What I Believe and How I Came to Believe It

Julio D.

The year was 1978. For Leon and Beatriz Delacruz, it was the day after the Northeast experienced one of the most intense snow blizzards to date. Today, it is referred to as “the blizzard of ‘78.”  I was a little over two years old when my mother, who was raised catholic, had desires for me to be baptized.  My father, on the other hand, went from church to church seeking to know what to do.  He felt that under the eyes of God, children are pure until they can be accountable for their own actions.  He felt that getting baptized should be my decision to make in my own time.

That same day, Elders Canoba and Conley, who were serving as Mormon missionaries in the Rego Park Ward in Queens, New York, decided to follow through on an appointment to meet with a potential investigator despite the stormy weather.  Trekking through the piled-high snow, the missionaries arrived at the apartment complex where the investigator lived.  As they passed by us, I was learning to build my first snow man.  Mario, the potential investigator who lived upstairs from us, was not home.  As they were leaving, my father asked if they would take a picture of us standing in front of the snowman and they agreed.  After taking the picture, my mother took me inside while my father remained outside with the missionaries; he wanted to know who they were and what brought them out under these stormy conditions. The missionaries’ responses were what my father wanted to hear, and he came and asked my mother if they could come in. The rest was history!  I believe there are people seeking for the truth, and based on the desires of the heart, Christ’s representatives get to answers those questions.  For my family and I, it was about timing in life.

The Lord’s timing is everything in life!

What I believe

What I believe is simple.  God loves us.  The Savior loves us and He has provided a way to return to be with them. My love for Christ is what anchors me because He’s my EVERYTHING.  I believe that through His gospel, we can all feel His love. We can tell stories about this love by simply sharing the gospel.  When we do so, we participate in what Spencer W. Kimball refers to as the lifeblood of the church.  He states that the gospel reaches people through missionary work and when we reach those who are searching, we witness firsthand the miracles by Christ’s hand as they turn to Him.  I personally have witnessed that through my wife Tina.

Previously we lived in Lynn.  On one of the sides streets,  there is a small Salvation Army post which has a banner hanging on the side of the building that reads, “Lynn, Lynn the city of Him, you don’t go out the way you come in.”  It was in Lynn where my wife found the gospel.  After years of discussions and misunderstandings about what church to attend, we wondered if we would ever find a place to worship together.  I was inactive for more than a decade and we were both yearning for the Lord to impact our lives together.  My wife found her answer in the form of two sister missionaries who were curious about the parents of a cute little girl whom they had met through her grandparents.  It took countless sister and elder missionaries for her to finally accept an invitation to attend church.  It was the first Sunday in June, 2009, when we arrived at the Revere 2nd Ward chapel.  The congregation had started singing and we were nervous to open the doors to the chapel.  I remember opening the door and looking for the first available seat.  We ended up sitting in the first row on the left-hand side of the room.  That Sunday was testimony Sunday.  As we listened to testimony after testimony, I turned to my wife and could see her joy.  The tears were just flowing; I knew she had found the answers to her questions.  Afterwards I asked her if she would return, and she replied with a resounding “yes, I would do anything to feel that spirit again.”

President Hinckley once said, “The most satisfying experience I have is to see what this gospel does for people. It gives them a new outlook on life. It gives them a perspective that they have never felt before. It raises their sights to things noble and divine. Something happens to them that is miraculous to behold. They look to Christ and come alive” (“Converts and Young Men,” Ensign, May 1997, 48).

I’ve personally witnessed how the gospel has touched and changed the lives of those who have sought God’s love. I’ve seen it in my wife, in those who’ve joined the church, and in myself.  In each case, all it took was a simple invitation.  When we invite, miracles can happen through the Lord’s helping hand. Whether it’s through Facebook, Twitter, email, texting, face to face, or a phone call, we can share the gospel.


