Monday, March 30, 2015

Finally a Member

I am officially a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And oh, what a joy it is to say that. I decided to be baptized in September of 2014, about seven months ago. For various reasons, I had to wait to be baptized.

I fasted to know when I should be baptized about two weeks ago, and received this inspired date. Even though it wasn't a long preparation time, I faced a lot of difficulties. Some very very important people to me, I learned, did not support my decision and would not be able to attend. My missionary, Sister A, got transferred out of my area. I received attacks from the adversary, thoughts of despair about not getting baptized on December 17 (a previous date I'd set for baptism, after a very intense spiritual experience). I was very upset that Sister O and Sister A, my most influential companionship, would not be in attendance. I felt like Heavenly Father was punishing me for not listening when He told me December 17. Sister A and Sister O both assured me that that's not how Heavenly Father works. I realized that these negative feelings were being sent by the adversary to drag me "down to the gulf of misery and endless wo" (Helaman 5:12). But I knew how long I'd waited for this, and I knew that Heavenly Father was telling me that this is what I needed to do, despite these worldly distractions. He steadied me. He is a foundation "whereon if men are built they cannot fall" (Helaman 5:12). 

After a lot of patience and diligence, we made it to March 28. It was surreal. I arrived at the church, and Sister D2 (our new missionary) braided my hair. Sister O facetimed me so we could talk and she could watch my baptism (she's been around since I first decided to be baptized last September, she knows the whole road). I got dressed and anxiously awaited the program. When friends, members of my heavenly family, began arriving we got straight to taking pictures with everyone. Sister A got permission to Skype in so she could "be" at my baptism, too. That was such a joy, to see her face and hear her voice after what felt like such a long time (two weeks kind of is a long time considering I very rarely go more than two days without seeing the missionaries). I was so happy that she got to share this special time with me. 

Our opening hymn was "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," my favorite hymn, and one that I grew up singing in my Methodist church. It was like going home, and that song is a prayer I have often. As soon as we started singing, I just cried. I felt so incredibly blessed and so loved. My baptism wasn't announced in church meetings, so everyone there was personally invited. This room was filled with people who knew my journey and knew how long this road had been. It was so special to have these people supporting me and rejoicing with me for this gift of baptism that allows us to return to our Heavenly Father. 

The first talk was given by a dear friend in my ward, who is also a convert and received negative feedback from others when she decided to be baptized. She has such a sweet spirit and I always feel so loved when I spend time with her. I'm so grateful that this friend spoke at my baptism. 

Next we moved on to the actual ordinance. That was incredible. There aren't words to describe that experience. I was baptized by the husband of the couple who first taught me about the gospel. He's really been with me from the beginning (he also gave me my first priesthood blessing, when I was fasting about baptism last fall). That was such a special experience. 

The second talk was given by another dear friend, who I met in Institute the first week of last semester. I am so grateful for her. Following her, I stood and told my story and gave my testimony, per request of the bishop

I thought I was done crying, and I was excited to sing our closing hymn, "How Firm a Foundation." Unfortunately, I cried again, more happy tears. 

After the closing prayer, I took the iPad and iPhone with Sister A and Sister O on Skype/facetime. It was so sweet to be able to talk to my missionaries as I finally experienced this. I had been sad about not having them, but I was grateful to talk to them and feel loved by all four of my sister missionaries. Before I hung up with Sister O, she said "March 28 was your date." And I knew that was true. The concerns that I'd had about missing my date faded away, because I knew that March 28 was the right date.

I know that baptism into the Lord's Church is the way we can return to Him. I know that baptism is not a destination, but the beginning of a beautiful journey. I am so grateful for the time I had to wait for this, because it has taught me so many lessons. I am grateful for the missionaries who taught me and loved me enough to wait with me, and for the rest of my ward who supported me as I learned. I'm grateful for baptism itself, that is a vital step in my mortal journey, one step on the path of returning to my heavenly family. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dancing Through Life

My university brought in another guest artist and we had a master class this evening (I promise we don't have them every week). This artist was also a mostly contemporary performer and choreographer, so that's what today's class was. I learned two important lessons from this woman.

1: "You have these still spaces - why wouldn't you dance through them?"

She gave us a few combinations that all had little pauses in them. She told us not to be stagnant in those moments, but to dance through them and connect all of movements. This is so relevant to real life, too. We at times have these "still spaces," where we may feel like we're not really doing anything, or we aren't sure what we should be doing. We should dance through them. Find something small to do. It will be of worth. The "glue" in a dance that takes you from one movement to another is what makes the dance good. Our "little" tasks in between great feats are what will make us as people.

