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Former Catholic Church Member

 

The Still Small Voice Steered Me To Arizona

By Richard J. Johnson

My story started as a youngster in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where as one of seven children of a staunch Roman Catholic mother, who saw to it that all of her children had eight years of Parochial Catholic grade school, under nuns.

Nuns who had dedicated their lives to the Savior and strived to be sure that all of their charges loved the Savior as well. They taught reverence, and behavior and that we should love the Lord our God, and fear the devil, and if we weren't good, we'd surely go to Hell!

And those nuns all had eighteen inch rulers with metal edges, and they used them often, on the palms of our hands, or on the knuckles, if you were foolish enough to put your hand out palm down!

So I had a firm foundation in Christianity, albeit a Catholic doctrinal testimony. Eight years of what was then known as Bible History, ingrained into a youngster, is not easily nor quickly overcome.

As I grew up there were no family prayers in the house.....no morning prayer, no prayer at meal time, nor at bedtime. Nothing to resemble Monday night home evening! We were a sort of a "You've got to go to church on Sunday" Catholic family.

There was no resemblance to what I have found here in this totally dedicated reverence in the LDS Church.

That left the door open for one to easily go astray, mix with the wrong crowd, develope the wrong habits, complacency sets in.

I learned to pray back there under the nuns, but prayer came later in life only in time of need or an emergency...selfish prayer. when in need of safety, protection, yes even sometimes survival.

When I reached age 17, World War II was well underway, and I had passed the exams and was about to go into Army Air Corps Flight School, but we had lost my oldest brother already, early in the war, He had been a pilot, and in no way was my mother going to let me go into flying.

So I spent that summer of '43 on a Great Lakes ship, a self-unloader, carrying iron ore from Lake Superior to Ohio, and then coal back again.

Living amongst the drunks, and other nasty habituates, and the vilest of language, was an education on how not to live, and I learned all over again how to pray. a testimony remembered.

Once all is well again, complacency sets in again. But then came military service. I went in via the draft, and was soon in an airborne infantry division, learning all kinds of interesting things...glider flights, glider landings, parachute jumping and training.

And here I was, up in the air anyway, not only dangerous, but very rigorous training. I was constantly at prayer. As we contemplated overseas shipment, and the combat that surely would follow.

And it came quickly. In late December of '44 we found ourselves on the front lines in the Battle of the Bulge. the largest battle, with by far the most casualties on both sides, of the entire war. And cold! And we had little winter gear or clothing.

It all happened too fast. And we learned to be good combat infantrymen in a hurry. That was just sixty one years ago. I was twenty years old!

Following almost two months in the Bulge. we were relieved, and went into immediate training for the last and greatest airborne operation of that war.

On March 24, 1945, we went across the Rhine River to landings in gliders, behind the enemy lines near Wesel, Germany. and believe me, prayer came easy, and everyone prayed too.

I began to realize that one was not too wise to forget The Lord Jesus Christ, calling for His help, beseeching the Holy Ghost to help too, only in emergencies, only when survival was the issue, or being maimed for life, whatever!

That "still small voice" continued to talk to me though. Following military service I enrolled in and graduated from, a four year Catholic College, and was maybe back on the right track again.

I married, we raised two children, my work took me to the East coast, I spent 36 years in a consumer marketing organization, traveled a lot, had a good career, a happy family, a good life, a testimony that just continued up again and down again, but not one I could be very proud of.

Then came retirement. I had lost my wife of 36 years, the mother of my two sons. They were grown and wed and gone, and so I retired to Arizona, believing I really was moving there to play golf year 'round.

I know now, that wasn’t true! The still small voice steered me to Arizona, the golf bit was just a ruse, a means to get me there for more important reasons.

You see, just two weeks after arriving in the Phoenix area, not even moved into my new home yet, I met Needra, on the golf course! The ruse begins to show itself!

Needra was a widow, had raised six children as a single mom, thru their teens, all of them were now wed and gone, she hated the cold weather of the Salt Lake area, so here she was, in semi-retirement working in Arizona,

We exchanged Names, where we came from, that we were alone, and in subsequent little meetings, and eventually a dinner date, she asked my religion.

I told her. She told me she was Mormon, had six children, And twenty one grand children, and unless she had a ring on her finger, and a piece of paper in her hand, she didn’t fool around.

I got the message. The still small voice was still talking to me. And I didn’t even know what Mormon meant, much less LDS.

We dated a lot. We talked a lot about being alone, about the advantages of companionship, she told me that if she ever married again, it'd have to be to a Mormon, or at least he'd have to attend church with her regularly.

We were married June 23, 1990, by her bishop in Chandler, Az., and Boy, did I find out what attending church regularly meant!

What ensued was several years of lots of golf, camping, hiking, meeting many other friends, all of them in the church, and attending Sacrament Meetings at first, then eventually also gospel doctrine each Sunday, and down the road a few years, also the Priesthood meetings.

Of course I never missed a chili cook off, or any Christmas parties! I met and made a lot of new friends. And was really fellowshipped.

Most of you may not have had an experience like this. While attending Sacrament meetings with Needra for several years, at first, each time there would be a sustaining, I would raise my hand to approve. She would reach over and pull it down, telling me I'm not a member, and I should not sustain.

Following my baptism, I would refrain from raising my hand, out of habit, of course. So Needra would quickly reach over and try to raise my hand to sustain, but by the time I would understand, and get the hand up, I would hear a voice saying, any opposed,?

One of my best golf buddies in Arizona, for two winters, was a gracious member who was also the Stake Patriarch, and a great guy, great friend, a great missionary, a retired OBYGYN and Fertility Specialist. He baptized me on Jan 26. 2002.

I recall the day, a week earlier, following eighteen holes of golf, I said to him, "Jim, would you do me favor next Saturday?" He said, "Anything!" I then said, "will you Baptize me next Saturday?" He stood up and hugged me, and began to cry openly. Matter of fact, we both cried!

Needra has never had any ups or downs in her testimony.. She has stood by me with patience, and understanding, and encouragement, as I studied this church, but she continually saw to it that there were plenty of persuaders in front of me.

Needra was baptized when she was nine years old in Torrey, Utah, in that ten foot wide by five foot deep irrigation ditch that runs the entire length of Hwy 24, Torrey’s main street, and if you’ve been to Torrey, you know that that ditch is cold, and Torrey red rock red year around.

Yet both Needra and I know that we both came up out of those waters equally cleansed, and equally receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost,

I have read the Book of Mormon some nine times, the history of the church by B. H. Roberts twice, the History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, Jesus The Christ by Talmage, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, All nine volumes of The Work and the Glory.

I've also read all I can find on Mesoamerica, the legends among the American Indians, and now read all I can get from Church sources, FARMS, being a source I really love. When you’re retired, you find a lot of time to read.

I have a testimony which I have covered in detail today, of Christianity, of God the Father, His only begotten Son Jesus Christ, of the Holy Spirit, and of the truthfulness of The Book Of Mormon, as garnered from my several years of studying it.

From Needra, her friends, her children, from the lessons from stake and assigned young missionaries, from baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and from a myriad of reading I have done these past ten years.

They have expanded that testimony immensely, including all of these recent references to learning's about early literary forms in these old books of antiquity, which are a further proof to me of the authenticity of our Book Of Mormon.
 

 

 

 

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