My Testimony and Conversion…
I am a convert to the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints. I grew up in a loving family that taught me good morals and supported me from day one. I love them! We were not very religious however, so I really had no solid spiritual foundation. Friends in elementary and high school spoke to me about Jesus and the Bible, but I did not understand Their importance at that time in my life. When I was about 15 years old my kidneys began to fail, and I eventually ended up on dialysis by the age of 18. I was a very miserable teenager during those high school years. It was a difficult challenge having a chronic disease, and I was depressed because of it.
Fumbling through life, I partook of anything and everything the world had to offer. You could say I was quite comfortable in the presidential suite of the “Great and Spacious Building” (what the world has to offer). At the age of 19 I received kidney transplant, selflessly donated by my grandmother. It was like night and day with my health. I had been sick for so long that I had forgotten what it was like to be healthy! I had a new lease on life (or so I thought.) Not only did I have a new kidney, I was now also of legal age and could go to the bars and clubs – involving myself foolishly in them. I began to hang around people whom you could consider modern-day Gadianton Robbers (bikers and gang members). I began to have a chip on my shoulder, thinking the world owed me respect. The false sense of security I had around these “gentlemen” had also puffed up my pride even more.
Then, one morning, my mother woke me up and told me to turn on the television. It was September 11, 2001. My heart sank into my stomach. I was scared, confused and ashamed. Ashamed at how I had been living my life up to that point. Ashamed by my selfish recklessness and utter disregard for the sacrifices my family and friends had made for me over the previous years. Something stirred inside of me. I had a deep yearning to know the TRUTH. What was I doing with my life? Why had I gone through so much? What was the meaning of it all? I had been given a second chance at a healthy life, yet I was literally wasting it away with frivolous living. I was also troubled because those who allegedly crashed the planes said they did so in the name of their God and their religion. This did not sit right with me. From the little I knew about God, I was under the impression that He loved us – or He at least liked us enough to not have us kill each other! From that point on I began a “spiritual binge“. I quit cold turkey all of the substances, places and people that had been a negative influence in my life. I had no desire for ANY of it. I went to the library on many occasions and studied the different religions and beliefs of the world. Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Sikhism, Hinduism. I LOVED it!! I was soaking it up. I was a sponge. Eventually, I began to learn about Christianity. I cracked open an old bible and began to read.
“In the beginning…” As hard as I tried, I couldn’t really understand it. And to make things even MORE confusing, there were many, many different denominations and sects within Christianity itself. Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Seventh-day Adventist, Presbyterian, Evangelical, Episcopalian… You get the idea. I was overwhelmed! And who WAS this Jesus? My answers soon came.
About mid-October I was at a “friend’s” house, sitting on a couch. Whilst sitting, I had an unmistakable feeling that I had to leave, NOW!!! – that it was not safe to stay. I abruptly left and got into my car. I began to drive home, wondering if the impression I just had was real. Then, all of a sudden, a thick warm blanket of pure love and light enveloped me from head to toe. To describe this experience with mere mortal words cannot do it justice. The feeling was like having all of the best times of my life wrapped into one joyous, happy moment. The feeling was like having every birthday party, Christmastime and colourful dream coming true – all at once – multiplied by infinity. My heart burned within me. It was so familiar. Someone or Something not of this world knew exactly who I was, and loved me with a love that is indescribable. I began to ball like a baby and wept with sheer joy. I then began to weep with sadness, realizing that the life I had been living was not what I was put on this earth to do. I felt encouraged to continue seeking, searching and I would find the answers I was so desperately yearning for. I experienced peace in my heart, comforting me and urging me to continue to the Light – to continue to fight for good. That moment changed me forever. I know that what I felt and experienced was real and true. I also know that God knew it, and I could not deny it – neither dared I! From that day on I continued my spiritual journey. I learned more about the different denominations and doctrines, but they were more confusing than comforting. I even went to a bible study group. They spoke about God and Jesus, which was good, but something was missing. Where was that feeling that I had previously experienced – that burning within my heart that had filled me full of hope, faith, love and light? I was starting to get frustrated.
November 13, 2001 was my father’s birthday. That evening, my family decided to go out for dinner to celebrate. I wasn’t feeling too well so I stayed home, alone. I turned on the television to one of my favourite shows. A woman on the show explained to a man that she was a Mormon. What was a Mormon? Was it another religion I could study? I was getting excited. And while I was pondering this new topic, the doorbell rang. Oh, who could that be?! I was watching my show, just beginning to process this new information about Mormons.
