What the Atonement means to me
By Alicia C. Ferree
I felt a presence in my life. Someone was watching over me. I do not know how many times that someone protected me, helped me, or saved me. I remember as I got older, I took long walks in the woods or bike rides in the country. I spoke out loud to my invisible companion and felt I was being heard. Those times provided me with the fuel I needed to make it through the coming dark hours. I was never abandoned or totally alone. Someone was there with me, bearing my load and burdens. I have so much gratitude for those times. I know now because I looked to the only being I could, God, my Heavenly Father that He gave me Jesus Christ to be my protector. It was He that bore my deep sorrow and pain. It was He that filled my soul with solace, peace which passeth all understanding, to endure what was coming and what I had already been through. By the divine power of the Holy Spirit, I was comforted, and I felt a deep and abiding love from my true Savior and my Heavenly Father.
It is truly amazing how we can, as human beings, feel two opposing feelings and think two polar opposite thoughts in the same instant. However, after my son’s birth, I started to recall (or the spirit gently reminded me) those times when I felt a divine presence in my life. I wanted a positive life for my new family. I started to read the bible again and looked to God once again for help and love. Christ again, through the power of the Holy Spirit, began to manifest himself in my life. I began to seriously question religion. I had attended church fairly regularly alone from the age of eight, but had not really sought out answers. I did not want to attend a church of man, but I wanted to find the church of God. I questioned if there was such a church. I began to attend several types of churches. I asked questions of the members and clergy and attempted to live their doctrines. However, I heard too often an answer such as, “We just don’t know the answers to such questions. That’s where faith comes in.” That was a very unsatisfactory answer to me. I searched for five long years. I could find no complete doctrine or religion. I resigned myself to the idea that God created many different churches to satisfy individual needs. I did not like that conclusion, but could not think of an alternative with the knowledge I had gained to that point.
I continued to read in the bible and pray out loud in daily walks or sitting in nature alone at sunset. One day, my three-year old son surprised me by quoting a passage from the book of Daniel. I knew I had never read Daniel to him before. I heard what he said and asked him to repeat it to me. Then I searched and found the passage. I was excited and awestruck. I knew God knew about us and was aware of my search. He gave me that miracle to refuel me as he had done many times in the past. That experience took me through another year, when my daughter, at 22 months, pointed to a corner of the room, giggled, and said, “Jesus!” I looked and saw nothing. She said, again pointing, “Jesus, mommy!” Again I felt amazement and awe. I had two special spirits as my children. God had a purpose for me, yet I didn’t know what it was.
Just over a year later, two young men knocked on my door with a most wonderful message. They were there to tell me that God’s true church had been restored in its fullness to the earth. I did not immediately accept that idea, but felt anxious to know more of this church, about which I knew nothing at all.
They said they had a message about Jesus Christ they would like to share w/ me. I immediately felt a spirit about them. I felt a presence. That presence was, of course, the Holy Spirit again. I felt it and recognized it. I felt I was being lead. They taught me about Joseph Smith and the restoration. I remember they introduced me to the Book of Mormon and had me read from Moroni 10:3-5. They asked me to explain it to them. I really didn't understand it. I needed them to explain it to me. It is a promise that if we truly want to know truth, we can pray with a sincere and honest heart, and the truthfulness of that thing will be revealed to us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
I was struck most by the fact that they believed and testified that there was a "TRUE CHURCH" on the earth. I loved that idea! I had no idea of any such church. They asked me if I knew anything about their church. I did not. I knew there was a Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Osmonds were Mormons, and I saw commercials on TV from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but had no idea they were the same church. I never saw a missionary before in my life.
I asked them if they would mind coming back to share everything they told me with my husband. They said they would love to meet with my husband. They gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon and a reading assignment (3 Nephi 11-27). We made an appointment for that following Sunday evening when I knew Clyde would be home. I told Clyde about it that night. He did know about the church. He had seen missionaries in Havana, two boys in suits and white shirts on bikes going door to door. He said he'd give them 30 minutes. If he didn't like what they had to say, he would leave the room. I said, "Fair enough!"
They arrived for the appointment and stayed two hours. They came everyday after that. They taught Clyde what they had already taught me. Nearly every time they came, they brought a different video for us to watch, like "Together Forever" and "Labor of Love" and several others. On the 2nd discussion, they challenged us to be baptised. I said to them that I had no interest in joining their church and or any church. I just simply wanted to know everything they knew about their church and about Christ. I was still in the mindset that there was no true church and that I would take bits and pieces and construct my own belief system. Wednesday we had the 3rd discussion. They again challenged us to baptism. We again said no. Thursday we planned to have the discussion without interruption of the children. So we got a sitter and went to a park. We played and joked and had the 4th discussion. I began to realize this was a truly special church. I had just that day read in 2 Nephi 31:14. It reads, "But, behold my beloved brethren, thus came the voice of the Son unto me, saying: After ye have repented of your sins, and witnessed unto the Father that ye are willing to keep my commandments, by the baptism of water, and have received the baptism of fire and of the Holy Ghost, and can speak with a new tongue, yea, even with the tongue of angels, and after this should deny me, it would have been better for you that ye had not known me." That scripture struck me harder than any other scripture to that point. I knew I had not been baptised yet, but I also knew that I could no longer just accept bits and pieces of the doctrine. I knew that I believed it was true, and if I knew that, then God knew I knew it. I thought, "How can I deny this? If I do, the scripture says, 'it would have been better for you that ye had not known me'." That seemed like quite a serious warning to me! I knew they would ask us again that night to be baptised. They did and I answered that we would discuss it and let them know. I knew in my heart what was right and knew I needed to accept it all and change my life, but I would not do it without my husband. Clyde and I talked about it for an hour. I told Clyde that this decision was very serious. This requires a lifetime commitment. Either we do it all the way forever or we don't. Clyde said if I felt that seriously about it, we should do it. I was so relieved! I immediately called the missionaries and told them.
