My Conversion & My Testimony
By Donna Max
I was raised in a small town in Iowa where I was a member of the Congregational Church. I was at peace with God and with my church (as I knew no other), but after high school I moved with my Father to Denver in search of employment. The economic situation in Iowa was bad, so my Mother and sister stayed behind until Dad and I were secure in new jobs. It became very lonely for me as Dad and I worked opposite schedules. When I was terribly bored in the apartment I would climb out my bedroom window onto the roof, and there I would sit watching all the lights I could see over Denver. There I would talk with the Lord and tell him of my loneliness and my deepest feelings. As I got to know him, my affection for Him grew. Gradually, I felt His nearness more and more and I could feel His directing influence in my life. I felt He had to be the most loving and gentle of Gods. Even when it was cold, I could feel the air around me warm up when I was talking with Him. A breeze sometimes felt like His hand touching my face. I cannot tell you how I grew to love Him. He filled my whole soul.
After a year with my father, my mother and sister were able to join us. By then I had been able to make some friends, and one of those friends asked me to accompany her to Church (which was supposedly interdenominational). It most certainly was Evangelical. They supported Billy Graham, whom I loved, and other evangelists. The meeting was very moving and as it ended the minister asked if anyone in the audience wanted to come forward and give their life to Christ. Since I felt strongly that I needed to let the Lord know how much I wanted Him in my life I walked forward and stood at the altar. I had read in the scriptures that if we would acknowledge the Lord in public He would also acknowledge us.
After the song, those of us at the altar were escorted to a room nearby. We were each interviewed separately by someone assigned to us and the lady assigned to me asked if I was willing to give my life to Christ. Not knowing what she meant, I quietly said, "I feel that I love Christ with all my heart and I want to live my life so He will be happy with me." She asked me if I could accept Christ right now as my Savior. I replied quickly, "I have already accepted Christ as my Savior." She looked at me questioningly and then allowed me to leave. She must have wondered why I came forward, but not understanding their ways, for me it was just an affirmation to show the Lord I was not afraid to stand in front of a crowd to declare my allegiance to Him. I somehow felt I disappointed her. I realize now that she was going to somehow save me. The people around me in this Church seemed really sweet and they obviously knew some things I didn't so I wanted to learn all I could. I tried hard to fit in there. I went to their college Sunday School class and made a few fair-weather friends, but most of the students went to this Church with their whole family and had known one another for years. I was an outsider.
I did meet several young men and one of them, Jeff, took me along with a group from this class to the airport to teach me how to proselyte. I was told to walk down the concourse and then talk to the first person I saw sitting alone. I was to tell him that we were taking a survey for the churches of the area and wanted to ask him some questions. All the questions led up to the final one: "Have you accepted Christ as your Savior, and if not would you be willing to do so now?" In essence we were to "save" these people.
I had never done this before and I told Jeff that I felt foolish and very nervous. He replied calmly but firmly that the Lord expected us to do these kinds of things and not to be afraid - that He would help me. I took a deep breath and looked cautiously at him and then he turned and motioned me on ahead by myself, smiling encouragingly.
I looked around, took another deep breath, and approached a young man, a soldier, sitting all alone waiting for a plane. I walked up to him and stated my purpose. He was very gracious, stood up, and invited me to sit down. He seemed pleased that I chose to talk with him. It was very easy for us to converse. I had noticed that his head was heavily bandaged under his Army cap, and he told me that he had been in Vietnam. He said he had been shot in the head and the Lord had blessed him - he lived and didn’t have any brain damage. We talked about the scriptures and within minutes I saw that he had l0 times my knowledge. He had such a testimony of Christ. I was very impressed, and I finally asked him where he went to Church. He smiled and said, "You would probably know it better by the name of Mormon." Without a doubt, from our conversation, I knew that he had accepted Christ. I didn't need to save him. He was already saved by the Lord Himself, so I didn’t ask him the question (I was certain it would offend him).
