Monday, November 30, 2015

My Story by Steve Wilson

My story isn’t one of visions or of great miracles. My story is simple and my testimony is simple. If there is one thing that I have learned from the gospel it is that the gospel of Jesus Christ is simple. Well… our part is simple. I have been truly blessed being raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Something that can easily be taken for granted. I feel like I could easily recognize the spirit at a fairly young age. I can clearly remember when my cousins and I sang at Grandma and Grandpa Smith Mission farewell to New York. We sang “Families Can Be Together Forever”. I knew then and still know now that the feelings I felt of happiness, warmth, and understanding was the spirit testifying of the truthfulness of that song and of what my grandparents were about to do. I knew that the tears I shed were not just that of sadness of missing my grandparents but of joy knowing that the Savior had work for them to do. I knew that day I was going to serve a mission. As I got older and watched both sets of Grandparents serve multiple missions and cousins being called to serve, I knew I would someday. I never viewed a mission as something expected of me but rather something I wanted to do and knew the Lord wanted me to. Growing up in Phoenix I was surrounded by good friends, teachers, leaders and parents who supported me in all that I did. I remember the missionaries being in our home often and I looked up to them. When it came closer to me being able to serve I began to prepare myself by teaching with the missionaries, getting up early with the Stake President and studying the scriptures, and preparing my mission paperwork. I’m not saying that I was never nervous about going on a mission. But my nervousness was never that of not knowing how to be a missionary. I was nervous about where I would be called and what weird food I would be forced to eat. I remember being nervous when filling out my mission paperwork and when it asked how willing I was to learn a foreign language. I had taken 4 years of French in High School but wasn’t good at speaking it. When my mission call finally came in the summer of 2003 I was excited. Even more so anxious because it got lost in the mail and they had to resend it to me. I had received papers from the Church office giving me instructions on how to obtain a visa for Canada before receiving my call. Reading my mission call to serve in the Canada Montreal Mission French speaking was sigh of relief. I took French in High school, my Wilson grandparents served in the same mission a few years earlier, and it’s not that far away, how hard could it really be. The MTC proved to be challenge to me, as I wasn’t learning the language as quickly as those around me. I had a companion who was learning a third language and was accusing me of not having enough faith and called me unto repentance. Another Elder in my district helped me to keep sane and I prayed that the language would come to me. When I got to the mission field the language continued to be a struggle for as I bounced back and forth from English speaking areas to French speaking areas. I didn’t let these difficulties hinder me from the work or shake my testimony. I recognized the Lords hand in many discussions I had with investigators. There were many instances where I was scared going into a discussion not knowing what to say and the Spirit would guide me. Many times I wouldn’t even know what I had just said but would notice tears rolling down the cheeks of those I taught. I wouldn’t say that I found my testimony on my mission but my mission did strengthen my testimony for the world I was about to return home to. I moved to Utah shortly after returning home and attended Weber State. Moving to Utah allowed for me to be around friends from my mission and to meet my wife. Those two things have been a great strength for me through out the years. Marrying a woman who has also served a mission has been a great blessing to my three children and me. I am surrounded by great examples of faith and endurance. I hope to endure to the end with steadfastness in Christ my savior. This is my testimony plain and simple. Christ is our savior and he lives. I know we have prophets and apostles that guide his church today. I know we have a loving Father in Heaven. Amen.

