The Conversion Story of Edward L. Hess
How and Why I Became a Member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
This is not about what Mormons believe, but rather it is about the process that I went through to gain a testimony of these things.
And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony last of all which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God, and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father. That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.
— Testimony of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon
INTRODUCTION – CALLED TO SERVE
I was born in Darke County, Ohio, at the home of my maternal grandparents, who lived just across the field from the childhood home of Phoebe Ann Moses, better known as "Annie Oakley," the world famous women’s sharp shooter who in her lifetime entertained kings and queens with her spectacular shooting skills.
My great-grandfather on both sides of my family were numbered among the first settlers and early pioneers of Darke, Preble, Miami, Montgomery, and Trumbull Counties, Ohio, settling there in the early 1800’s when it was still a vast wilderness area with dense forests, and when Indians still raided settlers. Most of my ancestors were farmers and school teachers who lived in log cabins, and some of whom were very prominent citizens who were well known in the community.
One of my great-grandmothers was a niece and grandniece in two different lines of her family to Patrick Henry, a member of the Virginia legislature and Revolutionary War leader, who made the celebrated address against the Stamp Act, which ended with the words: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
Two of my great-grandfathers fought in the Revolutionary War, and one in the War of 1812. My own grandfather, John Hess (1848-1929), was one of the youngest men to serve in the Union Army from the State of Ohio during the Civil War, and he marched with General Sherman on his famous march to the sea across the great State of Georgia.
I was the last of seven children born to Leonard Hess (1893-1978) and Hannah “Edna” Supinger (1895-1940). My father started out as a school teacher, but spent most of his life as an automobile mechanic. At one time he was also a chauffeur for a wealthy business man in Piqua, Ohio, and was privileged to have driven a Stanley Steamer for Thomas Edison. My mother was a homemaker, and well known for her charitable work caring for sick neighbors and nursing them back to health.
When I was about three and a half years old, my mother died, and from that time until I was thirteen years of age, I lived with foster families, or was in a tuberculous sanitarium for a year, or in childrens homes, one of which was Mooseheart, Illinois where I resided for four years from 1945-1949.
Because of the various families I lived with as well as other experiences I had while growing up, I was exposed to many different denominations of Christian churches, which I attended while living with these families. I can honestly say that I cannot ever remember a time when I did not believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God or the Savior of mankind.
My mother was a member of the Congregational Christian Church, was active in missionary work, and would often take me to missionary meetings with her. She also played the piano and organ, and sang alto in the church choir. It was her fondest wish that I would someday become a missionary and preach the gospel.
Later, in my adult life, I became a Seventy, and was a Ward Mission Leader promoting missionary work in several wards and branches until I was released from my calling as a Seventy, but even then, I continued to serve as a Stake Missionary, so in effect I guess I fulfilled her wishes.
A SPIRITUAL AWAKENING
When I became a teenager, my father remarried and we attended the Baptist church, but all my friends attended the Church of the Brethren, so I transferred my membership to that congregation. Like many young adults living away from home, I was what most people would probably call an "on again off again" kind of Christian; which is to say that for the most part I never gave much thought about religion, although I would sometimes wile away the hours studying the Bible, and participate in religious discussions with various friends and acquaintances.
In 1962, I was called upon to serve my country, and was one of the first to go to Vietnam as a military advisor assigned to the 3rd Radio Research Unit. While I was there, I began attending religious services with the Baptist missionaries who were stationed in Saigon. I particularly recall a young Vietnamese girl who also attended these meetings. She had been brought up as a Buddhist, but she wanted to accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior, and to embrace Christianity as her religion.
She was only thirteen years old, and an orphan who lived with her grandmother. She agonized over becoming a Christian because her grandmother, a very devout Buddhist, had informed her that if she became a Christian that she would no longer be welcome in her house. This young woman decided to be baptized and become a Christian, and true to her word, her grandmother disavowed her. The missionaries took her into their home, and she then lived with them.
I have often thought of the courage this young woman had in stepping out in her faith to accept teachings that were contrary to what her family believed, and have wondered whether I would have had the same kind of courage to follow the Savior if I were likewise disowned by my own family. Unfortunately, there are too many whose families and loved ones also reject them when they embrace so-called “Mormonism.”