All too soon, Jeff was waving for me to come. I said goodbye to the soldier, thanked him for his time and quickly left. It was obvious that my friend was anxious to be off and a little jealous of my time with the soldier. He asked me what took me so long and if I was successful. Before I could answer either question we saw our group waving to us and hurried to catch them. We all met back at the Church and I began to understand that everyone was to stand, give a short explanation of their success, and tell how many people they had saved. When it came to me, Jeff nudged me to stand up and report. I was reluctant because my story was not like theirs. I took a breath and told them that I had met a young soldier returning from Vietnam. I told them that he knew the scriptures better than anyone I had ever known. I went on to say that I didn't have to save him; he was already saved. He knew all about Christ. I told them that he said he went to his church every week as he was a Mormon and commanded to do so to take the sacrament. I sat down saying that we really didn't have to worry about him.
I could tell from the look of horrified shock on everyone's faces that I still wasn't getting things right! The meeting was immediately dismissed. The next meeting, which I found was now mandatory for me, was the Wednesday night lecture given by the minister on other religions and what was wrong with them! The first one I was taken to was the one on the Mormons. For an hour I sat there with my friends listening to our minister rant and rave about the Mormons. How they believed in an Angel, Moroni, appearing in this day and age to give some gold plates that were buried in New York to a young boy named Joseph Smith, and how the Mormons thought Joseph Smith was greater than Jesus Christ. It all sounded quite foreign to me.
He held up the Book of Mormon and said how it was sacrilegious to believe that the Book of Mormon could possibly compare with the Holy Scriptures. He talked about how Mormons believed in baptism for the dead and totally turned around the scripture: "And why are they baptized for the dead if the dead rise not at all?" I didn't understand it all, but I listened. The Mormons believed in a false doctrine that people could be baptized after death? Needless to say, in later years I was to discover how this minister really twisted the facts. I remember that there were two missionaries there in the back, listening to see what this minister was saying about the Mormon Church. The minister called out that two emissaries of the devil were there and he invited them to leave as he wouldn’t continue until they left. People looked at them as they departed. As the missionaries turned to leave, I realized that everyone thought he had cast out two devils, and it was further proof of that when they obeyed him and left. I remember wondering what other choice they had than to leave. I also attended other lectures on the Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, etc. According to our minister everyone was wrong except the Evangelists. One evening during a lecture, a man came into our large two story Church (full to the brim with people) and as he walked down the isle, he called out in a loud voice that if we really wanted to understand about another’s faith that we should go to the source and not listen to any minister give his opinion as to what another believes. He said we should make our own assessments. Men jumped up and dragged him out, but I couldn’t help but agree with him. To get truth about a matter, generally you must go to the source.
Well, my friend was trying to give me a full assessment of Evangelism so when a traveling Evangelist came to the Denver Coliseum to preach and hold a revival, he wanted me to attend with him. I agreed as I was curious, and when we arrived we found the whole place packed so we stood against the back wall. I looked around and saw many of the members from the Evangelist Church we attended. They all looked very enthusiastic and expectant.
When the Evangelist began preaching, interestingly enough, I felt a cold, flat spirit. Everyone around was waving their arms and saying "Amen" to everything he said. I was becoming more and more uncomfortable. Soon he passed around a collection plate for himself and then toward the end he invited people to come forward to be healed. As I watched, he would grab someone by his ears and yell, "You will hear, you will hear!" Then he held up both of his hands and popped the person simultaneously with them hard - on both ears. I couldn’t help but think that if the man hadn’t been deaf before he did that, that he certainly would be now! No one was healed! Then he proceeded to touch some young girls who fell into convulsions on the floor. I walked closer so I could see this charade. This could not be God! Yet everyone around me appeared to be spellbound and crying. I abhorred it. It was so fake. The God I knew was a God of order – one who loved and respected His children – not one who was worshipped through mass hypnotism and charades and convulsions. After a while, it started to grow cold in the room, and I felt (or heard) a distinct voice in my head which said ‘Leave quickly - Satan is coming.’ It was so compelling and authoritative that I quickly told my friend I wanted to leave. I grabbed hold of him, left the building, and got into his car.
