(Photo from drive from CA to UT for Oct. 2013 General Conference)
(Photo from drive from CA to UT for Oct. 2013 General Conference)
Thank you! It was a little scary to get up there and share my story so soon after my baptism, but I feel so strongly about it that I HAD to take courage from it! (And, of course, I had the Comforter at my side!)
I gave a speech to another ward with the along with a member of the High Council about my story, and more specifically my conversion. A couple people have asked for a copy, so here it is in a more convenient shareable SOCIAL MEDIA FRIENDLY location!
Full text is below. The audio is also available. I apologize for all of the noises my puppy was making in the background. Keeping her quiet for 10 minutes is an impossible task!
Hi, my name is Nicole, from the Aliso Viejo ward and unlike other talks you might be used to, there’s not really a specific topic I’m going to be speaking to you about today. Instead, I’d like to share a little bit of my story with you.
I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Latter-day Saints eight weeks ago. In that time, I have had many people ask me how I came to know the church. Now, I know the pulpit is no place for confessions, but I have to make just one small one since it’s very relevant to my conversion story. I am a HUGE nerd. So, when I get that question as to what brought me to church or how I met the missionaries, I have to tell people the truth: it was because of a Star Wars Video Game. Now, let me explain a little bit.
I play this Star Wars video game online with people across the county and even around the world. And, in this game, you can join clubs or groups of other people to join up with to achieve your goals. One night, several months ago, I received an invitation from another player (who calls himself Korihor) to join one of these groups, called The Gadianton Robbers.
Now, I am hearing a few chuckles and, because I am a bit more educated now, I understand why. But, at the time, I knew nothing about the LDS church and simply thought these were an exceptionally friendly group of people to play my video games with and I really loved that they had rules in their group against cursing or mature themes!
After looking up on the internet what “the Gadianton Robbers” meant I did learn that many of the friends I was playing online with were Mormon, but didn’t think too much of it beyond that. At first. As I grew to know these new friends, I started to notice something about them. I started seeing how important their families were to them. I saw how much love was in their lives. I saw how despite their trials and difficulties they seemed to be truly happy. I realized how badly, how desperately I wanted these things in my life: family and love and happiness. I had chased them, and they had eluded me, for so long, and here was this group of people exuding this LIGHT and this JOY that I could feel and I could sense over the internet and through the wires and it wasn’t FAIR!
I’m a nerd right? So I did what I knew how to do. I turned to the internet for answers. In his talk “Missionary Work in the Digital Age,” Elder Perry says that for many of us these days our “main point of contact with others, even with close friends, is often via the Internet.” I started Googling everything I could about the “Mormon Church.” Having positive content and correct doctrine available is crucial for investigators like me, especially in today’s high-tech age and it helped me a TON. Thankfully, I found the right sites and found more good than bad. And, my curiosity was piqued.
I started to talk to my new friends, all returned missionaries, more and asked them a few questions about the Church. One night in early April, it was late and I was having a particularly tough night. Stressful work day, family drama, and the like. Korihor, whose real name is Jared, talked to me for a while about my day trying to help me feel better, and then suggested I read D&C 122. He said it had helped comfort him during a tough spot on his mission, and perhaps it would help me. I told him I would take a look at it and we went our separate ways for the evening.
I just want to pause for a second here. When we talk about baptismal covenants and standing as a witness of God at times and in all places and mourning with those that mourn, that guy’s got it. Here he and I are in two different states, playing a video game over the internet, attacking who knows what with virtual light sabers, and he’s preaching the gospel. There are no excuses from any of us not to do the same.
Anyways, D&C 122. The Lord speaking to Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail. I printed it out, read it, annotated it. I highlighted verse eight: “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?” I knew I wasn’t. I knew the Lord had suffered for me. But that night I didn’t get the comfort from that verse, from that scripture that I thought I should have gotten. I felt shamed rather than lifted up. I was raised Catholic, I had been taught the atonement, but I guess I still didn’t KNOW the atonement. Still, the seed had been planted and, as it says in Alma 32:27 “even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you.”
I finally decided to take a step in faith and showed up to church one Sunday. I knew I was there at the right time, but other than that I had no idea where to go or be. I stopped a gentleman outside of the building and told him, “I’ve never been to an LDS church before. I know this is when I am supposed to be here, but other than that, I’m way out of my element.” Well, brothers and sisters, I am standing here in front of you, so I didn’t get scared away and to say it went well might be a bit of an understatement.
The missionaries promised to contact me to set up lessons, but I remember going home that day even before lessons started. I felt just a little bit lighter, a little bit a happier. I hadn’t told my friends I was going, so they were ecstatic to hear my news and I told them “It’s settled, Mormons are officially the nicest people ever.”
