By Christopher Hills
Where to start? Firstly, it’s an honor and privilege to say that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but up to around 2 and a half months ago, this was not the case.
Until the age of 15, I was raised as a strict Roman Catholic, I grew up in Northern Ireland, the political and religious history of my country is no secret, there has always been disputes over religion and politics.
This only added to the pressures of finding a church you liked, as I said I was brought up in the Catholic faith, I went through all the different ceremonies, and attended Mass regularly, I was always kind of religious.
At the age of 15 I started attended a Methodist youth club, and eventually some of the church events, then started attending some of the services. On the 19th of September 2004, I became a Christian, I was “saved” as the saying goes.
Like I said before my family was Catholic, my mum and dad divorced around 10 years beforehand, I was living with my mum at the time of my conversion. When she found out she was very upset, so much so that she wanted me to leave the home, to move in with my dad, it took about 2 weeks to move me out.
I lived with my dad for about a year, he was not jumping for joy that I was a Methodist, but his new fiancé was also a Methodist, so he couldn’t say much. We would argue about religion, these would frequently turn into fights, it was clear that the situation had to change.
He decided that on my 17th birthday I would have to leave the home. I was worried to say the least. So I moved out, only 16 years old, no job and still at school (St. Malachys college Belfast) so the only option I had was my Methodist Church. I stayed with my Sunday school teacher and her daughter, the youth fellowship leader; I lived there for 4 months.
My faith was tried greatly during these times, I advanced quickly in learning the Bible, and I thought I was fairly spiritual, and so modest.
I had heard of the Mormons before, my opinion was, coffee refusing, white shirt wearing, plural marring, men called Elders who all come from America. Obviously not the most enlightened view!
My first encounter with the “Mormon missionaries” was at a train station in late July 2006, I had a really bad day, just missed my train, my girlfriend just finished shouting down the phone. I turn a round and see the two guys in shirts with a black badges, my thoughts were, “Ahh great that’s all I need, Mormons”.
So I started talking with them, they have a way with getting you into a conversation. Elder Brown, commented on my cross and gave a few compliments, I was listening. Like I said. Modest.
As we boarded the train, they continued to talk about the basic beliefs of the Church, I was sincerely interested in what they had to say, though I was still waiting for something strange to be said. Everything they said to me was interesting.
I requested a Book of Mormon, and they had talked about the plates, and it all made sense in my head though I was still very cautious. I took the book, it was all I could think about for about 2 days,
I went to my Christian friends, asked them some questions, tried to justify the bringing forth of another testament comparable to the Bible. I had got the answers I wanted, I phoned the mission office there and then, to my luck, there was no answer so I left a message.
Defeated I left my friends and went for a walk; I decided to consult my youth leaders, bad idea. They were furious that I had been reading it, they went through different doctrine and picked bits and used them against the Church.
They then took the book from me as well as the pamphlet, “Testimony of Joseph Smith,” and burned it. Did you know that you can still read the words of the Book of Mormon even when the pages are burned? Well neither did my youth leader.
I thought that was the end of it. No more Mormons, everything was back to normal.
The next day I got a call.
A male American voice one the other end.. “Hey this is um, Elder Penrod, from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints,” then the invite to teaching followed and I agreed.
I was in my mums house at this time, (trying to rebuild the relationship). If my mum thought the Methodists were bad, then I didn’t want to tell her that I’m having the Mormons around.
They gave me the first lesson, they asked what I knew about God, I told them, mentioning that God knew us before we were born, while quoting Jeremiah, I saw the biggest grin on both the Elders faces. I didn’t catch on till later. They gave me a Book of Mormon and committed me to read it.
As I went through the lessons, they committed me to be baptized… I had visited the church a few times by now and I agreed on a date, the 12th of August 2006.
Though at this point I still needed to gain a testimony of the Book of Mormon. I tried praying, but in the back of my mind, I loved my old church, I knew that if God revealed to me that the Book was true then I would have to leave the Methodist church, this was incredibly painful thought, everyone I knew and loved was in that church,
I phoned one of the members of the ward I had been attending. She talked with me for around 1 and ½ hours, I owe a lot to that person, the fellowship and comfort she gave at this time was a key factor in me finding my testimony.
I tried praying afterwards. But the burden of confronting my old church elders was too great for me to think clearly. I asked simply that God would give me a scripture from the Bible that would tell me what I needed to know.
I closed my eyes and opened my Bible and pointed to a verse, usually this NEVER works, but this time..My finger was placed at Matthew 7: 15 “beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” I’m thinking, no way! The things a lie!! Can’t be, I retire to bed, annoyed, unsatisfied, confused.
The next day the two Elders came around again. I told them about the scripture, their jaws just drop, Elder Lawrence speaks, “its strange you read that scripture, we use it a lot!” By this stage I don’t know where I am, the Elder explained about how to know if a tree is good by the fruit it bears.
I could see where he was coming from, that night I turned on an Especially For Youth religious CD, a song played, “forward with faith” as I was praying I thought of the words, it was at this moment I gained my testimony of the Book of Mormon..
Here are the words to the song, “Fear is like the clouds that veil the earth from the sun. Faith is like the morning rays that break when night is done. And though the fear inside me says that all my hope is gone
Faith in heaven lifts me up and shouts… “I’ve just begun.”
At this moment I wanted to ring the member from the night before, but I quickly realized that it was close to two o’clock in the morning. So whilst in sacrament meeting the next day, I sort of just said, “Oh aye, got me testimony on Thursday night there!” I can remember her expression, not impressed I’d waited to tell her, was funny though.
I continued with the preparation for baptism, but I still had to tell my friends, and old church elders, the night before my baptism.
We were at a church meeting for a youth project to take place the following week. I told them at the end of the meeting.. My closest friend? She turned her back and stormed off, that one hurt, another had the expression of anger, and as she turned she slapped me, that one hurt too.. The others just stared, and then followed a multitude of questions. They no longer really talk to me.
Though the pastor tries to covert me every now and again.
I was baptized the next week and confirmed into the church the following Sunday.
Over the following weeks there were a lot of trails, my friends left me, my family was not impressed, and my old church elders put a lot of pressure on me.
I am happy to say that the Lord did strengthen me; through members e.g. our Bishop and members of the Priesthood of my ward but especially Rachel Lowry who made that important phone call that night.
Also through the ministering of the two missionaries Elder Penrod, and the continuing work of Elder Lawerence, with his new companion Elder White.
Although these people helped me greatly it was by revelation given to me by the Holy Spirit that I know these things to be true.
I know The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is the true church of Jesus Christ on the earth today, I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that the prophet Joseph Smith was true prophet of the Living God, and that the Book of Mormon, is the Holy word of the Father. . I bear humble testimony of the truth of the Gospel and to the promises and prophesies contained within it. I’m grateful for the honor to be apart of Christ’s Church, to serve as His priest in these latter days, it is only by the power of the Holy Ghost that I have this testimony, so I would end with that testimony, and I bear it sincerely in the Sacred name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.