Saturday, May 17, 2008

"Now the joy of Ammon was so great even that he was full; yea, he was swallowed up in the joy of his God, even to the exhausting of his strength; and he fell again to the earth. Now was not this exceeding joy? Behold, this is joy which none receiveth save it be the truly penitent and humble seeker of happiness." (Alma 27:17-18)

Our ninth prophet, David O. McKay, said:
"I think it is highly fitting to say a few words to refresh our own minds regarding the purpose of preaching the gospel. It is illustrated in the song, 'Joy, praise, exaltation of the soul.' It is expressed in the scripture, 'men are, that they might have joy.' (2 Nephi 2:25.) Happiness is the aim of the gospel, not pain nor grief, not gloom, not mere pleasure. There is a difference between pleasure and joy, between pleasure and happiness" (Gospel Ideals, p. 499).

I remember hearing this comparison that, in the world, pleasure is supposed to be what we seek. But pleasure only lasts a little while. True happiness is systemic and spreads throughout one person and touches other people and they become happy, too.
I used to teach the young women that I believe the 10 Commandments are actually the 10 Rules for Happiness. It was amazing that, during the lesson, they could see that happiness was derived from keeping the commandments.
Our Heavenly Father gave us these rules to protect us. By keeping them, we live in happiness.
I started teaching them by illustrating the 10 commandments, starting with number 10: thou shalt not covet.
Covet can also stand for addiction. If you covet something, you desire it more than anything else. One can desire cigarettes (drugs), alcohol, money (gambling, shopping), sex (pornography) and name-anything, so that that desire overwhelms all of your thinking. That's the 10th 'thou shalt not.' Believe it or not, it all starts there. Pleasure...

By keeping this commandment, we have a higher percentage of not getting lung cancer; not drinking and driving and getting into an accident or harming others; not going into debt; not getting an STD or losing a spouse due to extra-marital desires.
Rebelling against this rule can lead to breaking the ninth commandment: false witness -- lying.
For example, not telling one's spouse about the gambling/shopping debts; needing money for sex, or going to a doctor because you have a disease; lying to a boss or spouse -- about why you need more money or how you lost your money...
...which leads to the eighth commandment: stealing. Some of the deceived come up with many plots to stealthily steal.
... I asked how the seventh commandment, adultery, could be part of the equation... the youth are so smart. "You could end up selling your body," they said, because you need money to sustain your glutton.
This is how Satan leads us quietly down the road to hell. Heaven forbid we get to the sixth commandment.
Also, if you've broken these last five commandments, the first five, the 'Love the Lord' commandments, are most likely out of your life anyway.

I love that quote in Alma (above) and long to be so full of joy that I faint! Isn't that great?
He tells us only the repentent and humble seeker of happiness can ever attain that state.
I know I have come close.
Being a witness to the births of my children brought, in addition to great relief, much joy and happiness -- overwhelming joy and happiness.
Another quote from Alma comes to mind then, too. When Alma was telling his son Helaman how he felt when he saw the angel for the first time. How, when he was in that 3-day trance, he saw the Lord, and the experience was bitter and sweet.
" Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy." (Alma 36: 21)
I love the use of the word exquisite. To have exquisite pain and then exquiste joy -- from the same experience.
THAT, my friends, is childbirth!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

During the Christmas devotional I heard President Monson speak and at that time I was struck by a testimony right then and there that he would, indeed, be a great prophet and I shouldn't worry about Pres. Hinckley passing away. I didn't know why at the time I was receiving this little insight.
Then Pres. Hinckley got up to speak. My, he looked like death warmed over. His speech was slurred. I knew then that it would only be a short period of time.
I was so happy that I had that precognitive experience. I can remember distinctly thinking, "Why am I feeling so strongly that I can accept him as my prophet?"
Then, of course, at the General Conference in April, when President Monson was speaking, I felt the strength of his new mantle as prophet. I also felt his love as our new prophet.
Many bore their testimonies the next Sunday about our new prophet and how easy it is to accept him.
He IS our prophet.
I know that.

I wrote my testimony of the Prophet Gordon B. Hinckley on my other blog. I think I will add that here, too...

