There was a front page article in today's Deseret News titled "Wiki Wars." The subtitle read, "Controlling perception: The battle to define Mormonism online." It was very eye opening. I had no idea there was so much online controversy about Joseph Smith. It seems there are many, many people who want to malign him and use anonymous online posts as a way to do so. The controversy in Wikipedia alone surrounding what has been written about Joseph Smith is astounding. That makes me very sad. I don't know who reads my blog but I thought I would add my thoughts about him to give my viewpoint. It is my conversion story. It is my life. The topic is deep, very deep... and very personal. The life of Joseph Smith had a profound eternal effect on my life. Read on if you like. I will write this for my children and my grandchildren and my great grandchildren. As they are my audience, and I only have one grandchild age 6 months at the current time, they will know or someday know that I write this with love, for them.
I was raised Catholic. I attended Catholic School in New York. I mentioned before that I had wonderful, loving, kind nuns who taught me from a very young age to love Jesus. I always loved going to church and I always loved Jesus from as early as I have recollections about Him. I come from a long line of very faithful Catholics. I even have two cousins who are nuns. I will always be grateful for the good examples of those who went before me and who were Christian in word and deed.
When I was thirteen years old, I started babysitting for a rabbi's family. They had three children. I babysat for them every year for three years. I babysat every Friday night so they could "go to Temple" as they said. He was the Rabbi and that is where they went every Friday night. I grew to love their children very much. I listened to the children as they practiced their Hebrew lessons and was always impressed and interested. Passover was always significant in their house and I felt it. The Rabbi drove me home every week. He was usually very quiet. The ride was less than ten minutes. One night he told me that the Jewish people were God's chosen people. That comment struck me deeply. I loved God. I felt somehow left out in the cold almost. That comment bothered me. I went and talked to a Catholic priest about it. I asked him, "If the Jewish people are God's chosen people, then why am I Catholic?" I just wanted to be with the people who were going to heaven (as I understood it). He gave me an answer but I was still left with a hole in my heart.
I wondered about that statement for years. I had this feeling that I was missing something but I didn't know what and I wanted to find it.
When I was seventeen, I was baptized into an evangelical church. It was a Baptist Church. I became a 'born- again' Christian. I was baptized by immersion but I did not know that that meant that in the eyes of the Baptist Church, I was considered a Baptist . No one told me that. I got baptized because I felt it would bring me closer to Jesus. I was searching for an answer to my nagging question and I thought this was the answer. By this time, I was away from home attending nursing school. I attended Bible study groups with other born again Christians near my nursing school and faithfully read the New Testament every day.
A year went by. I was eighteen (a few months shy of nineteen) and I had been away at nursing school for a year. I came home for a weekend visit every other weekend. One weekend, my mother told me she joined the Mormon Church. She didn't tell me much about it but she asked if I wanted to meet with the missionaries. I was religiously minded and I said yes. She set up the appointment with the missionaries for the following weekend visit in two weeks.
There was no one home when my appointment time came around. It was summer, early July. My school was a year round school and that's just the way it was. My Mom left me a pamphlet to look at before the missionaries came. The pamphlet was called "The Testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith." (That can be found here: http://lds.org/scriptures/pgp/js-h/1?lang=eng) or here: (http://lds.org/library/display/0,4945,104-1-3-1,00.html)
I went and sat on the front porch steps to wait for the missionaries. I began to read the pamphlet. I was all alone. I had never heard that story or testimony before and only heard of the Mormons because I would watch the Donny & Marie show every Friday night when I babysat. They were Mormons. That was all I knew about the Mormons. As I read the pamphlet, I had a sense of wonderful peace come to my heart. I remember saying to myself, "He (Joseph Smith) had the same question I have." He was fourteen when he asked his question and I was thirteen when I started asking mine. I read the pamphlet and by the time I was done reading it, I knew it was true. To this day, I know it is true. I have never questioned it. I have never doubted it. I know it because of the strong feeling of peace and contentment that accompanied my reading of it. The peace was real and it was tangible. It was powerful but in the gentlest way. It was life altering and eternally significant.
The missionaries came, taught me, and not too long after, I was baptized. This time I was baptized a Mormon and I knew that baptism meant that I was then a Mormon.
I have heard strange things about Joseph Smith and the Church over the years. There are many people who have had the unfortunate experience of being swallowed up in the tons of anti-Mormon literature available in movies, books, and now on the internet. I have always felt sorry for the people who believe the antagonistic, venomous attacks on Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and the Church. Those anti-Mormon attacks will always be there. So be it. So many people have believed that nonsense. It is so sad that some people make eternal decisions based on nonsense. What can one do? It has always been such and it will always be such.
God has been very kind to me. He is kind to all who seek Him and love him. There are so many wonderful people in other churches. As the years go on, I have developed a tender heart towards everyone. I can't help it. God has blessed me with a loving heart. I always tend to see the good in everyone. I have lost friends over my decision to become a Mormon. I have felt the sorrowful sting of family rejection at times because of that decision. I have been the recipient of unkind words and unkind looks from strangers who thought it best to let me know of their disdain for the Mormons. I know what true loneliness is.
But I also know the profound joy of having had a sincere question answered. Joseph Smith was a prophet of God just as the ancient prophets were. Of this I have no doubt. He translated the Book of Mormon by the power and gift of God. He was responsible for restoring the Church of Jesus Christ as Christ established it when He was on this earth. Joseph was responsible for restoring the blessings of the Holy Temple including sealing families together for eternity.
Of all the things I feel passionate about in my life and of all the things that can reduce me to tears and leave me speechless sometimes, my testimony and firm conviction of the prophet Joseph Smith is the one thing that will do it.
For all those who spend a lifetime time maligning the prophet, how could they ever explain away my peace?
I am a Mormon. My question has been answered. My life has been changed forever. The Savior said, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you." John 14:2
Gratefully because of the love of our Father in Heaven, Joseph Smith restored all things according to God's will so that we all may return to the mansion of our Father one day if we live worthy and are deemed worthy by Him to do so. The path is crystal clear. One need only look for the path and stay on it.