I am a convert. We hear that so often, and really it’s true. Every member whether born into the church or join later should be a convert, we become converted when we gain a testimony. We get confirmation when we put our faith in the Lord and pray for knowledge and understanding.
My story doesn’t seem like a stand out to myself but others always seem so intrigued. I was raised in a home by parents who loved one another. I went to church and we attended Sunday School each week. I craved to know more, however I was (am) very shy and didn’t ask questions. As I grew up I exposed to different faiths. I thought each had something unique to offer but nothing ever really just held my heart to learn more.
My Dad took some theology classes in college so I was able to have some interesting conversations with him. My Dad was raised in Italy (where he was born) in a strict Catholic family. He attended Catholic schools, He attended mass regularly, was an alter boy etc. He however had questions…. My mom was raised in a completely opposite faith, as a Christian science. Neither converted to the others upbringing but introduced us to both and expected us to be open minded, learn from both and later hoped we would find a path which spiritually fed our soul.
After my first daughter was born I started attending several churches, seeking to find what I desperately needed. I settled into the Catholic faith and had my girls baptized. In 2000 we left our small family in CA and moved to AZ. We didn’t know anyone, and so the search for Catholic churches began. There aren’t many and with two small girls and a husband who could take it or leave it attitude we started church hopping. I craved, I searched and I always left feeling like “what did I miss?” The messages were good, some were great but I always left feeling like I missed that “key” word that would make it burn in my chest. At this time I also had gone back to work in a salon two days a week.
A few years forward (2003) we had been in our new home a few years, I started having medical problems, which would require a few surgeries.
I had a nail client who became very important to me, still is, she had sent her boys on missions and when we met, her youngest was serving in Korea, she and I had talked and she made mention of this son who was serving a mission, I asked if he was milktary, she replied, no not that kind of mission. A mission for her church… I thought and said, oh like habitat for humanity, again she replied and said no, not that kind of mission. She explained he was serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints…. I said, “Oh your a Mormon.” Up to this point I did not know much about the LDS faith, people or even know about the teachings. I was intrigued, I asked questions, I didn’t know any Mormons, I didn’t grow up knowing any Mormons. Every couple of weeks I had more questions for her all of which she answered. The more I learned the more I yearned.
A few months later I signed my girls up for a summer cooking class at a neighbors home. Needless to say she was a Mormon, and as I sat in her home one afternoon waiting for class to end I picked up the Ensign. I read the VT message and loved the message. That afternoon we talked a little and I started asking her questions about the VT message. She explained each month sisters would visit and share a message. She then asked me if I wanted to return the following day when her VT was scheduled to come! I accepted. I loved it. I was invited to her VT appointments for a few months, this neighbor had no idea I was still asking my nail client friend about the church, so I was grasping, asking and seeking. My husband wasn’t so sure and said “we aren’t becoming Mormons”
One day my nail client got hurt and was in bed for a few weeks, and while recouping I did her nails bedside. We grew in our friendship and our appointments became visits and lasted for hours. One day while talking, she brought up the Book of Mormon and asked if I had read it. I had not. She asked if I was interested to which I said YES! She breathed a big sigh and explained the only thing her son wanted for his birthday was for his mom to share a Book of Mormon, something she had never done. I read the book in days and had more questions. Still my husband said, “were not becoming Mormons”
We are now in December of 2003 and another neighbor invites us to the Christmas Devotional in which she is singing a duet in. As we prepared to go, I was so excited.
What happened next still leaves me with chills. We walked through the doors into the lobby and right then it was never so evident that what I had been searching for, the unknown, the religion I craved so badly was under my feet. We hadn’t even stepped into the chapel. I sat through the devotional wondering how I could tell my husband I wanted to return the following morning for Sacrament. I wasn’t sure how he would respond. He said, Ok. And “were not becoming Mormons.”
The next morning we prepared and attended, I knew what I had searched for, what I longed for was right in front of me, it was time to meet the Missionaries. I knew again, I had to tell my husband I wanted to take the lessons… he said OK “I’M not becoming a Mormon.”
We set up the first lesson right after New Years and in February of 2004 I along with my oldest daughter was baptized. My youngest was only seven. My husband has been supportive and knows how important this has become to me. Later that year when our youngest turned eight, he asked her why she wanted to be baptized and didn’t want the text book answer. He again attended her baptism.
It’s been hard to say the least. My oldest had left the church, my youngest who is now in college is taking the Temple Prep classes and my husband still hasn’t joined. I have faced many trials since joining the church. Being a pioneer is hard, facing the challenges without a Priesthood holder encouraging and guiding me is hard, having my oldest walk away is hard, it broke my heart. I have not swayed in my decision ever. I have not once let my Temple recommend lapse. I was able to receive my endowment exactly one year, one week and one day after being baptized. The Temple is my most favorite place, it brings me comfort, peace, guidance, understanding and most of all hope.
During my journey, I was diagnosed with severe clinical chronic depression and anxiety. A battle I wish on no one. Darkness is real, it’s crippling and painful. Friends disappear, avoid you and pretend to not acknowledge the cries of suffering. As I have been dealing with this I have been able to trace my depression back to my childhood, with the help of my husband and parents, we have learned the traits I have and also inherited from others in my family who suffered with depression with suicidal thoughts as well.
At the peak of my last big crash, I felt my world crash, I was suffering in ways which were hurtful to me, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer, and I was spinning out of control. I became careless in my words and thoughts, I made comments that worried my family. My husband and counselor advised me to search my religious beliefs to find something that could help. My husband felt helpless and my kids were scared. Up to this point, I still had kept everything to myself. I was shy, I am not outgoing by nature (even if I try to appear opposite), and I wanted to be dead.
I found a Book of Mormon study group on social media, it was a small reading assignment each day, a question was posed and a daily discussion would follow. This started January 2014 and after a few weeks I started to look forward to the morning scripture study again, I never stopped attending the Temple and I felt the smallest flicker of light and hope. I fed my testimony. I read and understood, I learned along with many others through experiences shared, knowledge and truth. I felt safety behind the screen, I could share what I felt, I could share what I didn’t know, I could ask, and I could contribute and I didn’t feel judged or condemned. I had a peace in my heart that was giving me hope again.
I knew my conversion wasn’t over, I learned it never is, we must continue every day to study, ponder and pray. We must make and keep covenants as well ands obey the conmandmens and council given. I have learned that I can’t just want my husband to join but that through my fellowship and example that one day his heart will soften and want to be sealed for time and all eternity. I am grateful for the path I have had to endure, my challenges are far from over, yet it is my testimony that one day it will all make sense and the trial I carry will be removed. We don’t choose our challenges or trials but we can choose to keep trying, keep learning and not give up.
I am here because of the conversion that took place in my heart. I am here because when all my hope was lost I still had a testimony that gave me courage to face my fears. I am here because the Temple is a place to heal, to love and to serve. I am here to share my journey as a Pioneer Latter Day Saint who is happily married to a non member, with one active daughter, one non active daughter, and a desire to spread hope to those who also fight depression. Each day is unknown, so we do our best. I am grateful for parents who taught me to be honest, have standards, values, morals and encouraged me to find my own testimony.