Great Testimonies 1

Monday, 26 April 2010 12:43 administrator

Helio da Rocha Camargo

Saul Messias de Oliveira

Walter Guedes de Queiroz

Helio da Rocha Camargo

There have been a few examples in scripture in which contact with God has been associated with a great cataclysm, something sudden and violent, like a flash of lightning which tears through the skies unexpectedly. That was the type of conversion experienced by Paul. The religious experience of Joseph Smith was of the same nature. In cases like these the person undergoes a violent shock and, thus overcome, kneels at the feet of the Creator. The spiritual side of life which until then was wandering in darkness is now suddenly illuminated, transformed by the brightness of eternal truth. Thus in a marvelous and rapid manner there is a total transformation of the personality.

Here is a persecutor of the believers who becomes a saint; there is an obscure country boy who becomes a prophet and leader of countless multitudes. There have been many other people, a few of whom have had their experiences recorded, aimless beings lacking spiritual values who through a traumatic conversion grew grace by grace to become numbered among the elect of God.

This was not the case with me. Rather, I would compare my spiritual life with the peaceful spectacle of sunrise, where at first there is no marked distinction between darkness and light. But the darkness constantly recedes while gradually the light grows brighter, making shapes more distinct, colors more vivid, until there shines the full brilliance of the sun, the perfect day.

Since infancy I have felt the presence of God and have sought to draw near to him. As a son in a Protestant home, I learned early in life to love the scriptures and to seek in them the wisdom  of the Almighty. The example of my parents, who were dedicated believers, was of great value, and even today the memory of my father is a constant fountain of spiritual inspiration for me.

Educated in the traditions of the Methodist Church, I attended Sunday School from my childhood years, later participating actively in all the various organizations of that church. At twelve years of age, shortly after the passing of my father, I became an official member of the Methodist Church by making the profession of faith.

I never entertained doubts concerning the truthfulness of its doctrines. When eventually a more difficult question would arise, I would reassure myself with the thought that the pastors would certainly be able to clarify everything. I would attribute any difficulty in comprehending certain things to my own lack of knowledge of the doctrine rather than to any real fault in its structure. I thought that when the day came when I could study the gospel more carefully, everything would be made clear to me and the perfect agreement between the Methodist doctrine and the word of God would be proved.

I lived in this faith for many years. Within it, I established my family, and by its principles I tried to regulate my actions. The reading of the Bible, the studying of theological questions, and the history of Christianity always were my favorite subjects. These things were of such great interest to me that I never tired of reading and studying about them; and even though I was constantly involved in the activities of the various organizations of the church, I always wanted to accomplish more and to know more.

As the years passed, this desire became constantly stronger, to the point that I finally made a decision to change completely the course of my life. In spite of being settled with my family and of a life which had been heading in a completely different direction, I enrolled in the College of Theology with the purpose of preparing myself for the Methodist ministry.

One year after enrolling in the college, I was assigned to the ministry of a Methodist church in Sao Paulo, Brazil, at the  same time taking classes, as was the custom in the Methodist Church.

One day, during the discharge of these duties, I was contacted by the head of a family who attended the meetings even though he was not an official member of the church. Having been visited by two Mormon missionaries, he invited me to be present at their next visit. I immediately accepted the invitation; but recognizing my complete ignorance of Mormon doctrine, I tried to obtain some literature. With this purpose in mind, I went incognito to the LDS mission home, from which I obtained a copy of the Book of Mormon and one of the Articles of Faith (by James E. Talmage), which I proceeded to study. Unfortunately the meeting fell through because for some reason the missionaries did not show up as expected. I therefore decided that the issue was closed, put away the books I had just started to read, and continued my life as a student and pastor.

One of the practices of the college students at that time was occasionally to invite leaders of other religious communities to give lectures. Several representatives of other churches and creeds had already been invited to speak to the students and professors. At that time the Mormon missionaries were very active in Sao Paulo (as they are now) and I thought it would be timely to suggest that they be invited to speak, so that we could evaluate them, what they were preaching, and what they professed, thus placing ourselves in a position to deal with them on the basis of a knowledge of their cause.

