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Eye of the Storm

I discovered the work of Hugh Nibely in my fourteenth year. Specifically, I found Lehi in the Desert and An Approach to the Book of Mormon. In these books, the author examines the evidence in favor of the historicity of the Book of Mormon. Hugh Nibley’s authoritative voice and scholarly methods began to melt the harshness of my skepticism. I began to think that perhaps believing in the Book of Mormon wasn’t so irrational after all.

As I let down my guard, I began to feel a new hope. Perhaps, I thought, this is the beginning of a testimony. Perhaps I am not defective or irredeemably unclean after all. These feelings of happiness might be the Holy Spirit beginning to work in me. Maybe I’ll find out what everyone has been talking about all along, and I’ll be able to rejoin the community of the faithful.

This hope came as a tremendous relief. I resolved to continue my study and become worthy of the witness of the Holy Spirit. I knew that I had to confess my sins in order to repent of them.

My heart pounded as I waited to see the Bishop. Though the thought of laying my sins before this man caused me great anguish. I was admitted into his office and sat down. My mind raced, conjuring scenes of the Bishop denouncing me, casting me out of his office, and excommunicating me. My desperation to gain a witness of the Holy Spirit overcame my reluctance to admit to someone things that I had never told anyone.

Contrary to my worst imaginings, the Bishop seemed quite unsurprised when I spilled the beans. He counseled with me and set up a schedule of regular meetings where he would help guide me through the process of repentance. We would read through The Miracle of Forgiveness together and I would report on my progress.

I left the Bishop’s office that day extremely relieved that I seemed to be on the right track again. I believed that it was only a matter of time, with the Bishop’s help, before I would gain my wish of being able to testify with conviction with the other members of the Church.

As the years went on, I continued to see a succession of Bishops on a regular basis. Somehow I expected them to give me an official pronouncement that I was forgiven, but that never materialized. As I read my scriptures and prayed, I felt at peace that I was doing the right thing. I never felt that I could honestly say that “I know that the gospel is true” (meaning that Mormonism is true) like so many others. I never felt that heart-pounding need to stand up in Fast and Testimony Meeting and tell everyone who would listen that I loved God and knew that Joseph Smith was his Prophet.

Even though it was taking longer to receive a convincing witness of the Spirit than I had originally hoped, the peace that I felt about the teachings was enough for me. I believed that if I continued to prove myself faithful, that my doubts would be taken away over time. I didn’t expect a transcendent, mystical experience of God (though I wouldn’t have complained), but would be satisfied if some day I would no longer be plagued by doubts.

That is how I continued to live as a faithful Mormon despite harboring doubts about God. I advanced in the Priesthood, received my ritual Endowment in the beautiful Las Vegas Temple, served two years as a missionary in the New York Rochester Mission (formerly the Cumorah Mission, affectionately the NYRM to those who served there), married my wonderful wife in the same temple, and began to raise a Mormon family.

I tried to live worthy of the Spirit and tried on many occasions to receive the promised assurances of Moroni 10:3–7 and Alma 32:26–43. I never perceived any answer to my prayers that I could distinguish from my everyday emotions. There was no burning bosom, transcendent light, or feelings of profound peace. There was certainly no still small voice or vision of Jesus on the right hand of God. The feelings that I felt were similar to the pleasure that I felt when contemplating a newly opened rose blossom or viewing a glorious sunset. The best way that I can describe my feelings for the gospel was that I felt attracted to “[t]he sublimity of the ideas[,]… the scope for action[,] the continued duration for completion[,]… [and] the rewards for faithfulness”. (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 1:252–53)

Over time, how I perceived my doubts changed. I saw them as a chronic but benign obstacle in my effort to endure to the end. I believed in Mormonism, but if I wasn’t the most convinced of members, that was just something that I should work on – nothing to distract me from my focus on returning to live with God. The things that I did not doubt kept me going. I did not intend to deceive anyone by living faithful to the teachings of my mother church, nor did I believe that I was doing so. I just wanted to stay on the path to Eternal Life and continued in my hope that my doubts would be slowly removed. By ignoring my doubts, I believed that I was doing the right thing.


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