Why I Am a Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints
by George L Rogers
In the early part of 1957, I was attending the Naval School of Music in Washington, DC. One evening I went with some of my buddies to a Baptist revival meeting. None of us were particularly religious, but we thought it might be a good place to meet some girls. It wasn’t. But for some reason during the revival I became curious about the concept of being saved. When I asked, my buddies didn’t seem to know much about it and suggested I talk with the Minister. So I did. During the conversation he asked me if I believed in Jesus Christ. I answered that I thought I did. He reached out his hand and said, “Put it there, you’re saved.” Next thing I knew I was baptized into his church.
I conscientiously attended Sunday worship services for a few weeks, but felt uncomfortable. Although I smoked and drank coffee at the time, I was particularly uncomfortable with the social hour they held right after church. The room was always noisy and filled with tobacco smoke. Although I had only attended church services a few times in my life and had no serious interest in religion at the time, it seemed irreverent to me.
A few weeks later my private trumpet instructor, Carleton Welchel, altered the nature of our private instrument lessons. At the beginning of a lesson he asked me if I believed in God and whether I belonged to a church. I answered yes and the Baptist church. He then asked if I believed in pre-existence. I felt uncomfortable with the question, but he outranked me, so I simply answered I didn’t know much about it. His next question was, “If I can show you in the bible where it teaches we lived before we came to the earth, would you believe it?” I replied that I’d have to see what it said.
Interestingly he had a Bible with him and along with other scriptures having to do with our pre-mortal existence he read the following two which left a strong impression on me:
Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.”
John 9:2-3 “And his disciples asked him saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? 3) Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be manifest in him.” Obviously, the disciples understood it was possible to sin prior to mortality.
When he finished, I allowed the possibility there might be something to the idea of pre-existence.
Carleton then introduced me to the Book of Mormon by reading from Ezekial 37:16-19 which talks about bringing the stick of Joseph and the stick of Judah together so that the two sticks would become one in our hands. He then explained that the Book of Mormon is the stick of Joseph and the Holy Bible is the stick of Judah. The quadruple edition of the Standard Works, the scriptural foundation of the LDS church—the Holy Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price—is a literal fulfillment of that prophesy.
He read to me from Moroni 10:4-5 at the end of the Book of Mormon, which challenges the reader to ask of God concerning its truthfulness and promises that, by the power of the Holy Ghost, the honest seeker of truth will know that the people did live and the events recorded therein did happen.
He then concluded my “Trumpet” lesson by issuing me a challenge that changed my life. In essence he said the things he had told me that day were true and that it was my responsibility to find out its truthfulness for myself. If I found out that it was not true, I had no obligation, but if I discovered that it was true, I had to do what I knew was right. He also informed me that he was not a member of the “Mormon” Church himself, but if I was interested, he would introduce me to others who could tell me more about it than he could.
When I left him, I realized that I had no idea what I really believed or why. So I decided on the spot that I needed to resolve these questions once and for all. I couldn’t go around changing churches every few months. I also realized that I had no solid basis for even believing there was a God, much less trying to decide which religion I should belong to. So I decided there were two questions I needed to answer: 1) Does God exist? And 2) If so, which religion best teaches us what He wants us to know?
To answer the first question I decided to simply ask him. My prayer was “God, are you there?” My belief was that, if I really wanted to know and He was there and wanted me to know, He would somehow let me know. If he wasn’t there, or didn’t care, I figured it didn’t matter.
At the same time, I realized that I needed to learn all I could about the “Mormon” religion, and about as many other religions, both Christian and non-Christian as I could. For a period of about three months, most of my spare time was spent in studying and comparing the doctrines of various religions, both Christian and non-Christian.
With respect to God’s existence, I did not receive any great revelations. One day during this period, I just knew. I knew that He existed as well as I knew that I existed. This knowledge gave me confidence that if I approached Him on other questions of importance He would answer those questions as well.
With respect to my investigation of various religions, I came to realize that all religions, both Christian and non-Christian, fell into one of two categories—(1) those religions who claimed to be the only true religion (for example the Catholic and Muslim religions) and (2) those religions which did not make this claim (for example most protestant religions and the Hindu religion).
My problem with those religions that did not claim to be the only true religion was that there are such differences in doctrines and beliefs among them as to destroy all notions of truth. If God is anything, He is the embodiment of truth and the source of wisdom. So how could I become attached to a religion that did not believe it had full access to the truth about the nature of God and his teachings and could not document their sources of this information?