My Search for Happiness

By Ellyn Christensen

The search for happiness has always been a struggle for me. When I was a child and adolescent, I thought happiness could be found in things. My junior and senior years of high school I transferred my search for happiness from acquiring things to being wanted – not loved, mind you: though I had several boyfriends in high school, I always felt wanted, but not necessarily loved. But the feeling of being wanted brought me happiness. When I got to college, I initially thought that my happiness in my younger years was held back somehow by my family, and now that I was on my own I would be able to explore and find true happiness. I began finding happiness in things, friends, feeling wanted, new-found freedom, new experiences, and taking care of myself. However, this happiness was short-lived. By my sophomore year at Michigan State University (MSU), I again started questioning whether I was happy. I loved my roommates, my sorority sisters, my friends. I did not love my classes, after changing my major about a dozen times. I did not love our weekend extracurricular activities and thought many times, “There has to be more to life than this.” So, I determined that my school was really the problem. I just needed to transfer to a different school, and all would be well.

Early in my sophomore year, I applied to Brigham Young University (BYU), a private university in Utah that one of my high school boyfriends attended. I went to visit him for spring break my freshman year and again in October of my sophomore year. On the way home from the second trip, I realized something I had never thought of before. At the time, my plan was to major in International Law. I suddenly thought to myself, “How will I be able to be an international lawyer and raise children at home?” This insight flooded my head with the idea that I had to immediately change my major yet again. When I returned to MSU, I also started meeting with the missionaries of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I told them at the first meeting that I was not going to be baptized, so they shouldn’t even ask me. They were very patient with me. I knew that if the relationship I had with my boyfriend was ever to become more serious, I had to know what his church was all about. After all, I had heard all of the weird things about Mormons – polygamy, no drinking alcohol, no drinking coffee. But, at the same time, my boyfriend and his family were kind, good people – not weird. There was only one mom and she was definitely not subservient to her husband.

I listened to the missionaries and learned how to pray. I read not only what the missionaries asked me to read, but anti-Mormon material as well. Though I was searching for happiness, I was pretty content with how I was living my life. I was a good person, with many friends, academic potential, and much family support. I didn’t really want to change who I was. Several things happened to me while I was meeting with the missionaries for six months. I learned that happiness can’t come from outside sources.  True and real happiness for me came when I realized that being baptized was something I had to do. I didn’t know everything about the Mormon Church when I told the missionaries I was going to be baptized. And, to be honest, I didn’t really want to be baptized, but I felt that I knew I was supposed to, and I knew that God knew it as well.

A great learning experience had begun. I have learned a great many things since I was baptized twenty years ago.  I am still learning. I still don’t know everything. But, I know this: my life has changed in a multitude of ways. As I began to make better decisions for myself (including a husband, a major, a career, and lack thereof when I chose to stay home to raise my children), amazing things happened. I found confidence in my choices. I found a greater understanding of who I was, what my purpose has been here on earth, and what truly makes me happy. When I am in accordance with what my Heavenly Father wishes for me, I am happier. When I appreciate my life as the gift that it is, I am happier. When I see my children as God sees them, it makes my job easier, which makes me happier. Of course, I cannot say that every moment since I have been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been bliss; it hasn’t. I have had trials I would not wish on anyone. But the strength I’ve gained from having gone through those trials has prepared me for what was to come next. I would not trade those trials because of the perspective they have given me. I thank my Heavenly Father every day for the knowledge and perspective I’ve gained and the type of person they have helped me to become: in one word – happy.


Andrew Schneider’s Conversion Part 3

How has your life changed since being introduced to the Church?

  • From the moment I was prepared to first feel God’s Spirit speaking to my Spirit to bear record of truth that Jesus Christ did in reality restore His Church in these latter days, nothing has been the same in me, though mortality continues down its meandering path.  The power of the Holy Ghost and the gift of sanctification through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is everything to me.  Through this grace, I learn how to better love and serve others to become more like Savior.  This causes every fiber of my being to desire daily improvement upon the prior version of myself I was yesterday.  The spiritual gifts administered by Priesthood authority that are only available in the Lord’s authorized Church by way of sacred covenants fosters more transformation than any other power, authority, experience, or embellishment the world could ever offer humanity as an alternative.  The comparison is analogous to night versus day, with the rays of sunshine in the daytime constituting a magnitude of transformation only possible through the fullness of the Priesthood, Gospel of Jesus Christ, and true and living Church of the Savior.  But to know of a certainly, all genuine truth seekers must travel the same pathway by firsthand experience, personal immersion, and an acquired desire to pick up their cross, forsake the world, and follow the Savior as He has asked of countless people in all ages of the world.  By losing my life with commitment to serve the Savior, He has shown the way to find myself.  All that I ever hope to know of myself that I can be an instrument in the Lord’s hands has become an ever growing reality in His Church.

