I celebrated my birthday a few days ago and my wonderful companion has taken great delight in reminding me that I am “old” now (as if 22 is super old). i guess that every year around this time I begin thinking about the past year and my life in general, and this past year has been full of changes.
Aside from just thinking about the past year, I have done some serious reflecting on the past and all the things that have led up to this point in my life. As I go down memory lane, it keeps coming back to a few important things….family…..friends….the Book of Mormon….Heavenly Father….and above all, my Saviour, Jesus Christ.
As a small child my parents tried to have family scripture study with my three older siblings and I. I can remember that Book of Mormon we would read. It was large print and was hardcover, so as a child (I am pretty short and have always been small) it was around half my size. Now, I can’t remember this part but my mother would tell me that when I was two and three before we would have family prayers at night we would be gathered in a circle and I would go over to the piano bench, open it and pull out the Book of Mormon and take it to my parents. This, I am told was something that would happen nightly…..
I can remember being a little older and going panning for gold with my family and with my aunt, uncle, cousins and grandparents…..they had actually collected a good amount of gold flakes when I dumped the pan back in the river (no one was very happy with me, alebit I was only 4-ish)……
A year later having a part in the primary program and singing my heart out…..
Being baptized at the age of 8 and having my family all around me
My baby sister was born a few months later and I remember coming home and waiting to go with my grandparents to the hospital to go see her
Being in primary and being told to stop answering all the questions, to let someone else answer….this led to a period of silence, where I would avoid talking and avoid saying anything in class…..
Going to girls camp when I was 12 with one of my best friends……
Then come the teenage years, which for me was a time of rebellion and a time of a downward spiral, times of darkness that honestly, I am not too fond of remembering. I avoid thinking about that time, because I am not proud of the person I was and the things I did. I can remember trying to get out of that pit of blackness, and falling back into it. I had parents and siblings who loved me (although I did not believe it at the time) and I would not talk to them, instead I felt like I was suffering and struggling alone…..
At a very low point, where I was on the verge of making some serious mistakes and going down a path that would be difficult to come back from, I was in my room feeling alone, forgotten, lost, unloved, questioning everything, doubting God and the things I had been raised to believe. At this point, I opened my scriptures (specifically the Book of Mormon), voluntarily, for the first time in years. As I read, I felt arms come around me and hold me as I began to cry, the tears just began pouring down my face. In three verses I knew that there is a God, who is my Heavenly Father who loves me and is aware of me. He knows me and knows just what I need. Because of the Book of Mormon, I came to know that Jesus Christ truly is the Son of God and that He truly suffered for my sins and weaknesses and pains; It was his arms I was feeling around me, because he had already gone through the things I was feeling. I came to a realization that he lived my life and truly could understand what I was feeling. The things I was doing, he had felt, he bore the weight of my actions.
I can remember realizing that and realizing that things needed to change, I needed to change. At this time I may not have consciously known that the Book of Mormon was true, but I knew there was power in it and that through it God spoke to me. I changed that night. I gave up friends I had had for years. during my senior year of high school I was a lot lonelier than I had been before, but I now had goals in life, I had a vision of what I was going to do….
I spent a lot of time on my knees in prayer, a lot of time in my scriptures studying and thinking….and it took a while until finally one day I was praying and the thought came “Sister Elliott, you already know this to be true, you always have, you just didn’t realize it”. It wasn’t some crazy, unbelievable experience, it was simple and came over time, but the fact is that it came. I finally came to a knowledge for myself that the Book of Mormon is true, that the fulness of the Gospel has been restored, that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God……all these things I had been taught from infancy were true, I knew it in my mind and in my heart but that was not enough.
As a senior I applied to go to BYU, part of that application process is an interview with your bishop and then stake president. I can remember sitting across from my stake president and actually saying the words out loud, that I had a testimony of the truth. Hearing those words come out of my mouth, hearing myself say them, even though I already knew them to be true, solidified that testimony in my heart.
I went to BYU for three years and absolutely loved it! I was happier there than I had ever been. I had friends who cared about me and who I could trust. I met some of my best friends there, and no matter where life takes us all, they will always be my best friends. I studied Arabic, and spent a semester in Jordan with some of the most amazing people I have met….but, I again found myself on my knees in prayer asking for guidance, that prayer and the subsquent answer led me to where I am now, serving a mission, sharing the things I know are true with those I come in contact with……
Life is a journey, and takes us through all sorts of unexpected things, to unexpected places, however we are never alone and we do not have to try to navigate life alone. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is what shows us the way and helps us to get through all those twists and turns and road blocks that life throws at us. The Book of Mormon serves to help give us direction, to point us the right way. Find it. Read it. Live it. Love it.