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

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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

Last week, I wrote about reminiscing of Germany as a Mormon missionary in Germany during Christmas.

Today, I thought about Germany again and reflected on Christmas songs that they sing there during Christmas that I never hear in the States. My favorite German Christmas songs are:

Still, Still, Still

When I hear this song in German I feel like I am almost right there watching little baby Jesus sleeping.

English and German Versions:

Es Ist Ein Rose Entsprungen (Lo, How a Rose ‘Er Blooming)

I grew to love classical music while I lived in Germany. I like this song because it talks about honoring Jesus’ mother as well as Jesus’ divine mission and prophecies leading up to his birth and does so with a classical feel to the song.

German version with English subtitles:

Kling Glocken

This is just a fun little children’s song, similar to “Jingle Bells” that we sing a lot during Christmas in the U.S.

O Du Frohliche

I really like the version of the song below for a number of reasons. First, I like the song and it reminds me of the amazing Spirit of Christ I felt on my mission in Germany. Second, they are doing a flash mob of this, which is just fun. Finally, it is on the subway and it reminds me of being on the buses and trains and subways speaking with people about Christ.

Other German Songs that are Popular in the U.S. but better in German

(This Nat King Cole version is great, even with an American accent!)

Let us know what your thoughts are on these songs or any other German songs you enjoy. If you have Christmas songs from other languages and cultures that you would like to share, please do so.

Merry Christmas!

While working on a report for work today I had classical music playing in the background. A song came up called “The Dream of You” by Tim Neumark. Foggy in Nidderau I had never heard it before, but as I looked out the window and saw the frosty air and blanket of fog settled over the trees and houses in the neighborhood, my mind’s eye went back to Germany nearly 20 years ago.

nidderau downtown I was in a very little village called Nidderau. We lived on a hill just above a quaint stream surrounded by trees. In the winter, fog would settle into the valley and snow would fall and the ponds and puddles would freeze which provided some fun for us as we rode our bikes to visit the people we were teaching.

We taught some very great people in that town.

The main preacher was very anti-Mormon and we had some experiences trying to get on the good graces with him. He would preach often against us and we would have people invite us into their homes only to bash with us and try to prove us wrong. At first, as a young 19 year old, I wanted to throw down with him and his congregation and get into verbal bouts. Fortunately at the time my language skills weren’t up to par yet so I was forced to speak the things I could read from scripture. I learned to be patient and loving with people who are our “enemies” through interacting with him. I also learned to love others even if they do not agree with me or even want to try to love me.

We taught a homosexual couple in that town. It was a very good experience for me since I hadn’t been exposed to that where I grew up in a pretty sheltered environment. I learned to be loving and tolerant to people who do not believe or live the same way I do. We had to stop teaching them though when one of them started trying to hit on us…

We also taught some refugees from Africa who were Christians that had been persecuted by the Muslims in their town. One family in particular stands out to me. There were a number of kids in the family. The father was a doctor and had been forced to give up his practice and flee his country. Now he was in a land that looked down on him and didn’t recognize his skills or value him as a person. We shared messages of hope and Jesus with him during the Christmas season very often and I believe he enjoyed our conversations. Since he was a refugee, we couldn’t baptize him, but it didn’t matter to us as long as we provided hope for a better day to him and his kids. While we taught him, I felt the love of the Lord very strongly. I have prayed often over the years that he and his family were able to overcome his challenges and have a strong relationship with the Lord.

The members of our ward (congregation) were particularly supportive. The street we lived on had 4 families in our congregation, including the bishop. We would frequently go over for dinner. In Germany, people love beer and for those interested in being baptized into the Mormon Church giving up beer is something very significant. On many occasions, people choose to drink non-alcoholic beer instead of regular beer.

On one occasion, during Christmas, we visited one of the members of the ward for Christmas dinner. During dinner, I was offered non-alcoholic beer and I accepted the offer. Growing up as an active Mormon I didn’t really have much experience tasting beer so it didn’t really do much for me. However, that night when my Dad called, I thought I would give him a scare and I told him I had drank beer that day (I didn’t clarify it was non-alcoholic). I went on to say that everyone in Germany drinks beer and it was o.k. I could tell he was having a dilemma on the other end of the phone and wondering if he should start preaching to me or remain silent. I think he was just shocked that I would have gone throughout all my teenage years and then go on a mission and decide to start drinking while on a mission! I let him sweat it out for a bit before telling him it was non-alcoholic and at a member of the congregation’s house.

