I am inexpressibly grateful for my conversion to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It has given me a way of living and a hope that I could not have imagined having come in any other way. Through my membership, I have a happiness that eluded me in the years before I joined the Church.
I was born into a family of very modest means. Growing up in the outer suburbs of Sydney, there seemed few prospects for me to enjoy success. Emotionally, intellectually, economically, and spiritually, my family was challenged. Family relations were strained and dysfunctional. Despite being a bright young student, I received no real guidance at home. None of the members of my family finished high school. And they did not share my interest in eternal destiny. Even if religion were talked about, it was not to be practised. My interest in religion was often the subject of ridicule and derision. I was left alone with my books and beliefs. I yearned for something better.
As a child I wondered about God, his character and his creation. I believed very early that God was our Father and that our spirits had come from his presence. Someone had taught me to pray when I was young. I don’t know who it was. But, I can scarcely remember a day when I didn’t at least try to pray in some way or another. I prayed for something better.
Our circumstances changed in my early teens. We moved from Sydney to Adelaide. The high school I attended was poor, academically underperforming and violent. I lost some interest in school for a time and began to inquire more into various religious and spiritual traditions. I was searching for something better.
By my mid teens I was attending a number of places of worship and reading a variety of spiritual and religious literature. By the time I was sixteen, I was attending various Christian denominations. A picture of the New Testament church and its teachings was beginning to emerge: the nature of God; the mission and message of Jesus Christ; the mission of the Holy Ghost; revelation; faith; repentance; baptism; gifts of the Spirit; commandments; and eternal life. I was finding clues as to what might be a better way of life. But I still had no frame into which to fit the pieces of the puzzle.
That was, at least, until the day that I walked into the school library to find a friend, Alan Fleming, reading the school’s Bible. I asked Alan whether he belonged to a church. He responded that he did, ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’. I asked what they believe. He responded, ‘In the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price’.
This was the first time I had heard of the Book of Mormon. Thus began a series of vigorous discussions. He seemed very well equipped from his early morning Seminary classes to answer questions. In turn, each answer prompted more questions. He provided me with tracts on his beliefs. He gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon. Eventually, I was invited by a friend of Alan’s to hear the missionary discussions. I accepted the invitation.
After just a few lessons it seemed to me that what I was being taught was consistent with what I had read in the New Testament. Logically, it seemed to be true. It brought together so much of what I had come to believe from a number of sources into one single belief structure. It also taught the belief that no other church seemed to share—one that I had held since my childhood—that before we came to this mortal existence, our spirits dwelt with God. It also taught me so many new things, not the least of which was the concept of the eternal family. I believed virtually everything I had been taught, though I had real reservations about the idea of a prophet named Joseph Smith. Despite these reservations, so good were my feelings about all of the other teachings that I concluded that I should be baptised.
When I announced my intention to my parents, it unleashed the harshest persecution. They not only refused permission, but insisted that I cut off all contact with the Church and its members. I was again isolated. For a time, I only had the literature that Alan had given me. The one belief with which I continued to struggle was that of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
One evening, I was in my room reading the book by LeGrand Richards, A Marvellous Work and a Wonder. In the fourth and fifth chapters, the author makes some claims about biblical prophecies concerning Joseph Smith. At this point, I became disillusioned. I thought that so much of what the Church taught made perfect sense. There was no point, to my mind, to make outrageous and overreaching claims about biblical prophecy of Joseph Smith. I put the book down, disappointed.
What followed, I can never forget. It was so vivid an experience that it remains with me as if it occurred yesterday. Immediately after feeling the disappointment, I felt a prompting to take up my Bible and to open it to Isaiah, chapter 29. I did. I commenced to read. As I read, it was as if the words melted away and that I was witnessing the events of which Isaiah had written as if they were unfolding before me: the receipt by Joseph Smith of the Book of Mormon plates from Moroni; the translation of the text; the presentation of the copied characters to Professor Charles Anthon; Anthon’s writing of the certificate; the recalling of the certificate. My bosom was burning and I knew from that moment that the gospel had been restored in the manner that Joseph Smith testified. My immediate impulse was almost to get on the rooftop and declare the restoration at the top of my voice. I now knew that my search was indeed over.
That was the first of many experiences with the Spirit that have occurred and continue to occur. Each has confirmed to me the literal restoration of the gospel. These experiences have guided me for the good.
After this experience with Isaiah, I began to take seriously the teaching that “the glory of God is intelligence”. I again applied myself to my studies. A few years after that, I was baptised. Another few years on again, I served as a missionary in Germany. Many opportunities came my way during those two years in Germany to testify of the restored truths in the language of my ancestors. I observed many people receive witnesses similar to my own of the restored truths evidenced in the Book of Mormon. I saw them too embrace membership in the Church.
I returned home to Australia and graduated from law school. I married my wife Penny soon after her return from her mission in Italy. Now, decades later, with accumulated experiences in practising law, raising a family and serving in a number of Church and professional organisations, I still find that whenever a challenge comes, either to my faith, or in making an important life decision, I am able to draw upon the memory and feelings of that night’s experience with Isaiah chapter 29, together with similar experiences since, to make the right choices that have brought me closer to God.
I know that God lives. I know that Jesus Christ is His Son who atoned for our sins and has paid the price for our eternal life. His gospel has been restored and there are indeed prophets again on the earth who declare His truths and direct His work. I know that we can indeed be united eternally with our families. The hope that I have stems in no small part from that fateful day in which I asked Alan about his Church and its beliefs.
Neville Rochow, SC, is a barrister practising as Senior Counsel in areas of competition, trade practices, corporate and commercial law from Howard Zelling Chambers in Adelaide, South Australia.
He graduated LLB (Hons) and was subsequently awarded the degree of LLM from the University of Adelaide Law School for a thesis in constitutional and procedural law. Neville also holds an LLM degree from Deakin University in competition and trade practices law and policy.
Early in his career, he was a researcher for a Justice of the Supreme Court of South Australia, the late Hon. Justice Dr Howard Zelling, during which time Neville worked in a number of areas of law reform. As a barrister, Neville now practises in various State and Federal jurisdictions, appearing in the federal courts and State Supreme Courts at first instance and on appeal.
He has served in various professional organisations, including the Law Council of Australia Trade Practices Committee, currently as the chair of the local section of that committee. He is also a member of the Executive of the South Australian Bar Association.
Neville has presented papers and seminars in Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Hong Kong, and Pakistan on topics in the areas in which he practises and on topics in law and religion, freedom of conscience and belief, and human rights.
He is co-editing, with Dr Paul Babie, a book of essays and papers on comparative international and Australian experiences in relation to bills and charters of rights. He has recently joined the management board of the Research Unit for the Study of Society, Law and Religion at Adelaide University.
After his conversion to the Church, Neville served as a missionary in Germany. Since then he has held various teaching and leadership positions in the Church including those of bishop, high councillor and member of a stake presidency. He serves on a national Church council, consulting on legal and governmental affairs. He and his wife, the former Penny Edwards, are the parents of two daughters and a son.
Posted March 2010