I had never thought much about my testimony. I liked to go to church, and the gospel wasn’t hard to live, so I basically took it for granted the Church was true.
When I was almost 21, I decided to go on a mission. But in my interview with the stake president the conversation took an unanticipated turn.
“Lara, do you support the leaders of the Church?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Do you know that Ezra Taft Benson is a true prophet of God?”
“I think so.”
“Do you know he is a prophet of God?” he asked again.
“I believe he is,” I responded, a little confused at the repetition of the question.
Then he said, “Belief is a beginning. But do you know that Ezra Taft Benson is a true prophet of God called to lead us in this day?”
This time I caught the wording. I could feel my face get hot. I felt helpless. Did this mean I couldn’t go on a mission? No. But he told me to be most effective on a mission, I needed a testimony of “I knows.”
Then he told me about an experience he had on his mission as a young man.
“We had been teaching an elderly lady about the Church for some time,” he said. “But she just couldn’t bring herself to accept the Book of Mormon. No matter what we did or said, she couldn’t be persuaded.
“One day I had said all I could think of to say and was about to give up when she got right up in my face and said, ‘Young man, do you know this book is true?’
“I started to fidget and couldn’t say anything. I just sat there. It was awful,” he said. “Luckily my companion was there to jump in, and he bore his testimony of the book.
“Then as we were walking home, my companion really let me have it,” he said. “He told me we’d be lucky if that lady ever even let us return. He told me if I didn’t get a testimony soon I might as well go home because I certainly wasn’t doing our companionship any good like this. The words stung, but I knew they were true. I needed a stronger testimony, and I needed it fast.
“Within two days a huge snow storm hit—one of the largest the area had ever had—and my companion and I were snowed in. I recognized this as a great opportunity to get closer to the Lord,” he said. “‘I know’ testimonies come in many ways and sometimes take a long time and a lot of effort. But after a day and a half of intense study and prayer, I finally received a calm feeling that told me the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Book of Mormon were true.”
I left the stake president’s office that day a little embarrassed, but determined to know that President Ezra Taft Benson is a true prophet of God, to know that the Book of Mormon is truly another testament of Jesus Christ, to know that Christ died for me. I would have to do the intense studying and praying that my stake president had done. And for the next three months I did.
By the time I entered the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, I felt good saying “I know.” But it was in the MTC that I got my strongest witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that he did restore Christ’s church to the earth. That’s when I truly “knew,” and I was thrilled to be an “I know” missionary.