No dramatic incident occurred to awaken me to the reality that God lives, that He knows and loves me, and that His plan for me will bring greater happiness and fulfillment than any other. All that I have experienced through life’s successes and disappointments, and all that I have learned through academic pursuits, have reinforced to me what I learned as a child: A compassionate, omniscient, and omnipotent God is the one constant in the universe.
Certainly, my family and the environment surrounding my formative years influenced and strengthened my awareness of God and His plan. I learned to pray and to recognize through small but miraculous ways that Someone I could not see heard and answered me. My parents were believing and practicing members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We walked to church together every Sunday and spent Monday evenings together. My father made certain that we had a family prayer every morning. There was something in the consistency of these family devotions that contributed to the security I felt in my religious environment.
The lives of all of my great-great grandparents have contributed significantly to the family influence on why I believe. In various locations in Europe and the United States, these ancestors chose to sacrifice considerable security and comforts when they were baptized into the LDS Church. The more I learned of them, including visiting their homelands, the more awed I became with their fervent commitment to their new faith. Furthermore, when they arrived at their new home in the dry and desolate West, not one of them turned back or told their children to go back to their homeland. In every case, they taught their children to reverence the restored truth about God that they had embraced. Without question, their sacrifices have invited me to look more seriously into what they came to cherish and never deny.
When I was twenty-one years old and serving an LDS mission in an area of the world where no one seemed interested in scriptures and religion, I felt reinforced in my commitment to my faith because I knew my family, especially my father, believed in the gospel of Jesus Christ that I preached. My father was what I came to describe as a “healthy skeptic” about the practice of religion. A rational and critical thinker, he was not afraid to challenge standard explanations and encouraged us to find satisfying answers to our queries. For questions about doctrine, he trusted in the witness of scripture and latter-day prophets as valid arguments to support our conclusions. These doctrinal discussions with my father created a substantial foundation upon which to build my expanding understanding about the constancy of God and the consistency of His gospel.
Many families in the LDS Church, including mine, traditionally expected young women to marry and have a family for their primary focus in adulthood. When my life followed an academic-career path without including a husband and children until much later in life, I found that God still heard my prayers and His gospel continued to give me the best direction for my life. Doors of opportunity opened to me where I had not knocked and I discovered aptitudes in areas where I had not tried. Because my life’s trajectory differed from most of the LDS women around me, I was often asked by fellow-members how I could remain happy as a single woman and by those not of my faith why I remained faithful to such a family-focused church where women are often unnoticed. I found that my father’s training to search the scriptures (the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, as well as the Bible) had enabled me to know the answer, even when others were not convinced.
In random chapters and in times I would not expect, scriptures offered me the answers, insights, and solace to sustain my faith and keep me active in the Mormon Church. For example, I found profound personal connection with the Lord’s promise in D&C 6:14: “As often as thou hast inquired, thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.” At any given point in my unexpected life, I could look back and see God’s influence and power leading me along. After so much evidence, I grew in trust that He would continue to do so in the future.
That is why I believe. God is constant—in His love, His plan, and His promises over all eras of time. Now that I teach numerous students with a myriad of gospel-related questions, I am struck again at the depth and breadth of God’s wisdom that is found in scripture. I am humbled at the wisdom of the Book of Mormon that is magnified in the New Testament and then reinforced in even greater clarity and power when viewed again in the Book of Mormon. I feel profound joy when I hear undergraduate students articulate clarifying connections that they discover in scripture to answer their own questions about God and their life’s path. And my confidence in God and His plan of happiness expands as I realize that He has a unique mission for each of us in life, with differing paths to follow. All that I have learned reinforces what I knew as a child: God lives, is keenly aware of each of us, and has the plan that will bring us joy in this life and in the eternities.
Born and reared in Tremonton, Utah, Camille Fronk Olson is an associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Utah State University, as well as a master’s degree in ancient Near Eastern studies and a Ph.D. in the sociology of the Middle East (her dissertation focused on Palestinian families in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip). Before joining the BYU faculty, she taught institute and seminary in the Salt Lake area and was dean of students at LDS Business College. Dr. Olson served a full-time mission to Toulouse, France, and she is married to Paul F. Olson.
Posted July 2010