I knew it was true, all of it, and it felt like I was remembering everything rather than learning new doctrine. It wasn’t so easy for me, but the church was great! I loved it so much. It was so different than any other church. I was thrilled to finally have the truth. I rarely ate. I felt spiritually fed for the first time in my life. I felt like I had been starving and dying of thirst, but did not know it. I felt the light and the love and the peace of the gospel and needed no other nourishment. I used Moroni ‘s promise found in Moroni 10 with every point of the gospel. I prayed on my knees. I asked Heavenly Father to give me "eyes to see and ears to hear and a heart to understand". I asked for spiritual eyes and ears and heart.
When I read Enos' prayer, I tried that and prayed 30 minutes. Each point of the gospel, I read about, pondered, prayed, and testified. My faith grew and grew by leaps and bounds, but it still was line upon line, precept upon precept. Heavenly Father was very patient with me. He still is. I still go to him with questions and he answers them in the scriptures or in modern-day prophecies. Each new thing I learned, I took in and pondered and prayed and studied and asked until I could make it a part of me. I still feel very enthusiastic about the gospel. I am still studying and praying and learning and asking. This is a perfect gospel, the people are not perfect, but the gospel is.
I knew one’s spirit could grow, so I determined the reverse was also possible. So, I turned to the only source I could to find relief and help and healing. I knelt and prayed fervently for mercy and forgiveness. I knew I had to repent of those years I had spent in rebellion. I knew also I had been like the lost sheep, who had wandered off the path and found himself alone in the wilderness. I knew I had been like the lost coin, dropped and lost and hidden out of sight. I had value, but was still lost. It was Christ who knew I was that Prodigal Son, that lost sheep, and that lost coin. When I turned back to Him, I wanted to seriously repent and follow Him, and it was He who came after me, took me in His arms and forgave me.
There is another scripture in the Book of Mormon, which describes perfectly my feeling at this time on my knees. It is found in Alma 36. It reads: “But I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell; yea, I saw that I had rebelled against my God, and that I had not kept his holy commandments. Yea, and in fine so great had been my iniquities, that the very thought of coming into the presence of my God did rack my soul with inexpressible horror. Oh, thought I, that I could be banished and become extinct both soul and body, that I might not be brought to stand in the presence of my God, to be judged of my deeds. And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul. And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, I say unto you that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy.”
I can understand these words of Alma. That is how I felt about my own sins, rebellious nature, and pains I had suffered. I wanted to come back and come unto Christ. I wanted so desperately to be counted as my Heavenly Father’s daughter. I needed forgiveness, love, acceptance, and healing. I wanted to live with Him again.
During my prayer, a miracle happened, as had happened to Alma. I felt forgiveness wash over me. I felt my wounds heal up and I became whole. I felt these giant, gaping, oozing, and bleeding holes and wounds in my spirit close up, however they were not just closed, but filled with peace. He used peace to heal me, to reassure me of His great and merciful love. The sensation was physical. I actually remember looking down at my body, especially my heart, and sensing healing and forgiveness. It was yet another remarkable and very sacred experience. I wanted to share it with you because it is my testimony that I know this is Christ's true church. It is the only true church on the earth today. It is the restored church and gospel established by Christ himself and I love it. I am so grateful for it. I am so thankful that we get to teach others about it. I hope it brings people as much joy and fulfillment as it has brought my family and me! I know this church is true. I know Heavenly Father lives and loves us perfectly and completely. I know Jesus is The Christ and our Savior, our Redeemer, our Exemplar, our friend. I know Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God and restored this church to the earth never to be taken away. I know Thomas S. Monson is our Prophet today. He loves us so much. I know he leads and guides this church and can speak for Jesus Christ. I know the Book of Mormon, The Holy Bible, and the other scriptures are the word of God and are to be read and studied and appreciated. I am so grateful for the missionary program of the church. I feel it saved our lives and blesses us everyday.
I realize I have spoken many bold words to you already. However, I am going to speak something else very bold and I want you to understand that I know of the seriousness of my words. They are:
I say and testify that all my words are true and say it in the sacred and holy name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
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