It has never been difficult for me to see a connection between science and faith in God. The order of the universe and the fact that so many physical aspects of our world follow very clear and precise rules and laws has always made it abundantly clear to me that this earth and the entire universe must have been created by God and that He has set in place everything in an orderly manner. It is for us as members of the human race to discover the many wonderful things our Father in Heaven has created for us. Science is about discovering those things, and engineering, in which I was trained, is about learning how to use these wonderful creations of our Heavenly Father to solve problems that we have created for ourselves. I have also always been able to see that part of the underlying goal of my own life is to use the talents that God has given me to try to solve problems in such a way as to improve the lives of my fellow men and women.
I came late in life to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was not until I was already 54 years old that I first heard the missionaries and began to consider the truth of this church. I was brought up in England in the Methodist Church, in which both my parents were actively engaged, and they encouraged us as children to find for ourselves the truth of the Gospel through prayer and scripture study. I developed a habit of daily prayer and scripture study from my youth, even though I found that this often meant that my various friends found it strange that I did so and also did not understand why I would spend Sundays attending church and doing other things related to my faith. As I became an adult and through my first marriage, I spent a few years as a member of the Anglican Church in England, but then moved with my young family to the United States, where I joined the United Methodist Church and remained a member of that church for almost the next thirty years.
Then, after a failed marriage and meeting a very special person who is now my wife, I was introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the time and often since, I described listening to the full-time missionaries of the Church teaching me gospel principles as a series of “light bulb moments.” From my many years of studying the Bible, I thought I knew and understood the Gospel, yet, as these young men taught me the principles of the Restored Gospel, I felt as though light bulbs kept turning on in my mind, as one verse after another from the Bible was explained and its meaning, hidden from me all these years, suddenly became so clear and obvious. I found myself frequently asking myself how I could have read these verses so many times and yet never fully understood what they meant. I already knew that God lived and that Jesus Christ was His Son, who came to the earth and showed by example how we should live our lives, and also then went through the awful experience of Gethsemane and the crucifixion to atone for my sins. Even though I had often repeated creeds of the churches to which I had belonged that spoke of the Trinity, I had always, deep in my heart, believed that our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost had to be separate entities. Yet, when I questioned this idea, I never received a satisfactory explanation from those in the churches to which I had previously belonged. Now, here were the missionaries teaching me that God our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ His Son, and the Holy Ghost are three personages and proceeding to describe to me the First Vision of Joseph Smith in which he learnt, as a 14-year-old boy, this same truth. It was clear to me and I had no doubts.
Many, many other doctrinal truths were revealed to me, first by the full-time missionaries, and then through the learning I commenced as I entered into membership of this church. Being an academic and being used to learning by reading, I acquired many books about the church and read them voraciously. I read and studied the Book of Mormon and have not ceased re-reading it time after time ever since. I read and study the Doctrine and Covenants and all of the other scriptures, conference talks, etc. so as to continue to add to my knowledge of the wonderful Plan of Salvation and to learn how to live my life better.
In the relatively short time that I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have found my beliefs change to faith, and my faith change to knowledge, as I receive repeatedly the witness of the Holy Ghost to the truth of the doctrines of this church. I know that my Heavenly Father lives. I know that Jesus Christ is my Saviour and Redeemer. I know that Jesus Christ came to earth and that he has atoned for my sins. I know that the truth of the gospel was restored to the earth by the Prophet Joseph Smith and that the Book of Mormon contains truth about the Gospel, greater truth than in any other book on the earth today. I know that I lived with Heavenly Father in a pre-mortal life, that this time on earth is a time of probation, and that, if I live true to His commandments and endure to the end, I can again return to live with my Heavenly Father in eternity. I know, too, that families can be together in eternity. I know that the priesthood has been restored to the earth and that, through this priesthood, sealing powers originally given to Peter the Apostle are again upon the earth. I know that, through these sealing powers, husbands and wives can be sealed together for eternity, that children can be sealed to their parents, and that this can be done for generation after generation, so that families stretching all the way back to Adam and Eve, our first parents, can be sealed together.
I also know that every person on earth is my brother or my sister, that we are all children of our Heavenly Father. In my daily life, I try hard to treat everyone around me with the love and care that I should in the knowledge that these are my brothers and sisters. I received a strong witness, when I met my present wife, that she and I had known each other in the pre-mortal life and that we had covenanted with one another to help each other find this church during this life. She succeeded nearly 25 years before me in finding this church, so she then found me and helped me to find this church.
