Monday, April 9, 2012

A Friend's Conversion

I'm not sure when, where or why Sue gave me this account, but I don't want to lose it, and I'm sure others will appreciate her testimony.  Sue passed away due to poor health a few years ago, faithful to the end.  I miss her.

Suzann Pirotta’s Conversion Story

It was in the fall of 1974 when Joyce came to live with us at Illinois State University. I was pursuing a Master of Music Performance Degree on my major instrument which was bassoon. My teacher called me asking if we had room for her in our off campus apartment and said she was a bassoonist majoring in the same degree.  Now musicians are fiercely competitive in many ways. We auditioned for the same limited performance slots with the semi professional orchestra in the next town as well as other opportunities many times a year. As fate would have it we did have one more bed available in the basement of Mrs. Bright’s Home. A phone was provided for us by our landlord and we were listed as “The Bright Student House”. Before she even arrived we heard the rumors that she was a Mormon. Now the only contact I had ever had with the church was during a tour that I participated in that played a concert in Salt Lake City. They immediately corralled us to show us a movie on the Mormon faith. Another performer and I snuck out a side door to do some much needed shopping for me as my luggage had never arrived.

It was during this time that the Washington DC temple was dedicated and Joyce made plans to sing in the choir at the dedication. When Joyce returned from her trip, I felt something extremely different in her countenance as she was truly glowing from within. Every Sunday she cheerfully prepared herself for church and would always ask … “Are you sure you wouldn’t like to come with me?” Every Sunday I answered just as cheerfully … "ahh No!” She never gave up and I never gave in. The second semester 3 of the 7 girls had graduated in December and Joyce and I decided to find an apartment for 2. We had several discussions on the subject of religion and I always stated my viewpoint thusly… “I believe that man has corrupted the practice of true religion and I believe I have a personal relationship with God which I find more than adequate.” She probably noticed my frequent nature walks which were where I went to talk to God. She lived in Baltimore and I lived in Pittsburgh. Yet there we were in the middle of the Illinois cornfields having moved to an apartment complex with 8 other young adult members also attending school. Now considering the location and the concentration of young members surrounding me, 9:1, I was definitely ambushed as my Heavenly Father perceived just what it would take to convert me. During Christmas break, Joyce sensed a golden moment and decided to teach me all of the discussions in the car! We got as far as the Indianapolis Bypass when I pulled over and emphatically demanded that she either cease or get out of my car! But the seeds were more or less strewn and left alone with the inquisitiveness of my personality I began to question things.

Upon returning to school in January of 1975, I was in a positive frame of mind contemplating the testimony of my roomie! Of course I did not let her know this one bit! She was far too close to the issue with me and definitely too forceful. The idea began to take shape and I decided that if religion were going to come to the forefront at this time in my life, I definitely should examine all faiths equally. It much have driven her crazy as I invited a host of individuals into our home to discuss their belief systems, all of which did not change my opinion of a non-authority based attempt at worshiping God. Little did she know that when I decided to give her missionaries a turn, I would not even hint that it was happening. There were a couple of young men in apartment 12 upstairs and on the opposite end from us and I chose them mostly for the location. The day of the first missionary discussion quickly approached. They gave me a copy of the Book of Mormon which I gladly accepted and promised to read. They had no idea I had already read most of Joyce’s book! So during the week, I sought out the young married couple in apartment 10. They had a whole wall of shelves filled with church books and they gave me a key. The first week I read the assignment for the missionaries and President Kimball’s book the Miracle of Forgiveness. Yes the entire book! I wanted to hear what the man called a modern prophet was saying to the world. I discovered their stash of Ensigns and browsed through a few of his talks there too. I had yet to pray about it though. In the subsequent weeks I read more than a few other books. The feelings were genuine and warm but I had a major obstacle in my life approach called my graduate recital which was worth 6 Master Degree credits. Without passing the faculty audition and then successfully performing the difficult music that was required I would not be awarded my degree. I told the missionaries and talked with God about a temporary hold on my investigation and promised that after Feb 19, the date of that recital, I would return to my lessons. I had 4 other people going to make sure that would happen. The day came and went. The recital was passed and my degree would be shortly awarded. As promised I returned to meet with the missionaries. Returning to our apartment with the bright blue Book of Mormon in my right hand, I discovered I had locked myself out. To add to my dilemma I looked up to see Joyce sprinting across the large empty field that separated our home from the college campus. I was delighted for a moment realizing I would soon gain entry to our abode and then I remembered that I was holding my copy of the Book of Mormon. Thinking quickly I went down to our mailbox and shoved it in. She saw me and as she unlocked the door she asked, “What was in the mail?” I stammered a bit not knowing for I had not even thought to look.