One of the things I most liked during Christmas time in this area was how festive it was. There was a small chapel in the village downtown and there were cobblestone streets with shops that had Christmas lights and German pastries everywhere. During the Christmas season, we, along with people from various churches would come and sing carols downtown as well. christmas in germany

As the song stopped playing, my thoughts snapped back to my job at hand, but for a few minutes it was great to reflect on memorable experiences and feelings I had while serving at Christmas time in Germany as a Mormon missionary.

A few years ago, I wrote about an experience I had as I dressed up as a homeless man in an article called “Lessons Learned from My Experience Dressing as a Homeless Man“.

Today I read an interesting article that reminded me about my experience a few years ago. I think it is awesome that the Bishop was humble enough to do what he did to help his congregation.

Read the article “Mormon Bishop Disguises himself as a Homeless Man to Teach Congregation about Compassion“.

It reminds me once again that God doesn’t care about our worldly possessions or appearance, but that He loves us for who we are: His child.

During this time of Thanksgiving, I hope we can reflect on the many blessings we have and reach out to those who may not have as much, who may not appear to care about life or who have lost vision of who they are.

I recently came across an excellent conversion story from a person I don’t know who emailed me and shared his conversion story with me.

As you read this story, you will see that life hasn’t been easy for him and like all of us who choose to follow Jesus, he has had to make some sacrifices, but he has been blessed in return.

Enjoy his story:

Daniel’s Conversion Story

I was called many times and I would not hear (Alma 10:6)

 

I was born in Tel Aviv, Israel. My parents moved  to Florida when I was about 3 and a half. I was raised in a Jewish household in which Judaism played a large cultural role but a rather smaller spiritual one. We would go to synagogue for the high holiday services, and then go back home and eat shrimps and pork. My father is a very secular individual, and his lack of belief in God is rooted in the Gas Chambers of Auschwitz and multiplied by heartbreak and loss. My mother was the more spiritual of the two. She taught me to believe in God and to love the spiritual. And yet, she also believed in a God that did not know or care about the little things that we did. “God doesn’t have an IBM computer” she would tell me whenever I would ask why we didn’t keep the same commandments my orthodox friends did. I went to a Jewish private elementary school and had my Bar Mitzvah at the age of 13, but religion was not a very large part of my life.

 

Nonetheless, I had a lot of experiences that led me to spiritually wonder about the purpose of life. I remember as a small child asking my mother what happened after death, and she didn’t really have a response. She said she hoped there was something after this life, but wasn’t entirely sure. I went to the library and read books for kids about death, but didn’t find any answers there either. My grandfather died when I was 6 and my grandmother when I was 8. Death seemed like an awful force that I could not fully understand.

 

As I got older, my father who had long suffered from heart problems began to have serious health issues. One night when I was in fifth grade he got taken to the hospital by ambulance late at night. When I was 11 he had his third open heart surgery. The possibility of his death was always ever present in my life.

 

Amidst this background, I continued to search for spiritual answers that would help me understand why. After elementary school I stopped attending a Jewish Private School, and went to a public middle and high school. There, for the first time I was surrounded by people of other faiths and began to take an interest in christianity.

 

One of my best friends at the time Sarrah was a strong believer in Christ and she really helped me to learn more about him. She had a lot of light despite a life filled with darkness and trials and I was drawn to that special light. She prayed for me that I would always be surrounded by strong Christian individuals and that prayer came true in a myriad of ways. Wherever I traveled and however far I got away from God, people of faith seemed to literally find me. Thanks to her influence and that of several others, I began to more and more strongly believe in Jesus Christ. I also had a lot of personal experiences such as spiritual dreams that led me to believe in a God and in Jesus Christ. I remember reading Isaiah 53 and trembling with awe at the description of the lamb of God suffering for the sins of all mankind.

