Reader Voices: Prayers answered in a small village outside Venice

By Roland Lepore

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Nov. 13 2011 5:00 a.m. MST

It has been almost 20 years since I closed the cover after reading my first copy of the Book of Mormon.

To this day, I remember that feeling — I knew then as I know today that the Book of Mormon is the word of God.

I was born and raised in Lyon, France. My good father joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was 7, and Mother followed a year later. Baptized at 8 and excited for the decision I had made then, I grew up in an environment where I would have to quickly obtain my own testimony. The LDS population was extremely small compared to the millions of people living in my city.

As I reached my teenage years, I came to realize that even though I was uncertain about my beliefs, I would need to make a decision soon. Constantly feeling the influences of the world striving to pull me away from my Father in heaven, I finally got to the point where I could not stop thinking about it.

I was in between faithful parents who had received a testimony of their faith in their hearts years ago and friends or other influences who looked at life without worrying about right or wrong and enjoying worldly pleasures.

To them, all these things appeared to be part of life and consequences seemed minimal. But to me, my conscience was telling me otherwise.

Without ceasing, questions kept coming to my mind: Where am I at? Where am I headed? Is there a greater purpose for all of us? What is most important?

It was the first time in my life that I could not answer these questions for myself. It was a humbling experience to kneel down and rely on the Lord, asking for light and guidance.

I always knew that the Bible was the word of God. Another thing I always knew for sure as if it had been instilled in my DNA was that I could talk to my Father in heaven and receive answers. I felt I had to make a decision. Walking on that fence was not bringing me complete happiness.

I will always remember that summer in Italy when I decided to try to understand the other witness of Jesus Christ: the Book of Mormon. I had been taught that by reading it, I would find answers to life’s purpose. I would finally see if I needed this book or not; see if it would help me draw closer to my Savior as the Bible did.

While on summer vacation in the little town of Dueville, a few miles outside of Venice, I started to read a few pages, and a little more, until I found myself spending many hours reading and pondering the book. I had tried to read it before, but this time it was different. I could hardly stop reading to eat and sleep, and most of my time was spent within the pages of the book. I will always remember the desire that started to burn within my heart, to learn and to understand. I was filled with the desire to lose myself in those lines.

All of a sudden, everything was clear, everything made sense and a feeling of peace was with me during those hours of reading. Within three weeks, I was reaching the end of the book, and I could feel a desire to change my heart, to turn to my Father in heaven, as the prophet Alma explained:

"Have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts? ... Can you imagine to yourselves that ye hear the voice of the Lord, saying unto you, in that day: Come unto me ye blessed, for behold, your works have been the works of righteousness upon the face of the earth?" (Alma 5:14, 16)

I knew this decision was going to influence the rest of my life.

It is needless to say that the Holy Ghost was confirming to me the truthfulness of those things. I knew it was true. I could not explain it, but I knew.

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