Religion and the Scientific Method

Book of MormonI recently had a “chat” with a new Facebook acquaintance, I’ll call her Molly, about atheism, anti-theism, religion, and the scientific method.  The long and the tall of it, as my British friends say, is that religion is bad and all the bad that has been done in the world is the result of religion, and because the scientific method of replication of results cannot be conducted on the existence of God, God must not exist.  As is done in polite conversation, I beg to differ.  In fact, I submit that religion is a great proving ground of the scientific method.

First, let’s establish what the scientific method is.  From scientificmethod.com, we find that “scientific method is the basic method, guide, and system by which we originate, refine, extend, and apply knowledge in all fields.”  Common to this process are the hypothesis, the experiment, the findings, and the documentation.  As a method of validating a claim made by one scientist, others will replicate the experiment, and if other scientists get the same results as the first, a claim can be made by the first of the validity of the experiment.  If additional science, attempting to replicate the experiment, does not produce the same results, the claim is invalidated.

Let’s look at an example from recent history.  Two scientists, Fleischman and Pons, claimed they had discovered cold fusion.  The press and scientific worlds were all a buzz.  But over the next few years, no one was able to replicate the discovery using the same scientific procedures.  Cold fusion was debunked.

Now let’s look at examples from the world of religion where claims have been made that the Book of Mormon is the word of God given through ancient prophets and translated by a modern prophet, Joseph Smith.  One advantage of scientific discovery is the existence of physical matter.  The cold fusion scientists attempted to create cold fusion by causing reactions with physical matter that could be seen and manipulated in a lab.  Unfortunately, evidence of the existence of the plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon no longer exists on earth except in the form of testimonies from 11 individuals claim to have seen or held the plates, and the Book of Mormon itself.  So, how can we experiment and replicate the claims of members of the LDS Church around the world who state emphatically that the Book of Mormon is the word of God?

We begin with instruction from Alma, a Book of Mormon prophet who declared that if we “will awake and arouse [our] faculties, even to an experiment upon [his] words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if [we] can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in [us], even until [we] believe in a manner that [we] can give place for a portion of [his] words” (Alma 32:27).  Here Alma outlines the steps necessary for anyone who wants to duplicate the results he gained in learning and knowing the word of God.  Many hundreds of years later, another Book of Mormon prophet, Moroni, follows up with an additional step in this great experiment: “And when ye shall receive these things (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; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.  And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4-5).

So here we have religion and the scientific method crossing paths.  Religion puts forth the hypothesis that God exists, that He loves His children today as much as He did in Old Testament times, and that Jesus Christ lived, died, and was resurrected as an atonement for all mankind.  We then have the experiment, with the steps clearly outlined for all to test.  From the New Testament we read from James: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering” (James 1:5-6).  Next, we see the findings of prophets and lay members of God’s church down through the generations, dating back to Adam and Eve.  All of the Old Testament prophets reported their findings in the books of the Old Testament.  The apostles reported out their findings in what has come to be the New Testament.  And the prophets and disciples of Jesus Christ in the ancient Americas reported their findings in the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ, each of these scriptural texts being the documentation of those findings.

So, what is my challenge? Try the scientific method on religious principles.  First begin by following the experiment given in the Book of Mormon.  Test the hypothesis given by Moroni that the Book of Mormon is the word of God by reading the Book with a sincere heart, and with real intent.  Your findings will be the result of asking God if the Book is not true, given through the Holy Ghost.  And when you have your findings, following the steps of the experiment with exactness, document those findings for others so they, too, may experiment on the word of God.  And once you have experimented on the Book of Mormon, use the same steps to test other teachings and doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  I believe you will, as I have, get the same results as members of the Church around the world.

Church, a social organization, or not?

Yes, it might be true that the noise levels are pretty high right before and right after Sacrament Meeting at almost any LDS Chapel in the US.  Mormons are nothing if they aren’t social.  However, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not, therefore, a social organization.  It is the vessel God has ordained for the perfecting of His children.  It is where the Gospel of Jesus Christ is contained in its fullness, where all men and women are invited to “come unto Christ and be perfected in Him.”  It is by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel that all mankind may be saved.  Unfortunately, this position often comes into conflict with those who seek to make of the Church a social organization, a gathering place where folks can have fun, vote on policies and procedures, pick and choose doctrines, and cry foul when some decree or another does not go their way.

