SHARON COX'S PERSONAL STORY
By Sharon Cox
I was born in Jamaica, West Indies to a father who was 16 and a mother was 15 years old, but I was raised by my paternal grandmother who loved and cared for me as if I were her own child. Because she only had 3 sons and no daughters, my grandmother was overjoyed when I was born and "adopted" me the moment I came out of my mother's womb.
At age 18, for the first time in my life, I was introduced to a boy who became my boyfriend and shortly thereafter, I got pregnant and had my first child at 19 years old. The morning my grandmother discovered that I was pregnant, was the saddest I had ever seen her. She cried silent tears, hummed sacred hymns, and did not speak a word to me that entire day. I felt terrible because I had let her down. By the next morning however, my grandmother was back to being her normal self. She sat me down, and without judgment or accusation, questioned me about my pregnancy. She then asked me whether or not I wanted to keep the baby. I told her yes and that was the end of her questioning. Later that day, she went to the market and bought a variety of fruits for me. She was a seamstress and she made cute maternity dresses for me. I suffered with toothaches throughout my pregnancy and whenever I had an attack, my grandmother would take me in her arms and rock me like a baby. This is an example type of person my grandmother was. I depended on her for everything. She was my rock.
I lived with my grandmother up until my early to mid 20's when she suddenly passed away. I felt helpless after she died because she took care the needs of both me and my daughter and I never learned how to take care of a household, cook or pay bills. Consequently, I fell into diverse situations for many years before I learned how to stand on my own two feet.
Fast forwarding to 1989 — I was 31 years of age, lived in Queens, New York, and was now a single mother of 2 daughters. I had migrated from Jamaica to the United States 5 years prior and lived a very unstable life, moving residence and jobs multiple times. Somewhere along the line, I became friends with a lady around my age who owned a condominium in Queens and I enquired of her how I could obtain one. She gave me the phone number to the management office and I contacted them and placed myself on the wait list for a one bedroom condominium in that complex. The wait period was 1 year.
A few months prior, I had landed a job as a legal secretary with a solo attorney who was also from Jamaica. I needed to save up for the downpayment for the condo and I did not trust myself with money, so I asked my boss to withhold the bulk of my salary for a year and only pay me a small portion of it every month so that I could purchase necessities and pay for food and shelter. He agreed. I then moved into a tiny attic room in nearby home so that I could cut down on travel and living expenses. For a whole year, I ate menial food, and abandoned frivolous spending, then finally at the end of the year-long wait, I received a call from the condo association and within a few weeks, the sale closed.
To this day, I vividly recall my feelings and reaction when I turned the key to the door of the one bedroom condo and entered for first time — I fell on my knees and cried tears of joy. If I had won a billion dollars, I could not have been happier. The monthly payments were low enough that I felt I would never again have to worry about whether or not I could keep a roof over me and my two children's head, and I remember feeling a deep sense of gratitude that I had never felt before. A recollection of all the mistakes I had made and all the trials and sufferings that I had passed through since the death of my grandmother, came rushing into my mind and I marveled at how I was able to overcame it all and arrive at this place. I thought that I could never have done it on my own, I felt that God must have been helping me all this time and I did not know it. As I knelt on the floor in tears, my heart swelled with gratitude to him and I thanked him repeatedly. I wanted to put my arms around him and hug him, but I couldn't, so I made a promise that I would demonstrate the depth my gratitude by going to church and dedicating the rest of my life to him.
For the next few weeks, I pondered which church to join. I considered the Catholic church in which I was raised, but decided against it because I didn't accept its teachings and my purpose in going to church was not merely superficial. I also considered several other religions but didn't join any of them because they each had different beliefs and I had no way of knowing which if any of them taught correct doctrine.
This was the dilemma I was in the night I was watching TV and saw an ad about the Book of Mormon (BOM). I had never before heard of the BOM or the LDS church, so my curiosity was stirred and I called the 800 number and ordered the book. I had expected that it would come in the mail, but to my surprise, about two weeks later, two young men came to my door and hand delivered the book. They asked if they could come in and talk to me about it and I reluctantly said yes. We sat at my kitchen table and they proceeded to tell me the story of Joseph Smith's First Vision. As I listened to them, I was thinking "this sounds like a scene straight out of Star Trek!" But immediately following that thought, a little voice in the back of my mind kept whispering "But what if its true?" In the end, I promised the missionaries that I would read the BOM and also pray for an answer as to whether or not it was true.
