A lot of people knew me before I joined the LDS Church and ask why I made such a dramatic change and became a Mormon. To me this is a deeply spiritual and private experience but I truly feel that I need to share it. This is the first time I have written it down, so I will be recalling far more detail than when I share my experience verbally. Miracles really do happen and God is real, I know that with absolute certainty. For you to truly understand this I need to take you to a few key moments of my life.
I went to a catholic school and as part of a school lesson we would occasionally go to church. When I was in infant three, five or six years old, we had such an occasion. The priest was preparing the sacrament and as he placed a piece of fabric over the chalice he asked us if we knew why it was covered when the bread and wine were blessed. We were only young kids so I don't know if he expected an answer … he didn't get one.
After a pause the priest pointed at the chalice and said "The Holy Spirit is supposed to appear under there … I don't think it does really but a lot of people do." I was horrified maybe because I respected him so much. This was an actual priest casually telling a group of us that he didn't really believe in what he was doing. At that point I started to question whether the church was true. I had no concept of different religions but always felt that God was real.
Some time after that I was telling a friend about what the priest had said and he mentioned that one of our teachers was from a different church. I later found out that she was protestant.
When I was in junior one, seven or eight years old, our headmaster (principal) took us for a class about religion. He talked about how Jesus taught that we should be "Perfect even as He is perfect." He said that it was impossible to be perfect and that we can only be good and as long as we are trying to be perfect we are doing what he wants.
When he talked about this I suddenly felt warm right through my body and I just knew that what he was saying was completely true. Any doubts about what God wanted me to do were gone because I had found out how God lets us know when something is right. From that point on I paid a lot more attention in religion classes and asked the teachers a lot of questions.
In this year we had a muslim girl in our class called Samaa Ahmed from Cairo, Egypt. I remember talking to her about Jesus and she told me that in her religion they didn't believe that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ were the same person. This made sense to me and that feeling came telling me what she was saying was right. It made me realize that the version of the trinity that I had been raised with was not correct.
I never accepted the concept that all churches are true because they can't be … truth is truth. If the Catholic church teaches that Jesus was the Son of God and Islam teaches that He wasn't then both cannot be correct. Realizing this really kickstarted me thinking about religions and wondering which one was true.
When I was eight years old, 13 February 1982, I was flying my kite on a field with my cousin Simon. All of a sudden I felt a peace come over me and I knew that my grandfather had died. I told my cousin "Grandads just died!" My cousin looked at me, horrified, and said "No he's not … if he has died it's your fault!" When we went home my parents told us that our grandfather had died. From that point on I often had feelings about things e.g. don't take that path, the person you are thinking about is at this location, don't trust that person, somebody has died etc.
When I was in junior three, nine to ten years old, there was a school trip to Wardley Hall in Wardley, Greater Manchester where the Roman Catholic Bishop lives. I took the opportunity to spend some time speaking with the Bishop and a nun about some of my questions. We had been taught that The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit are all the same but this didn't make sense to me. I believe that my questions were:
- If they are the same then who does Jesus pray to?
- If they are the same then when Jesus was baptized why did The Holy Spirit appear as a dove and The Father speak saying that Jesus was His son?
- If they are the same then when Jesus is on the cross why did He ask why the Father had abandoned Him.
They both seemed troubled and said that they didn't know but that "God works in mysterious ways." I walked away surprised that they had both told me that they couldn't answer the question. They had both devoted their lives to God but couldn't answer such a simple question. This left me feeling like the Catholic church just didn't have the truth. I had no idea how to research different religions so for the next few years I just tried to do what I knew to be right.
When I was about fifteen years old I was surrounded by friends that were regularly drinking alcohol and taking drugs. When I was offered some I had to make a decision. If I did not join them in taking drugs I knew that I wouldn't be able to associate with them. This would also mean that I couldn't help them stop taking drugs. I decided that I would join them in the hope that I could help them.
My role in our group was to prevent them from crossing certain lines. We did not to rob anywhere or harm anybody. Old people were to be respected etc. Eventually drink and drugs started taking control of me … I tried to quit but I just couldn't.
My girlfriend was then tragically killed in a car crash and a couple of weeks later a friend of mine, Paul Hollowood, died from sniffing butane gas. I felt especially guilty about Paul. On Friday 11 August 1989 we were on the bus home from work and I had one of my feelings that his gas sniffing habit was going to kill him. I tried to stop him getting off the bus and told him that I had a bad feeling and that I wouldn't let him off the bus unless he promised me that he wouldn't sniff gas that weekend. He eventually promised not to sniff any gas after we had passed a couple more stops and he realized I really wasn't going to let him go without a promise.
