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Lara Johnson: My Blog

My Testimony

Posted on October 28, 2012 with 1 comment
I was born in West Islip, Long Island, New York to a mother who was born in Brooklyn, NY of Venezuelan/Colombian decent & a father of Ukrainian & German desent.

My mother was an only child raised by a single mother & was sent to a Catholic boarding school run by Nuns who were not quite loving examples of Christian service in fact were abusive & fear mongers. My mother, of course, wanted nothing to do with God & grew to mistrust & detest religion...she returned to NY at the age of 17.

My father was the first of 6 children. He was born in Kiev, as a young child lived in Germany during WWII & later escaped to Venezuela with his familly. He knew much of struggle & abuse....At 22 he joined the US ARMY & moved to NY. My mothers Godmother knew my father's mother so when my beautiful mother moved to town my father just had to meet her...& the rest is history.

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I don't know much about how my father felt about God or religion..but having had a near death experience when he was 39, he taught me that when we die our spirits leave our body and go on...and that we review our lives & that there is something "more" out there....

So, I lived life. A good priviledged life. An only child until I was 13, my parents worked hard & sacrificed much. They gave me piano & dance lessons, beautiful homes in great neighborhoods, wonderful vacations & trips, practically everything I wanted. I was allowed to do theater & spend a lot of time with my friends. They were beautiful, gregarious, spontanious, passionate, intelligent & so much fun! Yet there was the sad side... They were unhappy. There was disrespect, contention, yelling, fighting, insulting, infidelity, sexual, verbal, emotional & physical abuse..... I was always afraid around my parents. I blamed myself somehow... and would be a "clown" to try to make them happy & distract them from fighting. It would work sometimes..I know that they did the best that they could & that they loved me....but were struggling with their challenges as we all have to.

There was a happier time when my mother was expecting my baby sister but soon after our move to CA things got....worse... a "Happy Family" we sadly were not..I felt I did not live up to their expectations & unliked which to me registered as unloved...undeserving of love..& if your parents don't love you then..

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Theater became my refuge. I felt safe. I could be someone else. No one could hurt me on stage...&

As a child I always "felt" that something was missing...I somehow "knew" that something was missing...I believed that there was something "more" about life that was just... missing...I just didn't know what it was??

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I LOVED Christmas. I especially LOVED the music.. Silent Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, Away In A Manger, The First Noel... I "felt" something...

My parents never spoke of God. They used His name in vain but never prayed or spoke of His reality. I went to church a few times with my parents at Easter & Christmas but usually with my Grandmothers when I would visit them.The Russian Orthodox with my Babushka. And the Catholic Church with my Abuela. I really liked going. I LOVED how I "felt" there. There was something so peaceful & warm there. A connection to something.... My Grandmothers would speak of God but never taught me any principles or beliefs other than that.... He was. And I believed them...not only because of what they said but how I "felt"...

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Somehow I got a picture of Jesus and I hung it up in my room to my mothers dismay..

One day I noticed in front of a little church near my home that said it offered free Sunday School classes. I asked my mother if I could go & she unbelieveably said yes! I don't remember anything else about it or how often I went..so I don't think it lasted longer, But I do remember that "feeling"...

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I loved watching The Brady Bunch & Little House On The Prairie. It was so wonderful seeing families that treated each other so well, resolved conflicts, respected, loved & even liked each other. My mother would tell me to turn it off...that it was fake & a "fairy tale". I LONGED for the "fairy tale"...I hoped that fairy tales came true...I somehow "knew" that they did..

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My father went first to California to open "The Piano Shop" in Lomita while my mother & I stayed in New York awaiting the birth of my sister Natasha. What a wonderful experience it was bringing my sister into the world! My mother and I were actually close during this time. She was happy & without my father there she was vulnerable & humble. I loved being there for her & I will always cherish that time we had....I was able to be "right there" & help coach my mom as she gave birth. My father & Abuela were there too. I loved having my family together & finally getting a sister! I loved the "feeling" during this process. The love in the room during a birth is tangible...so thick you feel you could cut it with a knife.... I know now that it's because Heaven is sooo close... I know because the room is filled with people I love both seen & unseen... Family.

