by John Lynch
I own my testimony!
I wasn’t raised in the Church. I had no family heritage, no traditions or expectations within the framework of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that pressured me or gave me reason to favor faith in the Church’s claims of restored priesthood authority, restored and revealed scripture, new revelations, restored and new covenants, and ongoing guidance from heaven. To the contrary, I was raised in a family environment where faith in God was largely absent and a secular view was what surrounded me.
I came to believe in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints specifically because the principles taught in the scriptures, revelations, and covenants, and exemplified in the priesthood resonated so fully and completely with conclusions I had already reached about God, that I could not argue against it. My faith came because, as I applied the associated teachings, practices, and principles to my life by making and keeping covenants, my life changed! I had a different outlook, a different set of desires, a new vision of my purpose, a new joy, a commitment to be my best, and a desire to bind myself to the Father who gave all this to me.
I did not understand all the teachings, historical nuances, and sometimes troubling elements of culture within the Church. But I was a different man. I was a better man, and by that I knew that being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is exactly what was right for me.
As I was growing up outside of a gospel context, I had come to rely upon and trust certain conclusions or communications I felt in my mind and heart that came with a peace and feeling of “rightness” that softened me to help me know my conclusions or the communications I received were right. I most often felt them as I studied in my mind and heart the very things about the Church that eventually resonated so completely with me. One day, as my friend who introduced me to the gospel was describing the spirit, I got those very same feelings of peace and rightness that softened me, and I knew immediately that what I had been feeling was the Holy Ghost. In that state, as the people of King Benjamin described, I had no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continuously. I was full of joy, and my mind was expanded so that I had great visions of the purpose of life, and my role in it. And most of all, I lost my disposition to do evil.
So I got baptized. Three months later I defended the Church at an event Ed Decker was supposed to speak at, and I had friends and others teach me things that would be frightening if true, but which were so incongruous with what I knew that it was impossible for me to believe their accusations. Fifteen months later I served a mission in Panama, where I was shot at, tear gassed, nearly drowned in a swollen river, threatened by men with machetes, almost stabbed in the head, caught in riots, threatened by the police, watched the military in helicopters fire automatic rifles into a retired colonel’s compound, and was robbed by the very man whose testimony condemned Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to prison (he lead me and my mission president behind a building where guns were put to the backs of our heads and we were told to kneel down as if we were to be executed before they drove off in our car with everything of value we had on us). But none of that bothered me. I knew, and I knew that God knew, that I had been touched by His spirit, and I was determined to do His will and bring the changes I experienced to others, and because of that I experienced miracles too numerous to recite here.
On my mission others taught me things designed to threaten my testimony, but it wasn’t until years later as FairMormon was being organized that I started to learn the many things some of you or those you know have struggled with personally. But I was not disheartened. I could not be, because I had already felt to sing the song of redeeming love, and I knew what that felt like! I remembered it!
So, as I began to dig into the myriad questions about the Church that now are codified on web sites, blogs, podcasts, books, videos, and presentations, I felt no urgency. I was calm as a summer’s morning, and was able to look carefully at each issue, and weigh for myself what truth there was in the criticism, what it meant, and what I should do about it. At this point, now with more than 23 years association with my friends at FairMormon, I have perhaps heard every reason to disbelieve the Church, and yet I still believe! Part of the reason is that I have never forgotten what I felt. I have never forgotten the change that God gave me as I committed myself to Him through Covenant.
Now, as I read the scriptures, I become animated at the magnificent complexity of interwoven principles that permeate the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. I discover interlineated teachings that are magnificent and ennobling. Some are subtle and only are noticed because I constantly read multiple books of scripture at a time, and am thus exposed to nuanced interlocked intricacies that would otherwise be overlooked. But these are profound, and transformative.
The Book of Mormon especially has some of the most sublime sermons I have ever known. If I had written any one of them, they would be my Magnum Opus! But there are MANY! Nephi with his pleadings to God. Jacob and his sermons on morality, and his taking responsibility for the sins of others. The parable of the Olive Tree. The parable of the good seed. King Benjamins sermon (which counts for 2-3 “Magnum Opus” type orations). Abinidi and his courage and teachings. Alma with Amulek teaching the poor of the Zoramites. Alma and the teachings to the Nephites around Zarahemla. Alma with his lessons to his sons. Alma’s reciting of his own conversion! The teaching of Nephi before the coming of Christ, and the teaching of Christ to the Nephites. Mormon and his personal messages and farewell, and of course Moroni’s magnificent teachings on weakness and humility, on charity, and on how to recognize truth.
These are but a small part of the magnificence that continues with the marvelous teachings given us by each other on Sundays, by stake leaders, and by prophets and apostles of Jesus Christ. I feel more now than ever, despite knowing every reason to disbelieve, to sing the song of redeeming love, and invite all to bear with patience their questions, and seek rather to feel or remember a mighty change in Heart, and recognize God as the one who changes it!
In short, I invite you to own your testimony!