“Going ‘All In’: My Journey Back to the Gospel,” Ensign, January 2020
My testimony did not come easily. I had been inactive for the previous five years. And I was smoking, drinking, and doing everything else in between.
I had always had an interest in Church doctrine and the why behind the commandments and “rules” of the Church, but I never really tried hard to understand these things for myself and rebelled. I felt that the rules were too rigid and were suppressing my fun. I also felt like I didn’t fit in very well with the culture of church; everyone seemed polished and perfect, and I was so far from that.
I ended up going to school in New York City to become a fashion makeup artist. I lived a life completely devoid of the Spirit, trying to hide from God and my divine nature. I felt pretty empty. I decided to come back to the Church after I realized (the hard way) how the gospel affected the members who followed its guidelines. I looked around at my life and finally asked myself, “What do I want out of my life? What kind of person do I really want to be?”
I have always looked for inspiration and direction in the lives of people around me who seem successful in their objectives, and I pretty much try to model them the best that I can. In this case, people who kept coming to my mind were all senior couples who were busy serving missions for the Church with their eternal companions, my parents who had always worked to serve others, and all the selfless men and women who worked hard to provide for their families and fulfill their Church callings.
I thought of the peace and happiness that all of these people seemed to have because of their understanding and application of Jesus Christ’s Atonement, and I knew that I wanted to be like them and have those same blessings in my life.
Coming back to the Church was not easy. I had committed serious sins and had habits I needed to change. The repentance process took time, but even afterward—after I knew I was forgiven—my attitude about the Church still wasn’t what I knew it should be. I still had problems fitting in with the ward because I felt like I couldn’t relate to their experiences because of my rebellion. Thankfully, I had help from a returned missionary who encouraged me to stay strong in the gospel and who also ended up marrying me.
After we were married, we moved to Idaho to attend Brigham Young University–Idaho. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the cure to my negative attitude. While we had many good experiences at BYU–Idaho that strengthened my faith, I was still struggling a lot with my negative attitude about church. I still didn’t understand the “why” of the gospel fully. I also attended a young married ward, and all the members seemed to be perfect. I felt like nobody had any flaws or temptations or questions about the commandments like I did. And if they did, nobody seemed to be talking about them. In my mind, my insecurities and Satan tried to deceive me by telling me that nobody understood me—or even wanted to. I felt that, with everything I had been through, I didn’t truly belong and I never would. I refused to talk in class, I skipped Relief Society every week because I didn’t want to get to know anyone, and I cried most days and nights because I felt so alone. I was so frustrated.
Then one day, as I was sitting alone on my couch scrolling through channels on our tiny TV, I saw President Thomas S. Monson speaking at a devotional. As I listened to him talk, I fell in love with his humility and humor. In that moment, I realized that he was completely human. I realized that church is a place where imperfect people meet together to become better by coming closer to the Savior. We are all trying to get through this life despite our trials and weaknesses. I realized I had to make a big change or I would stop progressing and go backward.
I knew I loved Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, even if I didn’t like or understand everything that came with church. So I promised the Lord that I would try to like church even though I didn’t. I told Him that I would try to see church as the coolest, most magnificent thing ever. And I promised that I would attend my meetings and activities, all while following the commandments, even though sometimes I really, really didn’t want to do any of it.
Going “all in” required me to put my best possible effort into studying and applying what I was learning. I read my scriptures, I learned principles, and I couldn’t put the Book of Mormon down. I craved it all day. I always wanted to learn more, and the more I learned and applied it to my life, the happier and more spiritual I became. I would ask God for help—for instance, with learning how to write better—believing that He could help me, and He did! It was as if something had been lifted from my eyes and I could clearly see the gospel of Jesus Christ for the first time—it really is the coolest and most magnificent thing ever!
I finally started to understand the Word of Wisdom, which was something I had resented before. I started to look through an eternal lens at all of the things Church members are commanded not to do. I saw them as guidelines to a better and more fulfilling life, not as restrictions to keep us from fun. To me, the commandments were suddenly brilliant, and I knew they were inspired by God. I finally understood the “why” behind the guidelines of the Church. Everything in the past seemed like a dream. And I began to see myself and those around me as Heavenly Father does. After going “all in,” my negative outlook turned into a positive one, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ transformed my perspective and heart.
My experiment with Heavenly Father showed me that my enjoyment of the gospel wasn’t about my circumstances or even experiences but about being “all in.” It’s like the pattern Alma taught when he compared the word of God to a seed and invited us to “experiment” on the word. He said that if we “give place” for and “nourish” the word of God in our lives with “faith” and “with great diligence,” then it will “take root,” “springing up unto everlasting life.” (See Alma 32:27–41.) When I really gave it a chance, the gospel started becoming “delicious” to me, just as Alma said (see Alma 32:28).
The gospel is now my safety net, and I am able to trust God with all my might and rely on Him for comfort and constant miracles that continue to bless me.
While I still make mistakes often and am totally imperfect, I know that no matter how hard life can get, repentance and forgiveness are real. The choice is mine to keep moving toward the Savior through small but intentional steps. He has helped carry me through some of the most trying times of my life. And I’ve realized that because of my imperfections and the imperfections of others, I must rely on Jesus Christ. I know that He can help me change my perspective and go “all in,” which will make every day so much more meaningful.