My freshman classmates challenged my beliefs in ways that were often constructive, but also introduced me to the experience of being mocked and belittled for belief in God. Such is the persuasive device that some revert to in an attempt, if not to refute faith, then at least to intimidate faith's adherents. (Paradoxically, atheism involves a unique style of faith that is not practiced by believers since, if God does exist, his presence has the possibility of being verified through divine communication, while a claim that there is no God cannot ever be substantiated by any kind of evidence.)
I came away from these discussions with a greater desire to know for myself — sooner rather than later — whether there was a God. If there was no God, I had no interest in aligning myself with a religious institution.
The questions that arose at this time served as a backdrop to a great challenge that came a short while later when I had a falling out with a close friend that left me feeling sad and somewhat lonely.
In these circumstances, my attitude regarding the question of religion and God was quite different than it had been in prior years. I turned to my Maker and to the scriptures — most especially to the Book of Mormon and other modern revelations — with an eager yearning to know whether God really lived. I asked in prayer more sincerely than I ever had before whether there was a God and whether the Book of Mormon was true. I read God's word with more intensity and desire than ever before. I needed to know. And I felt certain that if there were a God and if The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were true, I would receive an answer as I had heard so many other members of the Church describe having received.
Through the act of reading the Book of Mormon and praying concerning it, I was following the invitation contained in its pages to "experiment upon the word'" (Alma 32:27-37, 41-42). The book's predicted outcome of this experiment is divine communication confirming that the book is of God and is true (Moroni 10:3-5).
I did not have to wait long before discovering a sweet peace flowing into my heart both as I prayed and as I read scripture. This peace contrasted sharply with the feelings of sadness and loneliness that were otherwise in my heart. Soon my desire to commune with God became frequent and deep.
In the ensuing year, I often poured out my soul in private, seeking to know more of the Being who filled me with such peace and hope, feelings that otherwise seemed so elusive. The results of my experiment proved to be consistent with the outcome predicted in the Book of Mormon.
Through all of this I came to know that God does live and that he is the Father of my spirit; that he is a loving, tender, and devoted parent; and that he is keenly aware of me and my life.
I came to know that God lives as certainly as I know that I exist. The spiritual manifestations that came were poignant, and so sharp and profound at times that I knew my own mind could not conjure them.
When I felt a heaviness of heart, I would turn to my Father in Heaven and, shortly thereafter, I would come away feeling buoyed up, lightened, and hopeful about the future. Sometimes the state of mind I was in before seeking God's support was heavy indeed and the lightness and strength that came into my heart and soul through earnest seeking were the polar opposite of what I had felt beforehand.
I am a witness to the reality of the promise given throughout scripture, "seek and ye shall find" (Matthew 7:7-11). That phrase and other semantic equivalents are among the most common to occur in scripture.
God is eager to reveal himself to us. Despite his eagerness, however, God wants us to be clear — both to him and to ourselves — that we really desire the manifestations we ask for.
Receiving a knowledge that God lives has the power to fundamentally change the course of one's life and carries with it some responsibility (Alma 32:17-19). Because God does not wish to burden an individual with the responsibility of knowing concerning him without that person having a deliberate and earnest desire to know, His answers to some inquiries may be subtle and difficult to recognize.
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