Do to so many people commenting on my talk I decided to upload it here before I left. I added some of the notes I had made and a couple other small pieces as well as corrections. Thank you all who were able to come and hear it Sunday. Thank you everyone for your continuing support
Good afternoon, brothers and sisters. It is wonderful privilege to be here today in front of family and close friends. Good to see most of the old ward stuck together. As was said, I am getting ready to leave this week to serve a mission in Leeds England. If you don’t know where that is, it’s almost smack dab in the middle of England. The area my mission covers basically goes from Leeds, out to the east coast and up to the border of Scotland. I’m reporting directly to the MTC over there. It’s been very exciting time as well as stressful and nerve racking. I am looking forward to closing this chapter of my life and starting a new one, as well as the new experiences i will have and having the opportunity to help people.
It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to say today. The topic given to me to speak on was how a testimony of the restored gospel and its principles can better our lives. I thought this was great for me to speak on during a time when I have been questioning my own testimony and its strength. Well not knowing what to say I prayed and meditated and reflected on my life and have decided that the best way to express my feelings on testimonies is to tell you my own personal conversion story and the growth of my testimony of God and Jesus Christ, and this gospel. And as I do this I wish to invite you all think back to your lives. Think of you own conversion and personal testimonies of God and his son.
I can be honest in saying I didn’t always wanted to serve a mission. It wasn’t until a couple years ago that I seriously decided that I wanted to and needed to go on a mission. There was a change that was brought about, and that after looking back and reflecting I can see pieces of my life fitting together into curious patterns that make my conversion story and testimony. Since then I know that God had and has a plan for me as he does for all of us.
When writing this talk the first piece that I saw fit was when I was very small; I grew up in the church. I was taken to church week by my mother for my dad is not a member. He has his own beliefs which I respect, and I am thankful that he still believes in God and the savior for it made growing up in my house, though it didn’t seem at the time, easier and a blessing. We were fortunate to have God in our home while I was growing up. I remember my mom teaching me to pray when I was a small boy before bed and saying prayers before meals. As I think and look back, my family was always taken care of or looked after. Even through hard struggling times.
The second piece I could see was my baptism. I was baptized like most people who grow up in the church at the age of 8. It was done by my brother just before he left on his mission. I am extremely grateful that he could do it because of the bond that it has created between us. I don‘t remember all of my baptism very well. I don’t know who spoke or the songs or anything, but for two things that I can never forget. The first was when it was time to go into the font. I got very upset. I was nervous and unsure of what was going on. I think the only other baptism I had been to was my sister’s which I do not remember at all. I remember at that time wishing and hoping for someone to come help me. Well since we did not head out into the font someone came out to see what was wrong. That person was Bishop Thomas. , though he wasn’t bishop at that time. He was able to get my mother for me which I was extremely grateful for and relieved. . I do not remember anything that my mother said to me but afterwards, still nervous I was able to go with my brother and be baptized. The only other part I remember is the feeling I got when getting out. A warm burning sensation of the spirit though I did not recognize it at the time. I associate this feeling similar to the burning feeling I get when standing up for something that I know is true.
The third piece is when I got older, turned 12 and became a deacon I received the Aaronic priesthood. Once again a nervous feeling came to me when it was my time to pass the sacrament. It was the same feeling I felt when I was 8. But I got through it finally with some help. And I felt a new sensation. It was warm like before but less intense. It was a more calming feeling. They same feeling would come back each week as I had to pass the sacrament. It would calm my nerves and allow me to pass reverently. I think then was the first time I started to recognize the spirit. But unfortunately it didn’t last.
The fourth piece is the turn for the worse. Sadly after being a deacon, things went steadily down hill. The church started to disinterest me. I started blaming the church unjustly for personal issues that I had. With the start of things like early morning seminary, and me not being a morning person, budded heads with lots of peers and teachers. Just ask some of my young men advisors. I could have quite the attitude. I started questioning a lot of the church. How could Joseph had done all that happened? Why would God appear to him? How is the church today true? I stopped caring about the church in my anger and did not seek answers. I had forgotten the feelings of before. I had plugged my spiritual ears, closed me eyes and could no longer hear the Holy Ghost or see God in my life. It would be a back and forth struggle and choosing the right or the wrong with casualties in the form of friends and family.
