The Bible and the Book of Mormon

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Great Testimonies 3

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Hartman Rector, Jr.
Norma Ramos
John S. Staley

Hartman Rector, Jr.

Hartman Rector is of that rare breed for whom the quest for truth has always been a compelling force. Born of honorable yet non-churchgoing parents, he early felt a keen need for the anchor of religious faith and works. But it had to be the true religion. He studied and prayed as his search intensified, but always something was lacking in the many churches he investigated.

Brother Rector's wife Connie was equally anxious for the right answers. The following account tells how those answers were supplied her, in her husband's absence from home, when two LDS missionaries knocked on the Rectors' door in San Diego in 1951. Neither the missionaries nor the Rectors could then have assessed the impact of that initial contact. Seventeen years later, Hartman Rector, Jr., was called to be a member of the First Council of Seventy.

From the period of my first recollection I had an almost insatiable desire to know the "truth."

As a small boy I tried to read the Bible, but I found it to be very difficult. I'm sure I never progressed beyond Genesis in the Old Testament, but I did read more of the New Testament. I can't remember anyone else in our home reading the scriptures, but my maternal grandmother had a big old picture Bible at her house. Once my appetite was whetted, I kept after her to read it to me. About three times each year I visited in her small home in Renick, Missouri. Many of my evenings there were spent on her [p.2] lap. With her arms around me she would hold the Bible, and after reading the scriptures, she would give me her simplified interpretation.

The pictures in that old Bible were really wild. I remember being very frightened by the artist's conception of Abraham standing with a dagger over Isaac—a winged, feminine angel constraining Abraham by a gentle hand upon his arm. That picture also served to confirm my grandmother's firm belief that there were only female angels (no MAN deserved that exalted station)! As for me, I wondered where angels went when they "went up."

My grandmother warned me, "This old world is getting so bad that it is going to end!"

I'd say, "When's the end coming, Mama Garvin?"

"One of these days!" was always her answer, and I wanted to be among those who were pictured around Jesus instead of with the group who had fire and brimstone raining down upon them.

My family attended church only in the summertime. Each summer we attended four or five times (we didn't wear out the place). Stormy weather and the accompanying bad roads often kept us away; so did visiting cousins, or measles, or a baseball game—almost anything took precedence over church. Our biggest deterrent to attendance was my father's lack of conviction that there was any need for organized religion; as yet he has not joined a church. He purchased our first radio, a Zenith, with a wind-charger we mounted in the top of a tree. A sermon heard over this radio was usually quite enough religion each Sunday.

A revival week was held every summer in the small town where my grandmother lived, and I loved to attend these meetings with her. Those preachers could really build a fire under the local populace. They'd start preaching on Monday night, and along about Thursday they'd open the invitation to "accept Christ." The preacher made it sound so urgent, that I wanted to run forward and show my willingness to let Christ "take control" in my life so that I might "live for Jesus." I wasn't sure what that meant, but I wanted to do it anyway. However, Grandmother wouldn't let me go up and "confess."

[p.3] "Your daddy might not want you to do that," she would say.

Once she agreed to speak to my mother when she came to take me home. My mother responded with, "Now you needn't worry about Junior; he is a good boy and will join the church when he is old enough to know what he is doing." Many of the other children with whom I played were allowed to join. I felt sure it would make a change in my life, but it was confusing to play later with some of the kids whom I had seen go up to "confess Christ." Some of the things we did didn't seem very Christlike, such as throwing mud clods at cars, and sticking potatoes on exhaust pipes, stealing bulbs out of taillights, etc.

During my childhood my father was an excellent example to me. He was as honest and honorable as any man I've ever known—completely just in his dealings with his fellowmen. I am convinced he would have walked ten miles to repay a debt of ten cents. If he gave his word, no written contract was necessary. He felt this was the only decent way to live. However, I must have wanted an outward sign, as a child. I was confused. If he was religious, why didn't we go to church? If he needed God, why didn't I see him pray? It seemed to me, also, that there was an occasional inconsistency in his actions; for instance, at one time he caught me smoking and gave me quite a thrashing, but he had to lay his own pipe down to do it.

I really didn't attend church regularly until I was serving in the Navy. We marched to divine services each Sunday evening in pre-flight training, and from that time on I attended regularly. Also, I read several books on religion and pondered a great deal on the subject.

The same contradiction or inconsistency I had felt at home seemed to run throughout this experience also—the difference between what is said and what is actually practiced. I noticed this in the churches whose doctrine I studied, for many times their tenets did not square with scripture. For me, there were too many questions left unanswered.
Hartman and Connie Rector, No More Strangers, Vol 1 p. 3
"If you can't explain it, then just believe it anyway," a minister once told me. "Faith requires you to do nothing; faith lets God do it all. Just have faith."

[p.4] One time while going through the St. Louis railroad station, I met a minister at the servicemen's canteen. He invited me into a small conference room so that we could talk. He asked me if I belonged to a church; I replied that I did not. He said that in my career in the armed service I would, no doubt, find myself in company that would not be the best for me, that there would be girls who would desire my association and that my friends might try to convince me that it would be stupid not to take shrewd advantage of these situations. But he said that remaining clean and chaste was not stupid—it was very wise; and that although there were many who thought the life of Jesus Christ was a weak and senseless way to live, their opinion did not make it so. He said that a clean life was to be highly prized and that when I married—as I surely would some day—I should be as morally clean and virtuous as I would expect my bride to be. Living a pure life might be difficult but it would be well worth my efforts; for one thing, I would be better able to draw strength and courage to meet the challenge of demanding situations in the military. He also said it would be best for me to make my decision about this right then, while I could still view it with a detached perspective.
Hartman and Connie Rector, No More Strangers, Vol 1 p. 4
That encounter was very impressive to me. I knew that what he told me was true but I did not realize at that time that I had made a decision to follow his counsel. Afterwards I faced many dangerous moral situations, but somehow I came through unscathed, as though someone were protecting me.

The desire to know the truth was intensified as I studied and prayed and as I attended first one church and then another, but there was something missing in all of them for me. I formulated my own hodge-podge of a philosophy about life and death as I read numerous books and articles and listened to assorted sermons. But as I pondered the New Testament I found much that I could not understand. I decided that all religions were "man-made" and that therefore mine could be as valid as any other. My philosophy was that God does, in fact, exist, though what kind of a being he is I could not fathom. I believed that death was not the dreaded experience which everyone seemed to fear but that each individual did, in fact, go on living somewhere else, and also that rewards would be commensurate with works.