What have people around you thought about your joining the Church?

  • Everyone that has known me recently and even those reacquainted from my past after I joined the Church have noted the stark differences in the person I once was compared to who I am today and hope to become in the future. They notice the sometimes dramatic shift in lifestyle, patterns, patience, compassion, charity, and other attributes that I don’t consciously think about so much as do my best to demonstrate.  The veil of darkness and blindness that once covered my spiritual eyes has been lifted to help me know the difference between right and wrong with absolution, as well as greater strength to resist the evil and choose the good.  While I have invited family members and friends to come and see the purity of truth and power of God I have witnessed by seeing firsthand for themselves, all have yet to venture that proposition.  Nevertheless, I am grateful in my heart that the Lord has granted such conversations to take place.  God shows by way of certainty that decisions I make to follow the Savior have impacted people’s lives in wonderful ways.  Those I knew previously who initially thought the commitment to my new faith would result in another fleeting interest area of a wandering mind, now see immovable conviction and numerous positive life changes.  Mistrust or perceived folly in my original decision has been replaced with respect for the blessings in plain view for all who knew me before to see.   Time and living my faith changes people.

What were some of your hesitations about joining the Church?

  • The biggest apprehension I experienced in joining the Church was worthiness to be baptized because of the past sins I had committed in a former state that was rapidly transcending into a new consciousness of existence as the Lord’s invitation plucked at the very core of my heartstrings.  These witnesses were so strong and immediate in the time span since my initial introduction to the Church and first Missionary lessons that I relatively quickly and with utmost certainty come to know I had found the Lord’s true and living Church.  As there is duality in all things and the most opposition follows the greatest truths, I was tempted to delay Baptism until I felt worthy by continuing to meet with the Missionaries and repent of my past sins.  The same is true with whether or not I could follow the commandments taught by the Missionaries as my mind grappled with past traits of rebelliousness and a growing desire to be obedient because these were God’s laws and His Church, not mans.  These struggles came to a crescendo while on vacation weeks before I was to be baptized in a decision to view a few of the many anti-Mormon web sites.  This in combination with doubt expressed by close family members that this venture was not actually what I thought.  In a moment after I decided the web sites were a waste of time because God showed me truth in personal ways I had never before experienced, I felt so said in my heart and worried with great anxiety that the unprecedented joy I was feeling would disappear with doubt.  But, the Lord strengthened my resolve to follow through with angels and servants on earth to assist with helping my testimony to grow while the doubt receded from my thoughts.

Who has helped you through the process of joining the Church?

  • My friend and new colleague at work helped me combat the opposition that was trying to stop me being baptized so I could rapidly gain understanding about exactly what it meant to make sacred covenants with God by Priesthood authority now again entrusted to man on the earth for the last time.  Making the transition would have been far more difficult if not for this friend and the local congregation members who befriended me and showed kindness that I had found to be so rare a quality in my travels.  Together, they answered my questions, alleviated concerns, and helped me embark on a new journey of spiritual enlightenment and transformation.  From the seeds planted that grew to become a mighty change of heart, and forward into baptism and beyond, the Lord has sent many disciples to guide me in ways I could not do myself.  I began to understand the patterns of good and evil influences in my life and how they worked through others.  Slowly but surely with the help of loving people and the Holy Ghost, initial hurdles were overcome in the Lord’s way, plan, and time that I could understand with perfect clarity.

Describe your first visit to the temple.

