Growing up in Chico, I had the opportunity to go to many different churches. For some reason, I really wanted to attend church so I often went with friends to their churches. The first church that I attended was the Church of Christian Science. Now, I’m not an expert on these religions, all I can tell you about is my impressions of them and why I decided not become of member of their congregations. I went several times to the Church of Christian Science. I thought it was very nice. The meetings were shorter than ours and the children all had to recite the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday. The idea that you shouldn’t go to the doctor, however, didn’t work for me. My friend’s family did use hospitals and such, they just didn’t go unless there were broken bones or something. I felt that I needed my doctor whenever, so I eventually stopped going to that Church.
I attended a couple of different Catholic churches. I didn’t like how all of the prayers were memorized, but I really liked their youth group. So, I went to some of their lock- ins, but that’s about it. I also went to a Methodist Church. I went to a Baptist Church. I went to some non-denominational youth groups like JAM (Jesus and Me) and Young Life. I spent a bit of time with Lutheran church. My close friend’s father was the pastor. I enjoyed the service and that they took the sacrament every time. A big problem there was that the pastor sometimes referred to God as a woman and at home would tell dirty jokes and use profane language. I just didn’t think that befitted a pastor. So, I ended up not joining that parish. I spent over a year with a church called the Worldwide Church of God. They believed that the Sabbath was on Saturday and celebrated the seven holy days and considered Christ their Savior. It was a bit weird, now that I look back on it. Anyway, they didn’t celebrate Christmas. Then when the church was having attendance problems, the main guy said, we’ll celebrate Christmas and the holy days. He did some other major doctrinal changes and that was enough for me. I tried a Seventh-day Adventist Church, but that wasn’t right for me either.
I spent two years off and on with a non-denominational church. I might have still been there today if it wasn’t for a particular Sunday school lesson. The youth pastors presented a lesson on cults. The LDS church was of course on the list along with others that I had attended and knew that they were filled with good people trying to follow Christ in the best way they knew. So, that was it for me with that church, and any church for that matter, for a while. I still attended youth groups and Bible study groups.
When I was about 16 or so I started dating an LDS guy named Brandon. He took me to dances and other activities. Eventually he asked me to go to Church with him. I went to Church with him off and on for quite a while. Over the summer I remember waiting by the phone all dressed and ready for Church, hoping to get invited. Sometimes I did and so I went, other times he didn’t call, so I didn’t go. I went to many dances and made several new LDS friends. It wasn’t until my senior year, when Brandon was getting ready to go on his mission that I decided I had better take the discussions to see if I should be supportive of his two-year trek.
I got the phone number for the missionaries from Dennis Sorenson. He works for my grandpa and so did I at the time. I was too scared to just call them though. I didn’t want to meet them at Brandon’s because I didn’t want to feel the pressure from his family. I didn’t want to take them at home. So I decided that I would call up an LDS guy in my class (Chris), and see if I could take them at his home. I had been there maybe once. I had met his mom, Stephanie, once. So it was weird, but my best option. When I got home, I was scared to call. I didn’t know about how LDS people freak out over having an investigator and missionaries with them. As I was trying to work up my courage to call, I noticed a message on my answering machine. It turned out to be Chris’ mom, Stephanie. I couldn’t figure out why in the world she would be calling me. I called her back, which is much easier than calling in the first place, and she wanted me to give her daughter dance lessons. I said sure and then I said that it was funny that she had called me because I was going to call her. I asked her if I could take the discussions at her home with the missionaries. She very enthusiastically said yes and I was off.
I often wonder if I would have joined the Church sooner had someone given me a copy of the Book of Mormon or invited the missionaries along with me at some point before I asked for it. Who knows? What I do know, however, is that as members of the church, we must be willing to stick our neck out. Sometimes, it back fires. You offer the gospel in love and sometimes people just don’t want it and may even make fun of you. But sometimes, people are just waiting for you to offer it to them. I know that it’s better to risk rejection and offer the gospel, than to hide it away. Don’t be afraid to read the scriptures with your friends and to offer words from the prophet. You will be strengthened no matter what the outcome.
I had two great missionaries. One was Elder Bastian who is from Malad, ID. He was transferred to my area from an Indian mission I think. That mission was closed at the time and so they brought him to California. The other was Elder Bird. He is from Montana. He was the greenie. I was literally his first discussion. Both of them had girls waiting for them back home. After the first discussion, I went home and studied the materials that the missionaries gave to me and was ready with a legal pad full of questions for them on the second discussion. Poor Elder Bird could barely read through the little missionary discussion without me interrupting him with a question. He was so nervous, I felt badly for him. The Elders ended up taking my pad home with them so they could ask their mission president how to deal with me. I couldn’t believe that they didn’t just know the answers. How could they grow up in a Church and not know all about it? Well, I understand that better now, but I didn’t then. I have been really excited about the Preaching my Gospel book that missionaries use now. Anyway, we made it through and had LOTS of fun. Often in between discussions, I would find Dennis Sorenson and pepper him with questions. I really miss those question-and-answer sessions. I miss talking about the gospel all of the time like that!
By the third discussion they asked me to get baptized. I told them they were crazy and got ready for the fourth discussion. As I was studying the pamphlets that the missionaries gave me and reading my scriptures, my cousin Emily came into the room with me. She was maybe 3 or 4 at the time. I was reading about eternal families in the pamphlets and I read in 3 Nephi 11 where it talks about how we need to become as little children and be baptized to inherit the kingdom of God. So, I asked Emily what she thought happens to us when we die. She said, “Well, we love each other forever, Jennifer.” When she said that, I knew that she was right. I knew that it was time for me to be baptized.
It’s funny looking back on that time in my life. I think I knew that I wanted to be baptized when I asked for the missionaries’ phone number, which is what made it so hard for me to call. But, that great feeling of truth and light that the Spirit gave to me when I was with Emily gave me the strength and courage to see myself through to the baptism.
On the day of my baptism I was so excited and happy. I invited everyone I knew to come. I was at Brandon’s home getting ready when I got some bad news. My brother, Stephen, blew out his knee at a soccer game and was in the hospital. My parents decided not to come to my baptism in case he needed them. My grandparents were already with him at the hospital. I was really upset and worried about my brother. I thought maybe I should wait to get baptized until my family can come. But, my hesitation was short lived. I knew that the Lord wanted me to get baptized, come what may, so that’s what I did. No one in my family came to my baptism, but I felt much support and love from my friends and new brothers and sisters in the gospel.
It’s been almost 12 years now since that day. I am so grateful for all of the people who came together at just the right time to share their testimonies and their examples with me. I am so grateful for those people who are still doing so. I am so amazed at how perfect the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is. I know that it is made up of imperfect people, as I am one, but the principles and doctrines taught by the Church come from Christ. My life is completely different than I ever imagined it would be – and I love it! I feel so much peace and protection amid the storms and struggles of life. I am so grateful for the priesthood and the healing power of blessings. I am grateful to be a part of something so unique and good. The Book of Mormon is true. President Monson is a prophet. Jesus Christ is my Savior and Redeemer.