Posted by: nmontague | September 2, 2010

Why I believe in God

I’ve been talking about God a lot lately. It really wasn’t my intent when I started the blog. But I find myself feeling more and more inclined to talk about it. And why shouldn’t I? I am trying to encourage people to be virtueous. I want people to be empowered through good decisions. And while it’s true we can that to some degree on our own, I am highly convinced from experience and from what I’ve seen that looking to God will help us become far greater than we can be on our own. And I am also convinced that people don’t look to God as they should and take advantage of the gifts He has to offer.

So I want to share why I believe in God. How I came to know God was real. And how others might also learn. I hope you will read this with an open mind and an open heart and consider the experience I’m about to share. I’m not sharing this because I am in some way special or better than anyone. I am sharing this to encourage other people to seek God and learn for themselves whether there is a God in Heaven and whether He cares about you.

I was raised as a Latter-day Saint. I went to Church from a real young age. But honestly, I was going through the motions alot. I didn’t really get it. I had doubts whether there was a God. And if there was, what was He like? Did He actually reveal Himself to people? I had a very superficial view of the scriptures. I didn’t read them indepth. I remembered stories, but they were just stories to me.

Then I went to college. I ended up going to Brigham Young University. I hadn’t really applied many other places. Just Drexel Univesity. I got in both and BYU was cheaper. And I thought it be interesting to see Utah. I wanted to get out of Pennsylvania and do something different.

Freshman orientation was fun. It was then that I really started to wonder. President Bateman, President of the University at the time, gave an impressive talk. I don’t even remember details of it. But I just remember feeling very impressed by it. And then there were my required Religion classes. First semester of the Book of Mormon. I remember just feeling like the stories were much more alive.

I went to Church. I was starting to understand the teachings much better. I remember that October I watched General Conference and actually paid attention for the first time. I just wanted to hear more. It was like I was thirsting after it and I didn’t know why.  If you don’t know what General Conference is, it’s a series of meetings where the General Church leaders speak to the Church and give instructions in the doctrines of the Lord. It happens twice a year during the first weekend of April and October. (BTW one more month! Whoo!)

Anyway, it seriously piqued my interests. I realized that I really needed to find out whether there was a God. I started searching online.

Needless to say you never know what you’re going to get online. I was starving at that point for information so I went to everything I could find. For God. Against God. For the Church. Against the Church. I looked into information about other churches and what thety believed. I engaged in discussions with others in chatrooms. Being a typical teenager, I thought I knew alot. I didn’t. I quickly learned how little I actually knew.

I spent a lot of time search Pro Mormon and Anti Mormon materials. I figured if what I’ve been studying in my classes and had been taught all my life, it could stand the test of scrutiny.  I figured I’d be able to determine the Truth from the arguments. (After all, I knew everything).

Oddly enough, the anti-mormon information started turning me onto the Church even more.  There was a lot of stuff that was clearly ridiculous, I knew that just from going to church all those years and what I actually read. The more I looked into it, the more I found things that were outright made up. Other times I found quotes that sounded like that’s what the people were saying, but when I saw the actual context, it was totally ripped apart and made to say something completely different. It’s about then I learned that context really does matter. And I had to ask myself, if they are right, why do they have to blatantly lie and misrepresent? Shouldn’t just saying the truth be enough? Why make things up?

I saw LDS responses to the points. There were answers for everything. Several possible answers for some questions. None of these answers were ever addressed. It’s as if these answers were never given. But throughout it all, the people making the points were always saying, “Here’s a possible explanation. But if you want to know for yourself, you are actually going to go to God.”

At this point, I was leaning intellectually to the idea that there is a God. That the Book of Mormon and the Bible were true. That Jesus really was the Son of God who atoned for us. But I still had alot of questions and doubts. I was beginning to realize how little I actually knew. And so I thought it was time to actually go to God and seek answers.