  • During my first visit to the Washington DC Temple with my new friend, I met a Sister Missionary from Ghana, Africa.  She told me before I left after many hours of watching movies and looking at the attractions, if I prayed and asked Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ whether these things were true, answers would come.  It was that invitation that stayed in my mind until I began praying sincerely for the first time in my life a few weeks later.  Fast forward until two days before I was to go through the Temple the first time over a year later, my friend and I decided to go down to the DC Temple visitor’s center to help my mind prepare.  This very same Sister happened to be there and we shed tears after I told her my story.  She mentioned that her family had disowned her for serving a mission, but because of her determination, they ended up investigating the Church while she was away and found the same truth she had witnessed.  Many were now in the process of being baptized.  This was a precursor to the indescribable joy I felt when going inside the Temple a few days later.  The beauty and holiness of the Temple was yet another affirmation of the Lord’s divinity and very real involvement of concern and love with His Church and members.  My heart was so full of joy that it changed me profoundly on that very day of my first attendance and every visit since.

What would you like others to know about the Church?

  • Despite centuries of man-made contradiction, hypocrisy, violence, and many other negative realities of organized religion and Christianity, as well as how easy it is to doubt things not yet seen or known with enough measure of certainty, there is a promise of truth God has given to the world through His Son Jesus Christ.  We are literal sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven who loves every one of us who lives today.  God has given His only Begotten Son that we can know of absolute truth if such a desire is met with sincerity, humility, and an unfettered willingness to follow what He is prepared to give to us by spiritual means the world does not see or recognize.  Not only does God live and love us, but in these latter days of the world, He has performed a marvelous and mighty work to restore that which was lost, that all things might be gathered in Christ who will return in the glory of His presence.  There is great purpose in God’s plan for His children that is testified of in the Bible and the Book of Mormon for the reality of our day when the Priesthood authority exists again to organize and proliferate His Church upon the whole face of the earth that every precious soul has a chance to receive this glorious message.  Despite the attempts by the spirit of persecution that has tried to convince people that such things are not true, nor is there a God, this work has rolled forward since the days of Joseph Smith to fill virtually every nation, kindred, and tongue.  If you have ever wondered what ever happened to the patterns of the Bible or considered why we born only to die, these and many such questions do in fact have real answers.  We can know the face of God if we are willing to put away the world long enough to receive Him.  Who can hear this faithful saying and is willing to prove for themselves all truths?

Andrew Schneider’s Conversion Part 2

How did you feel at your baptism?

  • The day of my Baptism was an emotional release that remains an affirmation of making the most correct decision of my life.  The peace, joy, and happiness of that day still resonates deep in my soul as a sacred witness that God loves all His children and conducts His work in these days just as real and concrete as the most basic facts known to all the world.  The tears flowed ever so tenderly as I bore my brand new testimony to a rather sizeable group of members who choose to spend their Saturday afternoon with a person they hardly knew.  That evening as I sat in my house, I drank in deeply the truth of what it meant to be baptized by Priesthood authority in the Lord’s Church.  Though I have witnessed many sacred spiritual events that are very personal to me since that time, there are few as powerful and memorable as the day of my Baptism.

What is your experience with reading the Book of Mormon?

  • Since the first time I read through the Book of Mormon, it was like a lightning rod in my hands to gain insight and illumination into the mind, nature, and works of God.  Change comes to me in mighty ways according to the grace and mercy of the Savior Jesus Christ with each successive read, study, and pondering of many themes arising from this sacred volume of scripture.  These words help me to progress forward spiritually in ways I cannot foresee beforehand as principles are turned into action and result in personal life experiences that continue to add unto my growing witness of truth and desperately needed aid given to live more like the Savior in my daily walk.  The Book of Mormon is another testimony of Jesus Christ to all who have lived on the earth since its publication through the prophet Joseph Smith.  It shows that the works of God are not limited to the ancient Israelites on the eastern continent as recorded in the Bible.  Instead, true to the unchangeable patterns of God given to the world at various ages and periods according to the faith of the people, all words in the Book of Mormon received by holy prophets in the Americas at those times do not in any way contradict or negate the Bible.  The purity of truth and thoroughness of the doctrine expands upon the Bible.  The Book of Mormon fulfill the promise of Joseph Smith specified in the introduction that a person would get nearer to God than by reading any other book.  Of this I have observed often.

