Recently I received some comments on an old article I wrote about Mormons being born again. I reached out to a friend of mine I met through this website who is a pastor at Addisville Reformed Church in Pennsylvania. I want to thank Doug Dwyer for taking the time to answer my questions and hope that it helps both Mormons and Christians from other faiths see where we have common ground.
I was out with the sister missionaries the other night visiting a family they are teaching. The family is a great young couple just starting out in life in their early 20′s. They are very new in their careers and have all the aspirations that young couples have such as: earning enough money to live comfortably, raising children, and making their dreams come true in life.
While I was there, I felt that I needed to ask them why they are meeting with the missionaries? She said it is because she sees how happy people who have faith are and she wants that in her life and in the lives of her children. Her husband, once was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (i.e. Mormon). He said that he decided around the age of 18 that he wasn’t going to stay active as a member of the church. However, after a few years he notices a void in his life and said that he also shares the same desire and knows he will “come back” someday.
They also shared experiences they have had learning about the Gospel from his parents, who are active church members. We read scripture together and I shared some stories of my conversion. He then shared a story of revelation that had come into his life at a young age and shared a witness of God answering prayers. He also said he felt a desire to pray and read scripture with his wife, which they never have done.
After the meeting, I couldn’t help but think that this meeting must have been an answer to the prayers of his parents. I also thought of my own conversion story as well as that of Alma the Younger’s in the scriptures, where the children, who are rebellious are saved through the faith and prayers of their parents.
Since you can read about Alma’s conversion story, I’ll briefly share my story and how it relates to my father.
My Conversion Story
After my parents’ divorce I became very rebellious at a young age. Although I was very young, I was getting into some very bad addictive habits and I was angry at my father, God, and especially anything related to the Mormon Church.
One summer, my mother persuaded me to go and visit my Dad, which I did reluctantly. The one thing I didn’t want to do was go to church, which I knew my Dad was actively involved in. Upon my dismay, he told me that as long as I was staying with him, I had to go to church. So I did and hated it.
However, after a few days I started to notice something and my heart started to change. I noticed my Dad wasn’t what I thought he was and he actually cared for me. I noticed a feeling of love and peace in his home that I hadn’t felt in a long, long time. After staying with him for a couple of weeks, my heart had changed so much that I knew I wanted to live with him in an environment that was away from the bad friends and influences I had without a father figure in my life. I also started reading scripture and praying and God softened my heart through the power of the Holy Spirit.
When I told my father all of this, he started to cry tears of joy and told me he had been praying for this to happen as he saw me slipping into a dark place. As I look back on things, I realize that it was indeed a miracle because I had no intentions of ever coming back. It was solely through my father’s faith that I was blessed with the grace of the Good Lord to experience what I did at that time and have experienced many times since then.
This message is to all of you parents out there who may have a child who has made some wrong turns. My heart goes out to you as I am a father of young children. At their tender ages, I can’t imagine them making bad choices as they are so innocent and full of love and life. If you have older children who have strayed, I’m sure you see your older children and remember them when they were young and so close to God. Don’t give up hope. The lives of the young couple I met with this week with the missionaries, Alma the Younger in the scriptures, and my own life are testimonies that through the faith of parents’ sincere prayers, our children can return once again to light and truth from God.
You May Not Be Interested in God, But He is Interested in You
In the mid-90’s when I served my mission in Germany, we would often listen to cassette tapes where people would re-enact, or role play, various scenarios that we were likely to encounter. The actors on the tape would share a “less effective” and then “more effective” examples of how to teach missionary lessons, approach people, find people to teach, etc. We would always strive to use the more effective approach.
One day I was trying to use a “more effective” approach to finding new people to teach by going through our Area Book to find the names of people who prior missionaries had taught. As I scanned the notes, nothing special was standing out to me until I came across a name and an address. All it read was “Hr Neuhaus” and an address. There were not the typical notes or comments left by missionaries on what they had taught, the person’s reaction to the lessons, how many lessons they had taught, etc. It was simply “Hr Neuhaus.” Although there wasn’t much to go on, I knew we needed to stop by that particular house, so we mapped out the address and full of faith and confidence got on our bikes and pedaled to the address.