2: "Life is short but the van ride is long."

When the guest artist said this, she was answering a question about what she looks for in an audition. She said a big thing is being nice. Life's too short to deal with mean people. The company travels a lot, and you're all stuck in a van together. She said she didn't want to be in a van with mean people, because the van ride is long.

This life is short. We don't have time to deal with people being mean to us. So what do we do? Show charity to them, and to ourselves. Show charity to them: do not use harsh words at your enemies. "Revenge is not the Lord's way." Show charity towards yourself: love yourself enough to get away from harmful people. Sometimes, we just won't be able to reconcile with some people. We're all imperfect, and sometimes our imperfections just hit at each other and we can't fix things in the present. If you're in a situation where someone is hurting you and you can't fix it right now, get out. You can still show charity towards someone without having them be an active part of your life.

Life is hard. Not because we're doing it wrong, but just because it's hard. Have faith and press forward. Know that this life is not all we have. When hard times come, know that "there must be an opposition in all things," and that "all things have been done in the wisdom of Him who knoweth all things" (2 Nephi 2, verses 11 and 25). When all else fails, dance it out. When life gives you still spaces, dance through.

Prayers for peace and joy to you reading <3

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Officially Official

They were desirous to be baptized as a witness and a testimony that they were willing to serve God with all their hearts; nevertheless, they did prolong the time."

The first time I ever attended a worship service at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was a stake conference in February 2014. I was with a friend of mine. Early on, she leaned over and whispered, "Write down your questions and we can answer them after church." We went back to her house for lunch after. When she asked if I had any questions, I pulled out my notebook and exploded in questions. They answered my questions and told me about the Plan of Salvation, also known as the Plan of Happiness. I fell in love. My soul was overwhelmed by this. I knew that this plan, this is what I had been searching for. This is what my soul longed for. This knowledge would bring me happiness. After hours of questions and answers, they asked if I was interested in learning more or reading the Book of Mormon. I said yes absolutely! She offered me a Book of Mormon, and I was on my way. I read it all the time over the next week, recording my questions in my little notebook. The next Sunday, I went to church again, this time a regular service, and wrote down more questions. After church, we went back so they could answer my questions. As we were talking, I felt increasing desire to commit. Finally, I mustered up the courage to ask, "So, how do I do this?" I was ready to join this Church and commit myself to living its principles, even though I didn't know everything. I knew what I needed to know.

I now realize that I was feeling the Holy Ghost so incredibly strong those two Sundays. Now, just thinking about that time again, my soul burns fervently with the knowledge that this Plan is real. That day, I decided to be baptized

Unfortunately, my family and other complications prevented me from being baptized immediately. I also wasn't allowed to attend church on Sundays anymore. Soon enough, the adversary pulled me away completely. I decided that God did not exist. And I was done. 

Sister O invited me to "come unto Christ" (Moroni 10:32) after I had denied religion for several months, and again, I decided to be baptized. Again I faced pushback from my family. I knew that Heavenly Father wanted me to be baptized, but I also knew that He did not want me to tear my family apart in doing so. It was very hard for many months, but I used my resources - missionaries, teachers, and fellow YSAs - and did my best to follow the advice of the Book of Mormon prophet Nephi: "Wherefore, ye must press forward with asteadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life" (2 Nephi 31:20).

I waited. I pressed forward. I prayed for patience. I "did prolong the time." I hoped and prayed for the day when I would become a member of Christ's Church. I waited, and waited, and waited.

And finally, I'm done waiting. I will be baptized next Saturday, on March 28. It's officially official. And I could not be more excited to take this vital step. 

"8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;

9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

10 Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the nameof the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?

11 And now when the people had heard these words, they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts.

12 And now it came to pass that Alma took Helam, he being one of the first, and went and stood forth in the water, and cried, saying: O Lord, pour out thy Spirit upon thy servant, that he may do this work with holiness of heart.

13 And when he had said these words, the Spirit of the Lord was upon him, and he said: Helam, I baptize thee, having authority from the Almighty God, as a testimony that ye have entered into a covenant to serve him until you are dead as to the mortal body; and may the Spirit of the Lord be poured out upon you; and may he grant unto you eternal life, through the redemption of Christ, whom he has prepared from the foundation of the world."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Contemporary Master Class!

