[Victor Nugent (email@example.com) was the first Jamaican, during this century, to join the church on the island. Since that time, he has been very instrumental in helping to build up the Church in that country. We are pleased to have him as a subscriber to LDS-Gems and thank him for letting us distribute his conversion story. This testimony was originally written in 1974 and later published in Hartman and Connie Rector's "No More Strangers."]
I was brought up in a family of Jehovah's Witnesses, consisting of my father and mother and eight brothers and sisters. At an early age I learned to read the Bible, attended meetings three times a week, and learned to use scriptural quotations to "prove" doctrinal points. Soon I was actively propagating the doctrine from door to door, first with my parents or other members of the congregation, later on my own. During this period I was baptized.
During my high school years I first began to entertain misgivings about the truth of the doctrine I had been taught. I was not entirely satisfied with the explanation that some parts of the Bible were not to be taken literally but had a "spiritual" interpretation. Who had the authority to "interpret"?
My faith weakened progressively during my high school years. By the time I entered university I had stopped attending meetings. I elected to read natural sciences, majoring in zoology and chemistry. Soon I had embraced the tenets of evolution and rejected the teachings of the Bible. By graduation time I had acquired a considerable number of personal bad habits and was an avowed agnostic.
Soon after graduation I married Verna, a high school classmate. Over the next seven years she did a wonderful job of making a home for me and our two children, while I frittered away my time, energy, talents and substance in the pursuit of sensual pleasure.
On the way home one morning, while suffering from the effects of a particularly vicious hangover, I finally saw myself as I was. I was so disgusted at what I saw that I prayed for the first time in about eleven years: "Oh God, if there is a God," I said, please have mercy on me. Please help me!"
I immediately felt better after I had said these words and my life began to change from that point on. This was sometime in 1970. I stopped going out and leaving my wife and children alone at home. I had been in the habit of drinking about a pint of alcohol every day for about seven years and stopped drinking in 1971. I had been a chain smoker but stopped smoking in April 1972.
At this time I was particularly concerned about my children, for I had noticed that many of my vices had rubbed off on them and it seemed to me that I was beginning to bring up a pair of monsters. I gradually gave up all my vices and started reading some books on psychology, philosophy, and metaphysics. I was searching for a way - for the truth.
During my search for the truth I noticed that many authors quoted freely from the Bible while others plagiarized it shamelessly. The question came to me: "What if the Bible is true in all respects?" I was overcome by an overwhelming compulsion to read the Bible, but the feeling came to me that I should read it with belief in my heart. I was either going to accept it all or reject it all. I started at Genesis, but this time I was not just reading words, I was visualizing events. What an impact it had on me! . . .
Bible-reading enthusiasm had caused me to spend part of my lunchtime each day reading the Bible in my office. One day Paul Schmeil entered and noticed what I was reading. He wanted to know which church I was attending. When I told him none, he said he was a Mormon and would like to tell me about his religion. He asked if he could visit me at home to tell my family and me about it.
I had previously declined such invitations from friends of other faiths, but there was something different about Paul. He was living the principles of the gospel, as I understood them. I felt that he could tell me something, so I accepted his invitation. Paul came to our home one evening and showed us two filmstrips, one entitled "Man's Search for Happiness" and the other "Meet the Mormons." He instructed us from his manual and left us some pamphlets to read. At the close of the session he showed us how to pray and invited us to kneel in prayer.
I shall never forget that evening. It was as if a messenger from God had come to visit. The message he brought was exactly what I had been looking for. I eagerly read the pamphlets and went out in my back yard to meditate and reflect on what had been said.
Everything fit perfectly. There was only one "fly in the ointment." That first night Paul told me about the position of the Negro in the Mormon Church. My ego was hurt, but I had a strong feeling that the message was the truth, and more was involved than pride and vanity. I sought the Lord in prayer and the answer came back loud and clear. It was the truth! I had received a testimony of the truth through the Spirit. Reasoning from this revealed truth I came to more fully understand the Church's position regarding the Negro and the priesthood. . . .
Paul continued to explain the principles of the gospel to us. The more I heard, the more my joy increased that I had at last found what I was seeking. We attended family home evening at his home. We read the Book of Mormon, we prayed about it, we were convinced of its truthfulness, and our convictions grew stronger.
As a family we started to attend Sunday School and sacrament meeting. Associating with other Mormons showed us that the peace and harmony evident in the Schmeil family was not a fluke - living the gospel is a way of life among Mormons.
My wife, my eldest son and I were baptized on January 20, 1974. I will be eternally grateful to our Father in heaven for sending me the help I needed in answer to my plea.
Tremendous blessings have attended my family as a result of our efforts to live the gospel as worthy members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Best of all is the growth and development of our children, and a new cohesion in our family life.
I solemnly bear witness that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live, that God hears and answers our prayers, that he has restored the everlasting gospel in its true form on earth today through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is his church - the true church. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
[Today, Victor and Verna Nugent live in St. Catherine, Jamaica with their children Mark (21), Camille (18), and Spencer (15). Their oldest son, Peter is married to Onika and living in Springville, Utah. Brother Nugent serves as District President of the Kingston District. He is now the manager of a citrus processing plant. His family belongs to the Linstead Branch, consisting of about one hundred members. Make sure you visit Brother Nugent's home page: http://www.ldschurch.net/f/nugentv/ link