When we knocked on the door, a gruff old man shouted angrily at us from inside, “Keine Intresse,” meaning “not interested.” Usually I would walk on down the street to the next house, but this time was different. I felt moved upon to keep on trying. I called back and said the first thing that entered my mind, “You might not be interested in God right now, but God is interested in you!” That comment immediately sparked the gentleman’s curiosity and he came to the door and let us in.
The room we entered was filled with the haze of smoke from countless cigarettes Mr. Neuhaus would chain smoke. I could almost feel the smoke wrap around my skin like a blanket. I had never baptized anyone in Germany and I was confident that this gentleman would soon become another of our “one-teach-wonders,” where we taught one lesson and then never got invited back again.
Before we had a chance to get introduced, Mr. Neuhaus blunted stated, “I hate God.” I had never started a conversation this way before, but I could sense that he was in great pain, so I asked him questions about why he felt that way.
Mr. Neuhaus went on to describe how he had lived a great life with his wife for many years but suddenly she had taken ill and had recently passed away. The loss of his wife was too much for him to bear, so he had turned to alcohol and cigarettes to help numb the pain and loneliness.
Germans are bold so I boldly told him that if he listened to our message and did what we asked him to do, he would soon find God and his heart would be healed. That resonated with him ever so slightly and so after praying and reading, he agreed to have us return for another visit.
Our next discussion was much better than the first one. He had read several scriptures and had even started to pray. Although he was still very lonely and sad, his demeanor was much lighter as we taught him about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Days turned into weeks and weeks into months and Mr. Neuhaus made slight spiritual progress with every visit.
As missionaries, one of our responsibilities is to teach people about the “Word of Wisdom,” which is the law that distinguishes Mormons in that they cannot drink, smoke, use drugs, etc. The day finally came where we were to teach Mr. Neuhaus about the Word of Wisdom. I was sure he was going to quit having us over when we asked him to stop smoking. However, to our pleasant surprise, he not only wanted to quit smoking and drinking, but he also wanted to get baptized as well.
In order to help Mr. Neuhaus stop smoking and drinking, we bought him some candy and also told him if he was ever tempted, he could contact us via telephone no matter what time it was. I didn’t realize that Mr. Neuhaus would keep me so honest with my offer. He called about every other night so he could talk with us when he was tempted to smoke cigarettes, or drink alcohol. I would help strengthen his resolve by him by telling him scripture stories and praying for him over the phone.
This pattern went on for several weeks. I noticed that gradually I grew to love the gruff man who initially had told us to leave him alone and never come back. Like a young flower gradually opens its petals, this was a miracle slowly unfolding before our eyes as Mr. Neuhaus’ testimony started to blossom. I also noticed that I had gradually grown to love Hr Neuhaus with a deep love that can only come from the grace of God. I had learned to see him as God saw him: a son of God most valuable and precious in His eyes.
On May 11th, 1997, I felt humbled as Hans Peter Neuhaus and I stepped into the baptismal font together and I offered the baptismal prayer. We went down into the water together and I lifted him back out. Immediately there was a change in his countenance and I felt a deep love sweep over me as I knew that God had approved of Peter’s baptism.
This experience happened about 8 months into my two-year mission to Frankfurt, Germany. Although I met many people during my mission who appeared they would be good candidates for baptism, none of them took the necessary steps that Peter Neuhaus did. At the time of Peter’s baptism, I did not know that it would be the only time in my entire mission that I would have the opportunity to baptize someone I had found and taught.
I learned that God looks on the heart and even though someone may not appear “ready” to hear the gospel, it is up to God and the individual to receive guidance and promptings from the spirit which leads eventually to baptism. As a missionary, it was my privilege to be allowed to participate as the Spirit bore witness to a “gruff old man,” who embraced the gospel, which in turn changed his life and mine forever.
I have the great opportunity to work as a Ward Mission Leader in my Mormon Church congregation. It is great going out with the missionaries and sharing the gospel with friends and neighbors who may not have a relationship with God. I have seen some amazing things in the past few months as the Holy Spirit has worked miracles to ignite faith in people as they pray and study the scriptures.
