Tag Archives: finding answers

Sharing My Faith: An Interview with Hunter Romano

Hunter Romano grew up in Woburn, Massachusetts. When he turned twelve and joined the deacons’ quorum he was on crutches with a broken leg that was still mending. That didn’t stop him from passing the sacrament. He and his quorum worked out a way for him to get the job done. Hunter is now a freshman at Brigham Young University.

What are some experiences you had talking with people at Woburn High about how you live and what you believe.

Once they hear I’m a Mormon, people always ask about multiple wives and polygamy. It’s the first thing to explain. Once you explain that then they ask, “What’s the deal with Mormons? What makes you a Mormon and not something else? I say we’re peculiar because of the Word of Wisdom and law of chastity, but it’s more than that. I also talk about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

In the first month of my freshman year of high school, my history teacher brought up Mormons in a lesson but didn’t know that I was one. He made the comment that Mormon men currently still have multiple wives. I spoke up to clarify that we do not and then was asked if I would be comfortable getting in front of the class. I was, and I talked about my faith and answered questions for the rest of the class period.

I find people aren’t interested in the things you would think. When it comes to drinking, smoking, and sex before marriage, they say, “Yeah, those are good to avoid. My religion says the same thing, but in my religion they are overlooked.” They really are more interested in Joseph Smith and the Church’s origins.

Who was your best friend in high school who was not a member of the Church?

His name was John. He played lacrosse and was really busy. Pat was also a good friend. He played on our ward basketball team and attended church because this was a requirement to play. He’d also sleep over at our house. Pat became good friends with Jared, a Mormon friend of mine, and even went to his mission farewell. He came to seminary a couple of times and learned more about the Church that way. At one point, he and I went to a party out of town. I had my “Stormin’ Mormon” sweatshirt on and someone from the other town came up and commented on multiple wives and all the things Mormons can’t do. Pat spoke up first and started answering questions. Pat is now a sophomore at UMass Amherst. I hope one day the missionaries will knock on his door. I hope he’ll read this interview when I invite him.

You’ve talked about some wonderful experiences. In your high school years, did you have some bad experiences being a Mormon?

Yes. In high school kids drink and swear and do things that are not exactly aligned with the gospel. I got comments like, “Why aren’t you drinking? That sucks.” They steered clear of me, saying, “Why talk to the sober kids?” In the girl scene, some girls said, “He’s a goody two shoes.” Sometimes I was not accepted and people steered clear of me because they felt I wasn’t like them. If they can’t respect that, it’s not worth worrying about it.

But you were class president your senior year, right?

That was huge because it put me in a lot of positions where I had to be an example. When setting up certain activities, they would ask me if I was comfortable with this or that aspect. Everyone in the whole school knew I was a Mormon, and they found out that they could learn about my faith from a source other than the Internet.

You are just starting your freshman year at Brigham Young University. Did you always know you wanted to go to BYU?

It was always high on the list because my parents went there. And it’s very affordable! I grew up watching athletics. When I did well in football, I was recruited by Williams College, Middlebury College, and other small New England schools. I prayed about it. What it came down to was to meet more members of the Church, especially girls, and be around people who would put me on the right path to my mission. Going on a mission is such a big goal for me. Being in other environments could have affected my path to a mission, and after a mission it would have been hard to get to Church and hard to meet girls.

Do you feel any concerns about being at BYU?

I’ve gone from being one of the few to one of the many and not having to be the only example. I thought this would make me feel like I could waver. But, as it turns out, people at BYU are great and they help build each other up.

Understanding the Atonement

By Guest Blogger Matt Blakely

“Now the Atonement of Christ is the most basic and fundamental doctrine of the gospel and it is the least understood of all our revealed truths. Many of us have a superficial knowledge and rely upon the Lord in his goodness to see us through the trials and perils of life. But if we are to have faith like Enoch and Elijah, we must believe what they believed, know what they knew, and live as they lived. May I invite you to join with me in gaining a sound and sure knowledge of the Atonement.” (The Purifying Power of Gethsemane)

As I have grown and matured, I have realized how true this statement is. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we define the Atonement as Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, his suffering and death on the cross, and his glorious resurrection on the third day. Jesus Christ’s atonement redeems all mankind from physical death. Every one of the billions of people who have lived on the earth will receive the gift of being resurrected and living for eternity, regardless of how well or poorly they have lived their lives. The Atonement also makes it possible for every member of the human family to be cleansed of our sins as we come unto him and repent. These are truly incredible blessings, and I am eternally grateful to the Lord for making them available to me and to all mankind.

