“I Felt at Home,” Ensign, June 2005, 72–73
I grew up in Russia in a close and loving family. My parents worked hard, and I stayed with my father’s mother, Anastasiya Vasilyevna Ustavshchikova. She was always bustling about the kitchen, making wonderful flowers to put on hats, and reading. She read all kinds of books, but I especially remember that she read the Bible. She would tell me about God and how she loved Him and awaited her meeting with Him. She said that if we would live God’s commandments, we would return to Him and inherit one of His kingdoms. That memory has warmed me all my life.
My life before joining the Church is a story with many trials and experiences. But I always loved hearing my grandma’s simple, sincere prayers. She would start with the words “Heavenly Father,” and I would get goose bumps.
In June 1993 I arrived at my mother’s home in St. Petersburg, where a friend invited me to study English with her. We called a number we found in the newspaper, and a young woman answered. She told us to come at noon the next day. Her name was Tat’yana. After the lesson we invited her out for tea or coffee. We were quite surprised when we heard, “I don’t drink tea or coffee.”
“I’m a Mormon.”
“What’s a Mormon?” I asked.
“I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you’re interested, come see us Sunday morning at 11:00.”
She wrote down the address. I was very interested to find out what kind of church this was.
The week passed slowly, but Sunday finally came. The meetings were held in a music school. Some young men were at the entrance, and they were smiling. When they found out that I had come for the first time, they took me into the chapel. A lot of people were there, but I felt out of place. I very much liked the opening hymn though, and then a miracle happened. A man walked to the front, and the first words of his prayer were “Heavenly Father.” That is what I had been searching for. Suddenly I felt at home. I was at peace.
After the meeting two young ladies approached me.
“Are you already meeting with the missionaries?” they asked.
“Could we teach you about the gospel?”
“Of course,” I said. “That would make me very happy.”
At one of our discussions they began telling me about three kingdoms. I stopped them and said, “May I tell you what my grandmother told me when I was little?” Now it was their turn to be surprised. The more we talked, the more I wanted to learn. On August 15, my missionaries asked if I would like to be baptized.
“Yes.” That was already my desire.
My baptism was to take place in a lake the following Sunday, August 22. The weather had been hot and dry. But on Monday, August 16, a steady rain began, and the temperature dropped sharply. Friday morning I awoke with terrible tonsillitis. My whole throat was congested, and I was running a fever. I thought it would pass before Sunday.
The missionaries came on Saturday to interview me. Elder Parker, a young and very tall missionary, asked me the questions. He also agreed to baptize me. I said nothing about my illness.
The day of my baptism arrived. When I woke up I found that my throat was still the same. It was then I realized for the first time in my life what the Lord wanted from me. I said to myself, “I’ll do whatever I have to for Him. I will be baptized. Everything will be fine. The water will be warm, and my sickness will disappear after I am baptized.”
On the way to the lake I told the sisters what had been going on with me. They both looked in my mouth and said, all bundled up in their raincoats, “This is no joke. Should we move everything to a pool?”
“No, no.” I had firmly made up my mind to go ahead with our plans.
It was beautiful when we got there. The lake was like a mirror, without even a ripple. It was about a hundred meters from the changing room to the water. It had rained all week and was muddy. When I came out of the changing room, I saw Elder Parker in his white clothes walking confidently through the mud toward the lake. That was a stunning sight.
We stood in a circle and sang a hymn. We could see our breath, but we were not paying attention to the weather anymore. As I took my first step into the water, I knew I was doing the right thing. It felt warm. And when I came up out of the water, I was happy and healthy. Everyone laughed and cried. I had taken my first step on the path home. Our Heavenly Father loves us and gives us trials, expecting us to make the right decisions, to not doubt what is good.
I will remember that miraculous day for the rest of my life. It will live in my heart with the memories of my grandmother, who sowed the seed that sprouted so many years after her death.