The president of the United States once asked the Prophet Joseph Smith what the difference was between our religion and the other religions of the day. The Prophet Joseph answered that the difference was to be found in “the gift of the Holy Ghost. … All other considerations were contained in the gift of the Holy Ghost” (History of the Church, 4:42).
Having the Holy Ghost as a companion is one of the greatest gifts our Father in Heaven offers us. The Holy Ghost testifies of truth, sanctifies the truly repentant, endows us with spiritual gifts, heals the brokenhearted, reveals, teaches, and comforts. The Holy Ghost is, fundamentally, the Spirit of peace. As President Gordon B. Hinckley teaches and the following stories illustrate, when the Spirit attends us, we will “have happiness in our hearts” and feel “that peace which … even in the midst of conflict … comes of a testimony and witness of the truth of this work” (“Words of the Living Prophet,” Liahona, June 2001, 35).
A Higher View
I had always dreamed of flying. So in December 1961, at age 21, I earned a pilot’s license. Whenever I happened to feel depressed or stressed, I would go up in a plane—and after flying a short while, I would feel much better.
But after a year, having flown 84 hours, I quit aviation. Although flying had relaxed me, I realized I was searching for something more—an inner peace I could not find in the air.
Ten months of wandering were enough to convince me that I might not find what I was searching for on the ground either. I thought moving to different locations would be the answer, but it wasn’t. And so I started to search different religious philosophies. During the next 18 years, I investigated several churches and became active in a few of them.
One day I visited a church three blocks from our house. When I rang the doorbell, the custodian answered. I told him I had two teenage sons who needed to belong to a youth group. “Do you have Boy Scouts?” I asked. He said yes.
Then I asked him if his church was based on the Bible. Again he said yes—it was based on the Bible and the Book of Mormon. He invited me to Church services the following Sunday. My 13-year-old son, Marcelo, was traveling with friends, so I invited my other son, Sergio, who was 15, to accompany me. He came, although reluctantly.
When we entered the chapel, several members greeted us in a friendly manner. An older man quickly introduced us to the missionaries, and they started teaching us the discussions that day. When Marcelo returned from his trip, he joined us in the discussions. The Spirit touched our hearts, and on 16 February 1980 my sons and I became members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My wife, Isabel, was baptized one month later.
Almost 40 years have passed since I began searching for inner peace in places outside myself. Today, thanks to the gospel of Jesus Christ, I see far more than I ever did in a plane. I see a world more real and beautiful than anything I saw from the air. I see a world and a life filled with God’s love, and I anticipate even greater glories awaiting in the next.
I Tried the Experiment
My parents died while I was still living at home. As the youngest and the only unmarried member of the family, I was devastated.
Alone and vulnerable, I became so distraught that I had to leave school. Concerned about my emotional state, my brothers and sisters took me to nearly every hospital in the area. The doctors said I was in shock and needed complete rest in a peaceful place away from books and anything that required concentrated thinking.
Life became even more difficult, especially as I saw my friends continuing their studies. The fact that they still had their mothers also caused me pain; my mother had been everything to me. I longed to die so I could rejoin my parents.
But my Father in Heaven had other plans for me. In His wisdom and love, He inspired my brothers and sisters to take me from the city where I had been going to school to another city to be near them. I stayed with my sister Alphonsine. She and her husband and children were so kind to me that I began to feel better. Even more importantly, my sister’s oldest son, Faet Nadege, introduced me to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was my association with the Church and the power of the gospel that finally calmed my mind and healed my wounded heart.
When I went to church for the first time, the sisters of the Relief Society and the Young Women welcomed me so warmly I felt I had almost found my parents again. I continued attending church and in time began taking the missionary discussions.
One of the first commitments Elder Hurst and Elder Bekoin asked of me was to read the Book of Mormon. I replied that I couldn’t because I had been told not to read or do anything that required great concentration. The elders encouraged me to pray with sincerity and faith in Jesus Christ about their request, assuring me the Lord would give me the ability to do what was necessary.
And so I did as they counseled. I tried the experiment. I read the Book of Mormon—and did so without any difficulty. I was baptized on 18 November 1995.
I soon received a calling to teach Relief Society. Then I was called to be a branch missionary. After that I served as a counselor in the Relief Society presidency and then as the president of the Young Women in our branch. All of these callings strengthened me and helped me progress, both spiritually and mentally.
