Home / Testimonies / Jonathan Hinton Westover

First and foremost, I want to state that I cherish my testimony of my Savior and of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As a brief background, I was born into a well-educated, large, lower middle class Mormon family and was faithfully raised in the church. Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, many of my good friends were not LDS and I had ample opportunity to interact with individuals from other faith traditions and backgrounds. As a kid, I definitely remember many occasions of feeling God’s love for me, but I mostly just believed because of my parents and because I felt that was what was expected of me. It wasn’t until I was later into my teenage years and preparing to serve a two-year LDS mission that I starting examining myself and my faith.

It was at this time that I was exposed to the growing body of Mormon Studies literature, and I read everything I could get my hands on. I found most of the blatantly anti-Mormon material to be almost laughable, if not deplorable. (Even as a teenager, I could easily see through the layers of bias and logical fallacy in many of the charges/complaints against the church and its leaders, most of which took teachings and practices out of context and/or told malicious flat-out lies.) Similarly, I had little patience for many of the apologetics resources I encountered (much of which contained just as much bias and logical fallacy as the anti-Mormon literature, just to a faith-promoting end). I was left with limited access to historical source materials, the few materials that at least attempted to be balanced and objective, official church materials, and a short lifetime of my own personal experiences in the church (where I had clearly seen that the church and its leadership is by no means infallible).

For a time, I questioned not only the truthfulness of the church, but whether or not there really was a God. This was a very difficult time for me, as I felt that everything I had learned my whole life, even my very identity, might be false. However, during all of this, I continued attending church, reading the scriptures, and saying my personal prayers (more fervently than ever before in my life). I just wanted God, in some way, to make himself known to me and to reassure me that I was loved by him.

At first, things started slowly. I often felt I was praying to no one at all, but with continued study, prayer, and self-reflection, I came to accept that despite the concerns I had with the church and some aspects of its history, as well as the inevitable imperfection of its leadership, I knew that overall the church was a good institution doing good things for millions of people around the world. As I continued to pray earnestly, over time I developed my testimony that God lives and that he does love me. At this point, I decided to serve a mission (though I had not yet determined for myself whether or not I believed the church to be “True,” I knew either way I would be serving God through serving others).

My personal testimony continued to develop and grow line upon line, until the day came that I entered the Missionary Training Center (MTC). I quickly felt spiritually ill-prepared for this experience, as everyone around me seemed to speak with such conviction and in definite terms about their “knowledge” of the truthfulness of the gospel. At that time I simply didn’t have that same conviction and I definitely didn’t see things in the same sort of black-and-white way that was pervasive in the MTC. Moreover, much of what we heard in lessons and talks was a very faith-promoting, yet incomplete/sanitized version of the church, its doctrines, and its history, and I again started to feel the nagging pains of doubt as I struggled to reconcile everything in those early weeks.

On one particular evening, after twelve hours of sitting in a small classroom studying the gospel, teaching methods, and the Korean language, I felt physically, mentally, and spiritually depleted and was at a moment of crisis as my doubts/questions continued to plague me. I pleaded with my Heavenly Father to provide me with at least some answers to my questions and to have my doubt taken away. In that moment I was overwhelmed and felt completely enveloped by my Savior’s love. I had the undeniably clear and distinct answer come to my heart and mind that none of it mattered; that of course the institutional church is imperfect, that of course leaders make mistakes, that of course teachings and interpretations of doctrines change over time (this is all part of learning line-upon-line), and that, just like any institution in the history of mankind, the church has messy aspects of its history (as imperfect people in an imperfect world do their best to know and follow the will of the Lord). Furthermore, I realized that it is OK to sincerely question and to not have answers to every question, that there are many unknowns, and that a testimony of the gospel is primarily a matter of personal faith and devotion. And without a doubt I knew that I was in the right place, doing what I was supposed to do. This personal conviction and testimony was greatly strengthened while, as a missionary, I shared the gospel of Christ with the Korean people.