On their next visit a week later, the missionaries enquired as to whether or not I had prayed about the BOM. I told them that I did, but I did not get an answer one way or another. They then asked me how I felt when I read the book and I told them that I felt ok about it. They then proceeded to explain that what I was feeling was the Spirit of God telling me that the BOM was true. This did not make sense to me, and I explained to them that I also felt good when I read a romance novel but that did not mean that the novel was true, so I could not accept their explanation. I told them that I needed a more definitive answer than that. They then encouraged me to continue to read and pray about the BOM.
By now, I had determined to myself that I would continue to pray until I got an answer one way or another. I knew myself enough to know that if I were to receive an answer that the BOM was indeed true, I would immediately turn my life around and fully embrace it and everything associated with it, but I would not do so unless God Himself told me that it was true. I did not have any preconceived idea as to how the answer to my prayers would come, but I felt that when it came I would recognize it.
From then on, my quest for an answer to the truthfulness of the BOM, became the most important thing in my life. I wasn't accustomed to praying, and so I uttered awkward prayers morning, noon, night, and every chance I got in between; however, I wasn't reading the BOM because I reasoned that if it turned out that the book was not true, I would have wasted my time, so I focused all my efforts on praying about it. But the answer did not come in the timeframe that I expected and before long, my quest began turning into an obsession and I found it increasingly difficult to keep my mind on anything but my desire to know whether or not the book was true.
As the days passed, I became more and more obsessed with my quest for an answer, and I spent every waking moment either praying or stressing about it. As a result, I started to develop headaches and insomnia, chores went undone and my job performance fell to the point where my boss began to take notice. After about 3 months in this state, I started to doubt that there was a God and decided to give up the quest and get on with my life.
On their next visit to my home, I informed the missionaries of my decision and I could sense their deep disappointment. In an effort to try and convince me to change my mind, they asked me to call a gentleman who they said used to be the pastor of his own Pentecostal church but left his congregation to join the LDS church when he discovered the BOM. They then gave me his phone number, and although I felt that it was going to be a waste of time, I promised the missionaries that I would call him and so I did.
Brother Smith and I spoke on the phone for nearly 2 hours that night, during which time he related his conversion story and bore his testimony to me. I felt his sincerity, but I explained to him that I couldn't join the church based on his testimony, I would need to have my own. Bro. Smith then encouraged me to say one last prayer before I went to bed that night and said that at the end of the prayer, I should thank Heavenly Father for answering my prayer. Although I doubted that saying this final prayer would yield any result, I had promised Brother Smith that I would do as he suggested and so I did.
My prayer that night was faithless and impolite. I basically told God how disappointed and frustrated I was with him. I also made it clear to him that if I did not receive an answer that very night, I would get on with my life the next day and forget about him and the BOM. I then said a measly "thank you" and went to sleep. What happened next would change my life forever.
Sometime in the middle of the night, I was awakened by the sound of my 12 year old daughter's voice (we slept in the same bed) calling out to me "mommy, mommy, don't forget the ???" I couldn't make out the last part of what she was saying. I saw that she was sitting up in the bed, her right hand was stretched out in front of her and her finger pointed to something. I glanced towards the wall that she seemed to be pointing to, but saw nothing so I said "what?" and she again repeated the words "mommy, mommy, don't forget the ???" I still couldn't make out the last part of what she was saying, so once again, I said "what?" and again she repeated the same words exactly as she did twice before and yet I still could not understand the end part of what she was saying. All this time, she remained in an upright seated position on the bed, pointing toward the wall in front of her. At this point, I began to be concerned and so I pulled myself closer to her and looked into her face. Though her eyes were open, she did not appear to be aware, so I gently shook her and she immediately slumped back into the bed and fell asleep.
