This is my talk I have been working on for my baptism.... I don't feel that good about it as is and thought I'd post it up here to see what you guys thought of it. I think it needs to be shorter, but I can't decide what needs to be cut and what shouldn't. If you are feeling brave and actually try and read all of it, feel free to give any degree of harsh comments (please be constructive, not mean though! Not that you guys would be...). Hopefully it makes sense without the emphasis I would put on words, or in general. Thanks in advance to those brave souls who are willing to read all the way through!
Those who knew me before I started coming to Church probably would never have expected to see me standing before you at my baptism. I’m sure that none of them are as surprised as I am though. I was always very skeptical of religion since I grew up without it. The only exposure I had to it was stories from the Bible my Dad read to me before bed when I was younger, but to me they never had any spiritual or deeper meaning than my other stories did.
Faith in God and Jesus Christ was always mystifying to me. I just could never understand how so many people could be so sure of God’s existence. What was so convincing to them? I always envious of them, and wished I had that sort of assurance and faith in my own life.
Up until about six months ago I was very confident about my beliefs and I didn’t have any reason to doubt or question them. I’m not sure exactly when it started or why, but for some reason I was drawn to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and began researching the beliefs of the Church. And as I learned more and more about the beliefs and practices of the Church, I was surprised to find that I agreed with everything that I was reading. I had never found a religion I had agreed so much with before and it definitely intrigued me.
To my greater surprise, as I started my missionary lessons I still kept agreeing with everything that they were telling me. Everything sounded so wonderful and great, yet there was always a small voice in the back of my mind saying that, “sure all of this sounds good and feels good, but it only makes sense if you believe in God.” And I didn’t know whether or not I believed in God, or whether or not I even could. The voice kept telling me that it would never happen, that just like before I could wish and hope for the blessings that come from faith, but I could never experience them for myself. That I could never truly believe in Him, that He was there for me and loved me and knew me.
I knew that creating a foundation of faith in God would have to be my hardest and my most important step. I didn’t have faith that my testimony in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ would grow. I let myself believe that religion just wasn’t for me.
Thankfully something else in me was stronger, and kept pulling me back to the lessons and to Church every Sunday despite the uncertainty I had been feeling. I had a few more setbacks in my lessons though, and after nearly a month I didn’t have enough trust in myself, or the missionaries to continue taking lessons with them. I felt tore between the promptings to continue seeking the Church, and the feelings that made me want to stop trying to seek the truth.
I remember feeling really relieved after telling Elder Groshong that I wanted to stop the lessons, but I certainly didn’t feel good about it and had a terrible, nagging feeling in the back of my mind telling me that I had given up too quickly.
Then I talked to my Aunt, who had been taking me to Church with her and her family during this time. After we talked for an hour or two I decided that I still wanted to go to Church with her because I knew in my heart that I wasn’t done with the Church and would regret it if I chose to stop pursuing this path. But I also knew that I still needed time to figure things out before resuming lessons with the missionaries.
Looking back on that time now, I realize that because I was learning about all of the wonderful things in the Church that were so different than what I was used to and familiar with in approaching life, that Satan was taking advantage of my vulnerability during this time and planting doubt in the messages the missionaries were sending. Satan was capitalizing on this important time in my life, recognizing that I was at a crossroads. He tried to tempt me into turning away from Heavenly Father and the Church forever, and still does. He did his best to convince me that my faith in God was false and that my experiences in feeling the presence of the Holy Ghost were just a result of my desire to believe and were not real.
Thankfully Heavenly Father loved me enough, and had enough faith in me not to give up on me when I almost gave up on Him. He looked out for me especially during this time, and saw that I had let the Adversary build enough of a wall around myself and hardened my heart enough that He would have to reach out to me through someone else. That someone else was my Auntie Virginia who helped me remember and think about what I knew to be true in my heart. Why I kept being drawn to the Church despite all of my doubts and fears, and why I couldn’t let myself give up on it.
That’s what I was working on this entire time between my lessons and a couple of weeks ago. Softening my heart enough to really accept the messages of the missionaries as the Truth and gaining enough faith and strength to resume the lessons. To be at a point at which I knew that I was ready to be baptized. Along with recognizing and accepting and embracing the truth of the gospel I recognized that as I began to see Heavenly Father’s blessing in my life, I could also more easily recognize when Satan was working against me. I can also see now that Heavenly Father may not directly answer my prayers right when I ask them, but He always does answer them.
Nearly everyday since setting my baptism date I have felt so much joy and happiness. I never thought that I was unhappy before accepting Jesus Christ into my life, but now I know what happiness is. I think it is important to note that I said nearly everyday I have been happier. While I have pushed Satan away from my heart, he is still always making attempts to weaken my faith. A difference I have noticed from the moments of doubt when I first began investigating the Church and now, is that now I know that I can pray to Heavenly Father and ask him for guidance and answers when I feel confusion, doubt or fear about anything instead of thinking that I have to figure everything out on my own.
Right before setting my baptism date I got something that has this quote underneath a picture: "The situations and experiences we face in life reflect what Heavenly Father really knows about us and what we need to make our weaknesses become Strengths"
I had to get this when I read it because it struck such a chord with me. Because I understand that Heavenly Father knows that I am faced with these moments of doubt because they will help me grow an even stronger testimony. And change my weaknesses into my strengths.
Recently my friend brought up a question I hadn’t really spent much time thinking about. She asked me if I had really looked into other churches before committing to this Church. I thought about it for a moment and realized that I hadn’t, and when she asked why, I couldn’t think of the reason why I hadn’t. I thought about that question a lot later that night, and realized why I hadn’t felt the need to continue searching. I know that Heavenly Father directed me towards this Church, that He made sure I had the people in my life that I could look to for guidance and answers when I felt doubt or had any fears. I never sought out another Church because this Church felt right, only if I had felt unsatisfied or felt that something was wrong in the Church would I have felt the inclination to look elsewhere. I feel good about everything the Church teaches and am so thankful that I now have Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in my life.
Congratulations, you made it all the way through! Gosh the closer I get to this talk the more nervous I get. Besides just talking about my feelings, I'm afraid I won't be able to get across the feelings I want.