Another, more recent, life changing faith experience involved my service in my ward bishopric. When I was visited in my home and extended the call about four years ago, I was shocked—I felt overwhelmed and inadequate to be able to fulfill the call. After the initial wave of fear and apprehension, I must admit that one of my very first thoughts was something like, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” I was then a twenty-nine-year-old married father of three young girls (oldest was four years old) with the fourth on the way. I was a full-time Ph.D. student also working six different teaching jobs at area/online universities to provide for my family. I taught three to four weeknights each week, so I knew that church responsibilities related to the calling would often pull me out of the home the other nights for mutual and other meetings, and my Sundays would be almost completely taken away from my family. In addition, my wife had just recently started her master’s program, which was requiring a larger amount of her time, and I needed to help pick up more of the slack around the house and with watching the kids. There were so many older, established, strong priesthood holders in the ward who, I felt, could fulfill this role well, and I felt like I was already way over-committed and at my breaking point.

Looking back, I think I could have explained my family circumstances and had the stake presidency/bishop reconsider the call (I know they didn’t know even close to the full extent of our work/school/family obligations), but I also knew that this was a call from the Lord, not the stake presidency or the bishop. I turned to my wife (who seemed equally shocked and scared), and she gave me the little nod indicating that she would support me. We exercised our faith and we accepted the call.

In the little over three years of service in the bishopric, striving to faithfully fulfill my calling/stewardship was very challenging and represented a huge amount of sacrifice from both myself and my family (particularly wife, but also kids), and of course during that time we all relied heavily on the many tender mercies of the Lord to help and strengthen us as we, as a family, strived to balance a full load of Ph.D. credits/research, my wife’s master’s program, more than full-time work responsibilities, a rapidly growing young family, increasing community involvement/responsibilities, and dedicating twenty-plus hours a week to my calling.

Despite the sacrifice (or, probably more accurately, because of the sacrifice), the blessings were enormous—far more than I could have ever hoped for or expected. I completed my Ph.D. program (ahead of schedule) and successfully defended my dissertation research a year and a half after receiving the call. Within two months of accepting the call to serve, I landed a great job as a management professor (amidst a terrible economy and rapidly shrinking state education budgets, before I even finished my Ph.D.), I have been blessed to find great success in my academic/professional pursuits, my wife was able to finish her master’s degree and get her dream teaching job as a part-time math professor (and still mostly be home with the kids, which was very important to her; also giving me the opportunity to be a part-time stay-at-home dad, which I love!), we now have five healthy and happy kids who are the joy of our life, our marriage is stronger than ever, we feel fully connected and engaged with our neighbors/members of our ward family, and we have been so blessed in so many ways that I don’t even know how to appropriately express my gratitude to my Heavenly Father and Savior!

Some might say I would have been completely justified in turning down the calling to serve—that it required too much of me and my family at that particular time—and perhaps I would have been. However, had I turned down the calling, I would have missed out on so many blessings for me and my family. We would have missed out on so much joy that has come from our sacrifice and giving service to others.

While our church service is rarely convenient, I am so grateful for the opportunities we all have to learn and grow through church service and sacrificing of our time and talents. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to serve in the church in many different capacities, from primary (even a short stint as a substitute primary chorister!), to the youth and scouting programs, to Melchizedek priesthood quorum leadership and a ward bishopric, and service in many other ward and stake auxiliary leadership positions. My faith only continues to grow, as I can readily see God actively at work in every aspect of my life. He has blessed me with a wonderful family. He helped me to get through the many difficult years of academic training (while balancing the heavy demands of a growing young family, work, school, community, and church responsibilities). I have had it reconfirmed to me over and over again that my Heavenly Father does hear my prayers and that he cares about helping me succeed in all of my righteous endeavors. Furthermore, I know without a doubt that he is ready and willing to bless and strengthen me in my time of need, as he continues to strengthen me in my weaknesses and increases my capacity.