My Story by Christine Smith

My testimony has grown little by little over the course of my entire life.  I have had small experiences that have solidified my testimony in the Savior.  One experience in particular, however sticks out in my memory, and I will never forget the impact it had in my life.  I was a freshman in high school, and the Bishop asked everyone in the ward to read from the scriptures for thirty minutes every day for three months.  Thankfully, I really took this challenge to heart, and made it a personal goal of mine.  I even had a little calendar that I would mark off every day that I read.  I was faithful in reading every single day except one during those three months - the day I got my wisdom teeth pulled, and although I’m pretty sure Heavenly Father understood the pain I was in that day and gave me a pass on that one, I was disappointed I didn’t complete the challenge %100. But during those 90 days of studying my scriptures, I finished reading the Book of Mormon by myself for the first time.  I remember kneeling in prayer and taking Moroni’s challenge at the end: 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.  That was the first time I had sincerely asked about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.  I received my answer – my personal witness of its power.  After I got my positive confirmation, my testimony of everything else in the gospel was solidified as well.  If the Book of Mormon was true, that meant Joseph Smith was a true Prophet of God, which meant we have a modern day prophet, and that all the teachings that come from him and the Apostles were true, which included the power and blessing of the temple, the priesthood, and all the covenants we make in the gospel – everything was true.
            Another experience came much later, just a few months after Harrison and I were married.  We were living in Utah and he had the opportunity to go to Airborne School in Georgia for three weeks.  Being newlyweds, and having hardly been apart, three weeks seemed like an eternity – I could barely talk about it without bursting into tears! But he left, and I stayed in Utah to work.  One weekend while he was gone, I drove up to Rexburg, ID to visit my sister and I took the opportunity to attend the newly built Rexburg temple.  I had only received my endowments a few months prior and had only been to the temple a handful of times, so I was always so nervous when I went.  But this time was different.  I remember sitting in the session and I had an overwhelming feeling of God’s love for me.  He knew who I was, and even though this trial of being apart from my husband may seem small to some, to me it was really hard.  I needed His comfort more than I realized, and I left the temple that day feeling more like a Daughter of God than ever before.  In the years since then, I have often reflected back on that profound moment when times have been hard.  Through many other Army schools Harrison has attended that took him away from home, during his deployment to Afghanistan, and when he missed the birth of our son, Fisher while he was at Ranger School.  During all those hard times, and many other times as well, I have turned to my Heavenly Father for the confirmation of His love and awareness of me, and I have only ever felt peace and comfort.
I know the gospel of Jesus Christ is true.  It has shaped me into the person I am today, and has set the goals for the woman I hope to become.  My greatest hope in life is that my children will come to know of the truthfulness as well, and that their faith will help them endure all things.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

My Testimony by Amber Smith McBride

I am so grateful to say that I started out my life knowing the mysteries that some people spend their whole lives trying to uncover.  I knew who I was, why I was here and where I was going.  I feel blessed because I never doubted the truthfulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ on this earth.  I attribute so very much of these blessings to my parents, Scott and Gayla Smith.  They provided a home that was filled with the  Spirit and teachings of the Gospel.  I also would not be who I am without 2 sets of Grandparents who followed the Savior with an unwavering faith, Emmett & Jackie Smith and Claire & Loa Gardner.  From a very young age I watched the Grandparents that I love go through trials and loss, without ever turning their back on the church and the Lord.  My parents and Grandparents were the 6 adults who meant more to me than anything or anyone else in the whole world, and I knew without a doubt that they would never lead me astray.

As I grew I started to have my own experiences that made me know for myself that the church was true.  Strong, strong feelings of the Spirit confirmed my testimony again and again at church, girls camp, youth conferences and firesides.  I felt the Spirit as I prayed and started to read my scriptures consistently and privately as a teenager.  I can never deny the Spirit testifying to me of Gospel truths. This testimony guided me to attend BYU, marry my sweet companion in the temple, and commit my life to serving the Lord.  How grateful I am for each of these experiences that builded on to what my parents and grandparents had already instilled in me.  

Although my life has been wonderful, it has not been without trials. At the age of 28 I became ill.  My symptoms started out minor, and were a mere nuisance.  I prayed for them to go away on their own.  As my symptoms progressed I started to see different doctors, praying for a cure or answer.  Doctor after doctor led to no answers.  I had very little peace in spite of my prayers.  Finally, after my symptoms had spiraled out of control I received the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.  This news was devastating to me.  I didn't know how I would ever feel true joy again, and pictured my life full of sickness, disability and sorrow.  My constant prayers brought momentary relief but did little to combat the grief that I was feeling.  Immediately following my diagnosis however, I started to notice little blessings, tender mercies...and I quickly realized that these small blessings were the Lords way of reassuring me that He is with me, that I am not alone.  I was read my MRI results from a good man who had been my teenage Bishop and a longtime family friend.  After years of being on terrible health insurance, Randy had gotten a new job with wonderful insurance that had started a month before my symptoms payed for my very costly treatments.  Randy's sister had married a man the month my symptoms began who had MS himself and was able to talk to me about what I was experiencing. I lived near family who could help me drive when I couldn't see well enough to drive myself.  At the very worst of my illness we had gone on a previously planned family trip.  There I was able to see my Grandma and Grandpa Smith...oh how I needed their comfort and hugs.  That was the last time I would see my wonderful Grandpa in this life.  I will never forget how he told me that I would be ok and to never give up.  Somehow, in spite of his illness, the Lord helped him find the words to help me. I met person after person within about a 2 week span who had a loved one with MS...and all of their stories were positive, rather than negative.  I clung to that positivity!  Little by little these tender mercies of the Lord brought me into the light.  This experience taught me in such a real way that the Lord knows me.  He knows us and He loves us.  He won't take away all of our trials, but He will never, ever leave us alone.  I know this.  

I hope as I live my life and try to follow the Savior that I will be able to teach my children and grandchildren the way I was taught.  How grateful am I for the blessings of a strong extended family and the sealing ties that bind us.  