Many years went by, and occasionally I would read the scriptures and attend church meetings with my wife, who had been brought up in the Wesleyan Methodist faith, but it was not something that I ever took too seriously or did consistently.
In 1968, I once again returned to Vietnam, and by this time, the war had escalated. Many more service men and women were dying because of it, and the war itself was a very unpopular cause, which created a great divisiveness throughout the nation. I recall that I just wanted to get out of Vietnam alive, and I even "promised the Lord" that I would take my family to church if I made it back to the safety of the States. However, when I was safe and unharmed and back on American soil. I soon forgot the promise that I had made, and I returned to my old accustomed ways.
Four more years went by and I soon found myself living in a quagmire, and I felt that I had dug myself so deep into a pit that I could never extricate myself from it. When I was at the lowest point of my life I found myself calling out to God, mostly out of necessity because I had no one else to turn to, and partly as a skeptic I suppose if the truth were to be known, but I sincerely desired to know whether there was a God, a Supreme Being, or something or someone out there greater than myself.
I recall having asked God for three specific things in a prayer, the first two of which were answered almost immediately, and since I have become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, I now know and understand how the third thing can be fulfilled. Because of the manner in which my secret and very private prayer was answered, I knew then that there had to be a God, because no one else knew my thoughts or those things which I had prayed for.
A PROMISE FINALLY KEPT!
It was an exciting thing for me, a sinner, to know that God had heard and answered my prayers. I soon found myself praying more regularly, and studying the scriptures daily, and I began attending church and seeking out those who were followers of Jesus Christ.
A friend introduced me to a group of Christians who were affiliated with the Washington, D.C. Chapter of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship (FGBMF). I soon began to attend FGBMF meetings, and participated in various prayer and Bible study groups in the area. I was like a sponge! I could not get enough of the gospel.
Then one evening, a friend called and asked if I would go with him to administer to a man who had multiple sclerosis. I did not feel particularly impressed to go with him except that he had called and wanted me to go with him. I went, and we visited the man who was bed ridden with this affliction.
As we visited with him, he mentioned that two missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Elders Richards and Conley from the Washington, D.C Mission, then assigned to the Suitland Ward area) had visited his home. I only mention their names because we never met and they never knew that their tracting had been successful. Had it not been for them I may never have joined the Church.
Any way, they had left some tracts and the Book of Mormon for my friend to read. The first thought that came into my mind was that the Mormon’s were a "cult religion" and therefore he needed to get rid of this material, for it was "a satanic influence in his home." I was obliged to take this literature from him and "pitch it in the trash."
The reason that I thought this way was that in 1958, two Mormon elders first visited my wife and I when we were then living in an apartment at Leominster, Massachusetts. They came into my home and began giving us the old "flannel board discussions," and told us a strange story about Christ’s visit to the Americas after his ascension into heaven, and about a prophet by the name of Joseph Smith.
I had never heard these stories before, and so I was very curious, but also very cautious about what they had to say. They had presented me with a copy of the Book of Mormon, and challenged me to read it. Not knowing anything about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I decided to talk to an Army chaplain at Fort Devens. He informed me that Joseph Smith was a false prophet, and that Mormonism was a "cult religion," and not to have anything to do with them.
At that time, I believed that he was trained in theology, and therefore ought to know what was true concerning Christ and religion. Before the missionaries returned, I wrote a letter and placed the material they had given us on the banister in the hallway leading up to our apartment. When the elders returned they saw my letter and read it. My wife and I, who were each watching them through the keyhole, saw them whispering to one another, and after a short while they departed, never to return.
In the meanwhile, I went to Vietnam twice, and served three years in Germany. Never in any of that time did I ever hear the word Mormon mentioned again. However, the night that we visited the man who had multiple sclerosis, I informed him that Mormonism was a cult religion, and I had every intention of getting rid of this material that the missionaries had left with him.
