Life choices kept Shelly away from the Church for years. With the help of friends at church, Shelly eventually found the strength and faith to move forward and be a good example to her children.
Cody Bell, photographer
I was 13 when my mom and I joined the Church. My stepdad had been a member, but he had gone inactive. One day, he decided to go back to church. My mom and I got baptized. My sister got baptized not long after that.
We were living in Missouri, USA, and we attended a teeny little branch that met in a second story room of a local building. On Saturday nights, we’d go in and clean up posters and ash trays. I played a little keyboard for our meetings. The members of our branch were like our family.
When I was 16, we moved to Arizona, USA. The change was difficult, but the Church is pretty strong in Arizona. Later, I went to Brigham Young University and got married. My husband and I had four kids and we were living the life.
But things happened, and when we got divorced, I was excommunicated. It took me about 15 years to get back into the Church. It took a while, but I didn’t want to rush it. I wanted to be going to church for all the right reasons.
I remember when we first moved to Kentucky, USA, I’d take my son to church and stay in the car while he went inside. It was a hard time. My daughter was the first of my children to get married in the temple, and I couldn’t be there. That really hurt my feelings, but of course, it was my fault.
It just takes some people like me a long time to finally figure things out. Ward members and friends were patient with me. They let me know that they were there. One family in particular reached out to me and were really like my family because I didn’t have anybody out here. They helped me start going to church, but they never pressured me. The cool thing is that when it was time, my son rebaptized me.
I’ve made a lot of bad decisions in my life. I wish I hadn’t made those mistakes, but I am grateful for the lessons I am learning throughout the repentance process. None of us goes through life without making mistakes—only the Savior was able to do that. When we make mistakes, it’s important that we turn to Him for strength and to learn from those mistakes.
I know I can’t go back and change anything, but my goal now is to do everything I can to give my kids a good example because they didn’t have one for many years. I hope they can see I’ve overcome many challenges.
I want them to know that if they have bad spells, they can move past them as they turn to the Savior for help. It’s a matter of having faith and never giving up. The Lord has helped me as I’ve gone along, and I know He can help them too. The progress has been painful, but the Lord has built me up and made me stronger.