I was raised a Catholic (though lukewarm at best), but at 14 I learned that my older brother by 2 years (whom died shortly after birth) had not been “baptized” (ie, sprinkled) and therefore was destined for “intermediate hell” (ie, purgatory) — something he was not able to do……..this so did not resonate as fair or just or loving, that I could not —no, I would not — believe in a God that taught such a monstrosity. Within 30 minutes, I became an atheist. I already knew that the protestant churches were break away branches of the Catholic Church, and felt that the largest church must be the true church, right? And if the trunk of the tree (Catholicism) was dead (or a man made church, which I, at 14, deduced that it must be), then how can a living branch come from a dead tree? At 14 I knew that all churches were man made false constructs — and I knew nothing — then — about the Biblical proofs that this was true.
At 19 though, I was spiritually restless. Though I had a great job, money, a Shelby GT-500, and girls chasing me, I often pondered what was the reason for my existence, and where did I come from? Despite being an atheist, one day I talked to the sky in the vain hope that I might be wrong, and there actually might be an actual God out there somewhere who was aware of my troubled musings. I asked that he reveal himself to me, if he did in fact exist, and if he did, send someone to me to explain the truth about him. Two weeks later, two New York Life Insurance salesmen came into the music store that I was manager of to buy rock music from me. They were wearing dark slacks, white shirts and ties, and had name tags that showed I had mistakenly identified them. (you see, I had seen these two guys on bikes before, and concluded they were really bad insurance salesmen, because they were on bikes ! ) When I saw “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” and “Elder Smith” and “Elder Jones” I asked them what they do, they replied , “oh, we tell people how our church got started” (they clearly were annoyed with me for interrupting their single minded quest for hard rock cassettes). I then asked them how come they have the same first name of Elder? and they explained it was a priest name — but made no follow up comments like : “would YOU like to know more about the LDS Church?” I had prayed these two messengers into my store, and they only bought music and left me still ignorant of the truth only they possessed!
Thankfully, about a year later, the Lord sent a blonde beauty queen into the new store we had opened in Palmdale California. “Christina”, for the next 11-12 months, came in to my store almost daily, to visit me. She was beautiful and vivaceous and fun, but because of a recent breakup with “Janet ” (another blonde), I was not interested in any women — including Christina. However, over time, her eyes and smile just overwhelmed me —-and we fell in love.
One day, knowing I would end the relationship if she tried to share Mormonism with me, she said : “Rich, I know the Mormon church is true.” I said nothing in reply, though a message did come to me — something deep inside was resonating with her words, and I could not deny it. I did not end the relationship. A month later, for my 20th birthday, we found ourselves in Los Angeles — at the Temple visitors center, where for the first time in my life, I got the answer to the question I had wondered about for 10 years : Why did all those Indian tribes receive Columbus, Cortez and Pizarro so reverently, so kindly? There, I saw side-by-side mannequin displays of Christ ministering to the Jews and Christ ministering to the Nephites in the New World (with John 10:16 and 3 Nephi 15 scriptures being quoted), and immediately I KNEW this was a true depiction of an actual event — and THIS is why 15 centuries later those Indian tribes thought Christ had finally come back, as he had promised!
Two weeks later, Elders taught me of the Father and the Son appearing to another 14 year boy named Joseph, telling him to join none of the churches, for they were all wrong, and that they “teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof.” and asked me if I could believe this vision? “Yes” I said, “because I also knew at 14 all the churches were wrong.” The next day, when teaching the plan of salvation, they shared Jeremiah 1:5 and revealed that all people used to live with God and Christ in a ” pre-mortal life ” , and then asked me what I thought of that? I told them at the age of 8, after 3 years of pondering why I existed, and where I came from, that I had a strong impression come over me that I lived somewhere before I entered into this body, but it was not revealed to me where that was — just that I existed long before this body was created. Unlike the day before, when I rejected their request that I be baptized, this time, I accepted. I know there was a “Great Apostacy” from the original church and doctrine that Christ and His Apostles taught. I know Jesus came to ancient America to show his resurrected body and teach 2500 eye-witnesses his doctrines. I know, by personal revelation, that all of us lived with God and Christ for a long time before this earth was formed. I also know that Joseph Smith is telling the truth when he reported that Christ told him to join none of the churches, because they were all wrong — because at 14, I also arrived at that very same accurate conclusion. As a former catholic, and then as a former atheist, you may rest assured that my testimony is reliable — it can be trusted with full confidence. As Christine once testified to me that she knew the Mormon church is true, so too do I also testify that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints is the one and only true church of Jesus Christ on the earth, and there is no fullness of salvation outside of it.
Dr Richard M. Gaines, DC
* A convert to Christ since 1978, Dr Gaines was in private practice from 1990 to 2010, earning an additional professional credential as a Qualified Medical Evaluator (QME) in California. More importantly, he served a mission 14 months after being baptized, and has continued his mission to this very day. He has served in a stake presidency, a bishopric, as YM President, ward mission leader, Sunday School president, and four stake missions. A father of 3 beautiful daughters and two handsome sons (he married a beauty), he is an avid cyclist, tenor, pianist, and carries a 5 handicap. But none of these effect him as much as playing with his kids, whom he loves deeply.