I was first introduced to the Church in 1975 when I was eight years old and met my friend Kristen in third grade. When we were growing up, I attended church with her periodically. Except for occasional attendance at other churches with my extended family, that was the extent of my church experience during most of my childhood and adolescence. I always felt something special in the LDS Church and members, which I now recognize as the Spirit. I moved away from Sacramento, where we met, in sixth grade, and lived an hour’s drive away, but Kristen and I remained close friends. I was very impressed as a teenager by Kristen’s loving nature, her kindness, and the good, clean-cut fun she always had in Mutual activities. I saw the same qualities in her Young Women’s counterparts as I met them when I attended their activities. When I was 21, I started taking the missionary discussions, and Kristen helped as much as she could with it—by then I was living hundreds of miles away from her. I didn’t complete the discussions then; it just wasn’t the right time for me. Kristen understood and it didn’t affect our relationship in any way—she just loved me anyway.
About sixteen years later, I was living in Albuquerque and met three families around the same time, each of whom was LDS. I knew almost immediately that they were LDS; they each had that special glow that had always drawn me. We became friends as we’d meet in the schoolyard with our then-first-graders. Around that same time, Kristen, who still lived in Sacramento, started having a strong impression to give me a subscription to the Ensign magazine. Now, we had not discussed the Church in any depth in years, and she didn’t know about my new friends. She couldn’t figure out this prompting—she kept thinking, “Caron knows about the Church; why would she suddenly want this magazine?” —so she ignored it for a little while. Finally, as it kept coming, she acted on it and told me about it.
I started receiving the Ensign and read each issue cover to cover. One of my new LDS friends, Marie, once mentioned something Church-related and I said, “Oh yes, I read about that in the Ensign.” Not knowing my background, her jaw hit the floor. That led to many discussions with her about the Church and the gospel. Some months later, Marie challenged me to finally meet with the missionaries and follow it through; to find out why I’d always had this attraction to the Church. She was very firm and direct, an approach that was not typical of her but that she felt strongly to take with me. That is exactly the approach I needed—someone pointedly and firmly challenging me to find out why I have always been so wistfully drawn to the Church. I think that if she had just politely invited me to take the discussions, I would have politely said, “Thanks, but no thanks.”
I began meeting with the missionaries truly wanting to learn, but having no intention of joining the Church. I just didn’t think it was for perpetually-non-religious me, or that I was “good” enough for it. However, the more I read the Book of Mormon, the more I knew that something very strong was leading me in this direction and that I could not deny it. Two months later, I was baptized on April 29, 2006 and confirmed on April 30, 2006 in Albuquerque with Kristen from Sacramento in attendance.
I felt completely accepted by the people in the ward and I knew they were truly happy that I was baptized and confirmed. On the day of my confirmation, I was asked to speak for a few minutes in Relief Society and was soon asked to be a visiting teacher. Even though I was a novice, I was completely accepted as a full member and it was apparent that the people in my ward valued me. That made a tremendous impact on me.
As a new convert, I felt many times that I had stepped into a different world. Although the values embraced by the Church paralleled the values I’d always had, it was definitely stepping into a different culture. I had to adjust to three-hour church and not doing “regular weekend” things on Sunday. I had to adjust my thinking to include God and Jesus as the central focus in my life. I had to let myself really know and believe that I was not in ultimate control of my life, nor should I be—that there is a bigger plan than what I can see, and that I have constant heavenly guidance. I had to learn how to pray and how to want to pray regularly.
There were many times I felt very much like I was straddling two worlds, especially because my husband was not interested in joining the Church and my young children were not yet accustomed to it. Still, I don’t think I ever really wavered because I always remembered the strong promptings my friends and I had all received on my behalf during the time leading up to my baptism, and I was learning to rely on those promptings. I was learning that Heavenly Father really is there for me and for each of us. I truly never knew or believed that before. Also, every time I went church, I felt that I really was a part of the congregation, that I was warmly wanted there, and that I had real friends there. I had previously attended a church as an adult where I never had those feelings, even after a few years of attendance, yet I felt it within weeks of attending my ward.
Shortly after I joined the Church, my life took a turn that could have either driven me from my new faith in God or made me stronger in it. Five months after my baptism, my husband told me that he had been considering separation and divorce for quite a while. Although I had known that something was wrong, this came completely out of left field. I had absolutely no idea that his thoughts were so far from mine, and neither did his family, friends, or anyone who knew us as a couple.
Perhaps if I had not been thrown into such a devastating trial immediately upon joining the Church, my new faith wouldn’t have been strengthened as much as it was. I have no doubt whatsoever that the timing of my conversion was divinely planned. After all, I had been interested in and drawn to the Church for literally 31 years, then suddenly, in a short time, the people who came into my life and the events that happened led me directly into the baptismal font. I had come to know and believe that I am not solely in charge of everything that happens in my life, that there is a divine plan for me.
Since I was baptized eight years ago, both of my children have been baptized. My son is a priest and my daughter is a Mia Maid, and both are very active in church. My son is a pioneer in our family, being the first to hold the priesthood. He recently turned 16 and it’s an incredible privilege to me to hear him bless the water or the bread each week. Thankfully the kids’ father is supportive of their Church membership. Being able to help teach them gospel principles has helped me stay strong. I attend and volunteer in the temple and read the scriptures and Church publications pretty regularly. I have my moments, like everyone else, when I feel negative and discouraged. It always helps me to remember that the times when I feel least like praying and least worthy of asking for help are the times that I most need it. I’ve never prayed during moments like that when it did not immediately help me.
Sometimes people have said I’m brave by joining the Church. But I have always felt that it wasn’t me in charge—Heavenly Father had pointed directly at me and said, “You, Caron, it’s time.” How could I do anything but listen to Him?