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Conversion at an Emu Ranch

I was born into a family who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Growing up, I had great examples to follow in the church, and I felt at home as I attended church meetings each Sunday. It wasn't until I turned sixteen years old that I began to doubt my faith.

One Summer morning I set out to work at an emu ranch in Blum, TX. Little did I know what impact the story of Joseph Smith's first vision would have on me that day. I reflected on his experience, one as a 14-year old in search of a church to join (see the video). I knew, I too, would have to take the necessary step to pray and ask God for truth.

As I began my duties so began the prayers. I say prayers because the first prayer did not yield the answer I was looking for. In fact, the whole of that morning was filled with prayer after prayer with unyielding results. Looking back, the Lord was testing my sincerity.

After lunch I resumed work, weed-eating along the fences, which separated the emus. I could remember the church members proclaiming their testimonies before the congregation. How they "know" the restored church is true, and "know" that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, and, among other things, "know" the Book of Mormon to be the word of God along with the Bible. I was determined to know whether the church and its teachings were true, so I continued praying.

Nothing happened. And, in desparation, I said to myself - I will pray this last time and if I do not receive an answer I will never know. Again, I prayed with no result.

Looking down along the fence line where I was weed-eating I only felt the emptiness of not knowing. Faintly, I felt a prompting to look up from the ground towards the horizon. I peered up and in an instant felt what I can only describe as or compare to a waterfall. It was more spiritual.

I felt that the opportunity was given to me to bring up any doubt before the Lord. As my mind would present a doubt, that doubt would wash away with a sure knowledge of its truth. So, as I questioned Joseph Smith and his first vision I felt those doubts replaced with an affirmation of these truths. In my minds eye I could see Joseph kneeling in the grove of trees surrounded by the light of God, our Heavenly Father, and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, standing in the air before him.

So, too, doubts were overcome with the reality of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as God's Kingdom, restored to the earth through the prophet Joseph Smith. I sensed the glory of Christ's church, again upon the earth, as was previously organized by Him with the foundation of apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20).

The truth of the Book of Mormon was solidified as another testament of Jesus Christ (Ezekiel 37:15-20). I felt a connection to the Book of Mormon prophets who sacrificed their lives to engrave their witness of Christ upon metal plates.

Returning home that work day I exclaimed to my mother the joy I then felt. I cannot retell this experience without feeling a sense of rediscovery of a sure testimony borne that day. Any doubt had up to this day has melted in the memory of this turning point in my life.

I join with the echoes of witnesses throughout time, in saying that I know these things are true. I know Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of Mankind. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. That he restored the church of Jesus Christ in these latter days, following a period of apostasy. That the Book of Mormon is with the Bible the word of God. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Family: A Proclamation to the World

A Personal Perspective (in cyan):

Anything other than marriage between a man and a woman is false doctrine…
“We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”

Anything other than gender-specific identity is false doctrine…
“All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny. Gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.

In the premortal realm, spirit sons and daughters knew and worshipped God as their Eternal Father and accepted His plan by which His children could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny as heirs of eternal life.”

Only marriage covenants performed in the temple and faithfully honored will be recognized beyond the grave…
“The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Sacred ordinances and covenants available in holy temples make it possible for individuals to return to the presence of God and for families to be united eternally.”

Anything other than a father and a mother in the rearing of children in righteousness and in the perpetuation of life is false doctrine…

“The first commandment that God gave to Adam and Eve pertained to their potential for parenthood as husband and wife. We declare that God’s commandment for His children to multiply and replenish the earth remains in force. We further declare that God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife.

We declare the means by which mortal life is created to be divinely appointed. We affirm the sanctity of life and of its importance in God’s eternal plan. Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children. “Children are an heritage of the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another, observe the commandments of God, and be law-abiding citizens wherever they live. Husbands and wives—mothers and fathers—will be held accountable before God for the discharge of these obligations.

The family is ordained of God. Marriage between man and woman is essential to His eternal plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities. By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children. In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners. Disability, death, or other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation. Extended families should lend support when needed.”

Anyone violating the sacred trust of God in abusing spouse and offspring will stand accountable before Him…
“We warn that individuals who violate covenants of chastity, who abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.”

A warning…

“Further, we warn that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.”

Pass it on…

“We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society.”

This proclamation was read by President Gordon B. Hinckley as part of his message at the General Relief Society Meeting held September 23, 1995, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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