[p.5] During Operational Training as a Navy aviator I attended a large Protestant church twice each Sunday and once during the week for the eight months of my stay in Jacksonville, Florida. I went there because I was sure the minister was going to give me the answers to my deepest questions. He was a tremendous preacher, and had one of the largest congregations in the city. I talked personally with him several times and he invited me to his home. I felt he came very close to answering my questions, but I was still dissatisfied.1 The questions which most bothered me were:

1. Why did Jesus Christ have to be crucified?
2. How can his sacrifice really do something for me?
3. What can we expect after death?
4. Was there another life before mortality?
5. What is the real purpose of earth life?
6. How can one gain strength to live the "good life," or spiritual life, while living in a materialistic world?
Hartman and Connie Rector, No More Strangers, Vol 1 p. 5
There were other questions and irritations, and an undefined quest for just plain "truth" which I was reasonably sure I would recognize once I found it.

I was released from active duty in the Navy in 1947 and returned to my home in Missouri. There I married the beautiful little dark-haired girl I had met and briefly courted four years previously. I well remember the first time I saw her. She was walking down the street. I was eighteen and she was fourteen—and I knew immediately she was for me. I spoke to her that day and we got acquainted, and I later told her she had four years in which to "grow up" because I was going into the Navy but would come [p.6] back and marry her. I didn't know then how or why I knew her but I know now. I'm sure we were very well acquainted before we came to this earth. Marrying her was one of the most fortunate things I have ever done, for, among other reasons, it was she who was home when the missionaries came by and brought the truth into our lives.

While we were still in our teens I told her that I wanted to seek truth and we pledged together that we would continue to grow in understanding and wisdom. I made the statement to her many times in letters that "we must never cease to grow."2 I was determined to keep growing, for I did not agree with Shakespeare's "from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe, and then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot; and thereby hangs a tale."3 I could not conceive of such a waste.

So, four years later I kept my promise and came back home to court my sweetheart, and we were married about a year later. After we were married we read and discussed the Bible together. After the births of our first two children I was recalled with our Naval aviators to participate in the Korean conflict. I was assigned to a squadron based in San Diego, California, and then ordered to Hawaii for thirteen weeks of special training. I left my little family in San Diego.

No sooner had I departed and my wife had moved our possessions into our rented home than the Mormon missionaries came by and knocked on her door. They were using the poll technique of tracting, and many of the questions on which they "polled" her were the very questions we had pondered together, so she was very interested.

In one of her letters to me she mentioned that two young men had called on her and asked a lot of questions about religion, to which they also then seemed to have all the answers. Well, that made me a bit angry. What were young men doing calling on my [p.7] wife, even in the name of a church, while I was away? I didn't like it, especially since they were answering questions that I had been trying to solve all my life.

When I returned home from Hawaii, on the first evening Connie, my wife, told me the Joseph Smith story. When she said that he had had visions and revelations it seemed so ridiculous that I laughed in her face, and this made her cry. I then saw how much the message really meant to her and I relented and said, "Well, the least I can do is read some of the material they left for you to study."

No sooner did I start to read the Book of Mormon than I knew that at last I had found that for which I had been searching.

While reading First Nephi, I remember saying to myself, "Dear God, let this be true, please let this be the truth—for if it is, it answers all the questions I have been trying to answer all my life." I hadn't finished Second Nephi when I knew it was true.

I had prayed one simple prayer to the Lord for many years: "Dear God, please show me the truth. Please lead me to the truth." I had sought truth in many places. Now here were two young men, Elders Teddy Raban and Ronald Flygare, boys really—their grammar was poor, their diction less than perfect, they had no great store of worldly knowledge—but they brought the truth right into my living room. And although they were very young, they had two great powers with them, truth and God. I could not argue against what they offered, neither did I wish to.
Hartman and Connie Rector, No More Strangers, Vol 1 p. 7
Not only did they bring me the truth, but they also insisted that I attend church. I could see no real necessity to go to church. I am sure my early training had left its mark and, too, I had not found church attendance particularly fruitful. Instead of providing answers in my quest, church attendance had placed me in contact with a group of people wanting to involve me in a lot of social activity. I often felt this was a waste of time since it provided no answers to questions of import.

However, because I trusted these young men, I agreed to go to church. My first church experience was in an investigators' class taught by a wonderful little man whose name was Joseph Smith [p.8] Wilson. Brother Wilson is a great authority on the Book of Mormon. He knows the book by page number. I would ask him questions and he would answer, "Brother Rector, the answer to that question is on page 104 of the Book of Mormon." Then he would read the answer. I would ask another question and he would respond, "That's on page 223." Then he would turn to page 223 and read the answer from the Book of Mormon.

I attended his class for only a few Sundays before it became time for me to leave for Korea. I thanked him for the time he had spent in answering my questions and told him I would probably not see him again for the next eight to ten months. He said, "Brother Rector, you will join the Church while you are away." I told him I didn't think I would because my wife and I wanted to join the Church together when we joined. He insisted that I would join the Church while I was away.

I went aboard ship on the last day of 1951 and took with me a triple combination (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price) and The Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage. I read The Articles of Faith during the first month at sea. I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to read Jesus the Christ, another book by the same author. One evening in February I heard an announcement over the public address system aboard ship, that Latter-day Saint services would be held in the crew library at 7:30 p.m. At the appointed hour I went to the library where I found four young men who looked very much like the two young missionaries who had knocked upon my door in San Diego. I told them I was not a member of the Church but was interested in studying about it. They welcomed me with much enthusiasm and also with many answers to my questions. However, when I asked them for page numbers for their answers they were unable to accommodate me.

We then embarked on a very concentrated study of the gospel of Jesus Christ. While I was aboard ship I read fourteen of the best books that have ever been written. Included in this number were the standard works of the Church (Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price), also the writings of each of the presidents of the Church in this dispensation [p.9], plus the works of James E. Talmage and Orson Pratt and others. Such study was like food and drink to a starving man. I had searched for these answers for years, looked everywhere; and now at long last I was getting all my questions answered in full. I was ecstatic with joy and gratitude to my Father in heaven because of his great mercy to me.

When we arrived in Japan in the latter part of February 1952, the group decided that I was ready for baptism. So they accompanied me to the Japan Mission home where I announced to the mission president's counselor that I was ready for baptism. He eyed me very suspiciously and asked how long I had been investigating the Church. I told him, "Oh, four or five months I guess." He answered that I would need to investigate for at least one year before I could join. I insisted that I knew the gospel was true and was ready to join the Church. He then consented to interview me.

After an interview which took an hour and a half, I finally received a recommend for baptism. On February 25, 1952, in the garden behind the Japan Mission home in 30-degree weather, seven thousand miles from my home in Missouri, I was baptized. Later I was confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My search had come to an end.

My wife was baptized four days later in San Diego, California. We had agreed to write each other as we learned principles that were new to us. She would write to me and I would write to her, and many times our letters passed in the middle of the Pacific, each containing the same new principle. I was asking her if she could accept this doctrine and she was asking me if I could accept the same principle.

