My Conversion Story (Part 1)

Courtesy LDS Media Library

I am a convert to Jesus Christ. I’d like to share my conversion story with you.

When I was 17 years old, I was living on our family’s cattle ranch in western Oregon. It was early in my senior year in high school and, quite honestly, I was empty and lost and confused.

I had been raised in a religious home and attended church services regularly. I believed deeply in God and always had, but I felt distant from Him. Though I was outwardly compliant and prayed occasionally, I wasn’t really on warm speaking terms with my Heavenly Father, and that was my fault. I doubted my standing before Him. I had slowly, a few years before, begun to set my half-witted choices aside, but I still had a long way to go. I was ripe for a new life.

One weekend that September, my boyhood friend Tom visited me on the ranch. He came to go deer hunting, for the early hunt. He had joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints four months earlier, and he had changed.

His face shined with light. He was confident. He was at peace. We were polar opposites.

Something miraculous happened that Friday evening. As he spoke to me of his new life and faith—not in a preachy way but in an open way—I felt something I had never felt before: my heart burned within me (see Luke 24:32). I seemed enveloped in fire, my dormant soul awakened. Those words soothed my troubled mind and gave me hope. I began to see, if only faintly, a new path to the waterfall, as the Raymond Carver poem puts it.

I don’t remember the words Tom shared, but I do remember how I felt, a strong mix of hope and joy, resolve and revolution. I had seen the tree of life standing before me and I had tasted the sweetness of its fruit (see 1 Nephi 8:10,11). I was determined to taste it again.

Later that month, I in turn visited Tom on Saturday, September 27, 1975. I had gone north so I could go to a team roping the following day in Vancouver, Washington. Team roping was my favorite high school sport.

That night, Tom sat me down in his living room and taught me the first missionary discussion. He had a flip chart and a small binder containing the missionary lessons. He essentially read the lesson to me and turned the pages of the flip chart as he read. The fire returned. I knew from the moment I heard them that what I was hearing was true. I could see a halo of light in the periphery of my vision. I felt that angels were present

I remember distinctly when Tom flipped down the picture of the modern twelve apostles. I’ll tell you why. I remembered some months later that I had had a spiritual experience about 10 years before. I had knelt in a church as a boy of 8 years old. I remember asking God in prayer what had happened to the twelve apostles from the Bible and that if He would bring them back again, I would devote my life to Him.

That day I received the first discussion was a day of decision, a day that changed my life forever.

I called my mother, a woman of great faith, later that night to share my excitement about what I learned from Tom. What she said shocked me. She essentially slammed what I had to say. She said that the Mormon church was a “cult” and she warned me to stay away.

This was my first in many lessons of contrasts. I had just been bathed in the light of heaven and told that what I had experienced was nonsense and that I should run away. It was the beginning of a war with my parents that I would fight for years. Let me just say, in brief, that I preferred light over darkness, and instead of walking away from the brilliant light, I chose to walk toward it and into it and away from my parents. It was a fateful decision that you’ll hear more about soon. 

I attended my first Mormon Church service the next morning, a priest’s quorum meeting. I was impressed by how friendly everyone was to me, even though I showed up in my Wranglers and boots. I was also taken aback by the frank discussion about religious topics in a class setting. I was not accustomed to an open conversation about faith. It touched me.

Later that afternoon, I went to my team roping event with my good pal Tony. I roped with several partners that day and I have never, before or since, roped better, but I was just out of the money. That was the last time I ever roped on a Sunday. 

A few weeks later, I visited my friend Tom again and attended my first sacrament meeting at the Gabriel Park Ward in Garden Home, Oregon. It was October 12, 1975. I remember singing the sacrament hymn, “I Stand All Amazed,” and, though not a member, I took the sacrament for the first time.

A young couple spoke. The woman spoke with some emotion about giving service to someone in need. Again, I was not accustomed to this kind of expression of faith. I was profoundly moved.

I drove home that night to the ranch, aglow and utterly changed. My mother was away and my father, who was an alcoholic, was intoxicated as he usually was. He asked me if I had attended church services that day. I told him, “Yes, the Mormon church.” At that he went into a drunken rage.

With a cigarette in one hand and a scotch whiskey in the other, he said to me, “I am ashamed before God.” The irony was not lost.

A fierce argument ensued. I declared my absolute determination to pursue my new-found faith and he stood in stubborn opposition. Finding no middle ground, my father threw me out of the house. I packed a few belongings in my car and drove off into the night and an uncertain future.

But one thing was sure: I had chosen my path. I had seen a light and in that light I saw the way back to my Savior Jesus Christ. I have remained on that path from that day.

To be continued. 

Second Coming: Natural Disasters

Photo courtesy LDS Media Library

A few days ago, I saw this headline from CBS News and sort of chuckled: “Big earthquakes double in 2014, but scientists say they’re not linked.” Here’s a quote for the article:

“We have recently experienced a period that has had one of the highest rates of great earthquakes ever recorded,” said lead study author Tom Parsons, a research geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Menlo Park, California. But even though the global earthquake rate is on the rise, the number of quakes can still be explained by random chance, said Parsons and co-author Eric Geist, also a USGS researcher (emphasis mine).

Yes, from a scientific standpoint, these earthquakes may appear random, but from a prophetic point of view, they come as no surprise: scripture tells us that there will be “earthquakes in divers places” leading up to the time of Christ’s second advent (Mark 13:8; see also Matthew 24:7; Luke 21:11; Mormon 8:30D&C 45:33; Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:29.)

In fact, according to John’s revelation, there will be a great earthquake at the time of Christ’s Second Coming:

And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. (Revelation 16:18–20; compare Zechariah 14:4–5; emphasis added.)

