The Foundation of My Testimony by Jamison R. Davis
I was born to “goodly” Jewish parents in 1960. The US was still in a period of post-war boom and young families were leaving the crowded conditions of New York City and its five boroughs for the suburbs. I spent the first 5 years of my life in the little Jewish enclave of Manhattan Beach on Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay and then in 1965 we moved to Westport Connecticut, a lovely artists colony. And home to a growing Jewish population.
Like other Jewish boys of the Reformed branch of Judaism I went to synagogue during the high holidays and prepared for my Bar Mitzvah at age 13, the Jewish coming of age. I went to Hebrew school after regular school hours and enjoyed my studies. Early in my life I began to have a curiosity about the Dead Sea Scrolls and the people that wrote them. I began to wonder about the Messiah and why no one ever talked about Him.
From my earliest recollection I can recall believing in God, knowing that He loved me, that He answered the prayers of our family and that we should love and serve Him.
And from a very early age I began to be tutored by Him by many experiences and struggles in what I should make of my life.
When I was a boy, sometime between ages 11-14, I remember being home sick one Saturday afternoon and looking for something to watch on TV. I came upon a scene that was electrifying. An elderly man with a small microphone attached to his eyeglasses was speaking in gravelly voice from a great podium in a large assembly. As he began to speak I began to feel a very strange feeling inside me. I changed the channel but never forgot that first exposure to the Lord’s prophets and the spirit of conference.
When I was 13 I also began middle school. The first middle I school I attended had some boys that used to bully me and so it was decided that I would attend another middle school across town and that was by the Lord’s design. It was there that I met the young man who would introduce me to the gospel. I rode the bus across town with other kids who for one reason or another needed to attend that school because it had ramps as well as stairs. One such boy was Kent Hickenlooper. Kent was born with Hemophilia and sometimes needed to be in a wheelchair when his joints were inflamed. Kent’s family moved from Utah and their roots go back to pioneer stock. One day Kent and I had a discussion about God. I don’t exactly recall why but I remember his answers were articulate and made me curious about his Mormon beliefs. I went home and looked up the Mormon Church in the Encyclopedia, which had a lengthy section on LDS beliefs. I asked him if there was a copy of the translation of the gold plates available (thinking it was like the Dead Sea scrolls – only available in libraries and such. He played along and said “oh they are very hard to come by but I think my father can get you one if you will take the time to read it.” And I looked forward to it and read it as soon as it arrived in my possession. As I did so many questions began to form in my mind.
I asked Kent some of these questions and he suggested I meet with two of his “friends” who do nothing for two years but answer people’s questions about the church. This began my discussions with the missionaries. As I continued to read I began to have my doubts about the truth of the Book of Mormon but another LDS boy in our school was very patient and kind and took the time to read with me over the phone Alma 32 and invited me to put that seed-planting challenge to a test. How grateful I am for that life-changing conversation. As I continued to study I began to feel a great love and hunger for the doctrines of the gospel but I was left with a monumental question as to the divinity of Jesus Christ. To further complicate matters, my investigation of the church was a source of great concern to my family. As I continued to study, to ponder, to feel the warmth and power of the doctrine and the love of my newfound LDS friends, I began to wonder more how could this not be true versus the other way around and yet the Savior and His divinity were a great stumbling block to me.
One night, during the discussion that used to be called “Our relationship to Christ” the Elders invited me to pray about the Savior and promised me if I did, If I was unafraid of the consequence of knowing that Jesus was the Christ, that if I asked as Moroni instructed, that the answer would come. I decided to put that to the test.
I retuned to my home and in the quiet and privacy of my room late one evening I knelt and began to vocalize my desires to God, first to thank him for the blessings I had received, for the new friends who loved me, for the missionaries who taught me such wonderful things then humbly I asked for a witness that Jesus was indeed the savior of the world, the awaited Messiah. As I began to pray my Star of David pendant given to me by my beloved Grandmother began to dangle in front of me causing me to reflect on my great heritage and what I was potentially asking which in my mind at the time refuted all I had grown up believing. Feeling the star was a distraction from my fervent prayer I closed my eyes and prayed ever more earnestly. Then summoning all the faith I could muster at that young age, I closed my prayer, mostly in a spirit of hope, in the name of Jesus Christ. Upon arising from my knees the spirit whispered to me with power and certainty that Jesus was the Christ, That God had heard and answered my prayer, That Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet and brought forth the restoration. That the Book of Mormon was absolutely true and that Spencer W. Kimball was God’s prophet. I was elated and I was terrified at the implication of what had taken place. I knew God in all His majesty had reached down from His Heaven and, like the brother of Jared, had touched me. And thus began my education of the things of the spirit.
