What I Believe and How I Came to Believe It

Julio D.

The year was 1978. For Leon and Beatriz Delacruz, it was the day after the Northeast experienced one of the most intense snow blizzards to date. Today, it is referred to as “the blizzard of ‘78.”  I was a little over two years old when my mother, who was raised catholic, had desires for me to be baptized.  My father, on the other hand, went from church to church seeking to know what to do.  He felt that under the eyes of God, children are pure until they can be accountable for their own actions.  He felt that getting baptized should be my decision to make in my own time.

That same day, Elders Canoba and Conley, who were serving as Mormon missionaries in the Rego Park Ward in Queens, New York, decided to follow through on an appointment to meet with a potential investigator despite the stormy weather.  Trekking through the piled-high snow, the missionaries arrived at the apartment complex where the investigator lived.  As they passed by us, I was learning to build my first snow man.  Mario, the potential investigator who lived upstairs from us, was not home.  As they were leaving, my father asked if they would take a picture of us standing in front of the snowman and they agreed.  After taking the picture, my mother took me inside while my father remained outside with the missionaries; he wanted to know who they were and what brought them out under these stormy conditions. The missionaries’ responses were what my father wanted to hear, and he came and asked my mother if they could come in. The rest was history!  I believe there are people seeking for the truth, and based on the desires of the heart, Christ’s representatives get to answers those questions.  For my family and I, it was about timing in life.

The Lord’s timing is everything in life!

What I believe

What I believe is simple.  God loves us.  The Savior loves us and He has provided a way to return to be with them. My love for Christ is what anchors me because He’s my EVERYTHING.  I believe that through His gospel, we can all feel His love. We can tell stories about this love by simply sharing the gospel.  When we do so, we participate in what Spencer W. Kimball refers to as the lifeblood of the church.  He states that the gospel reaches people through missionary work and when we reach those who are searching, we witness firsthand the miracles by Christ’s hand as they turn to Him.  I personally have witnessed that through my wife Tina.

Previously we lived in Lynn.  On one of the sides streets,  there is a small Salvation Army post which has a banner hanging on the side of the building that reads, “Lynn, Lynn the city of Him, you don’t go out the way you come in.”  It was in Lynn where my wife found the gospel.  After years of discussions and misunderstandings about what church to attend, we wondered if we would ever find a place to worship together.  I was inactive for more than a decade and we were both yearning for the Lord to impact our lives together.  My wife found her answer in the form of two sister missionaries who were curious about the parents of a cute little girl whom they had met through her grandparents.  It took countless sister and elder missionaries for her to finally accept an invitation to attend church.  It was the first Sunday in June, 2009, when we arrived at the Revere 2nd Ward chapel.  The congregation had started singing and we were nervous to open the doors to the chapel.  I remember opening the door and looking for the first available seat.  We ended up sitting in the first row on the left-hand side of the room.  That Sunday was testimony Sunday.  As we listened to testimony after testimony, I turned to my wife and could see her joy.  The tears were just flowing; I knew she had found the answers to her questions.  Afterwards I asked her if she would return, and she replied with a resounding “yes, I would do anything to feel that spirit again.”

President Hinckley once said, “The most satisfying experience I have is to see what this gospel does for people. It gives them a new outlook on life. It gives them a perspective that they have never felt before. It raises their sights to things noble and divine. Something happens to them that is miraculous to behold. They look to Christ and come alive” (“Converts and Young Men,” Ensign, May 1997, 48).

I’ve personally witnessed how the gospel has touched and changed the lives of those who have sought God’s love. I’ve seen it in my wife, in those who’ve joined the church, and in myself.  In each case, all it took was a simple invitation.  When we invite, miracles can happen through the Lord’s helping hand. Whether it’s through Facebook, Twitter, email, texting, face to face, or a phone call, we can share the gospel.

