Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Amanda Littlejohn, I grew up in Southern California and currently live in Culver City with my husband. I am an Occupational Therapist but currently am at home with our son, expecting a little girl in 3 months.
Tell us about your first exposure to the the LDS Church. What was your life situation like at that time?
I knew about the church growing up from things I had been taught at my non-denominational Christian church (they were either false or taken out of context haha). But I was first truly introduced when I was 21 by someone I was dating. At that point in my life I had been going through some soul searching and was worried that I was practicing my religion more because that’s what I had been taught by my parents rather than it being something I truly believed in. I was in college on the east coast and very few people were actively practicing their faith. I felt that I was a good person, and saw lots of other good people around me who had different beliefs or none at all, so I figured, why put restriction and limitations on myself if I could be a good person and loved by God either way?
At the time I was under the notion that as long as I had accepted Jesus as my Savior I was saved. I thought it would be a good experiment to see if I could basically remove all faith from my life and see how things went. It was pretty stupid. It didn’t take too long for me to realize that I was not happy with myself or my decisions, but I still didn’t know what exact changes I wanted to make. I had been such a lukewarm Christian for so long, I just knew I couldn’t go back to being that way. I either needed to find something I knew was true and would commit to, or I would leave religion out of my life and just focus on what I thought was the right way to live. So I was kind of in the thick of wanting to change but still living a not so great life at the time I was introduced to the church. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
What was your initial perception of the LDS church or its members?
Dorks, weirdos, dorks, bigots, dorks, boring, dorks, one piece bathing suits, dorks, strict, dorks, not for me.
Ha! Who was instrumental in helping teach you about Mormonism?
Two people: my boyfriend at the time, and the ward mission leader in my hometown. Initially I learned about the church because I knew how important it was to my boyfriend, so I thought understanding it better would help me to understand his perspectives and values. But his testimony is what really drove me to actually investigate. He had such a strong witness of the Restored Gospel and he was so passionate about it, I just knew that if my faith didn’t make me feel that way, there was no point in following any particular belief. He really gave me something to strive for. The ward mission leader in my hometown ward was awesome at taking the time to understand how I needed to be fellowshipped. He was like a mediator between the missionaries and I, making sure I was meeting people in the ward he thought I would connect with and having my questions thoroughly addressed during and between missionary discussions. He did an awesome job of meeting me where I was, but he also didn’t sugar coat things; he made sure I knew the doctrines and understood them well, and was never shy to share that he wanted me to be baptized. I always appreciated his honesty and sincerity.
What struggles did you face while investigating the LDS church?
I had lots of reservations. One was my apprehension about being a part of such an organized religion. My mindset at the time was that “religion” was bad and, rather, that we should strive to be spiritual and have a personal relationship with God. Obviously, now that I understand the restored Gospel, I realize that the two can happen simultaneously. I struggled with some key doctrines. I had always been taught that the scriptures, prophets, etc. ended with the Bible. I guess personally, it seemed easier for me to swallow thinking of those types of miraculous things happening 2000 years ago rather than challenging my faith now. So learning about Joseph Smith, modern revelation, living prophets and apostles, were all big challenges for me. In fact, even though I received a testimony of the truthfulness of the Restored Gospel, I did not receive a testimony of any of the above beliefs until after I had been baptized.
Feeling judged by my family and friends was another struggle. I could feel the relationship with some of my friends slowly changing as they made comments, stopped inviting me to certain activities, told me they thought I was going to hell, or just stopped talking to me all together. But the most difficult pressure I felt was from my family. Some were very supportive and I will always be grateful to them for that, some had genuine concerns and some misconceptions but were open minded and willing to listen and learn, and others were outright against it. For the year I was investigating, I felt like a walking target that always had to be ready for a sneak attack and at times it really sucked the energy and excitement I had for the Gospel right out of me. Feeling unwelcome in my own home was terrible. And it made it hard for me to share the joy I was experiencing as I was learning and when I finally decided to be baptized. It really was a struggle balancing those aspects of my life, but in the end I knew that I had to make the right decision for myself. I just hoped that through my life and my actions people who were against it would come around, and thankfully, for the most part, that has proven to be true.
What made you decide to be baptized in the LDS church?
I had been investigating for a little over a year by the time I got baptized. By the end, I was living the commandments, was praying and reading my scriptures daily, had repented, and was hoping everything I had been learning was true and was just waiting for that witness that the scriptures promised. I knew that I would need a very strong testimony from the Holy Ghost if I had any hope of being baptized and staying a strong and faithful member.
