My testimony of Christ’s divinity came in my childhood. My testimony of the restored Gospel and the authority of the priesthood came when I was a young mother. I was raised in a strict Southern Baptist home, and two of my great-uncles were ordained Baptist ministers. Because of that, much of the conversation and activity in our family was Christ-centered. I requested baptism into the Baptist church when I was seven. The pastor at first told my mother that I was too young to have much understanding, but she insisted that he interview me. I was baptized by immersion soon after the interview, and throughout my growing-up years, I thought I might become a missionary when I became an adult.
As a young child, I knew that Jesus Christ was my older brother and that he had come to earth to teach people what his father wanted us to know. I also knew about his death and resurrection and the promise of human resurrection. These were topics that I had heard in sermons on Sunday and had heard discussed by family members at home. Then and now I have loved the stories in the New Testament about his appearance to the Apostles (and others) after his resurrection. I knew then and I know now that he is the Christ, our teacher, and the divine son of God. As a child, I often thought Christ was present in my life whispering and coaching me along my way. As an adult the coaching has continued, always positively, and I now know that gentle voice in my mind is the Holy Ghost.
My literal conversion to the truthfulness of the restored Gospel came suddenly. Late on a February morning in 1966, in Glendale, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, my two toddlers and I were picking up sticks in our new back yard after a wind storm. A neighbor to the rear of our home was doing the same thing with two of her tykes. We introduced ourselves to one another and then began to visit. She asked me what church we attended, and I said that I had been raised Baptist and my husband had been raised Methodist, and though we attended church regularly, we were looking around because neither seemed to be quite what we wanted for our children. She asked what I knew about the “Mormons” or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I said that I knew about some golden tablets, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, Brigham Young, and the trek to the West from Illinois.
She said that I knew more than most people, and would I like to read some materials about her church? I was interested in part because one of my Southern Baptist aunts had lived in Ogden, Utah, and she had expressed respect for the Latter-day Saint people there. I gave the children their lunch, put them down for their nap, and began to read the tracts and Book of Mormon she had given me. The children slept all afternoon, and I read. I read the tracts and skimmed the scriptures. There was one longer tract, “The Philosophy of Mormonism” by James E. Talmage, that particularly interested me. Though I had read Moroni’s promise from Moroni 10: 3-4 in the materials, I didn’t want to pray and put it to the test until I had read the Talmage tract. I remember worrying that the children would awaken before I could get through that last pamphlet, but they slept and slept.
I first learned of the Latter-day church’s teaching of the pre-existence from that tract. I had always thought that must be, but no pastor I had talked with would (or could) confirm that for me. I had been nicknamed “Plato” in high school because I excitedly embraced the concept of ideal forms; that is, that earthly creations were only imitations of perfect forms in another dimension. I had also read Kant and other philosophers because for several years I had searched continually for evidence of the preexistence.
I finally went to my bedroom and prayed. Remarkably, the children were still asleep. I thanked Heavenly Father and asked, as the tracts instructed, if the restoration were true, could I please be given unmistakable confirmation? The manifestation came in the form of a burning in my chest. It was literal, and it was so powerful that there was no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the Holy Ghost had witnessed truth to me.
Over the next few weeks the missionaries came to our home, gave us the lessons, and challenged my husband and me to be baptized. On March 26, 1966, my husband and I were both baptized and confirmed as members of the Church, and we received the gift of the Holy Ghost. The following year we took our children to the Salt Lake Temple, and on June 13, 1967, we were sealed as a family for time and eternity.
Over time I raised our children in the Church, and three of our four have testimonies of the truthfulness of the Gospel. The fourth is a Christian Lutheran which is also his wife’s religion. Two of our children were married in the temple, and our oldest son served a worthy mission. After the children were grown, I completed my university studies and was invited to become a full-time faculty member in the English department at Brigham Young University. My mother was negative about my conversion to the Latter-day Saint faith, and my husband became less-active soon after we went to the temple. Even so, I knew what I had experienced that February afternoon, and I have remained fully committed to Jesus Christ and his work of building the kingdom.
I have been blessed, I know it, and I know my work now is to do my best to bless the lives of others through my family, temple work, teaching, writing, and constantly learning to be the person our Heavenly Father sent me to earth to be.
I testify these truths and events In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
I was born and raised in St. Louis County, Missouri, and our family moved to the West in 1979. I married at nineteen, and my husband and I celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary in December 2009. We have four married children and twelve lively grandchildren. I am a folklorist and professor and joined the English Department at Brigham Young University in 1996. I am also director of the Secondary English Teaching Program and past president of the Utah Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts. I have written several books, chapters, and essays. Probably the most important writing I have produced to date is a book called Begin Where You Are: Nurturing Relationships with Less-Active Family and Friends (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book: 2004).
Posted July 2010