President Hinckley died Jan. 27, 2008. I don't know why I was shocked at first...maybe not shocked, but sadenned. Sandy called about 9:20 p.m. and asked if we heard anything on TV or on the radio. I said we wouldn't hear anything like that. I told him to turn on the TV or radio in Idaho! Ken decided to go to the Internet. Meanwhile Zannah called and told us the rumor was true. She said word traveled fast in the LDS community. Seeing that he died at 7 p.m. MST, and Sandy called at 9:20 EST, I should say so. Jewely called, too.
During the Christmas devotional I heard President Monson speak and at that time I was struck by a testimony right then and there that he would, indeed, be a great prophet and I shouldn't worry about Pres. Hinckley passing away. I didn't know why at the time why I was receiving this little insight. Then Pres. Hinckley got up to speak. My, he looked like death warmed over. His speech was slurred. I knew then that it would only be a short period of time.
Then again...Pres. Hinckley was 97 years old! How many times had he said he 'hoped' to see us at the next conference.
I am so glad I got to see him in person. Not to shake hands or anything, but to be in the same room; breathing the same air; feeling of his spirit.
I think it was 1996 or 1997 when he came to Madison Square Garden in NYC. I was teaching the Book of Mormon in seminary that year and we were at 3 Nephi. I love the part in 3 Nephi when Christ was getting ready to leave and he perceived that the crowd did not want him to go. So he stayed longer. More spiritual things happened.
When GBH was at MSG and he was done speaking -- I DID NOT WANT HIM TO LEAVE! I kept saying in my heart, "Please, don't go yet. Please, stay!" And he did! He shook everyone's hand that was on the podium with him. He turned. People were waving white handkerchiefs and spontaneously started to sing "We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet."
He made his way across the stage, waving, and people spontaneously broke out with "God Be With You 'Till We Meet Again."
By that time I was using my handkerchief to blow my nose! I remember saying to Jewely, who was only about 7 or 8, to look around and drink it all up and always remember this.
In 2002, right after Sandy went to the MTC, on October 25th to be exact (I remember because it was the anniversary of my baptism), GBH came to Philadelphia. He had been to the dedication of a building at the U of Penn and was a speaker. He apologized that his voice was not very loud that he had been talking all day.
Then, all of a sudden, his voice got VERY loud! I remember looking around to see if others noticed -- they did! I just remember him saying over and over that he loved us. He reminded me of a gentle grandfather who loved his children/grandchildren unconditionally. I felt of his love that day and I was glad to be there.
I am so glad for my testimony of this church. I am glad I joined. It fills my heart that I have made the choice to be a member. I feel priviledged to go to church on Sunday and to participate in receiving the sacrament; to be edified by the talks; by the Sunday School lesson and RS lesson. I am happy for my association with all the many members I have met in my life and for their testimonies, too.
I am happy all my children have testimonies of the true church of Jesus Christ.

What Women Are

Howard W. Hunter

"You are chosen to be faithful women of God in our day, to stand above pettiness, gossip, selfishness, lewdness, and all other forms of ungodliness. Recognize your divine birthright as daughters of our Heavenly Father. Be one who heals with your words as well as your hands. Seek to know the will of the Lord in your life, and then say, as did that wonderful exemplar Mary, the mother of Jesus, 'Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word' (Luke 1:38). My beloved sisters . . . I testify of the truthfulness and eternal nature of your honored place as women" (The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, p. 151).