After the suggestion was accepted, I was assigned to establish contact with the Mormons. I went back to the LDS mission home, this time carrying an invitation to President Asael Sorensen. I remember counseling him to come personally, fearing that we would waste our time if he sent us young missionaries who certainly would not be in a position to confront such a specialized audience. But the president was unable to come, since he had another appointment (at a district conference). He assured me that he would send competent missionaries in his place.

The young men came on the day designated. Still very young, they impressed us first with their height (six feet four inches). ] They were Elder David E. Richardson, second counselor in the mission presidency, and Elder Roger W. Call, who had recently arrived from the United States and at that time knew very little Portuguese.

In the interest of brevity I will just say that the main result of the meeting was the deep impression caused by the testimony of Elder Richardson. The general comment was more or less expressed in these terms: "Everything they preach may be wrong, but the conviction they seem to have is astonishing." Another impressive aspect of the meeting was the courage and calm with which those young men confronted an audience consisting of students, professors, and even doctors of theology who had completed many years of study and held various titles.

In spite of the impression created and the interest these missionaries had provoked, we soon forgot the matter as we went back to our studies and work. Life in the college continued without any changes.

Some time after this event, when the incident had already lost importance in our memories, a new factor arose which, added to the preceding ones, would direct some of us students to new paths. At that time in college we were studying among many others the principle of baptism. The subject took hold of the students, and when the studies and discussions were directed to the subject of infant baptism, which the Methodist Church practices (as do most of the Protestant churches), the students began to ask questions of the professors and to do research in the library. A large group was inclined to see in that ceremony an anti-biblical practice created by the Roman Church in the first centuries of Christianity, and felt that it should be eliminated from the Protestant churches because of its incompatibility with the scriptures.

The discussions increased in intensity, and the more I studied the subject the more convinced I became of the inconsistency of the doctrine. Finally I contacted the authorities of the church and resigned the ministry of the congregation which had been entrusted to me, declaring that I felt it impossible to continue in that position while not convinced on the question of infant baptism. [p.108] Meanwhile I continued my studies at the College of Theology, trying to obtain more knowledge which would help me to reestablish faith in that particular principle.

A few days later the dean summoned the four students, three others and myself, who comprised the group that had left the ministry because of doubts concerning the validity of infant baptism. One by one we were interrogated by the professors. Following this interrogation, each one of us received a letter giving us until the end of the quarter to retract our stated opinions. If we did not retract within that time, we would be expelled from the college.

I still have that letter in my possession. It is one of the strangest and most peculiar documents I have ever read—a truly amazing way to cure religious doubts.

Within the designated time period one of the four went back, recanted, and was readmitted. The other two and I, unable to find justification for infant baptism, withdrew completely from the institution and from the Methodist Church.

Being naturally inclined to a religious life, I started to study the doctrines and practices of other churches with redoubled energy and with the intent of finding out which one I should join. I prayed frequently and fervently, asking God to show me the true way not only because of my own spiritual needs but also because of my obligation to direct along the right path the five children God had given me.

I returned to an examination of the LDS books at the same time that I was studying those of other religious sects. By means of prayer and study I began eliminating the various denominations one by one, at the same time directing more and more attention to the doctrines of the Latter-day Saints. Seeking a more direct contact with that Church, I began to attend the meetings at the Sao Paulo Central Branch, even inviting its president, Elder Scott Fisher, to my home where we could discuss some points of doctrine. From these contacts and discussions, as well as from the visits with Elder Richardson and from reading the various books which were lent to me, the truth was gradually becoming   obvious and the clarity of the LDS doctrines and their perfect matching with the Bible were becoming apparent.1

But with all this I still lacked a testimony. I began to pray more; and I returned to reading the Book of Mormon, always expecting a ray of light to flash through the heavens. One day, however, already tired of so much study and confrontation, I started to make an objective analysis of my religious position: I meticulously weighed every point; I examined the consistency of all the LDS doctrines one with another and all of them with the Bible, and I perceived that there was no need for a violent flash of lightning to illuminate my path. I had waited anxiously for a swift streak of lightning; but I now realized that I had already been walking in the fulness of light for a long time. The knowledge of the truth had not come to me suddenly; it had come gradually in such a gentle and natural way that I had not perceived that it had already been shining upon me for so long.2

I kneeled and thanked the Father for revealing his truth to me. I was baptized into the Church in June of 1956, and shortly afterward my wife (Nair) was also baptized. Today by the grace of God we are counted among his Latter-day Saints.

