Sunday, April 5, 2009

My Testimony or Why Would I Send My Sons on a Mission for Two Years?

When I was younger, I used to see young men riding around town on their bicycles and wonder why. I tried to avoid them if ever our paths should cross. I wasn't sure what they were selling, but I was sure I did not want any. I thought they were called Mormons. I did not know anything really about Mormons except that I thought they had a lot of wives. I was raised in the Episcopal church and had been a member there all my life. I was happy there and worked in the nursery taking care of babies. So fun!

Several years later while working at Rainbo Baking Company, I met a cute bread salesman who I later found out was a Mormon. He was cute enough that I did not hold being a Mormon against him. :) We talked and were friendly at work for about two years. We were each dating other people. One day we realized that we were not dating anyone. I asked him to call me. We talked for about four hours about everything including "Mormons". I decided after our conversation that I would definitely not be joining his church. The things that he told me were so foreign from what I had been taught as a child. But we continued to see each other at work. He was cute so I decided to go out with him. I had always thought that he was really nice and different from other guys I had known. He didn't drink alcohol or smoke or curse which was pretty standard for most guys that I met.

We continued to date until one day we realized that we definitely had something special and decided to get married. I did not concern myself with religion at that time. I figured we would work it out as the need arose. For months we had been going to each others churches. He would go early with me to St. Paul's. We would then go to breakfast with my mom and dad and then I'd go with him to his lds church. People were really nice there. They did not seem at all like what I had heard that "mormons" were like.

As my wedding day got closer, my mom and my priest tried to "talk some sense into me". What about two religions and children? How would we work that out? What about the teachings of the Episcopal church? What about the Trinity? Mormons or Latter-day Saints as they are known do not believe in the Trinity. They teach that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings. One in purpose, but three individual beings. The Trinity was one thing that had always confused me. How could they be one person? I asked my priest who tried to explain, but I just did not get it.

In Matthew 3:16 it says, "And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

How could Jesus Christ be his Father and the Holy Ghost? It says that the Holy Ghost desended like a dove and people heard a voice from Heaven say 'This is my beloved Son,in whom I am well pleased? Was Jesus pleased with himself? How did he come down from Heaven when he was still in the water after his baptism? These may be simple questions for which some may try to find complex answers, but I believe that the answer is simple. Three separate beings, not one. We pray to our Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. He is our mediator. He is our Savior and Redeemer. let me back up...I'm getting ahead of myself...

Back to the wedding. Despite the efforts of my mom and priest, I had decided that marrying this mormon boy was the right thing to do. Maybe I was naive. Perhaps brainwashed. Nevertheless, the wedding occurred. We were very happy. We continued on with our lives going to each others churches just as before.

In the lds church, each Sunday a calendar was sent around to feed the missionaries. I didn't know much about this except that I did like to cook. I decided to sign up to fix a meal occationally for them. It was always fun having the missionaries over. After dinner we would sit around and talk. The topic was usually religion. How did I feel about this or that. It was fun asking questions about religion and actually getting answers that were found in the Bible and made sense. This is when I learned about the Trinity. I also learned about missing books of the Bible. I learned how the Bible had gone through many different translations and revisions. Over time, things had been translated incorrectly, rewritten or just plain left out.

This was all very new to me. I had never questioned religion before. As I said, I grew up in the Episcopal church. I never questioned using a Prayer Book instead of the Bible. Or standing, sitting and kneeling on cue. It was just something that you did. I never questioned baptizing babies although once I actually took the time to ponder on this, I wondered how it could be that these sweet innocent babies that I loved taking care of in the nursery needed to be baptized in order to return to live with Heavenly Father. How could they have sinned? Were we all really born sinners? Were we behind before we even started living?

The missionaries taught me that we are not born sinners. We are responsible for our own sins. That made sense to me. Why should I be punished for sins I did not committ? Didn't I have enough to worry about keeping up and atoning for my own sins? I didn't need more! They also taught me that they believed that babies did not need baptism in order to be "saved".

