Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I'm Drowning Here!!!!

School is back in session (and I love school)....
Still doing the mom thing (and I love Julia)....
Still a wife ( and I love Dan)....
Still keeping our apartment clean (and I love our new - much larger -- apartment)....

I feel so overwhelmed. I was asked to give a talk last Sunday at church. I don't think that is fair.... giving a talk the first week of school. Shame on our bishopric for asking me. Actually, the talk turned out great....It was all about me (okay, not true -- my converstion story but, all the same). If you would like -- read for yourself if not, skip the italics.

You cannot know the sweet without first experiencing the bitter; that is the theme of D&C 29:39 and of this talk…. But, there is a lot of sweet.
I was asked to give a talk today on the way my friends helped me gain a testimony of the restored gospel. I hope that after my talk you will better understand the effortless ways I was influenced by my friends and their family, the challenges that I had to overcome and how they helped me through them and also the impact that those people involved in my conversion had on my life. You do not need the details of how it happened you just need to know why it happened and because of that -- their will be some details.
I was 15. He was 14. His name is Adam Zern. (….but, this is not the romance novel that is sounds like). We were both working as stage managers on the fall play that year. I do not remember our first conversation but there is one that I will never forget. A group of people working on the play were going to the state fair together and I invited Adam to come along.
“Adam, Do you want to go to the fair with a group of us? We a thinking of going either Wednesday or Sunday.”
“I can’t go Wednesday, I have to get up early every morning for scripture study.”
“Well, we can go Sunday.”
“I can’t go Sunday. We try to obstain from spending money on Sunday”.
“I am not asking you on a date, Adam. I was just wondering if you wanted to come with us….a group of us.”
With a smirk on his face this time he replied, “Oh, well -- that’s good. We don’t believe that we should date until we are 16 anyway.”

