The year was 2006, the start of my senior year in high school. I had yet to have a direct encounter with the church yet at that point, but was finally made aware that it even existed. At no point in my life do I recall ever seeing missionaries, or hearing about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (it wasn’t until much later on in the process that I realized that many times over the years I had seen, on late night infomercials, ads for the Book of Mormon). But, I had come into contact with a member of the church at work. We were actually really good friends. I worked at a restaurant and my coworker was a girl by the name of Shanda.
She was one year older than me, attended the same high school, and was a member of the church. She never really talked to me about it though, because I wasn’t really open to those kind of things really. But, I knew she went to church and that she couldn’t work Sundays or Wednesdays because of church and church activities. I happened to get my best friend a job at the same restaurant, and he ended up dating the girl; so we all hung out quite a bit (this was earlier in 2006 and still my junior year). But I was exposed a little more to the church because we would go hang out at her house, so I met her family and would see all the pictures of Christ, temples, and what not. But I was never really interested. I never asked questions, but I did feel a desire to better myself as a result of my friend being a church going person. I voluntarily stopped using profane language because I was inspired by her example to speak in a dignified manner. That wasn’t easy, but I enjoyed the change.
Time went on, it was summer of 2006, and I came across mormon.org. Back then, it was nothing like it is today. It was a pretty basic website, but I checked it out and even requested a copy of the Book of Mormon to be sent to my home. I wanted to read it, just so I could have a historical background as to what my friend believed in. But the sad thing is, or perhaps by divine intervention, the Book of Mormon never came. The order wasn’t processed, or the missionaries never brought it by, or it was just a lost media referral. I’m not too sure to be honest. But perhaps at that time I just wasn’t ready to have that in my life.
But okay so finally back to where I was in the story, it’s the start of my senior year. Shanda went off to school at Byu-I, so I lost that direct influence of the church in my life. My best friend, Stephen, the one who was dating her, had been going to church with her family but had never invited me. He was my age, so we were both seniors in high school, but we grew apart because he was focused on maintaining his long distance relationship with Shanda while she was away at school. So he pretty much spent all his time in communication with her, and we went our separate ways.
Life got really good for me for a while, but then suddenly came to a halting crash. It was your typical high school drama, but it left me without friends and without much hope. I was devastated and just really down on life. I was at an all time low, and so I decided to maybe start taking a little interest in religion. Another friend of mine was very into the Bible and going to his Christian church, so I asked him for a copy of the Bible. I thought "well if I read this book, then my life will turn around and everything will instantly change and be better." I tried it for a little while, starting with the old testament, but absolutely hated it. I got really angry at God, because nothing improved in my life and I was still sad and depressed. So I tossed the Bible aside and never thought twice about it.
More time passed, and I was still struggling and hating life. Stephen and I still talked, but not too much. He went out to visit Shanda for Thanksgiving and they went to temple square, and gave me as a referral to the missionaries there. They called my home and asked if they could send me a DVD about the church, but my mom is the one who answered and she told them "no." I don’t know why at the time, but this made me so angry. I got really mad at her, because I really wanted the video, and I was also your typical teenager who wanted to make my own decisions.
So another month passes, and I find out that Stephen is getting baptized on Dec 23. He didn’t even invite me, because he didn’t think I would go. So I asked him if I could go, and that was the first time I entered into a Mormon church building. I remember feeling embarrassed because I wasn’t dressed as nicely as others, and I felt really uncomfortable trying to sing along with the hymns and what not. I remember afterwards, several pairs of missionaries came up and were talking to me. I was really thrown off by it, haha. But I was intrigued; ya know?
So Stephen finally invites me to church after all of this. It was the first Sunday of 2007. I thought "well, it’s a new year so perhaps a new me." I was so nervous to go to church though. It was supposed to snow really bad on that Saturday night and I was hoping so bad that church would some how be canceled or something like that (haha!). But, it wasn’t, so away we went. I remember standing up and introducing myself in priesthood, then I remember going to gospel principles and I had the neatest experience. Perhaps my first faith building experience.
