Because I’m a third generation LDS scholar, many people have jokingly said that “of course” I would teach the gospel and know its truths. But a testimony is not something automatic or genetic. Although I have learned much from the teachings and example of my grandfather, father, grandmother, mother, etc., I have had to learn for myself how to gain spiritual knowledge to build and sustain a testimony. (Each generation must gain its own testimony and remain faithful to its own covenants).
There have been many experiences throughout my life that have left me with a conviction that I have a Father in Heaven; that He sent His son, Jesus, to earth to redeem mankind and prepare a way to return to Him; and that He has given the gift of the Holy Ghost to help guide and direct through mortal life. It is the Holy Ghost that has given me the subtle and strong assurances that we have books of scripture that contain God’s word for us on earth. I have particularly been touched by my study in the Bible and the Book of Mormon as I have come to a greater appreciation of my Savior, Jesus Christ, and his matchless atonement that makes justification a reachable proposition. I may not have answers to all religious questions—these debates have been going on for centuries—but I feel at peace and confident in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Anyone can pick random principles of a religion and twist them to seem “strange” or “fanciful,” but the whole picture must be examined and tested to know of its validity. Frankly I believe the fruits of the gospel as found in the LDS church are testimony enough of its truthfulness. I am continually amazed at what gospel living can produce and how the church continues to grow and strengthen without professional clergy or trained ministry—a sign that its message and principles are eternal and empowering. Without ever having been an imperial or state religion, and placing the bulk of its missionary efforts on young, inexperienced missionaries, the LDS church has become a world religion of astonishing variety, each member gaining a testimony of things sometimes far removed from his or her own culture or upbringing. There really is nothing quite like it in religious history!
My studies in the Hebrew Bible, Greek New Testament, and world religions, as well as times of study and teaching in the Holy Land, have given me many opportunities to reflect upon religion, the Bible, and mortals’ place within a larger cosmos. I am grateful for these academic opportunities and the knowledge they have given both through information learned and questions raised. But in the end, as fun or interesting as the historical background or literary studies may be, if there is not an accompanying confirmation of truth through the Holy Ghost, they are not as meaningful as the sweet experiences with the spirit. These sweet experiences with the spirit can come through a Gospel Doctrine class, hymn singing, personal scripture study, or even an attempt at family scripture study with rambunctious children.
I believe in the core doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also stated as the four cornerstones of our faith by President Gordon B. Hinckley): Jesus Christ as the Savior, Joseph Smith as a Prophet and recipient of the First Vision, the Book of Mormon as true scripture, and the restoration of true priesthood and authority. The implications of these truth statements are huge, which only strengthens my belief in them. It is the implications of these statements that cause me to believe, follow, teach, raise my family, and strive to obey my covenants. I am grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Jared Ludlow has been teaching in the Ancient Scripture Department at BYU since Fall 2006. Previous to that, he spent six years teaching Religion and History at BYU Hawaii, and served the last two years as Chair of the History Department there. Jared received his bachelor’s degree from BYU in Near Eastern Studies, his master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley in Biblical Hebrew, and his PhD in Near Eastern Religions from UC Berkeley and the Graduate Theological Union. His dissertation was published as a book, Abraham Meets Death: Narrative Humor in the Testament of Abraham, by Sheffield Academic Press. His primary research interests are in Ancient Judaism and Early Christianity, and specifically the Pseudepigrapha.
Jared has regularly presented papers at the Society of Biblical Literature national meetings and has participated in Sperry and FARMS symposia at BYU. He is a member of the Enoch Seminar, a group of international scholars who study Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity. He is teaching at the BYU Jerusalem Center during the 2011-2012 academic year. He enjoys teaching Bible courses, Book of Mormon, World Religions, and History. Jared served an LDS mission to Campinas, Brazil, and has also lived in Germany and Israel. He is married to Margaret (Nelson) and they have five children.
Posted November 2011