For this entry I wanted to bear to you my testimony, but I wanted to do it in a different way than usual. I am going to bear my testimony to you through 14 pictures. With each picture I’ll include a scripture that demonstrates a different aspect of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and then bear my witness of Heavenly Father through it and how it has testified of Him in my life. I pray that you may be able to feel the spirit through this testimony.
1) “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as a little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:2-3
I believe this picture was taken when I was in preschool, while I was on the playground with my fellow preschool scholars. Though I don’t have this memory, I know that it really wasn’t all that long ago that I was playing on this tire swing. One of the miracles of when I pray to Heavenly Father is that my heart can remember the feelings I felt when I was tiny, when my mommy and daddy would teach me how to pray to Heavenly Father. A quiet reverence, a hopeful plea, a confirmation of love from a Being I could not see, but that I knew was there. I feel like a little child when I’m in the presence of my Heavenly Father: small yet loved, and in never ending wonder and fascination at His grace and mercy. Even when I am chastised, I can feel an increase in love and a knowledge that I am learning, and that I need to overcome and progress in order to get back into Heavenly Father’s bright, shiny kingdom.
2) “Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you.” – Mormon 7:8
This is my whole family when I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I know that Heavenly Father was happy this day, because I came to Him and became baptized. I received His first ordinance of the many that were soon to follow. I’m so glad that my dad was a righteous man so that he could baptize me, give me the blessing of the Holy Spirit, and later ordain me to the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods. Through priesthood authority come all the ordinances of Heavenly Father, and I am thankful that I now in turn have been entrusted with the authority to perform these ordinances, just like my dad. I know Jesus Christ has ordained baptism by immersion as a necessary ordinance for becoming one of his sheep, washing away our sins and becoming a new soul.
And yes, that is my little sister sticking out her tongue. :P
3) “See that ye love one another… learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires…. And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace.” – Doctrine + Covenants 88:123-124
This was taken during Band Camp during the summer before my junior year. I had just moved to Michigan a month before this picture was taken, and during that week of band camp I made friends with these three girls in my clarinet section. From left to right they are Taylor, Emily, and Annelle. What I love about this picture is that during my two years in Michigan I became great friends with all three of them. Though none of them are LDS, they have such a glow to their personalities, such loving hearts. They are such beautiful daughters of God. I testify that uplifting friends are blessings from God. God wants to bless us with friends. I testify of God’s tender mercies, which are open for all of us.
4) “For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart.” – Doctrine + Covenants 25:12
I took this picture when I got my new clarinet for Christmas of senior year. I’ve been blessed to play clarinet since I was 10, and over the years I’ve grown a deep love for music that stirs inside my soul. To have this ability to shape sound, to create melodies that move inside my heart and harmonies that send chills down my spine… it is another testament to me of Heavenly Father’s desire to bless me. The artistic urge to create beautiful things is a God-given trait to remind us of the absolute divine, wondrous nature of Heavenly Father and all that He can do.
5) “For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among then; and there shall be among them those who will not believe it, although a man shall declare it unto them.” – 3 Nephi 21:9
I took this during my last Youth Conference this last June, where we visited Carthage Jail and the Nauvoo temple. This window is the one that the Prophet Joseph Smith fell out of when he was martyred. You can feel a certain spirit in that jail, a solemn feeling knowing the sacrifice that the prophet made for bringing forth the Restored Gospel. I know Joseph Smith is indeed a prophet of God, and that he translated a sacred record called The Book of Mormon through the power of almighty God. The book is powerful, and has touched my soul many times with its doctrine. I am so thankful for Joseph Smith for having the courage to ask our Heavenly Father a question when he was 14. Because of him I can know of Heavenly Father’s divinity for myself, and can know of all the truthfulness of the gospel for myself.
6) “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” – Genesis 12:3
That scripture in Genesis was the promise Heavenly Father made to Abraham when Abraham made his covenant with Heavenly Father. It is a vital aspect of the Gospel: through the covenants and ordinances Heavenly Father made, every family on the earth can be blessed through the Commandments of Heavenly Father and the Atonement of Jesus Christ. This picture was taken during our family reunion in Utah the summer before my senior year. She is an excellent sister, silliness aside, and so is the rest of my family. I’m so happy to know of all the blessings my family and I have experienced because of the covenants and gospel of Jesus Christ that we have made. I love them so much, and throughout this semester I’ve missed them a lot. Though it’s going to be hard to leave my family to serve a mission, I know they will be blessed for it.
7) “And it came to pass that Moses looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten.” – Moses 1:13
This was taken at the end of my Priesthood High Adventure in July of last summer. During that trip we went up to this island in the middle of Lake Michigan called North Manitou Island. No bathrooms, no showers, just us men and the rugged wilderness. It was a blast. While up there I got to lead the other priests through discussions in Preach My Gospel, and taught them lessons about preparing for a mission. At the end our bishop gave us dog tags for us to remember we are enlisted in the Lord’s Army. It says,
NMI 2009 (North Manitou Island)
On My Honor
Duty to God
The phrase “On My Honor” speaks to me. When I think of my priesthood, I feel both humble and noble at the same time. I can’t describe how that happens, but it does. I know that I have a divine role as a son of Heavenly Father, that I have a mission to fulfill on this earth that is specific to both my gender and my individual spirit. I am a son of Divinity, a prince of righteousness, an heir to Heavenly Father’s kingdom. “On My Honor” is a promise, both to Heavenly Father and to myself that I will fulfill that noble role.
