Provo Utah, USA
Brothers and Sisters, the gospel changes people. I’m sure hundreds of missionaries can testify to this. When an investigator, or anybody for that matter, discovers that the gospel is true, it changes them. It changes everything. Forever. And it’s so beautiful. I love it!The gospel can change anyone at anytime, no matter what their behaviors are. Before I joined the church, my life, my mind, was a very dark place to be. I was living with the burdens of depression, eating disorders, and abuse. My life was centered on habits that I thought I’d never live without. I was destroying my body and mind simply because it’s what I’d been doing for years, and it’s all I knew how to do “right.” I was hurting myself because of past experiences that made me feel like I deserved it, and I didn’t know how to feel anything else but pain. I didn’t think a life out of the darkness was possible, but life doesn’t always go the way you think it’s going to.
We can do all of the spiritual or educational preparation necessary, but life usually never works out the way we wish it would. Although frustrating at times, if we trust in God, “all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28). If my life had gone according to my plan, I wouldn’t be here. Three years ago I was in treatment for my eating disorder, losing hope in recovery, and feeling as if things would never get better. I didn’t think God had a plan for me, and if He did, it wasn’t a good one. But I didn’t know at the time that’s God’s plan for me would always be greater than the one I had for myself.
If you know a bit about my conversion story, you might know that literally days before I met with the missionaries I was in the hospital on a medical hold for a stroke caused by my eating disorder symptoms. That hospital stay was my “rock bottom,” and I haven’t been back since. And that is because I gained the knowledge of the Restored Gospel. I was in therapy and receiving treatment for years before that. Don’t get me wrong, my treatment team was great, but I truly believe that Heavenly Father was, and still is, my ultimate Healer.
After the missionaries gave me the Book of Mormon to read, over time I finally realized that I wasn’t given the gift of life – the gift of a physical body – just so I could destroy it. Unfortunately, the burdens of addiction, mental illness, abuse, and any other mortal trial – they are all very real. But recovery? Happiness? Joy? Those things are very real too. You are not going through your battles alone, Jesus has already fought them. The Savior knows how you feel because He has already been there. You can make it through any trial with the atonement in your heart. As Elder Yamashita testified yesterday during general conference, “you can feel joy if you’re ambitious for Christ in the mist of trials.”
Life isn’t easy, but it is a precious gift. The same goes with following Christ. Following Christ is anything but easy, but boy is it worth it. Life is so much better with the gospel as the focal-point. I lived 19 years in self destructive habits and devilish thoughts, but when I accepted Christ into my heart, that all changed. Let me be clear: it didn’t change over night. Change requires repentance, patience, and work. Despite our efforts, change sometimes involves multiple setbacks. We are not perfect, but we do have a perfect God. We all have mountains to climb, and I think God sometimes gives us those mountains so we are able to help others climb their own.
Brothers and Sisters, God needs you. God needs you and your influence to help others find Him. The gospel changed me, and it can change you, too.
”Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, we have another chance.” – Dale G. Renlund