Most recently, Brigham Young University, a Church owned college, has come under attack on two fronts: those who want to grow beards, and those who want the long standing moral compass prohibiting sexual relationships between students who are not married to point south.  On another front, a small gathering of women in the Church have decided that if women don’t hold the priesthood they are not equal to men, and therefore the Church must change its position on the matter to give credence to modern social mores.  And finally, there are many who believe that the Church does not have a right to defend its long-held position that marriage is between a man and a woman; that the Church must give into societal norming of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, and Trans-gendered lifestyle.  Somehow I feel like this means a different set of standards for this group than for the rest of the Church membership, but I haven’t quite worked that out.

I agree with Elder Oaks when he states that we can disagree without being disagreeable.  I disagree with those who believe that the Church is nothing more than a social networking organization whose sole purpose is to help people feel good about themselves despite their opposition to Church teachings.  But I don’t mean to be disagreeable.  In fact, I have often seen myself as a pacifist on religious matters.  However, this does not mean I cannot speak up for what I believe to be truth, nor does it mean that I cannot allow others to do likewise.  I will be respectful of the thoughts and beliefs of others, and would ask only that the same respect be given toward my beliefs and religious liberties.

In the end, an LDS Chapel can be a noisy place.  But hopefully, amid all that noise, I will hear the still small voice of the Holy Spirit whispering “you are a child of God, who loves you, and who has given you hope through the atonement of His Son Jesus Christ.  Come unto Him, and be perfected in Him.  Be social, be respectful, be Christ-like.”

By love unfeigned

Christ and womanGrowing up I was the second youngest of five children.  My sister just older than me left activity in the Church around the time she turned 16.  I will leave it at her falling in with the ways of the world in the 70’s, and all of the pitfalls that teens faced at that time.  We did not share the same point of view as far as the Church was concerned, although we were both been raised in the Church.  She also had a different perspective on life that included sex, drugs, and rock &roll.  I did not align myself with many of those parts of her perspective (though I must admit I love rock & roll).  I did, however, love my sister.  And for many, many years I prayed that someday she would share my perspective, and align herself with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Eventually, she came back to church, received her temple endowment, and was sealed to her husband.  She remained active and faithful to the day she passed, and I am grateful for those answered prayers.

There is nothing in the commandments of Jesus Christ that require us to align ourselves with the perspective of others with whom we disagree in order to demonstrate that we love them and care about their perspective; Love comes regardless when it is the pure love of Christ.  We are, however, commanded to align ourselves with the Gospel, doctrines, principles, and practices the Lord has established.  It is true that there is no need to speak harsh words and condemn others for choices they make, and in this manner we demonstrate the kindness that Christ teaches.  We know that Christ’s love is pure for each of God’s children.  However, He did not share the same point of view as the woman caught in adultery.  He did not need to know her perspective.  He did not align Himself with her.  What He did do was to express His love for her in the gentle words “neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”

The idea that we must place ourselves in the same perspective as those in the Ordain Women movement, or any other movement that is contrary to the doctrines of the Church, is false.  That we must align ourselves with those in the movement in order to love them and have understanding for them is also false.  It is not my intent to argue for or against the OW movement, but rather to provide an alternate perspective that says we can love others with whom we disagree, and with that love invite them to come unto Christ, align themselves with His doctrines, and be perfected in Him.  We need not, indeed should not, be unkind, angry, or abusive of those with whom we disagree, but we also should not fain from reproving wrong ideas “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:41-42).

Breaking Bread with the Mormons

The-Last-Supper

It’s always a bit scary to think about attending a church of which one is not a member, let alone actually attending its various meetings. In this post I intend to give the reader an overview of what takes place during Sacrament Meeting, the primary and arguably most important general meeting held by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and to share some doctrines of the Church as a foundation for why this meeting is held.

The most important message I want to relay is that going to Church with the Mormons is most likely similar to attending your own church; we worship Christ, participate in the Sacrament- a reminder of the sacrifice of the Savior and the blessings it brings to each of us-; listen to talks about the Savior and other important principles and doctrines; share in learning from the scriptures during Sunday School; teach fathers and mothers how to raise up righteous families; help little children develop testimonies of Jesus and learn His attributes so they can become more like him; and provide our youth with standards that help them make better choices in a perilous world. My desire is that as you read Breaking Bread with the Mormons you will find within yourself a growing desire to test the waters, find a congregation in your area, and see what the Church has to offer. After all, going to Church shouldn’t be a scary thing; it should be a sacred, peaceful experience that brings you closer to God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