However, I think that most of us, including those of us who have been Christian our entire lives, have still only scratched the surface on understanding how truly remarkable the Atonement is. I know that the words I share here will certainly be inadequate to fully describe it, but I will try to help us catch a glimpse of it anyway.

“And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me.” (Alma 7:11–13)

Christ didn’t suffer for only our sins, though it seems harsh to use the word “only” when we realize how big that burden is on its own. He suffered for every pain, every sorrow, every weakness, every sickness, every infirmity that each of us will encounter individually. Why would he do that? “That he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people” (Alma 7:12). Succor means to run to the aid of. Christ is always there willing and wanting to run to our aid if we choose to turn our lives toward him. He wants to transform us into beings like him, and he has the power to do it if we choose to follow him.

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want us to become like them so that we can return to live with them and with our families throughout eternity. This is made possible through the Atonement, which can transform who we are into who we truly yearn to become. Just like every person who reads this, I have had sins that I’ve struggled to overcome for long periods of time. Through these struggles and my efforts to turn to Christ, I have seen how his love has changed me. I recently wrote this in a journal entry: “I have come to realize that being a righteous disciple of the Savior is not dependent upon whether I have sinned or what sins I have committed. Being a man of God depends on doing what is truly hard—knowing yourself well enough to realize what your weaknesses are, recognizing the sins that you commit, and then following God’s plan regarding how to apply the Atonement to be cleansed of those sins.”

The Atonement is meant to change us. It can be hard to make the decision to change. I testify that going through that process of change brings joy that is exquisite. When you feel that the Savior has transformed you and you don’t have any desire to commit a sin that you used to commit, you realize that the process of repentance is completely worth all of the devoted effort you put into it. I know that Jesus Christ knows and loves you more deeply than you currently comprehend. The worth of every soul is great in the sight of God. The Touch of the Master’s Hand, one of my favorite poems, illustrates this beautifully. May each of us turn to the Savior and understand his atonement more fully as we feel his love transform us.

Why I’m Mormon

By Guest Blogger Denia-Marie Ollerton

I grew up in a religious LDS household. My parents were and are hardworking, God-fearing, sacrificing people. But it wasn’t easy. We had our difficulties and challenges, and at the time I felt we had more problems than my seemingly-perfect Mormon neighbors.

Church was just a thing we did every week. My friends were there, but I didn’t feel much else pulling me besides them. I remember thinking that religion as taught in my church was for perfect people only. They’d talk about the virtues of being good, and of happy families. I didn’t feel that fit my experience. I thought that God was cold, mean, and punitive.

In my teens, I got into some trouble with school, friends, and had some close calls with the law. I wasn’t happy, but I was trying desperately hard to become so. I still felt that religion was too strict and family relationships too sterile. Around eighteen years old my parents loosened their grip, and I began to experience the reality of being all on my own. I had long since lost any close friends I had in high school. My interactions with my family were minimal, and my life consisted mostly of going to school, trying to stay out of everyone’s way, and going home to sit in my room. Yes, it was very lonely. I knew that the life I had lived and the choices I had made up to that point were not making me happy.

I noticed my siblings were good enough people, and they seemed happy. They were active churchgoers, and always talked about how great the church was. I decided that I’d try religion one time, and one time only. If it was true, if it did work to live by certain rules, then great. If not, I’d know and I could move on with life. At this time, a lot of teachings from my childhood started to come into mind. One principle that came to mind was repentance. Repentance as I understood it was supposed to be this thing where you told God (or your bishop) about all the bad things you’d done, and somehow that was supposed to make you feel better. Oh yeah, and you weren’t supposed to do it again.

I also remembered the teachings about Jesus. I didn’t have much of an opinion on him. I had heard about the crucifixion and the atonement, but those were just words to me. And yet, he did seem like the only forgiving person in the entire story of religion. I remember thinking, “Alright, if he really is merciful and kind, I’ll test it out. I’ll see if he can handle me and all I’ve done.”

I went to my bishop after thinking this over for some time. I expected some harsh words and punishment, but I was willing to go through the process to get to the other side whatever that was. I went in and just let everything out to him. I was surprised but grateful at how calmly and kindly he handled the situation. He just listened for a while, and then asked if we could meet again after church. I agreed. I went to sacrament meeting, and the speakers all spoke about repentance and the atonement. I cried. I felt like a spotlight had been shone on me, and God was finally noticing me. I went back and talked more with my bishop. All of his words were encouraging, hopeful, and healing.

