Back in February my teaching companion and I talked with a woman named Alana on Mormon.org chat. The chat went really well and she seemed very interested and intent on developing a relationship with God and coming to know if Jesus Christ was true. Right from the beginning she was willing to do whatever it took to improve her life and find greater peace and joy in her day-to-day life. The first chat was great, we became friends with her on Facebook, and she said she would send us a message to work out a time to talk again. I waited to hear from her for a few days and still hadn't heard a thing. After about a week of not hearing from her I figured she must have changed her mind and decided she didn't want to meet with us again. A few days later I got a message from her! She said that some things had come up (which you will read a little more about in her testimony) so she wasn't able to send me a message any sooner. We set up a time to talk and started teaching her.
For the next about two months we taught her on a consistent basis and helped her learn about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ and how to apply it into her life. From the beginning she was great about doing the things we asked her to do such as reading the Book of Mormon and praying to God. As we continued to teach her I could see the change in her as she started having more and more faith and as she was developing and strengthening her relationship with God. We continued teaching her and she started meeting with her local missionaries and kept progressing and growing in her spiritual strength. Then one day we were having a lesson with her and she told us that she had talked with the missionaries and decided that she wanted to get baptized the next weekend! Wow! That came as quite a surprise to us but we were very excited to hear that!
That week went by relatively quickly for us and the next thing we know we got an email from Alana saying that she has been baptized! One of the great things about Alana is that soon after she started talking with us, she gained her testimony of this gospel and knew that it was true and she never turned back. She gained that witness from God and ran with it regardless of what may have been standing in her way. She has been such a great example of faith to me! But enough about me, here is her amazing story and testimony!
Although I technically didn’t begin speaking with Elder Tucker until February of this year, I guess you could say that I’ve been moving in the direction of joining the Church for quite a while now. I was not brought up in a religious home, and never really gave a whole lot of thought to religion (I just figured that was something “other people” did), but after getting married almost three years ago, I began to feel like I wanted to know more about Jesus Christ and why people chose to follow Him. I spoke to Christian friends, and attended their church services, but I always left feeling confused and unsatisfied – I understood that they believed in Jesus, but I couldn’t figure out why. How come, if you cannot prove that Jesus even existed, you could feel so strongly about what he supposedly stood for?
During this exploratory period, I’d often read about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It sounds funny, but I distinctly remember, even as a small child, watching commercials for the LDS church on television and thinking, “if I ever decided to go to church, I would pick that one!” The church’s focus on strong, respectful, loving families and marriages always appealed to me (it was something I knew I would want in my adult life, after not having it as a child), and the impression that I always got whenever I would read about the church was that it was based on a basic sense of kindness and respect towards others, doing good in the world, and being a loving, accepting and compassionate person. I didn’t quite understand why they felt that way, but what I had begun to learn about myself was that I really valued those things as well, and that I wanted to be around other people like that.
It took me a long time to get in touch with the missionaries, mainly because I had never actually met another Mormon in my life, and I had heard others criticize the Mormon faith for being some kind of polygamist, crazy cult. That didn’t seem to fit with what I felt from my own reading and research, but it was worrisome enough to scare me away from talking to anyone from the church. A few months passed and I put my religious interest on the backburner, until I found myself unexpectedly in the hospital, struggling more than I had ever struggled, feeling like everything I had ever thought about my life was wrong – and perhaps I’d never be able to figure out what was right about it.
I can’t say exactly why I opted to do it, but I knew there was an option to chat with a missionary online through Mormon.org, and sitting alone in my little hospital room, on my half-dead Blackberry, I sent a chat request and was connected to Elder Tucker. He was very nice, and tried to get a sense of what I wanted to ask him, but all I could think of is…how do you know that Jesus is real? Elder Tucker responded by suggesting that I pray about it – that the way to know anything that you cannot see or touch or prove was to ask God. I was kind of disappointed by that answer, since I never prayed and was pretty sure no one was listening. I was ready to push the religion thing to the back burner again, but Elder Tucker asked if I would add him to Facebook and chat with him another time. I said okay (but worried a little about what people would say when they saw I had become Facebook friends with a Mormon missionary!).
I didn’t think much more about the church until I got home from the hospital, and it was very difficult. I felt pretty lost and alone, afraid about the future, unsure about how I was going to navigate my way through. As I was falling asleep that first night home, I thought about what Elder Tucker had said – that if you pray and ask God your questions, He will give you an answer. So I prayed, and I asked for something….anything! Guidance, support, some kind of clarity. And when I woke up I felt, for the first time, like it wasn’t over for me. That not only could I get through this rocky time in my life, but that maybe the time that I thought was the end was really the beginning. That maybe there was a God, and that maybe He was looking out for me.
I continued to talk fairly regularly to Elder Tucker and his companion missionary (Elder Hathaway and now Elder Boardman), and fortunately for me, my husband also agreed to join our chats. While I expected that Elder Tucker would “teach me about Jesus”, he became more of a guide, someone I could ask questions to and share my thoughts with. One of my favourite lessons was when he taught us about the Plan of Salvation – it was the first time I’d heard someone be able to explain all of the things I already felt inside but couldn’t sort through on my own! I became even more excited when I first sat down to read the Book of Mormon and the New Testament for the first time, and read about Jesus and his amazing wisdom. Again, it was what I had always felt in my heart to be right, what I longed for someone to tell me and talk about and exemplify, and then all of a sudden, here it was, written down right in front of my eyes! From there I felt ready to try attending a Sacrament service, and I loved it immediately. We met so many amazing, supportive friends that day and the Sundays following, and it wasn’t long before the decision to get baptized became an easy choice.
I think back now to where my journey started – when I was asking my friends about their beliefs and attending their church ceremonies without feeling like anything resonated with me. And I think about how, even though I was hesitant to investigate the LDS church because of the negative things people had said about it, I always came back to it, and ultimately I did decide to contact the missionaries. I remember so clearly the way I felt that first day when I woke up after having prayed the night before, feeling so sure that Heavenly Father was actually there, that he was (as Elder Tucker so brilliantly explained) like “the best father you could ever have”, who loved me and who was there for me always whenever I chose to lean on Him. And I remember back to wondering how anyone could possibly believe in Jesus, this man who supposedly performed all these miracles and yet no one could prove that He was the son of God or that he even existed, and yet, when I finally read about Jesus in the Bible, it all “clicked”, and I believed too, that He was our Savior.
Knowing now that our mortal life is our education, our way to learn and be tested, and ultimately to find our way back to God, I feel that it is no coincidence that I had hit so many roadblocks. It was as though Heavenly Father was looking at me asking, “When are you going to realize that I am here for you, that you already know what is right in your heart?” Sometimes I wish it hadn’t taken me such a big lesson to realize that, but in the end, I’m glad I figured it out. I know that there will be many more trials and obstacles ahead, but I also know that I am not alone. I know that I am a child of God, that he loves me and has provided so many blessings in my life. And by becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I have been able to find a tool to help keep my relationship with my Heavenly Father strong, to remember what he wants for me, that I should follow my heart and follow Jesus’ incredible example. I know that the church will make me a better, more selfless and compassionate person, a more loving and respectful wife, and hopefully one day a great example for my children of how to live a good life. I am so grateful for the support and guidance of Elder Tucker and the other missionaries that have helped me on my journey – they are truly continuing Christ’s work. And I am truly looking forward to all the blessings that lie ahead. I share these words with you in the name of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.