8) “Who can find a virtuous woman? For her price is far above rubies.” – Proverbs 31:10
This is Brittany and I before the Winterfest (girl’s choice) dance. In high school I got to know this wonderful daughter of God and date her for a while. Though she isn’t LDS, she is an uplifting Christian girl who has a testimony of Jesus Christ, and she is wonderful to be around. Whenever I had doubts, she encouraged me. She wants me to serve Heavenly Father and go on a mission. She has healing in her heart, and brightness in her spirit. Though we have gone our separate ways since high school, we’re still good friends and keep up with each other. I learned a lot from my relationship with her. A lot. With all my heart, I want her to be happy in this life. I want her to find a guy who will respect her and make her happy, even though I am not that person for her. And the world has it totally backwards about all of this, because all the world can see is the outside appearance. A girl’s true beauty is on the inside, in her kindness and spirituality.
9) “I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them… my tabernacle shall also be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” – Ezekiel 37:26-27
I took this picture during the Nauvoo trip last summer as well. We did baptisms for the dead there and later sang in front of it. I could feel the Holy Spirit literally burning as I sang and listened to people bear their testimonies. Though you can’t see it from here, the temple is actually on top of a hill that overlooks the Mississippi river. As we walked up the hill to the temple, I couldn’t help but be in awe of its whiteness. You may not know this, but a Catholic church is actually right next to the temple. And while the church is nice enough, it can’t compare to how bright the temple is. You can literally see the difference. I testify that the temple is the Lord’s house, a sacred spot where heaven meets earth. I feel so close to Heavenly Father while I am in the temple, and I am so grateful that I can come there and partake of such wonderful feelings in my heart and knowledge in my mind. I am humbled to think that the early saints sacrificed so much to have such a temple in their midst, and now these holy buildings dot the earth, as sanctuaries from the world. If there were a reason to give glory to God, it would be for the temples.
10) “I will remember my covenant unto you, O house of Israel… And then the words of the prophet Isaiah shall be fulfilled, which say: Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing… Sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem; for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.” – 3 Nephi 16: 12-18
This is Talya, my best friend from Michigan. After I graduated last summer, Talya asked me to take her senior pictures, and I couldn’t have asked for a better honor. Her name in Hebrew means “Dew from God,” and it’s a beautiful name. She is Jewish, a daughter of Israel. We had an interesting friendship, where we shared our faith with each other and found a wonderful bond between faith and friendship. My exposure to the Jewish tradition and culture has helped me better understand the Savior when he speaks of the gathering of Israel and the restoration of all things. I can’t help it; I love the Jewish people, and it’s because of her that I do. I know that Heavenly Father will remember His covenants with His children and undertake a marvelous work to fulfill those covenants. I am humbled to think I will play a small part in this as I serve a mission and unfurl God’s holy banner to the nations of the world.
11) “For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them, and writeth them for the learning and the profit of my children. Behold, my soul delighteth in the things of the Lord; and my heart pondereth continually upon the things which I have seen and heard.” – 2 Nephi 4:15-16
I took this about a month ago, during a warm Sunday afternoon after reading from the scriptures. I got these scriptures as a gift from my Grandparents when I was eight. All they wrote inside was the simple phrase “1998. Merry Christmas, Garrett! We love you very much. Mimi & Papa Wilkes.” I can tell it’s in my Mimi’s handwriting, I can tell her cursive a mile away. It is one of the greatest gifts I could have ever received, because through these scriptures I have come to a knowledge of the divinity of God’s Word. It amazes me how the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, will cut right to the core of my heart and divide asunder any doubt or sorrow. Many answers came to me when I was searching and pondering the scriptures. I know that The Bible is a divine work, written by the hand of ancient prophets. I know that the Book of Mormon is also the word of God, another testament of Jesus Christ published to bring people to the Restored Gospel. I plan to finish the book before I get my mission call, and then to reread it before I go to the MTC this summer. I am thankful for Heavenly Father for doing so much so that we could have this book to read, ponder, and understand for our sakes.
12) “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” – Amos 3:7
I took this picture during the October 2009 General Conference. We were lucky enough to get seats this close. To hear the prophet speak in person, to see all the saints gathered around Temple Square and inside the conference building… it was astounding. I know that President Monson is the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator ordained by God to preside over this church and the world. When I listen to the words of the Prophets and Apostles, past and present, I feel a penetrating force inside my heart, doing much of the same things that the scriptures do. When I apply what these men teach, I find myself happier and more aligned with God. I am humbled to think that soon I will be approved by the Prophet to preach the gospel and take a stand in the Army of God.
13) “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” – John 8:12
I took this picture last August in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. It is beautiful countryside, filled with rivers and serene hills. I want to end my testimony with a testimony of God’s light. Like the sun, God’s light can be seen everywhere. Through both our trials and our blessings we can find God’s grace, no matter where we are. The Atonement has always been a bright hope in my life. Through the Atonement and my agency I can become like the Savior over my lifetime, placing my burdens and weakness in his hands, and choosing works of righteousness. All my life I have felt this light. Every trial, every experience has been for my good in God’s light. I feel like gold in His light, and I will witness to the world about this light at all times, in all things, and in all places. I will end this testimony with my last picture, a drawing I made a long time ago when I felt this wonderful light stirring inside of me. I bear to you this testimony in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, amen.