I walked home that day and went to ponder all that had gone on. It was as if a heavy load had been lifted off my shoulders, and I didn’t even know I was carrying it until it was gone. I felt incredibly happy. I think it was joy. I can honestly say I hadn’t felt joyful or happy up until that point in my life. I had seen people cry “tears of joy” before, but I didn’t want to cry, I just wanted to smile. I went through the rest of that week with a huge grin on my face. I knew then that God lived, and that there was so much more to life than I had known. Who knew that because Jesus Christ died thousands of years ago, and went through the atonement, that I could find healing and happiness in life? I didn’t before, but I knew it then. And there was no way I was going back to the life I had lived before.

I became fascinated with religion. I realized that I had been surrounded all along by a wonderful road map to a successful and happy life! I felt that I was doing years of make up work, but also felt that I was given an increased ability to soak it all in. Everything was positive that I found out. My previous notion of a punitive God was erased in large, sweeping motions. I found out he really did care about me. He did answer my prayers, he listened to me, he talked to me, and he helped me connect with others in ways I never knew were possible.

By relying on the teachings of the gospel, I’ve overcome fear, judgment (mostly of myself), and discouragement and have instead found opportunity, growth, excitement, and love. I thought my past would weigh me down, but it has buoyed me up. It has taught me that if God can right the wrong in life, he can make the good even better. I can come to the Lord, imperfect and all, and ask him to change me. And he does!

I love living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not because it’s what I’m used to, or what I’ve known all my life, but because it makes me truly happy. And although I haven’t had a perfect life, I don’t hold myself to that perfect standard anymore, and I know God doesn’t either. He and I both know that I am powerful, and I have so much potential. And I’ll continue to draw on that potential, with his support, for the rest of my life.

Why Do Mormons Evangelize to Other Christians?

By Guest Blogger David

Last week I attended a lesson with the full-time Mormon missionaries—the suit-and-tie, black nametag-wearing young men—who are assigned to preach in my neighborhood. They were teaching a lesson to a wonderful man they met on the street a couple weeks ago. This man, a devout Protestant, asked a question that, although phrased somewhat differently, is very important: Why do Mormons evangelize to other Christians? For me, there are at least three reasons why Mormons preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to other Christians:

(1)    We want to share additional witnesses of Christ. Mormons believe in and follow the teachings of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. We also believe in and follow the teachings of Another Testament of Jesus Christ—better known as the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon complements the writings of the Bible. Book of Mormon writers testify that that same Jehovah of the Old Testament, who is Jesus Christ in the New Testament, is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the Redeemer of mankind.

The biblical promise that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established,” (2 Corinthians 13:1) is fulfilled by the Book of Mormon, which serves as a second witness of Christ. As I work to develop my own relationship with the Savior, better understand his teachings, and strive to emulate his charity for others, I am profoundly grateful for each of the testaments of Jesus Christ and know that all men and women—including faithful, Bible-reading Christians—can strengthen their relationships with Jesus Christ by including the Book of Mormon in their studies. This is one of the reasons that Mormons preach to other Christians.

(2)    We want to share our belief of living prophets. We believe that a man with a prophetic calling no different from that given to Moses, Noah, and Abraham walks the earth today. In short, we believe that there is a living prophet of God on the earth right now. This is a bold declaration and, if it is true, clearly has significant implications. If there is a prophet on the earth right now, then God speaks to man in AD 2012 just as he did in the millennia before Christ’s birth. If there is a prophet on the earth right now, then there is a continuing canon of scripture that we ought to study and ponder. If there is a prophet on the earth right now, then that is a message that should be shouted from the rooftops. Mormons believe that there is indeed a prophet on the earth right now, and that is a message we wish to share with all.

(3)    We are unique regarding priesthood authority. At a recent “Mormonism 101” seminar at Harvard Law School, a leader of the Mormon Church said the following:

We are unique in the modern Christian world regarding . . . divine priesthood authority. . . . The holy priesthood which has been restored to the earth by those who held it anciently signals the return of divine authorization. It is different from all other man-made powers and authorities on the face of the earth. Without it there could be a church in name only, and it would be a church lacking in authority to administer in the things of God. This restoration of priesthood authority eases centuries of questions and anguish among those who knew certain ordinances and sacraments were essential, but lived with the doubt as to who had the right to administer them.

In the New Testament, we read that Jesus traveled from Galilee to Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus made this journey so He could be baptized by one who possessed the proper authority to perform baptism. As we follow the Bible’s command to be baptized and participate in other ordinances, we too must seek out one who has proper authority. A foundational principle of Mormonism is that this authority was lost from the earth in the centuries following the crucifixion of the Savior, but it was restored to the earth in the nineteenth century. We invite all humankind, including our fellow Christians of other sects, to learn about the restoration of this authority and to be baptized by one with proper authority.

