So I was asked to speak about being strong through times of doubt, and I’m going to be using Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk “Lord, I Believe” to kind of bring all of my jumbled thoughts together. In the past, I never really had what one would consider to be “a strong testimony”. I based a lot of my thoughts and feelings about church on what my parents said, and what my teachers said. When I was in spiritual settings, like girls camp or at EFY, I would bear my testimony about things that had occurred in my life that had caused me to realize that there was a God, I just never really gave much attention to how beautiful and perfect He actually was. I never searched, pondered, and prayed like you are told to do from the time you are a Sunbeam. I just went with the flow and went to church because I had to be there. As I went through high school, I began to really resent the church. I saw all of my friends with boyfriends at age 15 and I was angry because I wanted that. I saw people posting pictures from a party they had gone to and I would think to myself “If I wasn't a member, I could be having fun like that.”. I saw kids that seemingly never fought with their parents because they were allowed to do whatever they wanted to do, and I was jealous.
When I turned eighteen, I told my mom and dad that I didn't have a testimony of the gospel. I told them that I wanted to live my life how I wanted to live it. I told them I wanted to be my own person, even though I didn't even really know who that was. And so I went searching, high and low, in all the wrong places. I began to let such temporal things rule my life. I began going to those parties that everyone took pictures at, I had boyfriends, I went and did all these things that I thought would lead to being really happy. I didn't care about anything, not going to school, not being religious, not even coming by and seeing my family. I was one track minded, motivated only by the things in life that were keeping me temporarily “happy”. And then I would wake up the next day feeling just as lost and confused as the day before. I was so unhappy, and I knew that in my heart, but I refused to admit it to myself because this is what I was looking so forward to when I became eighteen and independent.
And then on June 7th, my dad called and asked me if I wanted to go to my cousin Lexi’s mission farewell. He was leaving at 7:00 the next morning. I told him I would think about it, even though my initial plan was not to go. I didn't want to see all my family, I was nervous about what they would think of me, what people would say. And then all night that night I couldn't sleep. I stayed awake and was so frustrated because I kept having this nagging feeling that I needed to be there. For whatever reason I needed to go to Utah with my family to see Lexi. I finally gave in and texted my mom to let her know I wanted to go. My dad picked me up the next day and when I got there, my whole family welcomed me with open arms. I had forgotten how good it felt to be truly loved, not loved because you were down to party, and not loved because of the physical things, but endlessly loved because people have a genuine compassion for you. My heart was so full. That night I told my mom that I was thinking more about church, that I was scared and sad and nothing seemed right in my life. And for the first time in an extremely long time, I said a prayer. I said a prayer asking for God to help me, because I was lost and I needed His guidance.
The next day at church, my cousin gave her farewell talk on the power of repentance and the atonement. I have never felt the Spirit more than I did that day. I felt an overwhelming calm pass over me, it was like I was being enveloped in a blanket of God’s perfect love, and I broke down and tears started streaming down my face. I’m a huge cry baby, and everyone in my family (and probably the whole congregation) could probably hear/see what a mess I was, but I didn't care. Because for the first time in my life my heart was full of a joy that is indescribable. A joy that can only be found through this Gospel. When sacrament ended, my cousin didn't run to hug her boyfriend, or her mom, or her dad. She came directly to me and hugged me and said “I knew what I needed to say, He told me I needed to say those things for you.” And I knew without a doubt, that this was the answer to my prayer. This was the answer to all those long nights spent wondering what was right, what would make me happy. And I had it all long, I just needed to open the door and let Him in.
When I first started coming back to church, I felt so out of place. I thought to myself, “Why would God forgive me for all the things that I have done? Why would He grant me mercy for the mistakes I have made?”. I didn’t feel good enough to be back in such a perfect and wonderful place, and then I went and spoke to the Bishop. I told him everything I felt, the experiences I had, and I can tell you right now that my testimony was strengthened so much from that meeting. I came out of his office feeling like a weight had been lifted from me. On days when I think back on my mistakes, and I wonder to myself “Why me? How am I good enough?” I read this scripture: it’s Mosiah 26:22 and 23 and it reads “ FOR BEHOLD, THIS IS MY CHURCH; WHOSOEVER IS BAPTIZED SHALL BE BAPTIZED UNTO REPENTANCE. AND WHOMSOEVER YE RECEIVE SHALL BELIEVE IN MY NAME; AND HIM WILL I FREELY FORGIVE. FOR IT IS I THAT TAKETH UPON ME THE SINS OF THE WORLD; FOR IT IS I THAT HATH CREATED THEM; AND IT IS I THAT GRANTETH UNTO HIM THAT BELIEVETH UNTO THE END A PLACE AT MY RIGHT HAND.”
In Elder Holland's talk, he says: "Brothers and Sisters, this is a divine work in process, with the manifestations and blessings of it abounding in every direction, so please don't hyperventilate if from time to time, issues arise that need to be examined, understood, and resolved.They do, and they will. In this Church, what we know will always trump what we do not know. And remember, in this world, everyone is to walk by faith. So be kind regarding human frailty - your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not the divinity of the work."
All of us, just like I did, are going to make mistakes. We are going to have doubts, we are going to be confused, we are going to feel lost at times. We are not perfect, even though we are striving to be. But believe me when I say that God is always there for us. God is always watching out for each and every one of us. And He knows our heartaches and He knows our joys. He knows everything about us, and He loves us regardless. And whenever we feel the slightest doubt, please remember that the people in the church are not going to be perfect, because none of us are. We may be offended by something that is said, we may disagree with or not fully understand something that is taught, and we may feel like reading our scriptures everyday in Seminary is pointless. But I can promise you that this Gospel, and our Heavenly Father and His Son and the Holy Ghost are very real, very perfect things. They are unchanging and they are the ultimate blessing that is given to us in this life. And if we will just put forth the effort and have faith, just to take that extra five minutes in the morning to say our prayers or just read an extra chapter in the scriptures before we fall asleep each night, we will be blessed. If we live a life that depicts the kind of person that Heavenly Father hopes we will be, we will see the beauty of all the things that He has given us in this life. I promise you that if you are questioning the Gospel, for whatever reason, and you pray to your Father in Heaven with a sincere heart and a humble spirit, He will give you an answer.
I believe so fully in the power of prayer, the way I see it, it saved my life.
Song Of The Day: Come Thou Fount. A girl in my ward performed this song as the musical number today and her voice was beautiful!
Scripture For The Night: Moroni 10: 4. "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, He will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost."