As Member-Leadership Support Senior Missionaries, my husband and I move about a large area of Northern Manitoba locating and visiting members of our church. Recently I have been reflecting on our practice of enquiring about how they came to know for themselves the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His church are true. Usually at some point in the ongoing relationships, visits, and conversations we also have opportunity to share our own stories. I realized that my own journey to a testimony of these truths was a story worth telling.
When I was 13 years old, around 1970-71, our family moved to Taiwan where my father was doing original research on Mongolian refugees as well as teaching at a university. While living there, we frequently toured Buddhist temples. When travelling by train and bus we children would often be asked if we were “Christians.” That was not a common question for a Utah girl, so it puzzled me. I was unsure how to answer, as I knew we were usually called “Mormon” or “LDS.” I began to ponder on it. After my father completed his work, he determined to take us on the trek of a lifetime. So with backpack and travel book, we spent the next two months trekking through Hong Kong, Thailand, Burma (now Myanmar), Afghanistan, Nepal, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Turkey.
Much of our travel time focused on visiting a variety of religious temples/mosques – Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Catholic, Protestant, etc. I noted the practices of the various religions. I noted the impact on daily life, clothing, relationships, buildings and culture. I developed respect for the people and their devotion to their faith of tradition, or choice. I reflected on comparisons with my own family faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ; our practices, scriptures, temples, chapels, and sacred clothing. I wondered about my own devotion or belief in The Church of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. I determined to find out for myself.
Upon our return to Utah, I began attending daily seminary classes, and study of the Book of Mormon. My prayers became more specific and regular. I experienced distinct personal revelations and impressions regarding my reading, the truths of the scriptures, and the reality of a Heavenly Father who heard and answered my prayers. Experiences of early childhood were brought to memory: answered prayers when my shoes were lost; my father giving me a Priesthood Blessing when I was injured in a car accident; and the peace that came from fasting and prayer regarding personal dilemmas. I knew my testimony was growing. I came to know the Book of Mormon and the New Testament were true. I came to know that Jesus was my personal Saviour. I knew prayer, scripture study, obedience to the commandments and a life of devotion were now my beliefs too. It became personal, no longer only family traditions taught by my parents. I now knew that indeed, I am Christian. He is my Saviour. This testimony guided my development during the teen years.
In 1977 while attending Brigham Young University-Idaho, I was the Spiritual Living Teacher in our student branch of the church. One particular month the topic was Joseph Smith as a Prophet and Seer. I realized I had never developed my own testimony of Joseph Smith, his prophetic calling and his role in the restoration of the Gospel and Christ’s church on the earth. I determined to take the time to study about Joseph and his writings. As the month progressed and The Spirit taught me what I was studying was true, I came to know for myself. It was a precious moment when I stood to teach the class and share my own testimony of Joseph Smith as a Prophet. I came to know for myself.
Now, nearly 50 years later, I am so grateful to be a full-time missionary. I treasure each day in which I wear the name of Jesus Christ on my chest. I am grateful to know the one thing I did right amidst all my inadequacy was to rear my children in a Gospel-centred home where prayer, scripture study, church attendance, temple worthiness, and renewal of covenants is paramount. I have come to know that being a disciple is more than just outward practices, but it is the development of a Christ-like character. I love testifying of Christ and inviting others to come unto Him. I testify of these truths in His name, Amen.
Sister Jana Hyer McDonald is a retired registered psychologist, clinical supervisor, and certified play therapist. She is a mother of six children, grandmother to 22 grandchildren and is currently serving a full-time mission with her husband Elder Bruce McDonald for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, assigned to Thompson, Manitoba.