I've been preparing my lesson for Sunday and I felt impressed to tell this story:
Compared to the Apostles in the Old and New Testament, as well as Joseph Smith, I've had a very easy life regarding my testimony. I've never had to give my life for the things I've believed, I've never been imprisoned or stoned, mocked, or beaten. I've hardly even been made fun of. I credit that to the fact that I live in Utah and half the population either feels the same way I do, or they know enough to not say anything. I've often wondered how I'd handle myself if I ever was faced with immediate death if I didn't deny the things I believe. I wouldn't want to continue to live knowing I'd denied a lifetime of experiences, testimony, help, guidance, and witnesses of the Spirit. I'd want to be as brave as the apostle Paul and stare death and my accusers in the face and boldly testify of the things I know are true. I'd want to be like Abinadi. I'd even love to be like President Eyring in his talk this past Conference about how he bore his testimony during a commencement ceremony when he was specifically asked not to. My testimony is precious to me. It's who I am. It's the only thing I get to take with me in the next life. Why would I deny that?
I haven't always felt this passionate about the Gospel and there was a time in my life where I may have been on the fence about what I'd deny and what I wouldn't. Growing up I had several amazing, spiritual experiences. It's easy to feel the power of the Gospel in those moments and soon after, but without nourishment, the affects of those specials moments wears off. I believed in the Church and it's teachings but I never asked about it. I'd never read The Book of Mormon all the way through before. I never had to question what I believed and what I didn't until I reached college. During my first year things were great. I had a couple questions about events in my life that I prayed about and felt that at the time, I never got an answer. But I trusted the Lord and didn't think much of it.
It wasn't until my Sophomore year when I started dating someone fairly seriously and started to wonder if this was someone I could marry or not. He had just returned from his mission and was still in the post-mission-Gospel-high that all missionaries experience. Seeing the fire that burned in him made me wonder how I felt. I realized then that I'd never studied or asked for myself if the Gospel was true and I started to wonder. I was scared because I thought I was falling in love with him and I felt that spiritually, I didn't measure up. I was also praying for an answer about whether or not he was the one to marry and I was utterly confused at the responses. I had major trouble distinguishing what was revelation and what was me just thinking stuff up. I truly struggled with it and felt that maybe I was immune to personal revelation. I decided to put the Lord to the test and do what was asked of me and if I got an answer, then I'd know. If I didn't, I'd need to seriously start evaluating what I'd been believing in my whole life.
So I started my end of the deal. I attended church regularly already but I went in with an open mind this time instead of checking out the local "cuisine". I started reading The Book of Mormon for the first time. I didn't miss a single day reading the scriptures or praying. Even if I was out till 3 a.m. with friends, I'd take my scriptures in the bathroom and read and pray on the floor before falling asleep. It wasn't easy, but it was the most dedicated I'd ever been in my life. I was on a mission. I knew the guy I was dating was also asking for an answer about marriage so I needed to get myself spiritually in line in order to find out for myself. I didn't want to rely on what he said was right or not. I needed my own guidance. But even after all this searching and dedication I still was unsure about marrying this guy. I wanted to marry him. I was in love. But I still didn't know what was revelation and what wasn't. I knew that I needed to be patient, that was one thing I felt without any doubt. I figured I just needed more time to let my testimony grow. This guy was attending the temple and also asking for answers about us and he kept having wavering answers as well. First it was maybe, then it was not now, then it was no, then it was maybe again at a later time. I was confused beyond belief. I was so sick of having to go off what he said was right. I wanted to be with him but we just couldn't seem to find that solid answer. I was being patient, but for what? I was waiting diligently for an answer and waiting for the timing to be right, but nothing ever seemed to change. I kept feeling like I needed to be patient, and that answer was upsetting me. How long did I need to be patient for? I didn't want to wait around for this guy forever. The situation was hurting me, causing me physical pain. I needed time alone to think and I needed a personal connection with the Lord that would help solve this confusion. I was deeply upset about it at the time.
I decided to go home for the weekend and clear my head. I was bored during the day on Saturday and decided for the first time EVER in my life I'd read the study guide for the upcoming Sunday School lesson for church the next day. I've never done that and admittedly, never have again since then. However, it was pivotal at the time. The lesson was on personal revelation (coincidence?) and one of the assigned scriptures to be read was D&C 6. I cracked open my scriptures and began reading. For the first time in my life, I received a concrete, personal, and POWERFUL witness from the Lord. The scriptures felt like they were written just for me. After all this confusion of asking about marriage and trying to strengthen my testimony and being confused about revelation and where it was coming from, I read the following verses:
14 Verily, verily I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to this place where thou art at this time.
15 Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of Truth;
16 Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart. (this is where I felt an intense love and warmth and started to bawl)
17 I tell thee these things as a witness unto thee - that the words or the work which thou hast been writing (or doing) are true. (My work to gain a testimony was right, as was my search for an answer about marriage...)
