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This I Believe

My testimony did not come easy. As a young man in high school I wanted to know the Church was true. I did not just want to believe it or just have faith in it. I wanted to KNOW. I had faith in the Church but I still did not know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was true. The time came that I had to know. I had been told many times that, if I read the Book of Mormon and put Moroni’s promise (Moroni 10:4) to the test, I would know. I began reading the Book of Mormon again. Several times I had started to read it but never got past Mosiah. I remember when I finally broke that barrier and got to the book of Alma. How excited I was and I realized how much I had missed by not going further before. Helaman was a joy and 3 Nephi was wonderful. How could I have missed reading the glorious visit of the Son of God to the Nephites? I now read with greater spirit and anticipation. By the time I got to Moroni I was devouring the book. I could hardly wait because my testimony was almost here. I think I read the book of Moroni in one sitting. When I got to Moroni 10:4, I read again very carefully the promise that if I read the book and prayed about it I would know the book was true. I had done that, I was almost finished, and my testimony would soon be here. I finally arrived at the last verse in Moroni: “And now I bid unto all, farewell. I soon go to rest in the paradise of God, until my spirit and body shall again reunite, and I am brought forth triumphant through the air, to meet you before the pleasing bar of the great Jehovah, the Eternal Judge of both quick and dead. Amen” (Moroni 10:34). I closed the book and waited for the testimony to come. I waited and I waited, but nothing happened. There was no lighting bolt from heaven, there was no thunder, no angel, no voice from heaven, nothing. The next day still nothing. The same was true the following week, weeks, and months. I could not believe it. What was wrong? I wondered if this was a witness that the Church was not true, but as I looked into my heart I knew this was not the case, for everything in me told me the Church must be true. But I still did not know.

I came to a brilliant decision. Something must be wrong and it must be me. I decided to read Moroni 10:4 and see if I had fulfilled all that it said, so that I could claim the promise. I began reading: “And when you shall receive these things.” I had done that; I had read the Book of Mormon. “I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true.” I had done that. I read on. “And if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ.” I had done all that. But something caught my eye and so I went back and read this portion again. When I came to the words “with real intent,” those words sank deep into my soul and I suddenly realized that I had not really done that.

A number of years later I heard a story about Socrates. Since he was such a famous teacher many students came to him and wanted him to teach them. A young man once came to Socrates and said, “I have come sixteen hundred miles to talk to you about wisdom and learning. You are a man of wisdom and learning and I would like to be a man of wisdom and learning. Would you teach me . . .?” Socrates motioned for the young man to follow him to the seashore. The student willingly obeyed. Socrates did not stop on the shore but walked into the water until he was waist deep. The young man followed obediently. Socrates then grabbed the young man by the neck and held his head under water. At first the young scholar thought there must be a message he was trying to teach him and so he did nothing. However, after a few seconds he realized that Socrates was going to continue to hold his head under. He fought to free himself but to no avail. Finally, he collapsed. At this point Socrates carried him out of the water and left him on the shore. When the young man revived, he wondered what was that all about. Persistently he went back to the marketplace to find the reason for this rather unusual behavior. Socrates asked, “When your head was under the water, what was the one thing you wanted more than anything else?” The young man replied, “More than anything else I wanted air.” Socrates responded, “When you want wisdom and learning like you wanted air, you won’t need to ask anybody to give it to you.” (See Sterling W. Sill, in Conference Report, Apr. 1973, 145; or Ensign, July 1973, 104.)

I now realized that was where I was. At that moment I wanted a testimony more than anything else in this life, and then it came. Still, it was not the dramatic, emotional experience I had expected, I just suddenly knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Church was true. Everything in me bore witness to that fact. I now understood what the “old timers” in the Church meant when they repeated in testimony meeting what I thought up to this time was a trite phrase, “I know the Church is true with every fiber of my being.” Now this phrase was no longer trite, for that is the way I knew, “with every fiber of my being.” Everything in me bore witness that the Church was true. What a glorious moment this was and one that has never left me from that day to this. I can still see myself in my dirty, greasy service station uniform sitting at the desk in my father’s service station, but now I was different. I truly had been born again.

From this beginning I have built and added to my testimony each year until I can say this is what I believe.

I believe in God the Eternal Father, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. I know that God hears and answers my prayers. I know that He is our Father and that one day we will have to stand before Him to be judged of our works. For not only is He a God of mercy and love but He is also a God of justice. I am grateful for that because I know that He will deal justly with each one of us and will reward us for what we have done. We will not be cut short. He has promised that if we are faithful we will become “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).

I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I know that He died for my sins and suffered for me and for all those who repent, in the Garden of Gethsemane and upon the cross of Calvary. I will be eternally grateful for His sacrifice. A verse from one of our popular hymns has been a very important part of my life ever since my first visit to Israel: “I marvel that He should descend from his throne divine to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine.” It was made manifest to me by the Holy Ghost that those words referred to me. So even though I been proud, He could rescue me. I know that He loves me; I have felt that love. Oh, to be worthy and one day to stand in His presence eternally and feel the love that I felt on that occasion.

I believe in the Holy Ghost. I know He is real. By this means it has been my privilege to receive revelation. As a Bishop and a Stake President I had revelations for the benefit of the members of our ward and stake. When the people followed the revelations the Lord had given them through me, we witnessed great miracles in their lives. How sad to see some reject the Lord’s counsel, and lose the blessings and suffer because of it.