CONVERTED BY THE BOOK OF MORMON
However, as I was about to throw these things into the trash I got to thinking about the evening that I had gone forth at a revival meeting to commit my life to Jesus Christ. I was told on that occasion "that from this day forth, anything and everything that happens to you, God will be teaching you and directing your path," and I was further instructed that I "should keep an open mind about all things."
A black minister friend of mine by the name of Griffith Smith, also told me "to launch out into the deep" like Peter and "to cast my net upon the waters, and to become a fisher of men." I fully intended to do just that.
I thought to myself, "If I am truly a Christian, then perhaps I ought to read what it is these Mormons believe, just in case someday I come across a Mormon I will know what it is they believe, and perhaps I can convert some of them to Christianity."
Additionally, I was a counterintelligence special agent, and we were taught to study the writings, philosophies, and teachings of the enemy, and thereby we would know what it is they believe. I decided to apply this principle by studying the Book of Mormon and the other literature that I had obtained from this man.
Little did I know that it would become one of the most fascinating investigations and experiences of my life? I did not read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover, but rather I went to the index, and I began reading scripture references under the various captions that I did understand something about, such as "baptism, salvation, Jesus Christ, the Holy Ghost. Apostasy, resurrection, etc."
I had long since been told by various preachers that "if God wanted you to know certain things, He would have included it in the Bible." However, as I read the Book of Mormon I became excited to know that there were answers to many of the questions that I had; and I was about to discover that all my questions would be answered in a very miraculous way, "line upon line and precept upon precept."
Every day I would plunge myself into reading the Book of Mormon, and often studied well into the early morning hours. I could not get enough of what I was learning from this great book. Where did it come from? Who wrote it? How could any man have possibly known or written these things unless he was sent from God?
At last, I put the book down, and as I kneeled down to pray, I asked God to show me whether this book was true or not. At that time, I did not know whether it was true, or whether it was just another counterfeit. I knew that the scriptures say that "even the very elect will be deceived" and I did not want to be deceived.
John said in 1 John 4:1-3, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God, and this is that spirit of anti-Christ, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is in the world."
The Book of Mormon did in fact testify of Jesus Christ, and that he did in fact come in the flesh. In fact, I was very intrigued by what the Book of Mormon had to say about Jesus Christ, and I truly wanted to know if it was true.
COINCIDENCES OR DIVINE INTERVENTION?
I told the Lord that "if it was true that I would not contact the Mormons, because surely they would tell me that it was true, but if it was true, then He would have them to contact me." In the meanwhile, that very same day my family and I took another family to Dulles International Airport because the Navy had transferred them to Greece.
On the way home, we ran out of gasoline, and my son and I were trying to push the car back to the airport where there was a filling station. An airport policeman came by and offered his assistance. As he and I were driving to the gas station, we got to talking about our careers. I informed him that I was a Special Agent with Army Intelligence, and then later our conversation switched to religion.
I informed him that I had been attending the FGBMF meetings, and how I thoroughly enjoyed the Christian fellowship I had with these people. Then, he said, "What do you think of the Mormons?" I thought, this is no coincidence that I ran out of gas, or that he just happened to ask me that particular question.
It turned out that he was investigating The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Vienna, Virginia. I informed him that I had just finished reading the Book of Mormon that very morning and that I was also searching to know the truth of it. After we returned and filled my tank with gas, the officer and I bowed our heads in prayer while standing there beside his car. We asked the Lord to show us if this church was true or not? I don’t know his name, and I have never seen him since, but I have often wondered whether or not he ever became a member of the Lord’s true church.
About a week later, I attended a meeting at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. General Ralph Haines, who was then the commanding general for the Continental Army of the United States, and who was called the "General for Christ" by the news media, came to the chapel at Fort Belvoir to give a talk. I attended that meeting, and afterwards I forgot and left my Bible behind on the pew where I was sitting.
It was one of the most devastating experiences I have ever had, because I use my Bible like a text book, and it is marked and crossed referenced with various notes and scriptures. I did not want to lose it, so I hurriedly called the chaplain the following morning to see whether anyone had turned it in and he informed me that he had it in his office and was quite impressed by it.
