Hi I'm Michael James
I studied Psychology at University and have since gone into doing social and public health research, working with statistics to answer scientific questions about the social determinants of health. I'm currently working on a PhD about the role of people's social and economic circumstances in how mental health and smoking and drinking behaviours develop over the lifecourse. I come from a family of three children and grew up in Nottingham, England. I am now married, living in Glasgow, and I have three daughters of my own. I enjoy spending most of my spare time with my family, and being involved with the Church, but as often as I can find some time beyond that I like to read books, listen to music, play the guitar and write songs.
Why I am a Mormon
I grew up in the Church, and although I had always believed what I had been taught, as a teenager I had to decide for myself if it was what I wanted. I had to decide if I was willing to follow the standards the Church teaches and whether I was willing to devote time to serve in the Church. I would not still be an active member of the Church if I had not found out for myself that it is true. I tried daily to pray and read the scriptures, and to learn the teachings of the Church. I tried to apply in my life the principles that I learnt. Eventually, I decided to ask God in prayer if the Book of Mormon was true. I remember receiving a distinct impression as I prayed: "Why are you asking? You already know it is true." As I looked within myself I realised that this was correct. I already felt within my heart that all of the principles and teachings of the Church were true, that they came from God, and that I would be happier living them. That conviction within my heart got there because I had consistently read, or been taught, the words of God and then followed them. As I lived the Gospel, piece by piece, day by day, almost imperceptibly, the Spirit of God bore witness to me that what I was doing and the way I was living was right, and over time this had built up into a heart-felt conviction of truth. I still have this conviction now and as I continue to prayerfully study and apply the word of God it gets stronger and deeper, day by day and year by year. I know that the Gospel is true, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, just like the Bible. I know that this is God's Church on the Earth, and that it has been restored in our time so that we might have all of the blessings that God desires for us, including and especially the opportunity to be united with our families forever.
How has the Book of Mormon brought you closer to God?
The main way that the Book of Mormon has brought me closer to God is through its focus on Jesus Christ. Consider these teachings of the Saviour from the Gospel of John: "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" -John 14:6. "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." -John 17:3. I believe that the best way we can come to know God better is by coming to know Christ better, and that it is this kind of knowledge that will enable us to live eternally. The Book of Mormon is a powerful resource towards this end because it focuses so much on Christ. It contains a record of Christ's visit to the Ancient Americas and of His words and actions there. It explains how deeply He loves us, what He did for us, how He sacrificed Himself for our benefit, and much more. This is the whole purpose of the book. Nephi, one of the authors of the Book of Mormon states that it will bring people, 'to the knowledge of their Redeemer and the very points of his doctrine, that they might know how to come unto him and be saved' (1 Nephi 15:14). This book has certainly done this for me. It has helped me to know how I could come to Christ, repent and receive forgiveness for my sins. I have come to know Christ better through studying this book, and I feel closer to God when I read and prayerfully study in its pages. I know that it comes from God.
What is hope and what do you hope for?
I see hope as a kind of belief that things can be better, that improvement is possible. One of Christ's most meaningful titles for me, is 'High Priest of Good Things to Come' (Hebrews 9:11). I know that Heavenly Father loves me and that He wants to give good gifts to us, His children (see Matthew 7:9-11). Everything may not be just how I would like it in my life and current circumstances, but I can have hope that things will get better as I go forward in Faith and trust in God. Through Christ I can 'hope for a better world' (Ether 12:4). Having this hope means that I can accept my current circumstances for what they, a temporary interlude on a journey to something better, and be happy with where I am and what I have, whilst continuing to strive and work for better things. For example, I'm applying for Phds at the moment. I don't yet know whether I'll get accepted at any of the places I've applied to, but I have confidence that the Lord will help me to get to where He wants me to be, and I trust that where Gods wants me to be will be the best place for me. I hope to get a good position, and to be able to go on from that to a better job, which will enable me to provide more for my family than they currently have. I recognise that things may get harder before they get better; doing a Phd may be difficult and challenging and for a time, whilst studying, I may end up with less time and fewer resources for my family; but I have hope that as I work hard and keep moving forward, then things can be better in the long run. I can face the temporary difficulties more cheerfully because of the hope I have that things will eventually be better. This hope is most important in helping me recognise that I can be better. I do not have to remain the imperfect person that I am, I can change and become a better person. Christ has already helped me to overcome many faults and weaknesses, and as I continue to have faith in Him and follow His teachings I know that He can yet help to overcome many more. I hope that one day I can be like Him.
Which of the Savior’s teachings have influenced you in your life?
One of the Saviour's teachings that has influenced me greatly is this one from Luke 9:24: "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. " Whilst I was serving as a missionary for the Church in Switzerland I was initially quite distracted and still very focused on things that I wanted for myself back home in England. As I was starting to re-evaluate my priorities I came upon this scripture, and that was kind of a turning point for me. I realised I needed to forget about what I thought I wanted in my life, and start figuring out what the Lord wanted me to do. I recognised that I would always be at my happiest following the will of the Lord, because He wants me to be happy. This made me all the more determined to seek to know what the Lord wants for me, how the Lord wants me to act, and what things the Lord wants me to do. I know that I have been deeply blessed as I've strived to do what He has asked of me. In particular I have been blessed to find a wonderful, righteous woman that I could marry, and we have been able to start a family that can last forever. I'm very grateful for this blessing, and for how the Lord has blessed me as I have sought to know, and follow His will.
How I live my faith
I live my faith most importantly in my family life. I believe my family can be forever, that those relationships can last beyond the grave and into eternity. My family is my priority. I work in my job to ensure they are provided for and, outside of work, I consider enriching and strengthening my relationships with them to be one of the best ways I can use my time. I have also served in the Church in a variety of ways and I try to help in any way I am asked. I was a Missionary for the Church in Switzerland, where, for two years, I taught others on a day-to-day basis about our beliefs and practices. Since that time I have also been involved in organising social activities for young single adults in the Church, in keeping local financial and membership records, and in various teaching and leadership responsibilities. I currently serve as the Bishop of our local ward. This role is something like a pastor or a minister in other churches. I preside over a congregation of around 100 members. I am often involved in speaking or teaching during our Sunday meetings and I try to be available for private, individual counselling, striving to help people overcome personal adversities or weaknesses. I also manage the church's local welfare assistance programme. I believe strongly that my faith has benefited my life a great deal, and I try to be open in discussing this with anyone who expresses an interest, in the hope that they might also benefit from what we have.