What are your feelings about Jesus Christ?

  • Jesus Christ is my Lord, Savior, King, and High Priest who is the creator of all life on the earth, the only name by which we can return into the presence of our Heavenly Father, the greatest example and epitome of love the world has ever known, and our personal light in the midst of darkness encountered in the thorny pastures of life.  Truly, the Savior is everything to me and as a living prophet has said, we are to abide in Him permanently, steadfastly, and unyieldingly that He may transform our natures to be aligned with His will, just as He submitted every part of Himself to the Father and quality to take upon the sins of the world.  Jesus Christ is the author and finisher of my faith that shall be as eternal as the life of the soul.  He loves me and knows with perfect perspective and comprehension all sufferings and joys.  Through His Atonement, I can become whole, though I fall short every day of His glory in my sins.  Jesus Christ and my Heavenly Father are the only ones who know the potential of the person I can become.  In short, I am less than the dust of the earth without the love, gift, and blessings of my Redeemer in whom I put my trust in all things I receive while on this mortal sojourn.

Andrew Schneider’s Conversion Part 1

Describe your first visit to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  • I recollect a distinct impression as one filled with a sense of “coming home” when I was introduced to members of the local congregation for the first time.  I never felt entirely comfortable or fulfilled with any other organization of involvement during my life in the way I experienced during my initial visit to Church.  Being shy and socially awkward during my life made it difficult to engage groups of various sizes and many types of individual people.  The moment I set foot in the Church building, those feelings and lingering effects of past experiences melted away like frost on a new spring day.  My heart was filled with joy and an inexpressible attachment to people I had never met.

What were your initial impressions of the missionaries? How did that change over time?

  • Perceived notions of raving preachers with doomsday delusions danced in my mind before the first visit to the extent I coordinated that meeting at my friend’s home.  Expectations were somewhat unfavorable due to my disdain of organized religion, yet life had humbled me enough to exercise even a small particle of faith, even if it was surrounded by doubt and a need to affirm for certain it was founded.  However, when I entered my friend’s home and saw two meek “boys” as I thought of them at the time, I soon realized how imagined my thoughts were compared to reality.  As the ice of unfamiliarity was broken with the Elders, I felt a burning in my heart akin to a joy I never knew.  They felt like family in no time.  Skepticism and hesitation soon gave way to immense enthusiasm for their message and its profound impact on altering the very fabric of my life in ways I had never thought possible in such a short period of time.

Fast Facts: Andrew Schneider

When were you first introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

  • Four years ago during the onset of summer, a new colleague and a budding friendship led to his invitation to find lasting truth and happiness that had felt so elusive in my life.

Where/how were you first introduced to it?

  • Significant exposure and momentum beyond a few introductory words began with commitment for a trip to the Washington DC Temple Visitor’s center.

When was/is your baptism?

  • My Baptism was the end of August 2009.

How many members of your family are members of the Church as well?

  • To my knowledge, my recently Baptized daughter and I are the only members of my family (blood / marriage) past and present.

In one word, describe your feelings about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Becoming

Brother Malone’s Story of Finding His Way Back to Church

What made you stop coming to church?

I think for both my wife and I, a lot of it came from the people we had met. I was a convert at 19, and I could never find anyone that could give me any real answers to my questions on faith. All I’d ever heard was, “We just do it this way because we’re supposed to.” I fell away after about 2-3 years after my conversion. My wife was born in the church, and had met some people who were “holier than thou”, and felt it necessary to convey everything she was doing wrong, and she fell away to get away from that group of people.


What made you decide to return to church?

My wife and I decided to return to the church after having some big life changes that left us feeling as if we had lost our foundation on what life was. It had been almost 15 years for either of us since we had been to church. We moved into a new neighborhood, and decided to meet with our bishop to seek his counsel on returning to church.


What was the hardest part of returning to the church?