I was visibly anxious and my friend asked what was wrong. I replied, “The Spirit of the Lord was not there, it was Satan.” He said, "No, Donna, you're mistaken, Satan wants you to feel this way. I need to give you a blessing." He then placed his hands upon my shoulders and began to speak in some guttural language. I had terrible mixed feelings. One, I wanted to laugh out loud as it sounded so ridiculous, and two, I was thinking that I knew it sounded funny, but what if I was wrong and it was sacred and the Lord would be angry with me? I struggled to control myself, and when he was finished he looked at my questioning, baffled face and said, "I spoke in tongues. It’s a gift the Lord has given me. Everyone in the Church seeks after it and there are only a few of us who can really do it whenever they chose. You can seek for this yourself Donna."
This was not my idea of speaking in tongues and I was very leery because this young man could be deluded and deceived. I needed to know more before I proceeded to join this church and possibly open myself up to Satan, so I decided to back off a little bit.
Later, when the man I had been planning to marry, Bob, and his best friend Frank were killed in an automobile accident, I was appalled when I was told they were going to hell simply because they had not said aloud to someone that they had accepted Christ as their Savior. I wondered at such doctrine and specifically asked then about the people who had been born before Christ. I was told that they too were lost and that God had predetermined their destiny. None of this made any sense to me because I believed in a just God, and their God was certainly not just if this was His doctrine.
I was told it would be far better for me to go on with my life and put these young men behind me as there was no hope for them. Everything inside of me knew that what this man was saying was wrong, but I respected him. For the first time I found someone who had planted fear in my heart about my God -- was it true, or was I wrong about the character of God? Who was THIS God? My God had been loving and kind and wonderful, but THIS God thrust people to hell, people I loved? For what? Not understanding Christ’s role on the earth? Was this the same God?
These thoughts pushed me into deep depression and mourning. I still functioned but I questioned the nature of God. I could not stand the doctrine of this Church. I stopped going. Night after night I would go to my knees and pray to God. I needed to know if He still cared for me, if He was still the same God I loved, if what I was doing was even important, or if we were truly nothing and to be thrust off. I asked continuously, "Do you love me? Do you care about what I am doing?" One night three months after Bob and Frank's death, two close girlfriends called and asked me to go out. They wanted to get me out of my depression, so I drove over and picked them up and we went to a movie. Afterwards we were hungry so we stopped at a McDonald's and, while eating in the car in the adjoining parking lot, suddenly a car pulled up a short distance from us.
It was full of excited teenagers who piled out of the car and began jumping up and down, hugging each other, squealing, laughing and running toward our car. My two girlfriends were alarmed and both immediately locked their doors thinking that some deranged kids were going to do us some harm. After a moment I recognized them as being from the Sunday School Class I had attended at the Evangelist Church.
I didn't know them well, but I was curious so I rolled down my window because they motioned they needed to talk with me. Everyone was talking at once, and finally one young man said, "Donna, we can't believe we found you!! It’s a miracle. We were in our prayer circle when suddenly it was impressed upon all of us at once by God that we were to break the prayer circle and go right then to find you, and we are to tell you that God loves you and cares about what you are doing. He led us right to you!!" I didn't know what to say. I had the most peaceful, wonderful feeling! My eyes filled with tears. The students didn't wait for a reply. They just said to one another, "We have to go find the others and tell them how the Lord led us directly here!" They ran to their car and left. It was indeed a miracle that they found us in a city of over a million people.
My friends couldn't believe it. They were very verbal and disgusted: "Donna, why do you put up with those fanatics anyway?" And, in a voice that mimicked the young man who gave me the message, one of my friends sneered: "’God loves you and cares about what you are doing!’ Well of course He does, they could give that same message to anyone. What's so special about that?"
