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How I Received My Testimony of Christ

Some seem to acquire faith almost naturally as they grow up. For me, gaining strong faith was somewhat of a struggle. I was born of goodly parents and raised in a Christian home where I was taught about the Savior. When I reached college age, however, my faith was not strong enough to enable me to feel comfortable teaching and testifying to others. This unbelief led me to turn down my bishop’s invitation to serve as a missionary.

After one of our interviews, the bishop pointedly asked if I was going to live my entire life without knowing if Jesus was really the resurrected Lord. The bishop made it quite clear that it was up to me to do something about my lack of faith and encouraged me to make it a matter of urgent study and prayer.

Unfortunately, my desire was weak and I was unwilling to commit the needed time and effort. As a university student, however, I soon found myself increasingly exposed to philosophical and scientific information that appeared on the surface to be inconsistent with faith in God. Simultaneously, I was confronted with choices relating to Christian standards of behavior. I realized that I really did need to know, once and for all, whether the teachings of Jesus Christ were true. If the answer were “yes,” my lifestyle would need to be consistent with those teachings. Therefore, I did not register for the next quarter’s university classes. I then devoted several months to an intense and careful period of studying the Bible (Old and New Testaments), the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Frequently, during my reading, I knelt down asking God to help me understand and to let me know whether the events relating to the crucifixion and marvelous resurrection of the Lord and the plan of exaltation established by God for all His sons and daughters living on Earth were true.

The fulfillment of the promise in the Book of Mormon that the Lord would “manifest the truth of it unto me by the power of the Holy Ghost” did not occur immediately. Although I found consistency and hope in the scriptures, I did not have a witness by the Spirit regarding their veracity.

I attended a fast and testimony meeting one Sunday, when I was well into my scriptural research. I sat there listening to a sister bear testimony of the reality of the Lord’s resurrection and the mercy and power of His atoning sacrifice. I remember thinking to myself as she sat down, “If only I could say that!” But before I realized it, I was standing up. I had indescribable feelings of peace in my mind. The impressions were so powerful that I felt my hair was standing on end. Indeed, “the Spirit of God like a fire was burning.” Under the influence of that marvelous Spirit, I testified that the Book of Mormon is the word of God; that Jesus, the living Christ, is my Redeemer; and that Joseph Smith was and is a modern-day prophet who was divinely empowered to re-establish the original Christian Church, complete with correct doctrine and authority. I knew without any doubt that these things were true.

The same overpowering experience that I felt that morning in testimony meeting has been repeated from time to time throughout the years. My faith and appreciation for the Savior’s love has continued to grow ever since that day.

Whatever worthwhile contribution I may have made to society I attribute to the influence of this same guiding Spirit. That Spirit of truth has assisted me at home and at work. There is no reason that strong faith and science cannot coexist.

I had help from the Lord doing research for my doctor of public health degree at the Harvard School of Public Health. On many occasions, my investigation would come to a fork in the road. Sometimes it was more than a fork; many possible avenues would present themselves. Most of these were blind alleys, however, that would only consume time and not lead to my final destination. When important decisions were necessary I would make them a matter of sincere prayer. I acknowledge that insight, far beyond my own ability, was often the result of a simple prayer. This help enabled me to rapidly complete an acceptable thesis project. I give inspiration the credit; my main contribution was hard work. This same inspiration has also assisted me in clinical practice. Prayer, at critical times when I cared for seriously ill patients, often led to approaches and ideas that positively and significantly affected clinical outcomes.

Many significant professional decisions I was called upon to make in my work were based upon objective, well-controlled science and the confirmation of the Spirit. There is a Spirit of truth. It acts upon people of all religious persuasions, living in every country, to improve the lot of mankind. This Spirit influenced courageous persons like Christopher Columbus, the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and those crafting the Constitution of the United States. This Spirit touches great authors, artists, and composers. It inspires men and woman with inquiring minds to bring forth inventions that affect transportation, communications, energy, electronics, and all other walks of modern life.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages members to get involved. The glory of God is intelligence. “And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were and as they are to come” (D&C 93:24). True science and true religion are never in conflict. My faith in a living God and a saving Christ is strengthened by my participation in the sciences. My work in the sciences is encouraged and enhanced by my faith.

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Jim Mason is a former head of the United States Public Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He served as the President and CEO of Avalon Health Care, Inc.; as an Adjunct Professor of Health Sciences, Brigham Young University; and as a member of the following boards and foundations: Avalon Health Care, Inc., Agronomics International, Davis Behavioral Health, Mental Health Resource Foundation, and Utahns for Better Dental Health. From 1994 until 1999, he oversaw the religious and humanitarian activities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout sub-Saharan Africa. He served as Vice President for Planning and Development and as Professor, Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, during 1993. From 1989 until 1993, he was Assistant Secretary for Health in the United States Department of Health and Human Services, being nominated to that position by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the United States Senate. He also served as the United States delegate to the World Health Organization (WHO) from 1990 until 1993.

Dr. Mason served from 1983 until 1989 as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and as the administrator of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) in Atlanta, Georgia, and as Acting Surgeon General of the United States from 1989 to 1990. Prior to that, he served as the executive director of the Utah Department of Health, with responsibilities for public health and health care financing, from 1979 until 1983. He was associate professor and chair of the Division of Community Medicine in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Utah College of Medicine from 1978 until 1979. He directed the multiple hospital health care corporation owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 1970 until 1975. These hospitals were spun off from the Church to become Intermountain Health Care.

Dr. Mason was born in 1930 in Salt Lake City, Utah, and received B.A. and M.D. degrees from the University of Utah in 1954 and 1958. He then received M.P.H. and Dr.P.H. degrees from Harvard University in 1963 and 1967. He served an internship in medicine (Osler Service) at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore and was a resident in Internal Medicine at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, Harvard Medical Service, in Boston. He is certified in General Preventive Medicine by the American Board of Preventive Medicine.

He is married to the former Marie Smith and they are the parents of seven children, with twenty-four grandchildren and seventeen great-grandchildren. The Masons have lived in Farmington, Utah, for the past ten years, since his 2000 release from the Second Quorum of the Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to which he had been called in 1994. From 2000 to 2003, Dr. Mason presided over the Bountiful Utah Temple.

Posted August 2010