Before last year, I had never known anyone who was Mormon; not by choice, there just weren’t many Mormons around for me to know. Growing up, I went to a few different churches. I was baptized in one faith, confirmed in another, and attended church in a few more. All the while, I never quite understood why I was there or what made a particular church different from any other. I mostly just went to church because I thought that’s what you were supposed to do, but I thought maybe if I continued to go, I would be able to figure it out.
After a period of time without any church attendance, I moved to Minnesota and became interested again in learning about my own faith. As I was attending a class at another church, I was given the opportunity to learn about the LDS Church from a friend in school. At first I learned by reading things about the Church, good and bad, that I found on the Internet. After a few months of reading, I started meeting members, going to church, and talking with the missionaries, and to my surprise, I LOVED IT.
I had never been to a church where I was so instantly welcomed and accepted. Men and women who were so incredibly busy with their own personal and professional lives took the time to get to know me and opened their hearts and homes to me in a way that I had never before experienced from total strangers.
I quickly came to love spending time with my new “Mormon friends” and it was pretty obvious why: they were honestly and truly living their faith and teaching me how to do the same. Through their example and the things I was learning, I began to understand who God is, His plan is for us, who Jesus Christ is, what He did, and most importantly, why this all matters. For the first time, I felt like I could ask questions and think critically about my faith. It seemed as though the puzzle pieces were beginning to come together.
Despite how it sounds so far, this experience was neither perfect nor easy. I spent six months learning about the Church before making the decision to become a member. I needed to be as informed as I could if I was going to make this decision. Even though I had learned so much, and there was very clearly a change taking place within me, I still struggled. In my mind, it didn’t add up: Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, prophets. I wondered, why would God appear to a 14-year-old boy and later ask him to translate the Book of Mormon?
In addition to my own internal struggle, I experienced external opposition as well. The LDS Church is very misunderstood, and people around me didn’t know much about the Church other than stereotypes. They feared I would be forced to give up who I was if I was going to become a Mormon. I realized verbal assurances would only do so much, so instead of solving this problem before moving forward, I concluded that the stereotypes could only be dispelled through time and my own example.
My bishop (local church leader) and I had a very important conversation around the time I finally decided to be baptized. He reminded me to keep an eternal perspective. He shared a very personal and powerful story about his own mother’s decision to join the Church and the effect it had on her posterity. After this conversation, I realized that this was the best decision I could make not only for myself but for the family I come from, and the family I hope to have some day.
Regarding the things that just didn’t make sense, I prayed. And prayed. Over time, I received spiritual confirmations that testified to me of their truth. At first, it felt as though I was surrounded by the darkness of night. As I did things to find my way, like read scriptures, pray, visit with the missionaries, talk with members, I slowly felt as if the dark was giving way to light, and I could see the steps ahead more clearly. (See this). Soon I thought, “how could something that brought so much good, not be true?”
Shortly before I made the decision to be baptized I received an email from a friend who had no knowledge of my investigation of the Church. She wrote, “I just want you to know that I love seeing you this [academic] year because you are sort of glowing and seem so happy and just like you’re on the right track.” This sweet friend was able to put into words what I was feeling and didn’t completely realize in that moment. I was not only visibly but also internally joyful. I soon came to know that the Spirit was bringing me feelings of peace and joy to testify of truth.
The weekend I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church was wonderful. Despite the fact that it was wedged between two law school finals, it couldn’t have been better. After being confirmed, I felt an incredible flood of relief because I had finally found what I had been searching for and wanting for so long: faith in God and Jesus Christ and a church that is just so amazing to be a part of. The evening after I was confirmed, I wrote in my journal, “I cannot go to sleep because I am just SO happy, so excited, and so filled with joy….”
John 10:10: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” My decision to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has brought so much abundance to my life: an abundance of beauty, joy, love, and so much more.
I am so very grateful for the family I have that has loved me unconditionally and helped me get to where I am today. My heart is overflowing with love for them and the countless others who have helped me along the way. I know that I don’t have all the answers right now. I never will, but I have faith in Jesus Christ, and that makes all the difference going forward.
This past weekend as I was driving westward across Minnesota, I noticed the leaves. I noticed how their colors were significantly different from the weekend before. Two weeks ago, they were beautiful shades of green, yellow, and red. This week, I noticed browns, golds, and oranges in their place. As I contemplated the beauty of it all, I wondered if I would have noticed and appreciated all this beauty even one year ago. As I continued to drive and think, I concluded that no, I would not have. That tiny realization reminded me, once again, how lucky I am to have been able to make the decision to become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I love this church, and I love being a member of it. It inspires me to see the good and the beauty in everything and everyone. I have never felt more inspired to do good, to serve better, and to love deeper.