My conversion to the gospel, and my baptism into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began some thirty-seven years ago. I was in my first year of university studies when Elder Henry Eddington of Shoshone, Idaho, and Elder Eleazer Asay of Orem, Utah, began to teach me of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
I was intrigued with the discussions. I found that my intellect was stimulated by the new vistas of knowledge presented by these two mature representatives of the Church who had been called later in life to serve missions.
Elder Eddington was leading the discussion that last evening together before I was to return to the university. He had been reviewing why there was a need for a restoration, and then he paused and bore solemn testimony of the truthfulness of their message. Then he reached over, touching my knee with the only hand that he had and saying, “And now you will know it is true.” The Spirit of God came into my body as a fire. It felt as if it would consume me. It left me physically exhausted but totally assured that the Church was true. Now I knew for myself.
It was nearly thirty years later while I was on an assignment in Idaho that I was approached by a sister who inquired, “Brother Muren, would you be available tomorrow, Saturday, to come to our home for lunch?” She continued without waiting for an answer. “I am Velma Holsinger, the daughter of Henry Eddington, one of the elders who taught you the gospel in California. I have in my possession my father’s missionary journals, and I have marked those pages which deal with your conversion.”
The next day I arrived promptly and anxiously read through the marked pages. I was most interested in those passages which dealt with the experience that allowed me to know of the truthfulness of the gospel.
Elder Eddington had carefully recorded in his journal that he and Elder Asay had held a special fast and had prayed that day so that “young Joe Muren might know for himself.”
The Book of Mormon records well what occurred to me that evening in 1954. As those servants of the Lord “did minister with power and with great authority,” it was not possible that I could disbelieve their words. (See 3 Ne. 7:17–18.)
As the years have passed, I have recognized more fully that it was not just a spiritual experience of the moment, but rather, I was a recipient of a testimony, a gift from Heavenly Father, that when nourished and cherished would have lasting effects upon me every day of my life.
Now, as we look behind me at this array of missionaries, we are often asked by nonmembers why the Church continues to send out the Elder Asays and the Elder Eddingtons—the tens of thousands of missionaries every year. They inquire, “Why do you send them even to those nations which already know of the Bible and Jesus Christ?” Why did Elder Asay, in his sixties, leave his bride of many years to serve a mission in California? Why did Elder Eddington, a retired teacher and principal, not remain in Idaho and enjoy his family during those “golden years”?
Again the answer is clear in the scriptures. After the Lord had been crucified, He returned to the earth to bear witness of His resurrection and to give a sacred charge to His Apostles. Reading from the twenty-eighth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we read: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19–20.)
Today, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues with this sacred charge—that is, to go and to teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever He—the Savior—has commanded us. (See Matt. 28:20.) These thousands of missionaries who have been called by a prophet are visual evidence that our Heavenly Father has not forgotten His children. We bear witness to the world that He lives, that He knows each one of us individually. He has a plan, a divine plan, to bring you and to bring me back into His presence. The Savior has returned to the earth, by way of modern-day prophets, all of those teachings, all of those ordinances, and His holy priesthood to bring happiness in this life and eternal joy in the life to come, a plan with solutions—a divine plan with guidance to all of the challenges of this life.
Again, the question is asked: Why do we have more than forty thousand missionaries serving in the world? Because Heavenly Father loves us. These men and women are His servants! They are His representatives! They come with a message that truly represents what the world needs and wants.
You, too, can know! Yes, you, too, can know for yourself! For those of you that have already received a witness of the truthfulness of the gospel, I encourage you to cherish that testimony. It is so delicate! It is so fragile! It needs to be nourished with prayer, with the reading of the scriptures, and being at the right place at the right time. I promise you and bear witness that your testimony will grow, and you can have a mighty effect on those with whom you associate.
Now, there are friends of mine here today who are not members. I know you search for the truths which Heavenly Father has given us. You need to know that you are His children, and we invite you to allow the Elder Eddingtons and the Elder Asays of the Church today to teach you how the Church was returned to the earth in these latter days.
Heavenly Father offers to you through His servants a new life. The scriptures call it a rebirth. Not only did the Lord Jesus Christ tell His apostles to “go … and teach,” but to baptize them “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (See Matt. 28:19.)
I bear testimony, paraphrasing the words of Peter, in his second epistle, that we do not follow cunningly devised fables, when we make known unto you the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ did return to the earth in 1820. They did restore the priesthood of God and His plan of salvation to a modern-day prophet, Joseph Smith. I know that! I cannot deny what I have felt and what I have seen. I bear this witness to you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.