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June 8, 2014

Faith Journeys by Rachel

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In March of 2014 I was blessed to begin email correspondence with this wonderful young lady.  She has taught me and helped me understand the life of someone investigating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  I am so grateful to her and she has strengthened my own testimony.  Rachel lives in Scotland  and initially reached out to us for a LDS pen pal.  There are a few other members in our ward that are also emailing with Rachel.   I recently asked her if she would be willing to share her story with us.  It is incredibly inspiring and I am so thankful that she took the time to write up her story.  Rachel has been working on the Young Women’s Personal Progress program.  The value that currently is her focus is faith.  Here for you to enjoy is her Faith Journeys!
                                                     Faith Journeys by Rachel
I’m going to begin with the earliest memory I have of learning about Jesus Christ. I used to go to Girls’ Brigade, which is an organisation affiliated with the Church of Scotland. One Thursday evening we were learning about the New Testament and the disciples of Jesus Christ. I was about ten years old and my teacher –whose husband was the minister of the local church – got on to the conversation of being a disciple of Christ. I curiously asked my teacher “How can I follow Jesus?” Her answer to this question was “you already are” implying that I didn’t need to know how to. This confused me even more as I remember thinking to myself: How can I be following Jesus if I didn’t know I was following Him? I didn’t pray, I didn’t go to church and I’d never read the Bible – what did “following” Jesus Christ actually mean?

Fast forward to last September where I went on a field trip to Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp where millions of Jewish and other minority groups were brutally exterminated during WW2. I can’t  begin explain what it actually feels like to be standing in the heart location of a mass genocide, but it was where I began to discover what having faith meant. In the museum of Auschwitz, there are endless piles of belongings which were harvested like a crop – as if they were there for better use. I saw photographs displayed collectively in one massive gallery: faces of victims, entire families torn apart, marriages broken and friendships left behind. Standing in this gallery I came to the realisation that all these people had in thing common: they all had faith.

These people had spiritual faith: a more powerful force which would save them. I admired their courage to hold their beliefs strong, even though they were forbidden to practice them. They also had faith in their families, their friends and their loved ones. In the modern day, it seems surreal that people would carry photographs of their loved ones when they went on a journey. We are so used to constant communication through social media that we are too easy to take these privileges for granted. It was saddening to know that these people had faith that they would see these people again in their mortal lives. This combined with sets of house keys neatly placed in a glass exhibit were too personal; their faith in an escape and something greater was just too strong.

Holocaust Memorial Day was on the 26th of January and the theme this year was Journeys. My companion and I spoke at the event in Aberdeen. Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling too well, and the thought of having to speak in front of a large crowd about such a harrowing experience wasn’t making it any better. Although my speech wasn’t as good as it could have been I felt that when I was speaking, I was speaking for those people who I had seen in the photographs, for those that had faith, even when suffering in unimaginable conditions. That night I prayed to Heavenly Father for the first time with a sincere heart. I was thankful that He gave me the confidence to speak in front of all those people. After I had finished praying it was the first time I had felt The Spirit of the Holy Ghost. I had felt an overwhelming burning sensation from my heart that I had heard so many people talking about. That was also when I experienced a second way of feeling the spirit. After being stuck on something for a while, the penny would suddenly drop and I get that amazing feeling thinking “It all makes sense now!” On that day I learned to recognise the spirit for myself and from then on began to establish a habit of prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ. I learned why it is important to tell Heavenly Father what I am thankful for and ask if I need guidance. I know that he is always there and I can pray for blessings that others need.

On our trip to Auschwitz, a Rabbi named Markus was travelling with us. At the end of our visit, he conducted a memorial service for all the victims of the Holocaust. We all attended and he read some of the scriptures and said a prayer in Hebrew. It was such a beautiful service and The Spirit was definitely there. Many other tourists gathered to join the service; there was an immense feeling of oneness. Not everyone there spoke English and not everyone was Jewish, but we were united in faith and it was amazing how we were all feeling The Spirit of the Lord together. If it is one thing I learned since this trip, I have learned that love wins. Jesus taught us to love one another as He has loved us (John 13: 34-35). We are all spirit children of Heavenly Father and we all deserve the same love and respect, regardless of beliefs or personal choices. By adopting this attitude, I have witnessed many blessings in my life since. When we exercise this love, we are showing that we are worthy of his Glory as we show our desire to keep his commandments.

So how do I know now that I am following the Saviour Jesus Christ? Well first I now have a desire to follow him and keep his commandments. (John 14:15) In one of my favourite scriptures, King Benjamin teaches that “there shall be no other name nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men” (Mosiah 3:17). I would like to strongly emphasise the influence that scripture study has had in developing my faith in the restored church. When I study the scriptures I have faith that Christ exists. I am so thankful for the vast study resources the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has available so everyone can learn from the gospel. The LDS church, its members, the missionaries and daily scripture study is helping me to live according to His will.

Ever since I discovered the restored gospel of Jesus Christ I will admit that I have had my doubts. I have read articles on blogs and forums with people declaring that Joseph Smith was a fraud and the scriptures are untrue. I have faced doubts and contentions from my family who do not believe in such things. I believe in the restored gospel because I believe in the Book that got me here in the first place. I have Joseph Smith and the missionaries to thank for that. I really admire how the LDS church is founded on the curiosity of a young boy who asked questions. The young Joseph Smith declared “I have learned for myself” (JSH 1:20) a principle which is still kept strong in the church today. The emphasis on your own relationship with Heavenly Father allows individuals to exercise and strengthen their faith. Referring back to my gospel lesson when I was ten years old, I didn’t have to decide if I was a true disciple of Christ. I had simply been told I was following Jesus, which limited my opportunity for personal revelation. I have seen for myself the blessing the Lord has given me and many others through faith – However small or large these blessings are. Whenever I doubt God, dwell on my imperfections or my ability to do good, I know that when I sit down to pray at the end of the day in the name of Jesus Christ, I feel the spirit comforting me and answering my prayers. This is what keeps me believing in His restored Church. I hope that in the future I will receive more blessings as I strive to keep the commandments.

I am of course still an investigator and I’m still not entirely sure whether I am ready to join the church or not. But what I am sure of is that I am thankful for the LDS church, because without it I would have never felt more aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit and the influence The Lord Jesus Christ can have on my life. I would like to thank all those in the Cedar Hills 10th Ward who I have been in contact with and have helped me so far. It’s been so great to learn about how the LDS church has blessed your lives and the lives of your families, and I hope it will continue to do so.

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