Sunday, June 22, 2014

Conversion: by Consuelo Briones


     I was born in Ecuador and like in most of the Latin countries the majority of the people are Catholic, so I was.  I grow up attending a private religious school from elementary to secondary.  The missionaries came to my house at the perfect moment, when my older siblings and I were teenagers and my parents needed a source of happiness in their lives, so we enjoyed to listen the missionary discussions.
     This was a very special time in my life! I was 13 years old when I joined the church, and only thinking in this blessing my heart gets so emotional, I can't hold tears run over my face because it was probably the greatest blessing in my life, or the one from all of the others come.
      Growing in a Catholic school, the teachings about God never satisfied my anxious heart to know more about Him or to feel that all those teachings were true. I used to ask so many questions to my religious teachers but the answers were "it's a mystery, nobody knows".
       When I heard and saw an illustration from the missionaries  about the story of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ talking with a 14 years old boy as an answer to his prayer was for me the greatest news my heart was looking for. It was like finding the piece of the puzzle that I always was looking for.  All my soul was saying: it’s true! The idea of God having a body and talking to his children here on earth answer so many questions for me. God really exists, he hears our prayers, he has a body of a celestial being, under his image we were created, and we are his children! With this knowledge I was ready to accept and believe the rest of the discussions. I wanted to know more and more.
      For the rest of my life, this knowledge has blessed me. I'm a daughter of the Supreme God, that is why I can feel love, compassion, joy..., and I can do many things that look hard because I'm after my Heavenly Father, I'm not alone and I will never be.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Aaronic Priesthood

In our church the young men of age 12 and up hold the Aaronic Priesthood.  Aaronic Priesthood holders are put into different quorums (groups) based on their age.  They participate in church activities, service projects, scouting event, and fulfill weekly responsibility based on what quorum they are in. This post comes from our Teacher's quorum (young men who are are 14 and 15 years old) and some of their adult advisers.  They share some of their feelings about temples, holding the priesthood, prophets and families.


Chase

The day I became a deacon is the day I left behind my immaturities and became a young man instead of small carefree boy.  I now had a duty to my Father in Heaven and promises to keep.  I was to receive the priesthood which is the power to serve in Heavenly Father's name.  It is used to heal the sick, uplift people of all kinds, and to perform sacred ordinances.


Mason

I have been in the scouting program for 3 1/2 years now, and I have enjoyed all of the gut-busting and spiritual activities.  Not only are they fun but they bring us closer to one another.  I was once asked where people went when they don't have temples.  I didn't know.  The answer was in the wilderness.  That is why I like scouts a lot


Braden

To start off, I love going to the temple.  For those who don't know what a temple is, it is a holy place where we can feel the love of Jesus Christ and the comfort of him as well.  Going to the temple is a great experience and a great opportunity to talk to our Lord Jesus Christ.  Feeling his great peace makes me feel and understand his love.  Going to the temple and feeling the peace and love of Jesus Christ tells me that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true.  So many great and wonderful things happen in the LDS church and the same with temples.  Having the strength of Jesus Christ gets me through my trials and tribulations.  Knowing he is there for me is a great reminder to go to the temple.  I never knew there was a place where I could get so close to him.


William

When I turned 12 I got my temple recommend and me, my mom, and my older sister went to the temple.  I was excited but also very nervous because I had no idea what I was supposed to do.  I was extremely surprised when I found out that the temple had a downstairs and that was where the font was.  When we walked down the stairs I started feeling the Spirit very strongly.  When it was time to finally do the baptisms for the dead I felt the spirit more strongly than I had in a long time.  We were doing baptisms for some of my ancestors who did not get the opportunity when they were alive.  I felt as if they were looking down at me and smiling.  I love the temple and plan to go again soon.