I turned calmly and said, "Shhhh. It’s okay. I know what it is all about. Let's not talk about it." It was truly marvelous. First of all the Lord stopped a prayer circle that ran 24 hours a day and never stopped to send them to give me a message of love and comfort. How could I explain? Those were MY exact words night after night following Bob's death, "Do you love me, Do you care about what I am doing?" Yes, it was a message that could be given to anyone, but it was given to me in answer to my prayer and it was given in a way in which I would understand: my very own words. God loved me. He was still the same! If He loved and cared about ME, then without a doubt He truly cared about Bob & Frank and loved them too. I didn't have to worry anymore. Bob was not with a terrible, angry God. Wherever he was, he was not far from the one I knew and loved so well. My heart was wonderfully full. I could stop being afraid! I could stop mourning. I had things to learn, but not at that Church. Their doctrine was not in accordance with the personality of God, but He could nevertheless use them to accomplish his purposes and bring them forward as they matured in the spirit. I just needed to wait on the Lord. I knew and had a testimony that God loved each and every single one of us and knew us personally. What a wonderful feeling.
I met John about 6 months after Bob's death. He brought out the laughter in me again. He was sure of himself and kind, and he made me feel very cherished. He was totally motivated. After about 7 months of dating John and I got serious. I admired him because he was religious and went to Mass during his lunch hour at work. He seemed to want to be obedient to the Lord on his own. His parents weren't there making him go to Church, he was choosing it. To me that showed character. He asked me to marry him and I said yes.
Since I no longer had an affiliation with any specific Church I went faithfully with John to the Catholic Church for three and a half years; however, Catholicism was basically foreign to me and I have to admit I missed the enthusiasm for Christ so openly expressed in Evangelism. When John and I moved to Virginia I secured employment at Marymount College of Virginia, a private Catholic University for girls, and I loved the nuns with whom I worked. We all became very close. Some of them were pressing me to join their Church, but still I just could not bring myself to do so. Although I did meet with several priests for some instruction, there were just too many unanswered questions.
One night when I attended a staff dinner at Marymount, I sat beside a fellow young worker who became very friendly and talkative. She told me she was a Mormon convert and proceeded to outline her religion to me. I listened attentively and thought that it had to be one of the most beautiful sounding religions I had ever heard, but it was so overwhelming and perfect that it sounded like a fairy tale. I wondered how people could believe in fairy tales. I honestly was not prepared for what she gave me, and I was remembering the lecture given to me years ago on the basic principles of the Mormon Church. I needed the basics to be reiterated and explained, not the mysteries, so I put it out of my mind.
Some time later I was reading an article in a popular magazine. It was about Bishop Pike, a famous Episcopalian minister whose son had committed suicide through the use of drugs. It was about death and the Spirit World and I was very interested. His son had overdosed. Bishop Pike had taken him to Europe to get him away from the hippie scene here in America but found the same thing in Europe. He had asked his son not to take LSD when he was not there with him because he was afraid that his son would experiment and lose his life, which is exactly what happened. It was very sad. The interesting thing to me was that after the son's death, Bishop Pike and his housekeeper began noticing that items in the house would move by themselves. More and more Bishop Pike felt that his dead son was trying to communicate from the other side.
Since Bob's death, I was very interested in what was on the other side. I found myself immersed in this article. Bishop Pike decided to do the unthinkable - he was going to contact a clairvoyant. He flew into New York, and amazingly enough a clairvoyant met him at the airport and told him to fly on to Los Angeles because the clairvoyant he needed was there. He was beginning to wonder what he had gotten himself into, but his curiosity was too great and his despair over his son's death so painful. This gave him hope that there were some answers to deep questions within his grasp.
