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Hi I'm Sam

I'm a husband, dad, grandpa, and amateur cook. I'm a high school teacher, language nut, ATV rider, and I'm a Mormon.

About Me

When I was about eight, I vividly remember a visit by relatives from Germany. The fact that I could not understand their language, nor they mine, amazed me. Ever since I have had a passion for languages and words. As a teen, I learned to play the piano and organ, and still play in church occasionally. The study of music in turn led to another passion: classical music. The diverse countries from which the great composers arose then continued to fuel the passion for language. That in turn churned a great love of literature. So today, those who know me tend to think of me as a walking dictionary with a sense of humor. But that should come as no surprise when I think of the foreign languages (besides my French) my wife and sons have accrued in their missionary service: Italian, Spanish, and Japanese! I love being a Mormon for the opportunities it has given me to grow and develop my talents—and the opportunities never seem to end. As a young man, serving as a missionary in France allowed me to achieve my dream to master a foreign tongue, that in turn allowed me to major in French in college, and pursue additional education and eventually become a high school teacher (in the subjects of French, English, American government, world history, sociology, and psychology—yes, I teach in a smaller school, and I love it!). Through my experiences in the Church, exposure to other cultures has also helped me to understand how and why people seem different on the outside, yet fundamentally seek the same feelings: peace, love, a sense of purpose to life, and acceptance. If all that seems too pedantic, or high brow—even for me—I hop on the family ATV and head for the mountains surrounding our home in rural eastern Nevada. It’s fun and easy to ride to the top of one of them and take in the majestic sweep of creation, so reassuringly vast. Then I come home and cook my favorite comfort foods!

Why I am a Mormon

My parents belong to the Church, and so I was raised as a Mormon. But being born a Mormon no more automatically entails belief than being born into any other religion. As an adolescent I questioned my own beliefs as I gained exposure to those of my peers, and others around me. Yet as I studied the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, attended and participated in church, and prayed for knowledge, I gained my own conviction. Lots of people gradually gain a belief (what we Mormons call a testimony) of the restored gospel; while mine has been strengthened—gradually—over time, as a fourteen-year old I did have an “epiphany” of sorts—a sudden, powerful realization that Joseph Smith really was a prophet of God. I was in bed reading a story of his persecutions one night when a most irresistible, overwhelming force of warmth, love, and humility came over me. I knew it was Heavenly Father using the Holy Ghost to touch my heart to tell me that what I had just read really happened. It told me that God the Father and His son Jesus Christ really did appear to Joseph Smith, and that the Church (and its divine authority) that was organized by Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry had been lost because of transgression and error. Most importantly, it told me that Jesus’ Church and its divine authority had been restored through Joseph Smith. That was the beginning of my testimony, and I have never since doubted that the Church really does represent God’s work, His kingdom, here on earth today. My subsequent study of the gospel and the scriptures, service in the church (especially as a missionary), and obedience to the commandments of God have all continued to build my testimony, and helped me to be a better husband, father, teacher, and friend. I love knowing that Heavenly Father hears and answers my prayers, that He is always there, that imperfect as I am, I can seek forgiveness through the Atonement of His son. I have heard some people say that only arrogance would allow a person to believe they belong to any church that claims it is the “one true religion.” For my part, I cannot resist the logic that only one church, God’s kingdom, would have God’s divine sanction. A house divided against itself cannot stand. Imagine what would happen if every man took it upon himself to be the legitimate representative of the government of his country and claimed the right to enforce its laws as he saw fit—without being authorized to do so by his government. Chaos and eventual breakdown of civil order would result. Why would God’s kingdom on earth be any different? From Adam through Jesus Christ, authority and order characterized God’s kingdom on earth during the periods of history when it was present. If God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, why would that change? It wouldn’t, it couldn’t, and it didn’t. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the modern-day iteration of that very work begun six millennia ago in the garden of Eden, and perpetuated, lost, and reestablished through the cycles of history as recorded in the Bible. But now, in our day and age, it is here to stay. I know that what I have stated is true not just because it is logical, but because the Holy Ghost has born that witness to me—and I cannot deny it. I know that you, too, can have that same witness. That is why Heavenly Father has given us the Book of Mormon, another testament of Jesus Christ.

How I live my faith

The family is the most important unit of the Church. Outside of the family, the formal organization of the Church, as I understand it, takes place at three levels: the church generally, stakes or missions, and wards and branches. Each has its own leadership structure, following the practice established by the Savior during his earthly ministry. He established prophets, apostles, pastors, teachers, evangelists and so forth. Just as the Lord’s kingdom was established previously, today a prophet presides over the entire church, with the assistance of two counselors and a quorum of twelve apostles; a president presides over each stake, with the assistance of two counselors and a high council; and bishop presides over a ward with the assistance of two counselors and a ward council. With eleven other men, I currently serve as a member of our stake’s high council. My wife serves as president of our stake’s Primary, the organization of the church that nurtures young children in the gospel. We enjoy traveling together over the wide geographic area of our stake to share the gospel with fellow members. I often think we are more strengthened by them than they are by us. One of the things I enjoy most about my calling comes from speaking once a month in one of the six local units of our stake. I delight in having the chance to share my testimony of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as I have done here. As part of my church calling, I also serve as the training chairman of the local district of the Boy Scouts of America. Spending much of the summer in the nearby mountains with many of the same youth whom I teach at school gives them and me a wonderfully different perspective on each other. Something truly special occurs to bond youth and leaders when they’re covered with dust, mud, insects, and remnants of curiously prepared food, all while enjoying the incomparable wonder of Heavenly Father’s creations. In terms of the most important things in life, I have learned more through my church callings, and from working with the youth, than I ever did through three college degrees.

What is being a Mormon like?

Sam
As a high school teacher, I see the effects every day of the erosion of the family. Well over half of the students I teach come from homes where there has been a divorce. Many of them live with only one parent, or with grandparents—or even great grandparents. For many of my students it comes as a real shock when they learn that my wife and I have been married only to each other, and that we have been married for more than thirty years. I also keenly sense the importance for me to set a good example for them—in everything I do—because even though we don’t teach religion in school, they know I am a member of the Church and thus in their eyes I represent the church. From a personal perspective, I love knowing who I am, where I come from, why I am here, and where I am going. The answers to the great questions of existence—even those of metaphysics that occupied the minds of the philosophers—the answers to the questions that have puzzled the minds from the greatest to the least of men and women, all those answers are mine. Faith has freed me from myriad earthly concerns and allowed me to understand the sublimely simple purpose of God’s plan for me. That knowledge provides the most supreme comfort imaginable, and underpins my construct of the world. And being a member of the Church is fun! I love getting to know people, and my circle of friends has grown wonderfully with each move in life to a new home, and a new ward. The things I have learned from so many different people, the comfort of lasting friendships that do not diminish through miles or years, the treasure of memories of doing good things for people, and the knowledge that even some of them have been touched by me have all given my life a purpose greater than mere existence. Members of the church try to follow the example of the Savior, and as I have done so, I have come to know what it is to be “one” with the saints! Show more Show less