For those of you not familiar with the prophet, Joseph Smith’s “first vision”, I’ll start with a short video that depicts it along with his writings.  Joseph Smith was the first prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons).  An important note is that in the video below, it doesn’t depict how Satan tried to overcome Joseph Smith before Heavenly Father and Jesus appeared to him.  For a full account, you can read his history here.

My thoughts on first vision

I think that the first vision is a testimony that God works through small and simple things that challenge the worlds’ views. Joseph Smith was an unlearned boy of only 14 years. He couldn’t write well and didn’t attend school. However, he had great faith and desire to know God’s will and he was humble and sincere by asking. He didn’t just flippantly pray on a whim. Rather, he had pondered things in his mind and heart for months and perhaps years and on his own came to the conclusion that only God can give him the wisdom he needs.
I would do well to apply this in my life. Daily. Remember that I am nothing and if I want wisdom and strength to overcome Satan’s power and also know what God wants me to be and do, I need to ponder in my mind and sincerely ask for strength and guidance.

Principles learned from First Vision
1. God answers the humble prayer of an honest seeker
2. Heavenly Father is separate from Jesus and loves Jesus as a son
3. Jesus is Heavenly Father’s messenger and does what Father wants him to do.
4. Satan is real and tries to hinder our progression
5. If we’re tempted, it takes effort on our part to exercise faith and call upon God. Only God can dispel Satan through our faithfulness. If we have God with us, Satan has no power.
6. Satan is more powerful than we are alone. We need God to overcome Satan.
7. Be humble and God can work miracles with us.

What are your thoughts on the first vision and what other principles can we learn and apply to our lives?

The other day we took the kids out to buy some toys with the money they had earned.  As we walked out of the store, a homeless guy was waiting and asked for some change.  I had a couple dollars in my wallet and I also encouraged the kids to give them some of their money, which they did.

He tried to refuse their money, but I insisted as I wanted to teach the kids the lesson so beautifully taught by King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon:

And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

It also reminded me of this video of being civil to ALL people…not just the ones we are comfortable with:

https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2011-04-008-the-civility-experiment?category=mormon-messages/mormon-messages-2011&lang=eng&cid=HPWE090314389

I’ll have to admit that I’m not always as generous as I should be and I’m judgmental a lot of the time when I see homeless people-especially when I’m in a rush or in a sketchy part of downtown.  Fear and selfishness keeps me moving on rather than stopping and trying to get to know them and help them.

I’m curious. What do you do when you see a beggar or homeless person?

One of life’s important questions is “Who am I?” But even more important is “Who am I becoming?” to answer that question satisfactorily, we must keep one eye on where we are and the other eye on where we will be.  Most people don’t do that.  They have one eye on where they have been and one eye on where they are now…If you are determined to change and to live a life above and beyond average, know that you need to do things differently as you look ahead…(John C Maxwell, pg 192-193 Sometimes you Win, Sometimes you Learn)

I like this quote.  The other day, I was with a friend who is struggling with some set-backs in life and we had a conversation surrounding not comparing ourselves to other people-including who we once were.  Rather, looking at where we are now and then looking forward to who God wants us to become.

There is a great scripture in Doctrine and Covenants that teaches this principle.  It reads:

And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things. (D&C 88:67)

According to this, looking ahead means looking towards God’s glory.  If our focus is single to His glory, then we’ll be filled with light and be able to comprehend all things-including who we are and who we can become.

There is another scripture that discusses what God’s glory is.  It is in the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price and reads:

For behold, this is my work and my glory–to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. (Moses 1:39)

If God’s glory is man’s eternal life, what do you think it means to have our eyes single to His glory, and what are the blessings for doing so?

In the 1969 speech “The Loneliness of Leadership“, Gordon Hinckley discusses the loneliness that leaders feel-both spiritual leaders and secular leaders and how true leaders stand up for what they believe to be right regardless of consequences. Examples he uses include Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, and recent converts to the Church who are ostracized and cast out for their belief.

