My conversion story is not simple. It spans over nearly ten years and doesn’t just include the nametag wearing missionaries. When I was a kid, and for most of my childhood, I grew up in an abusive home with my mentally ill mother. My parents were divorced and my dad was always fighting more custody and time for my brothers I. I didn’t have anyone to trust and most people just seemed like a dangerous stranger to me. Safety and love were ideas and thoughts that other people had and spoke of. Not something I ever really felt or knew of. My mom was wrapped up in her illness and my dad grew up in a military home where expressing anything was frowned upon, so the idea of hearing I love you was a far away dream that I could only grasp for.
I never really knew how I knew about God or Jesus, I didn’t go to church or read scriptures and none of the people around me ever spoke of it. Yet, I found myself talking, praying of a sort, to God. For something, for answers maybe, for safety, or maybe just to be free. I first met the missionaries when I was a child, around 6 or 7. I have no idea what they said, if they taught anything, their names, or really what happened those short visits that they showed up at my moms doorstep. I remember that one would sit near my mom and talk to her, the other was preocupied trying to contain three wild childrens energy so they could probably get somewhere. I don’t remember why they stopped coming by, I just know that for a while they were there and then gone. I never questioned it, but I always remembered them. Two young 20-something Elders who had the brightest light I’ve ever seen. They were happy, joyful, they were loving and caring. They left a great impact on my heart, a mark that I would never wash out and neve want to. They showed me love, they showed me goodness, in a few short visits, and it was all because they awknowledged my existance. I wasn’t use to be treated nicely, I wasn’t used to being loved, I wasn’t used to hearing nice words being directed towards me. I was just a kid, they were just kids really, and yet I’ll never forget that light, even when I’ve already forgotten their names.
My mom died when I was nine in a motorcycle crash and my brothers and I went to live with my dad full time. Around the time I was a freshmen, I had just gotten back from being in the hospital for ten months, and I didn’t have any friends. I was still searching for a place to call home. I had dove more and more into religion and never really found my place. The missionaries from my childhood always in the back of my mind. I went on the LDS wedsites multiple times and saw the meeting house times but was always too afraid to go alone. I spent a lot of time on YouTube and started watching this vlogging family called the ShayTards. They always referred to happiness as a choice and that the reason for them being such a healthy family and so happy and loving was because of their faith, their Church, their foundation in Christ. They are Mormons. I loved watching their videos every day and seeing that a happy, loving, safe family really does exist. It was a dream I always wanted and seeing that in their videos made it seem closer then ever before.
In April of 2013 I was watching one of their videos when a I’m a Mormon ad video poped up about Lindsey Sterling. I clicked on it and it took me to the Mormon.org website. After watching the video I remember seeing the little chatbox apear and asking me if I wanted to speak to some missionaries. I have never been a social person, in fact I have a shirt that says “I litterly hate almost all of you” and I don’t trust anyone. So talking to people seemed crazy. Something even crazier? When they asked me if I wanted to meet with missionaries in my area, when they asked me for my name, address, and phone number? I didn’t think twice about giving it to them. I just felt like it was right, like it was safe, like this was just meant to happen. I had no second thoughts.
I was baptized a few weeks later on May 31st, 2013 and later that night I wrote this (which my then bishop and now Stake President 2nd counciler read at the Stake Priesthood sesson later that week):
Contacting the missionaries and giving strangers on the internet my address didn’t just bring two awkward young adult males to my front door knocking, but brought two messengers from God to bring me back to His path. For my fear of bodies of water could never compare to the strong arms of His messenger bringing me up from the water to be with my Father one day. Nothing could compare to the feeling of peace that lasted just for a moment, because that peace wasn’t just peace of being baptized. But peace of knowing that things will get better from here. That I will have my own home one day with a family that loves me, that I love, and that hugs. I went my whole life till recently living without hugs of honesty. I even went ten months living in a place where hugs were not allowed at anytime by anyone, no matter how many tears were cried or how much blood was lost or how much someone felt alone. My freedom to choose my own meals and plans and classes and everything else has been taken from me at one time or another. But my freedom of picking God has never changed, because I have never second guessed that part of my life. I always have known of my Heavenly Father, the Son Jesus, and the Holy Ghost. And now, in this new day, I am able to finally feel at home in a place away from them, because they are here with me. My spirit is not broken or missing pieces or worthless. My spirit is healing and strong and faithful. For I came out of that body of water in soaking wet white clothes with thanks for the fact that God didn’t answer my prayers of death, but gave me the chance to live. I breathe now with thankfulness and not resentfulness. I am thankful for the missionaries he sent into my life and thankful for the lessons they could teach. My life is nowhere near perfect nor will it ever be perfect. But I am content with continuing on in this weird cycle of breathing unconsciously because God has a plan.
It has now almost been a year sense I was baptized and confirmed (June 2nd, 2013, in front of everyone in Sacrament meeting, glad that only happens once) and I have never felt more full. In this last year I have gained a family, as I refer to as my adopted Mormon family. My “Mormon Mom” was my YW president when I joined and the first thing she ever said to me was “Did the missionaries tell you you’re coming to my house for dinner? *Insert pause of awkward staring at this strange lady* Oh! I’m Becky, the YW Presdient.” Her greeting was the best that I have ever had in my entire life, not to mention the dinner was yummy. Having her in my life was its own blessing, like this last Mothers day was the first nine years that I have been able to celebrate, the first in years that I have watched the commericials without crying. I was able to get my Patraiarchal blessing, visit the Temple multiple times, move up to the YSA ward, go to college, make some very good and close friends, and find one of the most amazing guys in the world to date.
This year hasn’t been perfect, in face it has been one of the hardest I have ever faced. My dad has had mutiple heart surgerys after having a heart attack. I have lost friends and family because they don’t agree with my new life path of following Christ. I have cried, yelled, broken down, smiled, laughed, and experienced so much more. I have felt heart break and great strength. But no matter what I had to give up, move on from, or leave behind, it was all worth it. Every Sunday that I go to Church just proves how worth it getting Baptized was. Every time I get to call up that RM who baptized me and tell him about my latest and greatest adventures in Mormon Land is another smile and small vicotry. Another step towards the right path. Following God isn’t easy, making the right choices can be some of the hardest things to do, but the gifts, the blessings, the smiles, the memories, and the feeling of the Holy Ghost make it all worht it.
I have been able to build a home inside myself thanks to God. I have been able to feel love and safety. I have been able to smile and run free. God is love, God is good, God is trust, God is forgiveness, and God loves me. To celebrate my one year as a member, my boyfriend (also a Mormon) and I are flying out to Utah on Wednesday the 28th to June 3rd, so that I can be a stereoytypical Mormon for a week and visit all of the great Temples, landmarks, and BYU that Utah has to offer.