So I kept waiting, and waiting, but nothing was coming even though I felt that I was doing everything I was supposed to. I was so confused, and I started to wonder if no answer was an answer in and of itself. One day I prayed the most sincere prayer I had ever prayed at that point in my life. And I told Heavenly Father that I would do anything He wanted me to if He would just show me what that was, I would be baptized, I would go to another church, I would do anything. I totally gave my will over to Him…well, kind of–in my prayer I gave a stipulation that I would do everything I knew to do to help me get an answer (prayer, reading, fasting, visiting the temple, etc.), and if by the end of the week I still didn’t have a sure witness of what to do, I was going to stop investigating. Now, this is not a method I would recommend, it is pretty prideful–however Heavenly Father had mercy on me so it all worked out. Sunday finally came and I still did not feel as though my prayers were answered. So I went to the fast and testimony meeting we had that day expecting for it to be my last time going to an LDS service. I offered another prayer in my heart during the meeting, and I will never be able to fully explain what happened or the way I felt, but my heart became so full of joy and light and I felt the Holy Ghost like I had never felt him before, and I knew without a shred of doubt that I was exactly where Heavenly Father wanted me to be and that this was His church, restored on the earth again. I wasted no time, told the ward mission leader, and I was baptized that Thursday and confirmed on Sunday.
Tell us about your baptism/confirmation day.
Like I mentioned earlier, telling certain members of my family about me being baptized basically sucked every ounce of excitement out of me in regards to the actual event. Even pulling into the parking lot that evening for the service, I still wasn’t totally sure I was going to go through with it, but I made a promise to the Lord, and He kept up His end so I knew it was my turn to make the next step. Only one member of my family decided not to attend my baptism because of their feelings about the church, but to my delight nearly everyone I loved was there to support me (including my future husband, who I didn’t even know at the time!). It was such a wonderful experience to be able to share my testimony through my actions and words in front of my family and help them to better understand how serious I was about my decision (some still thought I was joining the church to appease my boyfriend), and how much joy and comfort it brought me. My confirmation day was equally wonderful, and even though I don’t remember all the things that were said as they laid their hands on my head, I remember the Spirit I felt.
How has the decision to be baptized changed your life?
How hasn’t it changed my life? Having the Holy Ghost as my companion and the guidance that comes from following the commandments and reading the scriptures has directed every important decision in my life since, from my career path, to my schooling, choosing a spouse, having children–everything. But I love that I am also guided through the smaller, daily decisions, like finding opportunities to show more kindness, having a softer heart towards people who have offended me, the way I speak to my son and my husband. I have such a strong testimony that the Gospel truly is relevant in our daily lives.
Another big way that it has changed my life is through the power of the Atonement, and the forgiveness and freedom that comes from it. For most of my adult life, I struggled with an eating disorder. For a long time I shrugged it off as something that wasn’t a big deal and that I could stop whenever I chose to. But after some time, it became apparent that my behavior was becoming out of my control and was starting to negatively affect and certain aspects of my life. When I first learned about the Addiction Recovery Program the church offers, and knew right away it would help me, however it took me several years to humble myself enough to actually attend a meeting. I cannot express how grateful I am that I did. The program is basically a refined process of how to use the atonement in your life, and after having completed it and can testify of the life and heart changing power the atonement has if we will let it. Heavenly Father wants so much for us as His sons and daughters, so much more than we could ever dream of or do for ourselves. He is just waiting to bless us, waiting to show us who we are in His eyes and how we can live our lives to fulfill that potential. I think that is the biggest way that being a member of this church has changed my life–it has helped me to know who I truly am, to understand the divine nature in me and in each of us. It has helped me understand that even in time of sorrow or trials, I can still rest in the peace that comes from knowing my Heavenly Father and my Savior.
What is one thing you now know that you wish others could know or understand as well?
Just that you are loved, and that there is a God in heaven who knows and cares for you as an individual. He is just waiting to speak to you if you will let Him. There are so many good people in the world, so many good faiths and good churches. Truth can be found in science and all different religions and philosophies. But God has culminated all of these truths for us so we don’t have to go searching for them everywhere and wondering which things to believe. He has given us scriptures, ancient and modern prophets, and the Holy Ghost to help us know what is true so that we can be happy. That’s why we’re here – so we can have joy in our lives, and I am so grateful to have found it.