I believe in the divine calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith and know that he was a Prophet of God. Much of my adult life has been involved in teaching, writing, and reading about the Prophet Joseph Smith. From all my research, my testimony of him has greatly increased. When I was working on my thesis and dissertation, because of the study I was doing, I was granted access to many significant and confidential documents. I have seen documents that many people will never see. In all these documents I never found anything that weakened or destroyed my faith, but just the opposite. Everything I read built and strengthened my faith in the Church and the Prophet Joseph Smith and those who have succeeded him. Sometimes I hear people tell about all the “secret” documents that are housed in the Historical Department of the Church and how people cannot get access to them. I never found that was the case at all.

One of my favorite hymns is “Praise to the Man.” The reason that hymn is so important to me is because of the witness that it bears of the divine calling of the Prophet. Like Brigham Young, I want to cry out, “I feel like shouting hallelujah every time I think I knew the Prophet Joseph Smith.” And I have learned to know him and love him through those things that I have read about him as well as the powerful testimony that I heard my Grandmother Perkins bear about the Prophet Joseph Smith. Not only was this her own personal testimony but it was also a result of the powerful testimony she heard from her father who personally knew the Prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo. Another reason that I feel so strongly about Joseph Smith is because it is from him that I learned so much of what I know about God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

I believe in the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. I know it is the word of God. In the beginning of this essay I wrote why I know the Book of Mormon is true and the powerful witness that has come to me concerning it. I also know as I read it daily that the Spirit continues to bear witness to me of its truthfulness. Each time I gain some powerful new insights as a result of my reading. I have also seen the tremendous influence the Book of Mormon has had in the lives of others. I have seen many people converted to the Church by reading it. Truly it is the Church’s greatest missionary.

I believe in Living Prophets. I know that we are lead by Living Prophets who guide this Church just like the ancient Prophets and the Prophet Joseph Smith have done before. I have studied intently the life of each of the Presidents of the Church over many years. All you have to do is look at my library and see all the books I have on each of the Presidents of the Church. Next to the scriptures their teachings are my guiding star when it comes to wanting to know what the Lord wants me to do. Since President Harold B. Lee, I have tried to read almost all that the Presidents of the Church have written so that I know what the Lord expects of me. This has been like a personal interview with them. I used to jokingly tell my students I had a regular interview with the presidents of the Church. They always wondered how I was so privileged. Then I explained how I tried to read everything they had written or said. By the time you do this it is like having a personal interview with each of them and I began to really know them, what they thought and believed.

It has been my privilege to have some very personal and spiritual experiences with each of the presidents of the Church since President McKay. It was when I first saw and then shook hands with President McKay that I knew that he was a Prophet of God. How I longed to be in his presence anytime he came to where I lived. How often I photographed him as a young budding photographer. It was strange, but I knew he was a Prophet of God and yet I still did not know the Church was true.

Since then I have met, talked with, and had the privilege of taking several presidents of the Church on tours of the Ohio area. Each time I have been with them the Spirit has born record that they truly were prophets of God.

President Spencer W. Kimball always was so kind and gentle with me when I was in his presence. In Israel we had the great privilege to go in a small boat and pick up the Prophet from the large cruise ship he was on. We held a wonderful meeting on the Mount of Beatitudes where he spoke to us; it was my great privilege to introduce the Prophet of God to our students.

But, it was with President Ezra Taft Benson that I had the most intimate association. It started in the mission field when my companion and I picked him up at the airport and took him and his wife to the mission home. I have heard many people pray but I have never heard anyone pray like Elder Benson. As we knelt in family prayer in the Mission Home and he prayed I felt like President Grant when he went to Brigham Young’s home and knelt with them in family prayer. He said that he wanted to open his eyes to see the Lord standing by his side because that is the way Brigham Young prayed: He talked with the Lord. That is what I wanted to do as Elder Benson prayed. I too felt like opening my eyes and looking because I too felt the Lord was standing by his side. That is the way he prayed: He talked to the Lord. But the greatest prayer I heard him give was in the Kirtland Temple. We took him to the Kirtland Temple and the local Community of Christ leaders were very kind in allowing us to have some very special presentations given. Then to our surprise President Benson was asked by their leader to give a prayer. Once again the prayer he gave was very moving and personal. He talked to the Lord. As we walked to the car I told him that was one of the moving and spiritual experience of my life. He simply replied, “The Lord was very kind to us today.”

I had similar experiences with Presidents Gordon B. Hinckley and Thomas S. Monson as I have assisted in taking them on tours in Ohio. With all three—Presidents Benson, Hinckley, and Monson—I have had some very special and sacred experiences in Ohio. Each time the Spirit has testified to me that they are living Prophets, Seers, and Revelators who lead and guide this Church and the entire world in the direction the Lord wants us to go.

So I can testify that I know we are led today by living prophets of God. I know because I have walked with a number of them and listened to them as they prayed and have born witness that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that the Holy Ghost inspires and directs His Church and each of us. They lead and guide this Church in a very real and personal way. Most of all I know because the Holy Ghost has testified to me they are my God, my Savior, and my Testator.

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I graduated in Secondary Education and History from Arizona State University. I received my Master’s Degree and Ph.D. in Church History and Doctrine from Brigham Young University. I taught in the Seminary and Institute program of the Church for thirteen years, and the last twenty-four years of my teaching career I taught Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University.

Posted March 2010