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Conversion Story

I am very grateful for my Catholic school education. While I was going through it, I wasn’t very happy about it, but I must say, it made me question. It made me question EVERYTHING – but I didn’t get enough answers. At least answers that satisfied me. I was also very doctrine-oriented. I needed a belief system, but one that made sense to me.
I can look back now and see there were some very special moments in my young life that led to my conversion to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. I had to go through a rebellion period and a refining period to make the conversion more sweet.
When I was in school I thought about becoming a nun – and probably for all the wrong reasons. I was in 7th grade and didn’t know what my future would hold. I knew nuns, and I knew what would be expected of me. I loved the Lord and I wanted to serve Him. I also wanted to be taken care of and feel secure. I was sure the convent would be the thing for me.
In 8th grade I had an extraordinary teacher. Her name was Sister Francis Maureen. She was the best teacher our class ever had. She was different from all the other nuns. She was nice. She was fun. She was understanding.
I remember one day in religion class she gave us all her take on “hell.” She said, “Imagine never seeing the face of God. That is hell. Not fire and brimstone, but never being able to dwell with God.”
That enlightenment changed my views and my Catholic fear of God. She portrayed God as being so loving and so good that to not ever see him would be the worst thing that could happen to anyone. It gave me a great deal to ponder.
I heard, years later, that Sister Francis left the convent. I don’t know where she is, or even what her real name is, but I hope the missionaries found her. She is so ready to receive the true gospel!
In 9th grade I went to public high school and attended CCD classes (I still don’t know what CCD stands for), a Sunday school for ‘publics.’ It was held on a school night and everyone in the class rested their heads on the desks and didn’t participate. Everyone except for me. It was a night of question and rejoinder with the priest and me. Just me. Everyone else had their heads on the desks.
One night I asked him (I can’t remember his name. Something Italian – oh, yeah – Father Vedino) why Catholics had to have so many kids. (I was the oldest of 8.) Some heads popped up...
He just said, “I know you’re probably upset because you don’t have two cars or a color TV.”
I raised my hand. I said, “We have two cars and a color TV. Why do we have to have so many kids?” More heads popped up.
I had questions about the Trinity (three persons in one God – do you mean three people are the same God or is it a Godhead with three people in it? You can’t mean three people are the same person, can you?)
– and baptism of babies (but if they die without baptism, it’s not their fault! How could God keep them out of heaven? They’re just babies?)
– I just didn’t ‘get’ limbo (What about Moses and even St. Joseph? They weren’t going to heaven?)
– or purgatory (I have to say how many prayers?)
– or confession (though it greatly improved my multiplication skills – if I was disobedient three times a day for seven days, that’s 21 times a week, and it’s been two weeks since my last confession....oh, I’m still mathematically challenged....)
– and I wanted the concept of hell fully explained.
The pat answer, “Have faith,” was given in one too many rejoinders for me. I finally convinced my dad (not an easy task) that I had had 8 years of Catholic school and I didn’t need to go to CCD class. I can’t believe he let me quit. I really can’t! I thought he would punish me for even thinking such a thing, but he let me quit.
I always wondered if maybe Father Vedino asked my dad not to bring me anymore because I was asking too many dad just seemed too easy.

Fast forward to my year spent in Boulder, Colorado.
While living there I attended a Catholic church. It was a nice church and the people were not judgmental. My first visit there was on a Sunday during a bike ride. I was in shorts and a T-shirt and was pretty grimy, but I wanted to go to church and I just happened to find it while riding a bike (I didn’t have a car and borrowed the bike). I walked in and they asked me to escort the ‘offering;’ that is, in those days, to take the chalices up to the priest (I don’t know if they still do that).
I thought, wow, if they accept me all grimy and sweaty from a bike ride, this is the church for me. I started attending regularly and was a faithful member of the choir there. I played my guitar. I even attended the Chicano Mass every once in awhile. It was all in Spanish and the communion hosts were tortillas.
One night at choir rehearsal I was asked to come to an activity (LDS would call it a Fireside). That Friday night I attended and it was a slide show about the changes that had taken place in the Catholic Church since the time of Christ. It told of how the primitive saints met in caves, how Constantine deemed Christianity the religion of the Roman Empire, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, and so on, up to the present day 1970s. It showed how the alters changed from having the priests’ backs turned from the congregation to having the priest turn around to the congregation, guitar Masses, regular people giving out the communion hosts. It told of all the changes made since the primitive church and how the church accommodated modern times.
The church accommodated the times. The church changed as the times changed.
The only thing was, I realized that not only did the alters change, but much of the doctrine as well.
What that slide show did was make me realize it was now not the same church as was established by Jesus Christ while He was on the earth.
I remember sitting there, being touched by the Spirit, and knowing right then and there – I was unconverted from the Catholic Church. I left that night and never went back. I was 19.