One note before we go further: the official name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as designated by revelation to its founder, the Prophet Joseph Smith. Because members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints adhere to the teachings of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, early detractors took it upon themselves to call members of the Church Mormons. Although Mormons have accepted this name as endearing and enduring, it should not be misconstrued that Mormons belong to the Mormon Church; the Mormon Church does not exist. Rather, Mormons are members and adherents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Breaking Bread with the Mormons
Prior to His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus Christ presided over what has come to be known as The Last Supper. Surrounded by the Twelve Apostles whom Jesus had chosen as His representatives and missionaries “Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28). As we continue reading Matthew’s account we learn that during this same event “they…sung a song” (Matthew 26:30) which was part of the Jewish Hallel (Bible Dictionary, Holy Bible- King James Version, LDS Edition, 1985). In revelation to Joseph Smith in 1831, the Lord instructed that, so we might more fully keep ourselves “unspotted from the world,” we are to offer our sacraments to the Lord on the Sabbath, His holy day (Doctrine and Covenants 59: 9). In the previous year, prior to the organization of the Church, the Lord likewise revealed the manner in which the sacrament was to be offered, including the details of the prayer to be given as a blessing on the bread and wine (in modern time the Church has replaced wine with water). Although the Sacrament Meeting in an LDS Church comprises more than just the Sacrament offering, it is the Sacrament which is the most sacred and very purpose for which members of the Church gather on Sunday.

Although leadership meetings may take place early on Sunday morning, typically, Sacrament Meeting or Worship Service is the first general meeting of the day. Perhaps like it is at your church, Sacrament Meeting or Worship Service begins at a specific time. Prior to the start of Sacrament Meeting it is not unusual to see members greeting each other in the foyers or other locations throughout the meeting hall, catching up on the events of the week, making last minute preparations for personal roles in the day’s meetings, or just saying hello. During the 10-15 minutes leading up to the start of Sacrament Meeting it is most likely one will hear a pianist or organist in the chapel playing prelude music to help set a spiritual tone for the meeting. As many of the hymns found in the Church Hymnal predate the founding of the Church and are quite likely played in your congregational meetings, it is quite likely you will recognize some of the music played prior to and throughout the meeting.

When you enter the chapel you may find a few things very similar to your congregation and others that might seem new and intriguing. For example, you will normally find three men in conservative suits sitting together on the podium. These men comprise what is known as the bishopric, all of whom serve for a time as a lay ministers in the congregation, one of whom is called as a bishop. This may be similar to your minister, priest, or preacher. The other two men are counselors to the bishop and assist him as he delegates. Under most circumstances, the bishop presides over the Sacrament Meeting and it is his responsibility to see that the meeting is conducted according to the guidelines revealed by the Lord through the Church leadership. You will find that virtually anywhere you attend a Sacrament Meeting of the LDS Church it will follow the same pattern under the direction of the local bishop. If you look to either the left or right of the podium you will find a table that will be covered with a clean white cloth. Under this cloth are the emblems of the sacrament, the bread and water that will be blessed and administered to the congregation. Sitting at this table will be two or three young men, and occasionally older men, who will offer the blessings on the bread and water as did the Savior. These individuals hold the Priesthood and at least the office of a priest, and are given the specific responsibility of performing this sacred ordinance. You will also find a number of young men sitting in the first row or two of the pews; these young men will pass the bread and water to members of the congregation.

At the start of Sacrament Meeting, one of the aforementioned men sitting on the stand will, under the direction of the bishop, stand at the lectern and welcome those who are attending the meeting. After the greeting he may make any brief but important announcements and will then announce the opening hymn and the name of the individual (a member of the congregation) who has been asked to offer the invocation, or opening prayer. The opening hymn is always a congregational hymn sung from the Hymnal and is designed to help further establish a sense of reverence and to invite the Spirit of the Lord to attend the meeting. In July 1830 the Lord revealed to Joseph Smith that “the song of the righteous is a prayer unto [Him]” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:12). At the conclusion of the hymn, a member of the congregation chosen prior to the start of the meeting will come to the lectern and offer a prayer or invocation on the meeting. This prayer is short in duration and speaking for the congregation as a whole the one offering the prayer seeks the blessings and direction of our heavenly Father to be on those who participate in the meeting, and those who have come seeking special guidance. This prayer, and the prayer at the end of the meeting, or benediction, are never scripted but come from the heart of the one offering it. After the invocation, the individual conducting the meeting may present business that needs the sustaining approval of the members of the congregation. For example, members serve in a variety of positions and responsibilities such as teachers, auxiliary leaders, secretaries, clerks, librarians, and so on. Although the bishop or one of his counselors will extend a calling to a member to fill a role or responsibility, before any member may serve in that calling that decision must be sustained by the membership. Once this business has been concluded, the meeting will move forward with the administration of the Sacrament.

