For those of you who don’t know, I grew up an active member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I went to church every Sunday, and was baptized at 8 years old, never stopping to ask if it was the true church. I just did it because thats what my parents and their parents did and that’s how it was. I knew I was a descendent of Hyrum Smith, brother to the prophet Joseph Smith and always felt that it was a special blessing and that I was some sort of “Mormon Royalty.” I wrote in my journals that I couldn’t wait to grow up and get married in the temple and also raise my family in the church.
But thats when life was easy. At 12 my parents separated and things got messy. Life was different. It was hard. I was no longer sheltered and had to “grow up” to the realities and painful truths that came with my parents separation. My mom, who I always believed had an unshakeable love for the gospel stopped taking us kids to church. I went with my father every other Sunday, and would hitch rides with my grandfather sometimes, but eventually I felt so out of place that I stopped going all together. Being in middle school came the peer pressure to fit in coupled with what I didn’t know at the time which was my un-acceptance of my new normal, and I began numbing myself with alcohol and later drugs. I am not proud of these things, but I do tell them because they have shaped me and I can easily look back see that my religion had taken a backseat to my self-interests.
At this time of my life, I wasn’t living the standards of the church and when I graduated High School, I moved to Utah to begin college at the strong encouragement of my family. College was great, I attended UVU which is in the same town as BYU, so it was the ultimate college town, full of young people. I attended church and institute classes and could call myself “active” but I immediately gravitated towards people who had the same interests as I did, which were not interests that are within the guidelines of the church. And so life hadn’t really changed much.
I was living in Northern California, when I discovered that I was pregnant with Jake. As you might guess, it was not immaculate conception. With my sins now blatantly on display for the world and having a baby our of wedlock, I had the desire to return to church, repent, and raise the child in the church like I always wanted to. I moved back to Utah & met with my new bishop, repented of my sins, started paying my tithing, taking the sacrament each Sunday, and felt happier than I had in a long time. But, I was still pregnant and this particular bishop was hard-pressed that I should give my child up for adoption. I never considered it, and it was shocking how much bribery was used as he was trying to paint a picture of how much better my life would be if I could give him up, but I knew that was not something I could live with. I don’t blame the bishop, I truly believe in certain circumstances adoption is the best option, but I knew having Jake was going to be one of the trials I knew I could face on earth and that it was meant to be. I am also always up for a challenge!
The later portion of my pregnancy I lived with my Aunt and Uncle in Salt Lake County. I attended church there and everyone was so welcoming and it meant so much especially being single and pregnant. I met with the stake president in the area and I will never forget the words he said when speaking to me about my pregnancy. They ring forever true in my ears and were as if he took them right out of my heart.
He said “Heavenly Father sent this child to you for a reason. You were chosen to be this Child’s mother. This child was appointed to come to you for this season.”
I had known in my heart that being pregnant with Jake was supposed to happen. I always say “He Saved Me” because if not for him, at that particular time in my life if things had continued the way they were going I don’t know where I would be today, but I would guess that I would be dead. My pregnancy and his birth, brought so much love and meaning into my life, and brought me back to having a relationship with Christ that I did not even know I was missing!
And now, he is saving me again.
They say you’re just 1 Sunday away from being inactive. That was me. I stayed active in the church until Jake was about 3 years old. I started drinking again, socially. I got a boyfriend who was agnostic. I stopped going to church. It was that quick and that easy. But, looking back it was not easy. It was miserable. I had no close friends, no family nearby. Without Christ or the gospel in my home, who could I turn to? How did I escape from the noisy world? Well, I’ll tell you how: I turned to a glass of wine, and I turned to my co-dependent relationship with my boyfriend. This proud and sinful life was so familiar to me. I had spent so much of my adult life in sin that I was no longer familiar with God. You don’t realize how much you need the Savior until you NEED the Savior. I always needed Him, but I kept justifying that I was already too far gone. My life was so empty, and I even had taken to saying negative things about the church. It was like I was angry and felt forsaken and like God left me to struggle alone. But, in reality I had left him. He was always there, I just wasn’t seeking Him.
Fast forward to about a year ago. I had recently started a company where they really encourage you to grow yourself as a person in order to equip you to grow in your business. I started reading all sorts of personal development books, listening to podcasts, reaching out to mentors, etc. This was in some ways a leap of faith, that I could work through my insecurities, anxiety, and the parts of me that I needed to “numb out” from, that I would be better off. And in a lot of ways, I certainly am. But, then a moment of clarity struck me which is so simple but so true: Why not learn from He who is the MASTER of Personal Development? I am sure you can gather who I am talking about here, but it is indeed our Heavenly Father. I had always known that I am a literal daughter of God and that HE knows me by name, he knows my pain, my struggles, my triumphs, even down to how I like my eggs.
He has known me from the beginning and he knows who I can become. Why am I reading these personal development books written for a generic audience when I can receive personal revelation myself through the words of scripture, the prophets, and other leaders? It seemed silly that I was spending $100’s of dollars a month downloading books from iTunes to read a few pages and get bored of them after a few chapters when I had the free instructions to anything I needed to learn and apply right under my nose the whole time. Not only that, but when I had a question on something in my personal development books, I couldn’t ask the author to expand, like I can pray to God.
So right around the time that I had this thought, the missionaries knocked on my door like they did every so often. Now, usually I would pretend I wasn’t home, or tell them to come by another time, or that I would text them a better day to stop by, but on this day I knew that they were the Lord’s tender mercies in action and that I had to let them in. Jake had also been pestering me every so often about when he would be baptized. Which is so humbling, and a miracle in itself because I hadn’t been doing a good job of teaching him to read the scriptures, pray, or attending church with him for the past 8 years. It must have been the light of Christ that is in all of us that was urging him that he needed to grow closer to his Heavenly Father.
So this particular day, I opened the door to the missionaries, and I re-opened my heart to the Lord. Jake has been learning and growing in the faith, but I truly believe the bigger blessing was on me. They say by small and simple things are great things brought to pass and by Jake wanting to be baptized we are now actively praying together, reading scripture together, and attending church meetings. I don’t know that I would have taken it upon myself to do this alone, just from my deciding to do more personal scripture study and prayer. I feel more peace, and know that God has a plan for my life and will lead me, guide me, and help me find my way. I still have work to do, but having the Gospel in my life again and just even taking the small daily steps to re-kindle the relationship I have with Him is a huge step in the right direction. I am much more concerned with my salvation than ever, and want to spend my life in Service and Love to others and breaking my heart for what break’s God’s.
Jake will be baptized next month and we are so thankful for eager missionaries and a God who truly does not give up on anyone, even the people who have given up on themselves.