I was fortunate as a youth to be surrounded by men who lived and loved the gospel. My father was a convert to the church, went to BYU shortly after being baptized at the age of 18 and served a full time mission just a year later. He is the kindest most loving man and is has been the biggest influence on the development of my own testimony than anyone else save the Holy Ghost. My grandfather is a mountain of a man spiritually speaking. He was the stake patriarch and temple sealer nearly my whole life and having been named after him I have tried to live up to the standard he set. He is the person for me that demonstrates what it means to love as Christ does. I always feel the love of the Savior when I’m around him. As if that weren’t enough I also have two uncles that had a major influence on me throughout my life. One has been the bishop or in a bishopric more times than I can count. The other a historic baseball coach and influential community member that is the epitome of “letting your light so shine before men that they may glorify your God in Heaven”.
With these sorts of influences around me I felt at a young age a desire to know what they knew. The common thread among all of them is they lived and loved the gospel and made it a central part of who they were. I wanted to have the same level of conviction they had. I began to think a lot about this when I received the priesthood as a deacon but it didn’t really reach its breaking point until I was about 14.
I remember thinking that I was about the same age as the prophet Joseph Smith was when he received his big revelation about the church. That year I had planned on participating in TREK. An “opportunity” to experience what the latter-day saint pioneers did when they trekked across the country to the Salt Lake Valley. Knowing this was coming up I decided that I would come away from the experience knowing one way or the other what I believed.
The first day of the TREK was grueling. We marched for 14 hours through the mountains of Washington state pulling handcarts in teams of 6 all while eating almost no food. I’m pretty confident this would constitute child abuse by today’s standards. When we finally stopped we were all exhausted and I just wanted to sleep. But I had committed to finding out about the truthfulness of what I had been taught. I busted out the Book of Mormon from my pack and started reading. This was the first time I had read the book from cover to cover and I thought if I did I would for sure know whether it came from God. I stayed up all night read first and second nephi, enos, jarom, omni, mosiah and the first part of Alma. At the end of the night I knew the church was true right? Nope. I didn’t experience anything that resembled what I thought would happen.
The troup set out the next morning for more painfully exhausting hiking. We actually didn’t hike as long this time only about 8 hrs or so. But as it turns out the human body doesn’t do so well on no sleep after a 14 hr hike and only eating 1 orange and a cup of broth. So this next day was way worse than the first. When we stopped for the day. I was experiencing exhaustion like I never had before but I was determined to find the answers I was looking for.
I again opened up my scriptures and continued reading. The rest of Alma, Helaman, third and 4th nephi, Mormon, Ether and Moroni. By this time I had to have a testimony right? Wrong again. I had stayed up two nights straight all while walking 22 hrs in 2 days. What more did I have to do?
At the end of TREK there was a testimony meeting. I DID NOT plan on bearing my testimony. To be honest I was pissed. My feeling at the time was that if it was true I for sure would’ve known by now. Had all the men I looked up to been tricked? If not what was I missing? It was a confusing day for me. Thankfully during the meeting the spirit had time to work on me. I felt a prompting to say a few words. And without knowing what the heck I was doing or what I was going to say I started walking up to the front of the group.
I honestly couldn’t tell you what I said. I do remember however that for the first time I felt the love of Christ. It was powerful and special. And so I did what any self respecting 14 yr old boy would do. I wept. I wept because I had never felt anything like this and IT FELT GOOD.
That was my baby starter testimony. Through the years it has grown and it has shrunk at different times. But one thing I know is that the more I read the Book of Mormon the more I feel God’s love. Its miraculous and it’s unexplainable. I cannot put into words how it feels when I’m reading the Book of Mormon and feel engulfed in the Love of Christ. But I do know that if I need to feel that feeling it can be found in more abundance there than anywhere else outside of the temple.
I challenge you to read every day. Even if you can only read a verse or a couple words just do what you can. I know that it will bring more peace and joy into your life than anything else you can do. You will feel the love of your Savior. And you will begin to be like him. You will see others as he sees them and you will live a happier more purpose filled life.