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Mormon Scholars Testify: Karen R. Trifiletti

TitleMormon Scholars Testify: Karen R. Trifiletti
Publication TypeWeb Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsTrifiletti, Karen R.
Access Date29 March 2018
Last Update DateJuly 2011
PublisherMormon Scholars Testify
KeywordsBook of Mormon; Doctrine; Faith; Jesus Christ; Testimony

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Karen R. Trifiletti

I lost the keys of the universe. My world was imploding with no purpose to life. I still remember standing at the top of the stairs in my home as a child, wondering who I was and why I was here. I craved that knowledge but felt spiritually starved. Questions about life’s purpose continued to spring up whenever I’d give them the least chance, like crocuses poking through a late spring snow, only to be buried again. I had no clear answers. I asked questions in Catholic school about the war in heaven, wondering who was present; it seemed to me that if one-third of the hosts fell, there must have been more people engaged than Jesus and the Father and Lucifer. No answers were provided; I was told to accept that as a mystery. I inquired about the need to re-confess a sin to someone for “additional grace,” and wondered why a scapula could be influential in getting me towards heaven. I also never grasped the Trinity as presented and so never really had a personal relationship with God or the Savior, and didn’t know if anyone did. So, while I respected the foundation of faith provided in those early years, I knew in my heart and mind that there was more truth to be had outside the walls of the faith of my fathers.

As I attended college, the questions came back in force. I was studying theories with no rod to evaluate them, viewing life and trying to set goals for a future without a frame. What was the big picture? How could I determine my life’s course without seeing it in context? I observed others’ lives and wondered what made them tick. Vacations, cars, money—what I imagined it might be—didn’t seem enough.

Eventually, my desire to live waned and I decided to take my life. I had pills by my bed, intending to overdose. I was stopped in my tracks by undeniable impressions that appeared on the screen of my soul. I was told by what I later recognized as the Spirit of truth, that nothing I’d invested in my life—no moment of love and discovery—was wasted; that I must have the courage to live on and that I would find the purpose of life. I trusted that voice, though I didn’t comprehend its Source then. The Savior had spoken to me, through the light of His Spirit.

Through the years, though, I’d read a great deal, and it seemed as if some guiding influence was helping me identify truth. I carried a notebook with me of things I’d learned about progression that I gleaned from all kinds of literary materials and learning experiences. I remember writing down a quote from Teilhard de Chardin’s On Becoming, which spoke of three phases of growth: knowing self, becoming, and then ultimately worshipping. I wondered, then, if I would ever ascend to worship, and if so, what that might be like.

A few months later, under the light of a full August moon, and after searching, pondering, reading further, and wondering about life, I found myself jogging the neighborhood. I’d just finished Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. While she wrote of a possible God, she depicted him as selfish, and her worldview was formed around that concept. Somehow, in processing that and my own experience, I came to an intellectual conclusion there was a God—the opposite of Ayn’s thesis. While running and ruminating, I had an experience that changed my life: I saw my life in a panoramic fashion through spiritual eyes, and then, in a moment, I was overcome with an infusion of knowledge that God lived—as if someone spiritually injected me with the truth in a way that defies description but that was as tangible as anything I’ve ever seen, felt, or experienced. I only knew that I knew, nothing doubting, that God and Jesus lived, and that I belonged, and that I was loved. Tears flowed unbidden; I actually sat down and sobbed on the curb. I was changed from that moment. The witness I had received in my mind was now paralleled with an indelible spiritual witness that I could never doubt and have never doubted. As a result of this experience, I had an overwhelming desire to know more about Jesus Christ, what He expected of me, what the truth about Him really was.

Borrowing a copy of the Holy Bible, I laid in a field of a Catholic rectory, reading the New Testament for the first time. I marveled that this body of truth had existed for so long and I’d never read it. I took notes in a small silver notebook which I kept for years. I learned much through the Spirit then—but as I read about the atonement of the Savior, I stopped. I pondered. I was overcome. The Savior had just interceded to save my life physically. Now I read and understood that He literally died to save me spiritually. I came to know that for myself in that field in that moment. I also understood from that moment that He was, therefore, my Advocate—I knew I had someone in whom I could totally trust my every thought, action, circumstance. That was amazing to me.

From there, I took my biblically-based list of characteristics and teachings of the Savior’s Church and went on a comparative church-searching quest to see if any matched what I had learned for myself to be true about the Savior and His original Church. From Methodist to Swedenborgian, Adventist to Pentecostal, Christian Scientist to Jehovah’s Witnesses, I examined it. I also began reading the Koran. But while I found morsels of truth and many great people in each of these denominations, I always came up disappointed. No one scored on all scriptural points. There was always some disappointing deviation from what I learned to expect from the biblical study. I decided to venture forth one last time. This time it was into a Baptist Church, with the same result—except that, as I was leaving the service I noticed an ex-Mormon, anti-Mormon brochure on a rack in the vestibule, which I eagerly picked up, tucked away, and read the moment I walked in the door to my home.

The teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints listed, though mockingly, in that brochure, struck me with great force and the negatives seemed superfluous. I’d learned from my own experience that the spiritual and the physical were inter-related and had anticipated a code of health in the Lord’s Church; I had read Matthew 5:48 and understood that we were intended to become more and more like the Savior and Father in our progression and perfection. I knew that a loving God wouldn’t stop speaking to His children, just because they reached a certain age, and anticipated that He would be the author of additional revelation. So reading about the Book of Mormon, the doctrine of becoming perfect as God is, and the code of health rang very true, and the negative comments, again, were dwarfed and irrelevant distractions. In short, the brochure backfired. What was intended to dissuade me from belief only propelled me forth in my investigation of the Church. Ultimately, I tracked down The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ—referred to in the brochure—in a small library in suburban Philadelphia, took it home with a half-gallon of ice cream, and read it through the night. I knew it was a true record of Christ and His gospel. Electrified by what I then learned through that reading and as I discovered a leaflet on the purpose of life in that same library, I contacted the Church, was taught further, and was baptized.

Witness of The Book of Mormon

I’ve read and re-read the Book of Mormon, each time with a new understanding of my potential and God’s purposes. It keeps unfolding, kaleidoscopically. As I’ve pled for wisdom in my undertakings, and asked for guidance as a mother, as a friend, as professional, as a student, I have never wanted for an answer. Those answers have changed me, guided my steps, motivated me to overcome, helped me to balance justice and mercy, and brought me peace. It’s all there, tucked away in a true account of our forefathers and mothers. It’s a life-changing book, pre-dating our time but post-dated for our needs.

The Book of Mormon is about God’s power to deliver. It’s about the Savior’s ultimate reach, how far He will go to extend mercy and love to each of us in His family and how we can try to do likewise; it’s about God’s justice in allowing the consequences of sin to meet the ungodly if they persistently rebel against light and knowledge. It’s about the power of our personal faith and the perfection of that faith through adversity and struggle and growth. It’s an inspiring work that activates the power of faith in our lives and prepares us to see God.

I have to say that I’d be grateful if we just had certain portions of the Book of Mormon, such as:

Alma 32: It’s a chapter that I refer to as “The Lord’s Formula for Success,” or “The Faith Version of the Scientific Experiment.” The Lord tells us how we can know what is “real” spiritually. It’s profoundly simple and simply profound.

1 Nephi 4: This chapter has been a template that I’ve overlaid in my life time and time again as I’ve encountered a new challenge, or taken a new direction, walking in faith. It is an absolute witness of the ways in which the Lord will guide us individually, according to our aptitudes, and help us move forward “not knowing beforehand the things which we should do.”

Alma 52: The physical war tactics described in this chapter are a type of spiritual war tactics. As I read this chapter, I’m reminded that I need to continue to defend my daughters from the voices which call housework and motherhood slavery, and which seek to “flatter them out of their strongholds,” overtaking them.

I’d be grateful to have been graced with just those passages, but even more so, having been given 531 pages of similar spiritual nuggets in the Book of Mormon.

I add my voice of testimony to the many who likewise testify, that the Book of Mormon is divine.

Witness of Jesus Christ

As I continued my education, worked, and married, I continued to let go and let God, to know Christ in ways that I treasure more than anything in this life besides my own family and friends. I’ve come to know His grace—His enabling power—that applies to all I do. I feel as close to Him as I do the best friend I could ever have. He converses with me through His word and as I pray and listen, repent, and grow. He marks my path. He has a million ways of delighting me. He goes before me. He opens my eyes to things I’d never see on my own. He colors my world; He changes me. He tutors me, He sends angels to minister. He finds things I’ve lost. He embraces me and reveals Himself to me continually. He challenges me; He encourages me; He corrects me. He provides me with wisdom and hope. He beckons me. He intercedes for me. He continually extends His reach towards me, and extends my reaching of Him, my understanding of His atonement. He has poured out healing and balm in times when I may otherwise have been crushed by betrayal. When I stood alone in my marriage covenants, He filled and fills the void. Through and with Him, I don’t have to go it alone. As my children have been, in a sense, spiritually fatherless, He has been their Father; He has compensated. I know He lives and knows me. He knows when I pull in the driveway, when I’m sitting on my bed, when I’m trying to sort out the best of the best to do in His kingdom, when I struggle to overcome, when I long to be better, as I strive for excellence, when I plead for my children, when I seek Him.

I testify again that the Savior lives. I testify He wants to be found. I testify that all things testify of Him. I submit to you my love of Jesus Christ and my joy in my relationship with Him. His gospel has been restored in our day, and His priesthood power is on earth, which means that you and I have access to His presence again—in this life or the next. He will come again. I know that’s true and bear witness of these truths in the name of Jesus Christ.


Karen R. Trifiletti was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Of Italian descent, she is a mother of two. She holds a BA in French, served as a missionary in Germany (1983-1984), did graduate work in English, earned a master’s degree in human and organizational development, and is now a PhD candidate (2/3 completed) in the latter field. She is also currently vice president of Content Development for the More Good Foundation.

Posted July 2011



Scripture Reference

1 Nephi 4:1-38
Alma 32:1-43
Alma 52:1-40