 

And yet, something held me back from fully committing to Christ. In part, it was the opposition of my parents whose heart broke as I told them about my interest in Jesus. On the other hand, there were several nagging questions that I just did not feel were settled. I wondered what would happen to the generations of my ancestors who had lived and died Jewish. They had faced the gas chambers and pogroms because of their faith. I could not accept the notion of a God that would condemn them to hell, and yet my Christian friends offered little hope. I began to slowly drift away from Christianity

 

When I was 15 my mom was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer. It came as a total shock to me, because she had always been the healthier of my parents. Even though she fought valiantly, she died shortly after I turned 18. The last months were especially difficult even though her faith in the face of that trial was also inspiring. The loss was absolutely devastating to me and in time it continued to gnaw away at my faith. As I began my undergraduate at Brandeis University, I began to read Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens and fell under their spell. I didn’t know how to accept a God that would allow my mother to suffer, and so I went to the opposite extreme of denying his existence

 

Around this time, I became friends with a girl named Tatiana who I later found out was Mormon. She was one of the only two undergraduate members of the church in the whole university! She wasn’t active at the time, but she still held many of the same values. She wouldn’t drink and had a very traditional view about the role of women which stood out in a very ‘progressive’/ feminist friendly university. I became really intrigued by her values. We dated for a while, but ultimately things didn’t work out between us.

 

I spent a summer studying abroad in China, and while there had an instructor who was a strong member of the Christian community there. We began to talk about God and religion, and those lengthy conversations with him really opened me up to the possibility of a God again. I noticed the vibrant spirituality that people had in China, and I began to yearn for something more in my life. When I returned, Tatiana had decided to begin going back to church and I felt for some reason prompted to check it out. Up to that point I knew next to nothing about mormonism, but I went to Barnes and Nobles and I sat down and picked up Mormonism for Dummies and the Complete Iditot’s Guide to Mormonism and I sat down and began to read. As I read, I was really struck by the power of the doctrine I read. I began to read about the pre-earth life and the plan of salvation and it just felt right…It filled a hole in my soul. It immediately made sense to me. It answered all the question I’d had about how one could believe Christ was the way and yet also believe that those who didn’t know him could be saved. I went to my friend Tatiana and asked her if I could go to church with her.

The next day was a sunday, and I went with her to the Cambridge University Ward. We were late for sacrament meeting, so I ended up going only to Sunday School and Priesthood, but what struck me was how friendly people were. I was warned to wear a suit and tie, so it took people a while to realize I was not a member. I was asked to give a closing prayer, and when I expressed that I wasn’t a member, people were a bit shocked. Pretty quickly however they set up a meeting for me with the missionaries.

Blessed is he that believe in the word of God and is baptized without stubbornness of heart. (Alma 32:16)

The first time I met with the missionaries, I had thought through a whole bunch of questions relating to the doctrine of the Church. I asked them difficult or near impossible questions such as why are there transvestite and hermaphodidic individuals if gender is a pre-mortal trait, and what happens to those that have more than one husband or wife in this life. My poor missionaries did a great job though of deflecting the questions and inviting me to read and prayer to God sincerely.

 

Even at that early point I knew I was feeling something special. I told my friend Tatiana that she shouldn’t expect me to be baptized quickly or anything, but that I could really see myself liking the church. I had some hang ups with the Church’s conservative political position on things like gay marriage but I felt myself drawn towards it more and more

 

I began to read the Book of Mormon and I remember liking it but also finding some things about it strange. It was strange to me to think of Israelites talking about Jesus Christ, but it also made so much sense to me. It was weird to imagine that Jesus had been hid like a big secret of some sort from the people of Israel. Indeed, it made much more sense to realize that he had been taught about all along  I continued to read everything I could find about the church ( both pro and anti-Mormon) but felt drawn more and more to the church.

 

One day, I was talking to a non-member friend who is really opposed to the Church. She began to bash the church and especially focused on how awful the LDS Temple was. She had a good friend that was married in the temple and that friend’s family could not attend the wedding since they were not members. My friend was absolutely disgusted by this practice. As she spoke to me, I was pretty taken aback and wondered why that was the practice. While thinking about it, I felt strongly prompted to go to see what the temple was like in Boston.It was 9 at night, but I got into my car and drove to the temple ground.

