritual prompting, when I go to the temple, or when I find truth and I need to apply it. I am filled with an incredible amount of love (not from me - I even love the strangers around me) and with peace.
How grateful I am for this knowledge! When I question things around me and I wonder what is true and what is counterfeit - I have a solid foundation that I can always turn to and find peace in. I don't ever have to be on this journey on my own. He is there for me, waiting for me to turn to Him. He is there for us all - waiting until we are ready to really come unto Him so He can welcome us with open arms and let us feel of His love. I know this is true. He is merciful and will not impose Himself upon us until we really seek Him and are really ready to do His will.
I am still a skeptic about many things I hear, although I'm getting better at learning how to judge new ideas. But I am no longer skeptic about certain truths. I have felt a witness that they are true too many times for there to be any room for doubt. However, I know I must continue to strengthen my testimony because it is so easy to forget what I have felt when I neglect it - it is hard to believe in something so intangible when I have so many tangible distractions in my way. Thankfully, every time I've realized that I am distracted, I remember what I have felt before, look again to God, then it all comes back to me and I wonder how I could have ever doubted. I am so grateful for this mortal experience, for the trials that I've learned from and for the joy I find in it every single day.
Of these things I am sure: I know that Jesus Christ is real, He is there, He loves me and all of His children on this earth. He really did suffer and die for me and for each one of us individually. I love Him with all my heart. I know He has restored the fullness of His gospel in these last days spoken of by prophets throughout time. I know that the Book of Mormon is a true record kept for our benefit by prophets who sacrificed much to preserve it. I treasure that book and the Bible. I know that Joseph Smith was telling the truth when he spoke of his vision - that he did see what he said he saw. I will always be grateful to him for what he endured and for ultimately giving his life to bring about God's purposes. I know Heavenly Father has a living prophet on the earth today to guide us and teach us with continuing revelation. I feel Heavenly Father's love every time he speaks. Of these truths I have no doubt. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.