I don’t know why I knew God was real. No one ever talked to me about God when I was growing up. I knew my mom had gone to the LDS church in her small town as a teenager, but she was never baptized. When I was born she had me blessed by the bishop. The only time I was in church was when I was very young, but it must have made an impression. We moved when I was five, and we didn’t go to any church at all. I remember in grade school telling a friend that I didn’t go to church, but if I did, it would be the Mormon church. I tried to live as a good person my whole life (with mistakes along the way like everyone else). I was as Christian as most people who take the name even though I didn’t go to church.
When I was 16, my parents were going through a separation, and it was so hard to be in the house. As the oldest child, I really had no one to talk to. It seemed like the only one who could help me not hurt was God, so I prayed to Him. I didn’t know how to pray, but I did my best. I guess that’s when I started to think about going to church even though I didn’t know anything about religion. I had a friend whose father was a pastor at a Lutheran church, and I went with her a couple of times but I didn’t really feel impressed to keep going there. I must confess, I was not a diligent searcher, but Heavenly Father knew me and what I needed and He put opportunities in my path.
After I graduated high school, I was looking for work before I started at the university, and my friend’s mother suggested that I apply at a photo studio she worked with. She was the yearbook supervisor at one of the high schools and knew they needed someone. I interviewed and got the job, and as I got to know the people there, I found out that most of them were Latter-day Saints. They would talk about their church and the activities they attended with their families. They were great examples to me because they lived their religion. These were not Sunday only Christians. The women there were especially wonderful. They accepted me and loved me and were my best friends. As I wondered what church I wanted to attend, they helped me to know what to look for.
After I had worked there for about a year and a half, my friend Joyce asked if I wanted to meet with the missionaries. I said yes because I could see what my friends were like. My lessons with the sister missionaries were amazing. They taught me about Jesus Christ, that He was my Savior, that He died so I could live again – all these things that I never knew before. I felt like a sponge soaking up their words. When they asked me if I would be baptized, I felt a burning in my chest so strongly; the Holy Ghost witnessed to me that this was what I should do, that what I had been looking for and what I had been taught was true. I was baptized without hesitation, even knowing that I would be the only member in my family, and my activities and lifestyle would now be different from theirs. They may not have appreciated my choice, but they accepted it and never stopped loving me.
I was 19 years old, and suddenly a whole new life was opened for me. I had an immediate family, a ward family, and new friends (and a new culture and language, but that’s a story for another time). It’s now been 37 years, and I can’t imagine living without the gospel. I have the strongest testimony that Heavenly Father knows me as His daughter. Even when I didn’t know who I was or where I was going, He knew my desire was there, even when it was weak, and loved me enough to help me find Him. I’m still not perfect, I still make mistakes, but I’m still learning to be like the Savior and grateful for every day to work and live for Him.
I know who I am. I know God’s plan.
Mona Uren Anderson