He concludes with the following:

I like these great words of the Lord given to those who would go out and teach this gospel:

I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up. [D&C 84:88]

I think that is a promise to each of us. I believe it; I know it. I bear testimony of its truth to you this day.

After reading this, I thought about times in my life when I’ve had to stand up for what I believed to be right, according to what I felt that God had put in my heart.

Joining the Mormon Church

When I was 9 years old, my parents divorced and I moved with my mother to another state. We had been raised members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), but after the divorce we gradually quit attending church.

I remember my mother inviting people over and having study sessions on why the Mormon religion is false and although I don’t think she knew I was listening, it did have an affect on me. Also, she confided in me a lot of negative information about my father that influenced my opinion of him as a person. He remained a practicing Mormon, so as a child, I blamed the Mormon church as well as all of the negative things that I heard in my home about Mormons. I hated Mormons.

At school I would bully them. Tease them. Gradually, it evolved into where I was not only teasing Mormons, but all people of faith. I was very young-11 years old- but I was getting involved in drinking, vandalism, and heading down a very negative path.

One day my mother came to me and told me that I should go and visit my father as I hadn’t seen him in 2 years because of my hatred for him and his religion. I told her I didn’t want to go, but she told me that legally I needed to and also it would be good for me. Looking back, I think she recognized a lot of the negative things in my life and thought I needed a father figure.

Before I left, she sat me down in the my bedroom that was in the garage of our old house and told me that when I visited my father that he would try and make me go to church with him. She told me that I didn’t have to go and to make sure that whatever I do I didn’t become Mormon. I looked at her confused and wondered why she would even worry about that because that was the last thing I wanted to do. I just wanted to have the 2 week trip over with.

To make a long story short, I visited my Dad. I noticed a very peaceful feeling almost immediately when I was in his home. Something I didn’t realize I had been craving. I also noticed that he wasn’t as bad as I had been told and that he was actually a very sincere and fun person to be around. He had remarried and my new step-mom was very kind and patient.

The other thing I realized was that the Mormon church wasn’t bad. In fact, I felt peace there that I hadn’t felt anywhere else (when we left the Mormon church, we went “church shopping” to a bunch of churches like Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, non-denominational, etc). After only a short time, the Holy Spirit shared with me a vision of my life and what would come of it if I stayed with my mother in that situation at the time, or moved in with my Dad. It was clear to me and I feel blessed that the Lord put it into my heart that I needed to join the Mormon church and also live with my Dad.

When I had the conversation with my mom, I knew that if I came back home with her, I was too weak at the time to stand up for what I had felt in my heart and I would fall back into my bad friends and behavior. I told her I was staying with Dad. She and I had a big blow-out conversation on the phone that ended with her telling me that if I went back to the Mormon church and my Dad she wouldn’t talk with me again. That hurt me deeply, but I knew what God had put in my heart and I had faith that I should follow that. So I chose to stay with my Dad.

Years later, after I had experienced a lot of psychological and emotional pain (which I wrote about in my book Discovering Light: 12 Steps to Overcoming Anxiety and Depression without Medication), I realized I needed to make amends with my mother and forgive her. Funny thing was that she put the blame back on me by saying I imagined that she had said that. I’ve forgiven her regardless and I’m very glad that I made that difficult decision years ago because it has changed my life a lot.

Other Experiences

Since becoming a Mormon, I have had to walk a lonely road at times. I haven’t been perfect by any means, but largely the Lord has blessed me.

There were times in college when young ladies wanted to sleep with me and I turned them down because of what I believe.

There were times in Europe when I was working after having served a mission in Germany where I was ridiculed and cast out of a home I was staying in because I wouldn’t drink with them.

In my career, I’ve found that people are very accepting for the most part, of my beliefs and I’ve made some great friends as I don’t shy away from my faith, but stand up for it. I’ve found that for the most part, people are drawn to that.

Most importantly, I’ve found that I feel the Lord’s comfort and Spirit come over me in a way that I can’t describe as I’ve been all alone and decided to stand up for what I feel is right. I’ve found that Heavenly Father surrounds us with love when we do this and we come to know Him as a father more deeply in these times.

Your Turn

I’ve shared a few examples of standing up for truth and your beliefs and how God blessed my life.

I’m sure that you have some stories as well. We would all love to hear them, so please share.

I have a 2 year old son. He will be 3 in a couple of weeks. One of the greatest joys of my life is being his father. He has such a vibrant enthusiasm for life. His love is unconditional. We read books together, play ball, wrestle, he helps me in the garden and he has a little toy lawn mower that he uses after I’ve mowed the lawn to make sure that I got everything. We go on hikes together and he loves to stop and look at all of the small things along the way such as a caterpillar crawling, or various shapes of rocks. We go on “father son” dates and usually watch the big trucks or throw rocks into a lake or pond on those dates. Occasionally, we’ll go out for ice cream. He loves me to chase him and grab him and throw him in the air. My physical therapist gets plenty of business because I think I’m 20 years old frequently when throwing him around! When I tuck him in at night and I help him with saying his prayers, he’ll ask me to tell him a “farm story” and I’ll share a story with him about when I grew up on the farm. I’ll then say “Whacha got for dad?” and he’ll give me a huge hug and say “I wanna keep you”.

In 2 short years, he has become a huge part of my life and I can’t imagine life without him.

I’m sure those of you reading this who have kids can fully relate to the way I feel about my son.

With these thoughts in mind, imagine what I thought when I received and email from one of my pastor friends from another Christian congregation.

A member of his congregation was rushing out the door to get their kid to a soccer game and didn’t notice that their 2 year old son was behind the car and backed over the son, killing him.

He goes on in his email to describe how horrible the father feels and how guilty he feels. I’m sure he feels depressed, discouraged, and a number of feelings that I don’t even want to imagine. Psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, even physically this man must be feeling such a heavy burden.

I’ve never lost a child and pray that it doesn’t happen while I’m on this earth. Our kids are “supposed” to live longer than us, right?

My first thoughts on how to help this man would be to:

1. Encourage him to apply the atonement in his life
2. Seek counsel from both professionals and others who have gone through similar situations

Apply the Atonement

Probably the most famous Christian scripture is John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Imagine how our Heavenly Father must have felt watching His son suffer on the cross for our sins and afflictions. Jesus suffered for us because of his love for us and Heavenly Father allowed it to happen as well because of infinite love. Through His (Jesus’) suffering, we can cast our burdens on Him.

A Book of Mormon scripture in Alma 7:11 sheds some light on what this means:

“And he (Jesus) shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.”

Not only did Jesus take on our sins, but He took on our pains.

This man is going through a lot of pain. I pray that this mans burdens will be lifted through the mercy and grace of the atonement and that his pain can be swallowed up in faith and hope for a future that he can see his son again (which is also made possible through the atonement).

Seek Counsel

I imagine psychologically he is suffering and I would recommend going to a faith-based counselor. From my experience in pain and suffering, it helps to just talk and get it all out there both in prayer, but also to others who are professionally trained.

Additionally, when I’ve suffered great pain, it has helped me to speak with people in similar situations. I would encourage him to seek out people or groups who have had this happen and have learned how to cope with it.

There have been two very good LDS conference talks by a member of the quorum of the twelve Apostles as well as a member of the quorum of the seventy. I’ll share those messages below, and ask my pastor friend to share the talks with his friend, if they seem appropriate. The both describe of personal stories where they lost a young child.

You can read about Richard G Scott’s experience here.

Shane Bowen gave a moving talk a couple years back about his son who had died and the pain he felt and his process in healing and applying the atonement. The talk is entitled Because I live ye shall also.

Conclusion

I don’t know that this man wants to have his name shared, so I won’t share his name publicly, but I do ask that everyone who reads this pray for this man.

