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.
When I came back, I decided to learn more through reading and prayers. The Lord blessed me through his words, and little by little, without really realizing it, I was nourishing this testimony that I had received. Looking around me, I realized that the world's joy was often superficial and did not last. I could see many not relying on God but relying on the gods of this world. I clearly saw in my mind that these “joys” brought sadness to my heart for those who were already prisoners of those choices.
My testimony grew by searching, questioning, studying, praying and exercising my faith to a point that I knew this was the church of Jesus Christ where I could find peace and joy, and get closer to God.
It has been years now since this experience happened, but the same feelings are still deep in my heart. I have since served a full-time mission in Salt Lake City — a mission in the service of my God and my fellowmen for two years!
I had the chance to meet people from all over the world. I had the chance to discover a different culture, and my heart was filled with love. I spent hours and hours sharing my testimony and my heart, sharing the truth concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ, sharing my love for the Lord and our Father in heaven.
To see the lives of families change for the better because they allowed the gospel to enter into their hearts, to see smiles on faces that felt the love of the Savior in their personal lives, to see eyes marveling has touched my heart in a way that no one could ever understand because it was so personal. None of those experiences would have happened without the hand of the Lord in my life.
My knowledge and testimony have grown in ways that I could never have imagined. The more I learn, the more this feeling pushes and touches me. In the course of my life, many more seemingly small but eternal decisions were awaiting on my path after that beautiful day in my grandmother’s home.
This testimony has been an anchor reminding me of my eternal goal and destination. All the decisions I have made have led me on a course that I feel has been my Father in heaven's path for me. I just had to make that choice to follow him, and how grateful I am for his love and patience.
God answers prayers when they are sincere and filled with faith. He answered mine when I really wanted to know. And I know he’ll answer yours.
Roland Lepore lives in Lehi with his wife and four children. He self-published "Reflections of a Mormon" and founded lessaintsdesderniersjours.com, a blog sharing news about the church in French across the world.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company