Episode 79 – Why I Believe

The podcast this week is quite a bit different from my usual content.  My son returned home from his mission this past Saturday, so I’ve been busy getting him settled back into real life and wasn’t able to devote the time to research the topic I had planned.  So I’m sharing with you the talk I wrote and gave this past Sunday in our new ward’s Sacrament Meeting.  I share my testimony of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, my father’s conversion story and how it was the basis for my testimony and how I have seen the evidence of God’s hand in my life.  But don’t worry, I tie it in to why I do what I do.  Back to our regular topics next week.

Show Summary:

In February 1831, my great-great-great-great Grandfather Edward Partridge, was called as the first bishop of The Church.  I come from a long line of strong members, many of whom I’m sure you would recognize the names.  Despite a rich family history in the Gospel, choices were made that took our family down a different path and away from the Gospel.

My Grandpa, who was not an active member of the Church as a teenager, married my Grandma who was a Baptist.  They raised their family here in Salt Lake City, but the church was not part of their lives.  My dad was their oldest child.  He always had a thirst for knowledge and despite not being a member of the church, he studied church history and knew more about the church than most members.  He often attended church with his Grandma and surprised her constantly with his knowledge.  But, despite this knowledge, he did not believe.  In fact, he was quite anti.  As a teenager at Cottonwood High, he signed up for seminary just so he could argue with the teacher.  He spent hours upon hours trying to convince his friends who were members why the Church could not be true.

I want to share the next part of his story with you in his words. He says….

“Even at an early age I enjoyed discussing people’s philosophies.  Not only discussing them, but debating them.  At the time one of the people I would “discuss” religion with was a good friend named Debbie.  Because Debbie had great faith, but not necessarily great knowledge to go along with her faith, I almost always bested her as we debated doctrines of the church.

One evening during a rather heated discussion, I touched upon a very sensitive point that she could not answer.  After backing her into a philosophical corner, she issued a challenge that ended up changing my life.

Because she knew me so well, she knew I could never back away from a challenge.  Since she could not answer all my questions, she challenged me to meet with the missionaries if ever  was in such a position.  I never imagined that I would ever take her up on that challenge.

Soon thereafter another friend of mine told me he wanted to marry his girlfriend.  But since he was not a member of the church, her family was definitely against any such arrangement.  He asked for my advise on what course of action he should take. I suggested that he should find out for himself about the church.  He asked me to join him in meeting with the missionaries.  Debbie’s challenge rang in my mind.  So I agreed to attend the appointment that he had already set up to listen to what the missionaries had to say.

I had grown up around many members of the church, and had already studied many of the world’s great religions and philosophies.  I was confident that in a discussion I could also back the missionaries into a corner.  Now looking back on those lessons, I feel sorry for the way I treated the missionaries.  As I had always behaved, with little faith, and with a debating heart, I debated every point of doctrine.  While they didn’t provide all the answers to all my questions, they, with patience, continued to represent the Lord and His message.

A few days after my intellectual attack on the missionaries, it was July 24th, 1973. My friend Debbie had just returned from a European trip with her high school band.  I invited her to go watch the fireworks displays with me, and chose the hill where the Utah State Capital looks out across the Salt Lake valley.  From that advantage we could see multiple fireworks displays located at various parks.

Debbie had experienced a trip of a lifetime with her band in Europe.  But out of all the stories she related, one put my doubting mind into an unusual quandary.

One of Debbie’s friends from the band had a boyfriend that was serving as a missionary in Europe.  To this day I am not sure how, but Debbie’s friend received special permission, from the local mission president, to have a very short visit with her missionary boyfriend.  

They met, and shook hands according to missionary rules.  They had a pleasant, short visit, but as the missionary left this meeting, tragedy struck.  The missionary was hit by a fast moving car and was thrown many feet through the air.

Debbie’s friend was devastated.  She felt it was all her fault because of the special exception to the rules that allowed her a few minutes seeing him.  I am sure you can empathize with her, imagining if this had happened to the person you loved.

Debbie and her group of friends went out into the woods.  They did something that I felt was impressive for a group of young teenage ladies.  They knelt in prayer.  Debbie was asked to pray for this young missionary.  As they returned back to the hotel, they received a phone call.

This young missionary, that was hit by a car and thrown as I remember it over 20 yards, had scratches on his face, hands and feet.  But he was OK.  On his torso, even on his hip where the car hit him, he received not even a bruise.

How could this be?  Debbie believed it was due to some special blessing that can only be given in the House of the Lord – the temple.  I also felt that maybe Debbie’s group prayer might have had something to do with it.

The whole drive home from the fireworks, my mind was racing.  How had this missionary miracle really happened?  Was there really something to this Mormon religion that I had fought against my whole life?  How could I know?

As we arrived at Debbie’s house that night, I asked her to take a walk with me.  I told her that if she had strong enough faith to pray for the healing of that missionary, maybe she could pray for me so that once and for all I could find out if there really was something special about this church.  We walked to the back of the local chapel that she attended weekly.  We knelt in prayer.  I really don’t remember all of the things Debbie prayed for that night.  But I do remember one line.  “Dear Heavenly Father, please bless Ron to know that the church is true”.  