Also, what other words of advice would you have if you have helped someone through a similar situation, or even experienced this before?

glenn beck crying
A few weeks back, I had asked our bishop (pastor) of our ward (congregation) if I could run the sacrament meeting (church service) and have it focused on missionary work. I’ve been working closely with the missionaries in our ward and also helping members of our ward with missionary work for the past 2 years as my calling (in the Mormon church everyone is asked to help out with callings under the inspiration of the bishop) and I had felt prompted by the Lord to share experiences with the congregation and also highlight all of the good they are doing in the community by bringing others to Christ.

As part of the service, I had invited some of the recent converts to share their testimonies and stories of how they became members of the church. All of them had to make great sacrifices and many have had to overcome addictions in order to become members and it has been truly inspiring working with them and helping them.

As one of the new members was sharing their story, they became emotional and overwhelmed with all of the good things they had experienced since becoming a member. I thought back over the last year with this certain individual and reflected on how when I first met them, this person was attending a different Christian church that preached a lot of negative things about Mormons and she was very critical towards our message. However, gradually she became more open to learning and allowing the Holy Spirit into her life and she had many miracles happen in her life as a result, including being baptized.

I became a bit emotional listening to her talk and I was up next. What made things even more emotional for me was that I thought of all of the people that I had met while out in the community who hadn’t ended up making as much progress as others and were still struggling with faith, drugs, emotional or physical health, and a number of other things…and feelings of compassion overcame me. Not a good sign if I wanted to “keep it together” during my talk.

Well, I didn’t keep it together. I stood up and said “There are people struggling out there…” and it was over. I was crying and it took at least a minute for me to compose myself and deliver the talk I had prepared.

Today in testimony meeting (this is a meeting Mormons have monthly where anyone is allowed to get up and share their testimony, or witness of the gospel), I noticed a lot of people crying as well. I’ve had people who visit a Mormon church for the first time make comments over the years about why we cry so much.

I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, but for me, I’ve had a lot of times in my life where the Holy Spirit softens my heart and I’m filled with compassion, gratitude, and an overwhelming sense of love. This is something that happens sometimes when I reflect on the blessings I’ve had and as I share it, my emotions take over. I can understand how weird it must be for someone coming for the first time and seeing a bunch of people getting up and crying, but if you’ve experienced the blessing of being touched by God and having a change of heart, you can understand why it happens.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Mormons crying in church, I hope this sheds some insight into why it happens and I invite you to learn more. Maybe as you learn more and gain a testimony of some of the things we share our testimonies about, we’ll get to hear you share your experiences and we can all cry together!

Today I watched a great 30 for 30 video on Shawn Bradley that described his “lackluster” NBA career. Although his career wasn’t as good as what everyone hyped it up to be when he was drafted, he was an excellent player and lasted over 10 years and finished in the top 15 all-time for shots blocked.

shawn bradley blocking a shot

One thing that I always respected from afar with Shawn Bradley was that he always seemed to put his faith first. He did not enter the NBA draft when he could have in order to serve a full-time mission to Australia. Also, when he was a player, he tried his best to be faithful as well. In the short documentary, he describes being fined for not going to a strip club with the team for a meeting because it was against his belief system.

I had a chance to meet him in the early ’90s and say a few words and stand next to him. I was in Jr High and he was attending BYU at the time. He was giving a talk to all the LDS youth in the region and it was very inspiring for me as a youth to hear a famous Mormon standing up for his beliefs.

Other Famous Mormons I’ve Met

Watching the documentary and reflecting on my experience with meeting Shawn Bradley caused me to reflect on other famous Mormons I’ve met. Here are a few more:

Steve Young

steve-young-net-worth-246x300

When I was in high school I competed in ballroom dance. While I was at a large dance competition at BYU, Steve Young was the MC of the event. I had the privilege of shaking hands with him and asking him a few questions about himself. If it were today, I would have taken a selfie with him!