Later that day when I went by to pick it up, I noticed that a tract was lying on the floor underneath a chair opposite from me in his office, and it was entitled, "Which Church is Right?" I immediately recognized it as a Mormon tract because I had one just like it at home. After we finished talking about other things, I asked him "What a good Baptist chaplain was doing with a Mormon tract in his office?"
Chaplain Pope replied that a young woman had stopped by his office the day before to talk to him about her belief’s in Mormonism, and the tract must have dropped from her lap. I thought to myself, "This is no coincidence!" I then informed him about my reading the Book of Mormon, about the prayer I offered, the incident with the airport policeman, and about the experience that I previously had with the chaplain at Fort Devens.
The following evening, which was now a Friday evening, I received a telephone call from a young man (Robert Jeppson), who said that he was an Elder from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was looking to retrieve the Book of Mormon that they had given to my friend who had multiple sclerosis. Not only had I taken that particular book, but I had gone back and they had given him another, a larger printed Book of Mormon, and I had read both of these books prior to this particular telephone call, and they were also well marked and cross-referenced.
I then invited the Elders to come to my apartment, which commenced a series of discussions which lasted from September 1972 to March 1973, at which time I was finally baptized, and became a member of the church. The uncanny thing was that of the dozen or so missionaries who visited me during that time, none of them ever asked me whether or not I wanted to be baptized or join the church.
One evening when I was attending a missionary fireside, I turned to a man who was sitting beside me, who later became a very close friend, and I asked him, "What does a person have to do to become a Mormon?" He then introduced me to the Bishop Glen A. Self, and a few days later, this friend, Otis Murphy, who was then a Seventy, baptized me, and I officially became a member of the church.
WHICH CHURCH IS RIGHT?
I wish that I could tell you that this was the end of my conversion story, but there is much more to this story than that. After I gave my life to Jesus Christ, (which event occurred on June 8, 1972, at the Henson Valley Christian Church in Camp Springs, Maryland), I decided that I really needed to make a life-time commitment, and to keep the promise that I had made to the Lord when I was in Vietnam, which was to take my family to church, and to straighten up my life.
Since I had been a Baptist by faith, I decided to affiliate myself with a local church close by. However, after attending this church for several weeks, I one day had a discussion with the minister about "speaking in tongues." He informed me that they did not believe that this was a necessary experience for Christians to have, and they did not believe in speaking in tongues.
This minister and another man, who was a deacon of that church, were in the process of doing some carpentry work on the church, and while the minister and I were talking the other man turned to me and threatening me with his hammer told me in no uncertain terms that I was no longer welcome in their church, and if I did not leave immediately that he was going to hit me with his hammer, so I left. I decided right then and there that I would never again join another church until the Lord showed me "which church was right." Those were my exact words.
Well, eventually I found that church, and I was baptized, but my belief and the experiences that I had with speaking in tongues was not something that I could easily forget. Whenever we had discussions about the gifts of the spirit, I would often tell about my experiences with speaking in tongues.
I soon began to realize that other members did not share my experience, nor believe the same as I did about speaking in tongues. I sincerely wished to know the truth, and I studied the scriptures, and even the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith regarding this matter. I had even reached the point when I felt that if no one else could answer these questions for me then surely the prophet could, so I wrote a letter to President Harold B. Lee.
“GO SEE YOUR BISHOP”
A few days later, I received a letter from President Lee’s personal secretary, Arthur Haycock, simply informing me "to go see your bishop." At that time, I almost lost my belief in a living prophet, but I decided to wait on the Lord, and I did not go see my bishop as I had been instructed, although I did talk to him about a similar letter that he had received from the prophet.
I was content to wait it out. In the meanwhile, I was called to serve in the Seventies bookstore, which gave me access too many great books, and I "sponged up all the knowledge" I could glean from these books, including trying to search for answers about "speaking in tongues."
At last, three years went by and I had pretty much accepted the fact that my beliefs, understanding, and interpretation of the scriptures were somewhat different from what other members of the church believed, and I managed to bite my tongue and keep my opinions to myself. However, the one thing that I did know beyond a shadow of doubt was that the Book of Mormon was true, and that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, but I was not so sure about living prophets.
