So for today I wanted to share the story of how I came to know that the Mormon church was true.
Let’s jump into the time machine and dial it back to August 2005, shall we?
The current Prophet of the Church, Gordon B. Hinckley wrote an article and challenged members of the church to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year. He promised that if we do this “there will come into your lives and into your homes an added measure of the Spirit of the Lord, a strengthened resolution to walk in obedience to His commandments, and a stronger testimony of the living reality of the Son of God.”
Naturally there was a lot of talk about “President Hinckley’s Challenge” and how everyone was planning on doing it by themselves and as a family. This excitement was contagious and I decided to take upon the challenge.
At this point in my life I wasn’t getting into trouble and felt good about the church but I was still not sure if the Church was totally true for myself. My friends in middle school were starting to get into the things that teenage boys get into at that age and it sure looked like fun and an exciting time. But I was taught otherwise. I had been taught to not be apart of those things and that wickedness never was happiness.
I was presented with an opportunity to choose how I wanted to live my life. To continue down a pathway that I’ve been walking down since birth or to start traveling down roads with people and friends who were having a good time and having a ton of fun in the process.
I started reading the Book of Mormon as much as I could. I wasn’t very consistent about it, but I kept at it. Fast forward to when the ball in Time Square drops at midnight and I am still not finished. I was pretty discouraged especially when everyone at church was asking “Did you finish it? Did you finish it?” and I had to man up and say “No not yet, I’m getting there.”
So I still had that desire in my heart to follow the Prophet and read the Book of Mormon even when I felt like the promised blessings would not take effect in my life because I didn’t “complete the assignment” on time. Thank goodness I was wrong and I kept reading.
I eventually finished the book one night and decided that this was the moment. This was going to be the make or break moment in which I would put it all on the line to get an answer of truth and validation. I went and locked the door of my bedroom and knelt down in prayer on my bedside. I laid it out specifically and clearly to God that I want to know the truth.
Is what my parents been teaching me right? Is the Book of Mormon true? I think it is, but I want to know. I knelt there pour out my heart to my Heavenly Father asking for an answer.
The feeling that I felt can’t be described, but I can try using the very limited vocabulary of the English language. It can best be explained as an electric surge coursing through my body emanating from the very depths of my heart and the core of my being followed by a flood of soothing enveloping feeling of calmness and peaceful stillness in the matter of a few seconds. It was a feeling I had never felt before, and never have since but I knew what I felt.
I knew that what I felt was from God and I had received an answer to the question I had in my soul. I knew that I had received an answer because I was willing to act upon the message I received and I was truly seeking for it in my soul.
From that moment on, I knew the feeling I had and knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it. I choose to follow His example and continue down the road I had been on, but this time with confidence and courage that whatever lie ahead I had the Lord on my side and He would never fail me.
Has the road been rough at times? It has but I’ve come to learn that that is what makes us grow and develop our character is the rough times. Despite my own personal struggles and challenges I have never denied the spiritual witness that I received and kept on the road as best I can.
“I am a rough stone. The sound of the hammer and chisel was never heard on me until the Lord took me in hand. I desire the learning and wisdom of heaven alone.” –Joseph Smith
I am so grateful for the Gospel. The gospel gives us the tools to refine and create the person we wish to be. It takes hard work and constant effort but the finished product is beautiful and glorious. We all can become new creatures through Christ. He provided a way for us to accomplish the impossible.
If any of you have a desire to become a better person. A happier person. A more patient loving person.
Rob and Tracie Morris are amazing people. They are truly a perfect example of how the Fullness of the Everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ blesses our lives.
How can a man be a Super Bowl winning professional football player and not let fame and fortune get to his head and put his family second?
How can a women deal with the anger, frustration, and sorrow of losing three children after already going through the frustrating fertility process?
The peace and perspective of knowing we are Children of our Heavenly Father and that our families can be together forever through sacred ordinances done in holy temples is priceless and can’t be measured. That peace can calm a mothers aching heart knowing that she will hug and kiss her beautiful children in the life to come. That perspective can help a father realize that football is just a game and that families and his duty as a father is the most important thing in his life and for eternity.
I know that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true and that everyone can come to a knowledge by learning more about Jesus Christ and be able to overcome challenges just like Rob and Tracie’s and still have that hope and light in their eyes.
I hope you enjoy this talk. It has brought me closer to Jesus Christ and helped me understand my relationship with Him more.