My university is hosting a Guest Artist (choreographer) today and tomorrow. As a dance major, I am required to attend guest artists. And today, I am so thankful for that requirement!

I was feeling sick when I went to my tap class at 2:00, not looking forward to dancing. I felt like I was going to vomit. When 4:00 rolled around and it was time for our contemporary master class, I still wasn't feeling too great. But I went. It's been months since I did contemporary dance (actually, almost a year, I didn't realize it had been that long!). The teacher started warming us up, and I was feeling good. He was upbeat and very energized. But then he got really hard! He had us standing with our legs making a triangle, our body facing one leg and stretching forward. He had us pick our leg up to penché, which was fine and typical. But THEN, he had us do elevés while we were stretching our penchés, and then faster elevés, and then relevés. It was KILLER. My Achilles tendon hurt so bad! (I have weak ankles) So basically, the during the second half of our warm up, I thought I was dying.

Once we were good and sweaty and stretched out, he started with the choreography. It was really hard in the beginning, but I did my best to pick it up. The song was "Take Me to Church." Contemporary is always filled with emotion, I think more than ballet or tap. Maybe it's just different kinds of emotion. Tap is usually happy, and ballet is usually happy or sad, simple emotions. Contemporary is like, dig deep into your soul and feel those icky weird feelings and long for things and reach for the things that just out of your grasp. And show it on your face and in your body. This was definitely a dance made to be filled with emotion and expression. Some of the choreography was really hard, but I mostly got the hang of it. 

We learned maybe a minute or so of choreography in less than an hour (really fast). He had us working so hard, that the mirrors in our dance studio were covered with sweat (think like when you get out of a hot shower) - gross! But we were working hard. 

I am so thankful that my university brings in these artists, and requires dance majors to attend! I wasn't planning on going to this class, but I am so glad that I did. I was reminded of why I love dance so much and I learned more about being an artist. I feel so blessed to have this experience, and to have been well enough mentally to experience it. 

If you ever have the opportunity to attend a master class, whether your a dancer or not, go! They are always worth it. 

Peace and blessings, friends <3

On Missionaries and Priesthood Blessings

Three missionaries have been absolutely instrumental in my conversion, and in my life.

The first is Sister O. I met her last fall, when I returned to college. She shared Alma 32:27 with me. She asked me if I had a desire to believe, and asked me to let that desire work in me. She asked me to listen to the Spirit. And because of her, I know that God lives and loves us. I know a lot of things because of her, but that's the most important thing.

The second is Sister A. She arrived last fall, after I'd been at school for a little while already. My city was her first area, and she stayed here the longest of any missionary I've interacted with. And she taught me a million things. I had/have such an indescribable connection with this missionary. I don't know why. I remember the first time Sister A went on exchanges (that's when two missionaries in cities near each other switch places for a day or two), she was gone for two days. And I had a lesson with Sister O and the visiting sister both days. The second day, I was really upset and frustrated that Sister A wasn't back. I thought transfers were only supposed to be one day? So when Sister A was at church that Sunday, I was ecstatic. I told her that I was so happy she was back, and that I missed her so much. I said that I loved Sister O and I was sad when she went away, but it was just different for some reason with Sister A. She was my missionary. I knew she was something special.

The third is Sister M, who thank goodness is still serving in my city! She is still teaching me many things, about anxiety and trusting God and being a missionary.

My city was the last place Sister O served; she finished her mission in my city. So when she went home, we got to be facebook friends and see each other's instagram pictures and text whenever.

My city was the first place Sister A served, meaning when she left she was still a missionary without facebook or instagram or texting (thankfully we can email!). She just got transferred to her second area. My missionary, who taught me a million things and stayed long enough to hear me open up about my eating disorder and depression and anxiety, who taught me that faithful members still have doubts. My missionary. I don't know how else to describe her and our relationship.

Transfer calls were made Monday (the mission leaders called the leader of our smaller area to tell us who was staying here and who was moving to a different city). I happened to be hanging out with the Elders (boy missionaries) and other college kids when the call came in. And Elder S told me that Sister A was moving. I left this party early and went to the Sisters' porch to chat, because I couldn't believe it. Sister A said, "It hit me like a ton of bricks." I tried not to, but I cried. Especially because I'd been having a really rough time the past couple of weeks, with my depression, my family, and my faith. I needed this girl who knew me inside out and knew what I needed and knew what to tell me. I needed her. I needed her as I climbed out of my illness, and as I approached baptism. I had trials and I needed her support!