This prayer began my hunger for reading everything I could about the restoration and the Savior and His church. My family allowed me to attend church but not seminary. I could attend Stake dances and MIA but I was not allowed to be baptized. For two years I attended my meetings, held callings, wrote music for youth conferences and road shows but was denied the blessings of baptism. I prayed and fasted and pleaded the Lord to soften the hearts of my parents to allow me to be baptized. My friends advanced from deacon to teacher to priest and I felt so very left behind.
Finally in 1977, at the age of 17, I could wait no longer. The denial of the blessings of baptism also meant I could not attend the magnificent newly built Washington Temple. I pled with the Lord in a long tear-filled prayer under a mighty fir tree on the edge of our property. And then I waited in faith for a miracle.
The miracle came on Memorial Day morning and while I cannot share the details of the experience, I will share the result, against all odds, two weeks later I was baptized and soon thereafter I attended with the other youth the beautiful Washington DC Temple. I felt I had finally come home.
It is my prayer that this story might attest that the God of Israel knows His children, He delights to hear and answer our prayers. He looks beyond our weakness and frailty and He knows the longings of our hearts.
God our Eternal Father loves His children, he hears and answers our prayers. He knows us individually and is involved in our daily iives in a myriad of ways. I testify that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son Jesus Christ as a Savior and redeemer for all mankind and through the atonement of Christ, we are made eligible to live with our families and loved ones in Eternity thorugh our faith and obedience to gospel laws and commandments.
I testfy that Our Heavenly Father in company with His beloved son appeared to the prophet Joseph and there in a lovely woodland setting in upstate New York ushered in this last dispensation when young men dream dreams and Elijah would return to turn our hearts to our fathers.
I testify that the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ is the word of God, translated by divine means and brought forth in our day by the prophet Joseph Smith.
I testify that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the kingdom of God restored to the Earth for a new and final dispensation.
I bear witness that there are living prophets and Apostles and that President Gordon B. Hinckley is the Lord’s prophet today.
And I testify that all who seek a witness of the truth as to things of which I have here testified need only ask sincerely in prayer and our Heavenly Father will answer that prayer through a unique feeling of peace, joy and serenity felt in the heart and mind of any who ask in faith.
I offer this testimony with the hope that it might invite others, and most especially those from the house of Judah, to come unto Christ, the holy one of Israel and to his restored gospel.
About the author
Jim Davis was born in Brooklyn New York and was raised in Connecticut. He was a convert to the Church at age 15 from the Jewish faith.
From an early age Brother Davis developed a love for music and by the time he was 18 had written over a hundred songs and was on his way to a promising career as a song writer and recording artist.
After high school Brother Davis attended Ricks College, now BYU Idaho, and there formed a band called Davis & Holmes in which he began writing and recording LDS popular music. He served a mission in the England Manchester Mission and there wrote and directed the LDS missionary music group “The Ambassadors” which toured, recorded an album and was featured on television and radio. Upon his return from England, Brother Davis was signed to Embryo Records where he recorded two albums of his music in partnership with LDS composer Lex de Azevedo. As partners Brother Davis and Lex De Azevedo also created the first LDS motion picture shown in theaters called A Field So White. After completing “A Field So White,” Brother Davis shifted his musical pursuits to the advertising business writing music for commercials and the popular daytime drama As the World Turns.
Brother Davis continued in the advertising business for the next 20 years and was one of the early pioneers of Internet Advertising. He has remained heavily involved in developing new means of leveraging emerging media to foster and maintain relationships between consumers and brands such as The Walt Disney Company, Philips, HP, Pepsi and Unilever.
Brother Davis has served as a gospel doctrine teacher, an institute instructor, bishop’s counselor, ward mission leader, stake mission president’s counselor and as a councilor to three full-time mission presidents. He currently serves as Special Representative for Public Affairs for the Church’s Public Affairs Department and a family history consultant.
He married Christie Kinkead and they are the parents of four children.