The congregation will again sing a hymn that has been selected specifically for its reference to the atonement or crucifixion of Jesus, His suffering on our behalf, and our gratitude for the blessings we receive as a result of His willing sacrifice. During the singing of the hymn the priests- those individuals who have been asked to administer the sacrament- will break the bread into small pieces in preparation of the blessing prayer. At the conclusion of the hymn, the young men responsible for passing the sacrament bread and water to the congregation will stand before the sacrament table, and one of the priests who has prepared the bread will kneel and read the blessing on the bread. This is one of a few prayers in the Church that is proscribed, and must be read exactly. This blessing was revealed to Joseph Smith during his translation of the Book of Mormon, and in 1830 was written as revelation to the Church.

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of the Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father,
that they are willing to take upon them the name of the Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them, Amen (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77).

The bread is then passed from the priests to the young men (typically deacons or teachers in the Priesthood) who will then pass the bread, in trays, to those in the congregation who desire to take the sacrament. Except under very specific circumstances, no one will be denied the opportunity to participate, whether they are members of the Church or not. Once all members of the congregation have been offered the bread, the deacons and teachers will return to the sacrament table and pass the trays back to the priests. Another of the priests will then kneel and recite the blessing of the water:

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this water to the souls of all those who drink of it, that they may do it in remembrance of the blood of the Son, which was shed for them; that they may witness
unto the, O God, the Eternal Father, that they do always remember him, that they may have his Spirit to be with them. Amen (Doctrine and Covenants 20:79).

As with the bread, the water is then passed to members of the congregation who wish to participate. Again, except in specific situations, no one is denied the water. When everyone has had an opportunity to take of the water, the deacons and teachers return to the sacrament table and pass the trays back to the priests. The bread and water are once again covered, and the priests, deacons, and teachers will leave the sacrament table and join the congregation for the remainder of the meeting.

Perhaps different than the worship service of many other Christian churches, the balance of the Sacrament Meeting is not filled with preaching by a pastor or priest, but rather, members of the congregation will offer talks on a variety of topics as directed by the bishop. Members will be contacted by the bishop or one of his counselors well in advance of a given Sunday and be invited to speak during an upcoming Sacrament Meeting. A specific topic will be assigned, with some direction from the bishopric. However, it is the responsibility of the member to research the topic using the Scriptures and the teachings of modern prophets and apostles as the basis of their talks. Although the pattern may vary slightly, it is common that one or two of the youth will be asked to speak first for about five minutes each. After the youth speaker(s) an adult will speak for 10-15 minutes, again on a topic as assigned by the bishop, to be followed by a musical number. This musical number may be a congregational hymn or it may be members selected from the congregation, but is always in keeping with the reverent spirit of the meeting. At the conclusion of the musical number the final speaker will deliver his or her topic, the congregation will sing a closing hymn, and a member of the congregation previously chosen will offer the benediction, which will conclude the Sacrament Meeting.

Why the Sacrament?

After the resurrection of the Savior, Peter and other of the apostles were preaching on the day of Pentecost the glorious message of Jesus Christ. When asked by those who heard the preaching “What shall we do?” Peter responded by saying unto them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and  ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). Alma, a High Priest whose teachings are contained in the Book of Mormon, taught that Jesus Christ “sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you. Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life; yea, ye shall eat and drink of the bread and the waters of life freely” (The Book of Mormon, Alma 5:33-34).

While repentance and baptism are the first steps in coming unto Christ, as taught by Peter, a regularly renewing of the covenant made between man and God comes through partaking of the “bread and waters of life.” Partaking of the sacrament is a witness to God that the remembrance of His Son will extend beyond the short time of that sacred ordinance. Part of this ordinance is a promise to remember Him always and a witness of individual willingness to take upon oneself the name of Jesus Christ and to keep His commandments. In partaking of the sacrament and making these commitments, Church members renew the covenant they made at baptism (http://www.lds.org/topics/sacrament).