 

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My Search for Happiness

By Ellyn Christensen

The search for happiness has always been a struggle for me. When I was a child and adolescent, I thought happiness could be found in things. My junior and senior years of high school I transferred my search for happiness from acquiring things to being wanted – not loved, mind you: though I had several boyfriends in high school, I always felt wanted, but not necessarily loved. But the feeling of being wanted brought me happiness. When I got to college, I initially thought that my happiness in my younger years was held back somehow by my family, and now that I was on my own I would be able to explore and find true happiness. I began finding happiness in things, friends, feeling wanted, new-found freedom, new experiences, and taking care of myself. However, this happiness was short-lived. By my sophomore year at Michigan State University (MSU), I again started questioning whether I was happy. I loved my roommates, my sorority sisters, my friends. I did not love my classes, after changing my major about a dozen times. I did not love our weekend extracurricular activities and thought many times, “There has to be more to life than this.” So, I determined that my school was really the problem. I just needed to transfer to a different school, and all would be well.

Early in my sophomore year, I applied to Brigham Young University (BYU), a private university in Utah that one of my high school boyfriends attended. I went to visit him for spring break my freshman year and again in October of my sophomore year. On the way home from the second trip, I realized something I had never thought of before. At the time, my plan was to major in International Law. I suddenly thought to myself, “How will I be able to be an international lawyer and raise children at home?” This insight flooded my head with the idea that I had to immediately change my major yet again. When I returned to MSU, I also started meeting with the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I told them at the first meeting that I was not going to be baptized, so they shouldn’t even ask me. They were very patient with me. I knew that if the relationship I had with my boyfriend was ever to become more serious, I had to know what his church was all about. After all, I had heard all of the weird things about Mormons – polygamy, no drinking alcohol, no drinking coffee. But, at the same time, my boyfriend and his family were kind, good people – not weird. There was only one mom and she was definitely not subservient to her husband.

I listened to the missionaries and learned how to pray. I read not only what the missionaries asked me to read, but anti-Mormon material as well. Though I was searching for happiness, I was pretty content with how I was living my life. I was a good person, with many friends, academic potential, and much family support. I didn’t really want to change who I was. Several things happened to me while I was meeting with the missionaries for six months. I learned that happiness can’t come from outside sources.  True and real happiness for me came when I realized that being baptized was something I had to do. I didn’t know everything about the Mormon Church when I told the missionaries I was going to be baptized. And, to be honest, I didn’t really want to be baptized, but I felt that I knew I was supposed to, and I knew that God knew it as well.

A great learning experience had begun. I have learned a great many things since I was baptized twenty years ago.  I am still learning. I still don’t know everything. But, I know this: my life has changed in a multitude of ways. As I began to make better decisions for myself (including a husband, a major, a career, and lack thereof when I chose to stay home to raise my children), amazing things happened. I found confidence in my choices. I found a greater understanding of who I was, what my purpose has been here on earth, and what truly makes me happy. When I am in accordance with what my Heavenly Father wishes for me, I am happier. When I appreciate my life as the gift that it is, I am happier. When I see my children as God sees them, it makes my job easier, which makes me happier. Of course, I cannot say that every moment since I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been bliss; it hasn’t. I have had trials I would not wish on anyone. But the strength I’ve gained from having gone through those trials has prepared me for what was to come next. I would not trade those trials because of the perspective they have given me. I thank my Heavenly Father every day for the knowledge and perspective I’ve gained and the type of person they have helped me to become: in one word – happy.

 

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Andrew Schneider’s Conversion Part 3

How has your life changed since being introduced to the Church?

