As promised, Katie's talk from Stake Conference :)
Good evening; I am Katie from the (location withheld) 5th ward. I am 18, the middle of five children, and my parents were converted into the church after having my two older siblings. This gave me the great blessing of growing up in the church, though we haven't always gone to church consistently. My younger sister is disabled and has to have one of our parents home with her almost all the time. Furthermore, she doesn't have a working immune system, so we can't bring her to church with us. Because of this, only one of my parents can attend church every week with us kids. But, my mom is also a nurse, so when she worked Sundays, us kids would have to be dropped off by ourselves at church. Because I wasn't comfortable being at church without my parents, I often didn't go. Because I wasn't at church often, I didn't know a whole lot about the doctrines. I knew the basics and believed what I had heard, but I felt like I was missing a lot of the knowledge that my friends had.
The few months my brother was home before leaving on his mission, he really pushed us younger kids to go to church every week and read our scriptures every day. This was what sparked my curiosity in the gospel. My brother left on his mission in December of 2009, when I was thirteen. By the time he left I felt like it was my responsibility to keep up what he was trying to do with my family, and that was to really commit us to the gospel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Little did I know, this would set the foundation for my missionary work over the years.
My first encounter with missionary work was when I started telling a friend from school about our church. We had gone to elementary school together but hadn't known each other very well until our sixth grade year, when we found out we lived just blocks from each other. One weekend we had a sleepover at my house. I don't remember how it came up, but we started talking about our church leadership hierarchy and how it compared to her church's leadership hierarchy. At the time, I was very nervous to talk about my religion. Not because I was afraid she wouldn't accept it, but because I was afraid I wouldn't. At the time I still didn't know a whole lot about what made our church different. I had been baptized at age 8, but I was afraid that while finding the answers for her and trying to explain to her what the church teaches, I would find I didn't believe in it after all those years.
But what I found was, the more I learned, the more I believed. I wasn't teaching my friend the gospel, the Holy Ghost was teaching both of us through her questions and the resources I had. Well, my friend's name is Marie-Rose. Many of you have met her and know that she plans to be baptized this summer. I am immensely grateful that the Holy Ghost was able to teach her through me, and I thought I would share our story.
Marie-Rose was raised in the Catholic church. Her parents brought her and her sisters to church every Sunday, and they all went to catechism classes every Wednesday night, which is similar to our Sunday school classes. In middle school, some of my friends and I invited her to Wednesday night activities. She was able to come, and thankfully the activity that week was one of our best. It was right around Christmas and we made gingerbread houses. There were gumdrops, cement frosting, twizzlers, m&m's, and probably much more. Of course as young girls we ate too much and probably embarrassed ourselves, so we had a great time. The best part was, Marie-Rose felt comfortable and had a great time too.
After this she continued to come to activities when she could, and our freshman year of high school I convinced her to come to seminary on my birthday. She came to girls' camp that summer and the summer after, and has come to youth conference twice. Right after she came to youth conference the first time was when she began to question her Catholic faith. She realized some of the Catholic teachings didn't quite make sense to her, and she wanted to truly understand their teachings. She wanted to believe. But no matter how hard she studied, what websites she looked at, and no matter who she asked her questions to, they all gave her the same answers. And none of them felt right to her, and sometimes didn't made sense to her logically. She was at a roadblock, and a large one at that. She decided to look into other religions. She began by looking into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, as she was friends with many of us youth in the church. She started asking me basic questions such as why we believe the Godhead to be three separate beings, what we believe about Jesus Christ, why we believe Joseph Smith was a prophet, and why we fast every month. I don't remember many of the conversations we had, but I remember many late nights, long text messages, and deep doctrine.
It was a difficult time for her, as she didn't want to leave her childhood religion, but she couldn't stay with a religion she didn't believe in. She planned on looking into all the major religions, and had talked to another friend of ours about their religion, but apparently after learning about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, she had found all the answers she was searching for.
She decided to get baptized two years ago, but due to her parents' request, she is waiting until this summer to be baptized. It took a few years and many friends' support, patience, and love to find the truth she was looking for, and I feel very blessed to have been one of the ones to help her find it. It was such a spiritual experience for me, and built my testimony to a point I didn't expect it to reach until my adulthood.
My latest experience with missionary work began my freshman year of high school. She and I had PE together and one of our mutual friends introduced us. We became very close very quickly, and since we were both very tied to our religious beliefs, we soon began sharing our religions with each other. But this time, my influence wouldn't be based on gospel doctrines. The friend I am talking about is (BatMoose), and I know many of you have met her. She came to seminary for a year and a half, has played her cello in third ward sacrament meeting multiple times, and has come to numerous other church events. One of our mutual friends was making sure she met with the missionaries frequently and came to church often. I, on the other hand, was the emotional support. Though she loved our church and believed many of our doctrines, she still believed in her church as well and had trouble accepting a few aspects of our doctrine. I listened to her conflicting arguments, told her we would all still love her and support her if she chose not to join our church, and made sure to subconsciously convince her that joining was right by frequently joking about her getting baptized. Last year she also decided that she fully believed in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, even though she didn't know all the answers she was searching for. Unfortunately, her parents didn't approve of her decision, and told her she isn't allowed to participate in any of our activities, church services, or talk to the members of the church. Because of this I don't know where her story will go to next, but I do know that she has a strong testimony and wants to do what she knows to be right. This experience taught me that sometimes missionary work is really hard and missionary work isn't all about the answers we give. Missionary work is also about the example we set and showing Christ-like love and support.
Missionary work may be difficult, but it has strengthened my testimony beyond words. I am so grateful that God views me highly enough to trust me to bring His gospel to other people. He trusts that I will love His children enough to open my mouth, to teach them, to love them, and to stick by them through everything that may come our way. Though the people I have taught needed to hear my message, I needed to hear it too. It was amazing as I opened my mouth and things came out that I had never even thought of. I needed that missionary work just as much as they did. It was amazing to learn together and to be able to teach and uplift each other through our knowledge over the years. I know that I will always be looking for opportunities to teach others because every time I do, I learn something new, gain a stronger testimony, and gain a new friend. When I teach others, a love grows for them like no other. I can't explain how intensely intertwined your lives become when you go on such a wonderful journey with someone. It is one of the most amazing experiences I have had in this life.
I know that this church is true, and I know that modern revelation exists. I love my Savior Jesus Christ and I love that we have His church restored on the Earth today, and that I can share that with others. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.