Three Ways To Keep Your Cool In An Existential Crisis

calm like sunlight through a window

At some point this may have happened to you. You’re in transit somewhere, maybe on a bus to work and playing Angry Birds on your smartphone, maybe driving to school and thinking about anything but class, maybe on a run with headphones in, listening to Adele. And then it hits you, mid-angry-bird-arc across the screen, mid-commute, mid-‘we-could-have-had-it-all’ at full volume: you think to yourself, “What am I doing with my life?!” This thought comes in different versions, like “what is the purpose of my life?,” “what am I going to do after I graduate?,” “I’m not in a job I love,” and “what is the meaning of life?” (although the last one is considered so cliché in American culture that we leave it as a non-vocal, internalized question).This is what I call an existential crisis. It happens to everyone, for some more often than others. To mitigate the negative effects of an existential crisis and to find the real meaning in life, I take a few actions.

 1. I realize that not knowing my full purpose or path doesn’t mean I don’t have one. God has a purpose for us that will bring us the most joy, and that purpose is to enable us to enjoy all his blessings. The scripture that goes along with this comes from a prophet named Mormon. He says, “…I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.” Words of Mormon 1:7.  Whether or not you know the specifics, you have a purpose and path for your life.

 2. I talk to God about it. Prayer is a conversation with God. You’re not going to just ramble on, though, because you aren’t going to him just to chat. You’ve got a question (you know, that existential question about the meaning of your life). Talk to God and tell him your situation: you don’t know what to do next or what your real purpose is. God promises “ask and ye shall receive,” but you can’t just pray once, with the attitude “God I’m here to get what I want from you as fast as possible and then I don’t plan to talk to you again until my next existential crisis.” You have to form a good relationship. After all, God isn’t a robot. He’s our father. Believe it or not, he wants us to grow and wants to lead us to the right answer thoughtfully so we can truly incorporate it. You have to be consistent, not because you have to prove to God that you really mean it (he knows; after all, I’m pretty sure he reads minds). You are proving to yourself that you mean it. The more you work for an honest desire, the more you will value the gift. Nephi, the first prophet to speak in the Book of Mormon, says, “I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh… my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee” 2 Nephi 4:35

Action item: Talk to God right now – try it now while you’re thinking about it.

 3. I strive to be interdependent.As much as you think you can find purpose in isolation, purpose just doesn’t work that way. Somehow the magical ingredient that you need is another person or people, and it always involves making their lives better. Consider God’s purpose for a second: “His work and glory – the purpose for this magnificent universe – is to save and exalt mankind” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, You Matter to Him. Helping and working with others is one part of every human being’s purpose and the key to finding the specifics of your individual purpose.

Action item: Write down the name of one person you know. Next to their name write down one thing you will do to make his or her life better before you go to sleep tomorrow.

Guest Blogger Annie: Receiving Answers through the Holy Ghost

The evidence of God’s love for his children is abundant. As a loving father, one thing that is very important to him is communicating with his children, which he does by means of the Holy Ghost. After an individual is baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. This means that, as we keep ourselves worthy, we can enjoy the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Even those who have not been baptized can feel the influence of this Spirit. This is especially important if you are learning about the gospel, because it means you can ask God questions and he is able to literally answer you. God and Jesus Christ both have physical bodies, just like us. Since the third member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost, has no physical body, he is able to speak to us through thoughts, feelings, and promptings. Getting in touch with the Holy Ghost is a delicate process. In order to create a relationship with the Holy Ghost, you must behave in a way that invites his presence. God gave us many commandments to help us to do this. Abstaining from alcohol and drugs keeps our minds clear, sharp, and more able to receive communication. Watching movies that do not contain violence, distasteful language, etc. keeps our thoughts in a good place. Following commandments not only keeps us out of situations that are uninviting to the Spirit, but also our obedience shows Heavenly Father that we are responsible and ready to be instructed.

This all must seem a bit hard to swallow—that God can speak to people, and that he can even speak to you. It is a beautiful truth, and fortunately, one that can be easily tested. Once you learn how to access the power of the Holy Ghost, your many questions and doubts about gospel principles, church standards, and our beliefs will begin to come to light. The Holy Ghost will be one of your most important tools in the learning process. So whatare some ways to find out whether the Holy Ghost actually works? Let’s run an experiment.

First, following the commandments is a good place to start. Try to reduce negative influences in your life in order to create a spiritually conducive environment in your heart. Next, start praying to God; have sincere conversations with him in which you tell him your thoughts about the gospel, ask for help to understand the concepts that confuse you, and ask him questions about the concepts you don’t believe. Specifically ask him for help to feel the Spirit. Ask him to help you understand the language of the Spirit, to teach you what the Spirit feels like.

