Posted by Charlie Brown
Two significant events have played a profound role in my observations about life and learning from the experiences we undergo as human beings. Adding these to the mix of everyday observation and learning they have been driving factors in my desire to understand life's purposes and perplexities.
What they have taught me is that you don't have to be a theologian or have a perfect understanding of who God is to get answers to prayer. Who will ever have such understanding in this life any way? A sincere desire to know Him however and seeking with real intent will hasten answers to prayer.
John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
When I was eight years old, my mother died in an automobile crash. Of course the circumstances were tragic. My dad was now a widower at 31 with three young boys. I was the oldest. We lived about 10 miles from the nearest town in a farming community. For no particular reason and the only time that I can remember doing so, I stayed home by myself from the weekly 10 mile trip to town to buy groceries. I was not in the car that windy day when the dust from farm fields filled the air and closed visibility on the highway to practically nothing.
One of our neighbors passed by the crash scene. They picked up my brothers and brought them home. The nearest ambulances were 30-60 minutes away and the hospital was an hour or more in Mountain Home, ID. I happened to see the neighbors arriving in the neighborhood and my brothers still had blood on their faces. I ran to their home and they told me there was an accident and to run home and get some clean clothes for my brothers.
What happened next, I can't really explain. Even though we attended a non-denominational Christian church, I had never really offered any kind of personal prayer in my entire life that I can remember up unto that point. We always followed set prayers and congregational prayers.
As soon as I walked in the door to our home I received a prompting to kneel and pray in the living room by the couch and so I prayed. I didn't really understand who or what God was. All I knew was that I called on him as only an eight year old could and asked him to somehow bless my mom and dad. My life changed that day because I can't remember a day that I did not pray after that.
Why my heart was turned to God and not away I can't explain. A tragedy often does harden one's heart against God as such losses seem so unfair. In some ways I don't know that my dad ever got over the death of my mother though. While he had faith it did not seem to allow for a full healing.
Years later I would begin to understand the general reason for tragedies, opposition and the purposes of life. For now though I had opened up a channel of prayer and continued to use it everyday to pray that my family would be protected.
For the next 8 or so years my understanding of God did not change. When I was 12 we moved to Boise. When I was 16, I started backpacking. The Boise city recreation department started these summer pack trips programs and I did many trips over the next two summers. I spent 3-4 weeks hiking in the mountains around McCall, ID and the Sawtooth Mountains with my brothers and some friends.
I would lay out at night and look at the vast panorama of the heavens and the countless stars. I could see the infinite nature of space and would think; if I traveled a hundred billion miles to a point and then two hundred billion miles beyond that; where would I be? I began to wonder how the infinite and the finite fit together. I didn't know any theology but I could feel the logical pull towards faith.
Now with the powerful telescopes that astronomers use we can see some of that wonder with a much closer view. We can see the endless nature of creation. I would ponder and ask why was it all there? What was the purpose of life? I would thank God and go to sleep. At this time I was of the mindset and more certain that I was closer to God in the mountains and ski slopes than in a church building.
As a teenager with the normal challenges of life and some unsettled relationships for my dad, my daily habit of prayer began to change. I started to ask questions. At this time my friends included many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As I attended church with my friends, I learned about praying in the name of Jesus Christ. I learned some teachings that are specific to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Such things as the body being a temple. Living prophets and apostles led the church. They did not use coffee, tea, alcohol or tobacco. They believed that marriage and families are eternal relationships and don't end at death.
These doctrines began to weigh on my mind as I became curious about who I was and what the purpose of life was. I began to pray about these things. My intent to know increased and my desire to seek answers was as great as it had ever been. Something changed as I prayed to know. My prayer was answered. My mind was flooded with light. My whole being felt a burning of confirmation that what I was learning was true. While this was my experience there are other ways that the Spirit does witness to our minds and hearts as well.
I knew instantly though that that the church was teaching truth, that God had called prophets and that I was literally a son of God, our Heavenly Father. I understood something of what Christ had done for me. I knew that I needed to repent and be baptized, and I was two weeks later after meeting with the missionaries to make sure I understood some basic things. I knew that I would become a missionary and I did two years later. I witnessed the pattern of learning and change that I experienced in the lives of many more people as I served and taught them.
The light that came to me that night has never left. My relationship with my Heavenly Father and Savior, Jesus Christ has grown closer and deeper as I continue to learn what their plan for us is. I have continued to feel the power of the Holy Ghost and know that it is real. I have witnessed the blessings of the gospel covenants. We are sons and daughters of God, of Heavenly Parents as marriage is ordained by him and the family is of an eternal order where loving relationships are the center of creation.
I married an amazing girl who is a wonderful woman. We have eight children and grandchildren are blessing us continually. We have a rich family life. The gospel as taught in the church has been the foundation of our lives. The fellowship of the saints confirms that this is the household of faith that God is inviting all to join. Prophets and apostles are again on the earth to guide us. Their counsel is from God.
As I continued with the course of life and its challenges and now with more than 40 years in the church these truths have been confirmed again and again to me in ways I cannot count. The practical application of Christ's gospel is found in the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the witness I received that night and continue to receive is real.
What ever you know about your Father in Heaven and Savior will be increased as you study the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with an open mind and willingness to learn. Of these things I do testify and witness, in the name of Jesus Christ.