Gordon B Hinckley

hickley-st

I only met Gordon B Hinckely one time and that was before he became the LDS Church President. It was in the early ’90s at a large conference and I was fortunate enough to be able to shake his hand and say a few words.

When I was 18 and preparing to serve a mission, he was highlighted in 60 minutes and did an excellent job of answering tough questions. It was very inspiring for me as a youth and his great, positive attitude was infectious during the whole time he was President.

When I was getting ready to leave to fly to Germany on my mission, I was companions with his grandson. He had requested that his grandson visit him in his office at temple square and extended the invitation for me to visit with him. The only problem was that my family had traveled hours to come and see me off at the airport and I was afraid that I wouldn’t get to see them if I visited President Hinckley so I declined the offer. When I told my family about it, they said “I would have gone and visited the Prophet!” Looking back on things, I sort of wish I would have done it because I could have seen my family still. But hindsight is always 20/20 as they say!

Mitt Romney
mitt romney

I volunteered for the Romney presidential campaign in 2012 in Washington State. When he came to visit our state, I wanted to meet him in person, so I took the whole family with me and drove an hour. It was very awesome seeing him in person and although there were a lot of body guards and everything, I was able to go and shake hands with him briefly and say a few words as he thanked me for volunteering for the cause.

Alex Boye

boye

When I was living in Utah I went to a party in Salt Lake City at this huge mansion. I don’t even know whose house it was, but it was one of those things where word spread and a friend invited a friend and so on. The music was going and everyone was dancing when I noticed a big crowd gathering around me…including more girls. I wasn’t doing anything special and wondered what was going on. I then realized it wasn’t me everyone was gathering around for. Rather, it was Alex Boye. I had never heard anything about him at the time and he was basically right behind me. I basically did one of those “What’s up?” deals that guys who don’t know each other do and kept dancing. It wasn’t until after the party that I realized he was a former pop star and since then, he’s become a pretty famous LDS musician.

Here’s a most recent song that I really like that he did in collaboration with The Piano Guys:

Dallin H Oaks

dallin-h-oaks-large

Just a few years ago, Dallin H Oaks came and visited our stake. When he gives official talks at General Conference, he seems very calculated and serious, so I was surprised at how jovial and funny he is in person. He answered a lot of open questions and just had a lot of fun with the crowd and it was great!

L Tom Perry

l-tom-perry-large

When I was on my mission, L Tom Perry visited us. Just like with Elder Oaks, I was very impressed with how personable and close to the Spirit he was, while being fun and jovial at the same time. I learned a lot from him in a pretty intimate setting of only about 100 missionaries. We spent about 4 hours together and each one of us had the chance to meet with him afterwards. He’s very tall!

Your Turn!!

I’ve shared with you a few of the most famous Mormons I’ve met. Now it’s your turn. Who are some of the most famous Mormons you’ve met and how did you meet them?

In Elder Holland’s most recent General Conference talk, he said

elder holland

In keeping with the Savior’s own experience, there has been a long history of rejection and a painfully high price paid by prophets and apostles, missionaries and members in every generation—all those who have tried to honor God’s call to lift the human family to “a more excellent way.

Sometimes that “painfully high price” and “rejection” can hit very close to home.

Recently, the missionaries informed me that one of the people we have been teaching the gospel to, who is ready to join the Church and be baptized, is facing a situation that falls into the category of a “painfully high price”. She is a young lady, 20 years old, who doesn’t live at home. However, she has a great respect and love for her parents. Throughout her life, her parents have told her they would support her with whatever she chooses regarding choosing a religion. However, when she approached them about joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e. Mormon Church), her parents came unglued and told her they would disown her if she joined, based on some things they have read and heard about Mormons. She is shocked and heart-broken. On one hand, she has felt a peace, love and experienced God in a way that she can’t deny and her soul yearns for this relationship and she has a desire to strengthen that relationship and “formalize” it by making a covenant to serve God by being baptized. On the other hand, if she does this without her parents blessing, she fears her family will leave her.

