I came across two six o’ clock, suit tied Elder missionaries. I met them on the streets in Ghent in may 2015. I was twenty seven years old then. They were roughly twenty. After we were introduced to each other and had talked about our faith a little bit, we exchanged our numbers and made an appointment. I did not realize then that this encounter was the inception of a grand investigation on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and their acclaimed holy writ, the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon
In my early twenties I started reading and studying the Holy Bible daily and when I opened the Book of Mormon years later I enjoyed it with the same kind of spirit. Particularly I loved the footnotes in the BOM, because they made it easy for a wider and deeper study. Because I was genuinely seeking I spend many hours with my nose in this book .
Such as with the Old and the New Testament there are some areas that do not agree with the findings of modern science. Especially the historicity of some characters and events that are mentioned in the Scriptures are being questioned, even ridiculed, by the scientific world. It’s interesting to say the least.
Still, hearing many voices from scientists who describe the Scriptures as purely a fantasy, I have a deep-seated love for the Scriptures, which includes the Book of Mormon. I know that it is true, I feel it with every fiber of my heart.
One of the biggest reason why I renounced my Catholic faith, the faith I was brought up with, was prayer. After years of collectively saying the same prayers at home with my mom, dad and my two brothers. Over and over again, every evening, it felt very superficial to me. Even after seeking out the words we repeated and the meanings behind them.
Years later, when I met with the Elders in my backyard they proposed to start our conversation or lesson with a prayer.
Curiously I said, ‘okay, go ahead’.
Elder Matos, who was back then a new missionary from Canada, – God bless his soul – agreed to speak out the prayer in Dutch. He and his companion closed their eyes and bowed their heads. So, I did too.
And then as I heard the prayer my inner eye became aware of something weird. It was something alien to me, so totally different from what I was taught as I grew up. The idea that you can address your Heavenly Father yourself in your own words like a pristine stream from the mountains to the sea. This was new to me. Prayer became something personal, and this principle felt so right that it led me closer to Him and my choice to get baptized.
Having a testimony of Jesus Christ is something very personal. For me it means believing that He is always there, that He lives, and that He is not only my savior and redeemer, but also my friend.
You might ask, “why did you get baptized when you were already baptized as a baby?”, or say, “I think it’s not necessary. You can just live well and be a good person.”
Well, we can read in the New Testament that the risen Christ appears to his disciples to command them to preach the gospel to the whole world. He says that who believe and are baptized shall be saved.
Note the order in His words. Belief comes before being baptized. My baptism then, which marks a spiritual rebirth and the commitment to follow Him and His commandments, was an effect of my belief in Him.
As a newborn infant I was innocent and unable to sin, not knowing wrong from right. I therefor did not need my sins to be washed off.
And as a baby I could not possibly have made the choice to follow Him. I believe that my baptism in the Catholic church was invalid, at least in the spiritual sense, because it didn’t result from my own desire or wish to follow Christ.