Other calamities will mark the time. Here is as complete a list as I can find:

  • Thunderings 
  • Lightnings 
  • Tempests (hurricanes, cyclones, tornadoes, and so forth)
  • Famines
  • Great hailstorms (add to that snowstorms, such as the one in Buffalo in late 2014)
  • Famines (including droughts)
  • Pestilences (epidemic diseases—Ebola comes to mind)
  • Waves of the sea heaving beyond their bounds (tsunamis, for example)

Modern scripture, for example, tells of a great hailstorm in the last days:

And there shall be a great hailstorm sent forth to destroy the crops of the earth. (D&C 29:16.)

And ancient scripture supports it:

And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great. (Revelation 16:21.)

All these disasters will be a testimony to those on earth to get ready for the great and dreadful day:

And after your testimony cometh wrath and indignation upon the people. For after your testimony cometh the testimony of earthquakes, that shall cause groanings in the midst of her, and men shall fall upon the ground and shall not be able to stand. And also cometh the testimony of the voice of thunderings, and the voice of lightnings, and the voice of tempests, and the voice of the waves of the sea heaving themselves beyond their bounds. And all things shall be in commotion; and surely, men’s hearts shall fail them; for fear shall come upon all people. (D&C 88:88–91; see also D&C 43:25.

I believe that natural disasters will increase in number and severity from now until “when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him” (Matthew 25:31).

We would be wise to watch for the day. I’m not saying that day is tomorrow, but I believe it will come sooner than some would like.

Second Coming: A Thief in the Night

Courtesy LDS Media Library

The Second Coming of Christ will take many by surprise. It will come as a “thief in the night,” as the apostle Peter says in his second epistle:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. (2 Peter 3:10; see also 1 Thessalonians 5:2; emphasis added.)

Modern revelation reaffirms the simile:

And again, verily I say unto you, the coming of the Lord draweth nigh, and it overtaketh the world as a thief in the night—therefore, gird up your loins, that you may be the children of light, and that day shall not overtake you as a thief. (D&C 106:4–5; compare D&C 45:19; emphasis added.)

Here we learn that the Second Coming will not only surprise the world; it will also overtake it. The Lord himself says:

Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame. (Revelation 16:15; emphasis added.)

Let’s think about this literary image of a thief for a moment. I want to talk about three things: (1) surprise, (2) sleep, and (3) stealing. First, the surprise. Everyone on this planet will both see and hear the sign of the coming of the Son of Man. For example, we read in Luke:

For as the lightning, that lighteneth out of the one part under heaven, shineth unto the other part under heaven; so shall also the Son of man be in his day. (Luke 17:24.)

And in the Doctrine and Covenants:

And another angel shall sound his trump, saying: That great church, the mother of abominations . . . she is ready to be burned. And he shall sound his trump both long and loud, and all nations shall hear it. (D&C 88:94; emphasis added.) 

Everyone will see the light and hear the sound of the trumpet. Most will not be ready. Dread and fear will overtake those who are not ready for that day. But to those who are ready, I think the surprise will be something like Christmas morning: you know the day is coming; you prepare for it as well as you can; but you are not exactly sure what you are going to get. It will be a truly wonderful day for those who are prepared, surprise notwithstanding.

Second, sleep. When a thief comes at night, his victims are usually sleeping. When the Lord comes again, many in the world will be spiritually asleep or spiritually distracted, like the evil servant in Jesus’ Olivet discourse:

But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellowservants, and to eat and drink with the drunken; the lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looketh not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:48–51; emphasis added.)

That will be an embarrassing, devastating moment. Let’s not “eat and drink with the drunken.”

Finally, stealing. What might “the thief in the night” steal from those he overtakes? Their illusions and their false sense of security, and their over-dependence on intellectual assumptions and material wealth. Gulp.

Let us be the children of light so that the thief will not overtake us (see D&C 106:5).

Second Coming: Silence in Heaven for the Space of Half an Hour

An interesting phenomena will occur very near the time of Christ’s coming. It’s mentioned several times in the scriptures. I like the clarity of the passage in the Doctrine and Covenants:

And there shall be silence in heaven for the space of half an hour; and immediately after shall the curtain of heaven be unfolded, as a scroll is unfolded after it is rolled up, and the face of the Lord shall be unveiled. (D&C 88:95.)

The apostle John also tells us:

And when he had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour. (Revelation 8:1.) 

Seven angels blowing seven trumpets are also mentioned in these passages, each announcing wonders on the earth (D&C 88:93–107; see also Revelation 8:2–10:11.)

I will cover the seven seals and the seven trumpets in later posts; here I only want to discuss the silence in heaven.

The Doctrine and Covenants says that there will be “a great sign in heaven” (D&C 88:93) and we will hear the first angel declare:

And another angel shall sound his trump, saying: That great church, the mother of abominations, that made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, that persecuteth the saints of God, that shed their blood—she who sitteth upon many waters, and upon the islands of the sea—behold, she is the tares of the earth; she is bound in bundles; her bands are made strong, no man can loose them; therefore, she is ready to be burned. And he shall sound his trump both long and loud, and all nations shall hear it. (D&C 88:94; emphasis added.)

A haunting image. Imagine hearing this devastating indictment pronounced on the world, followed by the long, loud sound of a trumpet that everyone hears. Everyone hears it! Then a spine-tingling half hour of silence.

What will we be thinking during that half hour? What will we be feeling? Astonishment? Anticipation? Fear? Dread? Horror? Excitement? Vindication? Exultation?

Who will you call on your cell phone? Will the airwaves be jammed?

Will you pace or fidget? Will you look up or down? Will you run and hide?

And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the [blind] moles and to the [blind] bats; to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. (Isaiah 2:19–21.)

Truly, “every ear shall hear it, and every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess” (D&C 88:104). There will be no hiding. It truly will be a remarkable moment.