 

When I got to the temple, I got out of my car and I felt an overwhelming spiritual presence.  I had never felt something quite so powerful. I felt it through every fiber of my being. I felt as if the God was talking directly to me. In my mind, I heard his voice telling me that the church was true and that he was there. I was stubborn, and so I got back into my car and I drove to the nearby Catholic and Protestant churches to see if I would feel the same way there. I didn’t feel anything of the sort ( in fact I felt rather negative spiritually in front of the Catholic Church). I then got back to my car and drove in front of the temple, and when I got there again I went to one of the sides and knelt down in front of one of the stained glass windows. There, I poured my heart out to God and I felt transformed by the spirit. My whole being was filled with light. In that moment, I could clearly see the person that the Lord wanted me to become. I could see my potential as his son. I knew without a doubt that God loved me and wanted me to join his church. Since that moment I have never doubted the truthfulness of the Gospel. Even in my darkest moments, that experience has been like a beacon of light.

 

I knew that I should be baptized

 

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up. (Psalms 27: 10)

 

Telling my father about my decision to be baptized wasn’t an easy thing to do at all. Luckily, soon after that, we met in New York for the Jewish high holidays. The weekend before, I had been with my ward to a camp out up in Sharon Vermont at the Joseph Smith Birthplace and I got up to bear my testimony that i knew the church was true. Telling my father of that testimony was much harder though. We walked around Manhattan near Lincoln Center, with the Manhattan temple nearby, and I finally worked up the courage to tell him. His reaction was of course quite negative as I would have expected. He strongly forbade me from getting baptized and told me that if I did he would not want to have anything to do with me.  I compromised with my father and agreed that I would wait six months before baptism so that he could know that it was a sincere desire of my heart

 

I spent the next semester studying abroad in London and it was a pretty challenging time in many ways. Throughout it all, however, I went to church every Sunday and bore my testimony each month during fast & testimony meeting. At times, I felt quite alone, but my faith in the atonement of Christ got me through it all.

 

After six months, my father was still as opposed as ever to my being baptized, and so I rather painfully ended up postponing my baptism again. Even though I was over 18, my father’s approval was ultimately very important to me and I wanted to try to respect him. I returned to the U.S. from Israel and as I was about to leave Florida to drive up to Philadelphia where I would spend the summer my father finally gave me his permission to be bapitzed. I went up to Boston then next weekend and I was baptized into the University Ward there. I still remember the joy that I felt when I was baptized. I felt cleansed from all of my sin and like an innocent child in the eyes of God. It was such a wonderful and unforgettable feeling.

 

Although there were challenges after baptism and confirmation, I felt a new energy and ability to cope with trials. My co-workers that summer were strongly critical of the Church because of its stance on gay marriage, and I struggled with internal doubts over that same topic, but I kept on striving and struggling. My ward had a trip to palmyra and while there I prayed in the sacred grove and felt the Lord confirm to me again that everything I had come to believe was true. That summer was one of great growth and development ( and I met my future wife while living in Philadelphia as well!).

 

Behold, verily I say unto you, go from them only for a little time, and declare my word, and I will prepare a place for them. (D&C 31:6)

 

Still, one of the hardest decisions loomed before me. Even before baptism, I had begun wondering whether I would have to serve a mission. I began rationalizing and telling myself that since I was older than most missionaries I wouldn’t have to do so. Nevertheless, I felt really strongly that I should serve and that service would transform my life for the better in so many ways. It was ultimately a difficult choice knowing how strong my father’s opposition would be, but I realized that whenever I thought about serving I felt incredible peace and calm, while when I thought to stay home I felt selfish and ill at ease. I felt a burning desire to share the gospel with others and to help them feel what I felt. Ultimately, I knew that I had to serve. I filled out my papers, deferred from law school, and told my father about my choice to serve.

 

Of course, he didn’t take that well and he threatened me once again with disowning. The hardest part wasn’t the threat, rather it was seeing the pain that I knew I was causing him Yet, I understood that serving would be ultimately what would secure for me an eternal family. Still, I remember feeling so physically and spiritually ill when I put in my papers. I had to remember to ‘cast not my confidence away’ and rely on the Lord. For weeks I felt discomforted and filled with despair. I was certain I’d never see my father again if I went to serve a mission. I didn’t know how I would pay for schooling once I got back. Yet, I put my faith in the Lord. When I got my call and heard that I would be serving in Novosibirsk, Russia I felt the spirit fill me with an overwhelming sense of peace and a confirmation that what i was doing was right.

