Enjoy a sneak peek into the new book Why I’m a Mormon, in which 53 stalwart, modern Mormons—all with remarkable stories and accomplishments—share their perspectives.
Alex Boyé, internationally acclaimed singer and entertainer, tells of an experience he had after his uncle threw him out of the house for joining the Church:
“As I was wandering, I remembered a parking lot, a junkyard really, not far from where I lived. There was an old, white, rusted-out van parked there. I slept there that night. I kept crying, lonely and miserable. I was supplicating the Lord, praying to know why this was happening to me. ‘This is not what I signed up for. Why didn’t you leave me where I was?’ . . .
“While I was feeling so sorry for myself, I had a sudden strong impression. It wasn’t a vision or exactly a sound that I heard, but more a voice that I felt. I felt the voice say to me in the most loving way possible, ‘Would you let me speak now?’ The strong sense came clearly to me and said, ‘Read section 121 of the Doctrine and Covenants.’ . . .
“There I was, in a rusted old van, homeless and with almost no experience in the Church, reading verses I had never heard of before. I was hoping I could get some kind of comfort, but what I got was more than comfort. I had an overwhelming sense that the purpose of life was to be tested.”
Jon M. Huntsman Sr., entrepreneur and philanthropist, describes being interviewed for the position of Special Assistant to the President of the United States:
“Over the course of two days, I was grilled by the president, the vice president, the chief of staff, and members of the White House staff. This position was very close to the president—responsible for the ingress and egress of all papers and documents to him and also responsible for White House personnel and finances. They had narrowed it down to fourteen applicants, and . . . [the interviewer] looked me right in the eye and said, ‘I want to know one thing. Are you a full tithe payer in your church?’
I stopped dead in my tracks and answered, ‘Yes, sir, I have paid tithing since I was five years of age.’
He said, ‘I need ask no further questions. You have the job. If you’ve paid tithing all your life, then you are a man of integrity and honor.’”
Gifford “Giff” Nielsen, former All-American college football star, pro quarterback for the Houston Oilers for six years, and anchor on KHOU-TV, recalls a memorable media interview:
“I don’t remember the exact moment that I gained a fervent testimony of my own, but I do remember thinking seriously about my religion as the result of a pointed question a reporter asked me during my junior year as BYU’s starting quarterback. After the usual questions about the upcoming Tangerine Bowl game we were to play in Florida, this man looked me in the eye and said with authority, ‘I don’t see how your religion can help you in playing football.’
“Then he held the microphone very close to my mouth and turned up the volume on his recorder. I believe that during that brief pause between question and answer, my idyllic life flashed before me, and I pondered deeply just what being a Mormon had meant to me.
“I said without equivocation, ‘My religion gives me direction, purpose, and joy. I love football, but it isn’t the most important thing in my life. I’m going to go out and play a game on Saturday, and I’ll fight harder than anyone out there to win because I’m a competitor and I hate to lose. But win or lose that game, I’ll still get up the next day and go to church. I’ll still have everything that is most important to me and I’ll know where I came from, why I’m here, and where I’m going when I die. That’s how my religion helps me in football.’
“The reporter put the microphone down and asked, ‘How’s your offense looking for the big game?’ And I smiled inside, knowing that, win or lose that game, I was winning in life because I truly knew who I was and Whose I was. That kind of victory is the foundation and structure of my entire existence. The gospel of Jesus Christ has grounded, shaped, and enriched my life beyond all else.”
Clayton M. Christensen, Harvard Business School professor and pioneer in the field of disruptive innovation, explains the virtues of a lay clergy:
“Because we employ no professional preachers in our church, regular members—women and men, children and grandparents—give every sermon or lesson. This means that we have the chance to learn from everyone—people in all walks of life who are struggling in their own ways to follow God. I have found, in fact, that some of the most profound things I have learned about the gospel of Jesus Christ were taught by people from whom, if judged by the standards of the world, one would not have expected such profundities to come. For example, about a decade ago I was serving as the bishop, or lay minister, of a congregation of college students in the Boston area. We had assigned a college sophomore to give a sermon about repentance in our service on a particular Sunday. I still remember his key point: ‘We often view repentance as a slow process. It isn’t. Change is instantaneous. It is not changing that takes so much time.’ I had been struggling to overcome a particular bad habit, and I resolved that I would change my behavior right then and there—that I would quit ‘not changing.’ Where else but in this church could a young, inexperienced student have taught a bishop such a profound lesson?”
Jan Saumweber, senior vice president for Sara Lee Corporation, discusses the LDS Church’s emphasis on service:
“I believe that children raised with a focus on serving others are less likely to get involved in the trappings of self-absorption. Recently, I helped to plan a pool party for a group of Latter-day Saint teenage girls. The day before the party, we learned that a young family had moved into a nearby vacant home that needed some serious attention. When the girls were asked whether they wanted to continue with their party plans or to scrape paint off of tile and paint walls, they unanimously voted to serve this family. They worked enthusiastically while singing Disney tunes and Church hymns.
“On the way home, a chorus arose of, ‘When can we do something like that again? That was so FUN!’ I thought of what teens across the country might be involved in doing that night. How many were selflessly helping others and calling it fun? These girls had been taught to serve. The LDS Church creates an atmosphere that facilitates raising children who realize the difference it can make to practice Christianity, not just believe in it.”