Home / Testimonies / James Dunlop

I have had a very rich and happy life and, although I do not feel I have earned the many blessings that have come to me, I know that my saviour Jesus Christ and his church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the source and the reason for the great joy and excitement that fills my life.

My parents were kind and loving and I was privileged to grow up in the freedom that New Zealand allowed a boy in the 1940’s and 1950’s. However, I often felt, sometimes keenly, that something was missing. I knew that God lived but knew little about him—it seemed that there was a great gulf between us which I needed to cross but did not know the way.

My mother and father did not go to church but I was invited to go with my friends from time to time. However, although there were things I enjoyed at these meetings, it always ended in disappointment when they taught their concept of a distant God without a body of any kind that we could understand, who seemed to be everywhere but nowhere. Somehow I knew that was not true. Perhaps it was because of Genesis 1:20, where God said that man was made in his image (I had not got much further than that in reading the Bible), that I was so confident in that aspect of my knowledge of God. I think that this knowledge was something I was able to keep as I was born into mortality.

On one occasion I accompanied my aunty Doris to a baptismal service in a Baptist church where the minister said that if we wanted to know God all we needed to do was to declare in simple prayer that we accepted Jesus Christ. He was so convincing that I decided to do this. I believe that those were my first prayers. However, nothing notable happened. I certainly did not feel any closer to God. I continued these prayers for several days but it seemed that God was not interested and so I abandoned any hope of finding him in that way.

However God was interested—the next religious experience I can remember was the arrival of two LDS missionaries, Elder Merril Dean Briggs and Elder Robert E. Walgren. When they tracted our home at 90 Fitzroy Street, Palmerston North, my mother invited them to come back in the evening when the family would be there. My father did not join the discussion but very quickly I was sure that what they taught was what I needed to know, that this would show me the way back to God. They told us about Joseph Smith’s first vision when God the Father and his son Jesus Christ visited him. They then explained what this taught us about God, using stick figures drawn with a pencil—God had a body of flesh and bone and so did his Son Jesus Christ. They were two separate beings. I had always believed this and now I knew it to be true, right then and there, before the lesson ended or a prayer was said. Had they asked me to be baptised that very evening I would have done it. I was convinced and totally confident that they spoke only the truth. However it was twelve days later that my mother, my sister, and I were baptised in the Manawatu River about a kilometre downstream from the bridge at the end of Fitzherbert Avenue, Palmerston North. It was March and the water was cold but I was infused with an inner warmth.

Since that pivotal event in my life, more than fifty years ago, my faith in Elder Briggs and Elder Walgren and what they taught us has been vindicated many times. I have been blessed with many experiences and each has reinforced my knowledge of God and Jesus Christ, for indeed it has passed from belief to knowledge. I truly know! I have been shown the way and have been led across the gulf that separates man from God. That way is through the atonement of Jesus Christ. It requires faith in him, repentance, a forsaking of all one’s sins, entering into a binding covenant to serve God and obey his commandments, and continuing in faith to the end of our mortal lives. We are given the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide, warn, and comfort us during this often difficult and perilous journey.

I know that God lives. He is the father of our spirits. We lived with him before we were born into this mortal life and it is his purpose that we should return to him to be crowned with glory and eternal life. We are created in his image and he has a body of flesh and bones, although it is glorified far beyond our mortal bodies. I know that he is kind and loving, with an intense interest in and compassion for his children here on earth. He knows us individually. He does hear our prayers and they are answered according to our faith and sincerity. He is more involved in our lives than most people realise.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the only son begotten in the flesh. He is our saviour and all shall be resurrected because he atoned for Adam’s transgression. He also bore our sins, illnesses, and troubles, and if we trust him he will give us rest from them. Through the resurrection we will be brought before him to be judged and his judgement will be righteous. He is merciful and gracious.

I treasure the wonderful gift of the Holy Ghost. Its quiet whisperings to our minds and our hearts are real and how blessed are they who learn to recognise and obey its urging and encouragement. It is only through the Holy Ghost that we can obtain a strong abiding testimony of the Saviour and his Church. And through the Holy Ghost we can have the peace and confidence to face all the illness and troubles in our lives.