It is my invitation to all who read this to come and break bread with a congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in your area. Bring the truths you already cherish and see what we might add to your faith in Jesus Christ, our Savior.

If you would like to download the pdf book version, you may do so here.

Author’s note: This was originally posted by me on monographsoffaith.wordpress.com.

Faith and Politics

faith and politicsI am quite certain that my zealousness for politics has alienated me from many of my friends, but understanding politics, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights is important to me, and I can be a little overly vocal.  I suppose that my passion for politics and the idea that all men should be free to seek life, liberty, and happiness, with an equality for opportunity (though not outcome) comes from my understanding of life before this mortal existence.

According to scripture, the LDS Church teaches, and I believe firmly, that there was a war in Heaven prior to the existence of man on earth, and that it was fought over the doctrine of agency.  God’s plan for His children was to provide them with their agency to make choices, and knowing that we would sin against eternal laws, He provided a way out of sin, namely, the Atonement.  On the one hand Jehovah agreed to come to the earth as the one to atone for the sins of all God’s children, and they would be forgiven on the act of repentance.  In this way, we unclean mortals could become clean and be worthy to live in the presence of our heavenly Father when we leave this frail existence.  Lucifer, on the other hand, informed God that he would compel all men to choose right and live sinless lives.  We know this story ended by Lucifer being cast from heaven, along with a third of the host of heaven who followed him.

You see, we already fought one war for agency and freedom of choice, so it only makes sense that when a government refuses to provide redress for the grievances of its citizen, and seeks to encroach on the God given and inalienable rights of free speech and religious belief and practice that those who understand the War in Heaven would engage in political battle on earth to secure those freedoms.  Indeed, even Joseph Smith, the first prophet of these Latter-days, was politically minded.  When he was unable to secure redress for the grievances he took to then president of the United States Martin Van Buren, Smith decided to run for office himself and entered the race to become President in 1844.  He was mayor of Nauvoo, IL prior to his assassination, and was very politically minded.  Even after the death of Smith and the exodus of the saints out of the US and into territorial land, the Church and its members faced opposition from the government.  It came in the form of Johnson’s Army, the Edmund-Tucker Act, and the conditions of statehood, and a threat to destroy the charter of the Church if it didn’t comply with anti-polygamy legislation.  It should be no surprise to anyone, then, that members of the LDS Church are involved in politics, and that those political leanings tend to fall along the lines of conservative thought, though not exclusively.

I am a Mormon, but I am also a citizen of the United States, and an employee and provider for my family.  So involvement in those issues that affect me seems only the right thing to do; it is entirely possible to be religious and political at the same time.  I would hope that more individuals would step up and speak out, and not make politics and religion the two things we never talk about at parties.

Photo courtesy of CS Monitor

Jesus Christ

cropped-jesus-christ-pics-2001-640x597.jpgMy relationship with the Savior goes back to my baptism.  However, I must confess that I did not “know” the Savior at that time; my baptism at 8 years old was a matter of course for me.  Throughout my teen years, however, I glimpse a taste of what it was like to be forgiven as I would sin, repent of that sin, and feel the sweet peace that comes from the power of the Atonement.

Over the years, as I have continued to make mistakes and seek forgiveness, I have felt the redeeming nature of the work the Savior did, starting in Gethsemane, moving to the Cross, and His absence from the Tomb.  What I have come to learn, however, is that the Atonement does not culminate in the forgiveness of sin.  The Savior did not merely take upon Himself our guilt for sin.  The Atonement extends far beyond forgiveness.  It includes the ability to overcome temptation to begin with.  It includes the ability to forgive others.  It includes the ability to have removed from us the burdens associated with the human experience- sorrow at the loss of a loved one, anger towards someone who has wronged us, the crushing weight of responsibility for family, anything that causes us grief, strife, anger, sorrow…these are burdens that can be lifted through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Not only has the Savior given us relief from the burdens of life, but He has given us the ability to love unconditionally, also known as charity, or the pure love of Christ.  I must confess that I am not possessed of this pure love, but I have had an occasion to have it possess me.  Many years ago I was wronged by someone I thought to be my friend.  At first I felt anger, a feeling that I did not want.  I made it a matter of prayer, and sought the ability to frankly forgive.  One day, while driving through town, I passed the place this individual worked, and was reminded of the grief and pain I felt at this friends actions.  As I had in the past several days, I offered a silent prayer to God that I could find forgiveness of the wrongs I perceived, and for a moment in time, all anger, all frustration, all grief was swept from me, and I felt only love toward this person to an extent that I had never before, or ever since, felt.  I know that this feeling in my heart and in my soul could only have come as a blessing from the Savior.

