“My Faith Makes Me Who I Am,” Ensign, July 2019
Growing up in Ukraine, I had to learn how to stand up for my beliefs. My younger sister and I are converts and were the only members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in our school. Most of my classmates drank, swore, and smoked during high school and would often invite me to join them.
One day, after I had joined the Church, while I was spending time with my friends, I told them, “I don’t drink, so don’t ask me even to try a little bit.” But I hesitated before sharing my values out loud with them. I feared I would lose their friendship and be alone. But to my surprise, they respected my wishes. That is, until one evening.
My friends and I were at a party one night, when they began to pour glasses of wine. Everyone took one—except for me. Instead, I got myself a glass of water.
“Come on, Alisa,” my friend Anton said. “Don’t be different!” He laughed and held out a glass full of wine to me. I didn’t take it. “No, I won’t,” I said. “You know I don’t drink.”
From then on, no one asked me to drink again. And I aimed to be respectful to my friends and never judge them for their decisions that were different from mine. I loved spending time with them, but I would always stand up for my values whenever something came up that I wasn’t comfortable with. The more I expressed my values and kept my standards high among my friends, the easier it became.
Eight months later, I found myself at another party—once again with alcohol. A classmate, who I didn’t know very well, poured glasses of wine for everyone in the room and started passing them around. I opened my mouth to say, “I don’t drink,” but before I could finish, I heard Anton’s voice. “She doesn’t drink,” he said. And he stopped a glass from reaching my hands.
I didn’t expect that. But I felt loved, respected, and accepted for who I was in that moment.
My faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the values I’ve developed because of that faith are truly part of who I am. As Elder L. Whitney Clayton of the Presidency of the Seventy said: “Faith in God is life-altering. The fateful, life-changing choice to believe influences deeply one’s personal, familial, and cultural identity. It defines who and what we are.”1 And I’ve learned that by living the gospel and keeping my standards high, I really can influence others, even sometimes without even knowing.
My friends didn’t stop partying, and they didn’t join the Church, but my example did soften their hearts. They stopped asking me to drink, they didn’t swear in my presence, and they didn’t smoke around me. They loved me and wanted to respect my morals.
Being out of the world while living in the world can be difficult sometimes, but the Savior teaches that we do not have to be afraid to be who we are, to share the light we have with others, or to stand up for what we believe in. And from my own experience, I’ve seen hearts softened and other miracles come from sharing the light of Christ with others. And the world could definitely use more of that.