Joseph Smith was visited by God the Father and his son Jesus Christ. They spoke to him and he was chosen and called to receive the priesthood and all its keys, to restore the fullness of the gospel, and to translate and publish the Book of Mormon. He deserves our gratitude and respect. Revelation and prophets continue today in the leadership, the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The Book of Mormon is the word of God as are the Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. It was written by revelation and inspiration and was translated by revelation, and it is an instrument of revelation to all who diligently and prayerfully study it.

These things are true. I know by experience, by practising them and enjoying the blessings they bring. This knowledge has made my life rich and joyous.

I offer no objective evidence to support this testimony—I believe that scientific method with its insistence on objective measurement is poorly equipped to help people to discover God, just as we do not use rulers or scales to measure love.

I am not worried that I am offending against my scientific training by making declarations without objective evidence. There are many things of great importance to us that are not amenable to objective measurement—we do not have objective measures for love, pain, taste, or smell but they are real and central to our experience as humans. The spiritual experiences which have brought me to know the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ are no less real and are of critical importance in my life.

I have little concern that my children and grandchildren should know my height, weight and eye colour but I am most anxious to share many experiences with them so that we know one another. Jesus Christ taught that God is the Father of our spirits. Would having an objective measure of God’s height and weight help us to know God? My experience is that through spiritual encounters, especially through the aid of the Holy Spirit, we can come to know God. If you want to know God, I recommend the Book of Mormon as a great place to start. If you read it with an open mind and, through sincere prayer, ask God if it is true, he will respond through the Holy Ghost and you will know.

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Personal:

I am a citizen of the small city of Palmerston North in the North Island of New Zealand, born there in 1942 to James August Dunlop and Loloma Emily Palmer.

In 1965 I married Frances Mary Gerrand and together we have five children and twenty one grandchildren.

Apart from my professional life I have been heavily involved in service in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Francie and I now serve as the President and Matron of the Hamilton New Zealand Temple of the Church.

As times allows (and occasionally in spite of some responsibilities) I enjoy escaping into old fashioned black and white photography. And I enjoy infusing all the above with music.

Education:

Victoria University of Wellington

  • 1963 BSc – chemistry
  • 1965 MSc (Hons) – chemistry

Aberdeen University, Scotland

  • 1970 PhD Thesis – “The movement of potassium ions to the xylem of maize roots.”

Employment:

  • 1960 Technical trainee, Grasslands Division, Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, New Zealand.
  • 1965 – 1967 Scientist, Grasslands Division, DSIR.
  • 1970 – 2009 Scientist, Senior Scientist, Research Leader, Grasslands Division, DSIR (subsequently amalgamated and reorganised as AgResearch).

Professional:

Areas of research –
Biophysics applied to plant mineral nutrition and membrane function. Specific research topics include

  • mechanisms of ion absorption of mineral nutrients by plant
  • genetic differences in plant mineral nutrition
  • competition for nutrients between pasture plants
  • enzyme based potentiometric and amperometric biosensors
  • ion channels in plant cell membranes
  • bioelectric assessment of fruit maturity
  • expression and isolation of mammalian of functional ion channel proteins
  • biomimetic membranes on supports
  • toxin detection using reconstituted ion channels in biomimetic membranes
  • mechanism of action of lolitrem toxins from plant endophyte toxins

Organisations and distinctions –

  • Member, International Council on the Genetics of Plant Mineral Nutrition.
  • Member, Council of the New Zealand Society of Plant Physiologists.
  • Principal Investigator, MacDiarmid Institute of Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, New Zealand.
  • Leader of multi-institute research programmes on phosphate fertiliser use and biosensor development.
  • Prince and Princess of Wales Fellow.
  • New Zealand – German scientific exchange fellow.
  • Invited speaker at international conferences on plant nutrition, plant physiology, plant breeding, biosensors and bioelectronics.

Publications –
Over seventy papers published in international refereed journals and book chapters on the topics listed above.

Posted October 2010