My faith in the church has been built upon numerous small events and occurrences that I cannot deny participation of a Godly being.
I had always believed that everything happened for a reason, at the right time, every single person I met had significance, and every single word spoken had meaning. I knew there was life far beyond that which our human eyes could see. I had felt powerful energy, I had lived amongst the purity of nature, and I had stumbled through darkness shrouded by shadow beings of other worlds. I knew that there was more to life than a vicious cycle I was trapped in; there was something that wasn’t right, something missing. A hollowness in my being existed from a young age, as if my soul had been torn from me. It was a life-long search filling this hole with alcohol, substances, promiscuity, stealing, and uncontrollable rage. I had depression and severe anxiety so I would be afraid to leave my bedroom, afraid to walk down the street, and afraid of who I really was.
When I left England to travel I longed to find freedom. I wanted to run into the earth’s open arms and strip away all of the tarnished influences of this world so I would be left as I was when I came into the world; like a baby: pure, innocent, unknowing, impartial. In ridding myself of all worldly affairs and accepting and forgiving my troubled past I became open and prepared to hear God’s word that had long been forgotten.
On returning to England with no home, and no money, and no concept of what the future may hold, I was in a heightened state of peace interested only in creating and maintaining this peace, with a yearning to discover my purpose. I was still in a meditative state and continued journeying in my own mind in search of answers, in search of explanations for that which I could not comprehend. I moved on, I was lonely, I was betrayed, I was convinced I had a mental illness. But I continued still with a spring in my step and the hope that I was going somewhere great.
My meeting with the missionaries was a simple passing on the street while I was walking home from work with my head in the clouds. A kindly gesture that allowed me to pass them giving me a friendly “Hi, how are you?” I replied with a spritely “hello, I’m good, how are you?” I think both of us were equally pleasantly surprised to be spoken to with such courteous manners on those streets of Gillingham. They asked me if I ever thought about the meaning of life and I said ” yes, everyday, it keeps me awake at night.” I had pondered and pondered, and dived into my own thoughts, into experiences, into religions, into people and my only conclusion was that there was no purpose. Nothing around me had real meaning. I would tap things to find out if they truly existed, and what were these particles that held it together anyway, where did they come from? It could all be no more tangible than my disappearing thoughts. I was surrounded by objects, places, people, who were not living. It was a town invaded by spiritual poverty that was attempting to drag me down with it. As this elder spoke on the street corner stood opposite an old church, I felt this heightened peace returning to me. I wanted to meet with them again only because I had enjoyed the interesting, spiritual conversation and was curious to know more. Weeks passed where we exchanged messages. I attended Sunday services at a Church of England and felt power run through my body when my forehead was anointed with oil. I had never had a relationship with Jesus, I had never known if he was even real. I attended one Alpha course lesson which was to help people better understand Christianity and when we were presented with scholarly evidence of Jesus and His miracles I knew that he was true. There were friendly people at this church, they danced when they sang, the words touched my heart, and they were involved with community outreach projects. This was a place I felt far more comfortable than other places of worship.
I wished to know what that warm burning in my chest was and why sometimes my body felt to be glowing with life. The elders told me it was The Holy Ghost, testifying of truth and righteousness and offering guidance. I had felt this goodness many times and had defined it as pure love. I needed more evidence, more confirmation. They suggested I pray to God and ask if The Book of Mormon was true. Sitting down in my bedroom holding this blue book in my hands, I pleaded to know if it was true. My heart glowed and a wave of peace fell upon me. Still this was not enough, I knew the mind’s capabilities that could be playing all manner of deceptions luring me into false hope and imagined emotions.
I was angry with the concept of forgiveness, that I was expected to ask God’s forgiveness for my transgressions when He had given me this life. I had already forgiven my parents for mistakes they made and accepted responsibility to change the damages. So I had to forgive God for leaving me, for putting me through darkness, for giving me a broken home, for sending me to live beside beings made of shadows, and for letting me live without His love.
I learned that it hurts him too when we suffer. And sometimes we suffer because we have done wrong, sometimes we suffer to grow, but in the end we will always grow and always come out the other side. I learned that God loves each of us and he wants to be close to us so that we can feel his love that is comparable to nothing else in this world. I learned that there is a before and after; that we are spirits given human bodies upon this earth in a mortal life that is microscopic in comparison to our eternal destinies. I learned that this is not it! That the spirit world really does exist beside us, and there are endless worlds, multiple universes, and angels, and we ourselves have the potential to become Gods.
It isn’t to say that I did not know these things before. But I have read, and prayed, and studied, and found stable, unchanging, solid facts written in the words of God concluding what I already believed. No matter where I go or what I do, God will speak to me in a multitude of methods and He always has done without me truly knowing it was Him. In nature I feel His presence envelope my spirit and warm my heart, away from the scriptures, away from any of the people who belong to the church, away from the pews, and away from all of the resources. Alone amongst the sunsets with birds singing, alone when I’m reaching to the lost souls, and alone when I fall to my knees. I speak to Jesus and I know He lives, as my brother, and as my healer of pains he understands; I feel Him carry me when I am too weak to carry myself. In opening pages of scriptures I feel His peace and I feel God’s peace. In the Gospel I know, who I am, why I am here, where I came from, and where I will go when I die. There had been many stories, many theories, many discussions, many thoughts in attempts to answer these questions that I had turned my cheek against in disbelief. None of them seemed quite right.
I was afraid to commit to one religion, I wished to explore religions and cultures and people across the earth and thought that by belonging to a religion I would segregate myself from others. I didn’t want to create division in a world that was losing its’ unity and needed bringing together. I left behind delving into other religions and spiritual theories to commit to this new life that I hoped would bring me stability, knowledge, purpose, direction, truth, and the opportunity to start over. In my heart I longed for adventure and travelling but I also desired a soulmate who would be with me forever and the best chance of raising and protecting a happy family with all of the love I could give. Within both these dreams I also wanted to fulfil my natural desire to serve others and to live only to benefit and assist those in need. Between battling with leaving everything behind again and fleeing to unknown lands, I stayed to learn and live this way God wanted.
It was a mistake to assume finding God’s church would alleviate my troubles. Days are still hard, at times I am lost, and occasionally I wonder whether anything has really changed. But I know my life is for the work of God and it will find me when the time is right, or maybe it already has and I’m too busy searching to see. Life’s mysteries continue to astound me and I have not enjoyed turning to books so much to find answers to some of this profound life’s ultimate questions. At the moment my focus is on reading and living these scriptures and I’ll occasionally read materials that are not of the Gospel but this is my foundation that I build upon; my roots that will grow deep into the earth, and when I have enough knowledge, then I’ll be ready to build some more, growing into a beautiful, full-bodied, fruitful tree of life. And in this I bare my testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.