A few years ago, I applied for a job at a local zoo, thinking it would be a great adventure. I got the job and decided to take it even though it meant I would have to work every Sunday. Because of that decision, it had been several months since I had attended church or had any contact with ward members. I hadn’t completely gone off the path of righteousness; I wasn’t drinking or playing with drugs like some of my friends at work, and my morals were okay. Still, deep down, I wasn’t really happy and I didn’t feel close to Heavenly Father.
Sometimes after work, I did kneel down to pray, but my prayers seemed hollow and far from the things in my heart. In addition, my grades were slipping, and I was difficult to get along with. My friends at the zoo seemed to like me, but they wanted me to participate with them in things I knew were wrong.
In the midst of my problems my mother told me one Sunday afternoon that my old choir teacher had been sustained as the Young Women president. As a shy young child I had been scared of her loud booming voice and outspoken ways.
The next week, the phone calls began. The new Young Women president was like a recruiter for the army. She called me for every activity my class was having and for every service project they did. After several weeks of excuses, I finally agreed to go out to dinner with my class. As we drove to the restaurant, the girls in my class talked about boys and the coming school year. Our leader often joined in their conversation. I rode along with them in silence.
As I watched their happy faces I felt a pain, the kind of pain you feel when you are missing out on something really great. By the time the activity was over and we were back at my house, I was close to tears. Those girls had something in their lives that I wanted. They knew who they were and where they were going. They were close to Heavenly Father. I knew he heard their prayers. My leader seemed to know what I was feeling and reminded me I was always welcome back at church and she would always be there for me.
That night I knelt by my bed and poured out my soul to my Father in Heaven—something I hadn’t done in a long time. I realized how much I had missed him and how, little by little, the distance between us had grown because of the choices I had made. More than anything I wanted another chance. I wanted to fill the emptiness within my soul. I wanted to find the kind of friends who lasted forever. I wanted to come back to church.
After that one Young Women activity, I realized that there were people who cared about me; I saw the way to come back. It wasn’t easy, but the gospel has enriched my life and given me hope beyond all things. The best thing I ever did was to come back to the Church.