One of the things I look forward to nearly ever day, are the stories that the missionaries tell me of their daily adventures as they meet with people from all walks of life. My favorite ones are ones that involve members of our congregation as they help people in the community. The missionaries shared an example of this the other day.
In our neck of the woods (the Seattle area) it tends to rain in waves this time of year. For example, it will be sunny for 20 minutes then a cloud will roll in and pour rain and it goes on like that throughout the day.
One of the ladies that our missionaries have been teaching decided to walk to the store with her little child while it was sunny and on her way back a cloud rolled in and started pouring rain on her and the young child. She was very concerned about her child’s health and wondered if she would be able to make it home.
Just then, a van pulled up to her and the door slid open. A large Samoan man looked at her and said “Get in the Van”! She said at first it was startling, but she had a good feeling so she got in the van. There were a few kids in the van along with the gentleman’s wife. They asked her where she lived and told her they didn’t feel right about having her left out in the rain. She told them where to go and she arrived safely at home.
The next evening, the missionaries invited her to come to a woman’s activity at the church. She went and had a great time meeting members of the congregation. When she entered one of the rooms she looked up and noticed the same lady who had been in the van. They both did a double take and then got excited and hugged each other and started talking.
I was so impressed with this Samoan family. Their actions were an example of the pure love of Christ that we preach about when we are out in the community with people. It is one thing to talk about helping others, but it is another thing to quietly go about doing good as Jesus did without recognition, which is exactly what our Samoan friends did. This left a greater impression on our friend who is investigating the Mormon Church than any sermon could have done.
When I heard this story, the words of President Hinckley come to mind. When asked why no Mormon Churches have crosses on their buildings, he stated:
…The lives of our people must become the most meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship. (Ensign, 2005)
I am very grateful for the opportunity I have to work with these great members in our congregation along with the great missionaries and people they teach. I have witnessed the hand of God working through all of us who give of our time and try to live as Jesus would have us live. When we do this, miracles happen and lives are changed.
This is the first Spiritual SOAP post in the series.
In our class, we started in 3 Nephi 11 of the Book of Mormon, mainly because this is where Jesus comes and teaches his most basic doctrines of salvation.
“Gather, don’t Scatter”
Scripture: A large group of people gathered around the temple astonished about the great changes that had taken place in their surroundings (earthquakes, fires, many people dying, etc.)
- They gathered and weren’t scattered when destruction came
- They didn’t just gather anywhere. They gathered together at the temple
- As they gathered, they were open in their lack of knowledge but openly discussed their concerns as well.
- If we want to have strength, gather with fellow believers
- Gather at a place of worship. Examples of places of worship include: churches, homes of the faithful, the temple, etc.
- When we are gathered it is good to be open with one another and openly discuss our lack of knowledge, issues, and concerns. This is how we grow.
I pray that I will always remember to turn to God in times of need, but also that I will turn to God in the good times as well. I pray that He will lift me up and I will be able to have great associations with believers. I pray that my home will be a place where God’s Spirit can dwell and a refuge for my children and anyone else seeking the Lord.
What thoughts do you have when you apply Spiritual SOAP to this scripture?
Keeping with the tradition started last year, here is a list of the April 2013 LDS general conference “best quotes” (according to me) for you to vote on. Feel free to add any other quotes or thoughts you had about conference this year as well.
Also, just for fun, I included another poll with the top 5 quotes selected by readers of the blog from all of last year for you to vote on.
My first thought was to share the traditional stories those of us who have been around the Mormon Church for awhile have all heard. I’m sure there are many bloggers out there who are well more versed on the history of Mormon faith healing and miracles, but for those of you interested, there are quite a few Mormon faith healing stories of the first Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith. Those of you who have stories to share on the history of healing or perhaps a relative who was miraculously healed, please share in the comment section because I know there are a lot of faith healing stories out there which would be beneficial for all of us to hear.
