At age 18, I moved to Provo, Utah where I was one among thousands of LDS college kids. Religion was everywhere. I met people who talked about religion anytime, anywhere. This was so foreign to me. As a student at Brigham Young University, I was required to enroll in religion classes. I had read The Book of Mormon and Bible in high school and had a general understanding of the doctrine of my religion, but it wasn’t until attending these classes that I gained a deeper understanding and knowledge about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. My professors were so knowledgeable about ancient times, historical and religious practices, and things of a spiritual nature. The stories came to life for me and I had no doubt I was reading about real people from thousands of years ago. As my understanding increased, my belief in Mormonism grew. I developed a closer relationship with my Savior, Jesus Christ. For the first time in my life, I read scriptures every day. I prayed to my Heavenly Father morning and night. I began to ask real questions and sought answers. And I found them. Things had always resonated with me since I was a child, but this was different. I was putting pieces together. A natural and immediate response to my deeper understanding was my desire to share what I understood with those who I loved. I began to engage in conversations about religion and took every opportunity to clear up misunderstandings when they were presented. Looking back, I recognize I was probably a bit overbearing! But I was a changed person. I could no longer separate my secular life with my spiritual life.
At age nineteen, Mormon young men are asked to serve a 2 year mission to anywhere in the world (not their choice), at their own expense. All three of my brothers served...in Italy, Guatemala and Spain. For ladies, it is an 18 month mission at age 21. I had every desire to go, but ultimately, I chose to get married before I had the opportunity. There are many misconceptions about why Mormons serve missions. A friend once told me she had heard that the more people LDS members “convert” to Mormonism, the greater reward they receive in heaven! Another shared with me with certainty (I love when others are so certain what I believe!) that I would own more “kingdoms in heaven” if I led more people to baptism. I don’t know where people learn these things...but it simply isn't true and has nothing to do with why I share my beliefs.
My religion has made every good difference in my life. It has given me direction. Jesus Christ is very real to me and I feel close to Him. I believe He is the Savior of the World. And I want others to know Him as I do and more importantly, feel His love. I see people who once believed as I do and have turned away, and the light in their faces is dimmed. I’ve known others who search for happiness in worldly ways and end up feeling empty and alone. But I have also witnessed people’s lives being changed for good as they accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. What was once dark and empty is now full of joy and peace. There are many good religious and non-religious, happy and sad people in this world. But like everyone, it is natural to want to share good things with others because we know it is a good thing! There are no selfish motives involved. It is a genuine effort to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. I recognize there are others, a whole lot of others, who aren’t interested, and that’s okay! I love them still!
So please don’t take offense when someone (like me) tries to share a message of hope with someone like you. Please be kind when you see two young men in suits knocking on doors or riding bicycles to their next appointment. Their motives are pure and they have sacrificed a crazy-out-of-the-ordinary amount for a college-aged person. If you aren’t interested, there will be no hard feelings! They are not salesmen! They’ve been taught to find those interested, to respect others' choices; not to engage in debate or be pushy. They are simply trying to give you a gift, if you want it. And for what its worth, these missionaries come home CHANGED. I am a witness of this--I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes! As a parent, I couldn’t wish anything greater for my children. There isn’t a better way for people at this age to learn to think beyond themselves, to be diligent, hardworking, frugal, independent, devoted, better at problem-solving, humble, loving and enduring through hard times. My husband has all of these qualities and no doubt, they were increased by his mission to Morristown, New Jersey, where he had doors slammed in his face left and right, a gun pulled on him and he was spit on! But if you ask him today what was the hardest thing?...those things don’t come to his mind. He told me the hardest part of his mission was always when someone was so close to making a big change in their life--a change that would make every good difference for their family and their own happiness--and ultimately, they didn’t have the faith to make the necessary changes and they gave up.
Because he was committed to something greater than himself, sincere heartache was more difficult than his pride or the fear of losing his own life. How can something so sincere come from a selfish motive?
As Mormons, we take Matthew 28:19-20 from the Bible literally:
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost . . .and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
Because I am a Mormon, I want to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others simply because I want to spread the happiness and peace it has given to me.
|Brandon on his mission to New Jersey--1991. I've never met these women, but I know he loves them!|
|Brad and me at SLC Airport--he's leaving for Rome, Italy--1995|
|Family get together in Snohomish, WA in 2000 sending Jeremy off to Guatemala.|
|Bailey and Uncle Jeremy 2002|
|Bailey and Uncle Tyler in Provo, UT before going into the Missionary Training Center--2003|
|Spain is a far, far away place for a two year old!|