By Kat West
I think around the age of eight is when my extreme fear of death first began. Growing up my Dad would tell me “when we die that is it, there is nothing but darkness.” I can remember my mom would hug me and reassure me that I didn’t need to worry; I had such a long life to live. As much as she intended to help, those words did little to ease my heart from racing or bringing me out of my panicked realization that death was inevitable. That anxiety and panic was a constant occurrence, until now. I’m not afraid anymore, and that’s all thanks to one simple thing: prayer.
Praying that first night filled me with so much hope and comfort. Since then, it’s been the last thing I do each night. After a few weeks of consistent and earnest prayer, I felt like the weight of the world was lifted from my shoulders. All of my daily life problems, concerns of the future and even death were vanquished. We are taught in Philippians 4:6-7 “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The connection prayer can generate to our Savior and Heavenly Father is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I knew in my heart that I wasn’t alone anymore and never was to begin with. I know that God has a plan and I just need to trust in him to guide me. I also knew that I needed to continue receiving lessons from the sister missionaries.
One of the lessons they taught was about the Word of Wisdom found in Doctrine and Covenants 89, which is a guideline to live a healthy life. It instructs us all to abstain from coffee, tea, alcohol, drugs, tobacco and to eat meat sparingly. I have to be honest, it was hard to think about giving up coffee, tea and alcohol. One night after maybe the 5th lesson with the missionaries, I poured myself a big glass of wine. Even though I wasn’t baptized yet, I took one sip and found myself feeling guilty and unsatisfied. Without a second thought, I poured the rest of the wine down the drain. It’s been five months since that last sip. Turns out giving up those substances wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be, and I have the strength of the Lord backing me up; it’s so empowering.
In another lesson, I learned about something that I thought was a huge obstacle; I was nervous about paying tithing even though we are promised in Malachi 3:10 that if we pay tithing the Lord will “open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” Tithing is donating 10 percent of your income to your church. We are encouraged to put tithing before all other monetary obligations, having faith that we will be provided for by our Heavenly Father and rewarded with his blessings. I was worried about adding this extra expense to our already tight budget, but was surprised that although we were spending more, we were actually getting by just fine, if not even better than before. I feel good about donating to the church and know that tithing money is being put to good use. Tithing is not used to pay local leaders, all the local positions held in church are voluntary. The money is used for the construction of churches and temples, supporting the missionaries, helping families in need, and so much more.
Along with weekly lessons, I wanted to spend my free time watching church movies and reading the Book of Mormon. Even on my lunch breaks, I was watching videos and searching the internet for more information; I became a little obsessed. I would talk to anyone who was willing or interested and got a lot of different feed back. I found out there are a lot of misconceptions associated with this faith.
Let’s clear up some of the common ones:
● Men can NOT have multiple wives. At one point this was acceptable, but these days you will definitely be excommunicated.
● We can have caffeine and can use birth control.
● The church does not worship Joseph Smith. We worship our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
● We are Christians.
● Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in the Bible (old and new testament), and in addition to that, the Book of Mormon, which is another testament of Jesus Christ.
● We have temples that are used to perform sacred ordinances including baptisms for the dead (where we don’t baptize corpses but each other by proxy for those who passed on and never had a chance to be baptized. We can read about this practice in I Corinthians 15:29). This doesn’t mean they are automatically members of the church but are given the choice to accept or deny the invitation in the afterlife.
There are many more misconceptions, but these were the ones that most stuck out to me during my investigation of the church.
I received around seven lessons before the sister missionaries invited me to be baptized a few weeks later, on what happened to be my birthday! Although it could’ve been a coincidence, I truly felt that it had been a sign. Originally, I wanted to know everything about the church and read the whole Book of Mormon before even considering baptism, but I took some time to pray about baptism and decided with full certainty to accept their offer.
Getting baptized is not something to go into lightly. Upon entering the waters, you need to be ready to make the commitment to attend church weekly, keep the word of wisdom, pay tithing, and take upon yourself the name of Jesus Christ by following his example to live moral life.
Even though that may feel like a lot of commitment and change, I can attest that no sacrifice is too much for what we get from it. Receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and having his constant companionship and guidance, is a life changer all on its own. The deal is sweetened further by being a part of a wonderful community of compassionate people. It’s amazing to be constantly encouraged to strive to live your best life by serving others and finding purpose through faith. To top it off, there’s no greater gift in the world than being welcomed into heaven to be joined with your family and Heavenly Father for all eternity.
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