This is my simple - or not so simple - story.
I was raised in the Baptist church. We went every Sunday morning and evening and again on Wednesday nights. I didn't grow up hearing anything negative about "Mormons" and had 2 friends that were members of the church. We didn't talk religion much, however, but I knew they didn't smoke or drink. As I got older, like many teenagers, I strayed. In fact, I started smoking at age 12. By high school, I was a pack-a-day smoker. (By college, I was easily smoking 2 packs a day.) At 16, I had a non-ambitious boyfriend 5 years older than me. Combined with all the other things going on, my parents decided it was a good time to send me away. Rather than military school (yes, I was accepted), I ended up at my aunt and uncle's house in Indiana.
It's interesting to look back at what sets you on a path and how you got to where you are today. I landed in a dusty New Mexico town for college, as I was interested in majoring in broadcasting. There was a tiny school with a good program. Towards the end of my junior year, I started noticing a very cute boy around town. I asked someone about him and they told me that he wouldn't date me for 3 reasons:
1. He was 18. (I was 21.)
2. He was a Mormon. (My religion didn't mean that much to me - I'm sure his didn't mean much to him either.)
3. His dad was my boss at the TV/radio station I worked at.
The 3rd reason was by far the most terrifying.
But I kept seeing him around town. I could tell by looking at him (I'm not joking!) that there was something different about him. I decided to call him. We met at the Tastee Freeze the next afternoon for a Coke. I smoked 3 cigarettes during that date.
I knew in that first week of dating that he was "the one", but I think he needed a bit more convincing! We were inseparable all summer long. His dad set me a curfew so I'd get to the radio station for sign-on on time at 5:45 a.m.
After we'd been dating for about a month, we were sitting in his car one Saturday night when I asked him what makes the Mormon church different from other churches. I was just looking for a simple answer. He was quiet for quite some time. When he spoke again he just asked if I wanted to go to church with him the next day. A chance to spend more time with him? You bet! I had a sense, however, that he was about to share something very special and dear to his heart with me.
My first church "meeting" was a Fast & Testimony meeting. I had never seen/heard anything like that before. It wasn't one person running the meeting, but rather, several people sharing the deepest feelings of their heart in regards to Jesus Christ. It was pretty amazing. I liked being there. But I was ready to leave after an hour so I could smoke a cigarette.
I went to church with David for a few weeks. Halfway through the summer we drove up to Santa Fe, my hometown, so he could meet my parents. My mom wanted us to go to church with her Sunday morning. After going to the "Mormon" church for several weeks, I must tell you, the feeling in the Baptist church was very different. There was just a couple of people running everything, the prayers were written out in the bulletin, and honestly, it felt very... showy. Like it was all a big show, trying to entertain the audience with the music and pounding the pulpit. Children were in the nursery instead of with their parents. I had forgotten about the offering plate getting passed, too. That was, to say the least, awkward. I was anxious to leave. I felt different - better - at David's church. It felt like the people really, for lack of a better description, meant it. Their worship was... humble.
And so I continued to go to church with David during the summer. I felt good about all that I was learning. So many things that didn't make sense to me from what I had learned before made sense now. I had a few key things happen that really set me on my own personal course of belief, not just relying on David's testimony.
BYU that Fall and I was starting my senior year of college back in his hometown. He was trying to decide if he should serve a 2-year mission, but it was a no-brainer. I knew he should. He had been such a good and positive influence in my life, I told him to go, that I would wait for him. He had taken several years of French in high school and had a brother serve a French-speaking mission in Europe. David desperately wanted to go French-speaking, but I could not stand the thought of an ocean separating us (don't ask), but I wanted him to have the opportunity to speak French. I prayed that he would be called to Canada and would be able to speak French. I could not believe it when he got his mission call to French-speaking Montreal-Quebec. I simply cannot put into words how I felt. I knew that my prayer had been answered, that my Heavenly Father was mindful of me. I became more serious about the church after that experience.
I finished taking the missionary lessons and David baptized me 11 days before he left for his mission. It was so good that I had those 2 years to be in church without David by my side. As it turned out, my best friend, Janet, joined the church just 3 months after me. We had each other and we grew in the gospel together. Some of the most spiritual experiences of my life took place in those 2 years.
I love history. I found myself reading about the history and origins of the church. I studied Joseph Smith's life over and over. Simply put, through the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ's church was restored to the earth. This made sense to me. There were/are so many churches who have so many different beliefs. I've always felt that Christ would not be the author of so much confusion. As I learned and prayed about whether or not Joseph Smith was a true prophet, I had a burning confirmation that, indeed, he was. He was persecuted, endured the most horrible hardships, and was eventually martyred at Carthage Jail in IL. But he maintained that he knew what he had seen, and he knew that God knew it. He would not deny it. I have tender feelings towards our beloved prophet.
Are you wondering how I quit smoking? I am here to tell you that it was by far the hardest thing I have ever done. It was like losing my best friend. Truth is, I liked smoking. I was depressed in the morning because I couldn't smoke. It was hard. I would quit on Sunday, but by Wednesday or Thursday, I was right back at it. I was beginning to think I would never be able to quit. My testimony continued to grow as I read The Book of Mormon and attended my church meetings. I knew the church was true. May 12, 1994, I came across a scripture that I had read many times, but it hit me a different way this time: 1 Nephi 3:7 -- "And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father; I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." The Lord would help me! I needed to be very specific about what I needed. My prayers had been half-hearted and shallow "Please help me to quit..." This time, as I knelt with faith that the Lord would provide a way for me to live this commandment, I prayed that I would forget what it was like to smoke. I never smoked again.
By the time David got home, I was solid. We were sealed in the Salt Lake Temple just 2 days after he came home from his mission.
This year celebrates 20 years as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My life is very different from the one I led before joining the church. I am eternally grateful for David sharing the gospel with me.
If you have any questions about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ask me or go to this link! As much as I love all the other things in my life (birth, breastfeeding, Tim McGraw concerts), nothing is more important than this gospel. I apologize for not sharing this with you sooner. As I was sitting in a meeting last Sunday, I had a strong impression that I needed to write my story here.
I searched for a short video to share with you about The Church, specifically, The Book of Mormon. Many people do not know what it is about. It is another testament of Jesus Christ, a record of the people on the American continents. I feel much like this gentleman in this video. Thank you for reading this post.