Now, as a management professor, I continue to love learning and am so grateful to be a member of a church that encourages its members to seek truth through diligent study and also by prayer and to get as much education as they can. I highly value rationality and the scientific method and I know that not only is systematic questioning and inquiry important to continual personal/societal development/growth, but that continual learning is the essence of intelligence and is divine in origin (see D&C 88:40; D&C 88:78-80; D&C 88:118; D&C 93:36; D&C 130:18-19; 2 Peter 1:5; Articles of Faith 1:13). And, complementary to my academic training and ongoing earnest personal study, first and foremost I count myself extremely blessed to have a knowledge of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and I am forever grateful for a gospel and church that provides me with opportunities to live my religion and which encourages me to put my greatest focus on my family and serving in the home, as I actively strive to serve my wife and young children on a daily basis.

I am so grateful for these experiences, which are the ever-expanding foundation upon which my testimony continues to grow. Through these and many other deeply personal spiritual experiences, I have come to know my Savior and have developed my own personal conviction of the truthfulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that my Savior loves me, as I have felt his love repeatedly.

The essence of my testimony is found in some of my favorite scriptures: Acts 9:6; D&C 6:36; D&C 19:23; D&C 121:41-42; D&C 123:17; Philippians 4:13; Matthew 19:26; Proverbs 3:5-6; 1st John 4:4; 2 Nephi 31:20; Moroni 10:32-33; Helaman 3:35; Helaman 5:12. Additionally, I share my testimony with you that our Heavenly Father loves each and every one of us and stands ready to pour out his blessings upon us as we turn to him. I know he will make more of us than we can of ourselves if we just trust in him, turn to him in prayer, and rely on the promptings of the Spirit we receive. Additionally, the Spirit has confirmed to my heart that Joseph Smith is the prophet of the restoration, that the Book of Mormon is truly another testament of the divinity of Christ, and that we continue to be led by prophets and apostles today. I know of the goodness of the church and its divinely-called leadership and I have an unwavering faith that Christ continues to lead and guide his church.

In conclusion, to end as I began, I cherish my testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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Jonathan Hinton Westover (Ph.D., University of Utah) is assistant professor of management and director of academic service learning at Utah Valley University. He is also a human resource development and performance management consultant. Prior to his doctoral studies in Comparative International Sociology and International Political Economy, he received his B.S. in Sociology (Research and Analysis emphasis, Business Management minor, Korean minor) and MPA (emphasis in Human Resource Management) at Brigham Young University. He also received graduate certificates in demography and higher education teaching during his time at the University of Utah.

Prior to joining the business faculty at Utah Valley University, he also worked as a part-time faculty member in both the Organizational Leadership and Strategy Department and Romney Institute of Public Management in the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University, and as a part-time faculty member in the Management Department in the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah. He has taught university courses in the areas of organizational behavior and leadership, human resource management, organizational development, management strategy, management communications, business and society, business ethics, interpersonal/group communications, business management, micro/macro economics, quantitative analysis, research methods, and sociology.

Jonathan is a respected expert in the fields of business management and organizational leadership, having been published extensively in a variety of academic and professional publications and making scholarly presentations around the world. His key areas of academic research include (1) International Political Economy: Organizational, Social, Political, and Economic Comparative International Analysis, (2) Work and Occupational Quality Characteristics, Employee Motivation, and Job Satisfaction, (3) Service Learning/Experiential Learning/Engaged Learning Methods in Higher Education, and (4) Social Entrepreneurship and Micro-Enterprise.

Already a recipient of numerous research, teaching, and service awards and fellowships early in his academic career, Jonathan also recently received the prestigious Fulbright Scholar Fellowship to be visiting faculty in the MBA program at Belarusian State University (Minsk, Belarus) and is a regular visiting faculty member in the MBA program at the University of Science and Technology of China (Hefei, China). Additionally, he has done consulting work with numerous corporations, nonprofits, government agencies and organizational leaders around the world. He also serves on the board of directors for the National Association of Academies of Science, and in many additional other professional/service positions.

Jonathan served an LDS mission in the Korea Seoul West Mission from 1998-2000 and has since served in a variety of capacities in the church; from primary, to the youth and scouting programs, to Melchizedek priesthood quorum leadership and a ward bishopric, and service in many other ward and stake auxiliary leadership positions. He and his wife of ten years, Jacque, have five children.

For more details, see: http://about.me/jonathan.h.westover

Posted August 2012