I prayed that week sincerely desiring to know if this were the truth and if the authority of God was truly resting with this Church. The witness was undeniable as my entire soul was filled with light and an overwhelming sense of peace. The very next lesson the missionaries challenged me to accept baptism and I said “Yes!” A few days later I met with the bishop and we discussed when I wanted to be baptized. I told him that Saturday was my birthday and I thought that would be a most excellent time for me. I was to be baptized on March 29, 1975. I returned home to Joyce cooking and singing in our kitchen. I rather casually asked her what she had planned for Saturday and asked her if she would like to attend my baptismal service.  We hugged for a very long time and of course she cleared her schedule. Then we two music majors sat on the floor of our living room singing the hymns of the restored gospel and choosing just the right ones for my baptismal service.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Easter Story

It's Easter!  What a glorious day!  I was given the assignment to put together a music-based program for sacrament meeting today.  It was more difficult than I expected, which always makes for a great learning experience, but it turned out nicely.  I'm sure my boys would love to know what they missed, so here you go. (Michelle's solo of "I Know that My Redeemer Lives" was beautiful.)  If you click on the titles of the songs, you'll be sent to websites where you can read the words and/or listen to the music.  These may be the words of the prophets, but it's my testimony too.  Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ lives.
“It is because of Heavenly Father’s gift of His Son that all men—past, present, and future—can return to live with Him who is the Father of our spirits. But to insure that that can happen, it was first necessary for Jesus to come to earth in the flesh to teach men by His example the correct way to live and then to willingly give up His life and, in some miraculous way, accept the burden for the sins of mankind.” (Spencer W. Kimball, Friend, December 1982)

“Without Christ, there would be no Easter.  Without Christ there can be no fullness of joy.  In our premortal state, we shouted for joy as the plan of salvation was unfolded to our view.  It was there our elder brother Jesus, the firstborn in the spirit of our Father’s children, volunteered to redeem us from our sins.  He became our foreordained savior, the Lamb “slain from the foundation of the world.” (Moses 7:47)  Thanks be to God the Son for the offering of Himself.  And thanks be to God the Father that He sent Him.  “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16.) (Ezra Taft Benson, “Joy in Christ,” Ensign, Mar. 1986, 3)

“As a result of the many miracles in our lives, we should be more humble and more grateful, more kind and more believing. When we are personal witnesses to these wonders which God performs, it should increase our respect and love for him; it should improve the way we behave. We will live better and love more if we will remember that. We are miracles in our own right, every one of us, and the resurrected Son of God is the greatest miracle of all. He is, indeed, the miracle of miracles, and every day of his life he gave evidence of it. We should try to follow after him in that example.” (Howard W. Hunter, April 1989 general conference)

During the three years of His earthly ministry, [Christ] did what none other had ever done before; He taught as none other had previously taught.  Then came His time to be offered. There was the supper in the Upper Room, His last with the Twelve in mortality. As He washed their feet, He taught a lesson in humility and service they would never forget. There followed the suffering of Gethsemane, “which suffering,” He said, “caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit” (D&C 19:18). (Gordon B. Hinckley, Ensign, April 1997)

“I believe that none of us can conceive the full import of what Christ did for us in Gethsemane, but I am grateful every day of my life for His atoning sacrifice in our behalf.  At the last moment, He could have turned back. But He did not. He passed beneath all things that He might save all things. In doing so, He gave us life beyond this mortal existence. He reclaimed us from the Fall of Adam.  To the depths of my very soul, I am grateful to Him. He taught us how to live. He taught us how to die. He secured our salvation.” (Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, April 2012)

“Now upon the first day of the week, early in the morning, the women came unto the sepulchre. … They found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. And it came to pass that as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold two men stood by them in shining garments! And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, the angel said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? Fear not ye, be not affrighted; for I know that ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified. “He is not here, for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay—where they laid him. “And go quickly and tell his disciples and Peter that He is risen from the dead—that He goeth before you into Galilee; there ye shall see Him. Remember how He spoke unto you while He was yet in Galilee saying: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and the third day rise again. Lo, I have told you.” [See Luke 24:1–7; Matthew 28:5–7; Mark 16:5–7.]  Thus do the writers of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, record the greatest event in the history of the world, the literal resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind. Dramatically had been demonstrated the greatest of all the divine powers of an incarnated Son of God. He had declared to the sorrowing Martha, at the time of the death of her brother Lazarus: “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” (John 11:25.)  (Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, (2000), 216–23)

“Our Savior lived again. The most glorious, comforting, and reassuring of all events of human history had taken place—the victory over death. The pain and agony of Gethsemane and Calvary had been wiped away. The salvation of mankind had been secured. The Fall of Adam had been reclaimed.  The empty tomb that first Easter morning was the answer to Job’s question, ‘If a man die, shall he live again?’ To all within the sound of my voice, I declare, If a man die, he shall live again. We know, for we have the light of revealed truth. … My beloved brothers and sisters, in our hour of deepest sorrow, we can receive profound peace from the words of the angel that first Easter morning: ‘He is not here: for he is risen.’” (Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, April 2012)

For all of Christendom, for all of mankind, today is observed as the anniversary of the greatest miracle in human history. It is the miracle that encompasses all who have lived upon the earth, all who now live upon the earth, and all who will yet live upon the earth. Nothing done before or since has so affected mankind as the atonement wrought by Jesus of Nazareth, who died on Calvary’s cross, was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, and on the third day arose from the grave as the Living Son of the Living God—the Savior and Redeemer of the world.  (Gordon B. Hinckley, April 1994 general conference)

“I declare my personal witness that death has been conquered, victory over the tomb has been won. May the words made sacred by Him who fulfilled them become actual knowledge to all. Remember them. Cherish them. Honor them. He is risen.” (Thomas S. Monson, Ensign, April 2012)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Preparing for Easter

I came across a real treasure while looking for something else this afternoon.  Take some time to view these video clips; during this Easter season, it would be a wonderful way to help strengthen your testimony of the Savior.  At the very least, review The Living Christ. It may have been given twelve years ago but it's filled with profound truth that will never be outdated.

The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles

Special Witnesses of Christ - transcript of video prepared for April 2000 conference

Special Witnesses of Christ - video segments from today's living apostles