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My father had been visited at his store by missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He went to church with them. He went to firesides. I'm not sure if he took the discussions or not? When we moved out he took us with him to church & to a fireside. I don't remember anything about it other than that there were TONS of kids. I wasn't even aware of the name of the church & I don't remember much about it except for.... that "feeling"...I remember the fireside in Palos Verdes because I was the only child & there were two dark haired, beautiful, kind women there who gave me cookies and milk in the kitchen. (I now know them (and love them) as Bonnie Payne & Suzanne Merrill.) We were asked to take a teenage boy home who also lived in Redondo Beach who told us about his mom who owned & ran The South Bay Center of the Performing Arts. My parents fought over going to church & we never went back...sadly...

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A few months later a girl in my 8th grade class gave me a flyer about an audition for "Cinderella". I was, of course, elated & asked my mother to take me. I auditioned & was cast as Cinderella! I also joined the performing group Pam Lockwood ("Blood" at the time) directed called "The American Youth Express". I was always at "The Center" after school very happily rehearsing..away from the fear, loneliness & chaos at home. Now mind you, it wasn't always like that...I have to say that there were good days...I do cherish those very much...

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Pam wrote a musical called "The Light Express" that was based on The Plan of Salvation. A" train ride" through life. Childhood. Teenage years. Love. Marriage. Children. Getting older & death. It was a great show. We performed it all over Southern California. Did it a thousand times when... during one performance during a scene where a character who had just lost his wife was mourning her loss is told by the "Engineer" (a.k.a Holy Ghost) "DEATH IS NOT THE END. You will see your wife again. You will be together again." Now...I had heard this line a thousand times...but during this one performance something incredible happened to me! All of the rest of the characters had their backs to the audience during this scene. After the engineer said "You will be together again..." the most warm, powerful, feeling over came me. It went through my whole body somehow telling me that what he had just said was TRUE! I had NEVER felt anything like this before...I was overcome with tears & could barely make it through the rest of the show! That powerful energy somehow communicated to me that "death is not the end" & "we will be together again" were truths.

My cast mates were in tears, the audience was in tears...yeah...Everyone knew what had happened to me...I had felt the power of the Holy Ghost testify to me of a true principle. Death is NOT the end. Families can be together...forever.

I asked my friends if I could learn more about their church. I was 14.

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I would go straight after school to The Center where I could meet with the missionaries & they could teach me the discussions. While they were teaching me the First Discussion I had the most incredible experience..I "knew" everything they told me..somehow I just knew it! It was surreal! And I couldn't get enough! I was like, "Yeah....yeah...yeah...I know that...uh huh...tell me more!" It was soooo cool!! It was as if my memory was expanded somehow and I "remembered' all of it! I KNEW it! I found what I was missing!!! After giving me THREE discussions (because I kept wanting to know more) they had to leave to go to their next appointment. They gave me The Book of Mormon & told me to read it & pray about it.... not to just take their word for it....but to ASK GOD.

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That was it???? Pray about it?? Ask God??? HE would tell me????? REALLY??????? I was astonished! I don't think I had ever thought about talking to God. I mean, I had said my memorized Catholic prayers a few times...but actually having a CONVERSATION with God?? TALKING to Him?? ASKING Him a question??? And He would ANSWER?? ME??

So I did read some of it. I read the verses they had asked me to read. And I planned one afternoon, when I was home alone, to do it. I would pray & ask God if this book was true. If this church was His church. If what I was taught was true.

I remember getting on my knees. I remember my room. The light coming in from the window. I remember asking, "God? Are you there? I am reading The Book of Mormon the missionaries gave me...is it true? Is their church right? Did what they say happen really happen?"

Then exactly as I felt that night on the stage... a warm, powerful, energy from my head to my toes enfolded me and burned within me from head to toe.

I knew. I KNEW. I REALLY KNEW IT WAS TRUE! IT IS TRUE!! I KNOW IT!! I don't just believe. It wasn't blind faith. It was a confirmation from God. A powerful physical witness that it was true. All of it. And I cannot deny it. God knows that I know. This knowing has kept me close to Him & His church ever since, no matter what. No matter peoples faults, actions, no matter what others may say. I KNOW God lives. I KNOW because He answered my little 14 year old prayer..