I can relate to her dilemma. When I was a very young man, a very close and dear family member made me promise them that I would never join the “Mormon Church”. At the time, that was the furthest thing from my mind. However, when I read the Book of Mormon and felt the overwhelming sense of peace that comes only from God, I knew that I wanted to join with the Church of Jesus Christ and that it was God telling me to do so. I had a clear vision given to me from God that if I stayed on the path I was on, it would lead to bad things later in life. On the flip side, my mind was opened up to the possibilities if I were to join the Church and follow Jesus Christ. When I shared my decision with my family member, they became very frustrated and when I heard them tell me they didn’t want to talk with me again, it hurt. We didn’t really talk for about 7 years and it was a very hard thing for me as this was and is a very close family member. Years later, after we had made amends and reconciled, my family member told me they hadn’t told me they wouldn’t talk to me, but that I had misunderstood them. Also, as an adult looking back, this family member had read and experienced some very negative things relating to the Church of Jesus Christ (i.e. Mormons), so they were trying to protect me from what they thought was harmful.

Time heals wounds though, as they say, and over the course of years we were able to forgive each other. Looking back, I’m glad that I chose to follow what I felt was right and what God was telling me to do rather than make the easier decision to not join the Church in order to salvage the relationship in the immediate term at the time. We now have a good relationship and have made amends and it is by the love and grace of God that we were able to come back together and re-kindle our relationship.

Having said all of this, based on personal experience, my suggestion for people such as our young friend is to follow what they feel God is telling them to do. If they feel that God is telling them to be baptized, do it. If they feel God is telling them to hold off on baptism for the time being, then do that. Don’t get baptized because it’s what your friends or missionaries want you to do and don’t hold off on baptism if you feel that is what God is telling you to do in order to save your relationship with your family member. Choosing to follow God will always lead to greater long-term happiness.

costs to follow more not to It may hurt in the immediate term, but long-term you will always be glad you followed your heart and what you feel God is telling you to do. I really liked this poster that a pastor put together stating “it costs to follow Jesus, but it costs more not to…”This is all a part of faith and trust in the Lord as it says in the scriptures. Easier said than done, but when we choose to follow God, “all things work together for good to them who love God” (Romans 8:28).

What advice would you give to this young lady or anyone else faced with this situation?

***Update 4/29/14***

For those interested about what the young lady’s decision was, after prayer, pondering and listening to peoples’ advice, she decided to be baptized.

There he was again, left on the outside looking into his home where his wife and children were. However, he wasn’t allowed to enter. He had come home intoxicated yet again and this time, he was afraid, his wife really meant what she said when she said she was leaving him. He looked on through the Washington rain and his face was wet, but more from his tears than from the rain. He had to do something quickly…

Fortunately, for my friend, Milt, this story has a happy ending. It is with his permission that I write this article. I feel it a blessing to have been a witness to God’s gracious hand in the life of my friend, Milton Bridges.

The story from my perspective starts in early 2013 when the Mormon sister missionaries met Milt’s wife and started teaching her. I participated frequently in teaching her. She always had a very kind and sincere heart, but it wasn’t until she began seriously studying the Book of Mormon that her heart fully turned to the Savior and she converted to the gospel in May. She had a desire to give away the ways of the world completely and follow Jesus and she was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ.

She was very happy with her new faith and what it could mean to her family. The only problem was that her husband, Milt, wasn’t ready to give up his addiction to alcohol. It was in later that summer that Milt came home intoxicated for the last time.

Milt had become a friend of mine through the process of getting to know April and also as he would come and play basketball with us at the church. All of us who played ball grew to love Milt and looked forward to him coming. Sometimes, he would be a little inebriated and we could definitely smell the alcohol, but he was always welcome to come and play and we loved him.

When I received the phone call after Milt had broken down and been kicked out of his home for what he feared was the last time to see them, my heart was sad for him, but I was very happy that he had hit the bottom. This meant he was truly ready to change. He was humble and yearned for a miracle. It is at this point, in my experience, that God can work miracles in our lives. Milt asked me to come over and give him a priesthood blessing.

