Home / Testimonies / Wendy Warren Austin

One of the challenging things about being a Mormon is having not been a Mormon and then converting, and then explaining to people, if/when asked, why I joined the Church. Indeed, this is one of the Church’s unique aspects: its constant insistence of having you look inside yourself, identify, and vocalize what you believe in your heart. Every month we have an opportunity to bear our testimonies to others in our congregations, and so we have an opportunity, when doing so, to refine and re-articulate what we believe, given the experiences in life that we have had since the last time we have borne our testimony. Because I am a teacher of college composition and rhetoric, I exhort my students to make sure their thesis statements are based on solid evidence, and that that evidence is concrete, measurable (preferably), grounded in reality, and based on reason. Every time I emphasize this in my classes, I point out that there are truths that we can know by concrete means, by our senses, and by reason, but there are truths that we have that are not known by our senses. For instance, when we love someone, we know that is true, but not provable, or when we believe in a faith, in something unseen, we know that these are different kinds of knowledge. Unfortunately, I point out, these non-verifiable truths are not valid as reasons for a fact-and-evidence-based paper. Yet, they are equally valid in our lives.

And so, although I cannot prove it by experiments or concrete, sensory experience, I still believe in things I can only know in my heart and the part of me that accepts unverifiable truths. I believe that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God, and that He atoned for our sins, for every one of us in this world, and that He was crucified and resurrected, and that we will one day be resurrected, if we live worthy lives. I believe, and in fact, count on God’s grace because no one is perfect, and even when we try to live worthy lives, we always fall short. God’s grace makes up the difference, if we truly believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. God knows what’s in our hearts, and listens to our prayers. I believe in the power of prayer, and in the laying on of hands for healing and blessings. I believe that Joseph Smith, an imperfect man, did find another testament of Jesus Christ, and that he was given the task of interpreting it for this dispensation, and that he was a prophet, like prophets of old. All of these prophets were human, just as today’s prophets are. However, we are blessed in this time in history, to have a prophet on this earth who helps guide us and who can receive revelation for the whole church. I believe each of us can receive revelation for ourselves and for our loved ones.

I believe, too, that many other religions have a part of the truth within their belief system, such as that Jesus Christ is the son of God, and that God’s grace is what makes us whole, but I also believe that Joseph Smith brought back to us today the early church—before Popes, before the Nicene Creed, and before Martin Luther—which is why this church is neither Catholic nor Protestant, but it is Christian.

I also believe that women are given a special purpose on earth—to love and nurture children in a special way and raise them up in the way they should go. Whether or not a woman has children during this life, I believe we are given this unique gift and a type of tenderness and perspective that men do not have. I believe that men and women were made by God to complete each other’s happiness, but I also believe that some people have an inborn disposition that attracts them to the same sex. I don’t know why this is so, but I don’t believe those with same-sex attraction have a choice to be the way they are. However, they do have a choice to conduct their lives in a manner pleasing to the Lord. I don’t have all the answers to these hard questions, but I do believe the ideal situation for children to be raised includes the Lord’s plan to have a father and mother do so. Granted, many children have only one parent to help guide them, and others have same-gender parents to do so, but if children are given unconditional love, guidance on how to live, and appropriate structure, they will turn out well.

Being an academic and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an unusual combination, but one that behooves me to act in a way that God would want me to act with others: to show compassion, kindness, intelligence, dignity, and courage. Often we find colleagues within our midst who show a wonderful example, and I have to say that the late Gary Layne Hatch was a terrific example to me, who will be greatly missed. However, I also laud my other colleagues whose testimonies are included here.

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Wendy Warren Austin (Ph.D., Indiana University of Pennsylvania; M.A., Purdue University) is an Associate Professor of English at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania in Edinboro, PA. She grew up in New Jersey and Indiana, and has lived in Texas, Wisconsin, Florida, and Pennsylvania. She is married to Daniel A. Austin, and has four children.

Posted June 2011