God, the Devil, and the Freedom to Choose

A history of David’s conversion to the Lord as a boy, as he remembers it.

As a small child, I was accustomed to playing with my friends on Sundays, and getting ice cream from the ice cream truck. When I found out we were going to church and would miss the ice cream truck one Sunday, I was devastated. My parents had taught me right from wrong and about God and the Devil, and had explained we need to go to church to worship God.

That night I threw a tantrum and camped out in the upstairs hall to protest the idea of being at church all day. (Back then, church was in two parts: in the morning, a break for lunch, then back again in the afternoon.) I had faith that God and the Devil were real based on the word of my parents. In my childish anger, I got on my knees and prayed to the devil. It may have been a dream, but after my prayer, he appeared to me. I remember it vividly because it has haunted me my entire life.

Satan promised me many things, if I would just fight against the Church of God. He promised me wealth and fame, but I told him all I wanted was candy. He told me I could use the wealth to buy candy, which I thought at the time sounded good. He gave me questions to ask to make the church look bad, such as Joseph Smith saying he was the author of the Book of Mormon in the original print, and other questions that really only make sense to those without faith.

In the end, I wouldn’t agree to join him. It didn’t feel right, and I realized I was being selfish. But, I remembered what he told me, in case I thought I needed the information.

The next day, I went to church with my parents. I found it boring, yet decided that rather than ask the devil’s questions, I wanted to learn for myself. The people were nice, but I still felt like there was something wrong. It was as if the people were too nice, like they wanted something. What, I didn’t know. But I really enjoyed the Latter-day Saint missionaries playing with us before their “discussions.”

Wanting to know the truth, I taught myself to read using the Latter-day Saint Church’s child scriptures and cassette tapes. I prayed about what I read, but didn’t really feel anything. I couldn’t tell if this religion was correct or not, but believing that I’d received a vision I knew I had to discover the truth.

Then one day, we were at an open house at the Latter-day Saint church. My parents had been baptized at this point. I needed to know if God was real for myself. I thought that God must be real, as I had seen the devil, yet, to me, the Latter-day Saint Church seemed so silly. A boy had found gold plates and translated them? This just didn’t make sense to my child mind.

I too – like Joseph Smith Jr. – was a child; a younger one, but still a child. How could Smith do this and I not? So, I knelt down at the pew and started to pray silently to myself. I told the Lord that if he was real, and Joseph Smith was a prophet, then he, Smith, was no better than me – a human boy. I told the Lord that I didn’t want my parents to be lied to, and I wanted to know the truth. I asked the Lord, telling him that if he could show himself to Joseph Smith, a mere boy, he could show himself to me.

I knew this to be true in a profound way. It was black and white: either God would reveal himself to me, or Smith was a liar. For me, it was that simple. The scriptures teach that we should have the faith of a child. I can honestly say that my faith was never as pure again as it was that day. I had pure faith in a way I can only describe as that of the brother of Jared when he saw the Lord’s finger.

As soon as I finished the prayer, my eyes were opened to a vision. In this vision, I heard the voice of the Lord telling me that Joseph Smith was his servant. The Lord showed me the history of the Latter Day Saint movement, Smith following the Lord, making mistakes, but pressing on as he learned and grew.

I then saw Joseph Smith Jr. die; he was murdered and the Church split. I saw that the majority of the Church went west to Utah. I saw that church grow there and from there throughout the world. I also saw other denominations start, falter, stop, and move on but none with the growth of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I would pause, break out of the vision if you will, every so often to ask my father, who was sitting in the pew next to me while i was kneeling, questions. I had such great faith in my father that when he told me that what I asked was true, I had even greater faith in what I was seeing. If he said he didn’t know something, I would just go back into the vision to learn more. Eventually, I knew my father couldn’t answer any more of my questions, so I fully enveloped myself into the vision.

Up to that point all I has seen was the past, yet I also saw the future.

I saw the Latter-day Saint Church split again; a wickedness had entered the Church from it’s beginnings and grown over time. The majority of the Saints did not follow the Lord. I saw that in the wickedness of the Saints, their hearts were hardened against their fellow man. Rather than learn from their time as the underdog, they went from being the oppressed to becoming oppressors.

I saw many more things in this vision, a number of them I’ve read in the visions of other apostles. but I kept them to myself, as I had been told over and over that what Smith had seen couldn’t be seen by others. I did not think anyone would believe me. But I had seen a vision and the Lord told me he had a work for me and asked me if I would like to know more. I said yes.

From that time, for over a year, I was visited by angels that taught me the will of the Lord. All of my life people have said that I have a way of understanding and teaching spiritual truths that amazes them, but this isn’t me; it is because of the lessons I learned from angels as a child. They opened my mind in a way that causes me to see things the way I do. This isn’t to say that I am more holy, or better than anyone else. Everyone can have these experiences. I’m not special in any way. I was merely given a choice and chose to follow a God that promised nothing but information, rather than a devil that promised everything without really telling me anything.

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