I wish I could say that I raised in a really wonderful home and that I was taught the Gospel all my life, but my story is quite the contrary. I grew up in a home where exposure to parties, alcohol, drugs, pornography, and abuse were part of normal everyday life. I was a pretty good kid, and thankfully for my Grandma, I was taught bits and pieces about the Gospel. I was baptized when I was 8, but I soon stopped going to Church.
As I grew into a teenager the result of growing up around so much evil began to take its toll on me. I didn’t feel love in my home so I looked to find it elsewhere. Unfortunately the only friends I found were friends who made poor choices, and soon I began making those poor choices too. I was invited to Girl’s Camp a few times, and I remember feeling at peace when I was there, but when I would go home everything would go back to normal.
I had one good LDS friend that taught me a lot about the Gospel and a lot about Temple marriage. I knew having the Gospel in my life and Temple marriage was something I really wanted, but I felt stuck. I didn’t think I would ever get there, or that I deserved it. I began to resent the Church because I felt like I could never be good enough for it. When I was a sophomore in high school I signed up for seminary. Not because I wanted to go to it, but because I thought it would be a class that was easy to sluff.
On one of the absolute worst days of my teenage life I found myself at school in a bathroom stall, crying and wishing I didn’t have to go on with life another minute. I had an overwhelming feeling inside tell me that I needed to go to seminary. So that’s what I did. The class had already begun so I sat in the back corner hoping no one would see that I had been crying. The teacher told everyone to start writing in their journal. He walked back to me with a smile. I was scared to death that he was going to be mad at me for never coming. He stopped at my desk and put a sticker on my hand. It said, “Jesus loves you” and my seminary teach wrote below it, “And so do I”. He said, “Come talk to me after class”. I stayed after and poured my heart out to my seminary teacher. He sincerely listened to every word. I thought by the end of the conversation he would be completely offended and disappointed. Instead, he asked me what I wanted for my life. I told him I just wanted to be happy. He promised me that if I would trust my Heavenly Father and turn my life over to Him that I would be happy. He also told me that part of turning my life over to God would include not hanging out with my friends that were bad influences. I told him I could never walk away from my friends. They were all I felt I had. He promised me that I would find new friends that love the Lord.
I went home that night and opened up the scriptures I had received when I was 8 years old. I read for what felt like hours. I read many spiritual and uplifting scriptures. Most seemed to coincidentally be about repentance, but the life-changing scripture read, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” I can’t even begin to describe the warmth that filled my entire body. I began crying. “Okay Heavenly Father”, I prayed. “I will completely give my life to you if you will promise me that I will find happiness”.
I woke the next morning with a feeling of hope I had never had before. I went to school, and successfully completed my first day of giving my life to my Heavenly Father. I walked through the halls alone, and avoided the area where my friends would meet in between classes. It was easier than I thought it would be, and I felt better than I had in a long time.
I was happier than I had ever been in my entire life. Not having any friends was the best blessing I could have received at that time. My grades improved tremendously in school and I started going to Church and meeting with my Bishop on a regular basis. I was continuously working not only to repent for my poor choices, but to forgive myself as well.
A few months later I took a job at a local restaurant as a server. My first day on the job I met a group of kids. They were all friends, and were all strong Latter Day Saints. These young men and women would become my best friends, and are still my friends to this day. They accepted me the way I was. I didn’t have to change for them, or act a certain way for them. Their love for me was unconditional. They guided me, and helped me stay on the right path. Later, in my life these friends would introduce me to my future spouse.
A week before my wedding I realized I would need a witness to sit in for my dad at the Temple. I called my old seminary teacher, and asked him if he could be my dad in the Temple that day. He of course said yes. On May 17th, 2002, I entered the doors of the Salt Lake Temple. I remember thinking, “I made it to the Temple. I finally made it.” In that beautiful white building I knelt at the altar across from my sweetheart, and was sealed to him for all time and all eternity. We now have five beautiful children, and have been blessed beyond measure throughout our 14 years of marriage.
My life now is fully dedicated to my Heavenly Father, and I can honestly say I know what true happiness is. I’m so thankful for our Savior, who willingly gave His life for us. Because of Him, I know I have been forgiven and I can continue to be forgiven. Because of Him, I am continuing to learn how to forgive myself. Because of Him, I will be able to walk with my Heavenly Father again someday.
I’m telling my story because I know with all my heart that this church is the true church. I have lived my life without the Gospel and lived with it, and I can tell you in all honesty that a life living without the Gospel feels so lost and empty. I have friends that are struggling with their testimony because they have been active members of the Church their entire lives, and they’ve never known life any other way. I think sometimes when we have the blessings and protection from the Gospel our entire lives, it’s easy to not recognize them.
In these last days we can see that Satan is working harder than ever before on our testimonies; even on the strongest Latter Day Saints. He gets his foot in the door by getting us to start questioning our testimonies by things we read or hear. We start to wonder if the Church is just a big lie or a big waste of time. I can promise you that it’s actually the complete opposite. It’s the only truth in this world and it’s the best way we can spend our time.
I want to end by sharing my testimony that I know with all my heart that living a Gospel-centered life is the only way to find true happiness not only on this earth, but for eternity. It doesn’t mean that we are going to have trial free lives, but we will be protected from unnecessary trials and sadness that could enter our life.
For any of you that may be questioning your testimony, please “doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith”. Don’t look to the world for answers to your questions, but look to the scriptures and look to the Lord. The world will discourage you and distract you and leave you feeling empty inside, but studying the scriptures and praying to your Heavenly Father will fill you with hope and peace and you will be blessed with protection.
~ Tiffany Tolbert