My great, great, great grandmother, Janetta McBride first heard about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ when she was 17. She, and her family were living in England at the time. It was the early to mid 1800s, and the membership of this newly formed church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, were moving themselves to safety, to the mountains of the land westward of what was then the United States. A country built on religious tolerance, had no tolerance for these Saints, who believed that God had once again put a prophet on the Earth.
Janetta and her family heard the call to gather, sold all that they owned -with the exception of what they could carry, kissed their extended family & their friends good-bye, hopped on an America bound boat and left England. They met up with the Saints in Iowa City, just in time to pick up a handcart, and head west, on foot, with the Martin Handcart Company.
My mother is a convert to this church.
Sometimes people will think that I'm a Mormon because I was raised as one. I'll admit there is probably a degree of truth in that. If I hadn't seen my parent's certainty of things like the Joseph Smith story for example, I don't know if I ever would have opened my heart enough to even ask God if it was a true one. I can see how "far out there" it seems. And yet, because my parents seemed so sure -I did study it out. I did pray about it. I received the same answer they did, the same answer that converted my mom, the same answer that caused my great, great, great grandmother to sell all she owned and sacrifice all she had in faith and obedience, the answer that he saw what he said he saw. He was who he said he was. A living prophet of God opening the final dispensation of time.
Believing that there is a true and living prophet on the earth today, along with 12 apostles, can help explain why Mormons behave a little differently than our fellow Christians of other denominations, or nondenominations. What some see as the "rules" of Mormonism (the no alcohol, for example) we see as additional commandments -not intended to restrict, but to keep us free from addictions and to keep us healthy spiritually and physically.
I often hear things like, "Well, we believe the Bible." to which I say, "We believe the Bible too." This seems to meet with genuine surprise. I then have to explain that The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ, that it is a companion to the Bible. It's about this point in the conversation that I have to clarify that Joseph Smith did not write the Book of Mormon, he translated it. That it is a record of the people who lived anciently on the American continents, and includes testimonies and witnesses of Jesus Christ.
If you happen to be curious about us Mormons this weekend is perfect opportunity to learn about the doctrines of our church, without missionaries sitting in front of you, without having to ask anyone anything. Twice a year the leaders of our church gather together to speak to the church as a whole, this weekend is one of those weekends. You can tune in via the internet if you go to lds.org. It's also available on television, and cable television in some areas. You'd have to check your local listings under "LDS General Conference."