When I returned to work on Monday I was told that Paul had died from sniffing butane gas during the weekend. This was too much for me … I should have tried harder. I blamed myself and still feel that I could have done more but I felt like I was responsible. My problem with drink and drugs quickly became much worse as I tried to punish myself and to be honest, I think I wanted them to kill me.
For a few years after that I was totally off the rails, my life was completely out of control. Eventually, I started to get sick. My hair started to fall out in clumps, sometimes I would speak and it came out scrambled, sometimes people would say something to me and I would not be able to comprehend the meaning of the sentence, my skin went very white and if I pinched myself it would take a long time to spring back to it's usual shape even though I was drinking plenty of water … I had lots of other symptoms, I even started to hallucinate and hear things.
All these symptoms would come and go but on one of my more lucid days I scribbled my symptoms down on a piece of paper. I went to the doctor and told her about my symptoms. She didn't seem to take my symptoms seriously so I emphasized that I was worried and asked if I had a brain tumour. She said that the symptoms fit and that if I was worried about that I should call an ambulance and go straight to hospital. With hindsight I suspect she thought I was just trying to get drugs from her and I suppose I don't blame her but her attitude was very unprofessional.
I walked out of the doctors office and walked home as quickly as I could. I locked the door and cried. If there is a problem with your heart or lungs at least you can have a transplant but a problem with your brain is not so easily fixed. I knelt on the floor and cried to God to let me know what I had done wrong and why He was punishing me.
After praying through the night I came to accept that I was going to die. My logical mind kicked in and I decided that if I was going to meet God I wanted to have at least read the Bible all the way through, after all, he did write it. I would feel really ashamed to tell Him that I didn't think it was important enough to read. I resolved to read as much of the Bible as possible before I died.
I read almost non-stop stopping only to eat tiny amounts of food or to drink water. I wasn't sleeping because if I died whilst I was asleep I would not have kept my commitment to read as much as I possibly could. Eventually I reached Isaiah 8:6-8 which reads:
Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah1 that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah's son;
Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks:
And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.
I didn't understand the historical context of the scripture but I did understand that sometimes God does want to bless people and they often refuse to allow Him to do so. If only people will allow Him to bless them they will be filled with His glory. His blessings will continue to come with great power until their "cup runneth over." It was time for me to stop punishing myself and allow Him to bless me.
I knelt on the floor and offered a simple prayer that changed my life:
Father, please make me whole. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
It is difficult to describe what happened. The room was filled with a beautiful gentle golden light. This light was like fire but it didn't burn anything, it wasn't like flames, more like the light itself was a substance like flame, something physical and beautiful. I was filled with an undescribeable peace and love. Pure intelligence seemed to flow into my mind, I suppose like a dam had burst. I felt a mental clarity that I had never felt before. For the first time in my life I could truly see everything clearly. I knew with a certainty that God had healed me.
I felt such joy and happiness that I felt I couldn't contain it. This was a truly humbling experience. Whilst still kneeling I asked "Why me?" So many others in the world were sick and had surely asked Him so why did he choose to heal me? When I asked this question I saw things in my mind. I saw myself and wondered what I was to God. I saw the vastness of creation realizing that all of us together, this earth and all of the stars that we can see in the sky are a tiny part of an infinite universe. We are less than the dust of the earth.
This realization made me feel even more humbled than I already did. Why me? In my mind I saw a bird in the sky. I felt the love that God has for even the tiniest of creatures. He has a perfect, complete love for all of creation. He cares extremely deeply for all of us and we receive guidance far more often than we would imagine. He would help everybody but the truth is that it is not part of the plan we all agreed to. Sometimes our time is up and our days are numbered. This just wasn't my time.
Lots of things were coming into my mind, it wasn't like I was thinking, it was more like pure thought was flowing into my head. I knew that I had felt prompted to pray sincerely to God and that I had been healed and filled with love as a result. I felt like He wanted me to walk so, without questioning anything, I left the house. I didn't know where I was going but at each junction or landmark that I reached I just knew which way He wanted me to go. It was almost like he was holding my hand and taking me where I needed to go.