 

I had the most incredible mission experience. I loved serving the Lord and I am so grateful for that experience. I know that the call was inspired of God. On my mission I gained a far deeper testimony of the savior and his church. I came to know him as I learned to love and serve his children. They were far and away the best two years I have ever spent, and I am so grateful to the Lord for the opportunity. I am thankful I was able to touch and teach some of my precious brothers and sisters and to help them enter the waters of baptism.

 

While on my mission, I felt strongly prompted to apply to law school at BYU Law. I had already been accepted and deferred at a higher ranked law school, but I still felt a strong prompting to apply there. I ended up getting offered a full scholarship and was able to come to law school without having to take upon myself massive debt. I am currently finishing up my first year of law school and absolutely loving it. I am also engaged to Jessica who I met back in Philadelphia. Perhaps most importantly of all, my testimony is still burning strongly and I am filled with conviction and the power of the Lord. I am grateful to him for all of my many blessings and for the opportunities that yet lay ahead. I know that my redeemer lives and I am so grateful to him!

I know that joining the church can be tough and that Satan often puts challenges in the way. However, I also bear witnesses that if we follow Christ and show our faith everything will work out for the better. Every good thing in my life today has come because I showed faith. Because of my faith I have a scholarship at a law school, a wonderful fiance and I had the most incredible opportunity to serve God on my mission. All the things I was afraid I would lose have not been lost. Although not perfect, my relationship with my father continues to improve and I was blessed to be able to see him again after my mission. If you have faith and not fear and follow the savior I promise that the Lord will pour down his blessings from heaven!

 

Hey Everyone,

Sorry this is so late, but better late than never, right?

Which quote is your favorite?

general conferenceToday was the first day of General Conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e. Mormons).  For those not familiar with it, I’ll briefly describe it in my own words.

Based on a revelation given to Joseph Smith, found in the Doctrine and Covenants Section 20, verses 61-62, the church is to come together for inspiration and conducting business, which includes sustaining the elders of the church.  The revelation suggests every 3 months, but we come together every 6 months now.

During the conference, all of the highest leaders of the Mormon church speak including all of the 12 apostles, the First Presidency, Many women leaders, and also members of the Quorum of the Seventy.

Each of the people who speaks spends time praying and preparing for what the general membership of the church needs to hear along with people not of the Mormon faith who may be listening in.  It is interesting to learn from the perspectives of the leaders at the highest level, who dedicate everything to traveling around the world to help humanity.

Today one of the members of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, Robert D Hales, encouraged all of us to reflect and re-read or listen to what was said during this weekends’ Conference.  He said that we would receive personal revelation from the Lord in doing so.

As he spoke, I reflected on an experience I had just a few months ago.

In last Aprils’ General Conference, one of the members of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, Richard G Scott, spoke about the power of reading scriptures as a family.   We had tried numerous times over the years to have family scripture study.  Over the course of just a couple of days we would get out of the habit and back into our normal schedule.  We would then completely forget about it until the next General Conference, when someone would say something about scripture study as a family again and the cycle would continue.

As I read Elder Scott’s talk, this time was different.  When I re-read his talk a couple of months after he gave the talk, it was as if I was hearing it for the first time.  Things jumped off the page at me and I received a simple, but inspired idea to help my family.  A simple, but very profound idea came clearly into my mind.  I knew it was from the Lord because of how clearly and powerfully it entered into my mind.  It was simply this: put a copy of the scriptures out on the kitchen table as a reminder to read.  After saying a blessing on the food, read a few verses out of the scriptures and have a small discussion with the kids.

We started doing it and the results have been great!  It’s been about 4 months now and we are to the point that if we don’t read scriptures, our 4 year old daughter will remind us to.  It has become a habit and part of our routine.

I’m very grateful that God speaks to us individually and through His servants.  It has blessed the lives of my family.

I encourage everyone to listen to General Conference tomorrow and then spend time in the ensuing months to re-read or listen to the messages.  I’m confident you will receive personal revelation.

 

Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

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