Here's a place for your edifying, supportive, and motivating testimonies. Tell how God has dealt with you. Tell of a repentant action and what motivated it. People relate to the experience of other people. Many times they share the same problems and need for change in their lives. By telling of your repentance you will be giving a ministry sometimes more powerful than an article, sermon or revelation. Send your testimony here. I will check it and edit it if needed, but always with your permission.
No Matter What
This God is the God We Adore
A few weeks ago, an email was sent to us here at the website. It expressed serious questions. From hearing rumors and from watching the website news, the writer of that email questioned everything in the whole movement. We forwarded it to Brother Joseph at his request, but it occurs to me there are probably other people with serious questions.
I live many miles away, but I’ve been able to attend the main meetings in Holden. At them I have heard testimonies bearing witness of Holy Spirit presence. I have wondered if I should be ashamed not to have had the same type of testimony, but I do have an extraordinary experience from the past that might help to answer these serious questions. It is not short, so perhaps it is better to share it here, so it can be read at leisure.
My testimony begins with the influence of my father. In 1911 he was born into a very wealthy Episcopalian family and he was the oldest of two children and the only son. He was in line and groomed for wealth. When he became interested in the Book of Mormon, it was made clear to him that his inheritance was in jeopardy. But my father had a type of integrity not often seen today. If he saw truth, he followed it. So through his choice, he lost his chance at great wealth. His commitment to what he perceived as God’s truth caused his fall in the dominion of man. He followed the truth, no matter what.
I was born into that family in 1946. By then my father was pastor of a very small mission in Connecticut. There, in the 1950’s, without the type of travel and technology we have today, we were distanced from Independence and did our best to worship there without the opportunity of much contact at all with the Center Place church. Not surprisingly, much of that worship was different from the standard traditions and culture of the church. As a matter of fact, some of it somewhat resembled the Episcopalians. One major resemblance was the condition of placing almost no emphasis at all on following Holy Spirit guidance. Another more minor resemblance to the Episcopalians was our place of worship. Both resemblances have bearing in this testimony.
We rented the chapel of a theological seminary that looked quite Catholic inside. Red carpets, two pulpits (one cantilevered out toward the congregation), chandeliers, an ornate altar, tall brass candlesticks, and even taller pipes of an organ made the interior of the hall quite impressive. All of this was in stark contrast to the puny number of perhaps twenty people scattered among the ornate pews. This was the setting of an extraordinary experience, and I will share that first, because it happened first and also because it is the focus of the testimony.
One Sunday, during the sermon, I was daydreaming instead of listening. I was probably around ten years old. I was comparing the weak, puny size of the congregation to the thought of an all-powerful God. The congregation didn’t seem powerful at all but the Episcopalian chapel did. My daydreaming turned to questioning. I wanted to know if God really existed and was so all-powerful. Was it possibly just a fairy tale, happily passed down through centuries?
I questioned myself, as to whether I would follow the Lord God anywhere, no matter what, if I knew He existed. I imagined myself in Indiana Jones-type scenarios, like having to cross a swamp full of snakes and crocodiles. In all the sincerity that can be mustered by a 10 year old, I decided that if God really did exist, He would be with me regardless, and indeed I would follow Him, no matter what.
Then in my mind and heart I began talking with God, and I guess you would say that basically, I threw a fleece like Gideon in the Bible. “Something that doesn’t exist can’t tell you it doesn’t exist, but if there really is a God, how could I know it?” I realized the only way I could get a true answer about this was from God Himself. How could God answer me? I played around in my young mind with ideas like Him putting a pony at our back door. But I knew there was something wrong with that, even if I didn’t know the words “quid pro quo.”