I wish to leave recorded here, together with my testimony, the prayer which I raise to our Heavenly Father that these words might be of benefit for the spiritual progress of those who read them. This I do in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

II. Into the Gospel Stream

Saul Messias de Oliveira

I was born at dawn, January l, in the year 1931 in a small and poor village called Santa Angelica, Brazil.

My mother was a Methodist—very faithful and zealous. I was educated in a very rigorous regime of obedience to the laws of the gospel according to the rituals, traditions and doctrines of the Methodist Church.

My father was a rude man of the backwoods, uneducated and without religion. He brought us great sorrow. Soon my mother became a widow. The strength of a giant was in her skinny body. She alone provided for the family and made it possible to send her four children to school. I remember the nights when my mother sang and read Psalms and taught us to pray.

We survived through great struggles and sufferings. Everything we achieved was through sacrifice.

One day I left the hills and the primitive life of the country to continue my studies in a big city. My mother's desire, her great dream, was that I should become a minister of the gospel. I too felt that I had the talent for that work. I was certain I could do the work of the Lord as a saver of souls. After finishing secondary school I was recommended by the Council of the Methodist Church to enter the Theology College. It seemed like a dream. The poor country boy was now attending college in one of the great cities of the world, Sao Paulo. A fanatic student, I was devouring the books as a starving person would delicious meals.

[p.111] After a few years of studying, I was designated by the bishop of the Methodist Church to be the assistant minister of a large church. The year after that, I was called to be a minister of a Methodist church in a city next to Sao Paulo. In the second year of my ministry and my fourth year in the College of Theology, something very strange happened in my life. I couldn't understand it.

It was close to midnight and I was still at the college library with three other schoolmates. I was preparing my talk for the Sunday meeting. I glanced through a scripture, one that was very familiar to me. I had almost memorized it, together with many others I had learned in my childhood. But something very strange happened at that moment. The so-familiar scripture was now telling me something different: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." (John 3:5.) I read it many times: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

My mind was completely disturbed. It was surrounded with darkness, with no way out. How could this be? This scripture was very familiar to me and I had already talked about it so many times. But now it was somehow different, conveying a deeper meaning. My companions left and I was left alone. I went through all of the Bible scriptures on baptism but I was getting more and more confused. Did Christ really say this? Yes, I had no doubt about this. Is baptism essential to salvation? Yes, clearly. Yet multitudes have died without baptism. Was there to be no hope for their salvation? Apparently my church had no answer on this.

I consulted theology experts on this subject, but they were not willing to talk about a matter of such unimportance. They were more concerned about the great theological problems.

I was surprised to discover that, without being influenced by each other, other schoolmates were having similar problems. God was certainly working on many of us. One church practice lacking scriptural support was infant baptism. I made an intense analysis of the doctrine of baptism and arrived at a terrifying conclusion: The whole foundation of a Protestantism of five [p.112] centuries was being demolished before my eyes. If baptism of children was a farce, where was truth? Surely there could not be a true church on the face of the earth. My dreams were dying, my ideals were disintegrating, my life was empty.

On Sunday a great congregation was looking at me attentively as I stood before them as their minister. I knelt down and sought God's blessing, then I rose and conducted the meeting. I started to talk. I was saying goodbye to the congregation. I could not explain to anybody, even to myself, where I would go. Some people were crying. I too was crying. I was renouncing the ministry and the great ideal nourished during all those years of suffering and struggle. In his own way God was taking me somewhere, I did not know where.

To sing that last hymn was very difficult for me, the last hymn I would sing as a Methodist minister. I can still remember its first words: "Wherever it be with Jesus, I will go. He is my blessed Saviour and King."