The missionaries showed me in the Book of Mormon a scripture that addresses baptizing infants.

Moroni 8: 9-10
9 And after this manner did the Holy Ghost manifest the word of God unto me; wherefore, my beloved son, I know that it is solemn mockery before God, that ye should baptize little children. 10 Behold I say unto you that this thing shall ye teach—repentance and baptism unto those who are accountable and capable of committing sin; yea, teach parents that they must repent and be baptized, and humble themselves as their little children, and they shall all be saved with their little children.

The missionaries explained to me about the Book of Mormon, what it was and where it came from. The Book of Mormon was not written by Joseph Smith. He translated it, but it was not written by him. The Book of Mormon was written long ago by prophets. It is a record kept of and by people who lived on the American continent during the same period of time that Biblical prophets lived.

The missionaries taught me that because of errors in translation and sometimes purposeful deletions, the Bible was not the same as it had been when Jesus Christ was on the earth. Over time things had been changed and left out. Important things that our Heavenly Father wanted us to know. The Gospel as Jesus Christ taught it was not on the earth anymore. Somehow it had to be restored or we would continue on being taught half truths and false information. It was necessary to restore the full gospel to the earth. This is where Joseph Smith comes into play.

When Joseph Smith was a young boy, religion was a hot topic where he lived. On every street corner was a different church with ministers and preachers saying different things, preaching different ways to "be saved". Joseph was confused and did not know who or what to believe. He and his family did read the Bible though. One night as he was reading,he came upon James 1:5 which said that if anyone lacked wisdom, let him ask of God. Joseph decided that he did lack wisdom and decided to ask God the question that had been on his mind. Which of these churches was the right one to join?

He went out through the field and into a quiet and secluded grove of trees so that he could be alone and not be disturbed while he prayed and asked this important quesiton. He knelt down and prayed. I'm sure he had prayed before, but possibly never with such hope for an answer as he did this time.

In the history that Joseph Smith published, are in his own words the details of that prayer.

Joseph Smith History: verse 15 After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
16 But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.
17 It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
18 My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

The missionaries pointed out again that because of the changes in the Bible over the years, that preachers were doing the best they could, but they did not have the full gospel to teach. Nor was there a prophet on the earth as when Christ and his disciples were on the earth. After Jesus Christ was crucified, one by one his apostles met untimely deaths until there was no one left on the earth with the knowledge or authority to teach the gospel or perform the ordinances that were performed when Christ was here.

This was all a lot for me to comprehend. It took weeks and months for me to wrap my mind around things that were so new and foreign to me. But there was something about what they were teaching me that rang true to my heart. Although I did not understand everything, I believed enough to at least pray about what I was learning in order to know for myself just like Joseph Smith did after he read James 1:5. I prayed, but nothing really happened. I did not get a warm feeling or a visit from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. I was confused, but continued to read the Book of Mormon and feed the missionaries and have religious discussions.

One night...I had gone through several sets of missionaries by now...a set of sister missionaries was visiting with me. One of the sisters told me a story. I can't even remember the whole story, but I remember how I felt hearing it. As she was talking, I felt a warmth spread over me from head to toe. It was the spirit of the Holy Ghost bearing witness to me that what I was hearing was true. It was something that I had NEVER experienced before. I began to cry. I had gotten my answer. I had not been brain-washed or tricked. What I had been taught and struggled to comprehend was true. I had gotten an answer to a prayer. Just like Joseph Smith, I knew it and I knew that my Heavenly Father knew I knew it and I could not deny it.

Thus beginneth (not endth) 22 years ago,my journey into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I will be forever grateful to missionaries who took the time to go on a mission far away from their home and family, to give two years of their lives to teach me plain and precious gospel truths that were left out of the Bible and needed to be restored. I will be eternally grateful to missionaries who had answers to the fundamental questions that most people ask.

