I have always been spiritual. I have always believed in God and that God can have dealings with men. During my life I have come to know that He is much more involved in our lives–in my life–than we often realize.
In my early life I didn’t give a lot of thought to organized religion, although we (as a family) claimed membership in one. We generally affiliated with Methodists, although we were specifically members of the Evangelical United Brethren. In 1968 that denomination merged with the Methodists, forming the United Methodist Church. The merging took place after we, as a family, had already joined the LDS church. (I’m not saying there was a causal link there, but the timing is curious.)
Our family moved a lot. My father was in the hospitality field, managing run-down motels and bringing them back up to respectable standards. This necessitated moving near where the motels were located, obviously. This led to us living in many different areas. One move was to a small town in Ohio, north of Cincinnati, called Hamilton. We moved to 511 Fairview Avenue, and it was there that the LDS missionaries first contacted us. They had seen an announcement of our family moving to town in the newspaper, so they visited. Through several attempts to actually meet up, they were finally successful in meeting with my parents and teaching them about the Church.
I was 11 years old at the time. My mother took to the gospel and the Church like a fish to water, as did I. My father joined not because of any intimations that either the gospel or the Church was true, but in support of my mother. Prior to attending the LDS church I remember waking up on Sunday mornings and keeping my siblings quiet so that my parents wouldn’t wake–them sleeping in meant we wouldn’t have to go to church. After joining the LDS church on February 28, 1968, I did everything I could to make sure my parents were awake and we could attend. I loved every minute of it, for I felt the Spirit there.
I know the attributes of and fruits of the Spirit. I know that it is, for me, a “feeling” because it is something I feel. It is not emotion, like tenderness or the feeling you get when you watch “Old Yeller.” While I can summon most emotions on demand (as they originate within me), I cannot summon the Spirit on demand. That makes sense, as it is external to me, though when it is present it affects me deeply. It is almost impossible for me to describe to others what the Spirit feels like, but I know it when I feel it, and I cannot ignore it or deny it when I do.
I know that God lives, that He is real. I have heard His voice and felt the confirming presence of the Spirit concerning His reality. This knowledge is an anchor in my life. It provides assurance and peace when around me there is trouble. I know I lived with Him before this life and will live with Him when this life is through. I pray to Him and He hears those prayers. I serve Him and He gracefully blesses my efforts for His glory.
I know that Jesus was and is the Christ. He is my Savior and Redeemer. I have felt the effects of the atonement in my life as I have repented and sought to draw close to Him. In the vernacular of an evangelical, I have been born again and saved. I know that without Christ I have no hope of salvation and I know I am accepted of Him. I am indebted to Him and will be forever.
He is the Mediator in whose name I often act in priesthood duties. If I can be of service to bless the lives of others in God’s name, through Christ, I am happy to do so. I am glad to perform such “works,” but have no illusion that those works have merit in my life or for my salvation. They do, however, bring glory to God and to Christ, as they should.
I know that the fulness of the gospel was restored to the earth through the ministry of Joseph Smith. He was a prophet of God, called as were those of old. I know this because the Spirit has borne the reality of that truth to my soul, and I cannot deny it. Joseph was not perfect, and there are many examples of imperfection that can be found. (We have canonized record of God and Christ often calling him to repentance.) But personal shortcomings don’t negate prophetic mantle. God works through His children despite their faults. Those who seek certification of Joseph’s prophetic calling through books or historical records will never find it; the only “beyond reproach” witness comes from the Spirit that reveals all things.
I anticipate that when this life is through for me, I will stand before God. I look forward to that day, as I expect it to be a day of homecoming. My sins are swallowed up in the atonement of Christ, and I hope to stand before God blameless. Until that day, however, I will continue to live as I believe my Savior would have me live and repent when I fall short of what I know to be expected of a disciple of Christ.