Bentley

My name is Bently.  I have a testimony of our prophet today - Thomas S. Monson.  Now if you are reading this and you aren't a Mormon than you probably don't know what a testimony is.  Well to simplify the long definition, a testimony is what you believe in and you experience.   But the way I am doing it is by posting on the blog.  I have a testimony of the  of our prophet.  I know that he is the true prophet of God.  I know that he cares about us and does his best to do what is right for us.  I know that even though he may not know who I am that he cares about me and wants me to do my best.  I hope that who ever is reading this will feel the Spirit.  I want them to know that the Lord loves and cares about all of us.


Randy (Adviser)

I am thankful for the knowledge that families can be together forever, not just only on Earth.  This makes sense to me.  It doesn't make any sense that marriages are "till death do us part."  What is the purpose of marriage and raising kids if these relationships end at death?  The Holy Ghost testifies of the truthfulness of eternal families.  It feels right, it is right.  I know that the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the complete gospel, was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith.  I am grateful for this and for the fact I can be with my wife and family forever.  This knowledge is priceless to me.


Tim (Adviser)

I am so grateful to work with the young men and men as we grow together in our knowledge and experience of the gospel.  These young men impress me so much with their knowledge and desire to do what is right.  I know the Jesus Chris is the Son of God.  I know that he is my Savior.  I am so grateful to know that he died for me that I might repent. I know that God loves me and these young men and helps us in our efforts to do good and serve.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the true Church of Jesus Christ.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Family Conversion by Carolyn Cragun

     Our family were very active in the Anglican church in Paris, Ontario.  Father was Rector's warden, Mother was head of the Women's Auxiliary. Carolyn was singing in the choir, and helping with a Brownie troop. But Richard was a cut up.  One Sunday he came home and announced he wasn't going to church anymore, that there were just old ladies there.  So mother began reading about other religions and how they involved their youth.
    When my father had a heart attack, mother studied everything she could find on how to help him with changes to his diet.  She put wheat germ in his cereal and in the bread she made.  She renewed her studies of religion and became very interested in the vegetarian diet of the Seventh Day Adventists, who worked for her.
     In 1948 there was a knock on her door.  When mother opened the door, there were two Mormon missionaries in suits, white shirts and fedora hats. Standard clothing at the time.  She invited them in and told them she had just been reading about the health statistics of the Mormon people in
a book by Gaylord Hauser.  She would like to know about their "Word of Wisdom".  She asked them what they hoped to accomplish by knocking on doors.  They said they had a message they would like to share.  She asked if they had a program for young men in their church.  They told her about the Priesthood quorums and the seminary classes.  Then she asked if she could read their Book of Mormon.  Yes, she was ready for their message.  
    She introduced her family to the missionaries.  She began to leave tracts around where Carolyn would find them, knowing her curiosity would lead her to read them.  Pairs of missionaries began teaching the family the tenets of the Mormon Church over the next two and a half years.  Mother read everything the missionaries could provide her.  She cross-referenced every item in the Book of Mormon with the Old and New Testaments.
     In a taped interview in 1970 she told of reading the Doctrine and Covenants. "Carolyn and Richard had gone to the beach and dad was out checking {construction}.  I started reading and I read all day. I didn't make a bed,  I didn't sweep.  I just read.  I didn't get dressed until about 7  o'clock at night.  When I got to the 89th section and read the Word of Wisdom, this was the first time that I had a testimony of Joseph Smith.  I knew it was right, but {previously} I couldn't get a testimony that Joseph was a prophet, because the concept of a prophet {in our day} was foreign to us.  But when I read the Word of Wisdom and knew that medical science did not have that knowledge at that time, it was just beautiful.  That day I just read the Doctrine and Covenants right through, like gulping when you were starving, and later I had to read it again.  I just couldn't put it down."
    The Elders invited her to a District Conference where Milton R. Hunter was to be the visiting speaker.  Again from the interview: "The elders had invited me to go to a district conference where a guest from Salt Lake City was to speak.  I remember thinking, 'these pople are terribly religious.  I bet they don't use any make-up.'  When we walked in the door Grace ........ was directing the music with nice bright lipstick on, and a nice form fitting sweater and I thought,'they are normal.'
    "When I went to get in the car, Dad was waiting for me.  I assured him I could drive myself, but he said 'No, since you have been reading these things you have a different look.  Your reactions have changed.  You're kinder and I want to go and hear what these men have to say.'  You don't realize yourself that you are changing, but I think that reading the words of Widtsoe made me realize that it wasn't enough to know it.  You had to put it into action." 
    "Elder Hunter spoke on the Mormon understanding of the Fall of Adam and Eve, and the mission president spoke on what was meant by the soul of man. Afterwards they came down to talk to Dad and he said, 'Where did you get that story that you told tonight. This is what I have always believed.  That a baby is innocent.'  And they said, 'Well if you would read the books your wife has read, you would know where that story came from'.  'Yes, well I am a busy man and I don't have time.'   Dad turned to Elder Hunter and said, 'So that is your story and you are going to stick with it?'  'No, that is the Lord's story and I am going to stick with it.'  Dad would come back day after day from his business trips and say, 'I can't get the words of those men out of my mind.  They keep going through and through my mind."
    Mother and Father and Carolyn were baptized 3 December 1950 and confirmed members of the Church of Jesus Christ of LatterDay Saints.   

