We live in times of extreme contention and confusion. We seem to be flooded with information of all sorts, with many versions of the “truth” being fed to us by world leaders, news agencies, and other people around us. But is it any more difficult to seek out and find the truth in this day and age than any other? (See Isaiah 29:14.)
My mother’s conversion to the LDS faith occurred during a tumultuous and confusing time. I remember her relating to me the context of the era in which she lived when she was approached by two LDS missionaries. My Mom was in college in the late 1960’s. It was a time when people were fighting for the civil liberties of black Americans and equal rights for women. She had two brothers fighting in the Vietnam War and was concerned about them dying for a cause many did not support.
At this time, my mother considered herself to be very educated and liberal in her views. As she worked with the missionaries she found it difficult to accept a church that did not allow blacks to have the priesthood. She also found it difficult to accept that God had spoken to a young boy in New York little more than a century earlier. She went to the library and began to research everything she could find about the Mormon religion. Of course, what she found was negative literature written in opposition to the LDS faith. The missionaries encouraged her to pray about her concerns and so she skeptically began to pray.
My Mom’s experience reminds me of a vision recorded by Abigail Calkins Leonard, who also lived during a tumultuous and confusing time. She lived during the “Second Great Awakening” – when various religions were fighting over who was right and who was wrong, when slavery was an issue of contention, and women were fighting for the right to higher education.
“I saw a great multitude of people in the distance, and over their heads hung a thick, dark cloud. Now and then one of the multitude would struggle, and rise up through the gloomy cloud; but the moment his head rose into the light above, the minister would strike him a blow, which would compel him to retire…” (The Witness of Women, p.10).
Unlike the skeptical prayers my mother had offered, Abigail had been praying sincerely and fervently about the differences between the various religious denominations. Later on, Abigail heard of the Book of Mormon. She prayed about it without ever having laid eyes on it. Abigail felt the presence of the Holy Ghost as it witnessed to her of the divine origin of that book. She later joined the church (D&C 21:6).
My mom’s conversion took a little more help from some wise Elders. While the missionaries encouraged her to question and study for herself, they also reminded her that she should read both sides of an argument, not just the opposition. They encouraged her to pray sincerely for an answer from God (D&C 20:14-15).
In Enos-like fashion my mother attempted to pray all that night until she got an answer. The next morning she arose with a divine sense of peace about the state of affairs in the world. She felt that she needed to be patient about the things that she didn’t understand yet and knew that the Church was true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God (D&C 20:10-12).
How I relate to these two women! I see the world as in Abigail’s vision where people, who find a little bit of light, are condemned by the darkness of half-truths, anger and fear. I see the church portrayed as my mom first saw it, where history, doctrines and policies are taken out of context or seen through the lense of worldly philosophy instead of through the spiritual eyes required for eternal perspective.
It’s hard sometimes, to deal with the contention and rhetoric around us. But the beauty of being a member of the living church of Christ is that we know He still communicates with his children through modern day revelation, just like he did with my mother and with Abigail. He answers our questions in a profound way that becomes incontrovertible truth, not just a collection of information and facts. The difference between the world’s answers and revelation from God is that His answers can and will bring peace to our souls (D&C 20:17).
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
The Priority is Family, Annie Bush
They told me, “In order to have a response, you must pray and ask if Joseph Smith was a true prophet and if this church is true.” And I said, “Okay! If it’s as easy as that, I’ll do it.” So I did it, and I found out quickly through a feeling that it was true. I was baptized when I was sixteen years old. My mother was baptized a few months later. I was baptized in April, Mom was baptized in June, and Dad was baptized a few months later. We were very active in the church. If you want my testimony of the church, it was that when the missionaries presented to me their message, I truly had the impression of discovering something I had already known. I felt perfectly at ease, everything made sense, everything corresponded with what I imagined a church should be.
Trail-Blazing in Belgium, Linda Vergauwen
At that time in Europe, Americans were regarded with a bit of suspicion. I thought, “Why must the gospel be restored in America and not in Palestine or Israel?” So it was strange to me and I just couldn’t accept Joseph Smith as a prophet then. But we followed the discussions with the missionaries, and my husband and I were always thinking, “If what they’re saying is true then we must change our lives.” So with that attitude we followed the discussions. We didn’t start with searching; we weren’t sad and we were good in our own religion. We were young people and the thought of changing our lives was very scary for us.
Other Related Women’s Voices
Fulfilling the Purpose of Relief Society, Julie B. Beck
Just as the Savior invited Mary and Martha of New Testament times to participate in His work, women of this dispensation have an official commission to participate in the Lord’s work. From the earliest days of the Restoration, women were active in helping build up the Church by supporting missionary efforts, contributing to the construction of temples, and establishing communities where the Saints could worship together. The organization of Relief Society in 1842 mobilized the collective power of the women and their specific assignments to build the Lord’s kingdom.
Making Faith a Reality, Janette Hales Beckham
One of the miracles of the Restoration of the gospel and the organization of the Church in these latter days is that the plan allows growth and change to come to the members. We each have available to us the experience that will help us change—to become spiritually mature. Through our own repeated efforts, our faith can become a reality.