All through elementary and middle school, Julie Workman dreamed of the day she’d attend Utah’s Viewmont High School with her friends.
Then one day her father announced he’d received a call to preside over the New Jersey Mission. She’d be attending high school there. It was like someone had thrown a bucket of ice water in her face.
After a soggy farewell to friends and loved ones, Julie became determined to make the best of her new life. She set herself a goal: to be a good example to everyone, especially when she found out she would be the only Latter-day Saint in her high school.
In her sophomore year, Julie was allowed to attend a missionary zone conference. The Spirit inspired her to accept the challenge from President Ezra Taft Benson to read the Book of Mormon a half hour a day.
“I set a certain time to study and wouldn’t let anything get in the way. I asked Heavenly Father to help me understand and apply the Book of Mormon in my everyday life.” Julie decided to accept another challenge and “flood the earth” with the Book of Mormon. She set a goal to give one away each week.
A few days later as she rode the bus to a track meet, she talked to a few of the team members. One of them asked, “Well, Julie, what do you believe?” Others turned and started listening.
“The Holy Ghost whispered scriptures I’d learned in seminary. I think they were surprised at how well Mormons are taught the scriptures. From that conversation the Lord helped me to give away four books,” she said.
There were days when three sets of missionaries taught three of Julie’s friends each in a different room of the house. Julie says, “I tried to build relationships of trust with people at school and found they would come up to me and ask me questions.”
One of Julie’s greatest challenges was with a young man she attended honors classes and ran cross-country and track with. “All through my three years of high school if I said anything religious he’d verbally assault me and cut me to shreds. It was ugly,” Julie says. “He’d get so angry and yell, ‘How can you possibly believe in a God? There is no way. You are wasting your effort and your life.’” Julie would respond, trembling with conviction, “I know God is there and loves me. Loving God brings me so much joy; there is no better way to be happy.” Sometimes he said crude and obscene things in front of their classmates. And often he laughed at her and goaded other students into doing the same. “But my testimony grew in a new way—from adversity,” exclaims Julie. “I did care about him. If he’d only open his heart to the Spirit, he’d know the truth,” she says.
At the end of Julie’s senior year, that young man wrote in her yearbook: “I know I’m really rotten to you. The truth is I respect you. Great things are in store for you.”
Julie felt he was begging to be challenged, wanting someone to prove there really was a God. His criticism forced others to analyze their feelings about God and turn to Julie with their questions.
One day, a shy student came crying into Julie’s history class. After listening to the young woman’s feelings, Julie gave her some Church pamphlets to read. The girl trashed them. A short while later, the friend suffered severe family problems and ran away. Julie and her family invited the girl to stay at their home for a few days. “I tried to share the gospel with Maura, but she didn’t seem interested,” comments Julie. “Then I volunteered to help her at her job in a stable. In familiar surroundings she could sense how much I thought of her.”
Julie continues, “Maura felt discouraged about life and down on herself. She would ask, ‘Why would God let these things happen?’ Heavenly Father inspired me with answers to her questions. It was amazing how she changed when she started the discussions. She came to know she was a child of God and to believe in herself. I could not believe my joy the day of her baptism,” exclaims Julie.
What happened to the disappointment Julie felt at not attending her hometown high school? It evaporated when she learned to care about others and share the gospel with them. Now, she says, “Moving to New Jersey has been the greatest experience of my life.”