Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Gaining A Testimony - by Jonathan Scott Griffin

"Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my funderstanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.

Now behold, would not this increase your faith? I say unto you, Yea; nevertheless it hath not grown up to a perfect knowledge.

But behold, as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good; for behold it swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow. And now, behold, will not this strengthen your faith? Yea, it will strengthen your faith: for ye will say I know that this is a good seed; for behold it sprouteth and beginneth to grow.”

(Alma 32: 28-30)

I have more liberal leanings than most members of the Church. Sometimes this causes conflict with the conservatives in the Church. However, I also have a testimony of the Gospel. But this testimony didn’t come immediately. I hope that my words, as a member of the Church who leans more to the left, will persuade and help those in the left to remain active in the Church, despite how other members of the Church may view them. I believe that those on the left side of the spectrum, such as myself, and others, can remain in the Church and be active in the Gospel, no matter what others may say.

My story starts out when I was a missionary stationed in Nauvoo. I was sent there on a year long service mission, not with preaching involved, but just service. The Church said it was because of my high-functioning autism. But I, to this day, feel the real reason the Lord sent me there was because of my struggles with the Church. I didn't have the firmest testimony. In Nauvoo I was exposed to the ghosts of the past, or rather, in simpler terms, to a plethora of Church history, some of it long forgotten. It was from the Journal of Discourses I learned about the many wives of Joseph Smith, blood atonement, Adam-God doctrine, the racist statements against blacks from General Authorities, and so forth. These things even further shook up my already fragile faith. I began to lash out on my companions, to cry in my bed, and just be overall pugnacious. I wanted the truth exposed. I didn't want to destroy the Church, but rather only for the Church to admit mistakes had been made. I knew I couldn't afford the Journal of Discourses, so I did something else. I bought a book, which took snippets from what general authorities said. However, now that I look back, I realize this was an anti-Mormon book. It took snippets from what they said, but failed to put things into context as to why they said them. Eventually my mission companion took the book to my mission president. I received a call from him. I was surprised to hear no condemnation in his voice, but rather concern and love. I was called to his office the next day. Instead of chastising me, he told me how proud he was of me, for researching, delving into issues, and told me the Lord blessed me with a great mind. He bore testimony to me that I would learn the truth, and rather than stop researching, told me to keep reading. The more I read, from what is the new Mormon history, rather than the anti, or just faith promoting, truth sunk into my mind. Sure, I had some breakdowns, but the mission president never sent me home, always loved me, and tried to answer my questions to the best of his ability. A miracle happened. The Lord filled me with the light of truth, and now I don't have any doubt in my mind that the Gospel is true. This is Christ's Church.

In regards to reading different history of the Church, how has that helped me? When I come across people who are antagonistic towards the Church, or are just generally well-meaning but, like I did, have concerns, I pray to Heavenly Father for guidance. Dipping into that knowledge that I have gained, from the honest history which tells warts and all, I am able to use that knowledge, fused with the Spirit, to try and alleviate their fears. I talk to them, in their language, about Old Testament prophets, and New Testament prophets, and I point out parts in the Bible where they didn't act accordingly, and tell them that our living prophets, are God's mouthpiece, but like the imperfect prophets of the Old and New Testament, they make mistakes as well.

As for D. Michael Quinn, yes he is excommunicated, but he still believes in the Church. He is not a bitter anti-Mormon. In fact a couple years ago, about 2006 or 2007, he wrote a favorable article about Joseph Smith's First Vision and the evidence surrounding it. He gave much evidence to corroborate his claims, and even dismissed some anti-Mormons in the process. When I talked to him on the phone, he gave a very powerful testimony on the truthfulness of the Gospel and the Church. It was beautiful. I find his books Mormon Hierarchy, and Early Mormonism and the Magic World View to be outstanding pieces of scholarship.

I know the Church is true. I know that Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, and that this is Christ's Church. I also know that we have living prophets and apostles. I also know that we shouldn't fear questioning, and, like Hugh B. Brown said, there is room for doubt when it helps us grow. I know that reading from the history of the Church, and studying controversial issues, helps us increase in knowledge and wisdom. I know that we can admit the prophets don't always act accordingly, and sometimes make mistakes, but that we can still sustain and follow them. I know that instead of distancing ourselves from those pondering leaving the Church, and having doubt about the Church's validity, we need to reach out and love them just as Christ would. President Hinckley once said that we should continue to love people, even if they never join the Church, and to be their real friends. I think the same applies to those who are thinking of leaving the Church; always be their friend. It may be difficult to stay in a Church which seems so conservative at times, but I believe the Gospel is for everyone, even those with different political views.

Pray for strength and guidance, that we may always see the truth within the Church, and within the Gospel, so that we may remain strong, like a fortress, all the while reaching out to those, in love, not judgment, who are struggling. May the Spirit and the love of Christ and Heavenly Father help us in our endeavors.

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