I am a witness before God that he lives and he hears and answers prayers, for he has heard and answered mine. I bear testimony that Jesus is the Christ, and that he lives; that he has re-established his true Church upon the earth in modern times through the Prophet Joseph Smith—great, great prophet that he was; and that the true Church of Jesus Christ is upon the earth today, presided over by a living prophet who has been chosen by the Lord for this particular purpose. These things I do not merely [p.10] believe; I know with that sure witness which can come only from the Holy Ghost, through which all gospel truths can be known.

"Great is his [the Lord's] wisdom, marvelous are his ways, and the extent of his doings none can find out. His purposes fail not, neither are there any who can stay his hand. From eternity to eternity he is the same…."(Doctrine and Covenants 76:2-4).

How gracious he is to those who diligently seek his face, for they shall find him and know that he is. To this I bear humble witness, in the name of Jesus Christ, my Redeemer, Amen.


Norma Ramos

When the gospel found Norma Ramos she was in the depths of sadness and bereft of hope for happiness. Born and raised in the small city of Cruz Alta, Brazil, she had enjoyed all the advantages of a fine intellect, a good education and a background of culture and refinement. Additionally she had been blessed with a high level of professional and material success. But she had watched this all slip from her grasp with the disintegration of her marriage, and she had returned with her children to struggle for a livelihood in her native city.

On a sad and boring Sunday afternoon, light streamed into the home with two young Americans. Only half in fun, she later called them the family's guardian angels. Hence the goal of angels which she set for her children.

Since her baptism, hope soars limitlessly and opportunities multiply. Her talents and experience are again used in larger fields of her country's service as well as in the Lord's kingdom. Small wonder that in gratitude, as she puts it, "my soul lives on its knees."

My family came from the north of Portugal and settled in Brazil two centuries ago. My great-grandfather was one of the founders of the city of Cruz Alta, my birthplace, although he never lived there. He purchased big areas of land, built houses, planted trees, and organized the ranch called Capao Ralo. This property has belonged to our family ever since then, and it is there where I lived the happiest days of my childhood and where I learned from my father to love nature.

I was educated in a practically non-religious home. My father, a reader of Renan and Voltaire, sometimes called himself a freethinker, but occasionally he admitted the existence of a Superior Power who rules the fate of man. My mother, who believed in spiritualism, did not practice religion.

When I was twelve, I entered a Methodist college, and there I learned much about Christianity. Several years later I married a young Catholic man and studied his Roman faith. He gave me books by Catholic writers, French writers mainly. And thus, seduced by the thoughts of Jacques Maritain, Mauriac Claudel, Leon Bloy, and others, I began to attend mass and was enchanted by the solemnity and formal beauty of the Latin worship in churches. I have always thought that unity of faith is necessary between a married couple; therefore, it was in the Catholic Church that we baptized the children, and I made a point to take them regularly to mass.

In those days I used to write tales and short novels, some of which were published in newspapers and literature magazines in Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro.

There was, however, in the deepest, most profound portion of my soul a great dissatisfaction—I was thirsty for the absolute. The replies to my questions were evasive almost in every case on the part of the churches I knew then.

We had moved to Bolivia where my husband became cultural attaché, and I myself was a professor of the Brazilian Cultural Center there. After going through many contrary times and distasteful events, I found there was no other alternative for me but to abandon that situation of material welfare and high social position and return to my small Cruz Alta, and thus separate myself from my husband whom I considered lost from normal life. But I took with me the greatest treasure the Lord can give a woman in this world—my four little children, the oldest of whom was eleven and the youngest only four months.

Cruz Alta is a small city which offers extremely few opportunities for a woman who must struggle for a livelihood, and therefore, in spite of my being an educated member of one of the most traditional and esteemed families in the south country, I [p.13] found myself facing serious problems. These I was finally able to overcome through my efforts for the sake of my children and with the help of my brother. I found two jobs: one as a teacher in the Normal School, and another as secretary to the Mayor; and later on, I became Director of the Museum. Through hard work, I was able to rent a big old house which offered relative comfort and dignity, and we moved into it. My children were growing up and apparently had forgotten the drama they had passed through. So we came to a point where we experienced no more grave problems; but neither did we have any great hopes.

One Sunday afternoon, after we had moved into this relatively comfortable old house, my children were playing in their rooms. I was alone with a feeling of great sadness, complete hopelessness, thinking my last opportunity for a bit of happiness had vanished forever, when I heard someone knocking at the door. I stood up and somewhat reluctantly went to see who it was. There stood the two young Americans whom I had observed in the neighborhood and about whom I had been very curious.

The first, who spoke timidly, asked me some questions which I answered somewhat jokingly; I was not exactly laughing at these young men, but I was amused at the sight of their extreme youth yet sober countenances. Then I became aware of the second missionary as he joined in the conversation, and although I did not know him, I had the strong impression of having recognized him, as though I were meeting an old friend again after a long absence. Our conversation that afternoon was the beginning of a great friendship.

To me, our conversation was a fine distraction for that boring Sunday afternoon, and I insisted on their coming in, but they declined my invitation and made an appointment instead for five o'clock the next afternoon. I awaited that visit like a girl awaiting a party, and ever after that I felt the same eagerness when the missionaries came to our home; they and their message were fascinating to me.

In the course of the first few visits, a pattern of discussion was established. I was reluctant to accept what they said and I jested with them; I did not like the manner they used to bring [p.14] forth their subject and I tried to argue, but their dialectics were invincible. The philosophy they presented offered no weak points I eagerly read all booklets and publications they gave me. They asked me to pray also, but I used to forget, and each time they visited our home again I had to ashamedly confess that I had not done what I had promised.

Although at the beginning I did not take what they said very seriously, my attention was suddenly enlivened when they began to explain to me what the Book of Mormon was; and my interest turned into a passion for the book. Having lived seven years in Bolivia studying and observing the remains of the old Andean civilizations, I realized immediately the truth of the history I was being told, although some of the names which the elders mentioned, such as Nephi and Lehi, seemed fantastic to me. Up until then I had regarded Joseph Smith's story as nothing more than an absurd tale, although I did not feel that way about the ideas presented to me. From the very first day I felt the ideas and doctrines to be true; in fact, I knew them to be true. But the story about Joseph Smith seemed to me to be fictitious, and it was the part about his being a modern prophet that afflicted me the most. Nevertheless, knowing the truth of what the Book of Mormon contained, I realized that it could not possibly have been invented; that young, not-too-wise frontiersman could never have invented such a migration from Mesopotamia to America. Science has now found such an event to be evident, but in the time in which he lived it was considered nonsense. Also, the story of Lehi's family seemed to me much too beautiful not to be true.

