Can you tell us a little about yourself? Name, occupation, where you live, etc.
My name is Bekah and I’m 27 years old. I am currently living in our nation’s capitol, Washington, DC working as an infant specialist and preparing for grad school. That’s right. Babies all day and it’s the best. I’ve lived here for 2 years and I absolutely love it. I graduated from BYU in 2013 with my degree in Family Studies and Psychology.
Tell us about your first exposure to the LDS Church. What was your life situation like at that time?
Almost every single person in my family was either raised a Lutheran or still is Lutheran. It’s a faith that is deeply important in practice and tradition to my Mother. She raised my two sisters and me by herself and taught us the “Lutheran way.”
I can remember first hearing about Mormons when I was 13 years old and attending one of my church’s confirmation classes. These were taught to youth ages 12-14 prior to being confirmed (what was considered an adult member of the church). In this particular class, we were learning about World Religions and cults. Maybe you can guess which one LDS members fell under? Haha!
According to what we learned, Mormons were secretive, will brainwash you, and have absolutely nothing to do with Jesus Christ. I remember thinking it was weird that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had Jesus Christ in the name of the church but was “lying” about it. So even though I was naturally curious, I didn’t look into it.
The second time was when I had just turned 20. I was living and working on campus at Concordia University, which is a Lutheran/Christian university in Orange County. For some reason, it seemed that Mormons were always coming up in conversations or in church (for example; a whole sermon dedicated to instructing and warning congregations about LDS beliefs). I became curious, but mostly to reaffirm what I was taught and believed was right and that what Mormons believed was wrong.
To offset the all too often mind-numbing work hours, I would spend my workday listening to music, watching movies, and Googling topics that I wanted to learn about such as literature, history, and world religions. I read much of what is out there on the Internet when you Google the word “Mormon.” And you better believe I didn’t find anything good at first. I was shocked at how many sites there were dedicated to putting down the LDS church but found myself reading along anyway. After some time, I had a sharp impression that I was not learning anything of value but only complaints and derogatory comments.
Eventually, I went to Mormon.org. I read everything on that site and to my surprise there were more similarities with my Lutheran/Christian faith than differences. However, there were still some things that raised questions in my head. I went on Mormon.org Chat and discussed some of my questions with missionaries. I was really nervous to do this for two reasons. One was that I knew my family would not be happy I was curious about this. The other was that I thought those missionaries would think I was actually interested in their church. Among some of the questions I asked were “Who is God?” and “What happens to children who aren’t baptized?” Each time I conversed with these missionaries, I felt a peace about the answers they gave to me. They always spoke well about other faiths and gave me scriptures in the Old and New Testament to expound upon what they were saying. A thought entered my mind at this time and continued long after, which was, “If this is true, I wonder what else is?” They invited me to read the Book of Mormon, which I declined, because I was still a little suspicious of it. I ended up ordering one for myself and then hiding it in my drawer. I didn’t read it until much later when I met with missionaries.
What was your initial perception of the LDS church or its members?
Everyone was welcoming and there was just something about the people. As I listened to the messages given in church, each one was centered in Jesus Christ. Then it hit me — these people really want to follow Him. They don’t just say it or talk about it. It was evident in action and countenance. I had a strong feeling that the reason these people were indescribably happy was because of Jesus Christ.
It affected me deeply because even though I grew up Christian my entire life, I had never really had the thought or desire to follow Jesus Christ. Sure, I wanted to do good things but I also wanted to fit in, to attend parties, and honestly to not be held accountable for what I believed or did. I was pretty content with my life but I didn’t realize that there was more joy out there; a joy that I hadn’t experienced. I knew then that even if I never went back to the Church, I would tell people that Mormons were definitely Christians and I would try to follow Jesus Christ more in my own life.
Who was instrumental in helping teach you the Restored Gospel? (i.e. friend, missionaries, reading the Book of Mormon, etc.)
Everything! The missionaries were inspired to have me read certain passages of the Book of Mormon. I began reading the scriptures, mainly the Bible and Book of Mormon, more regularly and because I wanted to, not because it was homework.
The learning opportunities like Sunday school classes and institute were great places for gospel education. The members of the church were kind and supportive, never invasive or pushy. They helped answer my questions and genuinely cared about my life. They were good examples too. While I had read a lot on my own, I still had questions.
What struggles did you face while investigating the LDS church? (i.e. family pressures, doctrinal doubts, etc.)
After my first lesson with the missionaries, I felt so happy about what I was learning that I wanted my family to know how good it was and that they could trust that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a Christ centered faith. I called two close family members (separately) but both conversations went the same. They were confused and shocked and scared, to say the least. Even though I had not made any decisions to join or be baptized, they still didn’t want me having anything to do with Mormons. After that, I didn’t tell anyone else because I didn’t think anyone else would understand.
