As my Christmas gift to my family, I want to share some very personal feelings about my testimony of Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
I first knew for myself that the Church was true when I was fifteen years old living in American Fork, Utah. I was taking a seminary class where my teacher, Brother Patey, challenged us to read the Book of Mormon. I was not a committed student, but respected my teacher and wanted to please him. He instructed us to pray before reading, then ask as we turned each page if the book were true and if it was translated by the gift and power of God. I was sitting in my dad’s study in our home. I had read to chapter 8 in 1 Nephi (about Lehi’s dream) and was captivated by what I read. As I turned the page, I asked the questions again when a sudden and very clear voice came into my mind which said, Bernell, everything your parents have been teaching you about this Church is true, including this book. For the first time in my life, I knew something for certain. The realization that this was not a pretend story like Santa Claus overwhelmed me with indescribable joy. Tears flooded my face and I nearly sobbed with gratitude. I knew. That testimony created a feeling of warmth throughout my whole body. I was not aware that a spark had been ignited which would never die.
From that day until now, I have always known the Church is true. I have not always acted according to that knowledge, for which I am ashamed. But gradually, over time, my life has become stronger and clearer in the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
While on my first mission in Texas, I continued to receive revelations needed for the Work. I was coached regarding how to teach, what to say, and how to behave. I was chastised at times and pushed onto the right path. Some of these revelations came as simple thoughts, while others could be written word for word, like taking dictation. My testimony became like a fire in my bones.
Because I had learned to hear the voice of the Spirit, it guided me in choosing my wife upon my return from my mission. Both RaNae and I received very clear and distinct revelation that we were to marry. I didn’t even need to propose to her because we both knew from the Spirit in the same instant. That knowledge has helped us greatly throughout our challenges in parenting and marriage. I have always known she is my Queen because the Lord said so.
While serving in Church leadership at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, my testimony clarified still further. I was often prompted who to help and how. Some of that guidance was more like a push than a nudge. That is where I determined that a testimony is like celestial fusion burning in my bones. It is unquenchable. It drives me to seek the Spirit in my every thought.
Now that we have been serving here in Uganda for a year, I can see that celestial fusion continues to progress in its effects. What I once thought was something in my bones, has since percolated into my muscles and tissue and now seeps from every pore of my skin. I am now at a point in my life where I can say I have no other desire than to do the will of the Lord. I want for no worldly possession, no recognition, and no status. I want to be transparent like glass, so others seeing me, will see Christ as if magnified through me. I want to spend all my remaining days in His service, deflecting all praise and thanks to Him.
An added blessing which I had never supposed, is that RaNae has been at my side in this entire journey. Her testimony burns just like mine. Her love of the Lord matches mine. We are walking hand in hand in this mortal state, and we are experiencing both the Refiner’s fire and His tender mercies together.
The spark was lit at age fifteen. It grew into a flame at age twenty. It burned into my bones in my fifties. And today it surrounds my soul. It is who I am.
He lives. His true Gospel is on the earth today. And because of that sure knowledge, I can gladly testify and teach and love, and proclaim even with those who have gone before that there is a most marvelous plan for our happiness now and in eternity. Of this I am absolutely certain with no doubt. This knowledge is my greatest song of joy. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.