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


Continues from Section 1


Fm: Dave Birley/Tulsa, OK 73260,1021

The Lord works in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform. When he was ready for me, apparently I was ready for him. Because I enjoyed Gene's testimony so much, I decided to follow his example and make this an expanded biography of my life in the Church.

MY CONVERSION

At the age of 16, although I had been an active participant in the Anglican Church (Canada) all my life, including serving frequently as an altar boy, I began to wonder about the ritualistic nature of the form of worship I had grown up with. By age 18, when I joined the Royal Air Force in England on a 5 year hitch, I had already begun my odyssey of informal study of comparative religion.

I had spend 6 months in East Africa during which I had visited with members of the Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic faiths, as well as ministers of many Christian groups, most notably including the Roman Catholics. During this period I developed a method of asking questions designed to find commonalties between these faiths, and at the same time causing the respondents to display their weaknesses.

In the RAF I continued my activity in the Church of England, still serving in choirs and as an altar boy. My enquiries outside were always casual and unstructured, but still probing.

By age 23, when I had finished my hitch, I returned home to Victoria, B.C., in 1958 and later moved to Vancouver. There I opened a small photo studio. Once I was visited by a couple of young men who both had the same unusual first name: "Elder" to have some photographs made, but never pursued the oddity of their name ... and they never pursued anything either.

In the early '60s the John Campbell edited magazine, Analog Science Fact/Science Fiction carried an article "The Four Faced Visitors of Ezekiel" in which the author suggested that perhaps the first chapter of Ezekiel was an account of a "close encounter". He detailed verse by verse what it might have been that Ezekiel actually saw. This article profoundly affected my thinking because it implied that the angels of Ezekiel might have been of a more mortal form than I had ever imagined, with the net effect that my vision of the Power that had sent them was elevated to a higher plane.

By September of 1964 I had closed my studio (I am not a business man) and secured a position as a salesman travelling for an itinerant portrait photography company. We called it "kidnapping", and I was the "proof passer". I would travel from town to town behind the cameraman, presenting the proofs of the portraits, and taking the orders. I was fortunate enough to visit many parts of northern British Columbia and Alberta, making winter quarters in Calgary or Vancouver, depending where I was after Christmas.

In September of 1964 I was in Terrace, B.C., staying at the Terrace Motel. I had finished my current issue of Playboy, and while digging through the desk drawers of the motel room, found the expected Gideon Bible, and a book of which I had never heard before: The Book of Mormon. Inside the latter there was an envelope with an invitation to leave 50c and take the book. I have always been a sucker for a good value on a book, so I accepted the invitation.

Over the next several nights I read a bit of it, and was impressed with its style and content. However I soon arrived at 1Ne, 16:18:

v18 And it came to pass that as I, Nephi, went forth to slay food, behold, I did break my bow, which was made of fine steel; and after I did break my bow, behold, my brethren were angry with me because of the loss of my bow, for we did obtain no food.

... and that caused me to do a large "Whoah back!" I was anything but a historical scholar, but I seemed to remember something about the Bessemer process of making steel being developed in 1732, and the footnote on the page where this scripture appeared said "600 B.C."

Now, in the words of the immortal Mr. Spock, "That does not seem logical". How could "fine steel" exist 2300 years too early, and anyway, what kind of a bow would it be if that were what it was made of?

I put the reading on hold and awaited "further light and knowledge".

That December 7th, I was in Calgary trying to get the final orders before Christmas. I was in the home of Kent and Colleen Ockey at 450 Acadia Blvd. in the Glenmore subdivision (you don't forget these things). For some reason the proofs had not yet arrived by mail, and I had to phone the office to ask about them. Then, just before leaving I noticed a large Book of Mormon sitting on their coffee table. I asked Colleen Ockey if she was a Mormon, and she said she was. "Well," said I, "I have a question for you", and I proceeded to open the book to the problematic verse. "How do you explain that?" I asked. She replied with the one phrase I had never heard from an adherent of a religion before: "I don't know", but then she followed it with the most momentous questions of my entire life: "What do your know about the Mormons? Would you like to learn more?", and set the date for the evening of Wednesday, December 9th.