I had prayed before. I didn’t get any answers, or didn’t think I did. I wasn’t really sincere in my prayers.  But I started praying sincerely. I wanted to find the Truth. I wanted to know whether there was a God so that I could serve Him. I told Him that freely. I prayed many days. I did this on the presumption that if there was a God, and if He loved me and communicated with people, He would find a way to let me know this. I didn’t know what to expect, or whether to expect anything.

I remember several times pleading to find the Truth. I told the Lord I would follow it no matter whether it means not being LDS or searching for years on end. I said I would seek Him out, and I really meant it. I just didn’t want to feel confused on the matter any more.

A funny thing happened. The Lord answered my prayer. And definitely not in a way I expected. I came home from Church one Sunday. Didn’t really have anything to do until dinner. And my scriptures were lying on my bed. I decided to read through them. I started at the end of the Doctrine and Covenants, in Sections 137&138. Then I read the Pearl of Great Price, because it’s relatively short. And then I started at the beginning of the D&C. I really have no idea why I started this way. I knew I wanted to read the D&C because it was the Book I knew the least about. There was something in reading it, it just set my heart on fire. I wanted to read more.

Before then, Id never really been able to get through the scriptures. But I spent the next week eagerly reading it. Id do as much as I could at a time. And I’d feel like the words were on fire. Everything was making sense. I had no clue what was coming over me. I didn’t figure it out until the end of the week.

By next Sunday, I was in Section 135. The Section is on the Martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage Jail. I’m going to quote the section directly:

 1 To seal the testimony of this book and the Book of Mormon, we announce the martyrdom of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and Hyrum Smith the Patriarch. They were shot in Carthage jail, on the 27th of June, 1844, about five o’clock p.m., by an armed mob—painted black—of from 150 to 200 persons. Hyrum was shot first and fell calmly, exclaiming: I am a dead man! Joseph leaped from the window, and was shot dead in the attempt, exclaiming: O Lord my God! They were both shot after they were dead, in a brutal manner, and both received four balls.

 
 2 John Taylor and Willard Richards, two of the Twelve, were the only persons in the room at the time; the former was wounded in a savage manner with four balls, but has since recovered; the latter, through the providence of God, escaped, without even a hole in his robe.
  
3 Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it. In the short space of twenty years, he has brought forth the Book of Mormon, which he translated by the gift and power of God, and has been the means of publishing it on two continents; has sent the fulness of the everlasting gospel, which it contained, to the four quarters of the earth; has brought forth the revelations and commandments which compose this book of Doctrine and Covenants, and many other wise documents and instructions for the benefit of the children of men; gathered many thousands of the Latter-day Saints, founded a great city, and left a fame and name that cannot be slain. He lived great, and he died great in the eyes of God and his people; and like most of the Lord’s anointed in ancient times, has sealed his mission and his works with his own blood; and so has his brother Hyrum. In life they were not divided, and in death they were not separated!
  
4 When Joseph went to Carthage to deliver himself up to the pretended requirements of the law, two or three days previous to his assassination, he said: “I am going like a lamb to the slaughter; but I am calm as a summer’s morning; I have a conscience void of offense towards God, and towards all men. I SHALL DIE INNOCENT, AND IT SHALL YET BE SAID OF ME—HE WAS MURDERED IN COLD BLOOD.”—The same morning, after Hyrum had made ready to go—shall it be said to the slaughter? yes, for so it was—he read the following paragraph, near the close of the twelfth chapter of Ether, in the Book of Mormon, and turned down the leaf upon it:
  
5 And it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord that he would give unto the Gentiles grace, that they might have charity. And it came to pass that the Lord said unto me: If they have not charity it mattereth not unto thee, thou hast been faithful; wherefore thy garments shall be made clean. And because thou hast seen thy weakness, thou shalt be made strong, even unto the sitting down in the place which I have prepared in the mansions of my Father. And now I . . . bid farewell unto the Gentiles; yea, and also unto my brethren whom I love, until we shall meet before the judgment-seat of Christ, where all men shall know that my garments are not spotted with your blood. The testators are now dead, and their testament is in force.
  
