A Bishop's Testimony

A bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has many responsibilities, including working with full-time missionaries, less-active members of the church, and Young Men and Young Women. The greatest challenges is not to bring converts into the church, reactivate members, or help Young Women and Young Men through their challenging years; the greatest challenge is to bring individuals and families to a greater understanding of Jesus Christ and teach them of the love He has for each of them. My testimony of the truthfulness of the Gospel is built on the following truths.

1.    In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. Genesis 1:1

In the October 2015 General Conference, Elder Devin Durrant invited us to ponderize on one verse of scripture each week. In the Book of Mormon, Jesus commanded us that when we are in doubt, we should ponder: “Therefore, go ye unto your homes, and ponder upon the things which I have said, and ask of the Father, in my name, that ye may understand, and prepare your minds for the morrow, and I come unto you again.”[1] The word ponder is also found in Proverbs 4:26, Proverbs 5:21, Proverbs 24:12, Luke 2:19, 1 Nephi 11:1, 2 Nephi 4:15, 2 Nephi 32:1, Helaman 10:2, 3 Nephi 17:3, Moroni 10:3, D&C 30:3, D&C 138:1 and in Joseph Smith history 1:47.

The definition of to ponder is to think and to meditate. Understanding the magnitude of the creation and the complexity of life requires serious study and thinking, plus asking the Father if these things are true. Knowledge of the Creator and His creations is contained in the scriptures. Life did not appear ex nihilo or from nothing as some scientists would have us believe. The Creator of all things gifted us with life. The scriptures teach us that we are blessed in many ways. In October 2015 General Conference, Sister Rosemary M. Wixom related that Elaine Cannon, a former Young Women general president, said, “There are two important days in a woman’s life: The day she is born and the day she finds out why.”  

We are literally spiritual children of God. Life is a gift; and the ability to return to our Heavenly Father to continue our progress is an even greater gift.

2. Everything testifies that there is a God! Alma 30:44

Everything from quarks to galaxies testifies that there is a God. “But Alma said unto him: Thou hast had signs enough; will ye tempt your God? Will ye say, Show unto me a sign, when ye have the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets? The scriptures are laid before thee, yea, and all things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it, yea, and its motion, yea, and also all the planets which move in their regular form do witness that there is a Supreme Creator.”[2]

The Church of Jesus Christ is a church of truths. As stated by Elder Tad Callister in The Inevitable Apostasy:

“Truth is resilient. It is not easily dismissed. You may malign it, defame it, temporarily suppress it, and even ignore it—but you cannot bury it. Armies may combat it, magistrates legislate against it, popes and clerics decry it, but like the immortal phoenix it will always rise again. It is eager to be discovered, anxious to shed forth its illuminating light on a benighted world. It overrules philosophy, it outranks science, it dictates to no dictator. Unleashed in its fullness, it crushes falsehoods with merciless power.”

It is a great blessing to live when the fullness of the gospel is on the earth, when living prophets give council and when revelations are gratefully given.

 3. He lives! Mathew 28:6

           Jesus is our hope, our mediator, and our redeemer. Because He lives, each one of us can receive help, hope, and healing every day of our lives. While meeting with the Apostles at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked, “Whom say ye that I am?” Simon Peter, the chief Apostle answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.[3]Peter later testified that Jesus “was foreordained before the foundation of the world.”[4] “He was in the beginning with the Father, and is the Firstborn.”[5]

4.  He is risen! Matthew 28:6

One of the most significant of all scriptural phrases is found in the words, “He is not here: for he is risen.” Given by angelic messengers near an empty tomb, this proclamation declared that the Lord Jesus Christ had overcome death through His Atonement and Resurrection. Later, He appeared to His Apostles and charged His followers to carry their witness to the world that He lives, “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”[6] Perhaps the essence of the declaration is best stated in the hymn He is risen:

            1. He is risen! He is risen!Tell it out with joyful voice.He has burst his three days' prison; Let the whole wide earth rejoice. Death is conquered; man is free.Christ has won the victory.

2. Come with high and holy hymning; Chant our Lord’s triumphant lay. Not one darksome cloud is dimming Yonder glorious morning ray, Breaking o’er the purple east, and Symbol of our Easter feast.

3. He is risen! He is risen! He hath opened heaven’s gate. We are free from sin’s dark prison, Risen to a holier state. And a brighter Easter beamOn our longing eyes shall stream.

5.  For we saw Him… D&C 76:12–14, 20–24.

As a young boy, Joseph Smith pondered and decided to ask of God. Acting on this counsel, Joseph went into the woods near his home and prayed. A light shone above him, and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him. When Joseph asked which church he should join, the Savior told him to join none of the churches then in existence because they were teaching incorrect doctrines. Through this experience and many others that followed, the Lord chose Joseph to be His prophet for our day and to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church to the earth. Joseph Smith wanted to know which church was true so he asked. As he searched the Bible for help, Joseph read and pondered. His testimony is a result of much pondering and meditation.

 And we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father, and received of his fullness; and saw the holy angels, and them who are sanctified before his throne, worshiping God, and the Lamb, who worship him forever and ever.

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father—that by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”[7]

I am a covert to the Church. My family was taught by two young sister missionaries who persisted through our constant questioning until we were satisfied that what they were teaching was true. My wife and I have served two full-time missions, and both of us have served in probably every local position in the church from primary to seminary. I have no doubt that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, that Jesus is the Christ and the only means by which we can progress through this life successfully and obtain salvation in the world to come. A living prophet leads us. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Thomas E. Baca is a thirteenth generation New Mexican whose hobbies include writing, photography, genealogy, gardening and restoring old automobiles. He has served twice as a bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He attended New Mexico State University, the University of New Mexico, and the University of Minnesota where he graduated with a MPH in environmental science. He married Patricia Gibson of Quanah, Texas, and raised two children. They have five grandchildren and two great grandsons. They have been married for 46 years. Tom served as Director of the New Mexico Environment Improvement Agency; Associate Vice President for Administrative Services at the University of Arizona; Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense - Environment, Department of Defense; Vice President, Environmental Technologies and Systems for BDM International, Inc.; Division Director at Los Alamos National Laboratory; Vice President Material Management for Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site; and Senior Technical Manager for CH2M Hill, Inc. Tom is currently retired and free lancing as a writer, gardener, and photographer. He is an author of the 2014 book, In the Beginning: Did God Create Man or Did Man Create God?

[1] 3 Nephi 17:3
[2] Alma 30:44
[6] John 20:31
[7] D&C 76:20-23

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