Author Archives: Kevin

Why I’m a Mormon: My Story

For the past few months, I’ve been thinking about what I want to share with you all. A lot of ideas have been flying around, but ultimately I felt that I should tell you all why I’m a Mormon. No, it’s not because my parents raised me this way (though that definitely was influencing factor), it’s not because that’s what was expected, and it’s not because it seemed like the right thing to do. The reason why is because I had a personal experience with God, and I learned his will for my life. I want to share this experience with you and I hope that it may help in some way if you too are looking for personal connective experiences with our Heavenly Father.

When I was about 13 years old, I began have my doubts and questions about the church and it’s teachings. Going to church every Sunday was a drag, but the youth activities were fun! I didn’t really know if this was the true church or not, but I kept going as my parents expected me to do so. Honestly, I wasn’t very fond of all the things I had to do at church and many seemed silly to me at the time. Little did I know that I would come to fall in love with those silly things.

Twice a year, the church has a large meeting for all members called General Conference. This happens over the course of two days, Saturday and Sunday. Our family would go to the local church building that was broadcasting the conference and we would watch all the sessions (each was 2 hours). It was long and boring to me as a 13 year old boy, but I knew we would be going to Old Country Buffet between the sessions on Saturday, so that was a plus!

At the close of one of the sessions, all I could think about was everything that I wanted to do as soon as the dumb meeting was over! Then the Mormon Tabernacle Choir started to sing the closing hymn, and I knew it would all be over soon. But something was different this time when I listened to the choir. The sang the song “Joseph Smith’s First Prayer” (A song about how the prophet Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ). Although I had heard this song many times, in this moment it felt like they were singing just to me. I felt a warm, peaceful feeling flow over me from my head to my toes. I had never before felt anything like it. It reached me to the deepest part of my soul, and I didn’t want it to stop. It’s hard to find words that describe how I felt and how happy I became. All negative thoughts vanished and a single statement rang with clarity in my mind, “This is true!” I began to cry. I knew that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was true and that Joseph Smith was truly called as a prophet to restore God’s church to the earth. I knew that what my father and mother had taught me was true. I knew that God want me to fully invest myself into his work and follow the teachings of His Son.

This moment changed me and changed the way I would live the rest of my life. I knew that I had to straighten up, listen to my parents, and make a true effort to follow God’s commandments. I knew this for myself, not because someone convinced me. The Spirit of God had pricked my heart and soul, and I could not deny it. Nothing is this world can change my knowledge of this truth. No argument, no temptation, no persecution, no scientific evidence or societal ideal can bring me to reject or disown what I know to be true. I stand with Joseph Smith when he said, “I knew, and I knew that God knew it, and I can not deny it!” I care more about this precious truth more than anything else I’ve learned throughout my life, and it is so important to me that I would die for it if necessary.

I’ve had the priviledge, and indeed it is a priviledge, to give my life to God, to serve as his missionary in Mexico for 2 years, to fight for his truth, and to defend his teachings. I do not claim to know more than anyone else, but this I do claim: I know that God lives. I know His Son, Jesus Christ, died for me and you to give us the opportunity to repent and be clean from our sins. I know that he has restored His church to the earth through Joseph Smith, and that the Book of Mormon is a testimony of the Living Christ. I can not, and I will not, forsake Him and his teachings, for they are the whole of life. This is my testimony to the world, that I know these things are true!

I pray that you may come to the same knowledge I have. Search, ponder, and pray, and the Lord will make Himself manifest unto you. I promise that if you sincerely look for the truth yourself, that you will find the answers you’re looking for. May my testimony bring hope to you and to those who are still earnestly seeking and to those who are struggling in the faith. Do not give up! He will never give up on you! His love for you is infinite and unconditional! I leave this testimony with you in His sacred name, even Jesus Christ, Amen.

“There’s no one I’d rather be than me”

Unfortunately, I have a tendency to look around at other people and wish that I was something more, or someone different. At the school I go to, there are many talented and skilled people, and one can often feel a little inadequate or incompetent. I am usually very confident in myself and my abilities, but every once in awhile I hear myself saying, “Why can’t I be more like them? Why can’t I have those talents? Why can’t I be better at this?” And my personal favorite, “Why can’t that happen to me?” I find myself suddenly thinking of everything that I don’t have or that I’m not, and I forget the things I do have, or who I am.

