An inmate’s testimony

I hope I’m not abusing my privileges as a guest blogger with this post, which is not critical or intellectual but more in the inspirational vein. To me, the post is not unrelated to discussions we’ve been having on this blog. In previous posts I’ve referred more than once to a conviction that God is at work in this Church. Without that conviction, what would be the point of making the effort to try to work out some of the difficulties we’ve been discussing here? Still, I admit that the main reason for posting this is just that a man wrote up his testimony and earnestly wanted to share it, and I thought that some readers might appreciate that testimony, as I did.

So let me introduce Arnold, who is an inmate at Donovan state prison, near San Diego, about a five minute drive from the Mexican border. Arnold is tall, fiftyish, African-American, thoughtful, well-spoken, with a resonant voice: the first time I met him, a little over two years ago, I told him he should be on the radio, and he said he’d been told that more than once. I could say more about how I admire Arnold, but let me just say that he is a blessing to other inmates and that I never talk with him without feeling uplifted. Arnold composed this testimony and delivered it in the D Yard chapel at an interfaith Day of Peace and Reconciliation, as it was called. I wasn’t there, but I’ve been told that most people at the meeting were in tears. I typed up the talk just as Arnold wrote it, except that at his suggestion I’ve included only his first name, and I’ve also deleted the footnotes that give the references for the scriptures and hymns that he quoted. (Readers of this blog should have no difficulty finding the references.)

Here’s the testimony:

The Personal Testimony of Arnold ________

For many years, I knew neither peace nor personal reconciliation. Consequently, my childhood desire to help people eluded me. Thus, on May 20, 2013, I ran to my Heavenly Father for help.

“Privately he answered me.” He gave me strength, He provided me with direction and He enabled me to Choose the Right no matter the consequences. Four days later I turned myself in to begin the process of taking responsibility for the crimes I had committed.

The first few days in jail I had to constantly remind myself that I had turned myself in to be accountable for my sins for I had rebelled against my God, against my victims and against their community. In addition, I had rebelled against my family, my community and against myself.

During the two years I spent in the county jail, I was guided by the quiet hand of the Savior to make commitments to be honest and sincere as I addressed my deepest personal conflicts so “that perhaps . . . [perhaps one day I could] be an instrument in God’s hands to bring some soul to repentance; and this is my joy.”

Time doesn’t permit the details of my journey under the calming hand of the “Prince of Peace” but time does allow me to say, I take no credit for the transformation that is taking place in me. However, I do testify that the Lord works from the inside out.

As I reflect back on turning myself in, I don’t regret doing so because it was on that day that I experienced how the Lord “reaches my reaching” . . . “to calm my troubled heart.”

Today I am grateful for the process of personal reconciliation because it enables me to end the cycle of creating victims. Furthermore, being accountable for my actions and taking responsibility for my behavior has paved the way for me to be an instrument in God’s hands.

To echo, as my own, the words of a Book of Mormon prophet, “When I see many of my brethren truly [remorseful], and coming to the Lord their God, then is my soul filled with joy; then do I remember what the Lord has done for me, even that he [has answered] my prayer; then do I remember [how the Lord reaches my reaching . . . with] his merciful arm, which he extended towards me.”

Unlike many years ago, Today, I know peace and today, I know personal reconciliation; as a result I get to fulfill my childhood desire to help people so that they too, can know peace and they, too, can know personal reconciliation, and this is my joy.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, and my Lord and Savior. AMEN.

Arnold ____
Completed January 23, 2020

4 comments for “An inmate’s testimony

  1. February 4, 2020 at 3:08 pm

    This is another great post, Steve. Thanks – to you and especially to Arnold – for the reminder of what it’s all about.

  2. Stephen Hardy
    February 4, 2020 at 4:29 pm

    This is beautiful. Thank you

  3. Taiwan Missionary
    February 4, 2020 at 9:36 pm

    Steven Smith: While critical and intellectual posts can be fun and stimulating, they can also veer off into unpleasant directions, and cause us to lose sight of the fact that, as you say, God is working in this Church. Inspirational posts like Arnold’s story make clear to me how real God’s love is, and how it can transform our lives. God’s love is the foundation of everything good. (John 3:16) Thank you for sharing this, and I hope to see more like this in the future.

  4. Ben H
    February 20, 2020 at 12:52 am

    Beautiful post, Steve! A testimony this inspiring, coming from such a remarkable person, is as appropriate as can be. Thank you, and thank Arnold for his moving words and example!

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