Testimonies Borne by Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Fm: Dave Birley/Tulsa, OK 73260,1021

I decided it was time to upload the story of my experience with President David O. MacKay in 1967.

A SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE

by David H. Birley

In 1967, after less than three years in the church, the bloom and excitement of my new spiritual blessings was still very fresh. In those days there were quarterly stake conferences, with General Authorities at almost all of them. General Conference still had a June session.

Right from my very first stake conference where a stake was divided, and Elder Packer and Elder Monson were present, I made it my business to meet these Apostolic visitors, shake their hands, and look into their eyes as I passed minor pleasantries with them. The grip of their hands, and the feel of their spirit became the anchor for my life in the church.

Just prior to the April Conference of 1967, a returned missionary in the Calgary University Ward decided to get married at the Salt Lake Temple, and hired me to be his photographer. His best man was to be a friend of mine, Tom Williamson. Tom had helped me before on a couple of occasions when I had been taking photographs on location and needed assistance with my lighting equipment.

As I prepared for the trip to Salt Lake City, I realized that there would be a number of special opportunities available to me. The elders who had prepared me for baptism lived in Utah. What a treat it would be to meet them for a session in the temple. I made the contacts, and we agreed on a time, and the meeting took place.

Then I got ambitious. I phoned Pres. Tanner's office (he was then second counsellor in the First Presidency, but a former stake president from Alberta), and asked if it would be possible for me to make a portrait of President MacKay. His secretary phoned me back the next day and said it was arranged, and gave me instructions on what to do when I arrived at the Hotel Utah on the Friday of Conference weekend.

I loaded up all my portable studio lighting and camera equipment, and car-pooled it with the wedding party. It was my first visit to Utah, and the scenery should have been of great interest to me. It was not. I wasn't thinking even about the work for which I was being paid to make the trip. All I could think of was that I was to meet the Prophet.

The wedding took place on Friday, and I took the appropriate photographs. I don't remember a thing about it, except that I asked Tom if he would help me with my equipment the next morning when I photographed the President. He agreed.

On the Saturday morning I arrived at the Hotel Utah with Tom and with my equipment, and took the elevator to the floor that was reserved for President MacKay's private suite. Tom and I hauled the equipment into the apartment where Sister Middlemiss, the President's personal assistant showed us where we might set it up. She explained that he had been up since 5:30 that morning preparing his conference address, and was napping in his study. As soon as we were ready, Sister Middlemiss would bring him in.

By this time, his 94th year, he had suffered several minor strokes, and his motor abilities were becoming unreliable, she explained. He would be in a wheel chair.

Sister MacKay was sitting towards the back of the living room, watching the television intently. She looked tiny and frail, and yet there was an energy there even as she watched conference activities.

Once Tom and I had the equipment set up, Sister Middlemiss went to the President's study. After a couple of moments she returned pushing a wheel chair with President MacKay in it. Having seen photographs of him, I was ready for his radiant smile and his eyes gleaming through the thick lenses of his cataract glasses. What I was not prepared for was seeing him as he got up from the wheel chair.

Suddenly this man whom I had come to visualize as about my height, 5'10, unwound from the wheel chair, and I was amazed to realize that he was 6'1 tall. The reason I hadn't suspected his size was that he was perfectly proportioned, and at 190 lbs, very fit and trim. The impression I got of him was that he was a giant, and I confess that with the passage of time since his stature has increased in my memory. He was, in fact, the tallest President the Church has had to this date.

He was cordial, but after greeting Tom and me, he then called out to his wife. She didn't hear him at first, so he called again. When she turned toward him, she smiled, and he called out "Good morning!"

She turned back to the television, and President MacKay sat on the sofa where I had preset the camera and lights. I made a couple of pictures of him, and then he asked me if it would be all right if he had a picture made with his wife.

He asked me. Here was the most powerful man in the world, in terms of celestial power, and I a lowly elder with a camera, and he asked me permission for a picture with his wife. This example of courtesy and humility stands out in my memories of this experience, as did the sweet moment when they were together and I was able to capture them on film. That picture was later used in the Relief Society Magazine.

The best was yet to come, however.

Having finished the photography, President and Sister MacKay remained on the sofa together while Tom and I packed up the equipment. Then, as we turned to leave, Tom said to Sister MacKay (who was about 5' tall, and couldn't have weighed over about 90 lbs), "Now you take good care of him!"

