Note: Last week I received an email from my son, Dan. He is the freshman at BYU, and is taking a Mission Preparation religion class. One of their recent assignments was to write an essay about how each one of them gained their testimony. To us as parents, this letter was a gift. After I read it, I felt like it should be shared. Dan agreed – especially since he is getting ready to be a full-time gospel sharer.
How I Gained My Testimony
By Daniel McBride
I’m quite convinced I was raised like a great deal of my fellow students here at Brigham Young University. I was born of goodly parents who had faith that could move mountains. I was raised with a white shirt and a tie, piling into the family car every Sunday morning rushing to get to church on time. I was raised learning how to pray and bear my testimony with my mother whispering what to say next in my ear. Now, of course, this is not all: my father was the bishop of my ward. Talk about your average Mormon boy.
I grew into a teenager. I never had any legitimate problems or issues with the church, but like anyone else, I had doubts. One of these moments came as I observed my brother, a fantastic young man who – at the time – was serving a mission in the Dominican Republic. Four months prior to his return date, I witnessed him come home urgently and saw him being pushed though the Phoenix airport in a wheelchair, with an enormous bandage wrapped around his head. The previous day, he and his companion were walking to the church in Santo Domingo when the enormous iron gate that guarded the church collapsed and fell on his head, cracking his skull on impact, along with another crack from his head hitting the concrete. I watched him go straight to the hospital, practically unresponsive with a serious brain injury. I watched doctors puzzle over the fact that he wasn’t dead by then.
(Note: A frightening, yet miraculous story, for another time.)
After I gave my brother an awkward wheelchair hug, I went home that night and sat in my bed thinking: “I’m supposed to go on a mission too?” I wondered whether the church and the Gospel was worth it. For the first time, I was scared to serve a mission.
About two years later, in the middle of sophomore year, I came down with one of the worst cases of shingles that my doctor had ever seen. I had thought that shingles was just something that some old people get, but boy, was I wrong. Immense pain and a dark mental state came along with this sickness. I periodically checked my grades on my phone and saw them plummeting due to my extended absence from school. Being in too much pain to really do much, I missed my school’s volleyball tryouts and a good chunk of the season. My grades were bad, my volleyball career was essentially over, and I was in more pain than I had ever been in.
(Dad note: If anything, Dan under-plays how wicked this bout with shingles really was. It was devastating. He missed over 40 days of school that semester, and suffered physically ands emotionally. As he said, several doctors said it was the worse case of shingles they had ever seen – and it was on his face! Like teenagers don’t have enough to worry about. I included a picture, just to gross you out.)
My parents, of course, were concerned. I felt the love of my mother as she comforted me and continuously served me and loved me while I was down. I witnessed my father expressing genuine concern and love for me.
I decided to pray at 3 AM on one of the worst nights. Then, something changed: I felt the Spirit, and I felt the love of my Heavenly Father. I didn’t receive a prompting that ‘everything was going to be okay’ or that ‘you don’t need good grades and it doesn’t matter if you get into BYU or not’. All I felt was love. I felt the love of a Creator that loves me enough that He wants me to come live with Him again. An outpouring of love and a waterfall of tears occurred that night, and suddenly, I was renewed with a vigor and a determination to fight through whatever was happening to me, because it wasn’t that bad. Nothing is, really, when you choose to take an eternal perspective and remind yourself that Christ went through more than you could ever know.
That night, I laid the foundation of my testimony through prayer – God loves me. With this simple statement, this one idea, so many doors of faith and Gospel principles were opened up to me. I found that He loves me so much that He sent His only Son to atone for my mistakes. I found that He still cares about His people as much as he did in Bible times, and sends Prophets and Apostles to the Earth to guide me back to Him. I gained a testimony of my family, and finally saw it not as a group of random folks to live my life with, but an eternal group of the best friends I could ever have. I found trust in the Lord as my high school career turned out just fine without volleyball and that I was accepted into the school of my dreams against all odds.
Now here I am, sitting in my dorm at Brigham Young University, still feeling that same love that I felt that night at home in Arizona. And now, because of this testimony that was planted then, my faith in the Lord and His Gospel continues to grow and flourish every day as I strive to serve him. I couldn’t be more thankful for the rough patch that I went through.
And now? I am earnestly awaiting a mission call that could come in the mail this week. I can’t wait to serve a mission, despite any doubts and fears I may have. I just want other people to experience the same love that I did, still do, and will when I wake up tomorrow.
(I appreciate Dan’s willingness to share his story. We could not be prouder of the man that he has become. Wildly talented as a musician, he is also hilarious, loving and deep. THREE WEEKS have come and gone, and Dan is still awaiting his call. I’ll let you know when it comes.)
UPDATE: Call received- Mexico, Xalapa mission. Reporting in February. Sweet