I can still picture them. Those unforgettable, incredibly quiet Sundays spent outside in a neighborhood filled primarily with Latter-day Saints—and I wasn’t one of them.
I used to imagine a tumbleweed rolling slowly down my street as they did in old Western films, indicating that no one was around. I knew where my neighbors were (at church), I understood why my friends couldn’t play on Sundays, and I knew why only my family would be outside doing yard work on a blistering Sunday afternoon. At least, I thought I knew. Little did I realize that seminary and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would give me true insight and change my life for the better.
Fast-forward a few years from those childhood days: I was baptized when I was 11 years old. I’m not sure if an 11-year-old can choose to be baptized for the wrong reasons, but I believe I did. I didn’t fully understand the role of the Holy Ghost, and all I remember about my baptism was thinking, “I will finally be like my friends.”
To my dismay, I was still nothing like them. I assumed that once I was a member of the Church, my family would automatically attend church with me. When I realized my family was not going to attend church, I wondered if my friends knew how lucky they were. They would talk about how they didn’t like going to church or how they seemed to dread saying family prayers. I wanted so badly to tell them they shouldn’t be wishing away something so precious. I knew they had something special.
Yet I also didn’t fully embrace all that the gospel and the Church had to offer, even though I was baptized.
Then one day when I was a freshman in high school, something happened that changed everything: I ran into Brother Esplin.
“Excuse me,” he said as I tried to walk past him.
“Yes?” I replied.
“I’m Devin Esplin, Melissa Esplin’s husband. My wife talks about your volleyball potential all the time, and I just wanted to formally introduce myself.”
I stood there silently until a lightbulb finally went off in my head.
“Oh! Right, I love Coach Esplin!”
“Me too!” he said. “Anyway, I’m the seminary teacher here, and I was wondering if you would like to transfer into my class.”
“Well, I would, but I can’t,” I replied. “But I promise that next year I will!”
“I sure hope you do. It will be a great experience.”
“I will! I promise,” I said as I walked away. As I walked back to class, I couldn’t hide the smile on my face. This was my opportunity to find out for myself what the Church had to offer. This time I was going to learn about the Church for the right reasons. I was given a second chance, and I wasn’t going to pass it up.
My sophomore year was incredible. I was so excited to go to seminary and learn! The first few weeks were pretty crazy. I felt like a little child—I had a lot to learn. People would use words like repentance and the Atonement, and I felt ashamed because I had no idea what those terms meant. Mercifully, my class helped me learn and never made me feel like an outsider.
As the year progressed, I found myself craving more knowledge. I was amazed by the things that my peers would discuss. I learned that I wasn’t the only one who suffered trials. I was saddened that I had made it so far in life without focusing on the Savior and the gospel. As I began to understand what being a Latter-day Saint is all about, I knew I never wanted to give it up.
My junior year was the major turning point of my life. Because of seminary, I read the Book of Mormon for the first time. As I studied daily, my testimony grew, and I grew closer to my Heavenly Father. I learned that I can strengthen my testimony every day. I understood that I’m never alone.
Seminary is a blessing that has altered the course of my life forever. Every day, I now think about how grateful I am that I have my Savior to get me through trials and temptations.