By the end of the conversation I was sure that Adam is the most egotistical person that I ever met and was positive that he really thought I was flirting with him. Well, one annoying conversation full of questions led to another until finally I asked,
“What church DO you go to?? “
“I go to The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints.”
“Oh”. I replied.
“Mormon” he said.
“Oh. I get it” You see - he tried to clarify by telling me that he was Mormon but, I had never heard of a Mormon. Even though I said I got it, I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t get is so much that I went home that day and told my parents, “I met a Mormon today. That is a lot like Catholic, right? “
I have always had an inquiring mind -- the Lord knows that! So, after hearing about these “MORMONS” I had to learn more. I would ask Adam a question and he would give me an answer. However, that did not last to long before Adam sputtered,
“Do you want to come to church with me on Thursday. It is just a night for the youth.”
“Sure. That would be neat”. I said… but, I must admit I did wonder if HE was asking me on a date now.
I remember the first time I went to actives. I remember doing scavenger hunt. I remember Adam’s mom sharing a spiritual thought and I remember meeting Adam’s family for the first time.
You see, Adam got me into the church but until I had a testimony his family kept me coming back! The Zern Family (or Adam’s family) were fun. I think they did an especially great job as a family showing me and many others the power of having a Gospel centered home. A home that thrived off of an innate feeling of God's goodness and the absolute necessity of having Him in our home and lives.
“In Doctrine and Convents 19:23 we are taught by the Lord to, learn of him, to listen to his words; to walk in the meekness of his spirit and then we shall have peace in him”.
The Lord was the cornerstone of their home and they invited me over frequently. They invited me over for Dinner and Family Home Evening. They let me join in family Scripture study and Family Prayers. They gave me my first copy of the Book of Mormon which included Doctrine and Convents and the Pearl of Great Price. They helped me gain the desire to learn more… and I was ready. Ready to take on the world , at least that was until my parents became concerned.
Consider for a moment that you son or daughter from the between the ages of 15 - 18 came home from school one day and let you know that they wanted to go to a new church, a different church, a church you knew next to nothing about and the only resource you knew to use to find any information on it was the internet. Well, being the wonderful parents that they are, that is exactly what my parents did….. And at that moment Satan became more real to me than he had ever been in my entire life.
I was worried and confused. My parents who had supported EVERYTHING I had done until this point in my life not only became deceived about the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints -- They abandoned me. I was 15. I wanted to share all of the exciting things I had learned with them -- and they wanted me to stop learning about the church.
I need to share a scripture with you In Section 122 of the Doctrine and Covenants as Joseph Smith received it as he was in Liberty Jail. Verses 7 & 8.
“And if thou should be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son (or daughter) that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for they good. The son of Man hath descended below them all. Art though greater than he?
No. None of us are great than he.
Looking back, I would never change the events that led to me joining the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I would never exchange the relationship I built with my Heavenly Father for quick and easy membership in the church. I was not an easy road but, it was worth you.
You see for 3 long, heart wrenching, glorious years I was in my liberty jail. However, After many concerns and even the threat of a restraining order, the Zern family stood next to me. They endured a lot of stuff too, just so I could have the gospel in my life. As I prepared for this talk, I asked Adam what the hardest part was for him as I learned about the church, he said, “You had to go through a lot of garbage to get to that point (referring the point of having a testimony). That's what differentiates converts from others, they are willing to pay the price.” .I was not the only one willing to pay they price though -- I did not endure the challenges of my conversion alone. I did not even endure them with just the Zern family by my side but also, with the Savior.
One of my favorite scriptures in Isaiah teaches us this. Isaiah 53: 4-5, “surely he hath borne our grief’s, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.”
I asked Adam what made sharing the gospel easy for him. He said, “ it was easier for me, and remains so, to share the Gospel with friends because those are the people I am and should be the most honest with. And honestly, without the Gospel I would have a very empty life. My whole thinking in absolutely everything is derived from what the Gospel teaches, and it was easy for me to share that with you.” Sharing the gospel can be easy but if anyone ever told you missionary work was easy, they lied. It can be -- but, the atonement wasn’t easy and Gethsemane wasn’t easy. There is a quote I have from Jeffery R. Holland that talks about this a little. He says that If we are willing to take upon us the name of the Lord then we must be willing to bear a little portion of the burden that he bore.
I do have a testimony of this sweet gospel. The Zern family set a great example for me and helped me to learn of the Savior’s love and taught me how to recognize the spirit. In the midst of chaos and craziness Sister Zern (Adam’s mom) sent me an e-mail reassuring me that everything would be fine and “this too would pass”. In the e-mail she paraphrased a scripture but did not reference it. I did not know it was a scripture. It was a Saturday night in January of 2000 when I read her e-mail. I left the computer room to go to bed and pulled out my scriptures. I opened up in the middle of Doctrine and Convents and began to read, “And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet.”
At that moment, I received an undeniable conformation of the truthfulness of the Doctrine and Convents and of the Prophet Joseph Smith. I truly did have the burning not only in my bosom but over my entire body. I could not deny what I knew to be true.
I called Sister Zern the next morning and told her what had happened. In a very matter of fact way she said, “Amanda, That’s the spirit. Get used to it. ” and I really have. On February 16th, 2002, just two days after m 18th birthday I was baptized by Adam. It was not easy for any of us.
Missionary work is not about baptizing people for the sake of adding numbers to the church. Missionary work is truly centered around the love of our Savior. It takes work. We must be living as the Savior would want us to be living. We must be willing to hold someone’s hand if times get tough but it is worth it.
I am so grateful for this gospel and I will forever be indebted to the Zern family for what they have given me. I have a family that will truly be together forever. I have the knowledge that if anything were to ever happen, I would never lose my Sweet Julia. She is promised to us. I know our Savior lives. I KNOW THIS CHURCH IS TRUE!

Anyhow -- Dan and I are blessed beyond measure and really are happy with where we are in our lives. I know how great my life is but, it is only two weeks into school and I am already concerned about making a "B". UGH!


claireb said...

Thanks for sharing that Amanda. You have always amazed me with your beautiful spirit, great love for others, and super cute personality. You make one amazing package! Dan sure is a lucky guy... and I know little Julia couldn't have a better mother.

JamesnMeagan said...

I love your conversion story. Thanks for sharing it. You are such an amazing person and I wish we lived closer. Good luck with school, I'm sure you'll do great!

RACHEL said...

ha ha ha, amanda you are amazing, you will do great at all of those things, but good luck all the same!!