I was greatly disturbed by my new knowledge, which accurately matched many facts with which I was acquainted but for which I had had no explanation until then. So I began to pray, longing to know whether or not the Book of Mormon was truly of God; and thus, I also had the pleasure of giving a positive answer to the anxious question the missionaries asked me every day: "Are you praying to know the truth?"

While I was discovering the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ, they entered into my heart and I realized that they were all true. In each case I found an answer to my old doubts, and all [p.15] I had instinctively felt was confirmed. This brought me great joy, but I also experienced great anguish. While I was with the missionaries I was extremely happy, as if I were in another world of perfection and purity; but after they were gone, I felt all the material foundations of my life being shaken by this new faith. My relatives did not at first regard my interest in the Church seriously, but later on I had to face their opposition and I finally lost the affection of a niece whom I loved dearly.

After much hesitation I accepted an invitation to go to the chapel, it was the Saturday before Easter when I went, and what a great disappointment it was! There was only one family there—very "ordinary" people—and they did everything. This family gave a presentation, and they themselves were the actors and the audience.

The next day, Easter Sunday, the missionaries accepted for the first time an invitation to have dinner at our home, and I challenged them then, asking them what kind of an undertaking that small church was. Where was the famous dynamic North American spirit, and after eight years of effort, where was the success? The young elder turned a good red (from anger, I think) and asked me what I, as a Brazilian, would suggest they should do to help the situation. This is exactly what I wanted. I offered to help them through articles in the local newspapers and broadcasting programs for the radio. Thus, before I was baptized I was working for the Church and cooperating with the missionaries. I had realized from the very beginning that this whole experience would be a call to serve others.

My heart was filled with joy and happiness for the knowledge I had acquired and for the many lights which were being turned on in my life, illuminating countless dark doubts which I possessed. I cannot say exactly when nor how it came to be, but my heart was flooded with an intense and profound love and gratitude, and these things transformed my life completely. I could find nothing within me to oppose the teachings I was being given, and from there on I understood and accepted everything as the truth.

My marriage had been destroyed by vice and intemperance, and I therefore accepted the Word of Wisdom as a blessing from  heaven. Also I found in those two young men what I had been seeking since my separation from my husband; I found models for my children who had been left without a father. I kidded the missionaries and called them our guardian angels, and I instituted in our home a goal for which my children could strive: the goal of angels!

Now I was already working actively with the missionaries, writing a series of little articles in the newspaper under the title, "What Is a Mormon?" and also a radio program which was called "New Life." This was a precious opportunity to learn more of the doctrines and philosophy of the Church and also to collaborate with these extraordinary young persons.

One day as we were working on these articles, I asked, "Then how is this, you do not ask me to be baptized? Perhaps you do not want to baptize me under any circumstances?" It happened that because I had boldly declared to them that first day that I would never be baptized, since I had already been baptized, they had decided to wait until I myself should ask them to baptize me.

Thus the day was marked—Sunday, the 4th of May, 1969. The night before, the temperature fell terribly, and Sunday morning dawned very clear, full of sun, but with an icy south wind blowing—a sign of the beginning of winter.

My children and I traveled to the chapel with great anticipation. There, dressed in baptismal clothes and with a towel wrapped around me so I would feel a little less cold, I gave my first talk, with total emotion. I think it has been my best discourse till now. I remember intense happiness, each word said, every gesture made, and even the jokes of encouragement to us to enter the font of icy water. I was baptized with two of my four children, one being too young, and the oldest refusing until two weeks later when he overcame the personal problems of a thirteen-year-old boy.

But in the midst of our great happiness brought about by this choice experience, my mother was taken ill and was rendered bedridden by an illness which finally carried her away. Though it required much of my time to help care for her, I felt by no means like discontinuing, even temporarily, my discussions with the [p.17] elders, from whom I was learning more of the gospel and with whom I shared the happiness of the truth and the hope of the resurrection. These were extremely sad and trying days, and I had to budget my time with precision, but thanks to the marvelous doctrine that I was learning each day and the consolation the missionaries gave me through their faith and their testimonies, I was able to face everything with courage.

The last day came, and my mother died; she simply stopped breathing. The family asked me to say a prayer, which I did, thanking our Father in heaven for the mother he had given us, and for the good things we had learned from her and the happiness we had received from her beauty and presence during all these years.

It is difficult to enumerate all that changed for the better in our family after we entered the Church. I see my sons growing with secure orientation, happy and steadily progressing each day. The oldest is already a teacher and a Sunday School superintendent, presiding in the meeting with authority. We have family nights regularly, and the result is always happy for each of us. The children sometimes bear their testimonies in church, and it touches my heart to hear their innocent purposes. As for myself, my life which before was empty is now full of the purest love and the most marvelous hopes. I see miracles all around me. And each time I pray, I feel more at ease and closer to my Father in heaven. I know that my prayers are always answered.

One day I reached a point where I felt that the period of my stay and my activities in Cruz Alta were coming to an end. I turned to the Lord in prayer, and I asked him to send me wherever I could serve him best. While I was praying, I received the inspiration that I should request my re-engagement in the diplomatic service. I submitted the petition without too much hope, as it is really a most difficult thing to obtain, but a position better than that for which I had applied was offered to me!

I realize that besides serving my country, this was a call for me to serve the Church. This was an answer from the Lord to my fervent prayer, in which I had asked him to give me an opportunity to do as much as I could possibly do, so as to deserve the blessings [p.18] he is giving me every day as well as those blessings he has promised me.

As soon as I arrived in Colombia where I had been assigned to organize and direct the Brazilian Cultural Center, I was asked to teach the investigator class in Sunday School and to serve also as president of the Relief Society. When the branch president set me apart to fill these responsibilities, he said to me: "Sister, the progress and development of your private life is closely related with the progress and development of the Church of Jesus Christ, not only in Colombia, but all over the world." I do not know what the meaning of this prophecy is, but I do know that I am ready to serve the Lord as I am asked to do.

I know God lives, and I know Jesus Christ lives and stands at the right hand of God. The angels' aim is the only guidance I want for my children. There is no other life I wish to live, nor any other love that would so fully satisfy my soul; and there is no other hope. It is true, it is all true!

My soul lives on its knees, and I can find no words to express my gratitude for the wise and merciful action of the Lord when he sent to me on that sad and boring Sunday afternoon two of his missionaries to teach me the gospel. God bless them!

John S. Staley

The brotherhood of a monastic order was John Staley's life for twenty-five years, the expression of his deep commitment to the Catholic faith. But the outward serenity of monastic life was in sharp contrast to his growing feelings of doubt and discontent about many features of that life. Finally, with permission, he left the order and sought to make reforms with the greater freedom of a layman.

