“Finding Joy in Life,” Liahona, June 2000, 28–30
In June 1991, my wife, Alla; our son, Alex; and I moved from Belarus in the former Soviet Union to Denmark. My work as an anesthesiologist made me particularly eager to improve my English, so I enrolled in an English class taught by two sister missionaries serving in the Denmark Copenhagen Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I found myself wanting to learn more than English. I had learned about Jesus Christ only after the Soviet government lifted the ban against religion during that remarkable period of Soviet history called glasnost. I was uncomfortable, however, with the rites of the predominant church and so had not pursued the matter further.
The missionaries were different. Their friendliness seemed to warm my heart, and when they taught us that “men are, that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:25), I was thrilled to the marrow of my bones. I could remember only two times in my life when I had felt joy—the day I married Alla and the day Alex was born. Now I could actually see joy radiating from the faces of the missionaries as they taught the gospel.
The other missionaries and the members Alla and I met reinforced our first impressions. “If such wonderful people are members of this church,” I told Alla, “then this is the true Church!”
Alla and I were baptized in August 1991. We felt that warm feeling in our hearts that accompanies receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. It had a cleansing effect upon our bodies and our souls, and we thought we couldn’t be happier. But we were wrong. It was only the beginning. At every Church meeting, the feelings we had at our baptism returned. We have become more calm, patient, and kind. We are trying to follow the perfect example of Jesus Christ, even though it is sometimes quite difficult.
In July 1993, Alla, Alex, and I were sealed as a family in the Stockholm Sweden Temple. As we knelt at the temple altar, surrounded by friends, including Reid and Donna Johnson, the temple president and matron, the warmth of our initial conversion came to us again. We had been like cold, wet, miserable, lost kittens; but in the Church we had found shelter, warmth, and nourishment. The gospel had helped us open our frozen hearts and closed eyes and begin to see truth and to love.
We spent a week at the temple doing proxy work, including the work for Alla’s deceased grandparents, and we discovered we have a lot of work yet to do in the temple. The happiness we feel as members of Christ’s Church has not peaked. The longer we serve in the Church, the more happiness we seem to experience. It has been an unexpected and wonderful surprise to know true joy.
Quite a bit of time has now passed since our conversion, and we have experienced many difficulties. Much of the power that has lifted us over these difficulties has come from the examples of members of the Church—members striving to follow the example of Jesus Christ.