With very little time, I came up with a way God could answer without me getting anything more than the information I needed. My mother, the organist, allowed my brother and me to close up the organ, each on alternating Sundays. We got to do it all except turn off the electricity. She always made sure she did that one most important thing without fail. I realized if God exists, He could get Mom to leave the organ turned on, or He could let her turn it off and then He could just flick it back on. That Sunday was my turn. As the service continued, I went back to daydreaming, and I actually forgot my talk with God. I don’t know if I would have written God off if nothing happened in that loft, but apparently, even though I forgot, God did not. When the service was over, I climbed the steps to the organ and entered the loft. It wasn’t until I sat down on the organ bench that I heard it. Just a breath -- a very soft, whisper of a hum. For the only time ever, the organ was still on.
But that wasn’t all. As I sat on that bench in wonder, remembering my silent prayer and promise, I felt the top of my head open like a pitcher, and pouring into me from above was this huge overwhelming presence of immense rightness and permanence along with the words “I AM.” The feeling was love, but not what we humans call the emotion of love. Nothing lenient or permissive, it was all-knowing love from my Creator who knew me better than I knew myself – my strengths and weaknesses, my virtues and vices, my purpose placed in me from the start, and the awareness that I should allow Him to mold me to fill that purpose, no matter what. NO PRETENSE. I had to become real. As He led me, I was to follow.
Somehow, as that awesome, powerful spirit poured into and filled me to overflowing, I felt God’s very nature. I realized He is the very essence behind all truth. He abhors anything that manipulates or distorts truth. He does not condone or accept straying from the truth in any way. We people can’t cheat Him, or hide from Him, or outmaneuver Him or His truth.
In response to Him we must in turn be truthful ourselves with the same criteria as God himself. We must honor the pure truth, no matter what. The way of man is to avoid full truth in order to make life more convenient, pleasant, or agreeable with a chosen agenda. In doing this we fail to follow our Lord, and He will not own us. We are His instruments - He is not our’s. We must remember that. We must remain useful for as long as possible. Anything that jeopardizes truth or our usefulness must be banned from our lives.
So with the simple direct faith of a ten year old child, I knew God could prove himself, and He did it overwhelmingly – not before a burning bush but in an organ loft. I believe my “no matter what” commitment is why God responded. When the experience was finished, I became committed to Him then and there, no matter what, and He actually has seen me through some real Indiana Jones-type scenarios.
A year or two later, another experience helped me to understand Christ as God incarnate. I saw the motive behind the sacrifice. To keep this brief, I’ll say no more, except to acknowledge it.
When I was nearly seventeen, the other resemblance to Episcopalian worship began to resolve; the part about no emphasis on following Holy Spirit guidance. Just before Christmas, my brother was in a bad car wreck. I had strongly felt that if I prayed “right” I could influence the administration on his horribly injured body, so that he would live, but that did not happen. Then I prayed through four months of anguish, waiting for an answer to know why that was allowed. My brother had charisma. He was popular, influential, serving. Compared to me, he was the one God needed. How could God allow it? Why hadn’t there been some sort of miracle?
It was in April that I had a dream that seemed to last all night. As a result of that dream, I understood how God could allow my brother’s death. He showed me that my brother was, at that time, as close to God as he was going to get, but I could get closer. In that dream I was instructed to go to Graceland College, and as a result of the car crash, insurance money was set aside to afford it. Now Graceland was already beginning to go off track, but there, from some missionary oriented students, I heard about something I was formerly unfamiliar with as a child in Connecticut. That is, as I said, the concept of walking with the Holy Spirit. That was the main thing I got out of Graceland. I was floored, and so was my father when I shared it with him. We both began to learn that skill, and to this day I’m still at it. It never ends, does it?
The experience in the organ loft and the introduction to the Holy Spirit started me on a path of repentance where I knew by using Holy Spirit guidance I was to put behind me any behavior, attitude, or thinking that was out of sync with the God I met in the organ loft. Through the decades it has been line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. If in that organ loft, I had seen all the changes I would be asked to make in my life, I would have been so overwhelmed. But it’s doable a little at a time, and our Creator’s plan is tailored to each one of us. Following it is purposeful and exciting.