Moroni was a prophet and the final record-keeper of the Book of Mormon, about six hundred years ago. In his conclusion of the record, he gives this invitation and promise: if you read, ponder, and then “ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith… [God] will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4-5).

If you do not immediately feel that your questions have been answered, don’t worry. Heavenly Father teaches us patience by working on his own timetable. Additionally, the Spirit often speaks to us through the words of prophets—both modern day prophets and those from the scriptures. If you diligently keep listening, reading, studying, and pondering, you will receive an answer, just like Moroni promised.

I know that the Holy Ghost is a real being, and that he has the power to communicate to us the truths of God.  I have learned this for myself through hard work and patience. Though my connection with the Holy Ghost is not perfect, it is one of my favorite relationships. He has the ability to comfort me in times of pain. He helps me learn, both spiritually and academically, beyond my natural abilities. He guides me as I prayerfully make decisions. His influence makes me a better person, more loving, more understanding, and more willing to serve others. He is a dear friend, and I encourage you to prayerfully invite him into your life.

Prayers & Answers

Somebody once shared the following story with me about a friend of his who was walking in central park in New York City, “Above the sounds of city life he heard the song of a bird. He stopped and listened. Those with him had not heard it. He looked around. No one else had noticed it. It bothered him that everyone should miss something so beautiful. So he took a coin from his pocket and flipped it into the air. It struck the pavement with a ring no louder than the song of the bird. Everyone turned: they could hear that! It is difficult to separate from all the sounds of city traffic the song of a bird, but you can hear it. You can hear it plainly if you train yourself to listen for it.” That phrase, ‘you can hear it if you train yourself to listen for it’ is what we need to do. We need to train ourselves to understand how God talks to us.

I wanted to know if the Book of Mormon was true so I decided that I would read it and search it. I then prayed to see if it were true. I did not feel I received an answer to my prayer. I read, studied, and prayed more. Still I felt no answer was coming. After several months I decided to study something else. I studied how God speaks to man through the Spirit. After learning about the Spirit, I again brought my request to the Lord and received an answer. I had not ‘received’ an answer before because I had not trained myself to hear ‘the bird’. Once I learned how the bird or the Spirit worked then I could hear and understand it.

“There are so many of us who go through life and seldom, if ever, hear that voice of inspiration, because ‘the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor. 2:14).”

I was the natural man and had to learn the things of the Spirit. The Lord taught me how to hear the bird. Sometimes I hear the bird but I do not understand what he is singing. I am still the natural man and need to work harder to understand what God is trying to tell me. The scriptures tell us that we will be taught by the Spirit, precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little. I know that the Lord will continue to teach me as long as I have a true desire to learn and understand what He wants me to know and do.

The Spirit plays such an important role when we pray. We pray and ask for help in our lives but seldom do we sit and try to hear the bird and what he is singing. When we pray we need to listen as we would at any other time. The Lord will teach us through the Spirit but only when we are willing to learn and be taught. I want to be taught and will continue to train myself to listen to the Spirit as I pray and search for answers. Before I made this post, I shared it with a friend who recommended I write a future post about ‘what I’ve heard so far from the bird’. In a few weeks I will put together a few experiences and share them with you. For now, please share your experiences with answers to prayers. How has God answered your prayers?

What Can I Get From Scripture Study?

I sometimes find myself plodding through the scriptures, reading because I know it is good for me, but not sure I am getting much out of it on those days where I am just trying to check it off of my list. And then there are days when I really dedicate my attention- even if it’s for five minutes or one chapter- and I truly remember why I read them.

It’s amazing how applicable the content is when I read with the intent of finding something that can help me that day, no matter what is happening in my life. Though the authors of the different books of scripture lived so long ago, I find that the experiences they had and feelings they felt are not so different from my own today. I find inspiration in reading about how they were able to work through various conflicts, giving me answers about how to solve the problems in my own life. There are always lessons to be learned from the past. Just as I keep a journal today in hopes that my posterity may benefit from it, these scriptures are a journal from the past speaking and testifying to us today. Because I believe that God inspired the writings of the scriptures, I understand how the authors were able to know the struggles we would face today- globally and personally. What a great guiding force to help us in these times of need!

I will leave you with a quote from Elder Richard G. Scott, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“Scriptures are like packets of light that illuminate our minds and give place to guidance and inspiration from on high. They can become the key to open the channel to communion with our Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.”

You can read the talk by Elder Scott titled “The Power of Scripture” in its entirety HERE

You can also read the scriptures HERE