So I've talked about why I'm serving a mission. Now I want to share what it is I'm going to be teaching. I don't think very many of you reading this have to worry about me knocking on your door to share this message, but... since I might not be able to do that just now, this post is what I would tell you if I was ringing your doorbell right now. This is what I believe, and what I want everybody to know. I've done the best I can to explain these beliefs in my own words, but I have leaned on some of the particularly effective wording of the actual lesson manual for missionaries in a few instances. That said, my explanations are far from perfect, so if you have questions, or something doesn't make sense, get in touch or visit www.lds.org. If you want answers and you look in the right places, you will find them.
My testimony begins simply. I know that I have a Heavenly Father, and I know that He loves me. He is the perfect father. I like to imagine my barely seven year old sister asking our dad if he loves her. The answer she gets from my dad, and the answer I receive from my Heavenly Father when I pray to ask if He is there and if He loves me is the same. I feel his answer almost like He's right there giving me a hug and with tears in His eyes telling me, "Oliver, of course I love you." I know that you can feel this same love for yourself.
Because our Heavenly Father loves us, He wants us to be happy! God doesn't want us to be lonely, miserable, or despairing. While we'll definitely feel these and more throughout life, God has given us so much in order to be happy! We were created to have joy. (2 Nephi 2:25) Families are such a key part of His gospel and plan of happiness. God organized families to bring us happiness, and provide a place where we can learn the gospel, and prepare for eternal life. I love my family, and know that the principles we've been taught together have made our home a happier, more unified place.
These principles have been taught to people for thousands of years, through prophets. If you're familiar with the Bible, you know of the writings of prophets like Noah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and so on. Prophets in every age--including our own--received the Priesthood and through revelation testify of and teach about our Heavenly Father's plan for us to be successful in this life and to return to live with Him. This whole plan is centered around the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who suffered and died so that we can be freed from the burden of our sins and continually strive to improve. When we live as Christ did, and are baptized by immersion for the remission of sins, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end as He did, we are following our Heavenly Father's plan. When people do this, they're blessed, and when they don't, they don't receive the blessings otherwise promised to them. When enough people choose to reject this message and live in spiritual darkness, this results in something called an apostasy. When this happens, God takes away his priesthood authority until it can be restored, sometimes through another prophet. This happened with Noah, Abraham, and Moses, who each were called by God to start a new "dispensation" of the gospel. (Basically another time when the Priesthood and Gospel is available on the earth.)
A few hundred years before Christ was born, the world was in another apostasy. When the Savior began His mortal ministry, He established His Church again on the earth, starting a new dispensation. Before his atoning sacrifice, death, and Resurrection, Jesus gave His Apostles the priesthood authority required to teach His gospel, baptize people, and establish His church. Unfortunately, the apostles were persecuted and killed. With the death of the Apostles, the priesthood was once again taken from the earth. Without this priesthood authority, people were left to rely on human wisdom to interpret scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ. False ideas were added, and a lot of truth was lost, like a game of telephone through the generations.
But then it's really cool cause during the Enlightenment following the Middle Ages, people like Martin Luther and others realized that what was on the earth then was not what was established by Christ. They realized that there were things missing, and things added. This realization, and their consequent organization of many Protestant churches, resulted in an emphasis on religious freedom, which helped pave the way for the final Restoration and dispensation.
So, knowing that our Heavenly Father has historically revealed his Gospel and his Priesthood through prophets to His children, His next "move" really isn't a surprise.
The early 1800s was a weird time for the United States. It was one of the only countries to really have religious freedom at the time, and so there was a lot of religious excitement, and even competition, especially in the eastern states. As a part of a religious family, the amount of different religions, (and the extent to which they all disagreed with each other over the same passages of scripture) was overwhelming to a young man named Joseph Smith. As he did his own research, trying to find out which church to join, Joseph read James 1:5, "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." Joseph Smith took that literally, figuring that he lacked wisdom, and trusting that he would receive an answer.