Also, as I researched, I found numerous inspirational stories of faith and healing from Mormons all over the world. For example, the LDS Addictions Recovery website has some amazing testimonials of people who were on the street and totally addicted who turned their will to God and were healed.
Another miraculous healing I recently read in the very inspiring book Let it Go by Chris Williams. This book is about Chris’s experience with a drunk driver hitting his family’s car. Chris’s wife, unborn son, daughter, and one of his sons were instantly killed. His other son was in very critical condition and had brain damage. Doctors thought that he had a very slight chance of survival, and if he did survive, would have permanent brain damage. Chris relates a story of how he felt God’s love encircle him and as he laid hands on his son to give him a blessing of healing, he felt God tell him to say his son would be completely healed. Three weeks later, his son was o.k. and released from the hospital.
While all of these examples are awesome, and the Good Lord has shown His hand countless times, I thought that I would share a few personal stories that were very impressive for me at various stages of my life. As I reflect on each of them, I am grateful for God’s merciful hand in my life.
I’ll start with the story of my sister being brought back to life, then share a personal story of healing within myself, and conclude with a recent story about my wife and our unborn daughter (due this June 20th).
The Day my Sister Died (and lived)
I was seven years old, but that didn’t stop my father from granting me my wish to help out on the farm. On this particular day I was busy pulling down a 80 lb hay bales, and rolling them to the feeding trough, cutting the strings and distributing the hay for the yearling calves. I wanted to make sure I was doing my job correctly, so I was very focused on making sure I did as my father had taught me and not clump the hay all in one spot. Rather, spread it out evenly so all the calves could get a good meal.
My focus was suddenly snapped as I heard a shrill screaming shrieking noise that startled me. I wondered what could be making that noise and when I looked a few hundred feet away from where I was it scared me even more. The noise was coming from my father. Tears were streaming down his face and he was running faster than I had ever seen him run in my life. What was even more frightening was my little sister, who was 3 1/2 years old was laying limp and lifeless in his arms. I dropped everything I was doing and ran towards my grandfathers house where I saw my father running.
By the time I entered the pantry my grandmother, grandfather, and father were surrounding my young sister. She was laying in my father’s arms limp and they couldn’t find a pulse. My grandmother had called for help and in the meantime, grandpa and dad proceeded to give her a blessing.
My father knows more precisely what was said in the blessing, but if I recall it correctly, he commanded her to be healed and promised that she would live a life of service to God. Shortly thereafter, her pulse returned and her stay in the hospital was very short.
She was daddies little girl and always followed him around the farm wherever he went. I’ve had conversations with him about how proud of her he was and how much he loved his little girl. On that particular day, as he was pulling hay bales down, he didn’t realize that she had slipped out of grandpa and grandma’s home to follow him. He pulled a line of hay from a stack that was 13 bales high, each bale weighing 80-100 lbs. which came crashing down right on top of her. It was the first healing miracle I witnessed and it made an impression on me that the Lord can and still does work miracles through His faithful servants.
Today, my sister is one of the most dedicated and committed members of our family to the Lord, Jesus Christ as she and her husband serve as pastors and missionaries for a local Foursquare Church. They are also beginning the process of planting a new church. She is a sweet blessing to our family and I thank the Lord that her life was spared at that time. Many times throughout my life she has touched me and moved me to be a better person who is more dedicated to the Lord.
My Blessing of Healing
Those of you who follow this blog know of my struggles I’ve had in the past with anxiety and depression. Those of you who read my book know how big of a challenge it was for me to overcome anxiety and depression, especially in my personal relationships.
Shortly after I was married to my wife, I was still struggling with sever anxiety. I was traumatized by my parents’ divorce at a young age and I still had panic that my wife may leave me or be taken away from me.
A couple weeks after we were married, I was visiting a friend of mine. My wife was on a trip to Taiwan and I was scheduled to go visit her. However, I was in a state of panic wondering if she would still want me knowing I was suffering so much from anxiety, etc. I asked my friend to give me a blessing.
In the blessing, God talked to me through him. I felt words of comfort and he also pronounced a blessing of healing, that I would be freed from anxiety.