For those of you who are not familiar with priesthood blessings, I’ll describe it as best I can.

In the Mormon church, men are given the priesthood authority to act as a mouthpiece of God when called upon when giving a blessing. It is like in the Bible in James 5:14 when he asks if there is anyone who is sick and that if so, they should call upon the elders of the church, who will come and anoint them with oil and pray over them. There are other examples in the Bible of elders coming and “laying their hands” on people to heal them.

When I arrived to Milt’s location, he was a very broken man, but he had slim glimmer of hope. This is all that God needed. As I laid my hands on his head, the Holy Spirit moved me on what to say. I can’t remember the exact words, but the feeling I had was that if Milt spent time coming closer to God and studying his word and praying, he would be healed from his addiction.

After I gave him the blessing, he thanked me and went to a alcohol rehab center for a month.

We (those of us who were his friends in the Church) all prayed for him every day and occasionally heard from him through limited text messages.

He came out of the center and was clean and didn’t want to touch alcohol and hasn’t since. It was a miracle!

A few months later he began meeting with the missionaries and decided to be baptized. When I was getting ready to baptize him, he told me that when he was given the blessing a few months earlier, that he felt something come over him and the desire to drink was removed.

The first step in Milt’s conversion story was the healing of his alcohol addiction. The next miracle was the healing of his heart and the conversion of his soul to the gospel of Jesus Christ. He had been reading and praying for a few months when he realized that he had a testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and wanted to be baptized. He recognized all the blessings his family had received since his wife had joined the Church and he had seen miracles in his own personal life as well.

Me and Milt at baptism I considered it an honor when he asked if I could baptize him. I had seen everything he had to go through to get to that point and the new man that he was as he embraced the gospel was indeed a miracle.

The picture I’ve included is of me, Milt, and the Elders who taught him the lessons prior to his baptism. This is right before I baptized him.

When I see Milt with his two cute little kids and his wife at church, and when I see him passing the sacrament, I am amazed at the miracles that each and every one of us can receive if we open our hearts in humility to the Lord.

Once we are converted, we then help strengthen our brothers. Milt did exactly this and his brother, was also baptized a few weeks later. Below is a picture of Milt, his wife, kids and his brother.

Milt and family at his baptism

When I see this, the song that comes to mind is one I’ve heard at other Christian churches “Our God is an Awesome God“!

A few weeks ago I was asked by our local missionaries to find some people willing to share their conversion story with one of the people they were teaching. I knew of a lot of my friends from various walks of life who had converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) so I asked for their conversion stories.

I appreciate the responses and will have a little “series” of posts called Mormon Conversion Stories. Each person’s story is unique and very personal, but it illustrates just how personal our Heavenly Father is when we open our hearts up to Him.

The first story I would like to share is from one of my friends named Brandon. He is a gifted illustrator and has a website: http://www.drawingfaith.blogspot.com where he has drawn images from various stories in the scriptures.

Here’s his story:

Brandon’s Conversion Story: From Catholic to Mormon

I was born Catholic, to a great family. My dad is an incredibly family-centered man who has always sacrificed for our family. My mom (with Dad’s support) made sure that my brother and I got a traditional upbringing in our native faith, complete with us going through most (if not all) of the Catholic ordinances, and I remember Mom reading to us from the Bible a lot as we grew up. I believe this instruction helped prepare and build my faith in the Lord.

