Saturday, March 10, 2012

This Is It!

Because I am getting set apart as a MISSIONARY tomorrow and with church in the morning I figured I wouldn't find the time to make one last post on my blog before my mommy takes over it. Okay...I know I said earlier that it's starting to hit me but I would be lying if I said I still cannot believe I am leaving!! I leave my family on Tuesday and won't see them again for 18 months. That's crazy! My brother Richie will be dropping me off at the MTC where I will say goodbye to him for a while as well! So maybe then it will really hit me? Reality will either set in when I'm set apart tomorrow, on the plane over to Utah, being dropped off at the MTC or my first morning there when I realize I'm not in my bed from home haha!

Well, I decided that for my last post that I would share my conversion story. A lot of people have asked about it before and sometimes I never really get to have the chance to share it but I feel that my conversion story contributes greatly to the reason why I chose to serve a mission.

I can't remember the actual day it happened but I remember it being towards the end of 7th grade, towards summer time because I remember going to the Barkdull's house and swimming a lot. But, one night we were invited to the Barkdull's house for a family dinner. My mom had work so it was just my dad, my two brothers and I. After dinner we were asked if we wanted to stay for Family Home Evening (FHE). Not knowing what it was...we decided to be polite and stayed. We went outside to their fire pit and all sat around it while we had FHE. I remember TJ sharing a story he once read of a guy who chose to drink a sip of apple juice (maybe it was orange juice?) instead of a sip of beer and how the rest of the guys after him chose to take a sip of the apple juice instead of the beer. That was honestly the only thing I remember that night BUT...I couldn't deny the feelings I felt throughout that whole lesson. It was a feeling I had never felt before and didn't understand what it was. When we all got in the car I remember turning to my dad and asking, "why aren't we Mormon?" and he kind of stuttered and said, "uh...I don't know." I responded by saying, "well...I want to be Mormon!" He then suggested that maybe we should try their church out and go a few times.

I still have the dress I wore to church for the first time. It was this pink, super short, lace Forever21 dress and I wore a white zip up over it to make it more appropriate. I wish I wrote down the feelings I felt that day but all I can remember was enjoying it and wanting to go again. We kept going as frequently as we could and even started to take the discussions from the missionaries! I was so certain that we were going to join the church soon. I don't remember when it was but I just remember one day being told by my parents that we weren't going to join the church anymore. I was completely devastated! I didn't understand why and why I had to be included in this decision but I knew it wasn't going to stop me.

The main reason why I wanted to join the church was because I wanted my children to be born into the Gospel. I wanted them to already be in an eternal family. To this day I still find it so crazy that I would think about my own KIDS at the age of 13!! I wanted my family to be an eternally family so bad and I figured that if that wasn't going to happen in this life, then at least my future family will have the opportunity. The thought of "what was best for my future children" was what continued to make me more eager to learn and to one day be baptized. I knew that they were cheering for me and relying on me to not quit. I was not going to let them down.

For the next four years I would have to get permission to go to church. Haha I even remember lying to my parents saying, "Hey mom, dad, Janelle Larson is giving a talk today so can I PLEASE go to church so I can hear it?"...when to be honest... I had no idea who was speaking that day. I would switch around names of people that we both knew so they wouldn't get suspicious ;) But I wanted to go to church so bad that I would do whatever it took to get me there! During those four years I attended Mutual, Girl's Camp (3 years as a nonmember), Trek, EFY (once as a nonmember), Road Show, and so many other activities. I figured if I can't be a member now, I'll just get involved as much as I can and maybe it would make my chances of being baptized sooner a reality.

Summer going into my junior year was a BIG moment in my conversion. That summer I went on Trek, attended Girl's Camp, and went to EFY for the first time. It was at Trek where I bore my testimony for the very first time. I was so nervous! But I knew I had to do it because my brother Richie was there and I wanted him to so badly hear my testimony and for him to one day accept the church along with me. I took every opportunity I could to try and share my testimony to my family. I remember one night writing a note to both my mommy and daddy, bearing my testimony and letting them know why I wanted to be baptized so badly. At night I snuck downstairs and placed it on the counter in an area where I knew they would see it. I think my mommy was the only one who mentioned anything about it to me but I had to take every opportunity that was in front of me.

It wasn't until my junior year when everything started to change. I was dating this boy and thought I was in "love" (typical) and we were both planning out junior prom situations since we were both attending different high schools. I remember coming downstairs to go out somewhere when all of a sudden, my daddy called me and told me he needed to talk to me. My first reaction was, "oh no...I'm in trouble" but couldn't seem to remember what exactly I could of done so I was hoping it was about something else. Well, I was right. My dad had me sit on the couch with him and he was holding his bible. He told me how when Christ died, his apostles went out and preached His gospel and even though they knew they would be persecuted for it, they still did it. He then continued by telling me that it reminds him so much of the Mormon missionaries!...I was shocked. I couldn't believe what I was hearing! He then told me that he felt like the church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) knew he me more then he knew his own daughter. My senior year was approaching and he wanted to take that year as...a do over I guess you can say and spend more time with me. So, his goal was to go to church with me every single Sunday to support me but swore he would never get baptized (...haha, right). He was even ready to start that Sunday! Well, that weekend was my junior prom and I was not planning on going to church due to a sleep over following prom and told him that he can go with my brothers if he really wanted to. Well, he went with my brothers and he loved it! He was telling my mom that she had to come the following Sunday...little did they know, I was going to my second junior prom that weekend and again, wasn't planning on going to church. But after realizing what was going on...I decided that I would still go to the sleep over but that I would make sure to leave in time so I can meet up with my family at church. April 19th, 2008 my family was all together at church again for the first time in four years and it was the best feeling in the world!