I had now been a member of the church for three years, and one day my home teaching companion called me on the telephone late at night, and asked me to meet him at the bishop’s office at 10:00 p.m., only this time, he was acting in capacity as a counselor in the stake presidency.
After a word of prayer, he informed me that he had been given the assignment of interviewing me for an important calling, but first he needed to determine where I stood concerning "speaking in tongues." We talked about this in great detail, and reviewed various scriptures until late in the morning. Finally, around 2:30 a.m. he suggested that we call it a night, and return the same morning around 6:30 a.m. to continue our discussion.
In the meanwhile, he encouraged me to pray about these things. I was very troubled as I left that meeting, because we had not agreed upon the things that we were discussing, and I was unable to convince him that I was right; and furthermore, he informed me that he did not have the same understanding or interpretation of these scriptures as I did. That greatly bothered me because I had come to realize that those in authority have the right to discernment, and the Lord did not impress him in the same way that I was being impressed about these things. (See Doctrine & Covenants 46:27)
I went home, but it was a very sleepless night. In fact, I did not sleep a wink, but rather I pondered over the scriptures, and wondered if perhaps I could have misunderstood what I had read.
The night quickly passed, and I soon found myself being interviewed by President Tom Kerr, once again. I more or less reaffirmed the things we previously discussed, and then President Kerr informed me that what I was advocating was not church doctrine, and instead of calling me to an important position, that they might have to take court action to excommunicate me. I thought that was pretty harsh statement, and somewhat extreme, but it got my attention in a hurry.
I then told him that if he would take responsibility for telling me to not teach or practice speaking in tongues then I would gladly give it up. He said that I would have to accept that responsibility myself. He then referred me to a note that I had written in the wee hours of the morning, which basically asked four rhetorical questions:
- Where did these things originate? Answer: Through the Pentecostal or charismatic experience that I had with another church.
- Where did they get the authority to preach the gospel, or to administer in the ordinances of the gospel? Answer: According to Mormon doctrines, they do not have any such authority.
- Where did they get the authority to confer various gifts of the Spirit upon anyone? Answer: According to the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they do not have any such authority.
- Did the prophet, any general authority, your bishop, or any of the missionaries ever teach or advocate those particular doctrines? Answer: No, they did not.
Then, and only then did I realize that I had brought certain interpretations with me into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, which were advocated by the philosophies of men mingled with scriptures. I also realized just how easily it is to be mislead by one’s own private interpretation of the scriptures, and why it is that there are so many different churches, and denominations of Christianity. It also taught me about the great need for the restoration of the gospel and a living prophet to settle the arguments about various interpretations of the scriptures.
Thankfully, I was able to follow the counsel of President Kerr, and to trust his spirit. Almost three years to the very day that I had first become a member of the church, I could honestly say that "I was a Mormon, true blue, through and through." I had finally made the transition from investigator, to convert, to a full-pledged member of the church.
However, this is still not the end of my conversion story. I have discovered that conversion is a life-time never ending process, for there is always some new doctrine, understanding, or personal weakness, which we must overcome and be converted to, but I like to think that each day I get just a little closer to becoming more perfected than I was the day before.
In closing this section, people have sometimes asked the question, "Do members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in the gift of tongues and interpretation of tongues?” The answer is yes, but we have a totally different understanding of this gift than that of our Pentecostal friends. However, that is an entirely different subject matter in and of itself, which the missionaries will gladly explain to you, but this is not the forum or place for that. I have also written another article on this subject, which explains these things, and would be glad to share it with those who are interested. (See also the 7th Article of Faith)
“WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE MORMONS?”
The day that I came to know beyond a shadow of doubt that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, and that the Book of Mormon is truly the word of God, occurred in late 1972. That particular day I had been privileged to interview Colonel William Boggs, who was the last commanding officer of the above ground atom bomb test explosion which occurred in White Sands, New Mexico.
