“We are especially saddened when someone who once revered Joseph retreats from his or her conviction and then maligns the Prophet.
‘Studying the Church … through the eyes of its defectors,’ Elder Neal A. Maxwell once said, is ‘like interviewing Judas to understand Jesus. Defectors always tell us more about themselves than about that from which they have departed.’
Jesus said, ‘Bless them that curse you, … and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’ Let us offer kindness to those who criticize Joseph Smith, knowing in our own hearts that he was a prophet of God and taking comfort that all this was long ago foretold by Moroni.” Elder Neil L Andersen
We have all been, or could easily become, defectors. Never forget that. Faithfulness is a pattern of consistency. It takes time to develop and time to destroy. The “formula” for developing faithfulness consists of the basic principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ, including: prayer, feasting on the words of Christ, faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, receiving and living worthy of the Holy Ghost, and discipleship.
We each have unique challenges that appear to others as inconsistencies. That is not the same thing as unfaithfulness. Unfaithfulness includes those characteristics and choices that lead to rebellious disobedience to God’s commandments and/or preaching a gospel of disobedience.
As a former antagonist who despised God and His church, I can attest that the gall of bitterness I soaked in and spewed out was both intoxicating and destructive. I took great pride in my ability to distract, deceive, and corrupt. I thought I was in the right. After all, I had felt judged and wronged by others in the church, and I had felt abandoned by God. And so I carried on in rebellion, doing so many things that caused me great need for repentance.
Then it happened. I felt a loss sufficient to humble me, even as proud as I was. It dropped me to my knees and then to my belly. It pierced me to the depths of my soul. No amount of my bitterness and pride were capable of comforting me then.
At that lowest of places, an idea–a revelation–came to me. Although I’ve forgotten the words, I remember the direction: I was to remember Jesus Christ and feast upon the sacred words in The Book of Mormon. And so I did. For days I went almost completely without food, and I probably only drank enough water to keep me alive. Food was a distraction. Sleep was a distraction. Everything other than obedience to the revelation was a distraction.
The culmination of that sacred event in my life is too sacred to detail, even if I felt capable of trying. I can tell you that I left that sacred time with a sure witness. I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that Joseph Smith was called of God to be an instrument in God’s hands to restore The Church of Jesus Christ. And I know that The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ is more of God’s revealed truth.
That was over 14 years ago. To my great sadness, I haven’t been perfect since then. The powerful and intimate witness I received did not give me a pass for the rest of the trials of mortality. I’ve faltered over and over again since then, but I’m still trying to live up to the trust God placed in me when He told me His truth.
So, despite my great imperfection, I testify that Jesus Christ lives and that Thomas S. Monson is a Prophet, a Seer, and a Revelator.
Follow God’s prophet and the majority of the 12. They, the scriptures, and God’s Holy Spirit act as one to lead us through the great deceits and pitfalls of our time.
And always remember: defectors can be made into disciples. It happened to me. It can happen to you. It can happen in the life of your son, your daughter, your parent, your brother or sister, or your friend. My family members prayed and fasted for me many times over several years during my time of serious rebellion. Your prayers and other efforts do not fall on deaf ears with our Father in Heaven. Of that I am a witness.