Since that time, I have never suffered from a panic attack, which is a miracle given that I had suffered for years prior to that. I feel the Lord’s hand in my life as I am a husband and father of two beautiful kids (soon to be three), which leads me to the final story of healing.
Healing for My Wife and Unborn Child
A few months ago my wife told me she was very weak from bleeding. Given that she was about 15 or 16 weeks pregnant, I knew that wasn’t a good thing. We had had a miscarriage before so I thought that perhaps this was the case. My mind then went to the “what if” situations of if it was something more that could be wrong with her and she was bleeding internally.
As the blood kept coming, I knew we needed to do something. I called her Dad to see if we could have him come over and watch our kids who were sleeping and then called the hospital and explained the situation. I then had the impression to give her a blessing of healing.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Mormon concept of giving a blessing, I’ll try and summarize it. Members of the church who hold the Melchezedek Priesthood have the authority and power to act as the “voice” of God so to speak and give a blessing. Blessings can be given for comfort, or for healing. In the case of healing, we annoint the person receiving the blessing with consecrated oil, place our hands on their head, and then speak the words the Lord gives us. It is a very humbling experience because going into the blessing the person doesn’t know what words are going to be given. (Read this article for a more detailed description on blessings).
Before I started speaking the words during the blessing, the Lord’s Spirit came over me and I sensed a complete feeling of peace and that everything was going to be fine. I knew in my heart that whatever happened would be the Lord’s will and I was prepared to accept it.
When I began speaking, I was impressed to speak the words that she would be healed and the baby would be fine. For a split second I had a bit of doubt seeing how much she had bled (which seemed like much more compared to the miscarriage we had had), but I put the doubt out of my mind and focused on the promptings I received.
Shortly afterwards, her bleeding slowed down and we didn’t even need to go into the doctor that evening.
She is now 26 weeks along and we found out we are going to be having a little girl.
These are just a few “Mormon Faith Healing Stories” that I have personally witnessed in my life. I’m positive there are many of you out there who have stories to share. Whether you are Mormon or not, I know that the Lord can and does heal according to His will and the faith of the people receiving and/or giving the healing. I would love if you shared some healing stories you have seen in your life. I think it will be a great blessing to those who read this.
I’ve been very busy working with our full-time Mormon missionaries in our ward the past couple months and have been very impressed with all the work and effort they put in. It has been a while since I have been this heavily involved in missionary service. Some days can be very awesome and others can be very trying.
I am reminded of experiences on my mission when I meet or speak with the sister missionaries in our ward (congregation) nearly every day. There are many, many people out there who have little or no concept of who God is and who Jesus Christ is. Many people when asked say they are Christian, but when speaking more in depth they rarely pray and have little or no concept of what the Atonement of Jesus Christ is and how it applies to our lives. I have been re-ignited in my faith as to the importance of this message by actively going out and meeting people in my community and seeing the challenges they face and the struggles they have trying to rely on their own strength rather than Gods.
This week was particularly difficult for us. We had been working with a great family the past few weeks who had begun to embrace reading scripture together, coming to church, and praying as a family. The father of the home even made the comment of how different his kids were (in a good way) since coming to church. However, things changed pretty quickly when his ex-wife heard about her kids going to the Mormon church and meeting with the Mormon missionaries. Although she hasn’t ever gone to church (according to her kids and ex-husband), she was very passionate that they quit going to the Mormon church and start going to the Catholic church she was raised in. Needless to say, when the sister missionaries went to visit Rick and his kids and found out about their mother’s concerns and also that the kids and Rick wouldn’t continue on with lessons, we were pretty discouraged.
It was during times like this when I was on my mission that I reflected on the inspiring times in my life so I could stay positive. With this in mind, I thought I’d share an inspiring story from my Mormon mission in Frankfurt, Germany during the mid ’90s.
Inspiring Mormon Missionary Story
The most inspiring moment on my mission was working with a man named Herr Neuhaus. Hr. Neuhaus was an older gentleman who had lived a very rough life. When we came across him, he was very angry at God. His wife had recently passed away and he was very depressed. Life for him when we met him was drinking and smoking and staring at the TV.