6 Hyrum Smith was forty-four years old in February, 1844, and Joseph Smith was thirty-eight in December, 1843; and henceforward their names will be classed among the martyrs of religion; and the reader in every nation will be reminded that the Book of Mormon, and this book of Doctrine and Covenants of the church, cost the best blood of the nineteenth century to bring them forth for the salvation of a ruined world; and that if the fire can scathe a green tree for the glory of God, how easy it will burn up the dry trees to purify the vineyard of corruption. They lived for glory; they died for glory; and glory is their eternal reward. From age to age shall their names go down to posterity as gems for the sanctified.
  
7 They were innocent of any crime, as they had often been proved before, and were only confined in jail by the conspiracy of traitors and wicked men; and their innocent blood on the floor of Carthage jail is a broad seal affixed to “Mormonism” that cannot be rejected by any court on earth, and their innocent blood on the escutcheon of the State of Illinois, with the broken faith of the State as pledged by the governor, is a witness to the truth of the everlasting gospel that all the world cannot impeach; and their innocent blood on the banner of liberty, and on the magna charta of the United States, is an ambassador for the religion of Jesus Christ, that will touch the hearts of honest men among all nations; and their innocent blood, with the innocent blood of all the martyrs under the altar that John saw, will cry unto the Lord of Hosts till he avenges that blood on the earth. Amen. (D&C 135:1-7)

As I read that passage, what I experienced, I can only poorly describe. I don’t have the words for it. I was sitting in the bed and what I felt made me fall to my knees on the floor. I felt like I was on fire inside, but it wasn’t bad. It was the most indescribable joy I had ever felt. I felt glory and love that beyond description. And I heard a still small voice tell me “Now you know it’s true. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Joseph Smith was a Prophet. This is the Spirit. You have your answer, now will you live it?”

It was as if I was hit over the head by a Spiritual 4 by 4. The second it happened, I knew God was real. I could feel His love. It was like warm arms wrapped around me. I felt His glory and power. It was very humbling. It was an experience that I will never forget. I realized it was the Spirit that was telling me these things. I realized it was the Spirit that was drawing me to read. To study. It was enticing me to search

Since then, I’ve read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price many times. I’ve tried to learn about other faiths because I believe God does inspire all people in the faiths of their choice and will give them as much truth as they are ready for. And I’ve learned a lot from them.

I’ve learned some things about the Spirit. The Spirit is Truth. No matter the source of the Truth, the Spirit will teach you. Whether it’s spiritual truth or natural truth about the world around us.

I haven’t always been the best. But I hope that I will always be trying to serve God.

Now, I hope you are still with me. Because I did say that I would show you how to find out for yourself. There is only one way to find out whether God is there or not. That’s to go to Him in Faith. That’s how Peter learned. He didn’t learn by seeing all the miracles Jesus performed. He learned that God was there and that Jesus was the Christ, Son of the Living God from the Father. Revelation is key.

God is God of the living. He hasn’t ceased to speak to His Children. He hasn’t changed His ways of communicating. We still learn through prayer and faith. The key is sincere search. A willingness to act on what you learn. An exercise of faith. Even if it’s only to say “I don’t know if you’re there God, but If you are, I believe you have the ability to communicate with me.” Faith starts small sometimes. but it can grow to do amazing things.

That is why I believe in God. My experience. If i didn’t experience that, would I believe now? I don’t know. I doubt I ever will know. But I know that point changed my life forever. I invite you to seek God. Seek Him through Prayer. Seek him through being honest with Him, with yourself, and with others. Seek Him through Humility. Because I’m convinced we need God now more than ever. And I promise you that if you do this, you will learn for yourself. Maybe not immediately, but you will learn.

Keep seeking the truth. Keep loving your neighbor. And you’ll find it.

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