Later that same day I was in another home where the proofs also had not arrived. This time, while making the customary salesman's small talk, I said "They say salesmen should never talk about politics or religion, but it seems that I end up talking about both. For example, this morning I was in the home of a Mormon lady and asked her a question she couldn't answer." My customer answered: "Oh, what was the question?" I looked at her in disbelief. "You're not another one are you?" I asked. She replied that she was. I asked for a copy of the Book of Mormon again, and turned to the verse. Again I heard this extraordinary response: "I don't know", but she quickly followed it by saying "but my husband's a bishop, and has quite an extensive library." She then opened the door of a room that was lined from floor to ceiling with books, and sought out one or two volumes. When she couldn't find an answer immediately, she also hit me with the questions. I laughed and said, "No, I had already made an appointment with the other family."

On the Wednesday evening, Elder Evans, who normally served as the mission secretary was there with a companion who was just passing through. They were the only ones available at such short notice. As they set up what looked like a little projection screen, I asked them if they had the answer to my question. They asked me "What question?" I was floored. Here was a question I had asked that struck at the very core of this church to which they belonged, and apparently Colleen Ockey hadn't even passed it along. I explained what I wanted to know, and by now you can guess their answer; "I don't know, but I'll try to find out for you if you'd like." I agreed.

They began the first discussion by asking what I already believed. For the next two and a half hours I threw everything at them I had. My nearly 14 years of preparation for this moment including my experiences in Africa meant that I should be able to blow these kids, still wet behind the ears, away. I threw some outrageous ideas at them including the thoughts generated by the article in that science fiction magazine about Ezekiel. To my amazement they just bent in the wind. Over and over their response was "There is nothing in what you say that is inconsistent with what we believe."

Before I knew it, our time was up for the first discussion, and they offered to make an appointment for another discussion. We agreed on Friday.

When that next evening arrived, I had decided that the elders had been nice enough to listen to my outrageous ideas, it was only fair for me to listen to them. To my amazement there were two new elders, Lyman and Reese. Of course I started with my question, and they replied with the response that was no longer a surprise. I did have several questions that I interjected during that first discussion, and I recall my laugh of derision when Elder Lyman said "We are having a baptism on December 26th; we'd just like you to keep that date in mind." Most often my questions were handled with "We cover that in the fifth discussion."

The discussions progressed, and I took their tracts and did extensive research in the public library. I found out on my own that very good steel was made in Assyria as early as 1200 BC, and, significantly in my eyes, from iron ore originating in the Egyptian province of Nubia; who other than Assyrians would be more likely to have some of that steel than the nomadic caravaners, who would include Nephi's family, and would have transported that ore to Assyria?

Well, I did read the Book of Mormon, and kneeling by my bed in the St. Regis Hotel in Calgary, I received my assurance of its truth. The fifth discussion came and went rather uneventfully, and on December 26th I was baptized by Colleen's husband, Kent. Two weeks later I was ordained a deacon by my bishop, who turned out to be the husband of that second person I had met on December 7th. You may have heard of him. He is Elder Teddy E Brewerton of the First Quorum of the Seventy.

Three years later, when I met with Elders Lyman and Reese in the Salt Lake temple, I said "I bet you thought I wasn't coming back after that first discussion", and elder Reese replied, "Oh, we knew you were coming back; we just weren't sure we were coming back!"

And so, like Gene I can testify that by my own efforts, by prayer, and contemplation I came to learn of the truthfulness of the gospel. By two years later I no longer lived by just a belief in that, I had a sure knowledge, and that sure knowledge is still with me today.

..Dave Birley..