The account which follows portrays the excitement of the quest as John Staley seeks—and eventually finds his long-dreamed-of Christian brotherhood. Reading it, the Church member finds himself a little more appreciative than before for the great gospel truths he tends to take too much for granted.

As a professor of Sociology at Brigham Young University, today John Staley brings to his students a combination of sound professional training, deep religious and intellectual experience, and firm conviction respecting the restoration of the gospel through Joseph Smith.

To recount and share this expansive experience of being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and being sealed in a temple of God for eternity by the sacred ordinance of marriage is an ever-growing source of joy. I hope that my testimony of our Father's goodness will renew your experience of finding the gospel, or anticipate the joy that will be yours in embracing membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Thus I share with you my impressions of the gifts of peace  and joy that I especially wish to bear personal witness to as a grateful member of the Restored Church of Christ.

My Life as Catholic Priest and Monk

Two little boys, orphaned at ages five and seven, were reared by the Benedictine monks of the St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. One grew up to become the father of a large Catholic family of 13 children, of whom I was second youngest. The other boy grew up to become Abbot, or head, of that religious community.

The Abbot was my boyhood hero and was a frequent visitor in our home, as was the bishop of the local diocese. Good Catholic parents often encourage a son or daughter, who has the inclination, to dedicate his life to the Lord's service. Such a desire sprouted in my heart. As a lad of twelve I left the family circle to join my uncle at St. Vincent's, where there was a prep school, liberal arts college, and seminary for the training of Catholic priests.

After two years of college, I took my first triennial vows as a Benedictine monk. There were five of these vows:

1. A vow of poverty—that all the money I would ever earn would go directly to the St. Vincent monastery for the education of youth.

2. A vow of chastity—that I would never marry nor partake of physical love, in the belief that this state was a higher level of sanctity than marriage.

3. A vow of obedience—to obey the monastic superior or Abbot, because his will represented God's will.

4. A vow of stability—to be a member of the St. Vincent community of 240 monks and priests for the remainder of my life.

5. A vow of conversion of morals—to promise to attempt to rid myself of imperfections and seek for virtue, trying to become perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect.

As a young idealist of nineteen I gladly renewed these vows each year, culminating with final vows as a monk three years later.

According to St. Benedict, founder of the order in the early sixth century, a monk is one who seeks God. I must confess that my knowledge was indistinct as to who and what God really was. This has been a lifelong quest.

In 1941, when I was twenty-five, my ordination as a Roman Catholic priest was witnessed by my community, family, and friends. Mother, in a surge of love for me and maternal pride in giving a son to God, had the diamond from her engagement ring set into the silver chalice I would use in the celebration of mass. It was a day of rejoicing.

As monks and priests we rose daily at 3:40 a.m. to pray, recite psalms, assist at mass, meditate, and study. At 8:00 a.m. we began teaching classes. The day ended with vespers and compline, the official night prayer. On weekends and holidays and during summers we assisted in parishes by saying masses, hearing confessions, and officiating at baptisms, weddings, and funerals, as well as other pastoral duties. I spent thirty-two years in this way of life, which I viewed as service to God and man.

About five years after ordination I began to experience some discontent and found that in my religious life there were things difficult to accept. However, in keeping with the vows, I did all that was required of me. Each year as we celebrated the Feast of St. Benedict I would recall what I had said to God on that day of final vows: "Lord, let me not be confounded in my expectations." But I became increasingly confounded and sometimes complained to God as Moses did when those expectations did not materialize.

During these years I was a member of the Liturgical Conference, an organization interested in modernizing the Catholic worship service, and of the American Vernacular Society which, after twenty-five years, was to be successful in obtaining Vatican approval for the use of English in the mass rather than traditional Latin.

By 1966 I was openly protesting in my monastic community against various practices in the system. I was made to feel evil for trying to bring changes for good. This weighed heavily upon me, and I formally applied for laicization, being convinced that the Catholic Church was in dire need of reform to render it relevant to the needs of mid-twentieth-century man. The church structure prevented me as a priest from taking any more action as regards reforms than I already had; so it appeared that I could be more effective in bringing about reforms as a layman. (The process of becoming officially a layman, with the approval of the Vatican, usually requires several years, during which time the priest is still bound by his vows.)

It was at this juncture that the Abbot agreed to let me continue my quest by founding a new community whereby I could, with some measure of freedom, experiment with my ideas for monasticism. I obtained a post-doctoral fellowship in sociology at the University of Pittsburgh. In February of 1967 I left St. Vincent with both gladness and sadness in my heart, sensing that never again would I be a resident, teacher, or priest there. I left St. Vincent at the age of fifty. As an expression of my desire for a declericalized priesthood, I was wearing a tie instead of a Roman collar and a suit instead of a monk's habit. My only possessions were a few clothes and books and an ancient car given to me by a friend. I felt much like a kicking infant emerging from the womb as I drove through the monastery gates.
The Search of a Troubled Priest

My fellowship at the University did not begin until September. For the interim period I had been invited to teach part-time at a remarkable place in Philadelphia, the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential, where new and successful ways of treating all types of brain-injured children had been discovered. I was enticed there by a friend's intriguing description of it as a place where "the lame are made to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear, and the boss lives in a stable." There I found the distinguished director of the Institutes living in the remodeled carriage-house of a sizable turn-of-the-century estate. The other buildings, including a huge old mansion, were used for research, diagnosis, and treatment of children—including those without brain-injury but who had reading problems—and for accelerating the learning of pre-school children. I met the staff of the Institutes, who were Christlike in their love for and devotion to children.

As a sociologist I was there to learn as well as teach—to learn how the concepts of the Institutes could be applied theologically and sociologically for the achievement of human potential. On the second day I met Mariellen, a mature graduate student. We met while observing the evaluation of a severely brain-injured child.

I conversed with Mariellen over the ideals that had led her to the Institutes, about her own brain-injured mentally-retarded son (now a young man of 22), and about the experiences she had had in working with such children. She was interested in my reasons for coming to the Institutes. As we talked later, I shared with her some of my enthusiasm for the Catholic Church. I had observed a spirituality that shone from her and the great desire she had to help problem children. As a priest, I thought she would make a splendid nun to found a new order for this work. My objective was to persuade her in this direction.

For "bait" I gave her a copy of The Divine Milieu, written by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, an eminent French Jesuit priest and physical anthropologist. That book describes the author's concept of how man is gradually moving toward divinization. I considered it to be the most precious statement from a twentieth-century Catholic and thought that it surely would interest Mariellen in Catholicism. I anticipated the excitement this book would generate in her.