When he met the clairvoyant, he was amazed to find her a bubbly, happy housewife. They arranged a sitting. He felt that he did make contact with his son and asked him if he was in heaven. The spirit (he believed to be his son) replied (through the clairvoyant), “No.” Anxiously Bishop Pike asked him if he was in hell. Again came the “No.” Full of anxiety, he asked, "Where then are you?" The reply shocked Bishop Pike. "I am in a spirit world. There are thousands of us here; we are all trying to help one another.” Bishop Pike asked, “Is Christ there?" And the answer: “We haven’t seen Him.”
Bishop Pike went away puzzled. Not long after, mysteriously Bishop Pike's long-time housekeeper also committed suicide. In despair, Bishop Pike once again contacted the clairvoyant. Through her, he again felt he had communication with his son. The spirit (again whom he believed to be his son) said that the housekeeper was with him, and they were trying desperately to help to awaken her - that death through suicide or some violent means was much more difficult for the spirit to handle on the other side as many people (not believing in life after death) self-hypnotize themselves into believing they are now non-existent. This meant they had to work with her longer to help her to adjust. Well, this was completely baffling to Bishop Pike. He had made religion his life's work. Where was Christ? He began to question. If Christ was the redeemer of man, why were these spirits kept separate from God? It was his understanding that because of Christ man went directly to God upon death. What was this spirit prison?
It was very sad because the article went on to say that Bishop Pike went back to his congregation and expressed his doubts on the validity of Jesus Christ as being the Messiah. My head ached. I KNEW he was wrong. I wanted to tell him. Jesus was and is the Christ. I knew that with every fiber of my being. I couldn't comprehend how he, a preacher, could possibly come to that conclusion. What if this was an evil spirit speaking through the clairvoyant to plant doubt in his mind? Look how many people he could influence. And I wondered why he didn't consider the possibility that Jesus WAS the Christ, but that these people were held here in the spirit world because they were not yet prepared to meet Him for the final judgment. They would have this space, this time in which to learn more of Christ (to accept or reject Him), to ponder their lives, to be taught the fullness of the gospel and to repent and prepare themselves even more before the second coming of Christ. If God was just, then this all made sense. A God who gives each and every one of us, his children, every possible opportunity to partake of the atonement of Christ before the final judgment. The dead would still have their chance also. If Christ wasn’t there with the son and housekeeper, perhaps it’s because in life they rejected Him and now they had to be taught by others. I had hope and wondered that if I found the true Church, would this be explained more in detail?
Bishop Pike died some years later in the desert near the Holy Land. He was alone with no water and was found dead.
Later, I became constantly agitated in my mind. I began to strongly feel something was close, that I needed to find the truth. I needed to find where the Lord wanted me to go. Now was the time. I needed answers, I needed them badly; I was so close to something and I did not want to wait any longer. I approached John and told him that on Sundays I would go to Mass with him, but I wanted the opportunity to also look around on that day each week and visit a few other churches so I could know for sure what God wanted me to do with my life. John was not very happy about this decision because he had been very content that I had gone uncomplaining for so long with him to the Catholic Church, but he agreed to support me if that was my decision.
I began to visit different churches on occasion, but nothing seemed right. One particular day when I went to work I was again approached by one of the Priests at the Catholic University where I worked. He wanted to encourage me to embrace Catholicism. I told him that there were too many unanswered questions for me. He asked if I had found any answers in other churches, and I told him, “No, not yet but I’m looking.” That afternoon when I drove back to our apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, I felt utterly frustrated. I had tears streaming down my face. I felt this unbelievable drive to find the truth, and yet I felt I had nowhere to turn to bring it to fulfillment.