I had told a couple of lies during that week, and felt bad for doing so, and I knew lying was bad. I wanted to know how to overcome that and just be better. Sure enough the lesson that first Sunday in gospel principles happened to be on Honesty. I thought "no way could that be a coincidence." Sacrament wasn’t really anything special for me for quite a while. It wasn’t something I understood a whole lot.
After church Stephen (I rode with him to church) had a meeting with the bishop, so I was just waiting in his car. While he was at his meeting, I was reading through his Book of Mormon. I read the introduction, the witness accounts of Joseph Smith and the other witnesses, and it definitely sparked my interest. It was about 2 weeks later that I started having discussions with the missionaries. They were all at Shanda’s house (even though she was still off at school). So all of my discussions had members present and were in a members home, so I think that really helped.
I was honestly really excited to meet with the missionaries, because I thought "wow, that’s really cool that they would take time out of their schedule to meet with me, who had no idea about anything." I, of course, at the time, didn’t really understand what the role of missionaries was really. So I didn’t know it was a full time thing for them, but I remember my first discussion about Joseph Smith and the restoration. It all made logical sense to me, because I had no prior knowledge of anything religious or spiritual. At the end they offered me a Book of Mormon and asked me if I would read it. I was so pumped to have my own copy. (I still have it today).
They gave it to me on a Sunday, and I started reading immediately. By that time I was attending early morning seminary, because I was convinced by a few people that it would be really good for me. So I would wake up at 5:30, go to Seminary, and get to school about an hour before it started. So each day that week I busted out the Book of Mormon while waiting for school to start and read and read and read. By that next Sunday I had finished the entire Book of Mormon. I mean I really had no clue what I had just read, and obviously didn’t understand a lot because it was my first real encounter with scriptures…but I just knew it was true. I honestly don’t recall praying about the Book of Mormon. I didn’t have to. I just accepted it from the very beginning to be true.
I knew I wanted to be baptized pretty soon after that. But I was only 17, so it was up to my parents. They of course flipped out, and told me no. So my only choice was to wait the 5 months until I turned 18. All the while I never missed a Sunday, I went to seminary, the activities, and all that good stuff. I went through 3 sets of missionaries, including getting a new set that a couple days before my baptism.
I wouldn’t say that my conversion was anything extra ordinary or too much of a surprise. Some how I was always motivated by something (in retrospect the Holy Ghost) to live a righteous life. I was already living all the commandments except for tithing and keeping the Sabbath day holy. I grew up with a constant motivation of wanting to raise a righteous family with kids that didn’t get involved in drugs, drinking, or partying. I always worried and wondered how it would be possible. For the most part, that’s what kept me away from all of those things in my life. I must have said no to doing those worldly things thousands of times. I never once got close to giving in, because I had hope for more in life.
I truly believe that I was humbled by the Lord and prepared slowly so that I would see what I was missing in my life. I went from being so incredibly down, to happier than I had ever been at that point in my life. The gospel just was a perfect fit for me and how I wanted to live my life. I read all of the missionary pamphlets and followed the diagram on how to pray, and did so.
The day finally came for my baptism: Saturday April 28th. It was an incredible day. I even bore my testimony after I was baptized. My family was in attendance even though they weren’t too supportive of the decision. Those new missionaries, that had just arrived, happened to change my life and were the ones who helped me experience a lasting conversion. I got confirmed on April 29th (my 18th Bday) and was ordained a Priest in the Aaronic Priesthood. Later that week I went to the temple and did baptisms for the dead.
It was quite the experience for sure. It definitely wasn’t always easy. But once I felt it was right, I decided that I was all in. Since then, I’ve obviously gone on a mission and have never missed church unless I was traveling or on vacation with my family.
Like I said, its nothing too special. It is cool to look back and see how God was slowly preparing me for that moment in my life and then, once it came, it was such an easy decision for me. I was sort of the golden investigator, except I couldn’t get baptized right away. But, I’m a firm believer that it all happened as it was supposed to and at the time it was supposed to. Timing is everything in life no doubt. But yup, it all started with going to my friends baptism and then led to my baptism. Shanda and Stephen got married in the temple August 2008, and I left on my mission in November 2008. So yay for happy endings! Haha. But alright that’s all she wrote.