To say the least, I marveled greatly at what had just happened because my daughter had never before done anything like that, she never even talked in her sleep. I was puzzled as to why I could not understand the end part of what she was saying even though she repeated it multiple times. It seemed as though she was speaking in a foreign language. I also wondered what she was pointing to in front of her. As I lay in bed pondering these things, the memory of the prayer that I said before going to sleep occurred to me, and then I thought "could it be that God was trying to send me a message through my daughter?" I began to feel an excitement well up inside of me at the thought. I could not sleep the rest of the night and could hardly wait for the break of day so that I could question my daughter about all of this.
At daybreak the next morning, I tried to wake her up, but she resisted because she was still sleepy, however I persisted. She told me to leave her alone but instead, I explained to her what she did during the night. Upon hearing what I said, my daughter jumped out of the bed and shouted "did I do that?" I said "yes you did." She then started to pace the bedroom floor in astonishment and kept repeating "Oh my gosh, it was so white, mommy, it was so white!" I thought it strange that she was saying this but all I wanted was for her to tell me what it was that she tried to tell me during the night, so I ignored her statement and asked her to tell me what she had said. She seemed not to hear my question because she was still pacing up and down expressing how white "it" was. I tried again to question her about what she had said, but gave up when I realized that she was not paying attention to my question, so I decided to question her about this "white thing" that was causing her to act so strangely — me: "was it white like snow?" she: "no mommy it was whiter" me: "ok, was it white like the clouds?" she: "no it was whiter, I've never seen anything as white as it!". After a few more questions along those lines, she eventually settled down then I asked her to tell me what happened.
She told me that she thought she was having a dream and in the dream she saw this "white thing" (she pointed as if the white thing was in front of her). She said that she saw me walking towards the "white thing" with what appeared to be a paper bag in my hand. She said that I was about to reach up and take the "white thing" down and put it in the paper bag and at that moment she felt like she needed to tell me something. I was excited when she got to that point in the story because I was anxious to finally to hear what she felt she had to tell me, so I asked her, and her reply was "I don't remember." I felt deflated!
Inspite of feeling let down however, I had a strong feeling that this whole incident was indeed an answer to my prayer and I also felt very strongly that I should not turn away from the Book of Mormon. This feeling was so strong that I couldn't ignore it, so then and there, I made the decision to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I called the missionaries that morning, explained to them what had happened during the night and told them that I wanted to be baptized. They were ecstatic. I was baptized and confirmed a member of the LDS church the following Sunday. Little did I realize at the time however, that the dream scenario was not over.
As a congratulatory gift at my baptism, the missionaries gave me a triple combination set of scriptures. I had no idea that the church had other scriptures besides the BOM and I was anxious to get home and start reading them, so as soon as I arrived home, I sat at my kitchen table and opened it up. It fell open on a page in the Book of Mormon and I began to read - "And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted. Yea, and I beheld that the fruit thereof was white, to exceed all the whiteness that I had ever seen." (2 Nephi 8:11). I was startled! This was exactly how my daughter had described the "white thing" that she saw in her dream! I randomly turned to another page in the scripture set, and again began reading — "But after repenting, and humbling himself sincerely, through faith, God ministered unto him by an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure and white above all other whiteness." (D & C 20: 6). By then I was mystified. Again, I randomly turned to another page and began reading — "Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a higher order of kingdoms will be made known; And a white stone is given to each of those who come into the celestial kingdom, whereon is a new name written, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it. The new name is the key word." (D & C 130: 10—11). Ok, that was it! I was now completely convinced that there was something to all this "white stuff"and I wanted to know what it was.
When I met the missionaries again, I enquired of them what was the "white stone" that was mentioned in the book of Revelation and in the D & C. They told me that it was something that a person receives when they go to the temple for their endowment. They also explained that I would not be able to go to the temple and receive my endowment until a year from my baptism. I determined then, that I would do whatever it took to receive this endowment. A little over a year later, I was ready to go to the temple and I traveled with a group from church to the Washington DC temple.
When I arrived at the temple, I was awestruck by the beauty and grandeur of the place. As I walked through the building, I was impressed at the sight of everyone dressed in white and by the fine furnishings. I and was completely engulfed in a feeling of wonder and amazement, and this was the state I was in all throughout the initiatory and endowment ceremony, right up until the point where I was standing at the veil and was about to receive the name of the second token of the Melchedezik priesthood.