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My parents were now seperated & soon divorced, I felt responsible.... and there was NO WAY my mother would let me go to church let alone get baptized. My father would take me out on the weekends & he would take me to church. He would take me but he sadly wouldn't stay...

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I soon began having very terrifying experiences. What I now know as evil experiences. I would wake up "bound" not able to move nor speak. There would be blackness in the room, spirits...voices... the very opposite feeling of warmth, peace & love was present... I couldn't understand it?? But I was terrified. Terrified to be alone at night...Who were these spirits?? Why were they tormenting me??

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My mom found me reading my scriptures in my room one day...freaked out & tore them up. I mustered enough courage to tell her that I wanted to be baptized. That I knew it was true! I even told her what had happened to me but she didn't believe me. So I told her that I didn't want to live with her anymore..that I wanted to live with my father ( I lied.). So..three days later...she had sold everything in the house except for my things & she left with her boyfriend & my sister to Missouri. With my bags packed she took me to the bus stop to go to my fathers...but instead...I went to The Center. I couldn't live with my father because of.......

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I asked Pam if I could live with her & her family. Being the amazing woman that she is she let me stay. My father gave permission for my baptism & I was baptized the day after my 16th birthday. He was even there. :)

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I kept having evil experiences...I have seen & heard evil spirits. All I want to say about this is that they are real... I was so scared and my friends told me to go and talk to my Stake President to ask him about what was happening to me. He told me that those spirits know me from before this life. They know my mission. They know what I will do in this life & they want to stop me. Well, let me tell you their effect was COMPLETELY OPPOSITE. My experiences with evil just STRENGTHED me even more!! I knew that if THEY were real. If THEY existed & had power...then how much MORE I knew that GOD lived & that HIS power was REAL. It's been about ten years ago now that I finally confronted the evil & it has stopped.

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I KNOW that God lives. We are His children. I know that this life is by grand design. That there is a purpose for it. We are here to learn things & develop in ways that we could not do in Heaven. We are here to live by faith. To love & serve one another. I KNOW that Jesus is the Christ. That He died for us. That through Him we are saved & are made whole. Our pains He suffered. Our sufferings He knows. If we but come unto Him He will change our lives & this life becomes so much more than we could have ever imagined. They love us, know us, want to help us. Want us to return to live with Them. They hear us & guide us & bless us so much. If we turn our hearts & souls to Them what we gain in return is Everlasting JOY!

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My father passed away when he was 49. Just 10 years after his near death experience.... I had been in Venezuela for 3 months and did not know what he was going through. He didn't want me to know. I was told 3 days before he died & he died during my return flight home. I was devasted that I had not been by his side....I raced to his condo & upon seeing his car began calling his name & ran into his home looking for him...calling out to him...my aunts & uncle were there...my mother was on the phone from FL...I came into the living room completely distraught when suddenly....

I felt two arms encircle me from behind filling me with peace. I knew immediately that it was my father....and that everything was ok. I felt him. He lives....and I will be with him again...someday. This is true.

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When I met my husband..he had come to the PV Singles Ward Summer Ball with my friend Bonita. I was upset because a guy I was dating who had been in the ward for 3 months and never dated anyone until I moved in...who was "practically perfect in every way"....who had recently told me when speaking about marriage that "when I see her I'll know"....was leaving soon to go to BYU. Thinking that Bonita was "together" with John..I ignored him as any respectful girl would do & I lamented my dilema onto Bonita when some guy came and asked her to dance..... I was left standing there with John....I was suddenly very embarrased that he had heard all of that especially when I learned that he was Bonita's Home Teacher...we talked for a while then he asked me to dance. We danced a few songs, went outside and talked some more and then came back inside & danced again. While were were dancing...during a FAST SONG mind you....

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I heard a voice that said, "You're going to marry him." WHAT???!!! I thought, Seriously??!!! I was so upset. How could the Spirit TELL ME who I'm suppossed to marry! I was like...He's old!! He's losing his hair!!! I wanted to marry what's his name!! Why couldn't it have been him??? Then I was like..well..he's kinda cute...he can dance ok...well, if he speaks Spanish then....maybe. "So..where'd you go on your mission?", "Colombia." " I have to go to the bathroom." I left and didn't talk to him the rest of the night....