I answered the door…
Two missionaries from The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints stood before me, The Book of Mormon in their hands. These two young men introduced themselves, both curiously named “Elder”. They explained to me their message about the Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith’s First Vision and the purpose of the Book of Mormon. What touched my heart the most was their invitation to read passages from the Book of Mormon, and then ask God MYSELF to know if it was true. We talked in the doorway for about 20 minutes. They gave me a copy of the book and said they would contact me in a few days. I felt like I was walking on air.
I immediately went upstairs and began to read. I did not understand everything right away, but I knew in my heart that I had to pray to God to know if this was what I had been searching for. Besides, it just couldn’t have been a coincidence that the Mormon missionaries showed up at my door at the EXACT same time there was a Mormon on television, right? I got down on my knees, not knowing how to pray, but prayed silently nevertheless. I offered up the sincerest desires of my heart and asked God to show me what was true. I asked Him if it was right to meet with the missionaries. I prayed to know if the Book of Mormon was true. I got up, poured myself a bowl of cereal and opened a magazine to an article in the back. I began to read. The article was about BYU’s football team. It explained how players on the team sometimes left football for two years to serve throughout the world as missionaries for The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints. This was NOT a coincidence any more. This was divine intervention. This was an answer to the prayer I had said only minutes before.
I met with the Elders the next day. They taught me many truths – plain and precious truths that had been lost due to the Great Apostasy – that were restored once again to the earth through the Prophet, Joseph Smith. They boldly testified of living Prophets and Apostles upon the earth today, teaching me how I could find out for myself if what they were telling me was really true. How? By sincerely studying, pondering and then praying to my Father in Heaven. I learned about the Holy Ghost. Who is the Holy Ghost and what does He feel like? He is a Personage of Spirit – the third member of the Godhead. He testifies and bears record of God the Father and Jesus Christ. He reveals all truth. He can cause a warm burning within our chest and heart – like purifying fire. He can cause sudden strokes of ideas and quicken our understanding about scripture and doctrine. He can fill us full of hope, faith, love, peace and light – all of the things I had felt that day driving home!! The Holy Ghost is also a still, small Voice. If we are too preoccupied or distracted, we can drown out that Voice. After a couple of meetings, the Elders then asked me to pray aloud for the first time. I had never done that before! Nervously, I bowed my head and crossed my arms. I began to pray to my Heavenly Father. And you know what? My chest burned within me! I felt pure warmth and peace. I had received a witness from the Holy Ghost! I had found what I was looking for! Over the next two weeks I participated in the concluding lessons, and prepared myself to enter the waters of baptism. I was baptized November 29, 2001 and received the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands a week later. The Spirit of the Lord has been my constant companion – my guiding light (so long as I remain worthy of His companionship). Entering into this sacred covenant with God has been the greatest and best decision I have ever made.
I testify that God lives, and that the Heavens are open. He is the Father of our spirits and Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son – the Redeemer and Saviour of the world – our Advocate with the Father. Through His Infinite Atonement, He has made it possible for us to return to the Father’s presence by obedience to the Gospel principles of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance and the ordinances of baptism and confirmation (receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands) by proper Priesthood Authority. God the Father and His Beloved Son have ALL power. Their timing is perfect. Jesus Christ is the Light and the Life of the world. My greatest of joys is knowing exactly who I am, where I came from and where I am going – that there is a plan for each and every one of us. I testify that Joseph Smith truly was a Prophet called of God, and that angels ministered to him (and to us) continuously. Joseph was an instrument in the hands of the Almighty in restoring the Fullness of the Everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints is the only true living church upon the face of the whole earth – God Himself bearing witness of it. This knowledge has opened and softened my heart. I love and care for EVERY human being upon the face of the earth. We are ALL God’s children – each and every one of us! It’s magnificent! The Bible AND the Book of Mormon are true. They are the Words of God – both witnessing and testifying of the glory of Christ. I invite all to exercise faith by reading these scriptures, (especially The Book of Mormon) and you will come to know that they are true for yourself. Come; humbly learn what The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints has to offer. God is faithful, and will not leave us alone in the dark – if we but reach out and seek Him. This humble testimony I leave before the entire world, in the most sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
My warmest regards,
Dustin Lee Burnham