When I was a child my parents and I lived in a lovely suburb of San Francisco. We knew all our neighbors and the kids on the street played together all the time. My very best friend lived 2 doors down, her name was Shauna. We were practically inseparable, we played together day and night as much as our moms would let us.
Once a week on Wednesday afternoons Shauna would go away to church. Back in those days you went to primary on Wednesday afternoons and on Sunday, church was split into 2 services, Sunday school in the morning then back in the afternoon for sacrament meeting. I didn’t like that she left every Wednesday; I always hated it and wished we didn’t have to stop playing together.
My family did not attend church, my parents believed in god and we had prayers before our meals. But organized religion was not a part of my life. They had been active in a church but had stopped going in the 60’s when that church got involved in political antiwar activities. This turned out to be a good thing because my parents weren’t attached to a church and missed it. Eventually Shauna invited me to go to primary with her; I was about 8 by then. I really enjoyed primary and I made a lot of friends. My mom had become friends with another LDS neighbor Helen, so when I started going to primary any questions about the activities or what we were doing she would ask Helen and it opened many gospel discussions.
After going to primary for awhile I wanted to go to church on Sunday. My parents would allow that but I had to choose either Sunday school or sacrament meeting, they saw no reason to go to church twice. I usually chose Sunday school and became a regular attendee. I loved our class and especially our teacher. I loved all the Bible and Book of Mormon stories and the stories of children doing good things. I loved how I felt when I was at church. This went on for a couple of years, once I remember telling my mom I was a Mormon and she informed me that I was NOT a mormon! But I felt like one, I fit in at church, I loved primary and I felt like I belonged there.
When I was 10 the Navy base where my dad worked was shut down and so he was transferred to San Diego. That was devastating for me, I did not want to leave behind all my friends and I had a really difficult adjustment. One time when my mom was on the phone with Helen she suggested my mom take me to church. She thought I might make friends there and help me in my adjustment to the new area. Helen found out the name of the ward we lived in, what time and where church was, everything we needed to go. I started attending and really liked the ward and the kids were nice and I felt at home there. The church was a 30 minute drive so my mom would take me and then wait in the car reading her book or knitting.
After a few weeks the ward mission leader, convinced my mom to come in and wait in the foyer. It was nice and cool and much more comfortable. What my mom didn’t know is they were basically holding the investigators class right there in the foyer. Soon the missionaries showed up at our house and started visiting with my mom. They weren’t formal visits at first they would come over and my mom would feed them lunch and they would talk. My mom only had daughters so she enjoyed mothering these young men. Eventually they asked if they could come and give our whole family the discussions. I already felt like I belonged in the church so I was excited about the possibility of my parents joining and allowing me to be baptized.
One night the missionaries gave us the lesson about the word of wisdom they asked my dad if he might try to give up drinking coffee. This was a big deal, my dad was a navy man, enlisted for 20 years and civilian for 20 more. There is a lot of coffee in the navy! It is practically an institution. So when the missionaries challenged my Dad to give up coffee I was nervous! I was thinking this is it; this will be the thing that messes everything up. But to my astonishment my dad answered them “well Elders, I already have, it has been 2 weeks since my last cup of coffee.” We were all shocked and thrilled! My dad was always quiet when the missionaries visited and I had no idea he had been reading, praying and believing the things we were being taught.
When it came time for us to set a baptism date my parents were really tried. First my dad had doubts and then when he was sure my mom had doubts, especially about a woman’s place in the gospel and the world’s misconceptions. Then a wonderful miracle happened, a sweet elderly woman in our ward brought my parents a special dinner for their anniversary. She bore her testimony and explained a woman’s true place of honor in the gospel. The spirit bore testimony to my mom that this church was true and Heavenly Father loved his daughters just as much as his sons. My mom and dad committed to baptism and the 3 of us were baptized on January 19, 1974. Helen and her husband came for our baptism and much to my surprise they brought my friend Shauna with them! It was a wonderful day; all the girls in my Primary class came with our Merry Miss teacher. I was so glad to finally be a member of the church and to really belong.
In the spirit of full disclosure I must admit this conversion story must be split in 2 parts. I was baptized in 1974 at the age of 11 but I can’t really honestly say I was truly converted until 3 years later at the age of 14. I loved the church and my friends there, I loved how I felt, I loved Young Women’s and I loved how happy my parents were since we had joined the church. I had felt the spirit but I can’t honestly say I had a testimony of the gospel. I believed in the way children believe what the people they respect believe, but I didn’t really know for myself. Then when I was 14, I went to girls camp, and our bishop gave a talk I will never forget about Enos and his experience of prayer and repentance, how the Lord answered his prayer and the power of testimony. He challenged us to have our own Enos experience. I wanted to really know, to have a true testimony of my own. The next day I decided I would try so I went into the woods and found a rock near a brook and sat and read Enos and prayed. I poured out my heart, my desire to really know, to have a real testimony. After my prayer I sat quietly and the sun shifted just right so the sunlight came through the trees in a really beautiful way. I was awed by the beauty of all God had created then my body was flooded with this wonderful, warm feeling. I felt so loved, it was real, so strong, a tangible thing I can only describe as love. Right then I knew beyond any doubt that I had a Father in Heaven that loved me. It was a knowledge that went to the very core of me and I have never doubted that fact.
In the years since my testimony has grown and I have added to it line upon line percept on precept. But it always goes back to the core knowledge that I have a Father in Heaven and He loves ME, He sent his Son to save ME, they appeared to Joseph Smith to bring the true gospel to earth for ME, he commanded ancient prophets to write the Book of Mormon for MY guidance, He gives MEa living Prophet. He did all this for all of us, but I know it was also for ME individually. He knows my name; He loves me and wants me to return to him. This is the most important and most wonderful thing I know.
Thank you for sharing…got all teary-eyed at the part of your dad saying he had already given up coffee! Wow… : )
Yes He does love YOU!! Wonderful story and testimony. Thank you <3
Hugs from Utah! Knowing that God and Jesus Christ know ME is also a strong part of my testimony. Their love is eternal.
Beautiful story!! ((Hugs))
What a great story. Hugs from Texas.