The Atonement: All for All
Elder Bruce C. Hafen
Of the Seventy
Elder Bruce C. Hafen
Of the Seventy
Bruce C. Hafen, “The Atonement: All for All”, Ensign, May 2004, 97–99
In recent years, we Latter-day Saints have been teaching, singing, and testifying much more about the Savior Jesus Christ. I rejoice that we are rejoicing more.
As we “talk [more] of Christ,” 1 the gospel’s doctrinal fulness will come out of obscurity. For example, some of our friends can’t see how our Atonement beliefs relate to our beliefs about becoming more like our Heavenly Father. Others mistakenly think our Church is moving toward an understanding of the relationship between grace and works that draws on Protestant teachings. Such misconceptions prompt me to consider today the Restoration’s unique Atonement doctrine.
The Lord restored His gospel through Joseph Smith because there had been an apostasy. Since the fifth century, Christianity taught that Adam and Eve’s Fall was a tragic mistake, which led to the belief that humankind has an inherently evil nature. That view is wrong—not only about the Fall and human nature, but about the very purpose of life.
The Fall was not a disaster. It wasn’t a mistake or an accident. It was a deliberate part of the plan of salvation. We are God’s spirit “offspring,” 2 sent to earth “innocent” 3 of Adam’s transgression. Yet our Father’s plan subjects us to temptation and misery in this fallen world as the price to comprehend authentic joy. Without tasting the bitter, we actually cannot understand the sweet. 4 We require mortality’s discipline and refinement as the “next step in [our] development” toward becoming like our Father. 5 But growth means growing pains. It also means learning from our mistakes in a continual process made possible by the Savior’s grace, which He extends both during and “after all we can do.” 6
Adam and Eve learned constantly from their often harsh experience. They knew how a troubled family feels. Think of Cain and Abel. Yet because of the Atonement, they could learn from their experience without being condemned by it. Christ’s sacrifice didn’t just erase their choices and return them to an Eden of innocence. That would be a story with no plot and no character growth. His plan is developmental—line upon line, step by step, grace for grace.
So if you have problems in your life, don’t assume there is something wrong with you. Struggling with those problems is at the very core of life’s purpose. As we draw close to God, He will show us our weaknesses and through them make us wiser, stronger. 7 If you’re seeing more of your weaknesses, that just might mean you’re moving nearer to God, not farther away.
One early Australian convert said: “My past life [was] a wilderness of weeds, with hardly a flower Strewed among them. [But] now the weeds have vanished, and flowers Spring up in their place.” 8
We grow in two ways—removing negative weeds and cultivating positive flowers. The Savior’s grace blesses both parts—if we do our part. First and repeatedly we must uproot the weeds of sin and bad choices. It isn’t enough just to mow the weeds. Yank them out by the roots, repenting fully to satisfy the conditions of mercy. But being forgiven is only part of our growth. We are not just paying a debt. Our purpose is to become celestial beings. So once we’ve cleared our heartland, we must continually plant, weed, and nourish the seeds of divine qualities. And then as our sweat and discipline stretch us to meet His gifts, “the flow’rs of grace appear,” 9 like hope and meekness. Even a tree of life can take root in this heart-garden, bearing fruit so sweet that it lightens all our burdens “through the joy of his Son.” 10 And when the flower of charity blooms here, we will love others with the power of Christ’s own love. 11
We need grace both to overcome sinful weeds and to grow divine flowers. We can do neither one fully by ourselves. But grace is not cheap. It is very expensive, even very dear. How much does this grace cost? Is it enough simply to believe in Christ? The man who found the pearl of great price gave “all that he had” 12 for it. If we desire “all that [the] Father hath,” 13 God asks all that we have. To qualify for such exquisite treasure, in whatever way is ours, we must give the way Christ gave—every drop He had: “How exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.” 14 Paul said, “If so be that we suffer with him,” we are “joint-heirs with Christ.” 15 All of His heart, all of our hearts.
What possible pearl could be worth such a price—for Him and for us? This earth is not our home. We are away at school, trying to master the lessons of “the great plan of happiness” 16 so we can return home and know what it means to be there. Over and over the Lord tells us why the plan is worth our sacrifice—and His. Eve called it “the joy of our redemption.” 17 Jacob called it “that happiness which is prepared for the saints.” 18 Of necessity, the plan is full of thorns and tears—His and ours. But because He and we are so totally in this together, our being “at one” with Him in overcoming all opposition will itself bring us “incomprehensible joy.” 19
Christ’s Atonement is at the very core of this plan. Without His dear, dear sacrifice, there would be no way home, no way to be together, no way to be like Him. He gave us all He had. Therefore, “how great is his joy,” 20 when even one of us “gets it”—when we look up from the weed patch and turn our face to the Son.