I left the ministry having no destination, responding to an irresistible force which was leading my weak and small feet while my eyes strained to see the light of the truth beyond the darkness and shadow.

About this same time, two other Methodist ministers, schoolmates at the college, were leaving the ministry for the same reason. The news struck the Methodist camp as a bomb whose echo was heard throughout the whole church.

That same week, directors and professors of the College of Theology called a meeting. The three of us were going to be questioned concerning our beliefs. The answers could be only yes or no. There was no other alternative, no explanation, no justification. After the meeting I was informed through a letter from the college board of directors that my enrollment was being canceled.

The ministry was my vocation and I could not betray my calling. I was certain that God had taken me from those poor and distant hills in order to practice the ministry. I continued speaking in several churches, trying to find here and there the answers to my prayers. I was confused, but not lost. I was certain [p.113] that God would give me an answer, or that I was already receiving his answer in this painful way.

One day the thought came to me: "Organize a church…yes…a church with the whole doctrine of the Son of God would probably be the answer." The idea of organizing a church without being restrained by any religious philosophy, basing it on inspiration from God and the knowledge in his sacred scripture, was heartening to my soul. Perhaps this was the great answer from God.

During that period I spoke a few times with a small group of dissidents from the Presbyterian Church who had organized themselves into a free church. Here was my great opportunity—a church I could imbue with the pure doctrine of the gospel. In a short period of time I became the first pastor of that group. They gave me a house and a reasonable salary. I wrote the constitution of the church. Twelve men were chosen to govern it. I felt happy. It seemed that God had indicated the right path to me. Nevertheless deep in my soul there was still some perturbation.

That church had an eclectic ecclesiology, a little bit of everything. After the first stage, we went to a more important phase of our work: writing a systematic doctrine for the church. It was going to be hard work. Once a week we held doctrinal meetings, and I was left to compose the doctrine. In my task I wasn't tied down to the doctrines of any church, though I would have to satisfy the members of the church, many of whom were old Calvinists of deep-rooted religious convictions. I was free to look for the truth wherever I could find it. I continued my reading and extensive studies. I had at my disposal doctrinal principles of all religions, and I was looking for the truth as a prospector looks for precious stones on the riverbeds among rough and worthless stones.

Among the religious books available, I found several from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, the Articles of Faith, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, pamphlets of all kinds, and many other books such as manuals used by [p.114] the auxiliary organizations. Among all of these, I remember, there was even a handbook of missionary discussions. As pastor, every week I would teach a doctrine to the congregation, and as I prepared this weekly talk I found there was much more clarity and much greater conformity with the scriptures in the books of the LDS Church than anywhere else. I didn't notice this at first, but as time went on I began to realize that the whole doctrine I was preaching in my church was taken from the Mormon Church.

This worried me. I realized that perhaps I didn't have to write a systematic doctrine; there was one already in existence. From that moment on I devoured all the literature I could find in Portuguese concerning The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My interest became still greater when I noticed that I was finding the answers on baptism for the living and for the dead, answers to all the doubts that were still attacking my mind. When I learned about the doctrine on priesthood authority I began to see God's answer, his help in my quest for truth. I had been worried about not being able to teach certain doctrines in my church—the doctrine about God, the doctrine of priesthood authority and a few more. I knew that these doctrines as I obtained them from the LDS literature were true, but I couldn't teach them in my church. Therefore that church was not the right way. God was showing me another one.

On the night of December 31, a few minutes before midnight, eleven adults (I didn't baptize children) were before the pulpit ready to receive instructions for baptism. I began to baptize them, one by one. I knew I was wrong. When the last one, a young nurse, came to me to be baptized, my words were pronounced with much difficulty. I could hardly perform that baptism. My hands were trembling, my whole body shook, and the words would almost refuse to come out of my throat.

At that moment I had no doubt. I knew the path I must follow. I could clearly see the answer from God. I called the Church Council to a meeting and told them I must resign. A young Japanese girl, a deaconess, listening to my words, became pale and perplexed at my resolve to leave the church. She said: "I feel as if I am falling into an abyss."