Sister A told me she'd been praying that the mission leaders would be truly inspired in their decision, that they would not move her just because it had been a while. I told her that I had been praying for the right missionaries in the right places. I started off praying for her to stay in my city, but then I realized that Heavenly Father knew a lot more than I did - who I needed, what I needed to learn, and who else Sister A needed to teach, who else needed Sister A. I tried really hard to find peace through that. I know that Heavenly Father answers prayers, and that "all things work together for the good of those that love God" (Romans 8:28). I know that Heavenly Father knows more than I do, and I tried really hard to accept this as His will.

And it was hard at first. Sometimes we think we know what's best. Usually, we don't. But that's okay, because He does. And as we seek to follow Him, things work out how they're supposed to. And we learn magnificent lessons.

The day after we learned that Sister A was leaving, her last day in my city, was very, very hard for me. That morning, I asked the missionaries for a priesthood blessing. I had faith that a blessing given with the priesthood would make me feel better. As the day went on, things got worse. And worse. And worse (and worse). I walked campus on the verge of tears, until I finally stopped feeling. I went numb. I wasn't sad anymore. I wasn't anything. I didn't want to dance anymore (a major sign for me that I'm falling into a deep depression). I was absolutely apathetic. I had disappeared.

The sisters came over that evening as planned for our last lesson, the three of us. I asked them a couple questions, as I always do in lessons. I didn't want to talk about how I was feeling, because I wasn't feeling anything. I didn't even really wanted to talk about anything. I wanted to cease existing, because I didn't feel alive anyway. So I asked Sister A how she was feeling. And we talked about that, and made other small talk for a few minutes. I don't remember what happened, but I opened up. And I talked about how I felt numb and I didn't want to do anything and I was feeling quite discouraged. And they just listened. Which was great, because I don't really think they could have said anything to help me.

The Elders arrived to give me a blessing. I didn't even care about it anymore. I didn't really want it. I didn't think it would help. I had fallen into a pit of despair and didn't see a way out. With previous blessings, I'd been thinking that I wished I could listen to it again; there were things that I could vaguely remember, but I wanted to remember them fully. So I recorded this blessing. Which was really good, because I didn't hear a thing Elder S said when he gave the blessing.

The missionaries left, and I met a friend at Orange Leaf. We chatted for about an hour, and then the sisters met us, so Sister A and I could say our final goodbyes. I cried. I told Sister M, "I know this blessing is working, because I feel sad again!" We all took pictures. Sister A and I hugged a lot. She told me over and over, "This isn't goodbye. This is, see you later." We talked and hugged and cried and reminded each other to have faith that this was Heavenly Father's will. Because we both knew it was, we just had to remember.

The next day, I woke up crying again. I read my scriptures. Because reading the scriptures is never a bad decision. As I walked to class, I listened to my blessing. And it started to give me hope. During my first class, I started feeling better. And during my second class, I was feeling even better. When I went to my room and did my homework, I felt better still. I listened to my blessing and typed it up so I could read it. I studied what was said, so I could learn what Heavenly Father was telling me. I don't totally understand everything, but that's okay, because I feel blessed and comforted, and I have faith that Heavenly Father will reveal what I need to know when I need to know it.

I went to Walmart with a friend that afternoon. I texted Sister M and asked about our new sister. I was incredibly worried. I was worried that I wouldn't have someone good enough to take the place of my Sister A (though I worried the same thing when Sister O left). Sister M texted me, telling me the new sister's name. When I read her message, I felt overwhelming peace. I knew that this Sister D2 was sent by Heavenly Father specifically for us, in this city, for this time. She has something very important for us in the next six weeks.

I know that Heavenly Father hears our prayers. I know that He knows what is best for our lives. I know that missionaries are sent to specific locations because they are the exact person needed by the people of that city. I know that the priesthood is the power and authority given to man to act in God's name, not only for the salvation of His children, but also to help us and bless us in His Church. I know that when He give something to us, it's something we need. I know that He will not test us beyond what we are capable of overcoming with His help. As we call on Him and rely on the Atonement of His perfect Son, we will overcome.

"Our Heavenly Father did not put us on earth to fail but to succeed gloriously."

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Our Heavenly Father Lives and Loves Us

"You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage."
-We Bought a Zoo

I began investigating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints just over a year ago now. I knew immediately what I had been taught was true. Unfortunately, after a few weeks, the adversary got a hold of me and I turned away. I went home from college for the summer and had nothing to do with the Church, or any religion at all.

