I’m a new member of the Church, and I honestly know that my journal was one of the factors that helped me finally take the challenging step of baptism.
Joining the Church was very difficult for me. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I’m the kind of person who has to be 100 percent sure about decisions. I always fully investigate a situation before I make a decision.
I first heard the gospel while I was in Quebec City, Canada, on a French language study program. I was placed with a French-speaking family together with two beautiful Latter-day Saint girls. At the time I was quite upset about the situation, for I was a very active Catholic and had been warned against Latter-day Saints. Being brought up the way I was, I was also taught to make the best of every situation and to try to accept everyone. So I did just that, and before I knew it I was investigating the Church. The two girls knew that the Spirit was working in me, and they strongly urged me to write down my feelings no matter how crazy they were or whether they were contrary to what I believed. At the time I didn’t understand why, but I did so because I admired and trusted them. I found myself eagerly writing:
I took the first discussion today. I don’t know what came over me. The things the missionaries told me I know are not what I’ve believed for 18 years of my life, but somehow I felt myself believing them. I was excited about the things they told me. I felt strange all over while they were talking. At times I felt shivers up my spine. Dear Lord, something is happening to me, and I can’t understand what it is—HELP!
The Lord did help, and the further along we got in the discussions the more I knew that the gospel was true. I felt I should have been rejecting what I was being taught, but deep down inside I knew of its truth and I kept writing those inner feelings down on paper. Before I knew it, I had a testimony of the Church. I was so excited, I phoned home and told my parents that I was getting baptized. They pleaded with me to wait until I came home. So reluctantly I did. That night I wept bitterly because of my disappointment, and I wrote in my journal:
I feel so sad and depressed. I’ve prayed so hard about my decision. I know in my heart the gospel is true. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet and that we have a living prophet today. I believe in everything that I’ve been taught, and with my whole heart I desperately want to be baptized. I know my soul won’t be at rest until I am. I know I’m being called, and I won’t be completely happy until I take that step.
I was sincere when I wrote that, and I feel God was inspiring me for the future. I did want to be baptized, but when I got home my parents thought I had been forcefully indoctrinated by the Latter-day Saints and they did everything in their power to dissuade me. The awful thing about it was that I let them. I lost contact with all my LDS friends, and I let my testimony die. At one point in my life, I had wanted nothing to do with the Latter-day Saints, and I no longer believed in the doctrine. But that still, small voice in me kept telling me to write in my journal. On one occasion I wrote:
I feel empty, I don’t feel complete, there is something missing. Why do I feel like I’m searching for something to grab on to? I’m lost; I desperately need direction. My testimony has been shattered. I feel I should hold on to my Catholic beliefs, but I don’t know what to do.
Well, even though it wasn’t a complete prayer, the Lord heard my plea. My friend from Quebec phoned to see how things were going. I tried to hide my feelings, but she realized what was wrong. She pleaded with me to go to church. I finally told her I no longer believed and wanted nothing to do with the Church. She penetrated that defense also. She told me she knew I had a testimony; it just needed to be revived. She told me that she loved me so much and wanted so badly for me to do the things that were right. We talked a little longer, and the last thing she told me was to go back to my journal and read what I had written. Well, that night I turned to my journal and read what I had written. Something came over me. I felt such a strong urge to pray. As I prayed and read, I felt that sweet, reassuring comfort of the Spirit. The Lord knew that I so very badly wanted to believe but that there were many obstacles in my way.
The next day I went to church contrary to my parents liking. I was so very scared, but right away some girls in the ward recognized that I was new and welcomed me. After many sleepless nights and long discussions, I was finally baptized. What really helped me when I needed it most was my journal. I said to myself, “I must have felt these things or I wouldn’t have written them.” Even at the time when I didn’t believe, I knew the Lord prompted me to write the things which I felt at the time. My journal saved me. It was a way the Lord was communicating with me, and it was something I knew I had to trust because it was coming from within.
I’m so very grateful for the counsel of the Church and for advising us to keep a record of our experiences. I have a testimony of its importance, and I have been blessed with peace and strength from doing so. I can measure my progress and growth and see how the Lord has been working in my life just by listening to that small voice inside me. I know the Church is true and when I doubt, I have a firsthand source I can turn to, to reassure me of its truthfulness.