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I've had many different experiences throughout my life as a single mother for nearly 20 years, a career woman who traveled throughout the United States, a middle-aged "new" stay-at-home mom and wife, and now a grandmother. I felt close to my Heavenly Father all my life, but never truly understood my relationship to Him until I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My early life was marred by parental alcoholism and abuse and I count it as one of the crowning experiences in my life to have been able to stop that abuse to raise a family without fear or guilt. We aren't perfect, but we are free to learn and grow in the love of our Savior.
I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 20 years ago when I was in my mid thirties. It was a time of relative peace and prosperity in my life as a single mother. I had a teenage son and an interesting and well-paid job and felt satisfied with what I had been able to accomplish, but there were some problems at home and an empty feeling that I couldn't shake. An LDS friend at work, a former missionary with a young family who lived in my complex, mentioned one day that we seemed to share many values, and invited me to attend Church with him and his family anytime I wanted to. I couldn't have wanted anything less at that moment. I'd learned some things about the "Mormon" Church when missionaries knocked on my door when I was a young mother alone, but they stopped coming when I declined their invitation to come to Church. Within weeks, an article was printed in a national magazine with an Easter theme, about different religions and their views of eternity. "Mormonism" was included and I read with fascination about LDS beliefs that the afterlife was a time of great purpose and an opportunity to progress as children of a Heavenly Father. The magazine also explained that "Mormons" believe most people will go to what we call heaven, though there are levels or degrees of that paradise which we can attain according to our faith and obedience. These principles clicked into my heart with a logic I'd not experienced in organized religion before. It was a matter of a few days before I was reading "Gospel Principles" to find out what "Mormons" believed, and calling my work friend to ask if his invitation to attend Church was still open. I took the missionary discussions in his home and was baptized soon afterward. To my surprise and great gratitude my 16-year-old son also took the missionary discussions and was baptized just a few months later.
As an investigator I was a little reticent to read the Book of Mormon, at first feeling that I was being somehow disloyal to the Bible, though I'd scarcely read it either. All the unfamiliar names and places unsettled me and I felt no real desire to study it. When I decided that I'd developed so strong a testimony about the truth of the Church from the missionary discussions and other reading I'd done that I wanted to be baptized, I realized that it was time for me to begin a serious study of the Book of Mormon. The missionaries gave me a list of questions answered by the Book of Mormon and as I scanned the questions, I realized that not only did I desperately want to know the answers to them, but that any book which held such answers would be of great value to me - and to everyone! I began by researching those questions, using the Book of Mormon references they provided me and my study continues to this day. The question that started my journey was about developing faith. As I read the words in Alma 32 it became clear to me that I could trust the feelings of faith that were beginning to grow in my heart and that through study and prayer I could deepen that new faith. I felt inspired that as I developed my own faith, I could better help my family and others around me who were searching as I was for the truth that could fill the vague emptiness in an otherwise successful and satisfying life.
My faith is centered in my calling as a woman and mother. I love my role as a nurturer and comforter in my family and enjoy finding ways to enrich our family life with the talents and abilities the Lord has blessed me with. This really is the core of who I am as a person. My Church responsibilities have always been important to me and I've been teaching early-morning seminary - a daily scripture class for high school students held at 600 in the morning - for 6 years now. I love being with the young people in our area each day and giving them the opportunity to focus on the Holy Spirit and feel the love of their Savior at the beginning of each day. I've learned so much from my family and from my students!