After roughly five hours of walking I reached Rivington Pike. The Pike is the most westerly high point of Winter Hill in the West Pennine Moors. I had no idea why I had been led to the summit of that particular hill but I started to see my life from a new perspective. All the times I had been selfish and hurt people started to fill my mind. The times I could have helped people and chose not to do so. It was as if I could remember everything I had ever done wrong with perfect clarity. It was an immensely terrible and dark experience, I couldn't speak, it was like the life was being sucked out of me. It was all that I could do to breathe, I cannot completely express how terrible I felt and I felt certain that my body would not be able to take any more. I threw myself on the ground and prayed.
I begged for forgiveness, how could I ever have been so selfish as to hurt the people around me. I don't know for how many hours I cried but after some time I was again surrounded by the beautiful golden light. I felt the crushing burden of my sins lifted from me and was again filled with love and peace. I realized that having my sins forgiven was a far greater miracle than healing my body. Again I felt very humbled and unworthy so I prayed again.
Why have you done this for me ... am I a profit?
I suppose that this was a funny question and when I think back to that moment it makes me smile. I had already had two very powerful spiritual experiences just hours from one another. In response to my question a thought came into my mind telling me that there was a prophet somewhere on the earth but it was not me. I felt overwhelmed and asked one more question.
Lord, what would you have me do?
Things started to come into my mind again. I remembered that we lived before we came to this earth and some events from before we came; that we come here to gain bodies and do good for those around us; that after we die we will stand before God and be brought to a perfect knowledge of our guilt; that after this we will receive a reward and live in a kingdom according to how we have lived our lives; the things we all know also became clear.
We all know inside that drinking and smoking is wrong, we are born with knowledge of these things but we often forget or deny it. I knew that there was a true prophet somewhere on the earth and that through inspiration from Jesus Christ he lead His church. In short, I learned about the gospel but not from books but from God by the power of the Holy Ghost.
As I walked home from that hill everything had changed. I felt so full of joy and happiness I was sure I must have been glowing. The desire for alcohol, tobacco and drugs etc. had completely left me. I carried that joy for a good couple of years but without the support of others and without having changed my circle of friends I gradually started to fall back into my old patterns. I am ashamed to admit that even after everything I had been through, Satan was still able to tempt me.
I did not stop looking for the church because I knew that is what God wanted me to continue searching for the truth. I have looked into lots of religions from around the world, Christian, Bhuddist, Hindu, Muslim, Hari Kristna and many others. Most religions appear to focus on a single aspect of the truth. They are generally good people trying their best to better themselves using the truths that they know.
Eventually the LDS missionaries were teaching a friend of mine. I had never taken the Mormons seriously because I had been raised thinking that it was some kind of cult so I was never interested in them. Eventually, however, I stopped them on the street because I wanted to tell them about my experience. I was very proud that I knew the truth and wanted to show them how wrong they were. When I told them that I wanted to see them to talk about what I knew they became very excited and made an appointment for later that day2.
Later that day the missionaries knocked on my door. We sat and they were trying to teach me but I only wanted to share my experience so that they would know that they were wrong. I told them that we lived before we were born and they smiled and shared scriptures about it from the Bible and the Book of Mormon. I presented them with one truth after another and they agreed with each one and were even able to show me scriptures about people that had similar experiences. I was very surprised that they knew the Bible so well because I had not previously known that they accept the Bible as scripture.
They told me that their Church did have a prophet and that it was Christ's Church restored to the earth by the prophet Joseph Smith. They said that when Joseph was just fourteen years old he went into a grove of trees and prayed asking which church was true. He described being filled with darkness, then light descended upon him and God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him. It was through this and other experiences that Christ's Church was restored to the earth.
For me Joseph Smith's experience was very important because I had experienced the darkness that he spake about and experience the light that descended upon him. In fact, in some of Joseph's accounts of this vision he calls the light "fire light" and says the he "was surprised that it didn't burn the trees." The fact that I had experienced both the darkness and the light that he spoke about left me in no doubt that his vision was a real experience from God.
When I told them about the time I was made aware of my sins and filled with guilt they shared an experience from Alma 36:12-20:
I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins.
Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments.
Yea, and I had murdered many of his children, or rather led them away unto destruction; yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror.
Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds.
And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul.
And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world.
Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.
And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.
And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!
Of course I had not murdered anybody and my experience did not last three nights but it is certainly the same experience that I had. This was a prophet in the book of Mormon that had a very similar experience to my own and he had recorded his experience in the Book of Mormon!
The room was filled with peace and that familiar feeling that let me know when something was true and that God wanted me to know about it was present. The missionaries asked how I felt about the things that we had discussed and told me that the feeling that I had learned to know and love and had guided me to so much truth in my life was called "The Holy Ghost" and that He was here to testify of truth.