I left that church. (A leader of the Free Presbyterian Church wanted to know more about the reason for my decision. I explained to him in detail the doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Later he was baptized into the Church and became a leader in the true Church.) Not long after praying earnestly to seek the confirmation of my faith and my decision, I called the mission home and asked for the address of the local LDS meetinghouse.
I received lessons from a young missionary, Elder Stevenson. He couldn't speak my language very well, but I was a good investigator. I had already read many times everything available in Portuguese about the Church of Jesus Christ. I had in my hands the missionary discussions, which I studied, so I had no reason to discuss very much with the missionary. The only thing I wanted was to be baptized. He never knew I was studying the lessons in order to answer his questions correctly. I wasn't doing this to please him, but because I had a conviction of the truth.

I was accepted into the Church of Jesus Christ through the waters of baptism on January 24, 1958. God worked slowly in my life, and like a stream that runs through the hills, now peaceful, now turbulent, in my journey I had been constantly seeking the ocean, the ocean of truth, the great ocean of God's kingdom.

Today I have my whole family together in the Church: my faithful and dedicated wife Elvira; my children, Israel, Junia, Eliana, Eduardo and Dalto. As I look back on my search I see that in the darkness of the past there was an immensity of light from God that illuminated me; and, little by little, my eyes began to see.

Our Heavenly Father has graciously given me many callings within his kingdom: presiding over a branch, serving as a bishop, serving in the district presidency, and lately serving as a stake president and coordinator of the seminary program in Brazil.

God has blessed me and confirmed upon me the talent I had from an early age of preaching the gospel, ministering the word. I know that in his infinite mercy he has called me from the darkness to the Kingdom of Light and has led me with his vigorous and powerful hand so that I could be a member of his true Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

III. His Constant Influence

Walter Guedes de Queiroz

I was a student of theology in the Methodist Church and assistant pastor of a congregation in Sao Paulo, Brazil. As in all the other Protestant churches, some of the important things concerning the kingdom of God were not convincingly explained. While studying the scriptures, I felt the need of apostles and prophets in the church, in order for it to be the Church of Christ; I also felt the need for the coming of the prophet Elijah once more to the world, so that God would not smite the earth with a curse as indicated by the prophet Malachi; and even more I felt the lack of applicability to infants of the principle of baptism ("for of such is the kingdom of heaven").

Not being able to continue in the church any longer, I sought some of my teachers to explain my feelings to them. I was shocked at their answers, beliefs and reactions on the matter. Not being able to get satisfactory answers to these doctrinal questions which I thought were important, I sought my immediate superior and told him everything that had been happening, explaining that I could not continue in the church as a member or a student, or especially as a minister.

After this decision I tried to find out from the group of churches I was already acquainted with—Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Seventh Day Adventists, etc.—a church which had prophets. I believed that if I could find it, this church would have the answers to the doubts I had as a preacher.

In a short period of time I found three churches which claimed to have prophets, all from the Pentecostal group. I made an appointment with the pastors of each of those churches so that  we could exchange some ideas on the doctrines, in the hope of dissipating my doubts. But after these interviews I told each one of them, politely but sincerely, that I knew they were not prophets of God, and that they were mistaken in that claim.

I participated in a meeting of dissident pastors from one of the Congregational churches in the state of Sao Paulo, where I was invited to be one of their ministers. They gave me a book to read and an invitation to attend another meeting with them. We met again a week later, when I presented to them some observations I had made while reading the book.

In the book there was a paragraph which cited a passage from the apostle Paul which reads: "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists…."(Ephesians 4:11.) I asked, "Where are the apostles?" They answered, "We are." I asked, "Where are the evangelists?" They answered me, "We are." I then asked, "Where are the prophets?" Their leader answered me that prophets were no longer necessary. I then asked them who had said that, to whom it was said, and where it was written; and I added that I would not believe it unless the Lord Jesus Christ had said it. The leader then arose, shook my hand, and said that I did not belong there. I apologized and left, shaking my head, looking for the church that contained prophets.