I don’t know if you have ever felt the same, but I think it’s more common than we would like to admit. These thoughts haunted me for a long time, and I didn’t know how to escape them. They made me feel helpless, worthless, and lonely, and I wanted it to stop. It wasn’t until I learned to accept myself for who I am and what I was that these feelings stopped.

Similarly, there’s a character from Disney Pixar’s Wreck-It Ralph that was goes through the same thing. Ralph is a character of video game in the movie. He is the “bad guy” in his game, but he wants to be a “good guy” instead. He goes throughout the movie to try a prove himself something he’s not, a “good guy”. It isn’t until the end that he learns what I need to learn a long time ago. Here’s the clip where he finally understood and learned to accept himself for who he is.

This part in the movie hit me at my core. Many times throughout my life I had felt like Ralph, wanting to be something or someone else, wanting to be better, wanting to be acknowledged. But, we must grasp a deeper understanding of who we are, an acceptance of ourselves, and an appreciation for what we have. There is no one I’d rather be than me!

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma had a similar experience to mine and Wreck-It Ralph’s. Alma has a desire to be more than he is and exclaims, “O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God . . . and cry repentance unto every people . . . but behold, I am a man, and do sin in my wish; for I ought to be content with the things the Lord hath alloted unto me” (Alma 29: 1-4). Even though Alma wanted to help others repent and come unto God, his desire was beyond his capabilities and he wasn’t satisfied with his current situation.

The Lord wants us to be happy. He wants us to be satisfied with ourselves and with what we have in this life. I know that now, and I understand it. We are so much more than what we know. We are children of God! We are so blessed, and we have many gifts and talents that we have been given. Why should we want to be anything or anyone different? Accepting yourself takes time and understanding, but the Lord will help us as we try to do so. Then we will be able to say with Alma, “I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it” (Alma 29: 6-9)

Let us remember who we are! Let us remember what we can do! Let us remember why we are here! I know that as we do so we will be happy, confident, and able to overcome what obstacles that lay before us. We will be able to say with Ralph that “there’s no one I’d rather be than me!”

I Would Be My Brother’s Keeper

In a class that I’m taking at school, I’m learning about the history of creativity. It’s a really interesting class and I love learning about the things people did in Medieval times, the Renaissance, and the Baroque Era. While we were studying the Renaissance, we learned about Albrecht Dürer and his painting “Praying Hands”. I had seen this painting before, and I’ve always appreciated it. But after learning the story behind the painting, it has become one of my favorites and truly inspires me.

Albrecht_Dürer_-_Praying_Hands,_1508_-_Google_Art_ProjectDürer came from a large family, and he and his brother, Albert, both wanted to become artists. The family did not have enough money to send both to school to learn art, so they made a pact in which one would support the other while he was in school and then, when the other was finished and famous, they would switch. Albrecht won the coin toss, so Albert was to stay and work in the mines to support him.

Albrecht found success very quickly and excelled in his schooling. He began to earn good money for his work. After finishing his schooling, he returned home to give his brother the opportunity to go on to art school. But when he told Albert the news, he began to cry and said, “No, I can’t.” He held up his hands which had been bruised and battered from working in the mines, so much that he could barely hold his mining tools, not to mention the tools of an artist. Albert had sacrificed his opportunity by supporting his brother. Albrecht was deeply moved and then immortalized the hands of his brother in his painting, “Praying Hands”.

I never thought I would get emotional while reading a textbook, but this story hit me hard. I was touched by the love that these two brothers showed each others. I immediately thought of my siblings and all the things they have done for me. They’ve all made sacrifices, big and small, for me to get me to where I am now. I am reminded of the third verse in the hymn “Lord, I Would Follow Thee”.

I would be my brother’s keeper,
I would learn the healer’s art,
To the wouned and the weary,
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother’s keeper,
Lord, I would follow thee.

My siblings have been their brother’s keeper to me. Here are a variety of stories of some sacrifices made for me and lessons taught to me: Mike took me out for lunch and a movie one day for fun when my school lost power. Brian  was not being too cool to let me come to play Risk with his friends late at night. Whitney set me straight telling me to treat our Father with more respect. Kyle took time away from his wife to come down and watch the National Championship rugby game with me. Todd was willing to help me with a practical joke as I would drive with a blindfold over my eyes (I could see through it, don’t worry, Mom!) and he would pretend to direct me as onlookers freaked out. These are just a few of the special memories and times I’ve had with my siblings. It may seem small, but their examples and friendship have helped shape me.

