Good Morning Brothers & Sisters, I am grateful to have the opportunity to speak to you today. As with any new couple or family in a ward, we have been asked to introduce ourselves and share a message with you. My name is Rebecca Carr and this handsome gentleman behind me to my left is my husband Brennan. He is a kind, loving, compassionate husband/father and has worked hard for his education. Every decision he has made has been for his family. We grew up in Nebraska and have known each other since we were 14 years old. We began dating at 15 years old and except for a few years In the middle, we have been together and we were sealed in the Los Angeles Temple almost 33 years ago. We are both converts to the church; I was baptized at 18 years old and Brennan at 22 years old. We actually began taking the lessons together, but he backed out. We have 4 grown children, 3 girls and our little boy Matthew, who is now 25, so he's not so little.
They all live in Utah, where our 3 girls are working in their chosen careers, and our son is working and will be attending BYU beginning Winter semester(majoring in film). Three of our 4 children have faithfully served missions-our eldest daughter, Aj served In the Philippines, Sarah served in Mexico (Yucatan), and our son served for a year in Sydney, Australia. Due to the pandemic, was sent home and finished his mission in Utah.
Being a convert to the church, I am proud that our children made the decision to serve a full-time mission. It was never expected of them, and we had always counseled them that the decision to serve a full-time mission would be a decision that would need to be made between them and the Lord. But I know their missions helped to shape them into the amazing young adults they are today.
As I was thinking about what to speak about today several topics rolled through my head. My thoughts kept returning to my first introduction to the church and the missionaries that taught me.
I had been raised in the Catholic religion, but we only went to church on holidays. Then, I attended a non-denominational church through my teen years. My father-whom I was very close to, passed away when I was 12 years old, and for a very long time, I was angry at God because I felt He had taken my father away from me, and I wanted nothing to do with religion or God.
God's timing is everything-and it was at a very vulnerable time in my life when I could've chosen two very different paths to walk down that I met the Elders. They asked if they could teach me about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. I was resistant, today it mildly. I Told them that. Had questions about God(where we came from, where is y dad/ and other family members that have passed, is there only a Heaven/Hell, what about the Trinity-what's that all about). I told them that if they could answer my questions with some proof from "their bible" I would listen to their stories.
I had previously asked these same questions to my pastor, and the answer I received was that I needed to have more faith and some things are just a mystery of God and we didn't know the answers.
A few weeks later, I met again with the Elders, one of them pulled a slip of paper from his pocket, showed me the answer to my questions with scripture references from both the NT/ and the Book of Mormon.
Trinity-nature of Godhead (Matt: 3:13-17, Mormon 7:5-7, D & C 130:2)
Heaven/Hell-3 degrees (1st Corinthians 15:40-41, John 14:2)
I decided to listen to what they had to say!!
I had many obstacles to overcome to get baptized. Many people tried to convince me that the Mormons were NOT Christians and that the God they worshipped was not the REAL God.
At one point, my brother-in-law (a staunch born-again Christian) had me exorcised and prayed over by members of his church because he was convinced that I was being brainwashed by the Mormons. It was at that moment, I realized that there had to be some truth to what I was learning because the adversary seemed to be working hard on trying to prevent me from joining the church. My decision to be baptized caused me to lose friendships, and strained family relationships. Over time the family relationships have been mended, but some friendships were lost forever. But my baptism is not the end of my conversion story, it is only the beginning. My conversion is ongoing and always developing.
Many times, over the years, following our reconciliation, my older sister, who had been married to the born-again Christian, mentioned how proud she was of the person I had become and the family that Brennan and I have built together. She asked me what I attributed our success, both individually and as a family , and without hesitation I replied, " The Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ and my association in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints."
This dear sister of mine recently passed after a long battle with cancer. Before her passing we had a lovely talk about life, family, and God. I gathered up the courage to ask her permission to do her temple work after she passed, and she smiled and said that I could.
As the years have passed, the question becomes, not why I joined the church, but why I continue to stay active in the church. There are many people I know that have become less active over the years, and several that have left completely. So why do I choose to stay? I stay, in part, because of my testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. When, for one reason or another, my testimony feels like its weakening I remember how I felt when I first heard the story of the young boy Joseph.
I remember his faithfulness, his love for-and dedication to the Lord. I remember his obedience to what he was asked to do, considering all the persecution he faced and the personal losses he experienced-I ask myself...why would a person do that if none of this was true? Was he a liar, a great storyteller, did he make it all up for fame and recognition? If so, what world reward did he gain?
His name was, and continues to be slandered (had for good and evil among all nations-JSH 1:33 as the Angel Moroni prophesied), he was tarred and feathered, pushed from home to home, mistreated, and abused for months while in jail, and ultimately murdered by a mob of over 100 men.. and all for what? A hoax?
This past week, the church recognized the 200th anniversary of the Angel Moroni's visit to Joseph Smith. Joseph was only 17 years old when Moroni visited him for the first time. The Angel declared, "that the time was at hand for the Gospel, in all its fullness to be preached in power, unto all nations" and that Joseph was "to be an instrument in the hands of God" in that work. In that moment, I can only imagine how that young boy must have felt. At 17 did he feel ready or worthy for such a responsibility to be thrust upon him? He must have quietly thought to himself, Why me? I am a person of little significance. I am just an obscure boy! God chose Joseph, and with unwavering faith in the Lord, Joseph became an instrument in God's hands in bringing forth sacred scripture, lost doctrine, and the restoration of the priesthood.
Was he chosen because he was perfect? No, but throughout the scriptures there are countless examples of God choosing imperfect people to carry out his work. Elder Jeffrey R Holland stated, "Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work."
In a 2014 General Conference talk given by ElderNeil L. Anderson about the Prophet Joseph Smith, Elder Anderson stated, "The negative commentary about the Prophet Joseph Smith will increase as we move toward the Second Coming of the Savior. The half-truths and subtle deceptions will not diminish-Gain a personal witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Let your voice help fulfill Moroni's prophetic words to speak good of the Prophet."
Elder Anderson goes on to say that a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith can come to us in several ways. It can come through sincere prayer, it may come as we read and ponder the account of the First Vision, it may come as we read and study the Book of Mormon, it may come as we serve in the temple, or our testimonies of the Prophet can e strengthened as we stand and share it with others.
From my earliest days as a new member of the church, to today, almost 38 years later I testify to you that I KNOW without a doubt that this is the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that we are led by a Prophet today-President Russel M. Nelson, and that He is the mouthpiece of God on the earth today. I KNOW the God knows me personally, He knows all my good and all my bad-and He still loves me. I KNOW He sent his Son-Jesus Christ to atone for my sins so that I can one day return to my Heavenly home. And I KNOW unequivocally that Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God, and he was chosen by God to restore the Lord's true church to the earth in the last days.
I humbly share these things with you in the holy name of our Savior Jesus Christ-AMEN