-Amber Smith McBride

Saturday, November 28, 2015

My Testimony - A Journey by RRS

I cannot remember when I didn’t know about the wonders of God and His Son, Jesus Christ.   I recall from my earliest years, talking about Christ and learning about him through my parents.  Through watching how my parents treated others and listening to their discussions about the wonders of life (always positive), the Smith children always had the blessed opportunity to have a Christ centered home and understand the divine blessings we enjoyed.  Discussions about God and the Savior were common place and unabashed.  As we matured, these discussions seasoned and developed our sense of our wonderful lives.  Our friends were attracted to these discussions as they did not enjoy the same level of spiritual openness within their homes.
I was taught that you are in or out when it came to living the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Nothing was “Luke warm” in anything we undertook, specially living good and wholesome lives.  I was taught that living Gospel principles “life”, should be undertaken with gusto and energy and I have taken these great ethics into my life and hopefully passed them on to my own children.   I was taught to embrace these wholesome and “love of God” lifestyle from an early age – and I am so grateful for that.
Mom and dad were always serving others in the community and the ward.  Serving became very personal and I feel their examples taught us all to serve with all our heart, might mind and strength, divine principles taught by the Savior.  My life was filled with support for others and it became part of my life like others might have more self-centered passions.  Saturdays were filled with service at home and away.  Helping others, as the Savior did, became a norm.  What a blessing to enjoy these lessons from goodly parents.
As I grew and moved away to college from the comforts of a Christ-centered home,   these lasting life lessons strengthened and sustained me.  The balance within my life included serving God by following the examples learned at home. 
While I always felt the love of God through service and keeping the commandments, there was one life altering night in my life that solidified my testimony of the Savior.  While in the Mission Training Center (MTC) I embraced the words of Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone as he discussed the Atonement and how it changes lives.  My life changed that night.  I knew for a certainty I had much to improve in my life to enjoy the power of the atonement. 
My marriage to a faithful and loving wife strengthened me and together we passed our love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them.  Wherever we moved as a family, service within the congregations and to others was paramount. 

I thank my Father in Heaven for the knowledge of His existence and for the divinity of his Son.  I know the examples of my parents were the base of this awareness.  How can I ever repay them for following the principles of the Savior and passing them on to me and my brothers and sister?  I know that the challenges of the world will continue to test my faith but I know that through continued faith, study and service will sustain me.  

My Conversion by Jacqueline Smith

My conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ has been quite an adventure. I came to Arizona from Indiana when I was 14 years old. I had never heard of a Mormon. My mom, 2 brothers, and I came to Tempe in December, and after the Christmas holidays we were enrolled in grade school. I was in the 8th grade. During recess a boy named Gary Echlor asked if he could buy me a soda. He asked me if I was a “Mormon”. I said “I don’t think so.” That was the first time I heard the word Mormon. So the adventure begins. After 8th grade my mom bought us a new home in Glendale and I had to ride a big yellow school bus to high school. I would sit behind several girls who would talk about mutual (young women), what they were going to do, and all kinds of fun things. I envied them for the friendship they had with each other. I did not know they were “Mormons”. My sophomore year I joined the choir not knowing the choir director, Art Gardner, was a “Mormon”. He had quite an influence on me. One of the choir members was Loa Lamb a “Mormon” who had a beautiful singing voice and was also beautiful. She was everyone’s idol. My junior year I took journalism and worked on the school newspaper. The photography teacher was Mr. Stapley a “Mormon”. He would talk to me about the church. I loved what I was hearing. I still didn’t really know what a “Mormon” was. My junior year was going to be the year I met my sweetheart. He was a “Mormon” but I wouldn’t know he was till we started dating when I was in my senior year. I was so excited to learn more about the Gospel. During this journey I feel that meeting all these other “Mormons” along the way [helped me prepare until] I was ready. Grandpa and I were married in Sept. after my senior year and we moved to Tucson so Grandpa could continue his schooling at the University of Arizona. We went to church at a student ward. They did not know I wasn’t a member of the church. Grandpa asked the bishop to send the missionaries. I was ready to be baptized and was baptized in a member’s swimming pool. By this time Rob was 2 and Scott was 3 months old. So thankful for the Lord’s hand on my journey. Because of Him I have been blessed with amazing people in my life. I am thankful for Grandpa, who taught me to love the Gospel. My children are so special to me and I love them with all my heart. My grandchildren make my life worth living. My great grandchildren are the icing on the cake. I love my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. So thankful for the sacrifice He has made for me.
        - Jacqueline Smith

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My Story by Kalee Rae

I owe much of the person I am today to my beautiful parents.  At a very young age, they instilled in me a love for Jesus Christ and this gospel, which only grew the older I got.  I remember during my middle school and high school years that night time was my "spiritual time".  I always made sure I listened to church music before I went to sleep or that I read my scriptures. I would hide my scripture reading calendar under my bed and I always locked my door because I didn't want anyone to know. I didn’t want to be caught reading my scriptures or praying. I don't know why I was so embarrassed and why I hid my true feelings about the gospel.  I didn't want my parents or family to know that the gospel meant everything to me.  To this day, I still don't understand why I was like that.  Though sometimes I still struggle to openly talk about my feelings and my testimony about this church, I have no problem typing it and letting you all know the whole story of my deliverance...

