Raised in a Christian family as a young man, I began to formulate in my heart and maturing mind what I then called my “big questions”:
“Why did God create an earth?
“What is the purpose of life?
“What were our beginnings?
“Where will we exist, if we do exist, after this life?”
These questions were rarely discussed at our church, and, when asked, our gracious minister was unable to satisfy my mind on these issues.
In my late teens I became involved in sports. On occasion, I played handball and hockey with Roman Catholic Jesuit “brothers” as they were known. I also befriended a wonderful Rabbi who served his Jewish flock in a small synagogue close to our home. He kindly allowed us young men to play hockey on his frozen parking lot. I had also maintained a relationship with my family’s minister. These religious men were kind and intelligent and well-educated in religious matters. I believe each of them held a master’s degree in divinity, or some equivalent.
Because my “big questions” were ever present in my heart and inquisitive mind, I would occasionally gather the courage to pose my queries to my educated religious friends. Each would kindly offer what he could to help my understanding. However, while my heart shared some affinity with their responses, my mind remained unconvinced and unsatisfied. Surely, I thought, there must be answers to these important questions that do not entirely rely on mysteries and ponderous speculations.
A Onetime Plan for Meeting with Missionaries
At 21, I fell in love with a lovely young Latter-day Saint lady to whom I became engaged. I quickly came to understand her parents were hoping (expecting) I would become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I had no interest in doing so. I felt that joining their faith tradition to marry their daughter was not right. Anguished, I decided (plotted) to meet privately with the young missionaries. My plan was both simple and devious. Since I had no desire to “join” their church, I would meet with these two inexperienced missionaries who, it was clear, lacked any formal religious education. I would ask them my big questions, knowing they would fail. I could then report to my fiancé and her family that I had met with the missionaries who had failed to answer my questions. I would have solved my dilemma.
I met that first night with two young missionaries in their little gloomy apartment suite. I decided to inform them that I had no interest in joining their church, had a few questions to ask, which I was confident they could not answer, and after which I would be on my way. Thus, lacking any semblance of humility, I asked, “Why did God create the earth?”
In what I can only describe in hindsight as genuine humility and from a heart seemingly filled with love for this challenging stranger, Elder Ellis N. Roberts, the senior companion, said, “Carson, I think we can answer that question.” He then proceeded to quietly and humbly introduce me to gospel truths I had never heard before:
We lived in a pre-mortal existence where we as eternal intelligences then lived with the Heavenly Father of our spirits.
God’s plan for His children is to gain mortal bodies and have joy.
God’s purpose is to bring immortality and eternal life to mankind.
I had never experienced such an outpouring of the sacred. I was overwhelmed. Without any meaningful knowledge of the Holy Ghost, I was experiencing what I later came to understand was a Spiritual witness that what I was hearing was true. I was stunned at the depth of knowledge these young missionaries had revealed.
Discovering the Importance of Prophetic and Personal Revelation
After nearly an hour, I stopped Elder Roberts and asked him, “Do you have a master’s degree in divinity”?
He quickly replied, “No.”
I enquired, “Then where did you learn these things?”
He paused for a moment, then modestly lowered his head and said, “From my mom.”
Stunned but not quite willing to just accept that, I said, “Ahh, I see: your mother has a master’s degree in divinity.”
He again lowered his head, and with a humble chuckle, Elder Roberts told me they were dairy farmers from Idaho. His mother was a farm wife.
My life changed as I contemplated his response. I had just learned from a truly humble young dairy farmer answers to some of my angst-driven big questions. I had received answers that not only touched and changed my heart but also illuminated my mind with a clarity I had never imagined possible. Humbled by what they taught, I met in confidence with the elders who continued to answer my questions. Their humility was overpowering, their love for me disarming, and their knowledge of the sacred profound.
I learned of the true nature of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. By following the Saviour and keeping His commandments, we can grow, grace upon grace as He did (see Doctrine and Covenants 93:13), we can become as He is and “receive of his fulness and be glorified in [Jesus Christ]” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:20).
On the last evening with the missionaries, I invited my fiancé to join me. By then, I had been bathed in the spirit of the Restoration of sacred truths that would change my course in life. Within two weeks I was baptized in the cold waters of the North Atlantic on a public beach near St. John’s Newfoundland on September 18, 1966.
Eternal Truths Taught in Doctrine and Covenants 93
Not long after joining the restored Church of Jesus Christ, I read Section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants and rediscovered the source of the truths that had changed my life. There we find yet another humble farmer, this one in Kirtland Ohio in May of 1833, revealing the same eternal truths Elders Roberts and Benincosa had shared with me. No master’s degrees in divinity adorned the walls of this farmer’s humble home. He was, however, a uniquely qualified student of Jesus Christ: speaking with, following, and loving the true Master. Joseph Smith revealed ponderous truths unavailable from any other source than prophetic revelation. As with all of the revelations recorded from the Prophet Joseph Smith, Doctrine and Covenants 93 serves as divine evidence of his degree from the Master—Jesus Christ.
One great Church scholar-philosopher-disciple has declared: “Section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants … is superior in content to Plato’s Timaeus … Joseph Smith, as an instrument for receiving and transmitting God’s word, was more profound than Plato. [Joseph Smith] had the added advantage of the Holy Ghost” (Truman G. Madsen, “Joseph Smith Lecture 2: Joseph’s Personality and Character” [Brigham Young University devotional, Aug. 22, 1978], speeches.byu.edu).
The restored gospel of Jesus Christ has brought unspeakable joy to our large family for almost 55 years. It is a message sometimes delivered by humble farmers who have been tutored by the Holy Spirit.