There are some previous posts (3 to be exact) that you may want to read, but I will quit putting links in... Just select "Older" to see the previous posts.
In my previous posts, I recounted how I came to a journey to search for truth, and how I could not get satisfactory answers to the questions I had from anyone, particularly not from professional purveyors and dispensers of religious knowledge. Actually, that whole idea that a religion had to have people who made a living by interpreting their doctrines to the common folk disturbed me greatly. It seemed to me that most religions started with people from the ordinary walks of life. Abraham was a shepherd, Moses was cast out of pharaoh's court and turned to shepherding, Jesus was a handyman, His apostles were fisherman, laborers, tax collectors and the like. Paul was a tent maker. Muhammed was a merchant, and on it goes. The first adherents were also simple folks, but eventually this structure of paid preachers almost always rose up. Wouldn't the truth of God be simple enough that we would not need to have professionals teach us? I should be able to read the sacred books and discover the truth on my own.
That reading and discovering on my own was what had caused some of the problems with my Carmelite teachers at Crespi. I had been reading the Bible and many of my questions came because of disconnects that I saw between scriptures and the 3 great creeds of Christianity. I had not read the entire Bible, just most of the New Testament, all of the Pentateuch and several other books of the Old Testament. When I read in the holy writings of other religions, I did find myself holding what I was reading up to the Bible for how I felt as I read. I had a good friend who was Jewish, whose dad, a Rabbi, let me read his English version of the Talmud, I got a copy of a translation of the Koran (I know, the Koran must be read in Arabic, that attitude bothered me HUGELY), I went to the library and read in the Bhagavad Gita, I also read some of the writings of the Baha'i, as well as Buddhist writings. None of them had the "feel" of the Bible, at least for what I felt were dignified translations.
After talking with Donna Anderson, and finding out that there was a Christian church that did not rely on professional preachers, and that a 15-year-old girl could give me better answers than all of them, I started asking more questions about this now interesting religion. The man who introduced me to the Andersons also introduced me to a man by the name of Jerry Capps. Jerry and the Andersons had one trait in common that meant a lot to me: the husbands in both families treated their wives with great respect and love. Most of the married men I knew complained about their wives, or had unflattering nicknames for them around the guys. Not Jerry or Dick Anderson. Their wives were #1 in their lives. They treated their wives the way I felt wives should be treated. And Susan Capps and Marge Anderson treated their husbands with love and respect. If I were to ever get married, I wanted a marriage like those two families. That was another thing that made me take note of this religion. The only two good marriages that I knew of were both Mormon families. One was a pair of newlyweds and the other a family with 7 children, but it could not be coincidence. Those marriages were obviously strong because of the commitment of the couples to their religion.
However, I still was not very eager to find out if God really existed, because that would be inconvenient. My guess was that I would have to stop some of my favorite behaviors if He existed and I knew about it. But, my experience with these Latter-day Saints totally drove the suicide option out of my head. I started to think God might possibly exist. So I started hanging out with these 2 families more. Jerry & Susan gave me a key to their apartment so I could use their piano to practice between my lessons. One afternoon, after going through all my exercises, I started looking at their bookshelf. On it I saw a book entitled "The Book of Mormon". In my searching, I had learned that several religions consider it a sacrilege for a nonbeliever to even touch a copy of their sacred books, much less read it, but I decided to take the book down and start reading. First thing, I noticed that the "feel" of this book was identical to the Bible. By the time I got to Lehi's vision of the tree of life, I knew that if the Bible was true, this book was true. And if this book was true, then the Bible was true. I still maintained my agnosticism, but I sensed that the 2 books were equivalent in Truth. When Jerry got home, I confessed that I had started reading his Book of Mormon, and I was very relieved when he was not angry, and in fact gave me my own copy. At this time, my soon-to-be roommate, Bobby Ford, was interested in Donna's sister, so he agreed to take the missionary discussions over there. I attended one lesson with him, and was due to come back to another.
Also at this time, the Andersons were attending this thing called "Group". I didn't know what it was at the time, but Bobby would go with them. By then, I was in college and was studying to be a hypnotherapist at UCLA. Bobby told me how they talked about the evils of hypnosis at the Group meeting that night, so I decided to attend the next meeting to set them straight. There I met another key person in my journey to the truth: Bob Apperson. Bob was the leader of Group, and was such an interesting and humble guy, he turned out to be a great role model for a single guy in the Church. It turns out they never talked about hypnosis again, but a couple of things happened at that first meeting I went to: 1) I met a lot of warm and accepting people who were very forgiving of my rough edges (I swore a lot, I wasn't tactful at all, and I drank a fair amount) and 2) this older man, Brother Lamb, was talking to the kids there, and I was blown away by the respect they showed toward him. This was the early 70s! Don't trust anyone over 30! He was THE MAN! Why were all these teenagers and young adults showing him so much deference? These Mormons kept surprising me. I don't believe I ever missed another Group meeting until I left the area.
At one point during this time, I had been asked to leave my mom's house, and having nowhere else to go, I ended up sleeping in a shed behind Bobby Ford's house, along with their 4 dogs. That was the lowest point in my life up to that point. I came home from a Group meeting one Wednesday evening, and for the first time in my life, I said a true prayer. Up until that time, most of my prayers had been the memorized prayers of my youth. That night, I finally felt humbled enough to ask God to let me know if He existed. With that prayer, I committed that should I find out He did, I would try to change into whatever He wanted my to be. I felt nothing at the time, crawled into bed, and cried myself to sleep.
Two days after that prayer (Friday, August 10, 1973), the company I worked for, Spacelabs, Inc. was having an anniversary celebration. The workday was to end at noon, they brought in several kegs of beer, several cases of champagne, and we had a party. Some of us went behind the building where we smoked a joint or two, but then I remembered that I was due at the Andersons' for a missionary discussion, so I hopped on my motorcycle, both drunk and stoned (how stupid was that!), and headed over there. When I got there, I pulled Bobby aside and told him my condition, and asked him to cover for me, telling them that I was sick. The missionaries decided not to teach the lesson they had planned that night, and instead showed a filmstrip (the 1973 version of a video). I slept through it. When I woke up, Bobby had left and the missionaries were playing around with the Andersons. One of them noticed I was awake, and in a very jocular manner asked, "So, Mike, when can we baptize you?" At that point, I got my answer to my prayer. I went complete sober, and in a moment of clarity unmatched before or since, I knew. I KNEW that I had to be baptized, that God exists, that this was His Church that taught His Truth. There was much more to this experience, but it is far too sacred to share. At the time, I just asked the missionary, "When do you do your baptisms?" He thought I was joking back, so in his teasing manner, he said, "On Saturdays." I replied, "I guess tomorrow would be too soon." He, still joking, said, "Yeah, just a little." Then I said, "Well, what about next week?" He then realized the miscommunication, started fumbling for his materials and said, "You're not joking, are you?" I answered, "I've never been so serious in all my life."
I'll save the rest for a future installment...
8 years ago