Very sorrowful, excited and confused, but praying still more to the Lord and studying the Bible more, I continued my search. I always tried to attend a church on Sundays, whichever one I came across, so as not to lose the habit. Meanwhile I talked to several Fathers, Protestant ministers, presidents of spiritual groups, three bishops of the Methodist Church—even voodoo chiefs. I was also dismissed by the secretary of a cardinal of the Catholic Church on the grounds that he did not have time to discuss such matters. During this time, while I received no satisfactory answers, I heard echoes of my doubts from hundreds of other people I questioned on buses, on the streets, and some of the squares in the city of Sao Paulo.

I was called to Rio de Janeiro for an interview with the pastor of a certain Baptist Church I had attended before because of a girl I was dating. This pastor, who knew my situation in [p.118] relation to the Methodist Church, offered me free studies, besides clothing, shoes, and a church where I could be a clergyman—these things would be mine if I would accept baptism into his church. I replied that my problem was not a question of just joining a church to be a member or a minister but to find the true Church and nothing else, and when I found it I would dedicate myself to it with all my heart, whichever one it might be.

During this period when I was interviewing ordinary people and religious leaders in order to resolve my doubts and find the truth, I went through an unusual religious experience. While most of the leaders were not very worried about the question of baptism of children—whether it should be administered, whether it had any value, taking the view that it made no difference—the members of the several churches still had their own convictions on it without knowing how to manifest them. On one occasion, after I had spent a few hours making a survey in one of the squares in Sao Paulo, I took a trolley to go home. Suddenly, after the vehicle was already in motion, I saw a man in a drunken stupor on the sidewalk. I immediately jumped off the trolley, went over to where he was, woke him up and asked: "Do you think that a child should be baptized?" To my surprise, his answer was different from all of those who preached baptism: "Baptism is to be given to those who know what they are doing." Then he leaned his face again on the ground and continued his drunken sleep. What a great lesson!

By now I had become somewhat incredulous and disillusioned and possessed with increasing doubts and fears. Nevertheless I continued praying earnestly to the Lord. One day I was informed by Helio da Rocha Camargo, who was in the same situation that I was concerning the baptism of children, that there was a church in the world that indeed had officials who were called and designated by God, a church with apostles and prophets, and that their first prophet in this last dispensation had accomplished a work similar to that of Moses when he led the exodus to the Promised Land by order of God. Skeptical that such truth could be found in any church, I laughed sarcastically, all the while sincerely wishing that it could be true. My heart beat [ rapidly. Helio Camargo was a great friend of mine; surely he wouldn't be joking with me on such an important matter!

I went over to talk to the missionaries who were preaching that their church had apostles and prophets. They were missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As agreed upon, without any interruption from me I heard the seven lessons presented by Elder David Richardson, who at the end gave me the opportunity to ask questions. My response was that at that moment I had nothing to ask about what he had said; I would like to know however, what he had to say about the coming of the prophet Elijah. He answered me immediately. I then asked what he had to say about the baptism of children, when baptism should be administered and in what form, by immersion, sprinkling or ablution. I wanted to know who had established for his Church the way baptism should be administered, to whom it had been taught and where it was written. Having listened to the seven lessons, I understood that it was Joseph Smith who had received the revelations. I already knew he was a true prophet. Now the elders had opened their book and were showing me the answer to every question as I was asking it, so I had the opportunity to read it with my own eyes.

I asked for literature. Besides several pamphlets, which I read during that afternoon and from that evening to the next dawn. I also received a Book of Mormon which I read in two weeks. On the days following the visit with the missionaries, I read all I could about Joseph Smith.

Two days after the first meeting with the missionaries we met with them again, this time with Elder Ronald Davey. I asked him to explain the seven lessons again, to summarize them for me, which he did. I asked him to explain them again and again, up to six times, which he did. After that meeting I had no doubt about the Prophet Joseph Smith. I truly knew that he was a prophet of God, and that he had been called of God just as the other prophets had whose histories and deeds we find in the Holy Bible.

We had wonderful meetings at the home of Helio Camargo, where I was then living, and many times we asked difficult questions, trying to argue opposing points of view in order to   confuse the elders. After they left, however, we would talk among ourselves and comment that there was really nothing we could say against their answers; we felt that they had completely defeated us.

