Next month during General Conference I will celebrate being a member of the Church for five years. I was baptized on October 1st, 2011. I’m very grateful for the young men who led me to that day, and for the countless others who have kept me on the correct course since then, especially my wife. We actually just celebrated our one year wedding anniversary last Monday, on September 5th. All Creatures of Our God and King was the closing hymn at our wedding a year ago. Full disclosure, I may have requested it be played today in remembrance of that day. It’s amazing how much influence the Gospel had in bringing us together.
Myself, a convert of five years, and possibly the only member of my family &
My wife, a life-long member who can trace her family’s ancestry in the Church back to the Pioneers, and maybe further
We’ve had to endure very different things in our lives, each of which has somehow led us to each other.
My wife has endured being a child of divorce; divorce herself after 15 years of marriage, and the hard realization of needing to move many states away from her children in order to get her life back on track to better serve them.
I’ve had to endure near daily alcoholism, two pack a day smoking habit, and maybe worst of all, gallons and gallons of sweet tea.
Seven times the Book of Mormon tells us to Endure to the End. Better yet there are two times where we’re told that we will be kept… through “the endurance of faith on his name to the end”. Moroni 3: 3 and Moroni 8: 3.
To me, this means there has to be an action along with enduring. We have to be active and proactive in following the commandments and teachings of our Savior Jesus Christ. We have to continuously overcome the obstacles that come our way, large and small. Overcoming small and large obstacles are equally important.
Because of my alcoholism I’ve wrecked an embarrassing number of vehicles. Thankfully, though, no one, including myself has ever been hurt. The last vehicle I wrecked was in the fall of 2010. I drove a little five-speed Ford Escort. I had a long journey of six blocks to make from the bar to my apartment. I could’ve walked, but I was okay of course. It was a five-speed, it would keep me alert. I’ll be okay. I set off and made it about five and a half blocks without a hitch. One-Half block away from my apartment I swung the car a bit wide to turn and ended up rear ending a parked truck. The impact totaled my car and shoved the truck over the curb by about two feet. I rolled the half block to my apartment and walked back to see what I had done. The owner of the truck I hit was outside when I made it back. Luckily there was no damage to his truck, aside from some red paint that could’ve been wiped off. He told me to go home and not to worry about it. I gave him my number, just in case, but never heard from him. He never cleaned the red paint off of his bumper. I spent a couple more years driving by daily, seeing that reminder of my carelessness. I did drink for about a year more after this incident. It wasn’t until after meeting those aforementioned young men from Utah that I would be able to overcome alcohol. The following scripture is what pushed me over the edge in accepting the Book of Mormon to be true, Joseph Smith to be a prophet, and to know undoubtedly that The Church is true.
Alma 5: 16-21
16) I say unto you, can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?
17) Or do ye imagine to yourselves that ye can lie unto the Lord in that day, and say—Lord, our works have been righteous works upon the face of the earth—and that he will save you?
18) Or otherwise, can ye imagine yourselves brought before the tribunal of God with your souls filled with guilt and remorse, having a remembrance of all your guilt, yea, a perfect remembrance of all your wickedness, yea, a remembrance that ye have set at defiance the commandments of God?
19) I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances?
20) I say unto you, can ye think of being saved when you have yielded yourselves to become subjects to the devil?
21) I say unto you, ye will know at that day that ye cannot be saved; for there can no man be saved except his garments are washed white; yea, his garments must be purified until they are cleansed from all stain, through the blood of him of whom it has been spoken by our fathers, who should come to redeem his people from their sins.
This scripture was an answer to many prayers. Should I join the Church? Do I deserve the blessings? Would my family understand my decision? Is this the right thing to do?
From the 1987 October General Conference Joy F. Evans said…
“We may not probably will not, receive a personal visit from the Lord, but the answers do come—from prayer, the scriptures, the words of the prophet, the still, small voice of inspiration. I should like to reassure you that we truly can find the courage to face our challenges and also give service to those whose needs are even greater than our own.”
Standing here now, with a beautiful wife and daughter I can absolutely say that giving up the drinking, the smoking, and even the sweet tea was absolutely the right thing to do. And being a member for a few years now I’ve learned to appreciate overcoming even small obstacles that come my way, instead of taking them for granted.
A small obstacle I’ve recently overcome is also embarrassing. I work with BroWo. A week and a half ago it was his birthday. In our office, we pass around a birthday card for everyone to sign, for each employee’s birthday. I’ve been there for about six months and have signed many cards since then. When BroWo’s card came around I was yet again careless, this time with a pen rather than a car. The first note in the card I saw said “Happy B-Day – Stan”. I hadn’t looked at the front of the card, or the front of the envelope at this time. Having read that, In my mind, this meant that it was Stan’s birthday, so inside I wrote “Happy B-day Stan! – Don BroJo”. The next person who usually receives the cards after me is BroWo since his office is right next door to mine. When I finished I stood up and turned the card over to look at it. On the front, it clearly said “Happy Birthday BroWo!” I sat back down not knowing what to do. How embarrassing to have to go back to the ladies up front and tell them that we need a new card because I’m a fool. I contemplated what I should do. Being in the drafting/architecture world after the invention of Computer Aided Drafting means I have very sloppy handwriting. Most people that came up before CAD had to draw by hand, and letter and number by hand as well. I didn’t have this luxury, so it gave me a chance to fix my mistake. I was able to adjust the word “Stan” to where the message would then say “Happy B-Day Man!” A small obstacle, I know, but an obstacle nonetheless that I can share with all of you.