Before Sister MacKay could respond, President MacKay turned towards her, and with a look of love in his eyes such as I have never seen before or since, he said, "She has; for 69 years"

Now it is 27 years later. President and Sister MacKay have gone on to their celestial reward. I have no idea where Tom is today, or whether he remembers it, but I do know that moment in the Hotel Utah, on an April Saturday morning I saw the curtain at the edge of eternity lifted for a moment. And what I beheld was beautiful.


Fm: Leander H. Pearson 74157,624

The Spiritual Experience That Changed My Life

I don't know why the Spirit works the way it does, its timing and reasons for prompting different people at different times in their lives. I only know that it happens, usually to everybody at one time or another throughout life's journey. It even happened to me.

I can remember learning the doctrine of the gospel at an early age on my father's knee. Perhaps because of the tender age that my parents began teaching me, I developed a testimony of the gospel that has never left me. Doubt has never entered my mind in the scant 34 years I've had the pleasure to sojourn on this earth.

Yet even with the faith in God, the gospel, and my parents which I had, I never felt the desire to serve a mission. Like many boys, the time I spent in my formative years up until age 12 were happy go lucky, with little worry (except on how to avoid the bully during recess). I thought I was going to grow up to become the prophet (as many young boys do) because, surely, there was not a more righteous boy on the earth than me. Even with this grandiose aspiration, I had no desire to go on a mission.

As I passed through the teen-age years I was subject to most of the temptation that befall youth. Some I passed with flying colors, others I succumbed to. The most damaging being the Word of Wisdom (tobacco). You know the dumbest part about it? Nobody knew. Ever. NOBODY. No peer pressure to use the stuff. Nothing. But for some reason, I embraced it.

Moving to the age of 18. Graduated from High School and working full-time. Still a strong testimony of the gospel, still no desire to go on a mission, still using tobacco.

One day on my way home from work, about 2:00 AM, I was fumbling with the cigarette lighter so that I could light one up. Not watching the road, the car drifted onto the soft shoulder. I looked up just in time to see a mailbox flying over the hood of the car. Once the car was under control I high-tailed it out of there, went home, and to bed.

Upon inspecting the damage to the car I decided that the mailbox I hit must have been cement filled because it had V'd the front end of my car, just left of center, about right in front of the drivers seat almost to the radiator (it was a 66' Chev Caprice, and built like a tank). On my way to work that night I slowly drove past the offensive mailbox to see the damage I'd done.

There the mailbox post lay. A metal post filled with cement. Not six inches from the erupted ground where the mailbox and post once stood was a power pole.

Have you ever felt death walk past you? How on earth did a six foot wide car hit a mailbox about at drivers position, and miss a power pole six inches to the right?

My testimony grew that day for I was spared from death or serious injury. But I still had no desire to go on a mission, and was still using tobacco.

Moving to New Years Eve, 1978. I was working overtime. No one else in the plant but the security guard at his desk 200 yards away. The Spirit told me to stop using tobacco. And I stopped, just like that. No withdrawals.

The first Sunday of 1979. Fast and testimony meeting. I was sitting at the sacrament table just as the testimony part of the meeting was about to begin, when all of a sudden I had an irresistible urge to walk up to the podium. I had always prided myself in the past that when drunk, I was always still in admirable control of my body. But for the life of me I had no control while either walking up to the stand, or for what I said once I was there. "Brothers and Sisters, the Spirit of God has demanded that I take the stand today and announce my intention to repent of my many sins, and to serve the Lord on a mission." I felt that were I to fight or deny the words that were coming out of my mouth I should be destroyed. You could have heard a pin drop in that typical chapel, usually filled with crying babies.

My testimony grew again that day, but I was no longer using tobacco, and I was going on a mission.

Boy, does God ever work in mysterious ways!

-Leander-


Fm: Robert R. Black 74277,3365

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In hopes that I can partially redeem myself from all of the negative material that you think that I love to disseminate, I offer the following story. Enjoy.

The following story was related to Pres. Packard of the Los Angeles Temple by his son who works in the Mesa Arizona Temple. Pres. Packard called the President of the Mesa Temple and confirmed that the story was true.

A sister went to the Mesa, Arizona Temple one afternoon to do an endowment for the dead. After receiving the name of the deceased sister she would do the work for, and proceeding to the endowment room, she felt a strong impression that she should return home immediately. Acting on this impression she went to the officiator of the session prior to its start and explained it to him. The officiator told her that she would only be in this session for an hour and a half and assured her that things would be OK if she waited and completed the session.

Seated in the endowment room, still prior to the start of the session, she felt the same impression again and asked the sister follower what she should do. The sister follower reassured her that things would be fine if she would just finish this work for the deceased sister. She then pointed out to this sister, as they looked again at the name and date of death of the person receiving this endowment that this sister had waited hundreds of years for this work to finally be finished. Reassured, the sister remained through the session and completed the work.

