“My Long Climb Home,” Ensign, Mar. 2002, 69–70
I joined the Church in England in 1965, but the hostile reaction of my father and other pressures eventually led me to become less active.
Those were painful and unhappy times. On the outside it seemed easy to stay away, and I suppose I started to break the Word of Wisdom to fool myself that I didn’t care. Eventually I convinced myself Heavenly Father no longer loved or cared about me, and I felt completely rejected and alone.
Members still visited me occasionally, but to no avail. I both resented and envied them.
Then one evening a pair of senior sister missionaries dropped by. I was determined to give them a hard time so that they wouldn’t make a return visit, but something inside me warmed to them. They had come as friends, not to preach to me or make me feel guilty.
They returned again and again to work in the garden and to strip paint from an old chest and help restore it, but above all to be friends to me. I began to be able to feel the Savior’s love through them as they filled my home with peace and love through their obvious joy in living the gospel. They gained my trust, something that was so difficult for me to give.
All too soon their missions came to an end and they returned home, but before they left we made arrangements for me to join them in America for a holiday.
The trip turned out to be wonderful. Rebellion against the Church was still within my heart, however, so I would not attend any Church meetings. In fact, I took great delight in drinking coffee in front of my two friends, trying hard to show them I was “untouchable.” I soon found out I was far from untouchable.
On the Saturday before Easter, we went to visit Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California, and were deeply moved by the paintings and other art having to do with the Savior. It seemed that the Atonement was suddenly becoming real to me. A week later I was in southern Utah on the Sunday of general conference. Being alone for a while, I switched on the television to a talk given by President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency. As I listened to that great man, I could not contain the tears of guilt and shame.
That afternoon I climbed to one of the observation points in Zion National Park. As I walked, I tried to put my life into perspective, and I found that the climb, which was very difficult and strenuous in places, was comparable to the trials in my life. I pressed on and reached the end of the climb, where I looked down at the beauty of creation and felt exhilaration.
The spirit of rebellion was not completely gone from my heart, but over time I could feel the hostility melting away. I began to experience feelings of love—new, beautiful, and strange to me. I also began to learn that I could be loved. I knew I needed to change my life, to truly repent.
When I returned home I felt much different inside. I was beginning to feel hope, and I was learning to pray for guidance and forgiveness. True repentance didn’t take place overnight in my life. It took many months before I felt I had been forgiven. I made a decision to start attending church again, the most difficult part of which was getting the courage to actually walk back through the doors.
I become overwhelmed as I think of the meaning of the Savior’s Atonement: “Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me enough to die for me!” (“I Stand All Amazed,” Hymns, no. 193). It is also wonderful that two sister missionaries came into my life when they did and shared with me their love and example. I was filled with joy to have one of them be my escort when I attended the temple to receive my endowment.
Following years of being lost and wandering, I had come home at last.