18 Therefore be diligent; stand by my servant *Joseph faithfully, in whatsoever difficult circumstances he may be in for the word's sake. (*the scripture says Joseph but I was impressed to change it with the name of the guy I was dating)
19 Admonish him in his faults and also receive admonition of him. Be patient; be sober; be temperate; have patience, faith, hope and charity.
20 Behold thou art *Megan, and I have spoken unto thee because of thy desires; therefore treasure up these words in thy heart. Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love. (*the scripture says Oliver but again, I changed the name)
I sat and cried for a long time. There was the concrete answer I had been needing. There was the personal revelation that I couldn't deny or question. Even to this day, that passage fills me with peace and love and makes me cry. Again, my answer was to be patient, but I had a promise that everything I was experiencing was right and from God and that I'd be encircled in His arms. From there my testimony grew and grew and I felt stronger and stronger. If that one answer was so strong, then revelation existed; God existed; the Holy Ghost existed; Joseph Smith really did see Him. Everything came together. It all suddenly made sense and I couldn't deny it.
Obviously, it didn't work out between this guy and I. At the time I was absolutely crushed about it. I ached in my chest and spent the first half of my summer trying to pick up the pieces of my life. I felt sick all the time. I had trouble sleeping. I was really hurting. But I had a promise that the Lord would comfort me and help me and he did. I held on to that promise and had faith and trusted in Him. He sent amazing friends who helped me through it. To this day I wish I could thank them for helping me see my true worth and understand I was still a great person. They strengthened me more than they ever knew. Looking back it's painfully obvious why we weren't right for each other. Cory is my perfect half and this guy wasn't. I have such a love for Cory that I never knew existed with the previous guy. But dating him was crucial to my gaining a real and personal testimony. I knew that no matter how bad things got, if I put my trust in the Lord and did what was right, I'd be ok. I knew that. I started preparing to go on a mission. I wanted to share the truth with the whole world! But I felt a mission wasn't right for me so I didn't go. I felt that I was preparing for something very important in my life and that the upcoming year of school was going to be amazing. I was on fire!
The next year was not amazing, however. Awful, awful things happened. Life got harder than I ever imagined. I found out my aunt that has always loved and cared for me and was the least deserving of anything bad had terminal cancer and was going to die. I heard that wonderful things were happening to people who didn't deserve it. I was trapped in a horrible, abusive relationship. I couldn't afford to eat. I became cripplingly depressed. Life got dark and scary and more uncertain than ever; it was almost impossible. I endured an incredible amount of pain between losing loved ones, enduring trials, and overcoming personal hardships. It was a time of intense personal growth for me although at the time I didn't see it. But, regardless of how terrible things got, the Lord was always there. When I just couldn't take it anymore and was about to give up, He was there "encircling me in the arms of His love." I never doubted the Gospel or quit believing. I never truly gave up. I wouldn't have had the strength to endure those nightmarish two years without my previous experience and solid foundation of my testimony. It was the sole thing that kept me going. My mom sent me to a doctor of internal medicine when I became so depressed that I was physically ill as well. She wanted to give me anti-depressants to help me and I remember looking her square in the eye and told her no; that I didn't need them. I KNEW why I was depressed and I knew how to fix it. I just needed something to help me with the emotional and mental breakdowns and anxiety attacks I was having while I fixed it. She wasn't religious and I remember baring a mini testimony to her in that office through my grief soaked tears about how I knew it would all be better someday. I knew that through the Lord I'd be whole again. Even then I had the strength to believe.
I look at my life now from where I've come and am filled with overwhelming gratitude for the Lord and his Gospel. I'm grateful for my testimony and the journey I took to acquire it. I'm grateful for how heavily it was tested, even so soon after receiving it, because if it can help me survive that, I can survive anything. With the Lords help we can do all things. Nothing can stop us but ourselves. I'm grateful for small witnesses of the spirit here and there. I'm grateful that even those who don't believe in God are able to feel his comfort and peace from time to time, even if they don't know that's what it is. I'm know I get to be with my family forever. It would kill me to not be with Cory and Kennedy forever. Life would be hopeless with the thought that I'd never get to see my deceased loved ones again. I know God lives and hears and answers our prayers. He answers everyone's prayers, not just those who belong to His church. He loves each and every one of us and never leaves our side. I know it. I know the Church is true. I know the prophet is a man called of God. I know the scriptures are true and lead and guide us today. This testimony is extremely important to me. I'd die defending it. I've had too many unquestionable experiences to not do so. I don't know why I felt so strongly that I needed to share very personal things on my blog. I just hope someone can benefit from this. I've always felt that the things I've endured were for helping others through similar things. I'm trusting in the Lord now as I bare my personal life and feelings. I love Him and I love this Gospel. It's what has kept me going, and will continue to keep me going through life.