Following the session, the sister hurried home to find an ambulance in front of her home. On rushing through the house and into the backyard, she saw her two year old daughter lying beside the family pool. She was being attended by the paramedics and appeared to be awake, alert and breathing on her own. The mother asked the baby sitter, who was standing next to the girl, how her clothing was dry if she had pulled her daughter out of the pool. The sitter stated she had been in the house and noticed the little girl had apparently wandered out to the pool. On rushing out of the house, she saw a lady, dressed in white clothing bringing the little girl out of the water. The mother asked the baby sitter if she had taken down this name of the lady. The baby sitter said yes and showed her the name. In amazement the mother read the name of the sister who she had just performed the endowment for in the Temple.

May I go there again someday,

Robert.


Fm: Gerald G. Fuller/IL 71530,1044

Brothers and Sisters, I want to take this opportunity to stand before you and bear my testimony to how the Spirit sometimes moves to bring a soul so rebellious and proud as mine to humble himself and seek truth.

I was a 39 year old Air Force officer who had been divorced by his wife of almost 15 years, for almost 4 years, when a young lady Air Force Officer was assigned to the same base as I. We both had occasion to attend various functions, and we met more or less formally at a going away party for the Base Commander. I noticed that she kept her wine glass upside down, and did not accept coffee. I asked if she happened to be a (shudder) Mormon! She readily admitted to being. (I had known one other Mormon during my then 18+ years of service. That is how I could read the signs. )

There was some other function a few days later, and I asked her to attend with me. From then on, we spent a great deal of time together. Some months later, about August of 1970, she took a month of leave and went home to Idaho. There, I think, she intended to get herself straightened out and come back and tell me goodbye. (That is what I probably was thinking she should do.) She got back, however, and I think it was the first evening she was back that I told her that since it did not appear to me that I could ever become a Mormon, that we had best not get any more fond of each other. She wondered why, and I told her that I was sure she would never marry out of the Church, and I would never be in it. She told me not to be too sure. The next day I bought her an engagement rind (actually a set) we got our blood tests and on 2 September 1970 we were married by the Base Chaplain, who happened to be a Presbyterian.

We had been attending Sacrament and other meetings for most of the time I had known her. After we were married, I had the missionary discussions, read much both pro and con, and had a lot of visits with a Colonel who was a Seventy. Nothing swayed me. I retired at the end of July 1971, and a few months later we moved back to near Palestine, Illinois. There was a branch in a neighboring town, but we attended only infrequently, and in fact more frequently went to a little country church near where we lived, which was a sort of "summer home" church as I was growing up. Later we moved to Charleston and attended the Mattoon Ward some. Still I had no intention of becoming a "Mormon".

In the fall of 1983, Dorothy's mother died suddenly. We went to Idaho for the funeral. There was such a spirit of love there at that time as I had never experienced. (I had also sat at the kitchen table with Lucille, Dorothy's Mother, many nights on other visits, until the wee hours, and I love and respected her and what she believed. ) When we got back home, Bret, who was now about 10 1/2, expressed a desire to be baptized. There was a missionary couple, Elder and Sister Stokes, here from Salmon, Idaho, who undertook to teach him, and I undertook to sit in to be sure they didn't teach him any false doctrines. At about the 4th lesson or so, I had asked many questions, and that particular night I had asked even more. But they were honest ones. After the Stokes's left that night, Dorothy scolded me somewhat for my questions, indicating that she thought I was just being argumentative. I told her that on the contrary, that night I had decided I wanted to be baptized.

Well, I was a good and active member for about three years. We were sealed for time and eternity and had our son sealed to us in the Idaho Falls Temple, I filled some callings, had a Patriarchal Blessing that made many good promises of blessings, but still by July 1987, I had done as some here on this section can identify with. I had let my own ideas and understandings take my thoughts and I had no testimony. I never could deny that the Book of Mormon came from the source claimed for it, but I did not believe it contained anything beyond what the Bible contained. I asked to have my name removed from the rolls and to relinquish any priesthood derived from membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

For the next several years, we attended meetings a very few times a year. Usually when something special was happening. One of Dorothy's nephews was here one weekend and we attended with him, for the first (and last) time in several months.