A few days later she returned the book to me and smilingly said, "I enjoyed the book—parts of it sound as though they might have been written by a Latter-day Saint." Never having heard that term before, I had to ask her, "What is a Latter-day Saint?" She replied, "I'm one, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sometimes we are nicknamed Mormons."

From that point our discussions in theology veered sharply away from Catholicism as she adroitly led me into a new search by quoting from Lorenzo Snow, a past president of her Church: "As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become." My spring was unsprung! President Snow had outdistanced Teilhard by a spiritual light-year! His was the most profound set of words I had heard in my life—and all my adult years had been spent studying theology, philosophy, and sociology!

While Darwin spoke of the evolution of the body of man; while Spencer spoke about the development of the family and social institutions of man; while Teilhard spoke about the spiritual evolution of man; here Lorenzo Snow—to me, an obscure Mormon leader of the 1890's—had taken the teachings of Joseph Smith (which antedated Darwin's Origin of the Species) and said that not only is man progressing toward deification, but that God himself has gone through this process. What a vision this opened! What excitement shook me! This struck at the heart of my difficulties as a Catholic theologian and sociologist. Snow's statement went further than anything I had dreamed. I had considered Teilhard as one of the great contemporary thinkers, and here in twelve short words was a vision that eclipsed his farthest reach.

As a seminary teacher at St. Vincent, I had been searching for a way in which doctrine might develop to meet the emerging needs of men rather than stand still. It was in this search that I had discovered the writings of Father Teilhard, who had captured the minds of many intellectuals in France as well as America with his scientific and theological perspectives. The Catholic Church would not permit his avaunt-garde writings to be published, and in fact they were not published until after his death in the 1950's. He had written about this idea of the continuous development in another book, The Phenomenon of Man. Also, I had read deeply another Catholic theologian, John Newman, in his Development of Doctrine. I had come to appreciate the search for the opening up of doctrine that would respond to the knowledge and development of man.

The central theme of the restored gospel stated aphoristically by President Lorenzo Snow went far beyond Teilhard and Newman. What I found here, I found in every one of the aspirations that was troubling me: the search for a new kind of priesthood, the search for a new kind of worship, the search for a new kind of perspective on man. Here, in the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a vision of man on an ascending, expanding, open-ended spiral of eternal progression. This is dynamic, developmental, as opposed to the static closed circle of organization accepted by prevalent Christian thought.

This explained the inherent but frustrating desire in man to be what he is not yet; the boy to be Superman; the teenager to become a hero; the Greeks and Romans to aspire to godhood; the deification of mortals in Oriental religions. This desire for divinization is inborn in man, then, but it took modern prophets of the Lord to affirm this as revealed
During this time I was commuting on alternate weeks between the Institutes in Philadelphia and the new monastic community being established in the ghetto northside of Pittsburgh. Other Catholics and I were forming an inner-city mission to the poorest of the poor while we were searching for answers of relevancy in our outdated church. Commonweal, a layman's magazine which is spokesman for the disturbed Catholic, has published many articles and reports about the "troubled priests" who are seeking a better way to serve God, even though that way increasingly is causing them to forsake their priesthood. I was truly a troubled priest—happy for the vocation I had, but troubled in the pursuit of it. In that pursuit, I was looking for a way in which worship would come more spontaneously and directly out of the hearts of the faithful; that would allow each member to share his encounters with God and Christ.

Mariellen had electrified me by discussing the statement of President Snow. Now it was my turn to seek a similar reaction from her about a paper on "The Sacrament of Matrimony" that I had read in Denver back in 1946 at a meeting of the National Liturgical Week. The paper declared that the sacrament of marriage did not take place at the altar, but in the very intimate and sacred act of marriage itself. For this I was removed from my position as a seminary teacher for several years. In 1959 I was invited to give this paper again and this time it was received with a standing ovation from the seminary class that would be ordained the following year.

Mariellen agreed with my views, but I was disappointed in her reaction. She then proceeded to open for me a vista of the doctrine of celestial marriage taught by the Latter-day Saints as contained in Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants. This gave insight on one of the most pressing problems I had experienced as [p.26] a sociologist and marriage counselor. As a former college chaplain, I knew too well the dissatisfactions that exist concerning the Catholic theology of sex and marriage. I thought I had come a long way in my own thinking until Mariellen explained the appealing doctrine of celestial marriage, in which a worthy and loving husband and wife can have their union sealed for time and eternity instead of "until death do you part."
Finding a New Community Instead of Founding One

Mariellen invited me to attend a Sunday School at the Philadelphia Ward, and I responded in the spirit of ecumenism. This was the first non-Catholic service I had ever attended. I went hoping to find ideas to use in my experimental community.

I found many things. Instead of a depersonalized mass of two thousand, I saw a group of perhaps two hundred people. I saw a boy of sixteen pronounce words of blessing on the symbolic bread and water for the sacrament, something I first did at the age of twenty-five. A youth of twelve distributed the sacrament. I noticed the reverent, humble manner in which the congregation received this. I heard a ten-year-old girl give a short talk from the pulpit, followed by a young woman. A college student played the piano for singing that was led by a white-haired matron. Two different men, in business suits, gave the opening and closing prayers spontaneously. Another conducted the meeting. I was awed by this involvement of the laity. So many had taken key parts instead of just one professionally trained man in ecclesiastical garb running the entire ceremony. This seemed to be worship on a higher level. It opened my eyes to a new reality.

After the opening assembly, the congregation dispersed to classes. Mariellen led me to the Gospel Doctrine class where the teacher, a young man, elicited lively participation from his adult students. This, after what I had just witnessed, so impressed me that I whispered to Mariellen, "Is this some kind of special service that you have once a year or so? "Oh no," she quietly laughed,"it's done this way every Sunday." Although I was a stranger, I contributed to the class discussion and was listened to with interest.

After the service, many were reluctant to leave. I had been used to those two thousand worshippers walking solemnly into a [p.27] big urban church, and forty-five minutes later filing out with scarcely a nod to anyone. Here I found people eager to share with one another. I find this in almost every Latter-day Saint service—what we sociologists call "primary relationships," a deep sharing of self with others. That first day in the Philadelphia Ward, I discovered many things that I was eager to take back to my monastic experiments in Pittsburgh. I did not realize it just yet, but I had found the kind of community I had been yearning and searching for, far beyond the dimensions of which I had dreamed.

In the worship service of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I found a priesthood that is shared by all worthy men of the Church, beginning with age twelve, and wearing neither special vestments nor insignia. I discovered that, according to their various offices, they carry a gentle but strong authority to pray, teach, administer, heal, and to bring order among their families, wards, and stakes. I was witnessing the kingdom of God in action.

Later I was to read this in the Doctrine and Covenants, a book of modern revelation, in Section 121:

…the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.

That they may be conferred upon us, it is true: but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man….