I was scared though. What if I couldn’t do it? What if I wasn’t faithful enough? What if I didn’t deserve to be baptized? Still didn’t understand the atonement. There were a lot of testimonies from the amazing missionaries here, and long talks with the returned missionaries I was so grateful to have via the wonders of technology. There was a lot of scripture reading and support from my ward. There was a lot of praying and a lot of tears. But eventually I knew. The feelings I got from reading my scriptures and the peace that would come upon me for brief moments after praying confirmed the growing feeling in my heart and I was baptized on June 29.
I don’t know how many of you remember your baptism at eight and how it made you feel or if there are any other converts who may have had it a bit more recently, but I will say that I immediately knew after coming up out of the water that it was the best decision I had ever made in my life. I felt like an astronaut in zero gravity, like I could just float away in sheer exuberance. I kept hearing the term “glowing” over and over and I felt like it could almost literally be true. I was experiencing that “something” I had noticed in my friends months before, only now I knew it was the Holy Spirit.
For me a truly joyful moment came in a quiet minute, alone, the next morning however. I have always struggled with my self-esteem and self-worth. You can psychoanalyze the who, what, and why but either way, it existed. The morning after my baptism, I was able to look myself in the eyes in my bedroom mirror and tell myself I love myself and MEAN it for maybe the first time in my LIFE. Do you know what a miracle that is? When I was baptized, not only had our Savior forgiven me my sins, he had given me the gift of being able to forgive myself. I finally understood the atonement.
All of the worrying I had done over whether I was good enough or faithful enough or deserving enough vanished. President Boyd K. Packer stated it simply in his talk “Teaching in the Church” when he said, “That word never fails if you go forward and be obedient.” By taking that first step of faith, I was given great blessings that will only multiply as I continue forth on my journey.
As I reflect back over the last couple of months, I feel the central theme to my journey has largely been one of love. I have found it in every corner and in every form. From the very start, there was kinship love among friends and caring about each other’s lives. There was the love my friends overwhelmingly displayed for their families that made me yearn for that in my own life. There was strong love for the gospel among my friends, the missionaries, and members of this ward that strengthened my testimony enormously. And there was the overwhelming love I felt from this community from day one. Whether it was walking in a stranger and leaving with phone numbers and names to contact or participating in stake choir even before I was baptized, I was greeted with open and accepting arms at every turn. And love multiplies. Like the Grinch at the end of the movie when he gives back all of the toys, I felt my heart grow bigger and bigger until it felt like it would no longer fit in my chest.
Every one of us has the ability to spread that to someone else. Member or non-member or investigator, we never know when our love for our families or the gospel or each other might change the path of someone’s life. As Latter-Day Saints we NEVER check our faith at the door, even if that door is logging into Facebook or a video game. :D One person remembering that, remembering the covenants we all made at baptism is why I am standing in front of you today. I am so excited to know that my journey is only at its beginning. I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to known this gospel and to be a member of Christ’s one true church, and I testify these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
“I wish that there would be a way to promise you that if you studied earnestly and seriously that you’d be better. It won’t hurt you. But it won’t make you better, even as good as it would if you’d trust in the Lord and trust in the Spirit and go ahead.”
- President Boyd K. Packer, Teaching in the Church,
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.
His Eye Is On the Sparrow - Whitney Houston (Sparkle)
I went to the temple for the FIRST TIME TONIGHT (on my Limited Recommend) to do baptisms as part of the Orange County Singles Conference. It was so exciting and exhilarating! :D All the nervousness was for nothing— of course, as everyone told me.
I has never seen the Newport Beach Temple before, and didn’t quite know where it was. As I drove to the Newport Stake Center (next door to the temple) for the Chapel Session we were having before, suddenly I crested a hill and caught sight of the angel Moroni and a chill of Joy ran through me. I knew everything was perfect and okay.
I met a couple of women from my Ward, one of whom did baptisms with me which I was grateful for. I was also surprised (and comforted) to see that one of the younger girls from my ward, recently back from her mission, was working at the Temple tonight.
After a bit of organizational chaos, the ordinances were performed, and it was very uplifting. I was surprised to learn that you do multiple names (not just one) although that does make much more sense! A friend/”LDS mentor” later asked via text what my favorite part of going to the Temple had been. I think it was thinking of all of the names and considering that they may have been on the other side waiting for this and praying that they all accept the Gospel and know the light and happiness that I have found.
Once finished at the Temple, we returned to the Stake center for a dessert “linger longer” and I met several new people there as well…and fulfilled a bucket list item of petting/holding a Sugar Glider!
There was once last surprise for me when I returned home. My Great-Aunt in Florida came through and mailed me a Family tree as well as some additional info on my ancestors! I do not believe that is was a coincidence that info on my descendents arrived tonight of all nights after I performed my first baptisms. I will have my work cut out, but I can’t wait!
All-in-all it was an extremely satisfying and spiritually bolstering evening and I can’t wait for the rest of the conference and to go back to the Temple!
(Source: The Optimism Revolution)