As she said those words, I had the most wonderful, strong feeling.  Me, a young long haired, egotistical, proud, rebellious young man, was changed.  By the power of the Holy Ghost I knew this church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was TRUE!  To this day I have never felt the Holy Spirit stronger.  That day my life changed.  I still didn’t know all the other doctrines were true.  I had not read the Book of Mormon, so I didn’t have any special feelings about it.  I didn’t know that Joseph Smith was a prophet.  I still had a long, long way to go.  But now I firmly had a conviction that God had told me his church was divine and it is true.

This is the story I grew up hearing my whole life.  A most powerful story.  I hope that as you have listened to this story you have felt the Spirit once again testify to you of the truthfulness of the Gospel as it has to me.  But, the story doesn’t end there.

As soon as my dad was baptized, he promptly went inactive.  But after another unusual experience, he made the decision to change his ways again and go on a mission.  He served a mission in Fukuoka, Japan and when he returned home, he met my mom and married her a few months later.  They began attending church in the same area that he had been raised in, where he knew many of the people, but not all.  Please indulge me as I continue the rest of the story again, in his words.

One Sunday, in the men’s priesthood meeting, we were being led in a discussion about the responsibility of each member of the church to share their testimony with others.  In Utah, especially back in the 1970s, most members of the church were lifelong members.  Few were converts.  The discussion leader asked who was the most recent convert, and I spoke up.  He asked me to relate my conversion story, and I told my story for the first time (other than in Japan during my mission).

It is my conversion story and it is special to me.  I always feel the spirit when I tell it.  Others have since told me they feel the spirit when they hear it.  But when I told it this time, it really affected another young man in the church group.  As I told my story, over on my right I saw him react very emotionally to my story.  Tears welled up in his eyes, one rolled down his cheek.  Seeing his emotional reaction, I began to feel very uncomfortable.  I hurried and finished and sat down.

He then raised his hand.   He said he was that missionary who had been hit by the car.  He had been praying for years since that accident, inquiring why he went through that terrible experience.  As I spoke the Spirit whispered that it was so I would join the church. 

I don’t think I was ever so humbled.  Imagine, God knows who I am.  He knows me better than anybody in the world.  He knows me better than I know myself.  He knew what it would take to touch my heart, to prepare me to be receptive to his word.  And He loves somebody — even like me — so much that He would put that worthy young missionary through such a test, so I would hearken to His message.  I am still humbled to think of His great love.

This was the beginning of my testimony.  To hear the firm conviction of my father that he knew that God knew who he was.  And if he knew who my dad was, wasn’t it probable that he knew who I was?  I was sure he did.

I believe one of my spiritual gifts is the gift of knowing.  My parents tell me that I would stand up in testimony meeting as a 3-year old and bare a very firm testimony of the Savior.  There are truth’s that are so ingrained in my soul that I have never doubted them.  It’s never even been a question.

And that is not to say that I have blindly followed the teachings of my parents or the Church.  I am so grateful for personal revelation.  I am grateful for the knowledge of loving Heavenly Parents who want to impart on their children not only the simplicity of the Gospel and their love but also the mysteries of the Universe.

I have also personally seen the hand of the Lord in my life.  I have seen how he has orchestrated the intricate details so that I am where and who I am today.

I would like to share one of those experiences with you.

I was blessed with three beautiful children in my first marriage.  But beyond that and some times of respite, it was a very challenging time in my life.  I suffered a great deal with illness, depression, anxiety, and my self-esteem was almost non-existent.  But despite the darkness surrounding me, I continued to fast, pray, and rely on the Lord, knowing that I was important to Him and having faith that He would direct me.

For 8 years, I fasted and prayed asking the Lord if I should get a divorce.  I knew that he understood my situation and my unhappiness.  My answer was never no.  My answer was always “now is not the time, you have more work to do”  In the Spring of 2011, after 13 years of marriage, 8 years of pleading to the Lord, and countless hours spent in therapy and in trying to improve myself and do the work,  I was finally released from my marriage and felt the Spirit say to me “now is the time.”

I got my affairs in order and with support from friends and family, I moved from Texas with my 3 children to Utah to live with my parents and get a divorce.  I met Kevin just 6 weeks later and suddenly my many, many years of hurt and heartache all made sense.  The Lord knew me.  He knew what I needed.  He knew WHO I needed, and I was so grateful that I had trusted Him and trusted in His timing.

I testify of the truthfulness of this Gospel.  I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer.  He lived on this earth, atoned, died, and was resurrected so that we may follow in His path and return to live with Him and our Heavenly Parents again someday.  I testify in the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.  I have read it over and over and know that through it you can gain a greater testimony of Jesus Christ and His Gospel.  Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God.  He began the restoration of Christ’s church on this earth and restored the sacred Priesthood Keys.  Those keys are still on the earth today and are held by our current prophet Russell M Nelson whom I love and sustain.  I testify that my Savior and Heavenly Parents know me personally.  Not just as one of billions that lives on this earth, but as a spirit sister and daughter.  They know my name.  They know my struggles.  They know my strengths.  They want me to not only obey so that I can return to them, but to love myself as they love me, to love my neighbor, to be happy and have joy on this earth. And I testify that they know you too.

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