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion

Hence many are called, but few are chosen.

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned. (D&C 121:36-37, 39-41.)

[ I saw this gentle priesthood, this priesthood that allowed man his free agency, exemplified that first day by the bishop of the Philadelphia Ward. It was wonderful to behold.

Before I left the chapel that day, one of the seventies (a priesthood calling specializing in missionary endeavors), put a blue Book of Mormon in my hand, admonishing me not to accept his word that it was true but to read it and pray over it in Christ's name, and promising that it would be made known to me whether it was truly the word of God. (This exhortation appears in Moroni 10:4-5.)

That afternoon Mariellen and I were discussing the Book of Mormon and she said, "Just as the New Testament is an enlargement on and supplement to the Old Testament, so the Book of Mormon is to the entire Holy Bible." This challenged me. I opened the book and began to read. It did read like scripture. It had a poignancy, a ring of truth; it reached into me as scripture should. It was direct and plain.

Later, as I finished reading the Book of Mormon, I saw it as a tying together of the Old and New Testaments; as a new witness that our Lord, Jesus Christ, is the Son of God. It helped me to understand the gospel as I never had before. It opened a great new body of revelations, the end of which is not yet. I never read this book but what I pray. I love to read and reread of such wonderful things as the faith of the brother of Jared, of such magnificent men as Lehi, Nephi, Alma, Benjamin, Ammon, and Mosiah—men who stand with like faith, love, and greatness as the best known biblical figures. This is another book in which to read the words of Christ as he taught the gospel, this time to the ancient peoples of the Western Hemisphere—the "other sheep" he referred to in the Book of John.
Mormon Elders Teach the Gospel to a Catholic Priest

Mariellen soon invited me to listen to two young elders give a series of six discussions about the gospel. My first reaction was that this was taking the ecumenical spirit too far, but I had a feeling that God was doing some wonderful things these days, and so I consented.

[p.29] She introduced me to two college-age missionaries. They were sincere, direct, and had as clear a spirit as I have ever observed. There were no apologies, no invitation to argument. We prayed before each session. They invited me to pray, and I enjoyed these informal prayers. To my surprise, I discovered that these young men were adding to what I had known before. They said much that brought together the mosaic of pieces that had fit only loosely before, and they supplied a number of the missing ones.

I could accept the Mormon concept of God the Father, because in my studies of the Bible I had come close to this concept myself. But on the third session the elders talked about an apostasy, which meant that the early Christian churches had abandoned the purity of the gospel by taking away, adding to, and changing the teachings of Christ; and because of this, the authority of the priesthood was removed from the earth by God.

They told me that there had been a full restoration of the gospel, including authority of the priesthood, over a century ago when Joseph Smith was called by the Lord to be a prophet and to usher in the dispensation of the fulness of times. They cited all this with conviction and clarity, but I would listen to no more, and said: "I can believe that Joseph Smith was responsible for translating the Book of Mormon, but I can't believe that the good Catholic people I have known all my life did not have the fulness of the gospel." I could not accept their statement. The implication was that my Catholic baptism and priesthood were not valid. I could not abide this either, and bade them good-bye without making an appointment for any further discussions.

Unknown to me, that evening Mariellen and the elders, rather than argue the issue with historical facts, went to the Lord in prayer. I also felt prompted to pray about it. One of the underlying reasons for my dissatisfaction as a priest was that what I had been given in Catholicism was not enough. I had tried the system all my adult life, and must honestly say I found it failing in many areas.

Then I recalled a Jesuit priest at Notre Dame University, Father John McKenzie, who was head of the American Catholic  Theological Society. In his book, Authority in the Church, he had been saying approximately the same thing as the Mormon elders. McKenzie wrote that in the third century at the time of Constantine the authority in the Roman Catholic Church seemed to degenerate. The organization was somehow corrupted, left without its pristine purity. I, myself, had interpreted that corruption as being part of the pagan residue, though I now have a different view of it. I began to think more openly about McKenzie's study, a study that nearly caused him to be condemned as a heretic by the Archbishop of San Antonio.

Another disturbing factor came to my mind. Benedict of Nursea, founder of my monastic order, had left Rome in the sixth century in protest against the corruption there. He, too, was a reformer. I realized now that Rome had been Christianized for about two hundred years by the time Benedict withdrew. I began to question why he left, and it now struck me that the corruption he witnessed against was not in paganism but in the Catholic Church itself.

A study I had made as chairman of the monastic policy committee came also to mind. More than sixty-five per cent of my brother monks were troubled with psychosomatic disabilities such as ulcers, diverticulitis, migraine, or leaning on the crutch of alcohol. It came to me that the cause of these difficulties was a system of human relations that had been built on a defective vision of the gospel, a gospel tainted by apostasy.

My observations came into sharp focus. I know it was God speaking to me as a result of prayer. Arguments and facts from Mariellen and the elders alone could not have swayed me from my Catholic loyalty to believe that an apostasy had taken place.

The next day I told Mariellen quietly: "You know, I've been thinking about it, and I believe there really was an apostasy. When can we proceed with the fourth discussion?" However, let me make it clear that at no time had I any intention of leaving my church—the priesthood, yes, but not the Catholic Church itself. I loved my church. I was wed to it, and sought for reform within much as a husband seeks aid for a sick and ailing family.
Visit to an LDS Home Evening

On my first visit to the Philadelphia Ward I noticed that the babies cried differently. It puzzled me as a sociologist and a student of the family. The answer came as I later visited a family home evening of a young Latter-day Saint couple. I was delighted by the warmth and love and joy that radiated from the group. Everyone was involved. They sang. They had some spiritual lessons. They played games. They were close in love. Fear was outside. The strong loving part of the father reassured them. Here seemed to be the modern version of the strong Early Jewish family with its patriarchal priesthood welding the family members together. Social theorist Amitai Etzioni points out that coercive and instrumental authority (which uses people as things) alienates its subjects; persuasive authority binds in warm relationships (active society). The high premium placed on freedom and free agency struck me.
My Twenty-fifth Anniversary as a Catholic Priest

Instead of a considerable celebration of my twenty-fifth anniversary as a Catholic priest, I decided to just have a quiet luncheon with my family at a brother's cottage. My only present was a triple combination of Latter-day Saint scriptures. It was given to me by Mariellen, and was to play an important part in my coming to the commitment step.
My Decision to Marry

Before I had any intention of becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I, along with other members of the Pittsburgh community, had declared that celibacy impeded both spiritual and human development. I went to my superior at Latrobe to seek his blessing on my intention to marry Mariellen. I had and have great confidence in him. He is truly a great man (he has since become head of the Benedictine Order in Rome). After I opened my heart to him, he responded by giving me a blessing. This he did as a person approving the decision of another person. I also visited my family and apprised them of my plans.