  • From the moment I was prepared to first feel God’s Spirit speaking to my Spirit to bear record of truth that Jesus Christ did in reality restore His Church in these latter days, nothing has been the same in me, though mortality continues down its meandering path.  The power of the Holy Ghost and the gift of sanctification through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is everything to me.  Through this grace, I learn how to better love and serve others to become more like Savior.  This causes every fiber of my being to desire daily improvement upon the prior version of myself I was yesterday.  The spiritual gifts administered by Priesthood authority that are only available in the Lord’s authorized Church by way of sacred covenants fosters more transformation than any other power, authority, experience, or embellishment the world could ever offer humanity as an alternative.  The comparison is analogous to night versus day, with the rays of sunshine in the daytime constituting a magnitude of transformation only possible through the fullness of the Priesthood, Gospel of Jesus Christ, and true and living Church of the Savior.  But to know of a certainly, all genuine truth seekers must travel the same pathway by firsthand experience, personal immersion, and an acquired desire to pick up their cross, forsake the world, and follow the Savior as He has asked of countless people in all ages of the world.  By losing my life with commitment to serve the Savior, He has shown the way to find myself.  All that I ever hope to know of myself that I can be an instrument in the Lord’s hands has become an ever growing reality in His Church.

What have people around you thought about your joining the Church?

  • Everyone that has known me recently and even those reacquainted from my past after I joined the Church have noted the stark differences in the person I once was compared to who I am today and hope to become in the future. They notice the sometimes dramatic shift in lifestyle, patterns, patience, compassion, charity, and other attributes that I don’t consciously think about so much as do my best to demonstrate.  The veil of darkness and blindness that once covered my spiritual eyes has been lifted to help me know the difference between right and wrong with absolution, as well as greater strength to resist the evil and choose the good.  While I have invited family members and friends to come and see the purity of truth and power of God I have witnessed by seeing firsthand for themselves, all have yet to venture that proposition.  Nevertheless, I am grateful in my heart that the Lord has granted such conversations to take place.  God shows by way of certainty that decisions I make to follow the Savior have impacted people’s lives in wonderful ways.  Those I knew previously who initially thought the commitment to my new faith would result in another fleeting interest area of a wandering mind, now see immovable conviction and numerous positive life changes.  Mistrust or perceived folly in my original decision has been replaced with respect for the blessings in plain view for all who knew me before to see.   Time and living my faith changes people.

What were some of your hesitations about joining the Church?

  • The biggest apprehension I experienced in joining the Church was worthiness to be baptized because of the past sins I had committed in a former state that was rapidly transcending into a new consciousness of existence as the Lord’s invitation plucked at the very core of my heartstrings.  These witnesses were so strong and immediate in the time span since my initial introduction to the Church and first Missionary lessons that I relatively quickly and with utmost certainty come to know I had found the Lord’s true and living Church.  As there is duality in all things and the most opposition follows the greatest truths, I was tempted to delay Baptism until I felt worthy by continuing to meet with the Missionaries and repent of my past sins.  The same is true with whether or not I could follow the commandments taught by the Missionaries as my mind grappled with past traits of rebelliousness and a growing desire to be obedient because these were God’s laws and His Church, not mans.  These struggles came to a crescendo while on vacation weeks before I was to be baptized in a decision to view a few of the many anti-Mormon web sites.  This in combination with doubt expressed by close family members that this venture was not actually what I thought.  In a moment after I decided the web sites were a waste of time because God showed me truth in personal ways I had never before experienced, I felt so said in my heart and worried with great anxiety that the unprecedented joy I was feeling would disappear with doubt.  But, the Lord strengthened my resolve to follow through with angels and servants on earth to assist with helping my testimony to grow while the doubt receded from my thoughts.

Who has helped you through the process of joining the Church?

  • My friend and new colleague at work helped me combat the opposition that was trying to stop me being baptized so I could rapidly gain understanding about exactly what it meant to make sacred covenants with God by Priesthood authority now again entrusted to man on the earth for the last time.  Making the transition would have been far more difficult if not for this friend and the local congregation members who befriended me and showed kindness that I had found to be so rare a quality in my travels.  Together, they answered my questions, alleviated concerns, and helped me embark on a new journey of spiritual enlightenment and transformation.  From the seeds planted that grew to become a mighty change of heart, and forward into baptism and beyond, the Lord has sent many disciples to guide me in ways I could not do myself.  I began to understand the patterns of good and evil influences in my life and how they worked through others.  Slowly but surely with the help of loving people and the Holy Ghost, initial hurdles were overcome in the Lord’s way, plan, and time that I could understand with perfect clarity.

