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I grew up in Northeast Ohio, near Kirtland. At age 10, my twin brother and I were enrolled in the Milton Hershey School, a school for disadvantaged children established by chocolateer/philanthropist Milton S. Hershey. After graduation, I attended college (briefly), then embarked on a 15-year musical career, playing keyboards, singing, and writing music with various touring bands in Califonia. I still play some to this day, but not as much as I used to. I was married and am the proud father of two daughters, Jennifer and Jessica. After I lost my way, I ended up divorced and alone, but found a new path when I joined the church in 1997. I have since re-married, have a beautiful new wife, three awesome step-children and seven grandchildren, with one on the way. I work doing technical support in the financial services industry and am happier than I could ever have dreamed of being. I serve as the Ward Mission Leader for the Modesto 2nd Ward.
In the '90's, my life had become a mess and I had lost my family, my faith, and pretty much anything that was worthwhile in my life. A sister at work saw my pain and invited me to church. It was the Sunday before Christmas and I was re-introduced to the Savior on that Sunday as we celebrated His humble birth. The sweet Spirit that I felt that day was unlike anything I had ever felt. I was taught by the missionaries, Elder Laloni and Elder Henry, and on Feb 10, 1997, I entered the waters of baptism. I grew up in the Reorganized LDS church and was familiar with the Book of Mormon, but had never truly read it before. As I was reading in I Nephi 17, I came across this passage: "13 And I will also be your light in the wilderness; and I will prepare the way before you, if it so be that ye shall keep my commandments; wherefore, inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land; and ye shall know that it is by me that ye are led." It was my light in the wilderness...I was lost in a wilderness of sin, depravity, and pain. Never before had it been so clearly stated how I could find my way back; the way was prepared! All I had to do was keep the commandments and I would be led to the promised land. He led me to my promised land: my beloved wife, Mary. I know it was by Him that I was led there. That day I gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon and how it changes lives; of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and how it can save you no matter how far you have strayed; of the power of the Atonement to mend lives, change hearts, and restore purity to our lives. I am so very grateful to Lisa Bizzuto who saw my pain and rescued me from the wilderness, to the Missionaries who patiently taught me, to my good friends Max and Sally Roberts who taught me how to be "a Mormon", and to my Father in Heaven and His Son, Jesus Christ, for the sacrifice they made that I might find happiness in this life and be able to live forever with Him.
There are so many ways that being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has changed my life. The biggest one is HOPE! In the past, I would beat my self up for making mistakes, something that contributed to the things that tore my life to pieces and humbled me to the point where I was ready to hear the gospel and make a change in my life. After hearing the message of hope contained in the gospel, I learned that Heavenly Father KNEW we would make mistakes and that the Atonement of Jesus Christ was His plan to allow us to find forgiveness for those mistakes and return to the path of righteousness that will bring us home to Him. I also learned that I am not a victim in life. I used to say, "Why me?" when something bad would happen to me. After learning the plan of happiness, I came to understand that the bad things that happen to us are for our benefit; to teach us things we need to know to grow and progress and prepare us to live eternally with our Father in Heaven. Now, when bad things happen to me, I look at the trial and say, "What am I supposed to learn?" It has changed my perspective on life completely. I have gone from being a victim of the things that happen to me (usually because of choices I have made) to being an active participant in my own salvation, motivated to do all I can to prepare myself for an eternity with my beloved wife, Mary, and my family in the mansion that the Savior has prepared for us. Finally, I truly learned the value of service, which also helps me through the tough times. Today, when I face trials in my life, I have learned to look outside myself for opportunities to serve others. It takes the focus off my problems and infuses me with gratitude for the blessings I have received. It helps me to see that Heavenly Father loves us all and gives us the opportunity to serve Him by serving others, which ultimately blesses our lives in ways we couldn't have imagined unless we experienced them ourselves.