In our first lesson with Steven, he was perfect! I don't think I have ever seen anyone who was so prepared to hear the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and actually apply it to their lives! From the very beginning I knew that God had been preparing him to meet with us. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to meet Steven and to learn from him. I think I learned more from him than he did from me! :) Here is his great story and amazing testimony!
"What is the meaning of life? Why do I exist? Can I really make a difference in someone's life?
If you are asking yourself these questions and feel as if you're missing something in your life, perhaps you feel an emptiness in you that you want filled, then I recommend you read The Book of Mormon. It has given me so many blessings and even provided answers to the many questions I had regarding life, whether it be spiritual or otherwise, it is a fountain of information and a great gift given to us by God to reach everlasting salvation in his celestial kingdom of Heaven. If you don't have a copy of The Book of Mormon, feel free to visit www.Mormon.org, you can receive a free copy and learn a lot more about the Mormon religion.
So where do I begin? I think God has his ways of just giving you miracles in life, but I wasn't expecting that meeting a single person would change my life forever. We first became friends after meeting in a class we had together in Highschool. She even got me to try out Color Guard, even though I always had interest, I never tried it because most of my friends thought it was only for women, and that men shouldn't be doing it. I definitely didn't regret trying it, it was everything I anticipated and more. You need dedication, patience, hard work, focus and much more. Your constantly under pressure to learn different drills and work in a short amount of time. Practices are very long and can be stressful, yet very fun at the same time. Not only that, but you're apart of a team that might not have the same amount of drive or expectations that you might have, but together you succeed or fail. Color Guard is a sport that requires a lot of mental, emotional, and physical endurance, which is why I probably love it so much.
It all started one day, I just felt depressed, empty, exhausted, so many emotions that I didn't know what to feel, from just the pressures of life, school, growing up. It was as if a boulder had been put on my chest and I could barely breathe. But little did I know that God had a plan for me, one that would give me happiness, faith, and most importantly a reason to live. That same day she gave me a book, one that would change my life forever, the book which I speak of is The Book of Mormon. In the book she wrote: 'Steven, I hope you decide to read it, I CHALLENGE YOU! This is worth 5 Candy bars!' (I sell candy at school so this was an inside joke). Also written in the book was her story, struggle, and long journey to be baptized and finally become a Mormon.
One week passed and I paid little attention to the book, but then I remembered about it, and decided to open The Book of Mormon and read the introduction. In it were some of the most powerful words I've ever read:
'We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (Moroni 10:3-5)'
After reading this, I had a desire to learn more about The Book of Mormon and Mormonism. Another week passed and another friend (who was best friends with the one who gave me the book) invited me to church and told me that I would really like it. I wasn't sure at first, it can be very confusing trying to find the true Church of Jesus Christ, there is hundreds of religions nowadays and thousands of churches, so with so much belief how do you choose the right one? Then Sunday came around, and after a lot of praying, I decided, 'Why not give it a chance?' The day that I walked into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I was welcomed with open arms, and in me was a feeling, one that I've never felt at any other Church before, what I was feeling was the power of the Holy Ghost.
After my first visit to the church, I wanted to just ponder in my heart the message that was in the book, to find out whether this book was true, and whether The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was the true church established by Jesus Christ. Eventually the friend who gave me The Book of Mormon wanted me to try having lessons with online missionaries, who helped her a lot on her road to getting baptized and becoming a Mormon. I loved the first lesson I received, just the wisdom you learn, and how strongly you feel the Holy Ghost as you talk about God and why he loves us so much. The experience was so great, that I eventually asked my local missionaries from church if they could start teaching me at my home. The very first day they came over, I learned much about Joseph Smith, The First Vision, and that if we follow the words of God, we can one day be reunited with our dear Heavenly Father in his celestial kingdom of Heaven, eternally. I started attending church, online lessons, local lessons, and started reading The Book of Mormon, I was on a mission to find out whether The Book of Mormon was true, and whether this is the church and path that God wants me to follow. I prayed and pondered, for hours some days, I just didn't want to get baptized and become a member of the Church without knowing that it was something that my heavenly father wanted for me.