Trading the weekend parties for family time. I gave up drinking, smoking, and coffee all in a few weeks time. It was difficult to readjust to the standards of the church, but over time it was worth more than I can say.


What surprised you the most in your return to the church?

Reading the scriptures. So many people have read 1st Nephi at least a hundred times. When I started this last time, something clicked and it all started to make sense to me. I couldn’t put them down. I was reading multiple chapters throughout the day, and actually seeing how they relate to me today. They have been such a huge blessing to me.


What did you miss about being fully active in the church?

Honestly, I never was. After I was baptized, I never had any guidance or plan to earn the priesthood. I sort of fell through the cracks.


How did you feel when you returned to church?

Our ward has been so amazing. People that care about our welfare spiritually, and as a family. I worked to earning the Melchizidek priesthood, and was able to baptize my son, and be a part of his confirmation in to the church. I don’t think I could have a greater gift. It has been a truly amazing experience.


My Story: Monica Franco Rivera

I was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala and lived there until three years old. My parents separated and subsequently divorced. My mother and I moved to the United States, seeking a better life.

Growing up in a single parent household was difficult with many challenges. I was taught at an early age, to have faith in Jesus Christ. My grandmother always said “Pray to him in all you do and he will give you the answer and support you need.”

Being a “part-time Catholic”, my grandmother made great efforts to take me to church, especially on days like Easter and Christmas. As I got older my mother sought to obtain a greater relationship with Jesus Christ. We visited many different churches, there always seemed to be something missing. Despite many opportunities to join other denominations, it didn’t seem right.

At nineteen years old I married and had my son. The marriage was tumultuous, filled with emotional, verbal, psychological, and physical abuse twice. There was psychological manipulation. Struggling to stay afloat and continuing my relationship with my mother was trying. My mother/best friend had been distanced from me, each attempt to reach out, was met with backlash from my husband. I earnestly relied on the Lord for his strength. Wanting my son to have a religious background, I went through the rituals of Baptism and First Communion without really realizing why. It was tradition. Needing him to have a father, I stayed praying my situation would change.

My mother had converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Saints several years before. I had allowed my son to accompany her to church several times, knowing it would later lead to an argument with my husband. Seeing how happy my son was when he came home was worth the argument. I will never forget the first song he came home singing, A Child’s Prayer. Hearing his little voice touched my heart, but I still did not attend services. I felt that I was not worthy of the Lord because of the relationship I was in and the choice I had made. I went to the occasional branch activity, but when it came down to hearing about the Gospel I fled. Many times when the missionaries were in the house I would sneak by or go through a back door, to not be seen.

One year as a birthday gift, my mother gave me a Bible and a subscription to the church magazine hoping I would read them. I set them aside.

My situation became worse and I moved out of my mother’s home. I became more isolated. Everything I did was controlled and if things weren’t done right I was abused verbally and emotionally. I felt trapped and afraid.

By the time I was pregnant with my daughter, my marriage was literally over. I had been basically a single parent with no emotional or financial support. I knew there needed to be a drastic change in my life. My son was being impacted by this abusive relationship and I needed to be strong for him and the new baby was on the way. I separated from my husband during my second trimester of pregnancy.

Divorce was my way to start anew. As a child I had wanted to marry and provide my children with a stable environment and two parents. I didn’t want to repeat my mother and grandmother’s cycle of single parenting. I felt like a failure and became depressed. I knew the only way to not crumble was to seek help from the Lord. My daughter was born and I had to seek a restraining order for our peace of mind and safety. My divorce was difficult and lengthy. For three years I felt like the end was near, but never within my reach. I prayed as the process lingered, the emotional toll was exhausting.

My mother invited me to accompany her and the Church on a trip to Palmyra, NY to see the Palmyra pageant. My son had gone previously, I had not. They said it would be a great experience. I needed a get away, and agreed to go.

The pageant was about church history and provoked many questions within me as my curiosity grew. I found myself wanting to know more, but at the same time felt I could not because there were many unfinished things in my life.