A couple of months ago, a friend of ours died, and his wife and daughter wanted me to sing at his funeral, and Dorothy to play the organ. We did, of course. Sitting near the organ, looking at his family, the congregation, the Bishopric on the stand, I wondered if I had died, who would be at my funeral. I decided the Bishopric would, and the wife and daughter of my deceased friend, and a few others. My Mother, of course, and a few of our relatives from my childhood home. I wondered who could say anything good about my life, and decided that few good things really could be said about my last seven years. I started praying about my condition. Those who have been in this CIS First Ward for a while can fill in the details, to a degree. I talked with my Bishop, and he thought it would be merely a matter of his approval, and I could be baptized, but it turned out to be more involved than that. I continued to pray, and I find that I have that seed that is growing in my breast so I am confident it is a good seed, and what is growing is becoming delicious to me.

Last Saturday, I was interviewed by the Stake High Council, and they determined that I am worthy or ready for rebaptism.

So I am on the way back. My wife is not to the same point yet. She has more problems with the Temple symbolism than I had, and that has to be resolved as yet. My son did not officially leave, but he in fact left, and now has had nearly 7 years without Church and good member influence, did not have seminary, has not had institute in college, has not been thinking of a mission. (He will be 21 at about 8:05 today (24 May)) So here is the most disturbing (to me) thought resulting from my leaving the church. The time lost by all of us in progressing to where we want to be.

I am not sure this is worthy of being saved, but my name contains four "e"s, so it seemed my turn.

I leave my testimony that I know that God lives, and that Jesus Christ is His son, I believe that Joseph Smith was His prophet and that through him, the Gospel was restored. I know that many churches teach truth, but I am convinced that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has all the truth we need today, and I can say these things humbly in the name of Jesus Christ.

Gene


Fm: Todd Nielson 76702,347

I barely qualify for the assignment (having only one "e" in my name), but I will give it my best shot.

I grew up in the church and have a heritage that goes way back to the early days of the church. My experiences with the Holy Ghost have been many and varied. I believe we sometimes take for granted the influence the Holy Ghost has in our lives once we've been given the gift of the Holy Ghost. I've had many experiences while studying, praying, and walking down the street where thoughts have come into my mind that I've failed to attribute to the Holy Ghost at the time, but later realize that it wasn't just my own thinking. I know the influence of the Holy Ghost can be that subtle.

Also, while giving priesthood blessings, I've felt the love of God through the Spirit and have been directed in pronouncing blessings. I've had answers to prayers that without the help of the Holy Ghost I probably wouldn't have recognized.

Then I've had several experiences where I've tasted of the love of God, as described in Mosiah 4, where the Spirit has enveloped me completely with incredible feelings of warmth, love, and peace; and left me feeling physically drained, yet spiritually renewed when it was over. I'd like to share the first experience I had of this kind.

When I was about 15 years old, I had a seminary teacher that challenged each of us to try praying to the Lord as Enos did. He told us a story of a young man in South America who prayed for two days and had an incredible witness from God that he should join the church. The challenge was to find something that we really wanted an answer to, find a secluded place, and pray until we received an answer. My question was to know if God lived and if He loved me despite my weaknesses. I had an incredible urgency to have a spiritual witness of this, even though I had no doubt He did live and that He did love me.

I went into our basement bathroom, locked the door, knelt up to the dirty clothes hamper, and proceeded to verbalize my feelings and desires. I felt good as the time went by, but after about 4 hours of praying, I was starting to dose off and decided to go to bed even though I hadn't had the witness I was looking for.

The next day was Stake Conference and in one session the general authority randomly called people out of the audience to share their testimonies. One sister felt impressed to sing "I Know That My Redeemer Lives". As she began to sing that song, the flood gates burst open, the Spirit of the Lord overcame me, and for about 15 minutes I felt as though I was sitting in the presence of my Father. In fact, the thought came to me that this is what it was like living in His presence before I came to earth, and it gave me a strong desire to do whatever it takes to be able to return to His presence.

So much was communicated in that short time, more than what I had asked for. I felt that God loved me. By answering my prayer in a church meeting, the idea was impressed upon my mind that the church and my fellow brothers and sisters were an extremely important part of His plan for me, and that it is often through others that our prayers are answered. I had the impression that God was nearer than I'd thought, and that if I kept my heart right before Him, all would be well. This was the first time I'd had this kind of experience, but it was the first step in being more conscientious of the Spirit and its influence in my life. When it was over, I was spent physically. I wanted to go home and take a nap.

Most of my dealings with the Holy Ghost, on a day-to-day basis, have been through subtle thoughts and feelings. But I think in regard to big decisions or turning points in our lives, our Father will make His will known in unmistakable terms, IF WE SEEK HIM IN FAITH AND WITH REAL INTENT.

Todd


Continues in Section 2


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