I am grateful to have sons to send on their own missions to serve and bless the lives of others. I know that it will be hard. People will shun them and avoid them as I did many years ago. But the few people who will listen or come seeking them (sometimes without even knowing why)with open hearts and minds, will be blessed beyond measure for the knowledge they will gain from these young men who are in the service of their Heavenly Father. They will find answers to the questions,"Who Am I?" Where Did I Come From?" and "Where Will I Go When I Die?"

This is why I want to send my sons on a mission for two years.

Hopefully, if you have read this far, the next time you see a couple of nicely-dressed young men on their bikes or hear a knock at your door, you might see them differently. Maybe you could spare a few minutes just to let them share what Mormons REALLY believe and not just what you may have heard (like I did). Offer them a glass of water or some hot chocolate. They get enough doors slammed in their faces and dogs chasing them. They are young men far from home just wanting to be of service to their fellow men.

Matthew 25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Saying Goodbye Again...

Dear Elder Pierce, you are hereby called to serve in the Nevada Las Vegas West mission for the period of the next two years...

Here are some pictures of Elder Pierce's missionary farewell.

At the airport. Elder Pierce is getting ready to fly to Salt Lake City to enter the Missionary Traning Center (MTC) for about three weeks before traveling on to serve his mission in the Nevada Las Vegas West mission.

Elder Pierce says goodbye to his brother Logan who recently moved to Virginia. They will not see each other for two years. Elder Lane Pierce left on his mission October 1, 2008 and will be gone from home for two years. God Be With You Til We Meet Again.

Park Pictures

I love taking the kids to the park to play. It's a great time to take pictures. The next few pictures were taken at the Midwest City Regional playground. Other pictures were taken at Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City.

Going to the Fair

Having just said goodbye (again) to Logan and knowing that Lane would be leaving for his mission soon, we decided to take the family to the fair for a fun day of making memories.

Lane has always proved to be a daredevil when it comes to fast rides, but I did not know that Laura age 9 was a daredevil, too. She and Lane had fun riding the fastest rides. I had fun watching and taking pictures. That's daring enough for me.

All of the children rode the ferris wheel. There they are right at the top. They also had to try out their favorite cars. Here's Laura. She still has a few years left before we have to deal with Driver's Ed.

Here is Lane in his orange car. He loves the color orange.

Leiden is trying to decide whether to make the big financial plunge or not. His favorite color is yellow. Luke loves a sun roof...and while we are dreaming...

The fair at night...Lane and Laura wanted to ride a few more fast rides before we headed for home.

After a long, fun day of memories made, food sampled and prizes won, it was time to go. With one son gone and another son leaving soon, the days when all my chickens will be together will be fewer and fewer. Don't know how I'm going to like this empty nest.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Saying Goodbye

Four months ago, we welcomed home our oldest son from his mission to Washington DC. Now it's time to say good bye again as he heads back to live in the area where he served. I did not think it would be so hard to say good bye again, but it is. I am excited, though, to hear about his adventures. He will be getting a job and going to school. Maybe he'll work for the CIA or get a job on Capitol Hill. He loves art and politics. Maybe he'll become a political cartoonist.

He'll be going to the Singles Ward up there. Maybe he'll meet his future wife.

So many possibilities. How can I not be happy for him? I am, but a part of a mom's heart has to heal all over again.

There's a Girl Under There Somewhere

Laura's friend, Josh, got her a big stuffed dog for her birthday. How cute is this? If you look closely, you can see a head and some toes peeking out from underneath the dog.

Container Gardening Revisited

It's been about two months since I planted my Earth Box Cherry Tomatoes. They are way taller now and need tomato cages to support their growth. My daughter just harvested the first tomato a couple of days ago. It really has been a breeze using the Earth Boxes. Next year I want to get started earlier and be able to harvest more. This year all I planted was tomatoes, beans and a watermelon plant. While the beans are doing great and the watermelon plant looks green and healthy, I don't know if I'll get any harvest from them. I planted pretty late in the season. The picture below was taken two months ago. Look how they've grown.