Baptism, the Gift of the Spirit, and Marriage

"A reed shaken in the wind" best describes me during the week before my marriage. (We had unwittingly set as our wedding date the 11th of July, the anniversary of my making solemn vows in the Benedictine order!) We prayed each evening together. The night before, I was in great apprehension. Was I going squarely into the jaws of Satan? We prayed. As we prayed, a warm, comforting spirit came over me. I found myself uttering words that did not seem to emanate from me. Words that gave me peace and joy as I said them: "I want to be baptized; I wish to be baptized."

Early the next morning I called the bishop of the Philadelphia Ward and asked if I might be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost as well as be married. There was a long pause, and then his reassurance. How grateful I was for his discerning spirit!

On the way to be baptized at the Philadelphia Ward, I went through another agonizing anxiety: "Am I being deceived by the devil? Am I on a greased slide into hell?" As these fears tormented me, I opened the triple combination Mariellen had given me. This book of eight hundred pages opened to Section 131 in the Doctrine and Covenants. Had our Father in heaven sent an angel to reassure me I would probably have questioned his origin. The probability of this book opening to that page was far too low for it to have been an accident. I read:

In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees; and in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]; and if he does not, he cannot obtain it. (D&C 131:1-3.)

Needless to say, I did not receive many wedding gifts, but this priceless one of assurance from our Heavenly Father that exorcized my fear will always be highly treasured.

To receive the holy ordinances of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost and to have Mariellen as my bride were almost too much for this vessel of clay to hold. It was the great day of my [p.33] life up to that time. It was only eclipsed in joy by the later occasion of our being sealed for time and eternity in a temple of God.
My Patriarchal Blessing

To have one's spiritual DNA Chart read to him by one inspired of God, by a patriarch of the Church, as I did, is an indescribable experience. To have one's ancestral ties open up, to have the sure knowledge of belonging to the tribe of Ephraim and Joseph—what a joy, especially after having given a series of nine talks on Joseph of Egypt to a Carmelite Community one year before! To be assured of health and many vocations to special work in our Father's vineyard was and is a source of the mixed feelings that mark the typical Latter-day Saint: a profound gratitude for all that God has done for me and a deep concern that I have not done enough to further his kingdom and climb that great ascending spiral that keeps opening up to new, exciting vistas.
Encounters with Death

As a Catholic I had gained a sense that the hour of death was a moment of truth, that if I ever left the Catholic Church I would tremble at the hour of death and wish for a Catholic priest to come and administer to me. With heart surgery not many years behind, I twice found myself in the crisis of facing death. On both occasions I was administered to by elders of the Church. On the first occasion I was in Albert Einstein Medical Center with a critical coronary insufficiency. In his concern, the Abbot from my former community flew over to Philadelphia to visit me. On his arrival I indicated my gratitude for his desire to help me, but I was visibly at peace and calm and I voiced what was within me. In his openness he later received me at the monastery where I had opportunity to speak to him of the restored gospel. I thought I detected in him a wistful envy of what I had discovered.
Spiritual Progress

With the clear direction of the Word of Wisdom I found myself making great physical and spiritual progress. My [p.34] colleagues from the monastery were perhaps most surprised and impressed by my ability to refrain from alcohol and coffee. But the growth in prayer, the new-found interest in scriptures, the rich opportunities to be involved in the callings within the ward, the ordination to the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, finally holding the office of elder—these spelled out my real growth.

The experience of the fast and testimony meeting seldom leaves me dry-eyed. To hear brother after brother, sister after sister, reveal God's personal working in their lives is one of the richest spiritual experiences open to man. It was what I sought in monastic community. It is what I found in the community of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It seemed to me I used to have many dreams of what I wished I could be like in following Christ; the principal difference now seems to be that I can do these things through the power of the Spirit. True, it requires a continual covenanting and renewing of covenants with our Father, but the ability to do so is much more readily available.
My Marriage in the House of the Lord

Progress is programmed by love. The highest level of development is dependent upon being sealed for time and eternity in temple marriage. As it was promised in my patriarchal blessing, Mariellen and I went up to the temple the year after my baptism to take out our endowments and have our marriage sealed.

Instead of body and soul being anti-bodies as envisioned by Augustine, the restored gospel explains that all spirit is matter, only more refined. (Again Doctrine and Covenants, Section 131!) Physical love, therefore, is not ignoble (or at least venially sinful). Rather, it is the advanced spirit (God) leading the less advanced (his children) to higher realization.

For years as sociologist and theologian I had probed the meaning of marriage, of sex and love. In the great revelation of the restored gospel given in the endowments, the mystery of man and woman, of love and marriage, of the divine plan of progression to divinization opened to me with breathtaking clarity. The successive covenants with God ending in the eternal covenant  of marriage both moistened the eye with joy and sobered the spirit with the awesomeness of the responsibilities involved.

All my life I had been in pilgrimage to the House of the Lord, and now I finally could say: "Lord, you have not confounded me in my expectations. You programmed me for joy, and you have not withheld those things necessary to possess it." What new meaning the pilgrim psalms took on for me!
Some Attractions in the Gospel

1. The universal need to continually develop, even to the point of becoming a God, climbing the path of the ascending, expanding, open-ended spiral originally traced out by our Father.

2. The priesthood of Christ with its great power but gentle persuasive authority and the divine presence it effects in the affairs of men.

3. The centrality of love marking human relations from the family to the ward, from the neighborhood to the international community, where brother is brother in the preexistence and the earthly existence—it not only makes babies cry differently, but makes adults encounter differently.

4. The great vision of love and marriage and its wedding to development and joy; the freeing of the celibate for celestialization.

5. The simplicity, warmth, and divinizing power of the worship that strips away the dross and human appendages and allows communion with our Father and our brothers and sisters in ever-developing measure.

6. The clear vision of the meaning and path through these latter days, so dim before, and now so clearly lighted through the opening up of the meaning of Isaiah and Ezekiel, John the Revelator, and the Mormon prophets and scriptures, especially the Doctrine and Covenants.

My Testimony

I know within me that Jesus Christ stands at the head of this, his Church, and by its medium gives the members the plan and power to become sons of God through eternal progression.

To me Joseph Smith was the most vigorous of the great prophets, who as a young farm boy encountered the whole of Christianity, Protestant and Catholic, and redressed it with the clear and plain truth of the restored gospel as he opened up this dispensation of the fulness of times.

Within me I know that each succeeding president of the Church is indeed a living prophet of our Father in heaven and offers us continuing guidance, revelation, and direction in these days of great perplexity for man.

I witness to these things with joy of spirit in the name of Jesus Christ.

Last Updated on Sunday, 16 May 2010 19:19  

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