Colonel Boggs and his wife were very devout Christians, and after my interview with him, we got into a discussion about our religious beliefs. I was not then a Mormon, but I had read the Book of Mormon, and had the experiences that I mentioned above. I had stopped by to interview him around noon, but it was now about 11:30 p.m., and I had experienced one of the most spiritual days of my life. We literally talked about everything that we could think of concerning the gospel.
Finally, I felt that I had imposed upon them long enough, but they insisted that I stay awhile longer and at least have a cup of coffee and some cake with them before leaving. On the way to the kitchen, the Spirit prompted me to ask them what they knew about the Mormons. I thought to myself, “I have had such a wonderful day with these people that I will not ask them any such question.”
However, the Spirit continued to prompt me, even more strongly this time, "Ask them what they know about the Mormons?" So finally, I conceded, and I asked them, "What do you know about the Mormons?" Without saying a word, Colonel Boggs got up from the table and went upstairs, and when he came back down, he had an arm full of books, all filled full of anti-Mormon oratory.
He then showed me some things that were written about the Mormons, which I had never heard nor seen before, and in particularly some things that were purportedly said and written by and about the Prophet Joseph Smith. When I finally left the Boggs’ house and headed for home, I was much baffled and concerned by what I had read. I sincerely wanted to know for myself once and for all whether what I had read was true, or whether I had been deceived by Satan.
Like the Prophet Joseph Smith, I had long since learned that I could rely upon the Lord for answers to my prayer, (see James 1:5-6), and so I decided to fast for three days, and to wait upon the Lord. I did not tell him how to answer my prayers only that I wanted to know once and for all, what was the truth concerning the Book of Mormon, and the Prophet Joseph Smith? I knew that whatever the answer would be that I could accept it, and I was willing to wait.
On the third day of my fast, the Elders called and asked if they could come over and show me a couple of filmstrips. They said that they had a very strong impression to show them to me, so I invited them over. The two filmstrips were entitled "Christ in America" and "The Bible and the Book of Mormon." After watching these two films, I could not comprehend how God could have made the truth any more clearer to me.
From that day to this, I have never again doubted the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, and I believe with all my heart that Joseph Smith was and is a true prophet of God. If the Book of Mormon is true, then conversely Joseph Smith had to be a true prophet, and likewise also The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints had to be the true church of Christ, and vice versa. It is a great honor and privilege for me to bear my testimony of the divinity of Joseph Smith as a true Prophet of God, and of this great work which Jesus Christ personally called him to organize.
MY PERSONAL TESTIMONY OF JESUS CHRIST AND THE LIVING PROPHETS
There was a time when I first returned from Vietnam that a minister asked me to talk about my experiences in Vietnam. My wife’s grandparents attended the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Elmira, New York. This same minister had married my wife and I, and he wanted me to talk to the congregation about those experiences, and in closing to bear my testimony about Jesus Christ.
I gave the talk, and I told them about my experiences in Vietnam, with the Baptist missionaries, about the little girl who accepted Christ and was disowned by her grandmother, and about other things, but when it came time for me to bear my testimony about Jesus Christ, I could not do it; not that I did not believe in Christ, but because I knew that in so doing that I would be a hypocrite for I was not living the life of a Christian at that time.
I can now say unequivocally and without any hesitancy or hypocrisy that I know that Jesus is the Christ, the only Begotten Son of God, my Lord and Savior, and the Redeemer of all mankind. I consider myself most fortunate to bear my testimony to all who will take the time to listen. I also know that Joseph Smith was his Prophet, and that through him The Church of Jesus Christ has once again been restored to the earth with the fullness of his gospel.
With regard to my testimony about the living prophets, that issue was resolved a long time ago when Harold B. Lee passed away, and President Spencer W. Kimball succeeded him. One day as I was reading the life story about President Kimball, I came across the part where in the final hours of President Lee’s mortality, President Kimball received a telephone call from Arthur Haycock, summoning him to the hospital where President Lee lay mortally ill.
President Kimball was then presiding over the Twelve Apostles, and as such was to be the next in line for succession to the Presidency of the Church. When Elder Romney arrived, Elder Kimball asked him, since he was the presiding officer, "What would you like me to do?"