By the time I was 19, I was in art school and working at a local movie theater. It was a wonderful time of making new friends, learning, and growing. Somewhere around that time a young man completed his mission in South Africa, Johannesburg. He went by “Fritz” and came back to work at the theater. Being ignorant of what being “Mormon” was, I have to admit that when I heard Fritz was Mormon I thought it meant that he was Amish ;) He was a very interesting and cool guy. My best pal from those days and I became fast friends with him. As we hung out, as recently-returned missionaries are wont to do, he shared with us about his faith. I can remember being at McDonald’s as he shared with us about the Plan of Salvation—God’s plan for us that includes our pre-mortal life and choice, as His spirit children, to come to earth. I can’t remember all the details of what he shared that night, but I can say that neither I nor my friend had ever heard anything religious that made so much stunning, intellectual sense as what we were told that evening. After that conversation both my friend and I expressed the sentiment that we were ready to “sign-up,” so to speak. But it would be some time before anything would truly gel for me about the faith.

Fritz also shared with us about the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Eventually I requested a copy from him. One day as my friend and I were working in the box office, Fritz came up to us with two copies of the Book of Mormon, and said, laying them at our stations, “Here’s two free tickets to Heaven.” That makes me chuckle to remember.

I began to read the book, every night going through a chapter or so. The book had been prepared with tabs to key chapters. There was a tab at Moroni 10:3-5, still a favorite for me. As I opened to the tab and read those yellow-highlighted verses, I understood I needed to pray to know if the book was true. (It is interesting to me just how much my faith was growing at this time. I was at a point where I feared that God would actually answer me. Funny, I know. But the gravity of actually connecting with the Divine was a very new and startling idea for me.) That scripture in Moroni promises that an answer will come to those who ask in sincerity of heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ—that the answer will come, “by the power of the Holy Ghost.” Now, over a decade later, I understand better how the manifestations of the Spirit can be sometimes subtle and small, or sometimes dramatic, warm, and unmistakeable. But as a younger man I didn’t know what it would mean to get an answer, or how it would come.

With the best faith that I had at that time (certainly like a grain of mustard seed), I began to pray and ask. I believe I had only (or very mostly) Catholic training regarding prayer, so each night I would pray the Our Father and then add some of my own words to ask for the truth of these things.

Nothing happened right away. I read through quite a bit of the Book of Mormon, night by night. Then, when I was somewhere into the Book of Alma, while reading one of the war chapters, I began to envision the armies, the scenery, as I read. When I finished reading, an overwhelming feeling of warmth and peace came upon me. It was a better feeling than I had ever had. I was by myself in my bedroom. I looked up at the ceiling and said something along the lines of, “Wow. There is a God.” The feeling was so wonderful that I did not want it to leave and it stayed with me for quite some time. It was enough for me to recognize not only the existence of God, but also the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

I learned that the next natural step, having received a witness that this is true, was to be baptized. My pal, Fritz, was at BYU during this time, so we would write letters to each other. I asked what I needed to do to be ready for baptism, and he helped to guide me (I wanted to be worthy of it and had some behavioral clean-up to do). I soon began to meet with the missionaries, got baptized, and it’s been a wonderful learning experience I do not regret. My membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been life-changing and so very positive.

I must add, among so very many other things I could share, that in recent years I have pondered why, though I was nightly praying and reading, I had to wait those many nights before I got an answer from God (I had made it into the chapters of Alma for Pete’s sake). And why was it that I was reading a war chapter on the night He gave to me to feel the Holy Spirit that first, dramatic time? As I pondered this while driving home from work on a wintry day, I received a distinct impression in my mind about how important it is to fight for those things that are best in life. Anything worth it is worth fighting to obtain. In fact, if you’re fighting through life to stay true and/or to gain truth then you’re on the right road. The things we struggle to obtain are often the things we treasure the most. To anyone who is pondering about the Book of Mormon, or wondering whether joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the right move, I say hold on. Seek the Lord about the truth of it. He will answer, in His time and way—in the best and most instructive way for your needs.

I also believe that John 7:17 shoots us straight, that the proof is in the pudding: “If any man will do (God’s) will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” We should try these things out, try to live what we’re reading in the Book of Mormon to know the truth of it. Walking the path of truth paves the way for the Holy Spirit to find us.


Brandon Miltgen
Illustration & Design
drawingfaith.blogspot.com
brandonmiltgen.blogspot.com

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