So, when I arrived at my apartment, I knelt by my bed and began to pray. I don't know when I have poured out my heart in seeking for an answer as I did then. I prayed for several hours. I know I must have been directed in my words for I begged Heavenly Father to let me find His true Church, because I believed that if I could find His true Church then I could find Him, and then I would know what it was I was to do down here. Again, I was getting very frustrated. I felt there was something waiting for me but it was eluding me. I added that if I have been blind through sin or disbelief and missed it, to please help me to open my heart and my eyes to find the direction to go. I covenanted with Him that I would do anything, go anywhere, give anything if He would only hear my prayer and give me the direction necessary. When I finished my prayer I found that my room was dark. I turned on the light and looked at the clock and was amazed that so much time had passed. I could feel a powerful spiritual presence all around me. However, a temporal matter pressed me, as John would be home in an hour and I had promised him that I would wash his shirts as he had none for tomorrow. I quickly gathered them up and headed out the door, down the hall to the elevator. All the way down to the laundry room, I kept hoping that I wouldn't see anyone because this wonderful spirit was still with me - so much so that I felt caught up in it and I didn't want to lose it. I felt secure knowing that in His way and in His own time, the Lord would now direct me; I had to be patient.
I put John’s shirts in the washer and returned to the elevator. When I stepped off into the hallway leading to my apartment (which was on the end), I noticed that down at the end of the hallway standing in front of my apartment were two young men dressed in suits. As they turned to watch my approach my breast began to burn. I was totally filled to the brim. The Spirit was constantly bearing witness to me that these young men were from God and I was given to know that if I would follow them, I would find the true Church and my mission in life. I had mixed emotions. What Church did these young men represent? Would I be strong enough to follow blindly the Spirit? Elation and joy filled my heart, but also great humility, and then fear... questions. I had so much racing through my mind as I pondered my prayer. My pleadings, my promises, my covenants. I had asked for direction and the Lord had responded IMMEDIATELY. I dared not to reject the Holy Spirit burning within me. Always before he had prompted me, but this was a direct witness and I knew it carried with it a condemnation that would follow me if I did not obey. However, it was my choice - my free agency. I thought, ‘Help me Dear Father to not be afraid, but to follow where you lead with faith and be willing to learn and be open.’
One of the young men smiled as I approached and asked me if this was my apartment. I answered, "Yes it is." The other replied, "We're from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we’d like to speak to you if we may and give you some information about it.” (Or something like that). My head was swimming and only a few words had true meaning – The words “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” came clear but I hadn’t really heard of it. I was very excited inside but outside I was very quiet and composed as I invited them in. I was so curious: I recognized instantly that the Lord’s Church would most probably be called the Church of Jesus Christ, for it would be His church, but why the Latter-day Saints part??
We sat down and they began to talk. I could not resist, I asked, “Who are the Latter-day Saints?” They explained the reason for the name to distinguish time from the Lord’s first Saints when He organized his Church on the earth, and then they told me that I would probably recognize them by their nickname, Mormons. My mind flashed briefly back to all the Mormons I had met, and to the lecture I heard by someone giving THEIR OPINION of what someone else believed; however, I quickly dismissed the information and decided this time to listen for myself and start fresh. After all, I knew that Satan would exert all his power to strive to deceive people so they would be afraid to listen and find the true Church. I always knew that if true messengers came to me I would know it by the Spirit of God, and I had just had that witness.
The missionaries gave peace to my heart. They asked if I would be interested in the missionary lessons and I told them I was very much interested. Then they told me that they wanted to teach John also. I nodded in agreement, but cautioned them that he was a strict Catholic and might not be interested. I did not tell them about the prayer. I didn't understand all this yet, and I had learned to be quiet about some things until I knew in my heart exactly what to do and I wasn't sure what would happen with John. I didn't want to blow him away before he started. They said that they would call me later for an appointment for both of us. When they left, I leaned incredulously against the door and said, "The Mormons, Lord? THEY are YOUR people?" I could have fallen off my chair when they said they were the Mormons. Why had I been so gullible as to have swallowed the half truths and lies and the rhetoric perpetrated by Satan through the Christian community against them? That should have been a clue. If the Mormons were right, and an angel did come to restore the gospel, then the Christians would have to change some of their ideas and teachings and obviously many felt threatened. Now I know how the Jews felt when Jesus came with His Gospel. They had been set in their ways as well, and felt they had it all when they didn’t. They didn’t want to change and lose their status either.