Since there was not much else they could do except to pray for President Lee, they retired to a room and fervently prayed. Later, the doctor advised them that there was nothing more they could do to save the life of President Lee, and that he had passed away.
With the First Presidency now dissolved, Elder Romney turned to Elder Kimball and said, "President Kimball, what would you like me to do?" The mantle had fallen on Spencer W. Kimball, as President of the Quorum of the Twelve, to lead the Church.
Weeping, President Kimball called (his wife) Camilla to tell her that their friend of thirty years had gone. "Pray for me," he pleaded.
And with those words, “pray for me,” I was deeply touched by the Spirit and I knew of a surety that the mantle and authority of the priesthood that was given to the Prophet Joseph Smith had likewise now been passed to Spencer W. Kimball, and to all those who have since succeeded him, including President Gordon B. Hinckley, who is the current Prophet and presiding authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
During the course of my personal search for the truth I spent many days fasting and praying, and diligently studying and searching the scriptures. I also read the autobiographies and scholarly writings both pro and con regarding Joseph Smith, the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and by listening to and observing the testimonies of others. In this process, I discovered what a Book of Mormon prophet by the name of Alma observed in his search for truth, when he testified the following:
“And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit; and this is the spirit of revelation which is in me.” (Alma 5:45-46)
In closing this testimony, I know with every fiber of my being that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that we are most fortunate to have living prophets and apostles once again upon the earth to guide and direct the affairs of mankind, if we will only follow the counsel and admonition of these prophets. These things I humbly say, in the precious name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Sincerely yours, Edward L. Hess (March 2007)
P.S. Thank you for taking the time to read my testimony. I hope it has been helpful to you. If you are interested in corresponding with me about my story, you can contact me through my e-mail address:
firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to get back to you as soon as possible.
I also invite you to investigate the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and to learn for yourself what I have found to be true. You can invite LDS missionaries into your home and they will be glad to answer your questions and to teach you the doctrines of our church regarding the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We believe there was an apostasy or “falling away” from the true teachings of Jesus Christ as was prophesied by the prophets, and by Peter and Paul “until the times of the restitution of all things,” as recorded in Acts 1:6-7; 3:19-21; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, which apostasy was complete by the year 200 A.D.
Then in the spring of 1820, God the Father, and his Only Begotten Son, even Jesus Christ, appeared in person to a boy prophet by the name of Joseph Smith, Jr., and through him the gospel was restored in its fullness. They had conferred upon him the authority to preach the gospel and to organize the church of Christ in these the latter-days in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Our message is available to anyone who will take the time to listen, ponder, and pray about these things as I did. If you would like to obtain a complimentary copy of the BOOK OF MORMON, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, you may do so by calling 1-888-537-7111, and arrangements will be made for you to get a copy.
- Annie Oakley of the Wild West, by Walter Havighurst, The MacMillian Company,New York, New York, © 1954; and The Story of Annie Oakley, by Edmund Collier, Grosset & Dunlap Publishers, New York, New York, ©1956.
- The History of Darke County, Ohio, pg. 499, W. H. Beers & Co., Chicago, Il. ©1975.
- Official Roster of the Soldiers of the State of Ohio in the War of the Rebellion,1861-1866, Vol. X, pgs. 40, 45-46, The Ohio Valley Company, Cincinnati, Ohio, © 1889.
- Spencer W. Kimball, pg 409, Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Jr., Bookcraft, Salt Lake City Utah, © 1977.
- Ibid, pg. 409.
- Spencer W. Kimball, Twelfth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Pg. 3, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, UT, 21st Printing, 1987.)
Posted June 2021
Edward L. Hess is a retired Army Chief Warrant Officer, a military intelligence Special Agent, and formerly a Special Agent with the Defense Investigative Service, having been assigned to the White House, State Department, and foreign embassies. I then moved to Texas where I was assigned to the Dallas Field Office, and was employed to conduct background investigations on contract employees and military personnel who worked or served with the Presidential Fleet, known as Special Air Missions or SAM, which included Air Force One, or tail numbers 26000 and 27000, both of which are now in museums at Wright Patterson AFB, and the Ronald Regan Presidential Library. I have been retired since March 1995.