As he prayed, asking God what he should do, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith. In this vision, they told him not to join any of the churches. Even though many good people believed in Christ and tried to understand and teach His gospel, they didn't have the full truth, or the priesthood authority to baptize. They'd inherited the state of apostasy from the last generations. As God had done with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and so on, He called Joseph Smith to be a prophet and to restore the fullness of the gospel through this dispensation.
The Bible tells of these prophets, and many others. But they're all located in a relatively small geographic location in the scope of the whole planet earth. To me, it just seems right that a Heavenly Father who loves all of His children and wants them all to return to live with Him would provide opportunities for his Gospel to be shared to all His children. That's where the Book of Mormon comes into play. The Book of Mormon is a record very much like the Bible. It testifies of Jesus Christ as our Savior, and relates stories of civilizations being taught this Gospel by prophets in the ancient Americas. It also teaches of the resurrected Christ's appearance and ministering to these people. The records that are now the Book of Mormon were translated by Joseph Smith through the power of God and testify of our Heavenly Father's plan of happiness, the atonement of Christ, and God's love for all of His children.
Today, this same gospel--the Gospel established by Jesus Christ during his life, with apostles, prophets, baptism by immersion, and the power of His atoning sacrifice still exists! Today, we have a living prophet, who is the president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He is the authorized successor of Joseph Smith, and can trace his Priesthood Authority back to Joseph Smith, and therefore to Jesus Christ himself. He and the present Apostles receive revelation from our Heavenly Father, and guide his kingdom here on earth.
They aren't the only ones capable of receiving revelation, however. While they are authorized to receive revelation regarding the church and world as a whole, any person, as a child of God, can pray and seek revelation for themselves.
This is a lot to take in and think about! And there's really only one thing holding it all up: The Book of Mormon. And there are two possibilities with The Book of Mormon.
One: The Book of Mormon is True. Accordingly, it was translated through the power of our loving Heavenly Father by a prophet of God in this day and age, and teaches truth about God's plan and Christ's atonement. It encourages men to do good and be more Christlike. The truthfulness of the Book of Mormon validates Joseph Smith as a prophet, validates the revelation he received, and validates the revelation that continues to be received in the present-day through prophets and apostles who can trace their authority to Jesus Christ in an unbroken chain of ordinations through Joseph Smith.
Or, Two: The Book of Mormon is utterly false, potentially inspired by the devil, and exists to lead people away from God. Accordingly, it was written by a charlatan who never saw God or had His authority. If none of the events recorded in the Book of Mormon transpired, God's word wasn't ever available to continents of His children, and so maybe He's not that loving after all.
This is really the ultimatum. It cannot be decided without reading the Book of Mormon, and it cannot be decided without praying to our Heavenly Father to know for ourselves if what we've read is true, either.
I've read the Book of Mormon, and testify that it is the word of God. It invites God's children to follow Him, to utilize the atonement of Jesus Christ, and to do good. The devil would not have a part in advocating what this book testifies of. I know that God is our Heavenly Father and that He loves us. I know that Jesus Christ suffered, bled, and died, so that my mistakes and sins can be overcome, and so I can improve myself, grow, and become more Christlike. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that we have a living prophet who leads the church of Jesus Christ on the earth today. I know these things are true, and I know that you can know these things for yourself, too! You can get a copy of the Book of Mormon, or read it online! However you can read it, do it. It will change your life, improve your days, and help you feel of God's love for you. If you really want to know whether or not this is true, God will do whatever it takes for you to recognize your answer. And it probably won't take as much as you think it will. I bear my testimony of these things in faith, knowing that I don't know everything, that I'm far from perfect, and that I have a long way to go. But I know what I've felt and I know it has brought me joy, so I want to share that. I do so in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.
Serving A Mission!
What's all this about? As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it is expected of me that I will serve a two-year mission. (And yeah, the "riding bikes and wearing nametags and knocking on doors" kind of mission.) But this isn't something I'm doing because it's expected of me... I'm doing this because the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ has blessed my life SO much, in SO many ways. I can't think of a greater honor or responsibility than being able to play a part in someone's story of finding and enjoying these blessings, too.
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(After June 20, 2017)
Elder Oliver Wrigley Dahl
Arkansas Little Rock Mission
905 Kierre Dr
North Little Rock AR 72116