My parents divorced before I was born, setting the tone for an inconsistent religious upbringing. Although my mom grew up in a Mormon family, she was no longer religious. My dad and stepmom were members of the Mormon church but weren’t very active. As a result, I scarcely went to church growing up. I was baptized at eight years old, but I didn’t understand what it meant.
When we did go to church, I felt uncomfortable. I never received the education about the foundational principles of the gospel, and didn’t even understand the general layout of the scriptures (Was Mark in the New Testament or the Book of Mormon? What was D&C?). I was terrified of being called on in class, so I made myself as small as possible. Although I had a lot of fun at various church camps and youth conferences, I always felt like an outsider invited to someone else’s party.
Constantly Left Behind
In seventh grade, my best friend started becoming distant. When I asked her about it, she asked me some questions: “Nicky, when was the last time you went to Young Women’s?” I couldn’t remember. “Nicky, have you ever given a talk in church?” I hadn’t. She explained that she couldn’t be friends with me because I wasn’t “Mormon-enough.” My heart broke as I struggled to understand.
In my sophomore year, I started dating my first boyfriend. He came from a very active Mormon family, and his parents hated me because I didn’t. He was my first love, but keeping our relationship a secret wore on us. We finally broke up a year later. I was devastated—I had lost another person close to me because I wasn’t Mormon-enough.
In college, I was looking for someone who held basic Christian values, but wasn’t actively religious. Despite my best efforts, I didn’t find anyone. Eventually, I dated a Mormon boy from my work, but our relationship ended a couple of months later for a familiar reason—I wasn’t Mormon-enough. After that breakup, I decided I wasn’t going to associate with the Church at all. I was angry, bitter, and sick of feeling rejected.
A couple years later, my best friend approached me and asked if I would remove my records from the Church with her. Surprising myself, I said no. I reasoned that although I didn’t love the Church, I didn’t hate it—I just wasn’t part of it. I didn’t want to burn any bridges in case I found God one day and came back. She didn’t understand, but I was firm.
A few months later, in the summer of 2014, I met a boy named Jordan. I knew he was Mormon, but I thought he was inactive. When I realized that he was very strong in his beliefs, I was upfront with him. I explained my issues and hurt feelings toward the Church; he listened and was understanding and patient. I was so thankful that he didn’t judge me, or stop seeing me just because our views were different.
Jordan and I were casually dating when my best friend approached me again about removing our records. This time, I agreed. I wasn’t living a Mormon lifestyle, and I didn’t think I could go back to such a strict religion. If I ever found God, I wanted to go to a non-denominational church. Plus, if I ever did come back to the LDS church, I would be all-in; I didn’t want to be half-in and half-out like so many people I knew. Jordan advised me against removing my name, but he was clear that it didn’t change how he felt about me.
Early 2015, every time Jordan and I would talk about a future together, we would hit a wall: he wanted to have a temple marriage and raise an LDS family, and I didn’t. Neither of us would budge. We loved each other, but we couldn’t see any compromise. We almost broke up a couple of times because of our differences, but we told ourselves to give it more time. My feelings for Jordan were so strong, they scared me. I couldn’t imagine losing him to the Church like so many other people in my life.
I knew Jordan was the most important person to me, and I knew if I wanted a future with him (which I did), I would have to become Mormon. And I hated that idea. Why should I have to change who I was, why shouldn’t he be the one to change? Why did this always happen to me? I was angry and confused with the Church again, and these conversations brought up old emotions. All my life, I had taken this hurt as a sign to disassociate myself from the LDS Church. But this time, I decided to try a different way—maybe it was a sign to come closer to the Church. The thought was humiliating (I had just left!), but it was also kind of exciting.
After much thought and back-and-forth, I decided to just try being Mormon. I had never really tried before, had I? I’d gone to church and youth camps because I had to, but I had never actively tried on my own. I told myself if it worked out, great! And if it didn’t… well then I could be in peace knowing I did everything I could in my relationship with Jordan. Jordan was surprised when I told him I wanted to investigate. He was excited, but he was clear that he loved me just as I was. He wanted to be as separate as possible from my investigation so he didn’t influence it. I assured him that I wouldn’t proceed if it didn’t feel right for me, and that my ultimate goal was to be so strong in the Church I would be in it with or without him.
I had no idea how to start, but luckily April General Conference was that weekend. I took notes, felt dazed, confused, and overwhelmed, but for once—excited. For the first time, hearing Church leaders speak didn’t fill me with guilt, but rather with hope. I hung on especially to the talk “The Music of the Gospel.” For days after the conference, I marveled over that talk and the others that touched my heart.
