Forty years ago, I gave my heart to Jesus Christ and began attending an evangelical church. I had a wonderful pastor and made many friends who helped me grow spiritually. But after many years of attending, I became troubled by some of the church’s new practices. I tried so hard to stay, but I just couldn’t abide by the changes.
When I began searching for a new church, my brother and his wife, who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, invited me to come to their church. But I couldn’t wrap my heart and mind around Joseph Smith as a prophet. I respectfully told them, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
I started going to another evangelical church, but the same thing happened there too. After a while, I felt that my spiritual needs weren’t being fulfilled there either. Once again, my brother and his wife invited me to come to their church, and again I politely refused.
I decided I couldn’t trust any church. I made a plan to practice my faith alone. But without church or the opportunity to share my faith with others, I felt myself slipping away from my commitment to Jesus Christ. I started doubting what I had believed in for 30 years! That was the turning point for me.
I looked to the only option I seemed to have left and finally told my brother and his wife that I wanted to go to church with them.
I was skeptical at first, but I will never forget that first Sunday I attended with them. My heart swelled throughout sacrament meeting, as we discussed the New Testament in Sunday School, and again when we sang beautiful music together in Relief Society. And I loved the way people interacted with such love and compassion.
I felt at home.
I continued going to church, but after praying and searching for almost two years, I still had many questions for the Lord and wasn’t ready to be baptized. Then, in October 2012, I decided to watch general conference to find my answers.
Both Saturday sessions greatly touched my heart, and I decided to watch the Sunday morning session in the church building. Even though there was hardly anyone there, I felt distinct peace about my decision to be in the chapel. I could feel my heart softening. I was so hungry for truth.
President Henry B. Eyring, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, shared a beautiful message that I will never forget. He spoke of Joseph Smith’s prayer in Liberty Jail, when he cried out: “O God, where art thou? And where is the pavilion that covereth thy hiding place?” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:1). President Eyring compared Joseph’s feeling to what I had felt:
“Many of us, in moments of personal anguish, feel that God is far from us. … God is never hidden, yet sometimes we are, covered by a pavilion of motivations that draw us away from God and make Him seem distant and inaccessible. …
“Our feelings of separation from God will diminish as we become more childlike before Him. … It will help us recognize this truth: God is close to us and aware of us and never hides from His faithful children.”1
As President Eyring shared this message about receiving God’s love and His will, I heard a message from the Spirit in my mind. It was two simple words: “Be baptized.”
When Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about conversion that same day,2 I felt my concerns about being baptized disappear. I realized I wasn’t giving up my core beliefs from my evangelical days by joining a new faith. I was building on the faith and truths that I already had. I was being further converted unto the Lord. And His prophets were helping me along the way.
The morning after conference, I called my brother and asked him if he would baptize me. It was a joyful moment that brought us both to tears.
As I reflect on my life journey, I’m grateful for the opportunities afforded me through Jesus Christ. And I’m grateful for general conference. During general conference, I felt that God had heard me. He answered my questions, addressed my fears, and loved me through the words of His prophets.
I know that each general conference has a message straight from the Lord that is personally tailored to you and what you’re going through. As we listen to the prophets with a willingness to accept God’s message for us, we will hear Him. We will receive answers to our prayers and answers to our questions. We will find that the Lord speaks, and we will become more and more converted unto Him.