As soon as the male worker on the other side of the veil opened his mouth to give me the name of this token, I heard/felt a faint "click" sound in the right side of my head as if a switch had been flicked, and immediately I heard the sound of my daughter's voice repeating the same exact words that the man behind the veil was saying and their voices were in unison! I began to tremble because I was in shock, and I started to cry. The worker who stood next to me put her arm around my shoulder and tried to console me and patiently helped me get through the rest of the endowment.
This incident in the temple, sealed my testimony of the Book of Mormon and the prophet Joseph Smith and from that point on, I became a staunch member and tenacious defender of the LDS church, and all questions that I may have had concerning points of doctrines were laid to rest. Soon thereafter, I was called as the Branch Relief Society president, then later as a Counselor in the District Relief Society Presidency. In 1998 I moved to Utah and continued to serve in various callings, the last being 2 years ago, as a youth Sunday School teacher. Little did I realize, that this last calling would mark the beginning of the end of my nearly 20 year membership in the LDS church.
In all my years as a member of the church, I never truly understood the scriptures to the extent where I felt that I had enough knowledge to confidently teach Sunday School, so I decided to embark on a serious study of them. I began by reading the Old Testament the first year, as this was the book I was to teach on that year and within two years, I read the entire Bible from cover to cover, the Book of Mormon from cover to cover, the Pearl of Great Price from cover to cover, and also the Doctrine and Covenants, in addition to attending the temple as often as I could. My hope was to come to a better understanding of the scriptures and the teachings of Jesus Christ so that I could live them better, then share them with the youth, but to my surprise, I ended up having more questions than answers.
The more I studied the scriptures, particularly the Book of Mormon, the understandings that I was getting, were in many instances quite different from that which was commonly accepted in the church. I was reading "non-authorized" LDS material as well in order to broaden my understanding on certain points of doctrine, and as a result, I came across various things that caused me to "raise an eyebrow" at the church. Additionally, I discovered that opinions on some of the more difficult doctrinal subjects differed among church leaders, and this was very troubling to me. However, I reasoned there must be justifiable answers to these things so I decided to intensify my studies so that I could lay them to rest, and also that I could clear up some of the scriptural dichotomies and mysteries that I was questioning. First, I eliminated TV, secular music and news media from my life so that I could more clearly hear the voice of the Spirit. Each day, for hours at a time, I locked myself in my bedroom and studied the scriptures, or read the writings of LDS scholars, church leaders and others, often into the wee hours of the morning. I searched, pondered and prayed more intensely than I ever had before, and yet it seemed that I was "ever learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth."
The most challenging of everything I had been grappling with, was Brigham Young's Adam–God (AG) doctrine. The first thought that entered my mind, when I encountered this doctrine was "This must be true because a prophet would never lead us astray". I thought this because I knew of this statement by Wilford Woodruff "...the Lord will never permit me or any other man who stands as president of the Church to lead you astray..." (The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, pp. 212—13). Also, one of the first historical events I learned about as a new convert to the church, was that of Oliver Cowdry's apostasy. It marveled me that someone so close to the prophet and who had such a strong witness, could "lose his way" and ever since then, I determined to myself that I would always and unwaveringly "follow the prophet".
Unwilling to entertain any negative thoughts about the church, I tried to justify the reason why we were not being taught the AG doctrine, but my heart would not accept my contrived justifications, so I decided to embark on a quest to find a place among the puzzle pieces of my beliefs, where I could fit the doctrine. I began going to the temple almost every week and studying the endowment hoping to uncover the mystery. In my mind and on paper, I mapped out the temple scenario in many different ways and experienced bouts of joy when I thought I had pieced the answer together, but cried tears of frustration when further thought revealed flaws in my reasoning. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't make the AG doctrine fit into my belief system, and when I finally came to the realization that my efforts may be in vain, I began to panic, because for the first time since I became a member of the church, I was faced with the possibility of having to denounce the teachings of a prophet which I knew for a certainty, would cast a devastating blow to my testimony.
I had started out on this journey with many firm beliefs, but the more I studied, pondered and prayed, most of them got chipped away. Brigham Young's AG doctrine however, delivered the deadliest blow; it took me to the point where I had to admit that I really did not know what I thought I knew about the LDS church, and I reluctantly let go of many of my long held paradigms. By now, I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. My "vessel" had become empty, and I was ready to end my scripture study pilgrimage. However I decided that I would stay active in the church as I felt that there was nowhere else to go.
