Watch: Running from darkness and violence in inner-city New York, Elder Johnson found the light of the gospel of Jesus Christ

Young Peter Johnson spent the early years of his life running. Running from violence. Running from darkness. Running in search of his identity. 

When he moved from inner-city New York to Hawaii as a teenager, a newfound passion for athletics propelled him down a path of light toward the gospel of Jesus Christ. 

“When you’re running from the darkness, it’s a feeling of fear,” he said. “But when you’re running towards the light, it’s hope. You know you’re running to strength and peace and happiness. We all need to be running to the light.”

Elder Peter M. Johnson, a General Authority Seventy currently serving as president of the England Manchester Mission, narrates his story in a new Church video “Running Toward the Light.” 

The 17-minute video released Thursday, June 10, features Elder Johnson sitting in the audience of an auditorium watching scenes from his life — ending with him standing face to face with a boy version of himself in the light on stage. Elder Johnson testifies of overcoming the deception, distraction and discouragement of the adversary by understanding one’s divine identity.

After his parents divorced when he was 11 years old, Peter struggled to know who he was and where he belonged. 

His search for identity led him to join a gang. When the violence became too much, he joined a rap group with his older brother. But the violence followed. “There must be something better,” he thought.

Still running, still searching, still trying to find himself, Peter was introduced through a friend to the Muslim faith. The health code kept him away from drug abuse he saw others get involved in. He began thinking more about Deity. “It was a beginning, it was a start for me,” he said.

At age 15, Peter hopped on a plane to Hawaii to live with his mother. He joined the high school basketball team and earned a scholarship to play at Brigham Young University–Hawaii. Seeing parents in the stands cheering on their children reinforced Peter’s desire to have a family — a strong family who loved and supported one another. 

Read more: Basketball led Church’s first African-American General Authority to Christianity

In his first semester at BYU–Hawaii, Peter enrolled in a New Testament course and learned how to pray to Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ. He knelt down in his small student apartment and told his Heavenly Father for the first time that he loved Him.

“And then I knew,” Elder Johnson said. “I knew that there was a Father in Heaven, that I was His son. It was a light. It was a light that I felt that distilled upon me in a sense that I’d never felt before that time. 

“I felt like I knew who I was and I knew who I could become.”

He no longer had to run from the darkness; he found the light. With repentance and forgiveness in his grasp, he wanted to run toward the light. 

A photo of Elder Peter M. Johnson's family is shown in the new Church video "Running Toward the Light," released June 10, 2021.
A photo of Elder Peter M. Johnson’s family is shown in the new Church video “Running Toward the Light,” released June 10, 2021. Credit: Screenshot YouTube

The world is filled with many distracting and deceiving voices, Elder Johnson explained in the video. Discouragement comes. “We can overcome those moments in time by strengthening our relationship with our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ,” he said. 

Read Elder Johnson’s October 2019 general conference talk “Power to Overcome the Adversary.”