I struggled feeling like I was living a double life. I went to my classes and activities at my university and I also would go to activities at the LDS Church. Sometimes I would go to church on Sunday from 8:30 in the morning til 4pm so I could be everywhere I was expected to be.
No one asked me to live a “double life.” I just didn’t know how to tell my family and friends. I assumed they would think it was crazy and warn me against it. Family pressures were some of the most heartbreaking situations I have ever been placed in. I knew how important it was to be honest and honor my family but I felt so strongly that God was telling me that what I was doing was good. How could I let down my family but how could I ignore God?
What made you decide to be baptized in the LDS church?
I decided to be baptized because it was true. That knowledge came to me early on. Each of my missionary lessons, institute classes, and interactions with members gradually helped me learn truths of the Gospel.
One experience I had that confirmed the reality of what I was learning was watching the short movie The Restoration. I saw and heard the words of The First Vision in that sacred grove. The movie concluded and I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had seen and heard. I knew what I had just seen actually happened. I can’t explain how a feeling like that comes into your mind and heart but it did. I knew that Jesus Christ actually had a church on the earth that He led and directed and I wanted to be a part of it.
The more obstacles I came across, the more I knew I needed Heavenly Father. During this time of learning, I prayed more earnestly than I had ever prayed in my life.. One Sunday I asked for a Priesthood blessing to help me feel peace about all theconcerns I had such as family pressures and what my future would be like if I became a Mormon . After receiving it, I felt like there was a still, quiet peace inside just telling me that God knew me (Me! Not just my name but also everything about me) and loved me and my family was going to be okay. That was an answer for me. I picked up the phone, called the missionaries, and told them that I wanted to be baptized.
How have your family/friends responded to your decision? How has that affected you?
Some people responded in ways I never expected. I had two good friends who wrote me the sweetest notes after I told them of why I decided to join the church. I will always treasure their kindness and understanding.
When I eventually told my family, I thought for some reason that they would trust me and at least think it was fine because I thought it was fine. But my family was hurt and didn’t understand. I’ve lost friends because of this decision. My family relationships have changed in ways that are still difficult to navigate. Trust me when I say I have often placed myself in the shoes of these people to try and understand why they feel the way they feel or act they way they do. Many are still disappointed and worried. Some just don’t know what to say at all.
I am far from perfect in attempting to make things right. However, I am grateful for the opportunity I have to strengthen the relationship I have with each member of my family and even my friends. It’s not about making them understand me or even be interested in the LDS church but about me seeing them as I know Heavenly Father does and doing all I can to serve them.
I have a small personal motto, which is “Better deep than shallow.” It’s appropriate because one of my fears is swimming in deep, unclear water, hah! Trials and obstacles will come but I will not trade them in for “easy” or “shallow water.” I want to be refined and learn how to rely more on my Savior instead of myself. Easier said than done? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Without a doubt.
Tell us about your baptism/confirmation day
It was simple but memorable. I was excited to be making that step closer to Christ and my Heavenly Father. I was nervous at all the newness and uncertainty in my life. I was happy but also tremendously sad that my family was upset with me.
Most of all, I was overcome with a feeling of gratitude and love for God. I knew I was doing the right thing. It went by too fast!
How has the decision to be baptized changed your life?
It changes my life daily. After my baptism, I experienced many miracles. By generosity of many people, I was able to attend and receive an amazing education from BYU, serve a mission on Temple Square and Nashville, TN, teach incredible missionaries at the MTC, and serve as a volunteer in the Washington, D.C. Temple. Mostly I hope I’ve become a kinder, better friend, sister, daughter, etc. because that is what a belief in Jesus Christ and His Gospel inspires me to do.
What is one thing you now know that you wish others could know or understand about the Mormon church?
Take that step of faith. Just do it. You won’t always know how things are going to work out and you can’t keep waiting to find out. So if it’s a good thing just go for it and everything will be all right. It’s a pattern I’ve noticed in my life since I became a member of the LDS church and when I’m not throwing myself a pity party for the troubles in my life, I’m grateful for tough times and how they refine me to become better. It’s about progression, not perfection.
I have often felt like I had to have everything under control and do everything perfectly. Failure was not an option. But that belief held me back in so many ways, especially in truly loving others and loving myself. In reality, failure is a beautiful thing and it has helped me to draw closer to Jesus Christ. He’s my friend and he has helped me navigate though seemingly impossible challenges and carry burdens that He knew I could not. I know He’s real and that He can do the very same thing for every single person in the world. I want other people to experience what it feels like to go from feeling so low, to be lifted and loved by the Savior. It’s incredible and it’s possible.
Life as a Normon gets better and better, every day.