Describe your first visit to the temple.

  • During my first visit to the Washington DC Temple with my new friend, I met a Sister Missionary from Ghana, Africa.  She told me before I left after many hours of watching movies and looking at the attractions, if I prayed and asked Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ whether these things were true, answers would come.  It was that invitation that stayed in my mind until I began praying sincerely for the first time in my life a few weeks later.  Fast forward until two days before I was to go through the Temple the first time over a year later, my friend and I decided to go down to the DC Temple visitor’s center to help my mind prepare.  This very same Sister happened to be there and we shed tears after I told her my story.  She mentioned that her family had disowned her for serving a mission, but because of her determination, they ended up investigating the Church while she was away and found the same truth she had witnessed.  Many were now in the process of being baptized.  This was a precursor to the indescribable joy I felt when going inside the Temple a few days later.  The beauty and holiness of the Temple was yet another affirmation of the Lord’s divinity and very real involvement of concern and love with His Church and members.  My heart was so full of joy that it changed me profoundly on that very day of my first attendance and every visit since.

What would you like others to know about the Church?

  • Despite centuries of man-made contradiction, hypocrisy, violence, and many other negative realities of organized religion and Christianity, as well as how easy it is to doubt things not yet seen or known with enough measure of certainty, there is a promise of truth God has given to the world through His Son Jesus Christ.  We are literal sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven who loves every one of us who lives today.  God has given His only Begotten Son that we can know of absolute truth if such a desire is met with sincerity, humility, and an unfettered willingness to follow what He is prepared to give to us by spiritual means the world does not see or recognize.  Not only does God live and love us, but in these latter days of the world, He has performed a marvelous and mighty work to restore that which was lost, that all things might be gathered in Christ who will return in the glory of His presence.  There is great purpose in God’s plan for His children that is testified of in the Bible and the Book of Mormon for the reality of our day when the Priesthood authority exists again to organize and proliferate His Church upon the whole face of the earth that every precious soul has a chance to receive this glorious message.  Despite the attempts by the spirit of persecution that has tried to convince people that such things are not true, nor is there a God, this work has rolled forward since the days of Joseph Smith to fill virtually every nation, kindred, and tongue.  If you have ever wondered what ever happened to the patterns of the Bible or considered why we born only to die, these and many such questions do in fact have real answers.  We can know the face of God if we are willing to put away the world long enough to receive Him.  Who can hear this faithful saying and is willing to prove for themselves all truths?

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Andrew Schneider’s Conversion Part 2

How did you feel at your baptism?

  • The day of my Baptism was an emotional release that remains an affirmation of making the most correct decision of my life.  The peace, joy, and happiness of that day still resonates deep in my soul as a sacred witness that God loves all His children and conducts His work in these days just as real and concrete as the most basic facts known to all the world.  The tears flowed ever so tenderly as I bore my brand new testimony to a rather sizeable group of members who choose to spend their Saturday afternoon with a person they hardly knew.  That evening as I sat in my house, I drank in deeply the truth of what it meant to be baptized by Priesthood authority in the Lord’s Church.  Though I have witnessed many sacred spiritual events that are very personal to me since that time, there are few as powerful and memorable as the day of my Baptism.

What is your experience with reading the Book of Mormon?

