I became a part of the Smith family when a beautiful young lady who was dating my roommate kept inviting me over for dinner. We were able to spend time together and quickly fell in love before I met any of her family. Laurie introduced me to her parents and over the years a great love and respect for them has developed. We supported each other in times of trials, as Dad fought through his battle with colon cancer and Laurie with her battle with brain surgeries. I was even privileged to serve as Dad’s Ward Clerk when he was called to be Bishop of our Ward. But before this time I had to learn for myself the truthfulness of the gospel.
Just as Nephi recorded in the Book of Mormon as having been born of goodly parents, being taught in all the learning of his father, and having a great knowledge of the goodness and the mysteries of God, I was also raised in the church and taught the things of the Lord by my parents and placed on a path of righteous living. Even though my parents are converts my dad’s family has a history in the churches early years, England conversion, Kirtland, Mormon Battalion, Church settlement in Pima, Arizona. I had an easy life with parents who were always there for me, providing me with examples of service and devotion. It’s difficult to remember when I wasn’t being exposed to the teachings of the gospel, either at home with family prayer and Family Home Evenings, or my participation in the many functions in the church, Primary, Blazers, scouting, seminary, and Sunday church services. I never doubted that I was a child of God or that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was his restored church here on earth. But, and this is nobody’s fault but my own, I did not have a testimony. I had grown up on the testimonies of others and just took for granted that it was all true. I had those feelings everyone talks about and even had some of my prayers answered, but before I served my mission I had not received a true manifestation to the truthfulness of the gospel. I hadn’t even read the Book of Mormon from beginning to end until my Senior year of High School and I only did it then because I was required to in order to graduate from Seminary. By the time I returned home from my mission to the Florida Ft. Lauderdale Mission where I served on the island of Puerto Rico and finishing in Miami, Florida in little Havana, I had read the book, cover to cover 8 or 9 times, once even in Spanish. Each time I read it and studied its contents and teachings I grew closer to the Lord and understanding of his divinity. I testified of these things multiple times to those I tracked out and taught the missionary lessons, learning that I was just a tool of the Lord in introducing them to the truth, but that their acceptance and conversion to the gospel was their own, only obtained after opening their hearts and praying to God. Many would question what we taught but after reading the Book of Mormon and praying about it they doubted no more. The more I taught and testified of its divinity the more my heart grew stronger to its truth and purpose. By the end of my mission I had witnessed a mighty change in myself just as I had witnessed many times in others I had taught. Through the Book of Mormon I learned of the many precious things the Lord offers to each of us and to trust in his love and promise of forgiveness and redemption. While on my mission I witnessed many miracles, the one that touches me most is when the Prophet Spencer W. Kimball revealed in June 1978 the Declaration that the time and preparation had come allowing every worthy member to be extended all of the privileges and blessings which the gospel affords. The long-promised day when every faithful, worthy man may receive the holy priesthood, exercise its divine authority and enjoy every blessing including those of the temple. Prior to this prophetic proclamation being revealed my mission was experiencing a mighty change in the hearts of those we taught and many doors were being opened that were closed before. Since then my mission has blossomed like a rose, splitting into 5 missions, with Holy Temples built, and thousands of converted Saints. I beseech all to listen to the Lords Prophets, read the Book of Mormon, and to ponder and pray so that you will receive for yourself a witness and your own testimony of the gospel.