On the other hand, my problem with those religions that claimed to be the only true religion is that none, but one, had any provisions to redeem the large masses of the earth’s population who never had and never could even hear about their religions. For example, most of the earth’s population over the ages have never known anything at all about the Catholic religion much less have a chance to belong to it. I could not imagine why God would establish a religion in which there was no opportunity for the majority of the earth’s population to worship Him. Or put differently, why would He create large masses of people who could never learn and follow His teachings? It made no sense to me and I dismissed these religions considering them to be unauthorized representatives of His word.
Only one religion stood apart, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, often referred to as the “Mormon Church” named after the Book of Mormon which is a second witness for Christ and a companion volume to the Holy Bible. The LDS Church not only claims to be the only true church, but also provides a clear promise, documented in scriptures both ancient and modern including the Holy Bible, to all people who have ever and would ever live on planet earth that they will have an opportunity to hear, understand and either accept or reject the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If Jesus Christ took upon him the sins of all who ever lived on the earth then any religion that claims to represent Him must be able to explain how this can happen. Of all that I studied, only one had an answer.
The central doctrine The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or “Mormon” Church, is the Plan of Salvation which explains where we came from, why we’re here and where we’re going after this life. As I came to understand this doctrine I came to understand not only that God loves every person who has ever, now does, and will ever live here on earth, but also why the atonement of Jesus Christ was necessary and why He was willing to die on a cross for us.
This doctrine is derived from the teachings of prophets and apostles, both ancient and modern, and from scriptures both ancient and modern. It is confirmed by personal revelation to any individual who seeks that confirmation in faith with a sincere desire to know.
I also came to understand that the family is the basic unit in the Church of Jesus Christ and that families who live worthily can be sealed together for time and eternity in a Temple of God. That the bonds of love and affection forged by righteous families in this life can endure forever. That marriage between a man and a woman need not be limited by the language “until death do you part”.
During this period I also read the Book of Mormon and a good portion of the Holy Bible and found they do go together in forming a scriptural basis for the doctrines of the LDS Church. I had applied the test in Moroni 10:4-5 and had received a confirmation that the Book of Mormon was, indeed, another testament of Jesus Christ. Additionally, an appreciation for the importance of a living prophet and 12 living apostles was established in my mind. Even so, I continued to earnestly pray to know which church, if any, was true.
I reached the point at which it became clear to me no other religion had a theological basis that even came close to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but for some reason, I was still reluctant to make the commitment to be baptized.
One Sunday, after Sacrament meeting, a fellow who had taken an interest in me asked where I was in my investigation of the church. I told him essentially what I have said above. He walked to the pulpit and brought back a copy of the Book of Mormon and read to me from Alma 32:26-28.
“Now, as I said concerning faith—that it was not a perfect knowledge—even so it is with my words. Ye cannot know of their surety at first, unto perfection, any more than faith is a perfect knowledge.
“But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can do no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye can believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can do no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.
“Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now if ye give place, that a seed may be placed in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts, and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea it beginneth to be delicious to me.”
As he read this passage to me, I knew that I knew. It had begun to enlarge my soul, it had begun to enlighten my understanding, and much to my surprise, it had become delicious to me. The Holy Ghost bore witness to me that it was true.
Interestingly, I was not taught these marvelous truths by a professional clergy, but the most unlikely of people. Carleton Welchel and Carson Sharp, both instructors at the school were not members of the church at the time arranged for me to meet with missionaries from the church. The missionaries were three young women, only one or two years older than myself, who were working in Washington D.C. and had been called by local authorities to be part time missionaries—Jan Matthews, Gail Farber and Marylou Wilson.
In October I graduated from the school of music and was transferred to the navy band on Guam. Because my parents were uncomfortable with the idea of my becoming a “Mormon” I decided to wait until after I had seen them to be baptized. When I got home on leave, they saw I was a much better person than the one they had previously known and gave me their permission.
I was traveling by bus, and my plan was to stop in Salt Lake City to be baptized. That did not work out, so I called Gail Farber who had returned to her home in Ogden to say hello before getting back on the bus. When she found out why I was in Salt Lake, she made arrangements to come get me and take me back to Ogden where she had arranged a special baptismal service just for me. I spent the night with her family and was back on the bus to San Francisco the next morning. That was in October 1957, 57 years ago this month. It turned out to be one of the best choices I have ever made.
A point of interest. When I was baptized, church membership was around 2 million and there were about 8,000 18-20 year old’s serving 1 ½ to 3 yr missions. Today, our membership numbers over 15 Million with 88,000 young single adults and senior couples serving as missionaries for 1 ½ to 3 years throughout the world.