Thus began my quest for the real true church.
Thus was my dilemma.
If the true church is founded by Jesus Christ, and it wasn’t the Catholic Church anymore, and all the other Christian churches came from the Catholic Church, then there could be no true church on the earth. It had to be founded by Jesus Christ – not Luther, not Calvin, not Wesley, not Knox, not Russell, etc.
It was my dark period.
However, I decided to investigate other churches and, at least, glean what I could from them and incorporate the good that I found from other churches into my life.
I investigated Judaism (although I tried not to, I found out I believed too much that Jesus Christ was the Son of God), Buddhism (I became a vegetarian and pondered on the idea of reincarnation), astrology, Tarot cards, parapsychology, and I even decided to do some more reading about the Catholic Church, just to be sure about my decision to leave it (I was sure).
Ironically, while living in Boulder, I met my first Mormons. I remember how happy they were and how well-adjusted they seemed. They loved their families, while I had fled to Colorado to escape mine.
When I got married, I told my husband that I didn’t want to have children until I found a church I was happy with and could raise our children in. He said, “Fine. Find a church and we’ll join it.”
I said, “I remember when I was in Boulder I met Mormons and they were really happy and they loved their parents. I want our kids to love us like that.” (Seeds were planted in Colorado.)
We lived in Telford, Pennsylvania. I figured I could maybe write to the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City and they could send me a brochure or something. Surely there was no Mormon Church in Small-town, Pennsylvania.
Well, I procrastinated and never did write to the church.
Two weeks went by after that conversation when two young men in suits, white shirts and ties knocked on my door. They introduced themselves by saying, “We are missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Living in Boulder, I knew what the real name for the Mormon Church was. I asked, “Who sent you? Did my husband write to you?”
They looked at each other and shrugged, “No, we’re just knocking on doors to see if anyone is interested in learning about the true gospel of Jesus Christ.”


It turned out there was a Telford branch that met two blocks away from our house!
Once I started studying with the Elders, I was told that if someone has the desire to know about the true gospel of Jesus Christ, it cannot be kept from them. I have since met others whose doors were knocked on after praying about wanting to know which church to join. I didn’t even pray! I just happened to say, off the cuff....
When we finally set a date to study, I remember shaking their hands and saying, “I’m not interested in joining your church. I’m just studying about churches – as a hobby.” (They just looked at each other and probably laughed all the way to the font!) I had no idea that a “true church” could exist.
The Elders taught me about a “restored” church. I had never thought about that!!!! I was so happy to know that Jesus Christ loved us all so much that he restored His church to the earth through a new prophet, Joseph Smith. I eagerly waited for every lesson. I even asked the Elders if they could come every day!! They said ‘no’ but gave me homework every week which I treated like a college course. I read, took notes, etc.
My question to them, “Why do Mormons [Catholics] have so many kids?” was directed to Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. It was the Pearl of Great Price that converted me. (I didn’t read the Book of Mormon until a year or so after my baptism.)
Every week I would read and write down questions in a notebook and the Elders would diligently answer my questions – every one! – and showed me in the scriptures where the answers could be found. I never once heard, "Have faith."
At the first lesson they showed a film strip of a man who died and was greeted in heaven by all his friends and family that went before him in death to a spirit world. I had just read the book “Life After Life” and I saw the similarities of those who had died and come back to life. They told the same story. I asked if that’s what they truly believed and they said ‘yes.’
It felt right to me. It’s like my recollection of spiritual things had been reawakened.
When they finally asked me to be baptized, I said, well, I believe it and all, but why do I have to be baptized? If I say I believe, that should be good enough.
Elder Poulson put his hand on my shoulder and gently said, “Sister Knight, even Jesus was baptized.”

I have to digress somewhat in my story to add a little bit about what was going on in my life at that time.
I was a singer in a band. Ken and I had talked about having a family, but I told him I didn’t want to be a pregnant singer in a rock and roll band. That, and not having a religion....
I started studying with the Elders in January 1981. In February, my band unexpectedly decided to break up.
It was as if Heavenly Father was looking down on me and saying, “Oh, you want to have a family? Hmmm...the band is in the way? Hmmmm...You need a religion?”

