Updated: Jun 14, 2020
By Kat West
** This is the fifth installment in Kat’s conversion story to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you would like to read more of her story, click here.
When I think back on the highest point of my life, it’s a toss up between my wedding day and the day I got baptized. Both days required commitment, change and courage. I knew after each of those momentous days, my life would never be the same. Just like marriage, I knew it would take work to be a member of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I also knew in my heart that it was the right choice for me and the future I wanted to create.
For the first few weeks after my baptism, I felt like I was on a spiritual high. I knew I had made a wonderful decision for my life, and was buzzing from the excitement of change. My future seemed so simple and clear, and now that I had found faith everything else would just fall into place. I felt on top of the world, but unfortunately when you’re up that high the only place to go is down.
It was just one month after being baptized and I had never felt so depressed, isolated and lost. I found myself getting overwhelmed by all the material that needed to be learned (The Book of Mormon , Old and New Testament, Pearl of Great Price and Doctrine and Covenants). I also felt intimidated by how much everyone at church already knew. As much as I tried to be involved with members, most conversation and study went way over my head and it was frustrating and disheartening. Everyone at church always made me feel welcome, and it was nice to be around people with similar lifestyles and beliefs, but that wasn’t enough. I began to feel like I would never be on their level while subsequently I felt estranged from my friends and family who were not members.
It was especially hard when Josh and I attended a family St.Patrick's party. I was worried about how difficult it would be not being able to drink on a holiday that seemed to revolve around alcohol. My family knew I would not be drinking and didn’t intentionally tempt me, but at the same time they were all in the kitchen taking shots, throwing back beers or sitting outside smoking and I wanted to join them.
Meanwhile, Josh and I sat alone in the living room sipping on our green sodas and I just wanted to cry. The old me would have been in the kitchen laughing, bonding and pouring everyone another drink. Instead, I felt like they thought we were judging them because we chose to isolate ourselves, but the truth is I just didn’t know how to interact with them in this atmosphere anymore.
After getting home, I let go of all the tears I was holding back at the party. I felt like I had fallen into a pit of depression. I was uncertain of my choice to be baptized and I was worried it was going to turn me into a stranger to my family. Josh took me by the hand and we both got down on our knees to pray. We prayed for strength, courage and resilience. Then my husband gave me a blessing of comfort and asked the sister missionaries if they could come over. They had become my closest friends over the last few months and I really needed their faith-affirming presence. After they left, I felt much better and in control of my emotions.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. - John 14:27
Looking back on this experience, it was just too soon to be immersed in that kind of situation, but sometimes it's unavoidable. For example, I denied a cup of coffee at work and proudly proclaimed that I couldn’t drink it because of my faith. That spiraled into what felt like an interrogation of snide comments and questions like “Why would God care if you had a cup of coffee?” and “What, you won’t get into heaven?”. While trying to explain that it has more to do with obedience than possible consequences, I was put down for “blindly following a religion” and told “what a cult it is. ” The more I talked about my religion the more I felt ostracized and plain out strange to my co-workers. It was exhausting. I missed being normal. I wanted my friends and family to treat me the way they did before I was baptized. I was tired of constantly explaining my beliefs, or defending myself against the wild criticisms and misconceptions everyone seemed to have and the judgment that followed. Everything was different and I didn’t know how to cope. I felt stuck and to be honest I was questioning my choices, but just like marriage I was in this for better or worse and I refused to give up.
It took some time but I can say I pulled myself out of that pit ,and I’m even stronger for having gone through all the trials I endured during that uncomfortable adjustment period. What I learned was attitude is everything, and I needed to change my mentality over the situation. I was not a victim. Nobody was stopping me from drinking coffee or alcohol because it was my choice. To be able to stick to my covenants I made at my baptism, despite the influence or ridicule of others, was empowering. What helped the most was reminding myself of why I made the choice to be baptized to begin with. I would pray daily for guidance and reassurance, think of all the blessings that came along with being apart of the church and reflect on the times I undeniably felt the spirit. Most of all, remembering that even when things get rough, God has a plan. This truth brings me a lot of comfort. Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) remarked, “When we say God has a plan, he truly has a plan—not simply a grand scale, but for each of us as individuals” (Deposition of a Disciple , 45). That doesn’t mean everything will be easy on our road. Elder Maxwell explained, “The plan always points the way, but does not always smooth the way” (“The Great Plan of the Eternal God,” Ensign, May 1984, 22)
It's those high spiritual points that gave me the momentum to push through the lows. It was only when I stopped fighting to retain my old life that I was able to start moving forward. With that came a different but healthier relationship with old friends and my family, along with new friends and a new version of myself. I’ve learned that perseverance is key, and God will always provide a way through difficult times we may have on this wild roller coaster we know as life. So just have faith and trust in him, and put your hands up and try to enjoy the ride.
Next: My Patriarchal Blessing