Next, I started meeting with the missionaries. The first lesson was tough because I was starting at the beginning: do you believe in God? All my life I had felt dumb for not being sure about the existence of God when it seemed everyone around me was sure. We spent several lessons on that one topic: answering my questions and listening to my doubts until my answer was finally yes. Then we moved on—do you believe in His son, Jesus Christ?
Our lessons went slowly, but well. Tired of being surrounded by a Church I didn’t understand, I worked through each principle until it made sense to me. I was continually fighting deep feelings of hypocrisy and embarrassment, but I was also feeling accepted in a different way, too. Finally, I felt validated—my questions weren’t stupid, my doubts weren’t unfounded, and my intention was true. Finally, I was getting somewhere.
I still hadn’t told my best friend about my decision to investigate. I feared she would think me a hypocrite, and assume I was doing it just for Jordan. When I finally told her, I tried to explain to her how much thought and care went into my decision. But, it seemed in vain. While she didn’t outright say she didn’t approve, I didn’t think our already-strained friendship was going to last longer. Even though I was deeply hurt, admitting my journey to her released a lot of shame, guilt, and embarrassment. I found myself strengthened in the fact that I didn’t have to explain myself to anyone—I was doing what I thought was right, and that was what mattered.
In May 2015, I left for a five-week study abroad course in London, England. It was an exciting opportunity to test myself spiritually away from my normal life; it was the perfect chance to be one-on-one with the Lord. I followed the Word of Wisdom there, attended church when I could, and started reading the Book of Mormon.
During dinner one evening with a roommate, we started talking about religion. She wasn’t religious, but she knew I was investigating, and she was raising questions that I wasn’t yet ready to answer. These questions had plagued me, and I was feeling defiant. I decided to break the Word of Wisdom and order wine. Right as I was about to drink, however, my phone buzzed. It was the missionaries, following up with me. I knew it was a sign that the Lord was looking out for me.
Another evening, that same roommate and I went to a comedy show. We were two of four people in attendance of one really bad comedian. After the show, the Welsh couple behind us asked us out to drinks. The woman was curious about why I only ordered water, and she and I got into a deep discussion about the LDS religion. She told me that her childhood best friend had been Mormon, and the she, herself, had actually been baptized. She confided that had been so happy during the years she was active, and sometimes she missed them. We talked for a long time, both about being in the Church and out of it. Meeting this lovely woman wasn’t a coincidence, it was a sign that I was on the right track.
I returned home feeling very confident about the path I was on. In addition to meeting with the missionaries, I started attending church weekly. My church experience was much different that when I was growing up: I was immediately accepted into the ward, and finally had the knowledge to follow along. I even started answering questions! Because I was feeling more comfortable about my decision, I started opening up to friends and family. I was no longer terrified of being judged or misunderstood, and I received nothing but support.
That fall, Jordan proposed. He knew that although I was investigating, I wasn’t yet ready for baptism. Jordan made sure I knew that his proposal was not hinged in any way on my conversion. We set the date for January 9th, 2016.
Over the few months, I continued to regularly attend church, meet with missionaries, and work through the Book of Mormon. One Sunday, I had an overwhelming feeling during sacrament. After the meeting, I marched up to the missionaries and announced I wanted to be baptized. They were surprised—the last time they had asked me about baptism I had completely shut it down. We were all so excited and started making plans. I set two goals: to be baptized by the New Year and to finish the Book of Mormon before my baptism.
According to Church policy, because I had removed my records, I was not a convert baptism but a re-baptism. My stake president informed me I had to wait one year from the day I removed my records before I could get re-baptized. Incredibly, my year mark was only a couple of weeks away. The end of December was coming fast but I was determined to keep my goal of being baptized before the New Year. We decided on the last Saturday of the year—December 26th. It was just one week’s notice, but it felt right.
Christmas came fast and then suddenly it was the next day. Family members who hadn’t even known I left the Church showed up and were nothing but excited. Many old friends came and so did several people from the ward. I didn’t feel judged, I only felt loved and supported. My fiancé gave a beautiful talk and we sang my favorite hymns. My dad baptized me and my sisters rushed to my side after and hugged me while I sobbed tears of joy. I was confirmed waterside by one of my best friends. I had never felt so happy, loved, accepted, and whole as I did in those few hours.
It’s been just over a year since that day, and I couldn’t be happier. When I started this journey, I was so worried I was going to lose myself in my conversion. What I realize now, is I didn’t lose myself, I enhanced myself. My coutenance is so much brighter, because following the Lord has brought out my best qualities and helps me see those qualities in other people. When I go through trials, I don’t feel despair or defeat anymore. I feel hope and determination to get back up. Being close to God is wonderful and important in my marriage, and I am so thankful that both God and Jordan brought me close to each other.