By March 1981 I was ready for the water.
Ken wasn’t.
He hadn’t even studied with the missionaries. They were over every week for dinner but Ken never asked to study the lessons. I reminded him he told me to find a religion to join and I did.
I told him I wanted to be baptized.
FORTUNATELY, the Pennsylvania Philadelphia Mission President would not allow one spouse to be baptized without the other spouse. I can see the wisdom in that approach. I know now that if I was baptized without Ken, I would have been inactive in no time at all.
Luckily, Ken saw how much I wanted to join this church. He decided to study with the next set of Elders who came to our area. Over the course of the summer of 1981, I found him trying out the Word of Wisdom and trying to accept the concept of tithing – his two biggest sources of contention. When his friends got together, drinking and smoking was always part of it. I noticed (but never said anything) that he would tap the root beer keg and not the beer keg at parties. I noticed he stopped smoking. He wasn’t ready to give up coffee, but he was trying to cut down. (He actually had his last cup the day before his baptism – something that probably wouldn’t fly today.)
In the beginning of October 1981 I was growing impatient and Elder Poulson was getting ready to go home in December. In those days, Elders could go back to former areas to baptize their converts. I wanted Elder Poulson to baptize me. In fact, I said I wouldn’t get baptized if Elder Poulson couldn’t do it, that’s how adamant I was about it. (I didn’t realize then what a sorry convert I was....)
One night, before the Elders came over to teach Ken, I told him I was going out and not staying for the lessons. I told him I was going to be baptized. No pressure on him. I understood if he did not believe, but I did and if I didn’t get baptized, I would regret it for the rest of my life.
I think he saw that it was hard for me to see him go through the lessons over and over and getting nowhere. When I came back that night, he had set a date for baptism with the Elders! October 25, 1981.
I will let him tell you about his own conversion, but he told me he saw how much I believed in this church and that it would come between us if he didn’t accept it as well, or at least try to. That showed a lot of wisdom on his part.

Now we had to tell our parents.

My parents were strict Catholics, although my mother was a convert. She accepted my decision to leave the church, but my father could not accept it. I knew it would be hard for him, especially since I knew that Catholics believe if you are not Catholic, you cannot go to heaven. It is a mortal sin to leave the church. That means you are damned to hell. That must have broken my father’s heart.
He sat out in the foyer during the baptism. At least he came to the church. One of our members, Ken Sherwood, dear old Ken, sat out in the foyer with him. He was a tad older than my father and my dad always got along with and respected the elderly. I was grateful to Ken for sitting in the foyer with my dad to talk to him and keep him company and not judge.
I knew my father would see the ‘fruits’ of our conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I believe he did and we were able to do his temple work some years later after his death. I even had a spiritual confirmation that he accepted the work done for him. It was a happy day for me to know that my father was smiling down on me from heaven.
Ken’s parents, though they weren’t particularly thrilled with our decision, were glad we both joined the same church. His mother said it wasn’t good for spouses/parents to belong to different churches. I heartily agree. Even though his father never accepted the teachings of our church, but agreed to disagree, his sister was baptized in 1991 on my birthday, and his mother was baptized in 1999, the same day as Tim when he was 8 years old. What a great day for our family that was!
At our baptism at the Jarrettown meetinghouse, we were told from the start that there was no hot water. It was the end of October. I really hated cold water!
When I entered the waters of baptism, I realized everyone must have been teasing me. The water was like warm bath water. It was so warm that I was flushed!
Another couple was baptized at the same time and that sister and I were changing in the dressing room. She was shivering so hard I thought her teeth would chatter right out of her head. She said she couldn’t believe how cold the water was. My face was still flushed and I said, “The water was warm!” She looked at me like I was crazy.
I realized later I was totally enveloped by the Holy Spirit. I felt the warmth of the Spirit and it melted me and gave me comfort and peace. I felt SO good! I felt like love had poured over me like warm syrup on pancakes.
Our journey in the true church of Jesus Christ had begun.

I am so grateful to our Savior, Jesus Christ, for restoring His true church to the earth. What a concept! I was able to join the same church that was set up on the earth by the Savior. Can you imagine how happy I was to know that the church was restored?!
I testify that Joseph Smith is the prophet of the restoration and I am so grateful that he questioned, like I did, about a true church, then had the COURAGE to help the Lord establish it in these times. I am ever grateful for all his sacrifices and the sacrifices of the early saints who helped bring the church to fruition in modern times.
I testify that the Book of Mormon was given through revelation to Joseph Smith. I have read it many times and have received my testimony in my heart and in the very depths of my soul. I was thankful that our modern-day prophet, the late Gordon B. Hinckley, challenged us to read it again in 2005. I know he was and is a true prophet of God. I love him so much. I now know our current prophet, Thomas S. Monson, is a true prophet. I have a testimony of that, too.
I also know that my Heavenly Father loves me. I have had so many spiritual experiences that testify to me of His love for me... and I love Him. And I say these things in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

I challenge all to read the Book of Mormon, study with the missionaries, and be converted by the Spirit.

1 Nephi 1: 1, 3

...therefore I make a record of my proceedings in my days.
And I know that the record which I make is true; and I make it with mine own hand; and I make it according to my knowledge.