In 2000, I observed my mother travel back and forth to Belmont, MA to help in the preparation of an open house for what she called “a Temple”. She was excited, I didn’t know why. She explained that it was a privilege to have one so close to home because it was the Lord’s house. She invited me to help her at “the open house”, a period of time that the building would be open to all to visit. After the open house and dedication, it would only be open to members with a recommendation.

I remember thinking I was not worthy to be helping. My life was in shambles. I couldn’t do it. Surprisingly, although internally I felt I could not, verbally I said yes. I shocked myself. I asked for time off work for the days that I was needed. On the day I was to help, I could feel the excitement around me. Strangely to me, everyone was polite, smiling and most of all friendly.

As I observed the care and devotion those serving had, I was greatly moved. I wanted to see what it was like inside. I felt a sense of peace and tranquility. Something I had not experienced in a long time. The end of my shift came much too quickly. I didn’t want to leave the tranquility.

I arranged to have my children come visit on a tour a few days later. When we arrived and were preparing to enter the inside of the Temple my daughter turned to my grandmother and I and said “shh… this is Jesus‘ house”. I had not told her where we were or what we were going to see, but she knew. This impression also settled in my heart.

During the months following the open house of the Temple, my family invited me to dinner frequently, ensuring the missionaries were always there to teach a lesson on the Gospel. The lessons were interesting, but I kept my distance.

In December of 2000, my divorce was granted. A burden had been lifted. I felt liberated. I started to attend church on Sundays with my mother. One Sunday the missionaries asked if I wanted to get baptized. My yes came out before they even finished the question. I was baptized with my son on February 18, 2001.

I know the Lord prepared my heart over many years. He gave me opportunities to stay close to him. He answered my prayers when I needed him. When life is difficult, don’t despair the Lord is there. I know that this church and the Gospel are true, that my new beginning started with the blessing of my conversion. I thank Heavenly Father daily for this marvelous opportunity of being in the true Gospel.

My Story: A Prayer. By Marguerite Koch

Dear Heavenly Father,

I want to say thank you for knowing who I am and for watching over me. You know more than anyone else how lost I was. It seemed as if I was on a treadmill. I worked so hard all the time, always trying to get ahead in life. I felt like a hamster spinning my wheels, never getting anywhere, and I had no real direction. I always felt sort of out of place. I was caught up in my job. It was once the most important thing to me. For the most part I had what I needed in life, but still something was missing. I know now that, that something was you, but now things are different. You are in my life and I know it. I see your hands at work in my life.

I have always wanted to know you (who God was and was he real). I wanted to know what religion was right or if it were wrong. I use to wonder to myself, were all religions correct or maybe they were all correct to some extent or another. Was it your effort and commitment to religion you belonged, and sort of at least thought to be right, that was what really mattered?

I am so glad I had these questions and that I knew to pray about it. These questions I had started out as a curiosity, a prayer and then with a little faith I eventually received an answer.

But what is surprising is that you answered my prayer the way that I prayed it. I prayed for my question to be answered, but not just to be answered. I wanted the answer to somehow be given through my friend / boyfriend. This was really important to me. This was a big request for me to ask considering that I am not sure my friend had any use for a so called organized religion- Until one day out of the blue my friend assigned me the task of researching this one particular religion. This in itself was amazing to me. He asked me to research the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and to let him know if I thought there was anything to it and if it was real. He said he wanted me to do the research on this religion because if he was ever to join a religion that he thinks it would most likely be this one. He said he knew a person who once worked for him that was a member of this church and that this person was probably one of the nicest, most family oriented person he knew. So I set out to do the research.

I went online and filled out a request form for the missionaries to contact me and it did not take long before the missionaries called. It was a Sunday afternoon when they called and by that evening they came to my house to talk to me about this religion and to teach me the gospel. As the missionaries sat at my kitchen table and began to speak, I felt a warmth in my heart area that I cannot explain in words. I knew that what I was hearing was the truth and that I have somehow heard it before. I recognized what they were teaching me and I wanted to hear more. As the missionaries continued to teach me, I knew I wanted to be baptized.

