“Start the World; I Want to Get On,” New Era, Apr. 1972, 12
Look at the carousel of my mind, Lord—
colored horses, brass rings,
waiting for a summer day that never comes,
a people never known,
a love never shared.
I am a blue-eyed damsel in distress,
into this unreal world
safe only to the mind
that knows not only
where it’s at
but where it’s going.
Lord, everything is uptight—
youth searching frantically for
generations war over the same words:
Where do I go from here?
God help me.
Do you know what it feels like to be alone all of the time? to move from day to day on a psychedelic crutch? to want so much to belong, but not knowing to what, or why? to pour out your soul to itself and feel no closer to an answer than you did the last time? to die alone …
About this time a year ago, give or take a few hours, I was somewhere in California, stoned out of my mind on something or other. I was living away from home in the fabricated world of a drug freak, filled with illusions. What was around me was not what I was looking for. Granted, I didn’t know what it was that I searched for, but I did know that I hadn’t found it.
In the hip sense, I was free. I dropped a little acid here, a little mesc there. I walked the streets and jived with the folk. I thought I knew where things were at.
As I kept telling myself, “You’re happy,” I wondered why I had to work so hard to convince myself. I had become dependent on something outside of myself. As I drew more into the scene, I grew away from my friends.
Where am I? What am I? Who am I? I was haunted day and night by these questions, and day by day I was led further from the answers.
One night as I walked the streets under the influence of only-my-pusher-knew-what, I made a discovery. In the midst of this freedom the only thing I was acquiring was death. And I stood alone, suffocating in my solitude.
I used to get high on people until I dropped those magic pills and flew into a temporary fantasy world where escape was supposed to be but wasn’t. I knew that somewhere out there was a warm, tender, feeling person—but where? The world felt sad that night. Maybe tomorrow would feel happy. But what if it didn’t? Would I crawl into my shell again? leave reality again? I felt dehumanized, desensitized, unable to cope with the reality around me because I wasn’t touching it.
Someone once told me that to find peace you must expand your world of experiences and take it into your soul. It all had to do with finding an ultimate spiritual freedom.
I was raised a Catholic. As a matter of fact, I was about to join the convent after high school, but some friends talked me out of it. So as an alternative I wandered into the world I had been sheltered from all my life. I saw violence and hate and wickedness, and like anyone who has never been forced to work at having faith in his ideas, I began to question and doubt … and finally fell. I rationalized everything I did, bringing my ideals down to the level of my actions.
In a letter to an old friend, I wrote: “There is much that is pushing its way through my head—so much that I am getting lost. Much that is almost disastrous has happened since I came here—and I can’t quite describe the experience. It’s like there have been brief moments of joy, but nothing strong enough to compensate for my confused mind. I feel that the harder I try to figure myself out, the farther I fall into the pit. There is something lacking. I am not at peace, and I wonder if I ever will be. But I guess it’s the struggle that makes the victory relevant. Someday . …”
That someday came much sooner than I expected. As I sat in my room listening to a few tunes, I remembered an old friend. Was she in town? To my surprise she was at home with her husband and newly arrived baby.
That afternoon as we sat together, catching up on the years we had been apart, we began talking about alternatives: What did I want? Where was I headed? How was I going to get there? I didn’t have the answers. I was still looking. Then my friend’s husband, a convert to the Mormon Church, told me what it was like to feel that you had a place and a mission and a destiny. He told me that he knew who he was and why he was here because he had discovered the truth in his church. Could this be?
Later that same evening I had a date with a Latter-day Saint friend from my high school days. Before going to the show we stopped at his bishop’s house and somehow got back to a discussion of alternatives. We talked about goals and methods of achieving those goals. There was talk about the Church and what it meant to have a real testimony of the gospel. I didn’t understand.
During the show all I could think about were those beautiful, happy people I had met. I wanted to taste some of the happiness they felt. But how?
The next day my friend and I went back to the bishop’s home. We talked again and saw the film, “Man’s Search for Happiness.” As we prepared to leave, the bishop’s wife came up to me and challenged me to read the scriptures and pray. There is a wonderful promise in the Book of Mormon, she said. “And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” (Moro. 10:4–5.)
Pray? What a strange thing to say. Would God really listen to me? But I really didn’t have anything to lose. I knelt down to pray that night for the first time in years. It was the most difficult thing that I had ever done.
Where shall I go from here? What shall I do? Can I be forgiven? Can I start over again? These questions rolled over and over in my mind. Then I remembered what my friend’s husband had said earlier about the Church—and what the bishop’s wife had said about the scriptures. Something kept saying, “Try it out; you don’t have anything to lose.”
The next day, through the bishop, I met a girl who was to become one of my closest and dearest friends. Gail is one of those people you like instantly. She is honest, trustful, and untiring. From her I learned about the Prophet Joseph Smith and his revelations. I learned about how important the family is in the eternal perspective. I learned what it means to be truly committed. As each new idea was presented, something inside me kept saying, “Yes, this is right.”
It wasn’t a loud, crashing voice but a peaceful feeling that came as I realized where things really were at. It was like the feeling I used to have as a child kneeling by my bed in prayer. It was like the feeling I have when my parents tell me they love me. It was a feeling of belonging.
I attended my first Mormon meeting the following day. It was fast Sunday. As I became involved in what was going on around me, I realized that I couldn’t deny the Church any more than any of those who got up and told how the gospel was the driving force in their lives. I knew at that moment what I wanted. And I knew that my search was finally over.
Less than a week later I was baptized. As the date of my baptism approached, I became more and more nervous. I realized that the commitment I was making was more than a superficial promise to try something out and see if it worked. I knew that this would be a total commitment to a way of life. I tried to find excuses for not believing, but I couldn’t. The big question in my mind was, “Will I have enough strength?”
The feeling I had when I was baptized is extremely difficult to put into words. It was like everything had drained out of me. It was a clean, almost empty feeling. I staggered into the dressing room, fell on my knees, and cried uncontrollably. I can’t remember what I felt. Perhaps relief. We all act in response to the faith and love that has been given to us. My parents had always had faith in me and love for me despite my sometimes erratic behavior. Now I was becoming the person my parents had prepared me to be. I remember wanting so much to share that moment with them.
That night I thought, today really is the first day of the rest of my life. But tomorrow is going to be just as important, because each day has been given to me as a special gift. I’ll keep my good ideals but with a new realism that comes from the knowledge of past experiences. I have gone one step further, not by my own ability, but by a knowledge of the Spirit of God as it influences everything I do.
God lives—and cares. I know that now. And now, finally, I can live—with a little help from my friends.