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Faith Journeys by Rachel

In March of 2014 I was blessed to begin email correspondence with this wonderful young lady.  She has taught me and helped me understand the life of someone investigating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  I am so grateful to her and she has strengthened my own testimony.  Rachel lives in Scotland  and initially reached out to us for a LDS pen pal.  There are a few other members in our ward that are also emailing with Rachel.   I recently asked her if she would be willing to share her story with us.  It is incredibly inspiring and I am so thankful that she took the time to write up her story.  Rachel has been working on the Young Women's Personal Progress program.  The value that currently is her focus is faith.  Here for you to enjoy is her Faith Journeys!
                                                     Faith Journeys by Rachel

I’m going to begin with the earliest memory I have of learning about Jesus Christ. I used to go to Girls’ Brigade, which is an organisation affiliated with the Church of Scotland. One Thursday evening we were learning about the New Testament and the disciples of Jesus Christ. I was about ten years old and my teacher –whose husband was the minister of the local church – got on to the conversation of being a disciple of Christ. I curiously asked my teacher “How can I follow Jesus?” Her answer to this question was “you already are” implying that I didn’t need to know how to. This confused me even more as I remember thinking to myself: How can I be following Jesus if I didn’t know I was following Him? I didn’t pray, I didn’t go to church and I’d never read the Bible - what did “following” Jesus Christ actually mean?

Fast forward to last September where I went on a field trip to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp where millions of Jewish and other minority groups were brutally exterminated during WW2. I can’t  begin explain what it actually feels like to be standing in the heart location of a mass genocide, but it was where I began to discover what having faith meant. In the museum of Auschwitz, there are endless piles of belongings which were harvested like a crop – as if they were there for better use. I saw photographs displayed collectively in one massive gallery: faces of victims, entire families torn apart, marriages broken and friendships left behind. Standing in this gallery I came to the realisation that all these people had in thing common: they all had faith.

These people had spiritual faith: a more powerful force which would save them. I admired their courage to hold their beliefs strong, even though they were forbidden to practice them. They also had faith in their families, their friends and their loved ones. In the modern day, it seems surreal that people would carry photographs of their loved ones when they went on a journey. We are so used to constant communication through social media that we are too easy to take these privileges for granted. It was saddening to know that these people had faith that they would see these people again in their mortal lives. This combined with sets of house keys neatly placed in a glass exhibit were too personal; their faith in an escape and something greater was just too strong.