  • Since the first time I read through the Book of Mormon, it was like a lightning rod in my hands to gain insight and illumination into the mind, nature, and works of God.  Change comes to me in mighty ways according to the grace and mercy of the Savior Jesus Christ with each successive read, study, and pondering of many themes arising from this sacred volume of scripture.  These words help me to progress forward spiritually in ways I cannot foresee beforehand as principles are turned into action and result in personal life experiences that continue to add unto my growing witness of truth and desperately needed aid given to live more like the Savior in my daily walk.  The Book of Mormon is another testimony of Jesus Christ to all who have lived on the earth since its publication through the prophet Joseph Smith.  It shows that the works of God are not limited to the ancient Israelites on the eastern continent as recorded in the Bible.  Instead, true to the unchangeable patterns of God given to the world at various ages and periods according to the faith of the people, all words in the Book of Mormon received by holy prophets in the Americas at those times do not in any way contradict or negate the Bible.  The purity of truth and thoroughness of the doctrine expands upon the Bible.  The Book of Mormon fulfill the promise of Joseph Smith specified in the introduction that a person would get nearer to God than by reading any other book.  Of this I have observed often.

What are your feelings about Jesus Christ?

  • Jesus Christ is my Lord, Savior, King, and High Priest who is the creator of all life on the earth, the only name by which we can return into the presence of our Heavenly Father, the greatest example and epitome of love the world has ever known, and our personal light in the midst of darkness encountered in the thorny pastures of life.  Truly, the Savior is everything to me and as a living prophet has said, we are to abide in Him permanently, steadfastly, and unyieldingly that He may transform our natures to be aligned with His will, just as He submitted every part of Himself to the Father and quality to take upon the sins of the world.  Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of my faith that shall be as eternal as the life of the soul.  He loves me and knows with perfect perspective and comprehension all sufferings and joys.  Through His Atonement, I can become whole, though I fall short every day of His glory in my sins.  Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father are the only ones who know the potential of the person I can become.  In short, I am less than the dust of the earth without the love, gift, and blessings of my Redeemer in whom I put my trust in all things I receive while on this mortal sojourn.

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Andrew Schneider’s Conversion Part 1

Describe your first visit to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  • I recollect a distinct impression as one filled with a sense of “coming home” when I was introduced to members of the local congregation for the first time.  I never felt entirely comfortable or fulfilled with any other organization of involvement during my life in the way I experienced during my initial visit to Church.  Being shy and socially awkward during my life made it difficult to engage groups of various sizes and many types of individual people.  The moment I set foot in the Church building, those feelings and lingering effects of past experiences melted away like frost on a new spring day.  My heart was filled with joy and an inexpressible attachment to people I had never met.

What were your initial impressions of the missionaries? How did that change over time?

  • Perceived notions of raving preachers with doomsday delusions danced in my mind before the first visit to the extent I coordinated that meeting at my friend’s home.  Expectations were somewhat unfavorable due to my disdain of organized religion, yet life had humbled me enough to exercise even a small particle of faith, even if it was surrounded by doubt and a need to affirm for certain it was founded.  However, when I entered my friend’s home and saw two meek “boys” as I thought of them at the time, I soon realized how imagined my thoughts were compared to reality.  As the ice of unfamiliarity was broken with the Elders, I felt a burning in my heart akin to a joy I never knew.  They felt like family in no time.  Skepticism and hesitation soon gave way to immense enthusiasm for their message and its profound impact on altering the very fabric of my life in ways I had never thought possible in such a short period of time.

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Fast Facts: Andrew Schneider

When were you first introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

  • Four years ago during the onset of summer, a new colleague and a budding friendship led to his invitation to find lasting truth and happiness that had felt so elusive in my life.

Where/how were you first introduced to it?

  • Significant exposure and momentum beyond a few introductory words began with commitment for a trip to the Washington DC Temple Visitor’s center.

When was/is your baptism?

  • My Baptism was the end of August 2009.

How many members of your family are members of the Church as well?

  • To my knowledge, my recently Baptized daughter and I are the only members of my family (blood / marriage) past and present.

In one word, describe your feelings about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Becoming

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