This was the state I was in when one morning while browsing the internet, I came upon the Marvelous Work and A Wonder® website. I was unimpressed at first, thinking that this might just be the efforts of another anti-Mormon group or individual, but as I browsed the title of the books that were being promoted on the site, I felt drawn to the one that was entitled Sacred Not Secret, the official guide to understanding the LDS temple endowment (SNS). The reason I was drawn to that book was because I had agonized for months trying to come to an understanding of the endowment in my effort to fit the AG doctrine into it, and so with restrained anticipation, I downloaded the SNS book and began to read..and read..and read..and could not stop reading until I finished the entire book! And after I was done reading the book, like Abraham, I felt to declare "Thy servant has sought thee earnestly, now I have found thee." (Abraham 2:12)
Words cannot adequately describe the range of emotions that I felt that afternoon after I finished reading the SNS book. My emotions went from disbelief, to joy, back to disbelief, then to fear, then back again to joy and so on. Disbelief because I could hardly fathom that in the space of a few hours, I went from knowing NOTHING about the temple endowment, to understanding EVERYTHING about it. Joy also sprung from this emotion, but fear, which was in all honesty the strongest emotion that I was feeling, came because I knew even before I finished reading the book, that I was going to leave the LDS church and that in doing so, I would be ridiculed and possibly rejected by some of my family and friends. Nevertheless I now had a strong desire to read everything on the MWAW website, so I decided to check out Christopher's blog, and there I confronted something more dreadful than my fear — my pride!
After reading a few of his blog posts, I was immediately put off by the tone and some of the language he used. Next, I did a Google search on Christopher's name which brought up a website that was replete with all manner of derogatory information about him, and as I read some of these things, my heart began to sink and I began to question whether or not Christopher was truly who he claimed to be. Then suddenly, a realization dawned on me — I knew that the SNS book made PERFECT sense, I knew that there was no way that the information contained therein could have been conjured up in Christopher's mind, and I knew how I felt after I read the book, yet I was about to throw it all away, disregarding the message, and forming prideful judgments about the messenger. I realized that Christopher is who he is because I needed him to be this way in order to confront my prind and test my humanity. With this realization, I immediately left this "anti-Christopher" website and never went back.
Next, I returned to the MWAW website, clicked on the discussion link and began to read the "testimonies" that were posted there by some of the "converts". I was struck by the similarities between my own journey in coming to find the MWAW, and the journeys of many of these people. I felt a surreal connection to each of them but chose to call Ida Smith that evening because her story was compelling. I wanted to hear her voice, to make sure she was a real person, and also to see if I could glean some comfort to relieve the fear that was welling up inside me. I called Ida that evening and we talked on the phone for nearly 45 minutes, and by the end of our conversation I felt empowered to face my fears, but I soon discovered that fear was nothing compared to the apocalypse that I was about to face.
Nothing could have prepared me for the Human Reality book which was the second MWAW book that I chose to read. The real truths presented in that book, dealt a crushing blow to my inner world, but strangely, at the same time, I sensed a feeling of comfort that I never experienced before, akin to how a child would feel after being lost for a very long time then finally brought home.
The road that I had traveled on to arrive at this point, was paved with many stumbling blocks, and at times I felt like turning around and returning to the old familiar road; but thankfully I continued to press forward until I reached the end of the road. And when I arrived "...I beheld a tree, whose fruit was desirable to make one happy. And it came to pass that I did go forth and partake of the fruit thereof; and I beheld that it was most sweet, above all that I ever before tasted…And as I partook of the fruit thereof it filled my soul with exceedingly great joy..." (1 Nephi 8:10–12). This tree is the Marvelous Work And A Wonder®, and the fruit is the real truth that it presents to the world.
PS: If you are new to the MWAW and need someone to talk to please don't hesitate to call me or anyone else on this website. These are some of the nicest people you will ever meet! I know this from personal experience... :-) All the best!
WHAT IS THE VOICE OF THE 'ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS' TELLING US? Ask Him Yourself!
© 2005 A Marvelous Work and a Wonder Purpose Trust