So I really am feeling like bearing my testimony, because I can say things in writing that my nervous mind cannot say out loud, but that is just as meaningful as the rest of it.
Here we go.
I guess to start I have to go back to the roots where I first began to wonder about my outlook on religion in a whole….because that’s what started everything.
When I was younger, I really didn’t care about what I did in regards to church and religion. I was mostly just doing as most young kids do, that being piggy-backing on my parents beliefs. It is a perfectly normal thing, in my eyes, for kids of that age to do that. I went to church every Sunday with my parents, went through the whole primary school deal, and did pretty much everything the other little kids did. I don’t remember my baptism other than the fact that it was on July 4th and that my Grandfather spoke.
Now this isn’t to say my baptism wasn’t important to me. I was only eight years old. There aren’t many things about that age that I remember. So it’s perfectly natural for me not to remember. But I digress.
I’m not one of those people that had a huge spiritual experience that instantly converted me. In fact, I doubt very many of us are. I think, for a lot of us, the experience was a slow gradual change over time, with regards to many experiences and feelings.
I think the first time I came into contact with the idea of me choosing what I wanted to do with regards to religion was as I became old enough to enter our church’s youth program. At this point in my life, I had just entered middle school. I was extremely shy, more so than most kids my age. I was one of those kids who would much rather be left alone to think to himself, versus getting involved with a lot of people. I was terrified of being the focus of anything. And as a result of all this, I had very few friends. On top of this, those friends I had attracted were not members of the church or anything. Now this is not to say they weren’t good friends. I am not saying people who aren’t members of the church are bad people. On the contrary, there are plenty of good people who aren’t a member of my faith. I’m just saying that some of these “friends” wouldn’t exactly match my current definition of the term.
And because of this, I started making decisions that weren’t exactly up to par with what I would define as “good” now. I actually started to feel alienated by the church, simply because I didn’t have any friends there. My logic was so clear at the time, but they say hindsight is 20/20. I felt I had no friends in the church, why even bother going?
This logic stayed pretty concrete through 6th and 7th grade. I mean I went to the youth stuff, and tried to have fun, but I felt like I wasn’t connecting with anyone. I guess I can’t say anything for certain, because I don’t remember a lot of those years. But what I can say for certain is the change that happened in 8th grade.
Now I knew there were other members of the church who went to school with me. But I wasn’t really close friends with any of them. I kind of knew David, and Wylie was my best friend in elementary school, but we had kind of had a falling out in middle school. But sometime during that year, some new guys moved in and everything changed.
Three new guys moved in that changed my life, and I don’t think they even know it. Their names were Neil Crook, Michael Fraser, and Joseph Wiest.
Neil Crook was a guy who had moved around a lot. He switched back and forth from Oregon and Wyoming because of his dad’s job. He was a football player. And a dang good one.
Michael Fraser had just moved up here from California, and just like Neil, for his dad’s job. Looking at Michael then, and Michael now, makes me laugh. Not in a bad way, just looking at how we all have changed.
Joseph Wiest moved here, like the others, because of his dad’s job. I don’t exactly remember when he moved in, but I got to know him. He was friends with Wylie too, since he only lived down the street from him. And because of this connection, I began to reconnect with Wylie. We all became great friends. At times I am pretty sure Wylie and Joe’s connection was a little tighter than mine, especially since I lived a lot farther away from them than they did to each other. But we were friends nonetheless.
But because of these three guys…my life was changed forever.
We entered high school and I was faced with a new world. New opportunities that I could ignore, or take advantage of. I hadn’t planned on it, but my newfound friends coerced me into playing football. I never would’ve done this on my own, but because I had the support of my friends behind me, I went through with it. I was terrible at it. But dangit I am so glad they pushed me into it. That experience literally changed my life.
Because of these things being forced on me, I was forced to adapt to a more public scene. In this way, my self esteem grew. Much higher.
Not only was my self-esteem much higher, but I actually became interested in going to youth activities. And I am forever grateful for that…I don’t know where I’d be without the church.
I may not have a defining moment, but these moments have solidified my testimony.
I know my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ loves me, along with everyone on this Earth, regardless of their transgression. He will never forsake me, nor you, nor anyone else. He chooses only to be sorrowful and hope you choose to return, rather than angry and wrathful. We are the prodigal son. If we seek to return to him, he will never, ever turn us away.
I know, for a fact, that my Father in Heaven, along with his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, lives. Events in my life have made doubt impossible. I am deeply saddened when I see people bad mouthing my Savior. Using flawed logic. I wish for them to know what I know. That through him, we may all obtain eternal life. That through him, we may all return to our Father in Heaven. That there IS hope. You are NEVER hopeless. I have been in deep depression, bawling like a child, wondering how our Savior, who is perfect in every aspect, could love someone so lowly and sinful as me. I have received an answer to that question, and I know he loves me and has, through his sacrifice and resurrection, knows all that I am going through in my life. Every pain, affliction, and temptation. He knows more about myself than I do. He knows how to personally console me when I feel beyond help. How to help me out of any pit, no matter how deep I dig myself into it. He will take me back even if this is the thirteenth time I’ve tried to go back. He will never, ever forsake us.
I know the Prophet Joseph Smith prayed in the Sacred Grove for guidance and direction. And I know he received it. I know he spoke with the Father and the Son. I know he was called of God for the restoration of His church on this Earth in these latter-days.
I know that we have the privilege to have Prophets, Seers, and Revelators on this Earth presently. I know that at the head of this Church, President Thomas S. Monson leads and guides us by the power and authority of God, our Eternal Father.
I am eternally grateful for the sacrifice our Savior gave to us. Without it, this existence would be utterly wasted. Because of his sacrifice, we are able to repent of our sins and return to him. I have personal knowledge of the truth of his Atonement. This is the greatest gift of all. Without It, the world would be lost in darkness for all eternity.
But thankfully, our Heavenly Father, along with our Lord Jesus Christ, loves us immensely, and wants to see us return to our Heavenly home.
I am extremely frustrated when members of my faith preach anything but love and tolerance. Especially with respect to those of other faiths. I am a strong believer in the fact that those who are ridiculing other faiths are not strong enough in their own to just let it go. In fact, many other religions and their various sects have assorted portions of the truth. It is important to emphasize the connections we have. Because in the end, we are all Brothers and Sisters, children of an eternally loving God.
Now this isn’t to say I am perfect, quite the reverse actually. I am still working on caring at all times for everyone. But I am working towards that goal. It isn’t any easy task, but I know with the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, anything is possible.
I am more excited than I can say to serve a mission. I want others to know the feelings I know, to feel the hope I feel. Even on my bad days I feel better knowing that the Lord understands how I feel. He understands ME. Completely and thoroughly. I love him. He is our Savior, and He gave everything for us. I just want to others to know that…and have the opportunity to come unto him.
And I say these things, in the name of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God, amen.
I want people to know this. And because I am such a poor speaker, I don't think I could ever convey this vocally. My thoughts, for me, can really only be organized in writing. I'm sorry if I've embarassed anyone with this post, for it wasn't my intention. If you read it all, good job. Probably the longest post I'll ever make.
Thanks for your time.