Only the restored gospel has the fulness of these truths! Yet the adversary is engaged in one of history’s greatest cover-ups, trying to persuade people that this Church knows least—when in fact it knows most—about how our relationship with Christ makes true Christians of us.
If we must give all that we have, then our giving only almost everything is not enough. If we almost keep the commandments, we almost receive the blessings. For example, some young people assume they can romp in sinful mud until taking a shower of repentance just before being interviewed for a mission or the temple. In the very act of transgression, some plan to repent. They mock the gift of mercy that true repentance allows.
Some people want to keep one hand on the wall of the temple while touching the world’s “unclean things” 21 with the other hand. We must put both hands on the temple and hold on for dear life. One hand is not even almost enough.
The rich young man had given almost everything. When the Savior told him he must sell all his possessions, that wasn’t just a story about riches. 22 We can have eternal life if we want it, but only if there is nothing else we want more.
So we must willingly give everything, because God Himself can’t make us grow against our will and without our full participation. Yet even when we utterly spend ourselves, we lack the power to create the perfection only God can complete. Our all by itself is still only almost enough—until it is finished by the all of Him who is the “finisher of our faith.” 23 At that point, our imperfect but consecrated almost is enough.
My friend Donna grew up desiring to marry and raise a large family. But that blessing never came. Instead, she spent her adult years serving the people in her ward with unmeasured compassion and counseling disturbed children in a large school district. She had crippling arthritis and many long, blue days. Yet she always lifted and was always lifted by her friends and family. Once when teaching about Lehi’s dream, she said with gentle humor, “I’d put myself in that picture on the strait and narrow path, still holding to the iron rod but collapsed from fatigue right on the path.” In an inspired blessing given just before her death, Donna’s home teacher said the Lord “accepted” her. Donna cried. She had never felt her single life was acceptable. But the Lord said those who “observe their covenants by sacrifice … are accepted of me.” 24 I can envision Him walking the path from the tree of life to lift Donna up with gladness and carry her home.
Consider others who, like Donna, have consecrated themselves so fully that, for them, almost is enough:
Many missionaries in Europe and similar places who never stop offering their bruised hearts despite continual rejection.
Those handcart pioneers who said they came to know God in their extremities and the price they paid to know Him was a privilege to pay.
A father who reached his outermost limits but still couldn’t influence his daughter’s choices; he could only crawl toward the Lord, pleading like Alma for his child.
A wife who encouraged her husband despite his years of weakness, until the seeds of repentance finally sprouted in his heart. She said, “I tried to look at him the way Christ would look at me.”
A husband whose wife suffered for years from a disabling emotional disorder; but to him it was always “our little challenge”—never just “her illness.” In the realm of their marriage, he was afflicted in her afflictions, 25 just as Christ in His infinite realm was afflicted in our afflictions. 26
The people in 3 Nephi 17 [3 Ne. 17] had survived destruction, doubt, and darkness just to get to the temple with Jesus. After listening to Him for hours in wonder, they grew too weary to comprehend Him. As He prepared to leave, they tearfully looked at Him with such total desire that He stayed and blessed their afflicted ones and their children. They didn’t even understand Him, but they wanted to be with Him more than they wanted any other thing. So He stayed. Their almost was enough.
Almost is especially enough when our own sacrifices somehow echo the Savior’s sacrifice, however imperfect we are. We cannot really feel charity—Christ’s love for others—without at least tasting His suffering for others, because the love and the suffering are but two sides of a single reality. When we really are afflicted in the afflictions of other people, we may enter “the fellowship of his sufferings” 27 enough to become joint-heirs with Him.
May we not shrink when we discover, paradoxically, how dear a price we must pay to receive what is, finally, a gift from Him. When the Savior’s all and our all come together, we will find not only forgiveness of sin, “we shall see him as he is,” and “we shall be like him.” 28 I love Him. I want to be with Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
This is a photo I took of the Sacramento temple a few months ago. Growing up I always looked forward to the day that I could go inside. The temple is truly a beautiful place both inside and out. The beauty and reverence of being inside the temple is just like heaven. Here is a link to what temples are all about and why only worthy members of the Church can go inside.
I love going to the temple and can’t wait to go again in a few weeks. Everyone can go to the temple and experience the love and peace found inside and that’s what our job as missionaries is to do. To set people on a course starting with baptism to learn and grow and experience all the blessings our Father in Heaven has in store for us here on this Earth.