Have you ever been lost in the woods and temporarily didn’t know how to get back to the road, or camp, or the parking lot where you left your car? It is pretty disorienting, isn’t it. Remember how confused you felt? Do you remember how you felt when you finally figured out where you were and which way you should go to return to safety? That is a pretty happy feeling, isn’t it?
Well, that is exactly how I feel most of the time about the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Long before I became a Mormon I had questions about religion that I simply could not answer. And I couldn’t find anyone else who could answer them either. Often my spiritual leaders would tell me, “You will just have to wait until you get to heaven and ask God.” But some of my questions were about things I needed to know now, right here in this life. Without some answers I didn’t know my way out of the woods. I didn’t know which way to turn. Who should I marry? What course of study should I pursue in college? Do my mother and father really love me or are they just saying that because they feel it is expected of them? Is there really a God, or is that something my clergymen are just telling me in order to be successful in their careers? Why are some sins so hard to avoid? How come others are so mean to me? Why am I so unpopular at school? Why am I so lonely? Why do my teachers at school seem to hate my guts? Everyone tells me that Jesus loves me, but how can I be sure? I know that I am supposed to help others, but what if I can’t even help myself and I’m just hanging on by my finger nails? If school is so important, why do I hate it so much? And why does everyone up at school seem to hate me so much, especially the other kids? How am I ever going to get a girl to date me when I know that dating me would instantly destroy her social life because everyone thinks I’m so weird?
I can still remember how awful it was before I became a Mormon. But ever since I met the Mormon missionaries things have been enormously better, and that was over 43 years ago when I was still in high school. They were able to answer almost all of my questions for me. And when I read the scriptures with them, for the first time ever they seemed to make sense. All the times before when I read them, they just seemed to be empty words that didn’t mean anything. Or if they did, I didn’t know what the meaning was. Sure I knew there was a God. Somebody was listening to my prayers. I could sense that in some mysterious way. But I didn’t know anything about him. I didn’t even know if Jesus was his Son or whether or not that even mattered. What did God want from me? Did he want anything?
I was so mixed up and confused. I really was like a person lost in the woods. I didn’t know which way to turn. I did not feel safe in this dangerous world, and I did not know which direction to go to look for safety or some relief from my loneliness. But meeting the Mormon missionaries, and the Young Women who introduced me to them, changed all that. Everything has been much, much better since then.
I still have a difficult personality. People who do not know me well, do not know how happy I am, or how positive I am about life, the universe and everything. I love best those scriptures that talk about damnation, the wicked and hellfire. Sure, I like all the luvy-duvy stuff too, but the scary scriptures are the ones I love most because they make it so clear where the danger lies. And knowing where it lies, I can travel around it or in another direction. Now I know how to stay out of trouble. I know what kind of people might accept me the way I am and even help me become a better person. And I can spot those I need to stay clear of because they will probably drag me down. I know how to find a loyal friend because those who are loyal to God are loyal people, and they will be more likely to be loyal friends. And I do not expect loyal friends among those who are not loyal to God or anyone else.
I am not a negative person, a person always predicting disaster and complaining about “how bad it is.” I am just so happy to be able to spot the bad stuff for what it is. How can it hurt me if I can see it? All I have to do is keep the commandments of Jesus Christ with all my might, and everything will go well for me, either now or later. But now at least I know what those commandments are. And I know what sins to avoid and which ones are the most dangerous. I am not nearly as gullible as I used to be or as easily deceived by others who do not have my best interests at heart. This is good, not bad. It is a great cause for rejoicing, not some evidence that I am an unhappy, negative person. Finally, I am no longer lost. I know which way to go. I am confident that I can find my way out of the woods. The pathway is clear.
Yes, I am an Iron Rod. I love Bruce R. McConkie and Joseph Fielding Smith almost more than words can express. But I love them for pointing out the clear path for me. My favorite book after the standard works is The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball. He wasn’t even the President of the Church when he wrote that book. I don’t think he was even in the Twelve. But oh how I love that book. It marked out a clear path for me to follow. It told me in plain, easy to understand language what I needed to do to straighten myself out and get right with the Lord. And it told me what I would receive as a reward if I did. How wonderful it is to know which way to turn, which path to follow! It just makes me so happy to know I am not lost any more as I was for so many unhappy years during my childhood. Surely I am one of the most lucky people in the world because the Lord found me and answered my prayers by sending the Mormon missionaries to teach me. I will be grateful to him all the days of my life because he has done this wonderful thing for me. Never again will I have to be lost and confused like I once was. I have found my way out of the woods.