The following weeks were amazing and we were all being taught by the missionaries again. Elder Child and Elder Coons were MEANT to teach my family - no doubt about it. My family continued to take the discussions and kept progressing. There was one lesson with the missionaries we had at the Barkdull's house where we were asked to follow the example of Jesus Christ and to be baptized by the proper authority. My response was, "I don't know." I was still dating this boy and knew that if I joined the church, we would probably break up and I of course couldn't fathom that thought because I was so in "love" with him. I remember Brother Barkdull not being pleased with my response at all and said some things that turned into a wake up call. Along with his pleading of helping me realize that NOW was the time to join the church, a lot of my other friends who were members would take the time to explain to me how I needed to take this next step in my life before it was too late. There was an incident with my boyfriend and I that made it very clear that I needed to be baptized. So, I broke up with him later the week and got baptized the following weekend. I also felt like I wanted to wait till the end of my senior year because I didn't want being Mormon to "ruin my senior year" even though I was never planning on drinking, never did drugs, wasn't having sex with boys or any of that stuff! It was honestly more of a modesty issue. I wasn't ready to give up the booty shorts or my "dream" senior ball dress. I very quickly came to the reality that all of those stuff DIDN'T MATTER!

June 1st, 2008 was my baptism date. I chose to get baptized the weekend before my family because for me, I wanted that moment for myself. Not in a selfish way!...I just always imagined getting baptized alone and I just wanted to end my journey the way I had always envisioned it to be. Me getting baptized alone was ending one chapter and starting a new one. It was me finally accomplishing my goal and keeping my promise to myself and to my future children. That day was not only the best day of my life was kind of the worst. I really wanted to bear my testimony that day (I got baptized on a Fast Sunday where members of the ward get to go up and bear their testimony. We do this the first Sunday of every month) but all of a sudden...I was starting to get these huge doubts of the decision I was about to make. I was questioning whether I wanted to be baptized and whether I was making the right decision. As I was having this battle between myself, before I knew it...sacrament meeting was over. I was devastated that I couldn't go up and bear my testimony. After church that day, I pleaded with my parents that they would let me stay for the next session of church. I told them that it was very important and that I needed to do something. They allowed me to stay for the first hour. I think I was one of the first, if not, the first person who went up to bear my testimony in a ward of many unfamiliar faces. After I finished, I remember sitting down and feeling this overwhelming sensation of peace. That day, I didn't only bear my testimony to the second ward but I felt like I bore my testimony to Satan. I wanted him to know that there was NO WAY he was going to get me to change my mind. That there was NO WAY he would win. I wanted him to know that he could NEVER get me to ever think the church wasn't true. The rest of that day was beautiful. There were so many people who attended my baptism!...Like, we had everyone meet in the chapel at the Stake Center (even opening up the over flow to put out some fold out chairs) first and then proceed over to the baptismal fount where I would be baptized by my best friend, Parker Austin Williams (who is serving his mission in Colorado Springs, Colorado and comes home soon!) by the proper authority of God. I was officially and finally a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I know this church is true with all of my heart. Like I've mentioned before, I would not of wasted four years of my life crying over wanting to be a member if I didn't know it was true. From the very beginning I knew it was true. It was instantaneous. I honestly feel like that first night at the Barkdull's house I already knew it was true. I'm going on a mission because I know that there HAS to be people who have a similar story like mine...who are waiting for the right missionaries to teach their families so they can know for themselves that it's true. I want to be the Elder Coon and Elder Child to another family. I want to find people who are searching for that one thing they are missing in their lives. I want to teach families the principle of eternity and that families CAN be together forever. Today I went to the Oakland temple to do one last session and in the changing room I was able to run into my friend Michelle in her wedding dress, heading her way over to the sealing room where she was ready to be sealed to the love of her life for time and all eternity. This is real! Heavenly Father loves us so much that he promises us so many blessings that are for ALL of his children! As a missionary, I will be able to teach people those promises and be able to help them follow the principles of faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. You guys...I am so excited! I cannot wait to begin my journey and to begin the Lord's work. I'm as ready as I can be! I cannot wait to share all of my many experiences to you and to not only be a missionary out in the field but also a missionary via email to all of my family and friends. I love this gospel and I love my Heavenly Father. Christ lives. The Book of Mormon is TRUE. And I am a daughter of God.



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