My greatest growth came as I served in the Democratic Republic of Congo Kinshasa Mission. I was among the first sister missionaries to serve there. The experiences I had, both positive and negative, helped me develop a greater Christian capacity for love and service. My joy felt complete.
I will always be grateful to those who fellowshipped me when I first found the Church. In meeting them, I found a new family, a large and loving one that I know is eternal: the family of our Father in Heaven. I am grateful to the Prophet Joseph Smith, through whom the Lord restored His Church. Above all, I am grateful for my Father in Heaven and my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. When all I could see was sorrow, they opened doors of life and happiness to me.
Not Really Alone
As I finished a work trip and drove along the country road, I felt both thankfulness and great loneliness. I thought about the accomplishments of the week with my new job—but then there was the loneliness I felt heading toward my empty apartment. It was my first time away from home and family since my mission.
My mind wandered back several months to the morning I had packed my car and left home. With everyone else already at work or school, only my mother was there to give me last bits of encouragement and advice for living alone. As I pulled out of the driveway, my mother stood in the doorway blowing kisses and trying to hold back tears.
“Get a grip,” I said aloud to myself. “I’m a 24-year-old man.” I thought about how I had come to Chicago and had been awestruck with the size of the city. I had looked down from the 110th floor of the Chicago Sears Tower at one of the busiest intersections of freeway in the world, then out to see one of the busiest airports in the world. More than seven million people lived in the greater Chicago area, I was told. Looking down at the thousands of cars, I imagined the individuals in each car and how God knew each one. Is it possible? I had wondered. How is it possible that He knows each of us?
My mind returned to the emptiness of my car and the country road, and I prayed for comfort. I told Heavenly Father I had spent two years on a mission testifying that I know He lives and knows each of us personally but that my heart was filled with loneliness and doubt. Did He know how terribly alone I felt?
As I prayed I noticed in my rearview mirror a big truck following close behind me. I gradually slowed and pulled slightly to the right to allow him to pass. The driver sped up and waved at me as he passed. Once in front of me, he slowed down and pulled to the right as I had done, inviting me to pass him now. This isn’t what I had in mind to keep me company, I thought.
As I accelerated and passed the truck, the driver waved again, and this time he blew his horn, startling me. I quickly put some space between us. But before I could react, there he was, alongside my car and waving again. This time as he passed me, he motioned for me to pull over.
The back of his truck now filled my entire windshield view. That’s when I noticed the bumper sticker: Happiness Is Family Home Evening. “Wait a minute,” I said aloud. “He must be a member of the Church, but how does he know I am?” I followed him to a shopping area, and he motioned to a fast-food restaurant. I glanced over at the familiar bumper sticker and smiled back in agreement. It was, after all, dinnertime, and I was hungry.
“Hi, I’m Jake,” he said, extending his hand as we entered the restaurant. “I noticed the Brigham Young University sticker in your rear window and thought you might be LDS,” he continued. “Thought you might like to get something to eat.”
“You’re right, I am LDS. And I’m hungry too,” I said. “My name’s Kelly. I saw your family home evening bumper sticker and thought you must be a member also.” He confirmed that he was. We sat down at a small table.
“I’ve been a member for only one year,” Jake began, even before we started to eat. “All my life I felt there was a God who knew and cared about His children here on earth. But it wasn’t until I heard the plan of salvation that I gained a real knowledge of God’s love for each one of us.” Here was a complete stranger bearing his testimony to me. “When I came up behind you in my truck and saw your BYU sticker, I had an overwhelming feeling that I should meet you,” he said.
After a while, Jake said, “Can you imagine how different this world would be if everyone knew what we know: that God knows each one of us, loves us, and wants us to be happy?”
What a wonderful testimony, I thought as Jake explained that he and his wife were planning to be sealed in the temple later that month. My mind filled with thoughts of gratitude: toward Jake for sharing his testimony with me at a time when I needed it most; for the true Church of Jesus Christ, which makes friends out of strangers; for my family, who taught me the gospel; for my mission and the opportunity it gave me to share my testimony with others; for a loving Heavenly Father who knows and cares for each one of His children; and for good Latter-day Saints like Jake.