Yesterday I posted the first part of My Faith. Here is the conclusion:
“Which Church Is Right?“ quoted Bible verses and was methodical and logical in its presentation. It was the first time that I’d thought of a church that way, though I didn’t have any real feeling about it. The prophet’s testimony was different. A paragraph that stood out was:
It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself. (Joseph Smith—History 23)
I thought it strange too, and identified with Joseph.
During the space of time which intervened between the time I had the vision and the year eighteen hundred and twenty-three—having been forbidden to join any of the religious sects of the day, and being of very tender years, and persecuted by those who ought to have been my friends and to have treated me kindly, and if they supposed me to be deluded to have endeavored in a proper and affectionate manner to have reclaimed me—I was left to all kinds of temptations; and, mingling with all kinds of society, I frequently fell into many foolish errors, and displayed the weakness of youth, and the foibles of human nature; which, I am sorry to say, led me into divers temptations, offensive in the sight of God. In making this confession, no one need suppose me guilty of any great or malignant sins. A disposition to commit such was never in my nature. But I was guilty of levity, and sometimes associated with jovial company, etc., not consistent with that character which ought to be maintained by one who was called of God as I had been. But this will not seem very strange to any one who recollects my youth, and is acquainted with my native cheery temperament. (Joseph Smith—History 28)
I was impressed that Joseph would admit to “foolish errors”. To me, someone telling a lie would not say this so openly.
I wrote to the Bishop of the Macclesfield Ward and asked him about the Church and that I wanted to know more. He replied to my letter, inviting me to travel to Macclesfield and meet with the missionaries. I did so, and recall one memory from our first meeting. I was being taught the first discussion and my mind wandered. When I was a child my mother used to say in a kindly way that “I was off wool gathering” when I didn’t pay attention. The missionaries asked me a question about what was being taught and from then on I was attentive. After the first discussion the missionaries told me that there were missionaries in Crewe and that I would be taught by them.
I was shown the Book of Mormon and started to read it, finished the rest of the discussions, was introduced to the Crewe Branch, and was baptized by Reginald Marshall Amos, a member of the Crewe Branch, at Newcastle-under-Lyme February 1974 a few days before age twenty-two. I didn’t finish reading the Book of Mormon before baptism. I didn’t need to. A witness of the truth of the prophet’s story meant that all else flowed easily. The Prophet saw Jesus Christ and the Father, therefore there is a God (Heavenly Father) and the Son. Joseph translated the Book of Mormon; therefore it is the word of God. Joseph organized a church; therefore it is the church I should be a member of.
Soon after baptism I fell ill and could not attend and then fell into inactivity. I was sickly for two years, being unemployed the whole time. I prayed that God would help me and if He did I would have the strength to return to Church. I received the help and I honored my commitment. To this day, even when I am in the midst of the most difficult struggles and my faith is a little rickety, I attend my meetings so that I will never again fall away from being with the saints.
When I returned to church I now had to be taught about and learn the gospel. I had to be taught the doctrines that are the foundation on which to build faith and understanding. I had decided to align with truth. Truth wasn’t coming to make itself fit and conform to my view of the universe. I had to move to truth and change me. It is not an easy process and that process continues today.
Some things were easy though. The admonition to store food and water I agreed readily with. I thought it just common sense to have some reserves, especially as a youth sometimes money was tight and I felt the insecurity of my family living from paycheck to paycheck. Having someone in authority too was just plain common sense. Though I wouldn’t always obey priesthood authority, I would still acknowledge it. I would shape up eventually, usually “using my own initiative”.
When I was seventeen I had seen the suffering in Biafra on the news and felt that I wanted to do something to help. I didn’t know what to do. I recall resolving that some day I would do something. When I returned to church the realization came upon me that there was something I could do that was beyond anything that I had ever hoped I could do. I could be part of building a kingdom—the Kingdom. I set to work with all the zealousness of a convert—at times over zealous—in my pursuit of making the world a better place. A better place built upon the correct principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Prophet today. A better place because of mothers that teach that there is a Father that answers prayers, even though in my case I only had a particle of faith. A better place because a grandmother knew when and what to send to a grandson she had yet to meet.
No-one need ever be alone, that is my faith.