Well, I felt incredibly blessed to have received the kind of witness from the Spirit that came to me. I was full of thanksgiving and I went back into the bedroom and knelt by my bed. I poured out my heart in thanksgiving for this new direction, and I prayed again that my mind and heart might be even further open to His teachings. I asked Him that if it be possible to also soften John's heart so that he too could be filled as was I with this incredible witness so that he would be unafraid to move forward.
When John came home I told him I had met some nice young men from the Mormon Church and mentioned that they wanted to come back and tell us about their church. John knew I had been looking and that I was very interested in other religions. He replied that if I wanted to listen that was fine, but he was perfectly happy with Catholicism and didn't want a new religion. He turned away. I held my breath. Suddenly, he paused, turned around, softened, looked at me, and said, "Well, if it will please you, I'll listen." My heart was overflowing. He had never really wanted to discuss his religion with me, let alone any other religion, and now without a doubt God had sent His Spirit to soften his heart.
The missionaries called back and we scheduled an appointment. They came and offered a beautiful prayer and gave us the first discussion. Both of us were very quiet. We were pondering everything in our hearts. I could tell that the missionaries were not quite sure of our position but I could not be overly enthusiastic until I could bring John along. He came on his own, however. The missionaries left us a Book of Mormon. John had a calm spirit about him and after they left he told me that he couldn't remember when he had enjoyed anything as much and he wondered if I had felt what he had felt – something wonderful. I replied that I did.
I took the Book of Mormon first, and sat up well into the night reading it. I didn't really understand the purpose of it at first but gradually I realized it was a second witness of Christ and a clarification of His doctrine. When the missionaries came back they asked us hesitantly if we had read any of the Book of Mormon. I had been busy that week and I apologetically said, "I have only read through Alma, and I have had it so much that John hasn't had a chance to read anything yet." Their entire attitude changed. Their eyes lit up. They hadn't been sure of us before, but now something was happening.
New and beautiful concepts were being unfolded to us. We loved the lessons. I remember how excited I was when the missionaries talked about the Spirit World and life after death, and how the Lord was just in giving everyone that ever lived on the earth the opportunity to repent and accept Christ’s atonement before the Judgment Day. They explained how this worked, and my heart was overflowing. I knew without a doubt that this was true. Then came the lesson on the Word of Wisdom. I was a chain smoker. I had picked up the habit when I was 19 when I went on break with fellow workers. I don't know why I ever started. That day I had bought a carton of cigarettes but I had been so busy rushing around getting ready for the missionaries that I hadn't opened it yet. The doorbell rang and I thought I'd have a cigarette later. The poor missionaries said they were afraid to give us this lesson and had been fasting. John had a closet of liquor. Following the tradition of his family he believed in having whatever someone requested when you offered a social drink to your guest. We had always offered a drink or coffee or tea to the missionaries and they had always declined, never mentioning at the time their beliefs or the Word of Wisdom. Now we received the challenge to put all that behind us. I was afraid. I had tried several times to quit and hadn't been successful. I got up after the lesson and went in the kitchen to prepare a refreshment.
There sat my carton of cigarettes, and my body was already badly craving the nicotine. As I looked at them a scripture came forcefully to my mind, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24). Choose ye this day! If I chose a cigarette, I knew somehow that I would be rejecting God. Even the Jews, his chosen people, had a strict health code given to them from the Lord - why not us? That day we both chose to be obedient to God.
Although we were doing everything the missionaries asked us to do, John's strict Catholic upbringing still nudged at him, and he insisted that we also attend the Catholic Church, so we attended Sunday School at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Sunday morning and Mass at the Catholic Church in the evening.
