Friday, August 22, 2008

Alternate Ending to the First Vision

As a teenager I came to the same point when Joseph Smith prayed to know which church was true and which he should join. I started with the same course as he: I began learning about the different churches that I might join if I were to find the truth there. I visited my friend's churches, my grandparent's churches and I read the history of world religions. I spent 3 years with this as an intellectual pursuit where I attempted to have an open mind and be able to recognize the truth when I found it.

Through that search--what the Unitarians would call a "search for truth and meaning" I learned many valuable lessons about what I wanted to see in a church before I felt it could be the possessor of what is true. A short list includes:
2)modern-day revelation
3)God's authority to act in His name
4)opportunities for those who have never heard of the church to be redeemed
5)justice and accountablity as well as mercy for all people
6)families that could be reunited after death
7)freedom from pain and hurt after this life is over
8)the afterlife is not as black and white as heaven and hell

I honestly beleived, with how advanced our society is, and how long people have been on this earth that the truth must exist, that out of all the thousands of organizaed religions in the world, one of them must be true. So when I didn't find what I was looking for, I kept looking. Although I did give up my search of churches when I decided I would become a Unitarian Universalist reverend to dedicate my life to that search for truth.

That decision had been hasty because I hadn't investigated all of the religions in the world. At some point, I had written off all Christian churches because none of them had what I was looking for. That was before I was introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

It has what I was looking for and more. I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to learn about it which I did. I spent 10 months meeting with the missionaries regularly to learn about the Lord's church on the earth today, that it was restored and revealed by Him through prophets, not pieced together by groups of men.

I abandoned my goal of becoming a Unitarian minister, needless to say when I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

As I pondered these events and how there were some similarities to Joseph Smith's first prayer on the subject of which church to join. I wondered what would he have done if the answer he had gone had been "none of them" and it was left at that. If the Lord hadn't then revealed to him that Joseph would become the first prophet of the restored church of Jesus Christ. And what would I have done if I had prayed to know if that Church of Jesus Chirst of Latter-day Saints was true and felt that it wasn't?

At that time in my life, I would have despaired. I was already despairing over the death of my father who made my questions concerning religion all that more poignant. Where was he? Would I see him again? Was he free from life's afflictions? At some point, I felt that the LDS church was the end of the line for me. Either it was true or it was not, and if it was not I didn't want to imagine life without it. The answers to my questions provided by the doctrines of the LDS church made so much sense to me that it couldn't not be true.

I'm sure the more pragmatic side of me would have continued my spiritual quest for truth, that I would have pursued my doctorate in divinity from one of the UU theology schools. But how grateful I am that I didn't have to. How grateful I am to know, through the verfication of the Lord's Spirit that the church is true, that Joseph Smith really was the first prophet of the restored church of Jesus Christ and that Christ really is who he says he is.

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