Growing up, I was active in the Church. My parents were strong in their faith and encouraged me to do the right things. I believed the Church was true, but as I got older I found that it was easier to believe than to actually do the things I knew I should.
The topic of a mission came up often around my house. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go. I considered myself a typical teenager—I was really into skateboarding and listening to music, and I spent a lot of time with my friends. Giving up all of this to go on a mission seemed like a huge sacrifice.
By the time I was 18, though, I had decided to serve a mission. I graduated from high school and worked at several jobs, just waiting until I was old enough to go. My brother, who worked at a skateboard company, helped me get a part-time job at a shop close to home. It was my dream job, and everything went smoothly until the owner of the company mentioned to me that he needed a new manager. He said he would gladly give me the job if I were going to be around. I thanked him for the offer but told him I was planning to go on a mission.
Later that night, I thought of all the things I could do with the money I’d make as a manager. I could get my own apartment and a new car—anything I wanted! I decided to take the job.
My parents were confused by this move. I told them I was just going to work at the skate shop until I could turn in my mission papers. My parents noticed a change in me, though, and finally my mom asked, “Are you still going on a mission?” All I could say was, “I don’t know.” After that, I got a new lecture every night. I tried to shrug them off, but I finally decided to move out of the house to escape my own guilt. When I told my parents, their hearts dropped. I was their last son, and I was going the way of the world.
Even though I had decided not to go on a mission, I had every intention of staying active in the Church. I soon found out I would have to work on Sundays, but I figured I could at least make it to sacrament meeting since my shift didn’t start until 11:00 a.m. Throughout the week I worked 11-hour days, and trying to get up for a 9:00 a.m. Church meeting was a big task. I went to sacrament meeting for a few weeks but then stopped. I still talked to people about the Church and even encouraged some of my employees to read the Book of Mormon. But after a while I realized I was telling them to do things I wasn’t doing myself.
I soon became unhappy. I was making good money, so I started buying things I thought would make me happy. I bought new clothes and lots of things I’d always wanted—I even bought my dream car—but after the initial excitement of my purchases wore off, I was back to where I started. The only real enjoyment I had was on Sundays when I ate dinner at my parents’ house. My family showered me with love. They bore their testimonies to me but didn’t pressure me.
The day before Thanksgiving I was out skateboarding with a couple of employees from my shop. Some men who were drunk started bothering us. The next thing I knew, I hit one of them on the head with my skateboard. The others grabbed me and started beating me up. Soon policemen surrounded us. After a long night, I was finally able to go free. I intended to drive back to my apartment but instead headed for my parents’ house. It was 7:00 a.m. so they were surprised to see me. I told them what had happened, and they were relieved that I was okay. I decided to pray and give thanks that nothing really serious had happened to me or to the man I had hit.
As I was praying, I suddenly saw myself in missionary attire walking down a street in another country. I finished my prayer but could not move for about 10 minutes. I finally stood up, and the first thing I did was take out my earrings. I told myself it was time to prepare to serve the Lord. I regretted all the bad decisions I had made and wished I had spent my time preparing to be a good representative of His Church.
I later found out that my whole family had fasted for me two weeks earlier. I am so grateful for the love my parents and family showed me during my time of rebellion. I am glad I prayed and realized that the Lord had other plans for me. I learned for myself that it is only through Him we can be happy, and I gratefully bore testimony of this to others as a missionary in the Brazil Belo Horizonte Mission.
“I would say, however, to those going on missions that they should study the Bible, Book of Mormon, Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and all our works, that they may become acquainted with the principles of our faith. I would also say to other young men who are not now going on missions, but who will probably have to go at some time in the future, that these things are of more importance to them than they realize at the present time. … I know that when young men are working around here, going to the canyon, working on the farm, going to the theatre, and so on, their minds are not much occupied with these things. But when they are called upon to take a part in the drama themselves, many of them will wish they had paid more attention to the instructions they have received, and had made themselves more familiar with the Bible, Book of Mormon, and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.”
President John Taylor (1808–87), Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor (2001), 72–73.