Holocaust Memorial Day was on the 26th of January and the theme this year was Journeys. My companion and I spoke at the event in Aberdeen. Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling too well, and the thought of having to speak in front of a large crowd about such a harrowing experience wasn’t making it any better. Although my speech wasn’t as good as it could have been I felt that when I was speaking, I was speaking for those people who I had seen in the photographs, for those that had faith, even when suffering in unimaginable conditions. That night I prayed to Heavenly Father for the first time with a sincere heart. I was thankful that He gave me the confidence to speak in front of all those people. After I had finished praying it was the first time I had felt The Spirit of the Holy Ghost. I had felt an overwhelming burning sensation from my heart that I had heard so many people talking about. That was also when I experienced a second way of feeling the spirit. After being stuck on something for a while, the penny would suddenly drop and I get that amazing feeling thinking “It all makes sense now!” On that day I learned to recognise the spirit for myself and from then on began to establish a habit of prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ. I learned why it is important to tell Heavenly Father what I am thankful for and ask if I need guidance. I know that he is always there and I can pray for blessings that others need.

On our trip to Auschwitz, a Rabbi named Markus was travelling with us. At the end of our visit, he conducted a memorial service for all the victims of the Holocaust. We all attended and he read some of the scriptures and said a prayer in Hebrew. It was such a beautiful service and The Spirit was definitely there. Many other tourists gathered to join the service; there was an immense feeling of oneness. Not everyone there spoke English and not everyone was Jewish, but we were united in faith and it was amazing how we were all feeling The Spirit of the Lord together. If it is one thing I learned since this trip, I have learned that love wins. Jesus taught us to love one another as He has loved us (John 13: 34-35). We are all spirit children of Heavenly Father and we all deserve the same love and respect, regardless of beliefs or personal choices. By adopting this attitude, I have witnessed many blessings in my life since. When we exercise this love, we are showing that we are worthy of his Glory as we show our desire to keep his commandments.

So how do I know now that I am following the Saviour Jesus Christ? Well first I now have a desire to follow him and keep his commandments. (John 14:15) In one of my favourite scriptures, King Benjamin teaches that “there shall be no other name nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men” (Mosiah 3:17). I would like to strongly emphasise the influence that scripture study has had in developing my faith in the restored church. When I study the scriptures I have faith that Christ exists. I am so thankful for the vast study resources the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has available so everyone can learn from the gospel. The LDS church, its members, the missionaries and daily scripture study is helping me to live according to His will.

Ever since I discovered the restored gospel of Jesus Christ I will admit that I have had my doubts. I have read articles on blogs and forums with people declaring that Joseph Smith was a fraud and the scriptures are untrue. I have faced doubts and contentions from my family who do not believe in such things. I believe in the restored gospel because I believe in the Book that got me here in the first place. I have Joseph Smith and the missionaries to thank for that. I really admire how the LDS church is founded on the curiosity of a young boy who asked questions. The young Joseph Smith declared “I have learned for myself” (JSH 1:20) a principle which is still kept strong in the church today. The emphasis on your own relationship with Heavenly Father allows individuals to exercise and strengthen their faith. Referring back to my gospel lesson when I was ten years old, I didn’t have to decide if I was a true disciple of Christ. I had simply been told I was following Jesus, which limited my opportunity for personal revelation. I have seen for myself the blessing the Lord has given me and many others through faith - However small or large these blessings are. Whenever I doubt God, dwell on my imperfections or my ability to do good, I know that when I sit down to pray at the end of the day in the name of Jesus Christ, I feel the spirit comforting me and answering my prayers. This is what keeps me believing in His restored Church. I hope that in the future I will receive more blessings as I strive to keep the commandments.

I am of course still an investigator and I’m still not entirely sure whether I am ready to join the church or not. But what I am sure of is that I am thankful for the LDS church, because without it I would have never felt more aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit and the influence The Lord Jesus Christ can have on my life. I would like to thank all those in the Cedar Hills 10th Ward who I have been in contact with and have helped me so far. It’s been so great to learn about how the LDS church has blessed your lives and the lives of your families, and I hope it will continue to do so.