To the many testimonies that have been borne of Him by others, I join mine.  Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father, begotten in the flesh that he might show us by His sinless life how we are to live ours.  He was lifted up on the Cross by men that He might lift men to His Father, and fulfill His Father’s will.  “Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me” (3 Nephi 27:14).

As did the Book of Mormon prophet Moroni, I invite all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in Him.”

Joseph Smith

jm_400_CH1.pd-P2.tiffI was raised in the Church, but my parents were not of the Church.  Dad had not been active since he left high school in the 11th grade to join the Navy during WWII.  Mom never was a member; stories I have heard about her experiences in Catholic school tell part of the story.  If I was going to be an active, participating member of the Church it was entirely up to me.  And sometimes I didn’t do so well.  In my senior year of high school mom bought me an alarm clock and told me I had to get myself up for early morning seminary, if I even chose to go.  I didn’t.  I attended all of my Sunday meetings, Mutual during the week, and all the youth dances in the stake.  I received my Patriarchal Blessing when I was 17, and I even moved to Provo shortly before my 19th birthday.  Nine-months after my 19th, I left for Japan on a 2-year mission.  Today, young men and women who choose to serve missions are expected to have solid, well formed testimonies of the Savior, of Joseph Smith, and of the Book of Mormon.  Back in the day, it was not unusual for missionaries to gain their testimonies of these while serving.  And so it was with me.

About a year into my mission my companion and I were walking down the street and approached a woman coming from the opposite direction.  We stopped her and asked if she would be interested in hearing our message, to which she replied, graciously, “no.”  This was not an unusual response in Japan, one I had heard hundreds of times before.  But this time was different.  As we began to walk on, I found myself asking me a very important question- “How can you ask others to believe something that you yourself do not have a testimony of?”  I determined that I had two choices- either learn for myself that Joseph Smith was a prophet, or go home.

Japanese apartments are very small, and ours was no exception.  To have enough room to walk around, one must fold up his futon and stuff it in the closet until it is needed again.  When we got home for lunch that afternoon, I stuffed myself in the closet with a copy of the pamphlet containing Joseph Smith’s testimony, and a flashlight.  I bowed my head in prayer and asked Heavenly Father to help me know whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet, and began reading the pamphlet.  I did this every day for two weeks, never once receiving an answer to my prayers.  Then one day we tracted an apartment complex a short bike ride from where we lived.  At one particular apartment, a woman answered the door and we asked if she would be interested in hearing our gospel message.  She said she would, but that her husband was not home at the time, could we come back that evening.  And so we scheduled an appointment to return and went about the rest of our day.  As I had for the last two weeks, at lunch I climbed into the closet, said a prayer, and read the testimony of Joseph Smith.

That evening we returned to the apartment for our appointment, and found the husband and wife both there, and inviting.  Their’s was not a normal apartment, they actually had two couches against two walls of the living room, perpendicular to each other.  My companion and I sat on one couch, and the couple on the other.  My companion was new to the mission field, and so the bulk of the conversation was mine.  After a little introduction, I began to tell them about Joseph Smith and what has come to be known as his “First Vision.”  Only shortly after I began, I had the most amazing experience.  It was as though my spirit had left my body and was perched in the corner of the room where the wall meets the ceiling, looking down on the meeting.  I have since heard others explain similar events, calling them out-of-body experiences, typically associated with temporary death.  Whatever the case, I could see my companion and I teaching this couple about God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ’s visit to the boy who would become a prophet.

As I closed Joseph Smith’s testimony, my spirit came back to my body, and I new something special had just taken place.  We asked if we could come back and tell the couple more, but they politely declined our offer.  As we walked through the door, leaving the apartment, I knew in my heart that this discussion was for me, and me alone.  From that day to this I have never doubted but that Joseph Smith was called by God to re-establish Christ’s Church once again on earth.

If you are one wanting to know that Joseph Smith was called of God, as were the prophets of old, our Heavenly Father is only to ready to send His Holy Spirit to share that testimony with you.  But don’t look for it to happen overnight, and don’t look for it to happen in your mind only.

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;  That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. (Ephesians 3:14-19)

Learn more about Joseph Smith, his life, his mission, and his testimony here.