I learned on my mission in Germany to be very direct and bold. That was their style over there. So when we first met him and he bellowed out that he didn’t have any interest (they all said that initially), I told him that he might not have interest, but God had interest in him.
He replied that “God doesn’t love me…” which gave me a window into his tortured soul. I immediately felt compassion for him and I feel that by the grace of God I was able to feel for Hr Neuhaus a small amount of love that God has for each of us as sinners.
I engaged him in conversation on why he thought God didn’t love him. This is when he shared with us his story of his wife dying despite all the prayers he had offered in her behalf that she would live.
That first day, we just listened mainly and I really felt so awful for him. However, I knew that through the power of the Atonement, he could be made whole again and Jesus could fill him up with love once more.
I testified of this and challenged him to read the Book of Mormon, especially the parts on the Atonement of Christ and faith. I promised him if he did this that he would feel God’s love once more.
To make a long story short, God was true to His promise to those who show faith in Him. Not only was Hr Neuhaus healed from his suffering, but he was also healed from his addictions of smoking and drinking. I felt honored when he asked me if he would baptize him, which I did on May 11, 1997.
This was the only person I baptized while I was on my mission.
When I reflect on this experience, I am once again reminded of the importance of being a witness for Jesus Christ. I have seen personally and many times have witnessed other people such as Hr Neuhaus who chose to embrace the teachings and gospel of Jesus. Their lives are renewed and the cares and struggles of this world are swallowed up in hope and deliverance.
Please take a moment and share your favorite missionary experience either as a missionary, or a pastor, or just in your daily walk with God. I think it would be very beneficial for other readers of this blog.
1 Peter 3:15 discusses the importance of always being ready to share our testimonies of the gospel of Christ.
That time came for me unexpectedly (which it usually does).
We are getting ready to paint our house and I have had painters over the past few days coming over to give us quotes on pricing.
The other day, the doorbell rang and there was a clean-cut young man standing there. His image was much different than the last painter who came 1/2 hour late and who clearly was suffering from a hangover. This young man was punctual and actually dressed nicely. More importantly, he was friendly and very professional as he assessed the property, making small conversation and asking the right questions. He was also very thorough in his process of putting a proposal together.
While he was putting together a few scenarios for me, we discussed his goals in life. I learned that he was preparing to go to college. We discussed this for awhile and it came up that I had gone to BYU. At this point he seemed a little interested and asked me about my experience there. I told him about what I had majored in and what I had learned.
He went on to tell me that he used to attend the Mormon church until he was 15 when his parents were divorced. He decided to move up from Nevada to the Seattle area with his mom, where he didn’t feel he had the support he needed or friends at church, so he fell away.
Immediately I had a lot of questions in my mind such as: by falling away does he mean falling away from God or the Mormon Church? How has his life been since falling away? Is he considering coming back?
However, since we were in a business situation and I also had a meeting I needed to get to, I didn’t delve deeper into the conversation.
When he left, I felt the need to help him and wondered if I made the right decision in that moment, or if I should have dug a bit deeper.
What would you have done?
Those of you who have read this blog over the years know of my past struggles with Anxiety and Depression. Many of you know my story and how I was able to overcome anxiety and depression.
Since writing the book, Discovering Light, I have been contacted by other bloggers, medical practitioners, and non-profit companies to share my story. I feel that anxiety and depression is something that is only recently being acknowledged and accepted in society and in order to help inform people, I welcome all opportunities to share my story.
One thing I’ve learned is that each person struggles with anxiety and depression in a unique way and there isn’t a cure-all for everyone. Many people struggle for years and feel terribly alone and isolated.
When one of the administrators of the website: With Real Intent reached out to me about a series they are doing on anxiety and depression and asked me to write an article, I gladly accepted.
The series is called Peculiar Minds and has articles from many different people who are or have suffered from anxiety and/or depression in various forms. It is very interesting to see what works for some people and how each person deals with anxiety and depression. I wish that there had been this type of site when I was struggling.
I encourage you to visit their site and forward this on to anyone who may be struggling at this time.