While doing research I found a talk from Carlos H. Amado, from the October 1989 General Conference that illustrates a lesson learned and an obstacle overcome through the Gospel. Elder Amado said…
“… I remembered a lesson I learned many years ago when my father died. He died suddenly, leaving my mother a widow with fifteen children, ten of whom were dependent on her. This was a great tragedy in her life. Of course, the gospel, the fellowship of the Church, and our own testimonies gave us a solid base which comforted us and helped us to accept this loss with dignity. In spite of the fact that we never left her alone, it affected her deeply. Although she accepted the will of God, her soul did not find inner peace.
One morning as we were traveling downtown on a bus, she began to feel her loneliness. I noticed it, but also knew that I couldn’t give her the comfort she needed. She cried in silence, but with dignity. A lady passenger came up and said: “You seem to be very sad.” My mother answered, “I have just lost my husband.” Then the lady asked, “Do you have children?” and my mother answered, “I have fifteen children, and each one of them has some trait that reminds me of their father. So I am constantly reminded of him.”
When she heard this, the woman said: “You are truly blessed, because you only lost your husband. I lost my husband, too, and my two daughters in an automobile accident, and I am living alone. So I do understand your pain and sorrow.” Then she added, “Only God can help us overcome trials like this.”
Those who suffer great adversity and sorrow and go on to serve their fellowmen develop a great capacity to understand others. Like the prophets, they have acquired a higher understanding of the mind and will of Christ. To me, this woman was like an angel. She gave comfort and raised my mother’s thoughts toward God in a time of great trial. From that day on, each time my mother felt lonely or abandoned, she would say to me: “Son, pity the woman who lost all. I am grateful that the Lord has blessed me with fifteen children to be my companions in life.”
After reading this short story, I starting thinking about my dad. He will be 69 in December this year, and has lived a very long and fruitful life so far, with many more years to go. He has also endured much over those years. He married right out of high school and subsequently divorced, around the time of the outbreak of the Vietnam War. He was in College, but failing his classes, so he enlisted in the Navy in order to beat the draft. He served for four years, many of which were upon a ship. He married and divorced once more before finally meeting my mother. I was already about one year old when they married. He adopted me and has been “Dad” ever since. In 1989 he lost his father to old age. In 1999 he lost his mother for the same reason. My father is the second youngest of five. His brother is the youngest. In the 90’s he lost his youngest sister to an epileptic seizure. This past year he lost his oldest sister to Alzheimer’s and dementia. Last week his baby brother was placed into a nursing home in our hometown, where he will probably not make it to his next birthday. I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose both parents and almost all of my siblings. It has to be tough, but he is enduring it through me, my wife and our new little addition over there. He’s not a member, and in fact right now is one of the most irreligious people I know. He is enduring though because of the Gospel. He’s enduring from the influence my family and I have over him. I can tell that he has ample reason to keep enduring every time I see him with his new baby granddaughter.
The Gospel led me to my wife and her to me. We met at a Singles Family Home Evening in Texas. That meeting led to Facebook messages and dates and so on a so forth. After we were married we decided to have a baby as soon as possible because we knew we were supposed to bring another soul to this earth. What we didn’t know is how important her life would be to those outside of myself and Monica’s. Our baby endured 129 days in the NICU so that my father, and many others, could endure another day, and another possibility to come closer to the Gospel through our influence.
We’ve all endured so much over our collective lives. Sometimes it’s hard to know whether or not you will be able to continue. It’s hard to know whether or not you’re strong enough for the next obstacle. I would like to challenge everyone to spend the rest of the day or even the rest of the week, and think back to all the times you didn’t think you were going to make it through. The times you didn’t know whether you could pay that bill. The times you weren’t sure if you’d get that project done in time. The times you were scared to death to stand in front of a crowd to deliver a talk. We’re all still here. We made it. We endured.
I would like to end with my testimony. I know this Church is the True Church on this Earth, with the restoration of the fullness of the Gospel. I know that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of God and that he led the Restoration during this dispensation. I know The Book of Mormon is True and another Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I know we have a Prophet over our Church in these days and his direction is from Heavenly Father. I know that the obstacles we overcome will make us stronger in the Gospel and that others may become stronger in the Gospel as well while watching us handle ourselves during trying times, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
The names have been changed or altered to protect their privacy.