I had been to John's house a few times and adored his family. His parents were some of the nicest people ever, even though I felt like they thought I was a heathen because I wasn't LDS. I knew they didn't approve of us dating still.
His mother was the epitome of great mothers. She was always baking cookies and treats for the kids when they came home from school. His father was known for his great sense of humor and always made us laugh. His parents loaned me a book called "The Journal of Joseph." I added that to my reading of the Bible and maybe the Doctrine and Covenants. I attended church with John and enjoyed church when we went. His mom would always cook a beautiful feast with all the trimmings. I told John I wanted to talk to some missionaries so they could help me with some of my questions. The missionaries would soon be lined up.
We went on a double date with my friend Nicki and his friend Dirk to the Salt Lake Temple. We watched some short films about temple marriages, families being together for time and all eternity. I learned about Family Home Evening, the restoration of the church and the priesthood. As we looked at this beautiful temple I thought more deeply about marriages being for time and all eternity....not just until death. I thought about John. His heart was in the church and he believed this with his entire soul. I still thought he was brainwashed, but I understood more why he believed what he believed. Maybe it would be nice to be in love with someone forever. It was a nice thought.
Finally, the missionary discussions began. We sat in his basement and John's mom and a brother or sister would come and sit in and listen. John was the oldest of five kids. The lessons were definitely different. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I heard them. The first lesson was about the atonement of Christ. I could feel the spirit of love and peace, but I was still confused. I wasn't going to be suckered into joining a cult unless they proved they weren't a cult. The Mormon's are a peculiar people with a book that isn't recognized in any other churches. John's perfect mom would have treats for us after the discussions. I would ask questions. They would make challenges: "Can you live the Word of Wisdom?" Dang! I had to give up iced tea! Not a hard sacrifice. "Can you live the Law of Chastity?" Yep. We weren't doing "those" things, though I wondered if his parents thought we were because I wasn't LDS and we spent many late nights together.
John's family was very close. They fellowshipped together, they prayed together, the church was a very big part of their family. I envied John, a lot. The missionaries finally gave me the biggest challenge - to get baptized. I told them I wanted to read the entire Bible before I even look at the Book of Mormon. I know this was disappointing to all.
My Baptist church took notice that I wasn't attending and I got phone calls from the youth group thinking I was leaving the church because of John. I got letters from two air force guys who blamed John and saying he was the only reason I wasn't coming to church. I had some friends from the youth group stop by and they asked about John and asked why I hadn't been coming to church. I told them I was searching for the truth and didn't go to any church. I also told them I was taking Seminary and they looked at me funny and asked why. I said, "To learn why they believe what they believe." My pastor called and a lady friend called and it was the same accusations - it was John who was leading me astray.
I didn't mention on the day Nicki, Dirk, John and I went to the Salt Lake Temple, a guy named Tim came over. He was considered a deacon (helper) and was really mad because I haven't been going to church and he heard I was taking some Mormon class. He said to my mom, "What would you do if your little girl was playing in the street? Aren't you scared she'll get hit by a car?"
My mom surprisingly answered,"My daughter is a big girl and I think she can make her own decisions."
I had to speak, "This is how I feel about it. John 10:27-29 says, 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me , is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.' I believe that if I make the wrong decision, the Lord will correct me."
Tim said, "That's all I wanted to see is you pick up your Bible." Baptists don't believe in the Book of Mormon. I wasn't sure if I did either.
I started reading "The Journal of Joseph." I read about how he was tarred and feathered. I read the details of what that really means. Very hot tar was poured onto him, burning his skin and then he was rolled into feathers. They made him walk the town as people ridiculed him. Before I read this I thought he was some sort of fraud who was professing to be a prophet for money or fame. Then I read how Joseph was tarred and feathered a second time. Knowing how painful that would be - I think a jokester would confess his crimes. But Joseph stayed strong.
I can understand how the people wanted to get rid of Joseph because in my own church they developed a lot of hatred toward Mormons. They would deny that statement, but we were taught they worshipped Satan, Satan was the head of the LDS church and their people are brainwashed. It's my opinion now that preaching those ideas is a form of brainwashing in itself. We felt like the leaders and their prophet were deliberately leading people astray - to Satan - and because of that they are going to burn in Hell, tortured forever and ever. I hated their current prophet (Spencer W. Kimball) and wondered why no one ever took his life to prevent him from leading people to Hell. This must have been the thinking of the persecutors of the early church. I don't know.
I read in "The Journal of Joseph" that Joseph Smith was eventually shot to death while he was in jail for teaching a new gospel. He believed what he taught. I gained a testimony of Joseph Smith through this book. A new book of scripture? Would a true prophet give us a false book? No. Even though I hadn't read the whole thing like I planned, I knew whatever was in that book had to be true. Even though all my questions hadn't been "proven" to me, I knew if Joseph Smith was a prophet then everything else had to be true.
John invited me to church with him again and to have Sunday dinner at his house with the missionaries. My mind had been very heavy with my search. I had prayed and cried and fasted for a revelation of the truth. At Sunday School I felt the Spirit very strongly. I needed my answer, I needed to relieve my mind and soul and I needed the Spirit. I prayed silently right there in class for my Father in Heaven to help me make the right decision. I felt good inside - I wanted to laugh (but restrained so I wouldn't get kicked out of class) and I wanted to cry. I prayed, "Lord, I believe it is your will for me to join the Mormon church. If it is not your will, please stop me and correct me." Again I wanted to laugh and cry and felt so peaceful. I had built up emotions that I wanted to free. I felt free.
We went back to John's house after church. I wanted to tell him of my experience, that I had an answer to my prayer and I felt the Spirit witness to me the truthfulness of the gospel. I had to wait until the timing was right.
.....to be continued.....
12 hours ago