A few months went by during which we held two or three more meetings with the missionaries, besides making a short visit on Sundays to the Central Branch, Sao Paulo, where we went anxiously to receive teachings.

Even though I knew that the Church was true, that it was the only one with authority to administer the sacraments and at the same time recognizing that the baptisms I had received first as a little child in the Catholic Church and then as an adult in the Methodist Church were valueless and not recognized by God, I was still reluctant to he baptized. I did not want to refuse, and I know that many times I hurt the missionaries with my hard and brusque no. I did not want to be opposed to being baptized. I even wanted to be baptized, but I was instinctively refusing it. The arguments of the elders were irrefutable, they were clear and even divine; the order of the Master was firm and immutable; but despite all this, I was not ready to decide.

I suggested to Elder Davey that we should pray for a specific period of time and that I had no doubt that God would help me with this problem. We decided to pray for twenty days. I made up a schedule to pray four times a day, that is, every six hours, simply to ask the Lord the same thing. When I went to bed before midnight I set the alarm clock for that time in order to pray and ask God to give me strength to make a decision.

We had only two of the twenty days left, and I was getting impatient; I had been fasting on those last few days. On that night, March 25, 1957, I knelt to pray at 10:40 P.M. and prayed until ten minutes after eleven. I then went to bed. While lying there, I read the Lord's words: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." Still lying there, I asked the Lord that these words should be fulfilled with me.

I then fell asleep, waking again at five minutes after midnight. In that short period of time I dreamed that I had died  right there in the home of Helio Camargo. I was put inside a coffin, and even though I was dead I had the sensation of hearing the buzzing of conversation of those around the table where my body was lying. Soon I felt that my spirit was rising; and I could look down, through the roof, and see my body inside the coffin and the people walking about, some going down the stairs, others going up. I felt that I was rising through layers of clouds, some of them clear and limpid, until I reached a great door which seemed to be made of bronze, very thick and heavy. I reached for the latch and knocked, certain that that was the place I should enter, for that was the door of heaven.

Waiting for someone to answer, I knocked again, when the door started to open and I saw someone dressed in clothes of exceeding whiteness whose whole being was so brilliant that it illuminated a large area around me. I went to this personage, told him my name, and said that I had died and that I wanted to know if I needed to be baptized. The personage replied, "Yes." He talked to me with such authority, with such gentleness, with such love; his words were so penetrating that they seemed to touch my spine and I felt ice cold. The door started to close slowly. I felt myself starting to go down again, and wishing to talk more with the personage. I clung desperately to the frame of the door, using all my strength to attempt to enter and not fall back, not wanting to go down and reenter my mortal body. But my efforts were useless. Down I went, faster and faster, through the many layers of clouds until, through the roof of the house, I was terrified to see my body inside the coffin on the table. Then I felt that I made a great push.

When I awoke I was seated on the bed, tired but in complete peace. A great happiness pervaded my being. I smiled to myself. It seemed as if I was still enveloped in the brightness reflected by the personage who had talked to me. Still seated, I lifted my heart in a prayer of thanks to God for the answer to my prayers.

By morning—free of all doubts and fears, sure of myself, in peace, comforted, enlightened, and justified—I informed Brother Camargo that I was going to be baptized. He asked me how I had made the decision. I replied that the Lord Jesus Christ [p.122] had told me through a dream that I should be baptized. I called Elder Davey immediately, relating to him what had happened and telling him to set a date for the baptism as soon as he wished. I was baptized that same week on March 30, 1957; and on the same day I was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. At that moment, Elder Davey and I received unmistakable signs of the presence of the Holy Ghost.

Today I am very grateful to my Father in heaven and to the missionaries for having conducted me and guided me to the Way, the Truth and the Life, where I have constantly felt the Lord's divine influence.

I know that Jesus Christ lives, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, that today we have a living true prophet leading the Church and that we have the true priesthood of God. I bear this witness in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Last Updated on Sunday, 16 May 2010 19:19