So I attended Graceland for four years, and from there was hired to teach school in Independence and after two years of that, I married, and almost immediately the RLDS church sent us to Saltillo Mexico for a year. Then we spent the next six years near the church in Brownsville Texas.
In those thirteen years I became familiar with the culture and traditions of the church. In that I found myself in great quandary. I so wanted to believe the church I attended was full of God’s truth. But, to make a long story short, I was feeling and witnessing something in the behavior of the institutional church and also in many of the Saints that was not in sync with the God of the organ loft nor the life of repentance I adopted in response to Him. Pretense. Too many offenses were accepted - either overlooked, covered up or openly joked about. Truth was not loyally honored with highest regard. It was not “the truth, the whole truth, so help me God.” It was “lie a little, cheat a little. God might smite us with a few stripes, but we are His people after all.” (III Nephi 12: 10-12) There was ladder climbing. There was “end justifies any means.” There was man trying to use man’s wiles to accomplish man’s goal without using a Godly purpose or process to find God’s goals – all the trappings of war. I was appalled at the callous disregard for the God I had met and adored. To stay true to God I quit attending, and my family worshiped at home.
Fast forward to four years ago. By then I lived in our huge family home with my son, his wife and their children. My granddaughters were ready for baptism and confirmation. My son had been ordained a Priest, but we needed an Elder. We did not live in independence, and were so discouraged by the degradation and fragmentation of the church. Getting an Elder with real authority became the challenge. One day my son found this guy named Joseph F. Smith. Direct lineage. He asked me what I knew about this guy. I knew I had seen him once or twice from a distance at JCRB conferences, and was not visually impressed by what I saw. My son talked with him on the phone. When this “guy” talked it was different from how he looked. And he was talking our language. What I mean is, NO PRETENSE. Joseph F. Smith wasn’t slapping a smile on his face and pretending everything was fine. He wasn’t fibbing to make the situation or himself look good. He talked some about the corruption we had already noticed, and because of his familial heritage, he helped us understand more of what happened through the decades that shaped what’s happening now. He was calling all members to unite – to put aside their petty differences and find common ground in the whole truth God gave from the beginning of time and from the beginning of the Restoration movement. The quandary I felt through those thirteen years was explained and clarified. I was no longer confused. I felt vindicated. I felt relief. What I was hearing was confirmed by my organ loft experience. This man was in sync with the God I knew and adored. And he was and still is doing his best to honor the truth, no matter what.
But now we are in this period of time where at least one person and probably many more are voicing serious questions. “If God is in this, why is it so hard?” It’s the other way around. Being “hard” almost guarantees God is in this. Nothing about following our Lord is easy. After all, He Himself was crucified. Are we crucifying Him again? Men have their agency, and in many ways they have used it to try and get what they want their way. This has caused a mess – sort of a spiritual Indiana Jones-type swamp. If you follow the website news, you know that God has called men to serve Him, and it seems some may want to replace Him instead. So what else is new? Didn’t Joseph Smith Junior experience much or even more of the same? Now Joseph F carries the responsibility of dealing with it, and he is busy with that.
The way I see it, our responsibility as Saints is to support without making assumptions. No rumor-mongering. We must straighten out our own lives, purging ourselves of our pride, and finding the integrity our father in Heaven requires to repent and follow Him in truth. In unceasing prayer, we must uphold the present situation before the Lord and ask for strength for Joseph and all those called to serve in this restructuring. And we must always remember to pray for our own protection, because the adversary will target us all to try to dissuade us. Ever since the beginning of time there has been opposition in everything God does. The minute the adversary sees committed action, he goes to work to destroy it. This just calls for more commitment. We must press on with an eye single to God’s glory to be worthy of God’s blessing in this situation. If we, wherever we are, will all unite in prayer and repent individually toward greater honor of the truth, god will bless us as a body for the cause of Zion, no matter what.
By Sally Marshall