“A Friend’s Influence,” For the Strength of Youth, Jan. 2022.
I’ve always felt pretty alone in the world. My parents got divorced when I was a baby, and then a few years later my mom remarried and we moved 4,000 miles, from Georgia, USA, to Oregon, USA. It was a huge change for a nine-year-old girl to handle, especially one with a southern accent who wasn’t fully accepted by the other kids.
When I moved up to middle school, though, I met Nicole.* Right away, I felt a positive, peaceful vibe about her—something I’d been missing. I knew I had to be friends with this girl!
As we hung out more, Nicole became a safe place away from my loneliness. Walking into her home was like walking into a completely different life: the Spirit of God filled every corner. There were pictures of the Savior and of giant structures everywhere. (I later learned these were temples.) Nicole’s missionary work began by just inviting me over, and she didn’t even know it.
Nicole ministered to me by just being my friend. She gave me the Book of Mormon, and we started reading together in her car after school.
The Book of Mormon started to fill the holes in my life. But I still felt alone. I wasn’t a member of Nicole’s church, but I also wasn’t completely part of my parents’ religion, either.
Nicole kindly prompted me to pray and ask God if the Book of Mormon is true. I had never prayed out loud, so I had no idea what I was supposed to say. But I just went outside and started talking. I asked God if Nicole’s church was the right church for me too. As soon as I finished my question, I felt chills through my whole body. I knew, somehow without a doubt, that the Book of Mormon is true and this Church was right for me.
I was 15 when I received this witness. For the next few years I believed, though my parents were not interested in the Church. But I wasn’t alone in my faith, because Nicole was still there supporting me.
After I graduated high school, I moved out to Utah, USA. Nicole was already there, and she was anxiously waiting for me to get there so I could start taking the missionary lessons. I had a plan to be baptized on my 19th birthday—just six weeks away—and Nicole assured me she would be right there with me the whole time.
When the missionaries began to teach me, I soon realized how little I really knew about the Church. I had read and loved the Book of Mormon, but suddenly they were telling me about the gift of the Holy Ghost, the plan of salvation, becoming like God, and so many other new things. It was too much to digest all at once.
But Nicole knew me well. She would help explain what the elders were teaching in a way she knew I’d understand. In those first lessons, her patient explanations were the reason I stayed.
Nicole spiritually supported me like that until the day I was baptized—and after. She helped the ward members and missionaries plan so I could be baptized on my 19th birthday. When I came out of the water and saw dozens of people beaming at me, I didn’t feel so alone anymore. I will never forget that feeling of finally belonging to the Lord and His Church.
I still learn from Nicole’s consistent faith and friendship. She showed me from the start that missionary work doesn’t require a name tag. Nicole’s missionary work began in her heart, when she reached out to a southern girl who needed a smile.
The author lives in Utah, USA.