What started out as a little faith has grown into knowing. Thank you for all the blessings you have given me. Since I have joined your church and have made the commitment to you by being baptized and agreeing to live the commandments you have blessed my life. The blessing you have given me are real and tangible and not just a generic word with no meaning. My family use to be a mess, with serious problems but now not so much. Over the course of time you have repaired us. I use to have a lack of confidence and my 3 son’s had a battle with addiction. I am happy to say that as of today I am a humble, but confident person and my sons are for the most part doing really well.

When I look back now I realize you have had me the whole time, and were waiting on me to be ready to receive the gospel, so you could begin to bless my life. The blessing you have given me are real and I see and recognize them. My prayers are actually heard by you and are actually answered. I know you live and hear my prayers. I also know my purpose in this life is to prepare and learn and to show that I will be willing to do all that you ask of me, whether it be from following the commandments or by following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. It is a good feeling to finally actually know that God is real. He answers prays and when a person is ready, that all they need to do is just pray and ask with a sincere heart. In your own time you will answer their prayer if it is pleasing unto you our Heavenly Father. In closing I am again so happy prayers are heard and answered. It is what helped to turn my faith into knowing.

Your Daughter

My Story: Coming back to church. By Suzanne Bates

I had an experience as a 20-year-old that showed me clearly that God knows who I am and helped me understand how much He loves me.

I grew up a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in a suburb just outside Toronto, Canada. My parents are both converts to the church. They set a good example for me, and we went to church just about every Sunday. Over time I developed a belief that I had a Heavenly Father who loves me, and I had good experiences reading the Book of Mormon and going to church.

What I didn’t have was confidence that I could keep all of the commandments all of the time. I struggled with obedience in my teen years and kept feeling like I was falling short. Eventually I stopped going to church regularly. When I moved away to go to college in Kingston, Ontario, I stopped going to church altogether.

During this time in my life I questioned my belief in God. I was challenged to defend my belief by my professors and friends who didn’t believe, and I didn’t have any good answers for them. I thought maybe what I had learned when I was younger was wrong, and that even if it was right maybe it wasn’t right for me.

At the beginning of my second year in college I went through a series of difficult experiences, some brought on by my own mistakes and some brought on by the mistakes of others. I saw first hand how evil the world can be, and it frightened me. I felt so empty and so very alone. In the midst of this, one night I couldn’t sleep and so I crawled out of bed and knelt on the floor. I prayed and asked Heavenly Father to help me know if He was there.

The next day I was sitting with my friends in the house we shared when there was a knock on the door. I went and opened the door and there were two missionaries standing on the doorstep, asking if they could share the gospel with me. I was momentarily speechless, but managed to tell them I was a member of the church. They said they hadn’t seen me at church before, and I could tell they were a little surprised to hear I was a member of the church given my appearance and the state of my surroundings. I told them I would see them at church on Sunday.

When I closed the door I went straight to my bedroom and sat on my bed. I knew this was a message from Heavenly Father, telling me He knew me and that He wanted me to go back to church. I knew it and I couldn’t deny it. It wasn’t just the missionaries standing on my doorstep, it was the feeling I had as soon as I opened the door. I felt the Spirit confirming to me that they were there for me, to answer the question I had asked the night before – that Heavenly Father was there, and He knew me. Even now as I remember that moment it brings tears to my eyes and I feel Heavenly Father’s love for me.

After that experience I didn’t have a perfect road back. I still struggled with some things, and I ended up needing to change my surroundings and go live with a family member so I could have a safe space to heal emotionally and spiritually and to give up some of the habits I had developed. I also needed to go through the repentance process. But I am grateful for that time in my life because I feel like that was when I finally understood what was missing from my testimony – an understanding of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I didn’t have to be perfect to be a member of the church, or to be called a daughter of God. Jesus Christ loves us and will help us as we reach out to Him and are healed by His Atonement.

Here I am almost 20 years later, married with four beautiful children and a belief in Heavenly Father that continues to grow and develop. I know that I am a child of God, and that He loves me and knows me. And I know He loves His other children as well and that He wants us all to feel the hope and power that comes through Jesus Christ.