I was born and raised in southern California and have always believed that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all mankind, though my behavior in my youth did not always demonstrate my belief. I was also deeply interested in truly understanding the purpose of life and spent several years as a teenager searching for the answer to this important question. With time, I was blessed to meet some wonderful Latter-day Saints on a construction job in Arcadia, California, who exerted a great effort to help a wandering young man find some answers. After much prayer and study, I discovered the answers I was seeking and soon thereafter became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, just shy of my twentieth birthday. Since that time I have been blessed with thirty-five years of peace and joy. During this time I have also tried to share my beliefs with anyone who was willing to listen. This has resulted in many wonderful experiences of meeting other truth seekers.
I have found that most people do not truly understand the Mormon people, nor their message. However, most cannot deny the fact that the Mormons are a very family-oriented people who want to serve their communities and be good neighbors. At first, I too did not understand that Mormons believed in Christ, nor their important message that the primitive church of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth and that apostles of a living God can still provide the current needs of our world which desperately needs to hear the words of living prophets to direct them in these troubled times. I have found in my travels that most people do not know that the word Mormon comes from the Latter-day Saint belief in the Book of Mormon, which serves as a second witness, along with the Bible, that Jesus Christ is the Savior of all mankind. I have read, pondered, and prayed about the teachings of this book and know with a surety that it is in fact the word of God. It bears a powerful testimony of the teachings of Jesus Christ given to the ancient inhabitants of the Americas covering the millennium from about 600 BC to 400 AD. These inspiring words testify that the Lord remembers His “other sheep” and that He was and is mindful of his people living in all regions of the world.
I was raised by a wonderful, loving Christian mother who taught me to love Jesus and how to pray and created an interest in me to study the Bible. However, I must confess that, when I was a boy, this desire was enhanced by an extra incentive of cash to memorize various passages of scripture—which I used to buy baseball cards, etc. One of my favorite passages both then and now is Paul’s admonish to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thessalonians 5:22). I have also found that the proof of confirming spiritual truths is not found in a cerebral laboratory, but rather in both the mind and heart by the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter which bears witness to our spirits of divine truths. As His mortal life drew to a close, Jesus taught his disciples that “the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost . . . shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance” (John 14:26). At this same time, He also taught that a central role of the Holy Ghost was to testify (John 15:26) and that this “Spirit of truth” would “guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). Paul also taught that the things of God are only made known by the spirit of God and that “the natural man receiveth not of the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:11, 14). I have sought a loving God in prayer on many occasions and have found answers to many questions throughout my life. As I look back, I now realize how often He has responded to my pleadings and that I have been guided in my journey for truth on many occasions. I believe the most important question I ever asked was on the night of March 14, 1976, when I knelt in prayer in my home in Temple City, California, and simply asked, “Heavenly Father, humbly I ask thee if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly the Church of Jesus Christ.” As I concluded that prayer, I felt a power running through my entire body like I had never experienced before. I was filled with living light and instantly knew with every fiber of my being that the true Church of Jesus Christ had once again been restored to the earth and that it had the power and authority to perform saving ordinances and to receive divine direction through living apostles as in the days of Peter, James, and John.
I bear my witness that God does live and that we were created in His image and likeness, that He is literally the Father of our spirits, and that he is a loving God who is aware of our every need. I know that Jesus is the Christ and speaks through his special witnesses today (as in times of old) and that these chosen vessels were called by Him to direct His church and to provide inspired counsel to guide us. I bear witness of the truths taught in the Bible and I testify that the Book of Mormon is a divine record which was translated by the gift and power of God through an unlearned farm boy who also was a truth seeker. In this ancient record, there is a divine promise that if anyone reads, ponders, and prays to know the truth of this book, it will be revealed unto them by the power of the Holy Ghost (Moroni 10:3-5). I have applied this formula and know that the Book of Mormon is true. I love the Bible and I am grateful for its teachings, which led me to yet another divine record to testify of a loving Redeemer. Indeed, it is true that in the mouths of two or three people (or nations) the truth is established (II Corinthians 13:1). I also know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is truly the Church of Jesus Christ. It is not Mormon’s church (the name of an ancient American prophet) nor the church of mortal men. Christ stands at the head and, as in the days of Amos, He still reveals His will through modern day prophets and apostles (Amos 3:7).
I rejoice in the glad tidings that the heavens are still open and that God not only spake, but that He yet speaks. I am grateful that in his tender mercies he has provided apostles and prophets “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: [so that we may] come to a unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God . . . that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14). I know by the power and witness of the Holy Ghost that these things are indeed true. I know by the same power which revealed to Peter at Caesarea Phillipi that Jesus is the Christ (Matthew 16:13-17), that same power that pricked the hearts of many truth seekers on the day of Pentecost and caused “three thousand souls” to be baptized that very same day. I cannot refute these things. I know them to be true and understand clearly that I will one day be required to give an accounting of what I done with my life, when the books are opened and “the dead [are] judged out of those things which [are] written in the books, according to their works” (Revelation 20:12). Yet, in the end, I know that it will not be our good works that save any of us, but rather the atoning blood of our loving Lord and Savior, even Jesus Christ. I conclude with my favorite scripture I memorized as a boy and which I still hold to be true, that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Finally, if we do not always agree on our beliefs, may we seek to disagree without being disagreeable and may we always embrace the Latin maxim: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things charity.” In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Fred E. Woods received a Ph.D. in Middle East Studies from the University of Utah with an emphasis in Hebrew Bible. He is currently a professor at Brigham Young University in the Department of Church History and Doctrine. A former holder of the Richard L. Evans Professorship of Religious Understanding, Dr. Woods has a great interest in building bridges with other faiths. Professor Woods has been a visiting professor at several universities and has lectured at many academic institutions in the United States and internationally. His academic area of expertise is Mormon migration. He and his wife JoAnna Merrill live in Springville, Utah, and are the parents of five children and three granddaughters.
Posted June 2011