When they said this I realized that God had actually been guiding me in my life and that my experiences were given me in order to lead me to the truth. This was not what I had expected from two nineteen(ish) year old missionaries. I had been very proud and completely not realized that they would be able to teach me anything but they truly had. I had spoken with lots of Sadus, Rabis, Imams, Priests, Nuns and other respected religious folk but none of them could answer any of my questions with such certain truth. This was another truly humbling experience.
The visit was going very well and the Spirit in the room was very strong. The missionaries asked "Will you read the Book of Mormon?" I looked at them holding the book and replied "No!" The missionaries looked at me dumbfounded. I said "I will go to Winter Hill, which is where I go to pray, and I will ask God if it is true. If He tells me it is true then I will read it but there is no point me reading it if it isn't true." The missionaries then asked "When God tells you that the Book of Mormon is true will you get baptized?" I replied "Sure, if it is true then of course I will." The missionaries then shared Moroni 10:3-5.
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
And when ye shall receive these things, 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.
Okay, I didn't read the book first but I knew that if I prayed sincerely about the book then God would let me know whether or not it was true. I walked to my hill, knelt and began to pray. When I asked whether the Book of Mormon was true I was again surrounded by that beautiful golden light and filled with intense joy almost to the point where I felt like my body would not be able to contain it. I sat and cried for some time because I was so happy that I had found the true church and therefore the prophet that I had learned existed some years before.
When the missionaries returned the next day they asked if I had prayed about the Church and I told them about my experience. I was surprised that they were not surprised. They fully expected me to have the experience which I had because they knew that if I prayed and asked God whether the Book of Mormon He would answer me. They told me that their most difficult challenge is getting people to pray sincerely and with real intent about the Book of Mormon. If people do then God will answer them.
They asked if I had prayed to ask if the LDS Church was true and I told them I hadn't because if the Book of Mormon was true then Joseph Smith had to be a prophet and the Church had to be true. Needless to say that I have since prayed about the Church and received a confirmation that it is true.
A short time after the missionaries visit I was baptized and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Baptism was far more than just going under water and coming back out. I felt the burden of my sins lift and could again see the glow of the Spirit around me.
After being baptized I received the Gift of the Holy Ghost. This was the first time that I had experienced the priesthood in action. As the missionaries laid their hands upon my head and told me to receive the Holy Ghost it felt like like hot soup had been poured into my head and that it slowly spread through my body from head to toe. This feeling then gave way to being filled with unexpressible joy.
Many people have come into the Church because the missionaries visited them, they read the Book of Mormon and then prayed to ask whether it is true. I don't know why, but the Lord saw fit to heal me both body and spirit, He answered my prayer and has made me whole again. I find this very humbling and I suppose I will probably never know why during this life, maybe it is simply so that I will write it down and you will read it. Maybe it was so that I could serve as a missionary and bapitze some of His chosen children.
I know that we are Children of a loving Father in Heaven. I know that He is a God of miracles, that he cares about each of us and that miracles still happen in our day. I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that He lives, that He suffered for our sins and that He died for us. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that through him God has restored the same Church that Christ organized when He was on the earth along with the authority to act in God's name.
I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that Jesus Christ is at the head of the church and that He directs it by revelation through His holy prophets. I know that we have a living prophet at the head of the church. This is the only true church on the face of this earth. I know that revelation is real … don't take my word for it, kneel, pray in faith and ask whether the church is true and you will receive an answer by the power of the Holy Ghost.
I don't just believe these things, I know that they are true. I know this because I have prayed about them and received a powerful witness that they are true by the power of the Holy Ghost. The truths that were revealed to me by God through the Holy Ghost have led me to the true Church of Jesus Christ restored to the earth in these, the latter days.
I know that because the church and the priesthood have been restored to the earth families can be sealed for time and all eternity so that they can be together forever.
This is the true church of Jesus Christ restored to the earth in the latter days
I leave you with this in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
- More commonly known as the Pool of Siloam. I now know that the Pool of Siloam has additional special significance: it is mentioned in the John 9:7 as the location to which Jesus sent "a man blind from birth" in order to complete the healing of the man. I can't help feeling that He has done the same for me.
- I later discovered that the missionaries had only been visiting my friend in an attempt to teach me. They "felt" like they were supposed to do so but I was not interested. I was never open to them and they had been visiting him for a while so they had come very close to giving up.