From: Amarillo Sim 100314,473

Thom wrote: <>

I had a similar experience on my mission, but took it a step farther. This investigator believed in a form of Hinduism and in the divinity of Guru Rajashani who was Christ (among others) incarnate. As we explained Moroni's promise and the importance of prayer in asking Heavenly Father directly concerning the truthfulness of the Gospel we taught, she stopped us and said that it was an excellent idea.

She agreed to ask and in the midst of our discussion, bowed her head, closed her eyes, and began a silent prayer. After a moment's time, I felt a very dark presence. I had been used to feeling the warmth and beauty of the Spirit, and this was certainly not the same Spirit I had come to recognize. I bumped my companion who had his eyes closed in prayer, telling him in English, "Can you feel that? She isn't praying to Heavenly Father."

He confirmed that he felt the same.

When she finished her prayer, she immediately said, "I have just been told that your Church is false."

"You have not prayed to Heavenly Father as we have asked, have you?"

"You are correct. I asked the Guru directly through prayer if the things you had told me were true. Your principal works because this is the first time through prayer that he has answered me, even though he is in India right now. Your teachings are not correct. But, how did you know I didn't pray to 'Heavenly Father'?"

I then told her of the darkness I just felt as compared to the Spirit who normally accompanied us. I had her read more about these contrasting Spirits in the D&C. At the end, she agreed to ask as we had instructed her and we taught her more about prayer and Jesus Christ.

My experience has been that there are other "Spirits" out there that are diametrically opposite to the Gospel.

There are also partial testimonies of the Holy Ghost (partial truths). I have taught Christians that felt exactly as I do -- that the Holy Ghost testified of the truthfulness of their Church (though rare). After getting to know them better, I found that they typically had learned to know and love the Saviour and the Bible through their Church. They had indeed felt the Spirit testify of the Bible and of the love of the Saviour. Lumped into that was the love of their Church where they had learned these things. My experience was that if they harkened to that same loving Spirit which they had come to know, it would confirm the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Joseph Smith, and the restored Gospel.


Fm: Robb Cundick 72113,1651

Thanks for the assignment.

It seems to me that, "Why do I remain LDS?" might be the primary question of many out there observing our forum.

Last night our family attended a ward gathering where we paid tribute to the man who recently ended his service as our bishop. Bishop Peterson had served for five years. The meeting was opened with a prayer of thanksgiving. We sang songs and watched the young people perform skits honoring some of our Bishop's accomplishments. The children sang a song called, "The Father of Our Ward". Several people spoke, expressing their love and admiration for Bishop Peterson. We socialized and ate banana splits afterwards.

There was nothing especially profound about the meeting...or was there? We often take for granted that spirit of loving fellowship that was present -- people expressing love and support for one another. People who are willing to sacrifice for one another; to care for each other; to help each other along life's difficult way. People who encourage one another to follow the path our Savior trod and keep his commandments.

Love one another. It's so simple. Take away all the trappings and to me that is the heart and soul of the LDS Church and its people. Encouraging that love is the purpose of the Lord's priesthood authority. Our detractors would point to flaws in our doctrine, inconsistencies in the public statements of our leaders, historical questions -- anything to divert from what is the essence of the Lord's church -- His Spirit.

I don't think we will ever be able to satisfactorily answer all the questions that are raised here. There are things that seem to defy explanation -- there are controversies that will not be resolved, at least not in the way the world resolves them. Reassurance that these controversies don't really matter is always as close as a heartfelt prayer.

Some of our "anti" friends would have us believe we are being led by "deceiving spirits". Uh-uh. It doesn't take a degree in theology to recognize the Spirit of Good in contrast to the Spirit of Evil. What was present at that meeting last night was simple love for one another and good Christian fellowship -- "As I have loved you, love one another". Simple, yet oh, so profound.

Christ's love is found his Church -- what need have I to seek it elsewhere? That is why I remain LDS.

Robb


Continues in Section 3


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