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Well....I am ETERNALLY grateful for that voice...16 months later we were sealed for Time & All Eternity in the House of the Lord. How grateful I am to know that the Lord has had His hand in my life guiding me along and helping me with the most important decisions in my life. He knew that John & and I were meant for each other..How grateful I am...and how I love him...& Him...

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Another powerful experience I wish to share with you is one that happened to me in the Temple.

I struggled with the Temple....I couldn't understand some things. Why? Why this? Why that? WhY??? So during my baby days I didn't go very often and my babies were my excuse. Soon after Bianca was weaned I knew I couldn't use that excuse anymore...During a General Conference talk about the Temple I commited to go every month. I could do that! But everytime I would complain...I would pray & ask the Lord Why??? How come this? How come that?? Well one day....

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We were just seated in the Endowment room waiting for the session to begin when in came a Temple worker who asked us to wait patiently for they were waiting for others to join the session. So I bowed my head and began my usual conversation with the Lord...."Why this...why that??" when all of a sudden an energy (it's difficult to describe) came from above my head, with pressure, and through my body that was pure love in power and indescrible joy. I then heard the most equisite voice say to me, "This is your confirmation. This is My house."

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I continued to receive answers to some other questions and then it began to fade. I leaned into the voice straining to not let go of it...and then it was gone. I immediately looked up. Thinking I would see something for sure. Then turned to my friend on my left and said, "Did you hear that?? Did you feel that?? Did you see anything??" And of course, she looked at me bewildered and said, "Nooo?" I wanted to jump up and tell everyone, especially I wanted to run to John and tell him what had just happened to me. It was GLORIOIUS! I ache & yearn to hear it again. To feel that again....

I can say with ASSURITY. The Temples are of God. What goes on in them is God's will & purpose. We may think some things strange. But....doubt not. It is His house & His way. Period.

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I feel the power of the Holy Ghost witness to me each time I read the scriptures. It witnesses to me each time I sit in Sacrament meeting, Sunday School lessons, or Family Home Evening with my children. Each time I bear my witness. Say I love you. Help someone...serve someone....Right now. It is what I strive to keep with me. It is what wakes me up to check on a child. It is what tells me what to say or do to help another. It is what motivates me through this life. It is what witnesses to me of any truth. It is what has witnessed to me that God lives, He did indeed restore His church. The Book of Mormon is what it claims to be. Joseph Smith did indeed see God the Father & His Son Jesus Christ. There IS great purpose to this life. There IS life after this life. And there is NO GREATER JOY, pleasure or happiness in this life than in a life of discipleship.

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I can only imagine what would have become of my life had I not had the Gospel....I don't think I would still be alive...honestly..

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I am so very grateful for my testimonies. If I had not received such powerful witnesses I wouldn't have joined the church. If I had not received such clear & distinct witnesses I wouldn't be active today. I had to KNOW. Not just believe....

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If you wonder if what I am saying is true, if you wonder if God exists, if Jesus is the Christ....if you wonder if He knows you...If He hears you...If you Love the Lord, if you love the word of God, if you love the Bible, please...please...read the Book of Mormon. Just read it. And then ask of God. I promise you...He will answer you. I promise you that.

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The Book of Mormon is a book of scripture that teaches the ministries of Prophets on this American continent. Prophets who loved their people and wanted to bring them to Christ. There is much anti literature and anti proselyting to keep people away from it...why????? Because it is TRUE! No other church gets the kind of anti attention and propaganda as the LDS. Why?? Because it is what it claims to be. Satan will try to stop you. He will tempt you. He will try to scare you. He will do anything and everything to get you off of the path of truth....

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Trust in the word of God..His promises..Ask & ye shall receive...Ye SHALL receive & your faith & knowledge will be your strength forever.

In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

With all of my heart,

Lara

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"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." ~ James 1:5

".. you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right." D&C 9:8

"..the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word." ~ Acts 10:44

"..the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.." ~ John 16:13

".. the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things.."

~ John 14:26

".. by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." ~ Moroni 10:5
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Eleonora Di Berardino

March 5, 2013

Sister, I can't find the words to explain what I'm feeling right now after reading what you have written...
Thank you very much.