The piece is when I was 17 and a true change happened. I was called into the bishop’s office one Sunday with some other boys. This was when the bishop was Bishop Kent. He wanted to talk to us about our behavior and attitudes in seminary for which we all distasted. He kept me back after the little meeting. I do not remember the exact reason why, I think it was to extend a calling or something. But at one point the stopped, and the only thing I remember him saying in a calm concerned voice was, “Blaine is there something wrong? You seem unhappy.” And I knew he was not the only person there that was asking that question. I was asking the same question to myself and the spirit was there asking me too. It was there with a new feeling. A feeling of deep concern and love like a parent has for a lost child. It was not angry. Unfortunately at the time I lied. I told him things were fine, and shortly left after that I left. But what he said and what I felt stuck with me. Well a couple weeks later after thinking about how I felt, my issues and problems, what I had been doing, the true reason for my despair and what I should be doing. I could see how dumb I was being kicking against the pricks. I just couldn’t take it. When we put the weight of sin from our lives on our backs, without the support of God and the gospel and repentance things become really heavy. As time passes we may even become numb to the weight. Life can get worse when we keep adding more and more weight into our lives. Well, after a couple of weeks I couldn’t take it anymore. I meant with the bishop again and this time told him the truth. I had an overwhelming rush of the spirit after during that meeting. So much that I broke down. The burden was lifted. Such a feeling of joy filled me and would not leave and I beckoned it to stay as long as it could.
Well after that was when things changed. I started listen again. I read the Book of Mormon all the way through including the Doctrine and Covenants. With each chapter, each page, it was something new. I made connections with the people of the Book of Mormon. As I thought and pondered about Joseph Smith I could feel a connection. A connection that I feel every young man should find. He was a young man just like all of us were, but he looked for answers sincerely and humbly. And if God could help me, I know that he would have helped him.
After that I continued to stay strong. I attended school at BYU-Idaho, which was a great place for me at the time. It was a safe environment to allow my spirit and understanding to grow. I did what was right, listened to the spirit and prepared to serve a mission. Every time I would face trials I would do so with God in my heart. And there have several times since that I have had the old nervous feeling but I face it with new perspective and with the spirit.
Brothers and Sisters, I want to tie these pieces together with an analogy of one of my favorite things to do, hiking. Sometimes we can go hiking through the woods on a trail. It’s very easy to be enticed to wonder off the trail. Good be to take a picture, get a better view, find a shortcut, chase a small woodland creature. Whatever it is we lose sight of our destination. There are so many dangers off the trail that we do not see and before we know it we become lost. But even if we get lost we have been provided the tools to find our way back. And for those who really need it, the people, search parties with their hands extended saying “it‘s ok, we‘re here to help“. We all know the tools. They are the spirit, scriptures, prayer, the restored gospel, and the living leaders, apostles and prophets we have today. It is using the tools given to us that strengthen our testimonies. And it is the strength of our testimonies that keep us on our paths.
When writing this talk and preparing to serve, I started to see all these pieces fit together through God’s plan. I can see that my testimony has been growing ever since the start. From the beginning God and the Savior were in my life, my home, and family. They were and are my foundation. Like the first Article of Faith says “We believe in God the Eternal father and in his son and in the Holy Ghost.” I had learned the basics of prayer and scripture study and knew them by heart. It provided a good home and environment to grow up in. My testimony increased more as I made my baptismal covenants and received the Holy Ghost. My awareness of the spirit grew. As I accepted the priesthood it increased my understanding of the spirit. I was tested with my tools in hand, but ignored them and became lost. But God did not give up. He blessed me with the people in my life that never gave up trying to help me straight. They helped my testimony grow from love and repentance. Brothers and sisters our testimonies should continue to grow over time. It is through our trials that we really begin to know what is true. It may not be a ‘know’ where we have facts or it can be explained, but is something that we continue to experience all the time that cannot be denied.
My conversion and gaining of a testimony has been a process spread over a long time as all should. Our testimonies should never stop and are never done. Now I hope that you have been thinking of your own conversion and testimony because you will understand that I cannot explain all of how a testimony can better our lives. The blessings are limitless. They can be as small as making a bad day better. To giving someone hope is this confusing crazy world we live in. To as big as taking someone from the pits of despair or the mist of darkness, even worse then I was, and put them standing here today ready and willing to serve with such eagerness and excitement. I invite you to take time to think of when God was there for you. Think of blessings you have received that maybe have gone unnoticed or forgotten. And be apart of the search parties and share it with someone. It is the best way to better your life.
I leave these words and a sincere long goodbye with my testimony, that I know this church is true, I know God lives and that he loves all. That he sent his son who willingly died for our sins that we might return to God some day. I know that Joseph Smith son the father and the son as boy in the grove. And that through him the true Gospel was restored to this Earth. I testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, that it was translated by Joseph Smith. I testify that the statement in the introduction of the Book of Mormon that says, “We invite all men to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ is the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the holy ghost.” is true and simple. I know that we are led today by living authorities, apostles and prophet today. I know that God is always there for us. And I say these things humbly in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.