I pray that I, too, may be my brother’s keeper. I may not be near a lot of my family at this time, but there are plenty of others who surround  me. We are all brothers and sisters in God’s family. I hope that I may emulate the love the Dürer brothers had and that I may make sacrifices for those nearby, to lift them up, to lend them a helping hand, and to bring them joy.

Much of the story of Dürer comes from the textbook, “History of Creativity” by Brent Strong and Mark Davis.

“Even darkness must pass; A new day will come!”

If anyone knows our family, they know we are huge fans of the Lord of the Rings! I remember as a young boy listening to my Dad read the trilogy to me and my brothers as we laid in our beds. Dad would put all his emotions into it as he would get excited with us, laugh with us, be sad with us, and, yes, cry with us. You can imagine our joy when we heard the news that they were making the movies! Needless to say, we loved them as well!

There is one scene in The Two Towers (that wasn’t in the book, but we’ve since forgiven Peter Jackson!) that I have been pondering about a lot lately. In the city Osgiliath, Frodo hits a breaking point when his burden as a ringbearer seems too much to handle and all hope seems lost. He is about to give himself up to temptation and be captured when Samwise the Brave comes to rescue him. Sam then delivers one of the most epic speeches about overcoming adversity and fighting for what’s right.

As I have watched and rewatched this scene, I ask myself, “How many times do I feel like Frodo here?” And I ask you, how often do you feel helpless, alone, and without hope? We often hit similar breaking points where our load seems too heavy to bear. In these “Frodo” moments, we ask ourselves the same questions in Sam’s speech. These moments are the shadows and the darkness he spoke about. Even Joseph Smith had Frodo moments in the Sacred Grove and in Liberty Jail when he cried out, “Oh God, where art thou?” (D&C 121:1.)

To those who feel, or have felt, this way before, I empathize with you. I too have come to up against the wall that seems impossible to get over and move on. I have longed for a “Sam” to come rescue me and tell me everything is going to be alright. I’m here to tell you that God will come! He is our Sam in the story. He reminds us that “even darkness must pass. A new day will come! And when the sun shines, it will shine out the clearer!” God reminds us of our purpose and “what [we’re] holding on to.” (See Joseph Smith-History 1:16-17 and D&C 121:7-10 for God’s response to Joseph’s Frodo moments.)

I want to share a story of one my own Frodo moments. A little over a year ago I was going through a really hard time. I had just lost the girl I loved, I was struggling with finding a major at school, work was wearing me down, and it just seemed like anything I desired was always out of reach. I felt helpless, abandoned, and hopeless. I’m sure I wearied my Heavenly Father with my endless prayers of gloom and sadness. My Sam in this story came in the form of a poem that I wrote. It brought peace and hope to my life as I was able to put my thoughts into words. It inspired me to keep going:

In the same place

In the same place night after night,
My corner chair that fits just right,
I examine my considered plight,
Which has become my endless fight.

In the same place I try to see,
While Pandora sings soothingly
To my troubled and longing heart,
The pathway that I now should start.

In the same place when all retire,
I earnestly search for the fire
That drives, that pushes, and inspires,
To achieve heart’s deepest desire.

In the same place night after night,
Past memories dance into my sight.
I muse, I smile, and seldom cry,
But often time think, “why, oh why?”

In the same place through thick and thin,
I overcome the pain within.
Arise, go forth, begin to mend!
Surprises will come around the bend.

As I wrote this, I could feel the Lord’s love surround me. I was not alone, help was given, and hope restored. God is ever aware of lives and what we are passing through in this very moment. He loves us! We may feel like Frodo in our own personal Mt. Doom hanging on for dear life. The Lord, just as Sam did, reaches out to us when we are about to give up and says, “Don’t you let go!” I want you to know that your shadow IS only a passing thing, and surprises do come around the bend! I echo the words that King David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the Lord God, even my God, will be with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee, until thou hast finished all the work for the service of the house of the Lord.” (1 Chronicles 28:20.)

The Lord will not give up on you, so you shouldn’t give up on yourself! Look for the “Sams” in your life; I know you’ll find them. God answers our prayers in a variety of ways, often time through other people. May we also strive to be Sam in the lives of others.

I recommend these videos that helped me in times of need. They also touch on this topic:

The words from “Does the Journey Seem Long”

“Good Things to Come” by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland