About a year ago, I was meeting with the sister missionaries from the young adult congregation in Vancouver and was prayerfully considering baptism into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although I wanted to come closer to Christ, I was sure that the space between who I was and who the Church wanted me to be was too great a distance for me to travel alone.
First, I was the child of gay parents, and I was concerned about the Church’s stance on same-sex attraction. More importantly, I was unsure about how my own family could be included in the plan of eternal salvation. Second, I was living opposite of the Word of Wisdom, as I was a caffeine-addicted barista and lived the lifestyle of a typical partying college student. Third, I was definitely spiritual but had no confirmation yet as to what faith could be true. I sought this truth as a religious studies student at the University of British Columbia, but I felt no strong connection to any faith or practice. I didn’t necessarily doubt that the Church was true, but my previous searching proved fruitless. I was at the point of accepting that there might not be a true church at all.
Despite all this, I felt compelled to accept the invitation from the sister missionaries to watch general conference. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from general conference, but the missionaries assured me that I would hear inspiring messages from leaders of the Church. I entered the chapel, sat down for the Sunday morning session, and took out my journal to take notes as the sisters encouraged me to do. Even before the first words were spoken, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the choir and the spirit of the occasion. The first talk given was by Jean B. Bingham. I remember her teaching that our faith has to be greater than our fear. I wrote down the inspiration and was immediately filled with the comfort and peace that only the Savior’s love can bring.
I was particularly surprised by the affectionate reverence the missionaries had for each speaker as we watched conference. I found it incredible that every Church member in the room with us had a personal revelatory experience in past conferences with a specific speaker or topic of faith. Even more touching was that they were all eager to share these hopeful messages with me, a stranger, as we watched. Hearing their testimonies of general conference and the inspiration behind the speakers was uplifting and helped me to develop my own budding testimony.
I felt an especially meaningful impression during President Henry B. Eyring’s talk, “Fear Not to Do Good.” He quoted Doctrine and Covenants 6:34, “Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.” With this guidance, I received my first real impression that the Church was true and that I was called to join this “little flock.” As the afternoon session continued, I was inspired again and again to come unto Christ and be baptized in His name.
After general conference, I knew that although there was a great distance to cross, I would not be alone. I learned of the strength offered in this community of faith and trusted in my Savior to help me grow in the ways I needed to.
In spite of my developing faith and testimony, the months following this general conference were anything but easy. My decision to join the Church and be baptized was not made overnight, but rather came after months of intense prayer, fasting, reading, studying, and growth. I knew that this decision was one of the most important that I would ever make, and I wanted to be sure that I was ready to “come into the fold of God, and to be called his people” (Mosiah 18:8).
In contrast to the peace and love I felt as I continued to consider baptism, I was equally daunted by Satan’s haunting calls from the shadows. I made new friends in the congregation and continued lessons with the missionaries but somehow felt more alone than I ever had before. I struggled to live by gospel standards in my day-to-day life. I tried my best to learn what “in the world but not of the world” meant but still found myself falling into the same traps of drugs, alcohol, and unrighteous living. Moreover, I felt disingenuous, as if I wasn’t truly in the Church or in the world.
Revelation and guidance from general conference talks brought me comfort during these times. I frequently went back to my notes and prayed to feel that same peace I felt when I first heard those messages. Because of the truth I recognized during general conference and lessons with the missionaries, I knew that the feeling of loneliness was not of God and that my greatest defense against Satan was baptism and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Four months after my first experience with general conference, I was finally baptized in the local young adult branch, surrounded by brothers and sisters who helped me find Christ.
I have now been a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for almost eight months, and I try my best every day to come closer to my Savior. I soon learned that this was only the beginning of my conversion story, that true faith comes by choosing the right in every moment.
Along with the spiritual high of baptism that brought joy, peace, and light into my life, I still faced self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, and loneliness. After my baptism, my life was not suddenly easy. I was heartbroken because despite my intentions to become better, my conversion affected more than myself. My relationship with my parents was rocky at best, and I could tell that I made some of my closest friends uncomfortable because of the changes I had made in my life. Still, I persisted in my moment-to-moment conversion and sought the counsel of those who brought me closer to Christ. In doing so, my relationships, faith, and joy all strengthened in time.
The personal revelation that I have received since then has brought me miles ahead of where I dreamed I could reach. Today I find myself in a new city, in a new school, with new aspirations and an ever-growing love for my Redeemer, who has brought me exactly where I need to be. The revelation I received from general conference continues to help me to become a better version of myself and inspires me to draw closer to Jesus Christ.