Then one day, after a lot of praying, I woke up and finally received the answer I was looking for through the Holy Ghost. Whenever I thought about baptism I could just feel this warm sensation come over me, I knew that it was Gods way of reassuring me that the path that I've decided to follow is the one he wants for me. I started to talk to the missionaries about how I've been thinking a lot about baptism and how I wanted my parents to understand why I wanted to become a member of the church so badly (I was already 18 years old at this time, so my parents couldn't stop me legally, but I wanted them to respect my decision and understand why I wanted to get baptized). I decided to sit down with my parents and talk to them about baptism after church one Sunday. My father was very understanding and supportive, but my mother wasn't sure that I should get baptized so quickly, she would say, 'Why are you interested in joining a church that you've only attended for a month?' What they didn't know was that within that one month I gained a tremendous amount of faith, not only in The Book of Mormon, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but most importantly in God. It took three long hours of conversing with them to get my point across, and to show them just how much I wanted to get baptized.
The first people I told were the two friends who gave me The Book of Mormon, and invited me to church for the first time. They were really happy that I've been thinking so much about becoming a Mormon, and that they couldn't wait to see me get baptized. I talked to the missionaries about my decision, and how after a lot of praying and talking to my parents, they finally understood and respected my decision to get baptized. I was interviewed by a local missionary, and signed all the paperwork that was required to make sure that my baptism would happen. As the day to get baptized approached I thought about it a lot and felt very anxious. The Sunday finally came, and I was the only scheduled baptism for the day, so everyone found out about my decision to get baptized, and I was overwhelmed with countless hugs and handshakes, everyone understood how important that day was for me and I felt very happy and blessed. Church had ended and it was finally time for me to get baptized. I was happy when I noticed that my family came, especially my father, who normally has to work very long hours, so I knew it was a huge blessing to have him there to experience my baptism. Then after hugging them and thanking them for coming it was finally time for me to get baptized.
I remember feeling happy and so overwhelmed, and seconds became minutes as I heard the words 'Steven Ochoa, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.' (See 3 Nephi 11:25) As I came up from underwater, I felt as if it was easier to breathe, I felt happy, I felt so much, that I possibly can't even put it into words. After the baptism it was time for me to receive The Gift of The Holy Ghost. I normally always feel cold at church, because the air conditioning is usually set to freezing, but as they laid their hands on top of my head, and as the missionary recited the ordinance, I felt a gradual warmness and comfort spread throughout my body, it became so strong that I felt a huge smile widen on my face, and a very strong sense of happiness overwhelmed my heart. I had been cleansed of my sins, purified, my past was no more. I was a new person that wanted to follow the gospel, scriptures, and words of God and Jesus Christ. After that I gave the strongest Testimony I could about The Book of Mormon, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and my Baptism. That Sunday I became closer to God and Jesus Christ, I felt as if all the sins I've made in life didn't matter, I made a new covenant with God to live a righteous life from there on out, and that with The Gift of The Holy Ghost I always had someone to talk to, even if no one was around.
I leave you with my Testimony that I believe The Book of Mormon is true, that The Church of Jesus Christ is the true church, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, and that God, our dear Heavenly Father loves us a lot. He's given us so many blessings and tools to reach his celestial kingdom of Heaven, that it would be ridiculous to think otherwise. If you're experiencing a bad time in your life or feel lost about why your here on earth, I implore you to read The Book of Mormon, to ponder what it says, and to pray with a sincere heart about whether it's true, if you do this God will give you the answer that you seek, and he will give you the strength to live on."
What else is there to say? Steven summed it up perfectly! This gospel is true and I know that by going here and reading the Book of Mormon and doing exactly what Steven has invited, you too can come to know that it is true!