John could not imagine how early Book of Mormon prophets crossed the ocean for the Americas and made it. He had been in the navy for four years, and it seemed unbelievable to him that the Nephites could cross the ocean on flimsy boats. He prayed about this and surprisingly enough an article appeared in the Washington POST telling about Thor Heyerdahl's expeditions in papyrus reed boats. One morning after Sunday School as we were leaving the Mormon Church, one of the missionaries asked us if we were coming back to Sacrament that afternoon. John, still unsure, replied, "Oh no, we have to go to Mass." I didn't say a word because this was John's decision and not one I could make for him.
Mass and Sacrament were both at four o'clock. At about 3:35 p.m. John put down the paper he was reading and left the room. A few minutes passed and I wondered what he was doing as it was almost time to leave for Church. I walked back to the bedroom and there, kneeling in prayer, was John. I turned quietly, walked back into the living room and waited. When John came out he went to the closet, got my coat and said, "Come on, Donna, we're going to Sacrament meeting. We've gone to the Catholic Church for the last time."
Both of our hearts were overflowing. On July 18, 1970 John and I were baptized and confirmed members of the Church by our wonderful missionaries, Elders Dennis Christensen from Salt Lake City, and John Brent Hall from Springville, Utah. It has been the blessing of our lives!! Never, no never, have we ever regretted our decision. We felt like empty bottles that were now being filled to overflowing as new and wonderful concepts were understood. With the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Bible was now easy to understand and it unfolded to our minds wonderful concepts and true doctrine.
Since I worked at a Catholic girl’s school, the news that I had become a Mormon was not well received. I knew that I would have to leave. When the missionaries taught us that the “glory of God is intelligence,” we made the decision to move to Provo to finish our education. We had one thing unfinished. What were we going to do with all that liquor? Some non-member friends jokingly said, “When you dump it down the sink let us know and we’ll catch it coming down the pipe in the apartment below you!” Well news got around of our conversion and a man called and told John that he heard that we were now Mormons and had a closet full of liquor. He wanted to make us a deal. John went to meet him at his place of business (which was a car dealership) and the man asked him what it would take to purchase all our liquor. John pointed to a little sports car on the lot, and the man quickly agreed. John had driven a company car, so when he gave his notice that he was leaving to go to college we no longer had transportation. This was the perfect opportunity to obtain a car with no added expense to us. The Lord was blessing us in every area of our lives.
It is our testimony that The Church of Jesus Christ is the one true Church on this earth. There cannot be two or three with conflicting doctrines – there must be one. Over the past 38 years we have studied the doctrines of the Church in depth, and we both know that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, that Heavenly Father loves us ALL, and has a great Plan of Salvation laid out for us to return to Him. Because of apostasy great truths were lost. They are now restored (as was prophesied in Revelations that an angel would come in the latter days to restore the everlasting gospel to the earth prior to the Lord’s Second Coming). The angel has come; his name was and is Moroni! We know that the Father and the Son did appear to Joseph Smith and that further light and knowledge was given to him as was given to all the Lord’s prophets through the centuries. Joseph was martyred (as were many, many prophets before him for bearing witness to the truth).
There is much to learn and that is the reason for these lessons. I am no apostle or prophetess. I am simply a teacher. If you are not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and desire more information or have questions, please go to Mormon.org or call 1-888-537-6600 to speak with a missionary. Those of you who may have fallen into an inactive status, please prayerfully review these lessons or contact your local bishop for the Lord desires your return to the fold while there is yet time. Please remember the Parable of the Lost Sheep who has wandered away (St. Luke 15:4-7): "What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost. I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance." Please open your hearts and your minds to learn. You too can be filled with the wonderful Spirit of the Lord so that you can be counted on the right hand of the Savior when he comes. We have a Prophet on this earth to guide us, and we have twelve Apostles as well. They are truly holy men. Come and drink at the fountain of life, the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and listen to their words. Have a desire to believe. Harden not your hearts or your minds because of false teachings and false ministers, and come join with the Saints of God, we humbly pray. I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.