It was the summer of 2005 and I had just finished my junior year of high school in Brandon, Florida.  We then moved right before my senior year to Fort Campbell, Kentucky and I was completely devastated. I felt like I had so much going for me back in Florida.  I was a part of a competitive baton twirling team and singing group, there was a certain boy I did not want to leave, and my church ward was amazing. There were so many youth who all became my very best friends.  I was heartbroken to leave all that behind.  Fort Campbell had no baton twirling and the high school choir just stunk.  I remember going to my very first Wednesday night mutual feeling excited that maybe I will make some friends, but I was the only one who showed up.  I decided to join the soccer team but I still felt lonely.  I remember during one of the games, while I was running around and chasing the ball that I started to get teary eyed because I still felt so alone.  One night after that I had had enough. As usual I locked my door, and I got down on my knees and told my Heavenly Father everything.  My pain was immense.  The second I was done, all the pain went away.  And it never came back.  It was a miracle.  I ended up becoming best friends with the homecoming queen, and we had a wonderful senior year! I became great friends with some of the youth in the stake, and it seemed like life was coming back together for me. That prayer.  That simple prayer, changed my life.  It reaffirmed to me more than anything that He is real and listening. 

Back to that summer before my senior year...Harrison was months away from going on his mission so I had the privilege of spending lots of time with him and mom and dad.  I was still sad from leaving Florida and I felt like I was very negative at the time.  Harrison was so sweet to me and I could tell he would try to cheer me up. Well spiritually at this time I knew I was struggling yet being able to spend time with Harrison was a God send.  Not only did that prayer save my life that year, but my brother did as well.  I don't think he knows how much of a difference he made in my life that summer and how he made me realize that I needed to change for the better.  Every night before we went to sleep, Harrison and I would stay up late, and we would talk.  Well mostly he would talk and I would listen.  He just talked about life and the gospel and of everything good.  I remember one particular night he said something that hit me hard.  So hard, that I knew I had to change.  I knew I had to change that very second.  Though I can't recall what he told me, all I know is that it was life changing for me.  From then on, I decided I didn't want to go to college in Florida anymore to be closer to "that boy" but that BYU-Idaho was the place for me.  Since then the gospel got more real for me and the tiny seed in my heart was growing.  I think back on those days with a smile on my face.  Sometimes I wonder where I would be today if I didn't have those spiritually uplifting talks with my brother.  That prayer.  Those talks.  My brother.  All life changing.  Looking back that move was one of the greatest blessings of my life.  

         I look back at that summer thinking that the pain I felt then is nothing compared to the pain I have felt since.  I have felt such sorrow and such heartbreak.  I have felt so low and so insignificant.  I have cried more tears of sadness than I would have liked.  Yet as hard as it has been, I am grateful for the struggles I have had.  These struggles that have given me a fraction of a glimpse of what the Savior went through.  These struggles that have not only made me feel closer to Him but have also wanted me to make sure that I make each second of my life count.  Each second of pain Christ went through for me, I want to make sure I make it up to Him by simply being the person He would want me to be. 

Last father’s day I decided to read grandpas writing called 10 Seconds until Dawn.  It was 2.5 hours of my life that I will never forget.  I laughed (especially about his disgust with squash, he really did hate it) and cried.  I had no idea that he went through so much pain.  As long as I knew him and of all the days I had spent with him, I had no clue all that he had endured.  I learned so much about his life and felt so much gratitude for his words that brought me so much comfort and peace and a longing to be with him again.  One sentence caught my attention and will stay with me forever. 

“That’s part of enduring, continuing good things in our lives.  Repentance-enduring- means keeping on in the work of the Lord, keeping on in the work of the Lord right to the end.” 

I am so grateful that because of Him, I know without a doubt how to live each second of my life.  I know who I am.  I know where I am going and I know what I need to do to get back to my heavenly home.  I know that life is going to be hard.  I know that there are times I may want to give up the fight, but I am going to do the best that I can.  I am going to fight and endure and repent and keep on in this great work…right to the very end. 
Kalee Rae