My conversion to the church has further reaffirmed what I already believed about my professional life—that it has to do with applying my talents to improving the lives of those around me. I have also come to realise that so many of the discoveries that mankind has made have the intent to help us to spread the gospel. In my field of transport, I find it quite remarkable that for thousands of years, mankind travelled either on foot or by using beasts of burden. Even after the wheel was invented, we continued for many hundreds of years to use animal power to pull carts and other wheeled conveyances, and there were no major developments in transport. Travelling over the oceans relied upon wind and sails, after the oar. However, in a very short period of time, mainly since the early 1800s, we have discovered the power of steam, then the internal combustion engine, then jet engines and rockets. Back at the time that the Book of Mormon came forth through the Prophet Joseph Smith, most transport was still by horse and cart and walking on land, and by sail on the seas. However, in the almost 200 years since the gospel has been restored, we have seen an incredible revolution on the earth in our means of travel, so that we can now travel rapidly around the globe. We have cars and trucks, trains and buses, all of which can move us at speeds that were considered unthinkable 150 years ago. We can fly by airplanes, and man has travelled to the moon and out into space.
We have also invented means of communication such as the telephone, the fax, the Internet, and so on and so forth, that have revolutionised our ability to communicate one with another. While many non-believers may put all of this down to the ingenuity of man, I do not. I see all of this as evidence of Heavenly Father’s plan to bring the gospel to ALL his children throughout the earth, by revealing to scientists and engineers those principles that allow the invention of these various means of transport and communication, so that the gospel can go forth to every corner of the earth.
I do not know what future discoveries mankind will be lead to. I do know, without any shadow of doubt, that the principal discoveries that mankind will make in the future will be to make it yet easier to bring the gospel to everyone in the world. Unfortunately, I also do not doubt that Satan will continue to try to subvert these discoveries to draw mankind away from the gospel, as he has always done. Nevertheless, I know that the gospel will come to all people throughout the world in the Lord’s due time.
Also, as I look towards the end of my own mortal life, I find myself excited at the prospect of all that I will be able to learn in the next life. There is so much in this life that I do not yet understand, so many things that are still a mystery, and so many things that we have but a small understanding about. However, it is my belief that, in the next life, we will be allowed to learn everything about everything that our Heavenly Father has created. What a wonderful prospect this is. I am excited that I will have the chance to receive answers to all the questions that I have unanswered now and that I will receive knowledge that will open up vistas of questions and answers that I cannot even begin to imagine in this life. I know that, in the time that remains to me in this life, I need to continue to be open to whatever knowledge my Heavenly Father still wishes to give me. I know that I need to continue to learn about Him and His plans for us all and that I need to share what I know with those around me. I also know that I need to work on changing myself with His help, so that I can become more the person He would have me be, so that I can return to live with Him.
Dr. Peter R. Stopher is Professor of Transport Planning in the Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, in the Faculty of Economics and Business of the University of Sydney, in Sydney, Australia. He received a B.Sc. (Eng) in Civil and Municipal Engineering and a Ph.D. in Traffic Studies from the University of London. After spending eighteen months working for the Greater London Council in the Highways and Transportation Department, he accepted a position as Assistant Professor in Civil Engineering at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, in 1968. He spent two years there and then moved to Canada, where he spent a year at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. This was followed by two years as Associate Professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University and then a return for five years to Northwestern University, first as Associate Professor and then as Professor of Civil Engineering. In 1980, he left the academic world for a period of eleven years, which he spent in consulting in transport planning. He spent the first four years based in Miami, but practicing across the United States, and was then transferred to Los Angeles to work on the Metro Rail project there. He remained in Los Angeles for another four years after the completion of planning for the Metro Rail and then returned to the academic world as Director of the Louisiana Transportation Research Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He continued as Professor of Civil Engineering at LSU until the end of 2000. Following a sabbatical leave in 1998, spent partly at the University of Sydney, he was offered a position at the University of Sydney, which he has held since January of 2001. Peter has published or presented more than 250 papers and has authored four books, with a fifth one currently in press, and has edited more than ten books, all in various aspects of transport planning and travel survey methods.
Peter has two daughters by his first marriage, both of whom reside in California, and a stepdaughter from his present marriage who lives in Louisiana. He and his wife have ten grandchildren. He has been happily married to Carmen Palermo for the past almost thirteen years, during which they have both served in various callings in the Church, initially in Baton Rouge and now in various wards in Australia. During his short time in the Church, Peter has served as an elders quorum president, in a bishopric, and now on the stake high council, as well as in a number of other callings in the church. Peter and Carmen are also ordinance workers at the Sydney Temple and have worked there on evening shifts for the past eight years. Peter and Carmen became Australian citizens in September 2003.
Posted January 2010