When I was packing to move back to college in the fall, I had a feeling that I should bring my Bible and my Book of Mormon and my Gospel Principles book (a study book that outlines basic doctrines of the Church). So I did. What could it hurt? Maybe I'd go back. Life was pretty bad.

 Soon after I had returned to campus, my life changed. A friend from the previous year told me about Institute, and offered to go with me the first week (even though she'd graduated the previous semester). I said okay, whatever. The sister missionaries texted me, and asked if I wanted to meet with them (I later learned that this bubbly new girl insisted they contact me after months of no communication. Boy was she inspired!). I met them on a Wednesday. Sister O, my angel, my life-changer, my incredible girl, asked me if I believed that God was my Father in heaven. I said no. I didn't believe that a god existed. Not at all. But they kept talking about God and prophets and the Restoration (click here to learn about all of that) because I said I'd meet with them. We finished, and they asked me if I was going to Institute right after, and I said yes. They said they were going, too.

At Institute, we were asked to take an assessment that would show Church headquarters what we knew before taking the class. The first part was doctrinal questions, testing our knowledge. The second part was faith-based questions - "Do you believe that God is our Heavenly Father?" "Do you believe that Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten of the Father, came to earth and atoned for our sins?" Things like that. I answered no for every single questions. Because I didn't believe in any of that.

I continued meeting with the missionaries and attending Institute. I remember sitting in a study room of the library one day, hopeless, the missionaries across the table from me. They asked if I'd prayed about what they'd been teaching me. I remember saying that I felt like I was stopping myself from believing. I wanted to believe, but it was too hard. And then my angel shared a scripture with me. Alma 32:27 :
"But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words."
And Sister O said, "Do you have a desire to believe?" And tears started falling down my cheeks and I said yes. She challenged me to do as this scripture suggests - "awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words." She challenged me to try it out. Pretend like God was real, to see if He is.

I remembered learning about the Word of Wisdom, the Lord's law of health. In this law, He asks us to refrain from certain substances, and partake of others. One thing we are commanded to abstain from is coffee. So I decided I'd stop drinking coffee, just in case. And I'd try to pray. I began reading the Book of Mormon daily. I wanted to know.

Within a week I decided that I wanted to be baptized. Just as quickly as I had known before, I knew again. I knew that God lives and loves us.

I know that God lives and loves us. I know that He has a magnificent plan for our lives, currently and eternally. I know that all of our experiences are used to make us stronger and better and more like Him. I know that He wants us to know Him, He wants us to go to Him and ask Him for help. I know that Heavenly Father reveals Himself through prophets, and that His words are recorded in the holy scriptures. 

And this knowledge is so, so sweet. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


I've been thinking about starting a blog for a while now. Be the good on the internet, spread the Spirit. Start an uplifting blog as a value project for Personal Progress. But I didn't. I guess I didn't really know how to start. And I guess I still don't. But the last couple of days, as I read my scriptures, the Lord has pointed out multiple verses and said "Put that on your blog," and I thought, okay, I will, when the time comes. And then I read something else and He says the same things. Again and again. So here I am. Starting my blog.

One issue I've been having is, what will I say in my first post? Should I just jump in with a random post about my life? I suppose a starting place could be introducing myself.

I'm in college. I am currently investigating the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (as in, getting baptized in a couple of weeks).

Just over a year ago, when I first became interested in the Church, a good friend of mine suggested I take a look at Personal Progress, even if I didn't finish or do the whole thing, it'd be good to help me learn about the Church. I started, but didn't get very far. But I liked it. So I've decided to finish. I'll probably post things about Personal Progress.

The Church is oh-so-important to me. Nowhere else have I found doctrines and believers who can support me and bring me hope as I have found here. I love the scriptures, and I'll probably post about them. I love my people, so I'll probably talk about them.

I'm recovering from a restrictive eating disorder. I currently battle depression and anxiety. So those things will likely make it into my posts.

And dance. I love to dance. I love dance more than any other activity. I absolutely love it. You'll learn about dance things, probably, too. Ballet is my favorite, followed by tap and contemporary modern.

I think that's about all I have to say about myself. If you're reading, thanks! And forgive me, because I'm new at this bloggy thing and I'll probably not know what's going on in the beginning.

This is going to be a crazy journey, but I think I'm ready.