Showing posts with label prison. Show all posts
Showing posts with label prison. Show all posts

Thursday, August 20, 2015

“I WAS IN PRISON AND YOU CAME UNTO ME”

Matthew 25:35-43

We have had the privilege of serving 13 years visiting or writing to incarcerated men and women in many places throughout the world.  For a few of those years it was as much as 20 to 30 hours per week, now it’s just 5 or 6 hours one day a week.  The LDS Correctional Services office of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has provided us this opportunity.

It has been an enlightening experience to say the very least.  It has proven several facts to us; the most inspiring simply put is that those who embrace the love of Jesus Christ and endeavor to follow Him are less likely to return to prison.  This is called the rate of recidivism.  There are other things that reduce this rate but the process of coming unto Christ seems to be the most obvious to us.   

One inmate was taught that “My life would change if I would read the Book of Mormon.  When I got out of prison I went back to church, but I still had the urge to return back to my old habits.  As I continued to read the Book of Mormon, I learned about the people of King Lamoni in Alma 19:33, whose hearts had been changed; that they had no more desire to do evil. I began to pray for this change of heart.”  He found answers to his prayers in Helaman 15:7, which teaches that “faith and repentance bringeth a change of heart.”  As he continues “As I laid my sins at the Savior’s feet, I received a true change of heart.”

The sad state of being incarcerated is that so much of one’s life can be lost and bitterness sets in because of the unfairness that often accompanies being caught up in the judicial system.  So many inmates claim their innocence, but most are not; and yet some are. Family experiences are missed; relationships are strained and often broken never to be repaired.  Loneliness sets in and often depression. There can be mistreatment from guards and other inmates; safety becomes a vital concern. 

Attitude becomes a key to survival for every inmate. Help from others like cellmates, good guards, a chaplain or volunteers is so welcomed.  Another inmate came to prison frightened about everything so he prayed that he would be acquitted; he was not. He prayed that his father would live until he got out of prison, but he did not. He prayed that the parole board be lenient; but they were not continuing his matrix recommendation.  He was humbled and discovered that these were good experiences for him. He said “when we pray for what we want, our Heavenly Father gives us what we need because he knows us and knows what we need to make us happy”

Joseph Smith was falsely accused and imprisoned for months along with several of his friends and church associates.  He pleaded with God for relief when he said in prayer, “how long shall we suffer these wrongs and unlawful oppressions.”  The answer came: “My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high; thou shalt triumph over all thy foes.”
Whether guilty or falsely charged, relief of the accompanying pain of prison time can come from humbly asking God to carry our burdens that they may be light.  “…the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease.” (Mosiah 24:10-16)
This would apply to all of us who struggle with some burden or another.


Bill Wilhite

Sunday, October 5, 2014

His letter to me—The Bible and the Book of Mormon

Rodman is an inmate in a California prison. Many members of the tenth ward may recall my earlier comments about my association with him.  Rodman asked me to publish his testimony because the tenth ward has been supportive of him and his family. Here are Rodman’s words:

“I know that Jesus is my Savior and that he restored His church and priesthood through the prophet Joseph Smith in these latter days and that He directs His church through a living prophet and apostles.  I believe that any man, woman or child can draw closer to God through prayer, scripture reading and doing good.

“My name is Rodman, and if this is your first time getting to know me, I hope you will be able to embrace me for who and what I am and the things that I stand for and the way I see my life.  I am faith-based and family-focused, but it has not always been that way.

“I’m not as interested in the past as much as I am in the future.  However, I must bring up some past.  Just over a year ago a friend sent me a Book of Mormon.  I was open minded reading it because I had heard a lot of things about the LDS and in all honesty I thought the Book of Mormon would be just another “religious” book.  I had read so many already, but at the time my friend Dave sent me the book I had no idea that what I was about to read would send incredible shock waves through my life.

“The love of God for me was revealed in His letter to me—The Bible and the Book of Mormon.  By God’s grace, I reflected on His light in the dark times I was in; reading the scriptures helped me begin the process of putting my past into the proper prospective.

“My past was so painful to revisit, I stuffed it down in my mind, trying to forget much of it.  At age 11 of my mother told me I was the product of rape, and that began a withering process in my heart, a loss of worth and vitality.  It became difficult to identify with family pride, faith in gentleness or any kind of tenderness.  So I chose to deal with it in negative ways.

“As a teen I tried everything the streets had to offer.  I found out the hard way that sin was a very slippery slope.  At age 13, I joined a Crip gang in L.A.  I was troubled and there weren't many Christians coming to the front porches to minister to kids like me and my homeboys.  We ignorantly believed Christianity in any form was based on a European god, and there was no way any of the guys I hung with would worship a racist God.

“That attitude landed me in prison where, as I mentioned, my friend Dave sent me a Book of Mormon.  He helped me overcome a few of the issues holding me back.  Encouraging me in prayer, God stilled my heart and quieted my mind.  Dave shared scriptures with me and talked to me patiently.  I learned praising God came naturally when I counted my blessings.

“I also realized that others could teach me the principles of their faith, and that each of us must come individually to a lasting and personal faith in Christ.  For faith to be real, it must become rooted and established in the faith.

“I began to really study scriptures daily and attend meetings.  I finished reading the Book of Mormon.  Then I re-read it.

“I know now that the Book of Mormon is a true book along with the Bible.  I know God’s hand is stretched out to all who seek him and that we can be cleansed from all sin through the atonement of Jesus Christ by exercising faith in Jesus Christ, repenting, and being baptized by one having authority.  In the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.”

Unwaveringly PUSHing forward,
(PUSH stands for “Pray Until Something Happens”)
Rodman

Over the past few months, Rodman has placed 12 Books of Mormon and is bringing fellow inmates to the LDS study meeting.  I'll be happy to pass on any comments you have for Rodman (dave@keepwriting.com).