Six years ago I walked into my friend Lyren’s house and saw two guys in white shirts sitting on the couch. I glanced at Lyren and back at the two missionaries who gave me an awkward smile followed by a very awkward handshake.
I was 23, in my last year at university, and on my way to a career that I had dreamed about since I was a little girl. I had a good family, friends, and a boyfriend who treated me well. And I thought I was a good person because I donated to two charities every month and I once bought a homeless man a Wendy’s meal . . . and then told everyone about it on Facebook.
But the lifestyle I lived of a typical partying university student, did not seem to evoke the same type of happiness I saw in my friend Lyren, or in the two missionaries sitting in front of me. There was something different about people whom I knew lived their faith. The way they walked seemed lighter, the way they carried themselves with quiet but strong confidence. The way they freely gave without expecting anything back.
On the outside people probably thought I was happy. But no one knew- not my close friends, or even my family knew- that deep down I was fighting my own spiritual battle, and though it might have seemed like I had a lot of friends- I had never felt so alone.
‘Is it true Mormons can’t drink alcohol?’ I asked the elders as I sat down.
‘Yes but . . . ’
I waved my hands and laughed, as if I had just heard a joke.
‘I would never be able to do that,’ I told them. ‘This is New Zealand, drinking is a social activity. All my friends drink. I could never stop.’
The missionaries told me they would answer my questions about drinking alcohol later. But they told me first they wanted to help me understand God and Jesus Christ. Faith in God and in His Son came easy to me, and so they asked me if I had heard of Joseph Smith. His name sounded like any English name to me. He was a prophet, they said. Like Noah or Moses. He restored the gospel of Jesus Christ. I had no idea what they were talking about or why this was important. We prayed together and as I went to leave, they handed me a set of scriptures and asked me to go away and read, ‘Joseph Smith--History’.
I said yes, but I forgot about it as I was sitting in my best friend’s car that night, both of us drinking a bottle of wine in an abandoned car park. I remember thinking as I took another sip, there had to be more than life to this. There was a lack of purpose in my life, the not knowing or understanding who I was, the yearning of my soul for something greater. I knew deep down that no amount of partying, alcohol, or any short-term gratification could ever satisfy what was missing in my life.
The next morning, I reached for the scriptures and started to read Joseph Smith’s History. Back then, I did not know anything about Joseph except that the missionaries seemed to talk about him quite a bit. I began to read about Joseph’s life, how he was in a state of confusion and did not know which church to join. How he knelt down and tried to pray to God but was ‘seized upon by some power which entirely overcame’ him.
I remember stopping and re-reading this verse over and over again, especially intrigued by the darkness that Joseph was in before he saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It is only when Joseph fought the darkness that he was overcome with light. I put down the scriptures and for the first time in my life I began to pray to God in such a way that I began to feel light enter my life and darkness disappeared.
I was soon baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and my life changed dramatically. The Lord has taken me on an adventure, more specifically to Hong Kong on a mission, and He has opened doors I could never open myself and has turned me into a person I did not know I could become.
Life has not been easy- there is always the crippling feeling of loneliness being the only member in my family and of course it was hard giving up old habits. But the happiness and quiet confidence I now have comes from a simple truth of my identity as a child of God and my reliance on the Saviour, Jesus Christ. I know that when we give our life to Him, He can turn our life into something more incredible than we can imagine. And that's what He has done for me in all areas of my life. My relationships with people have deepened and so has my love for my family and for those around me. My outlook on life has changed. And I definitely don't miss alcohol, because what I have gained instead, is so much more valuable.
It is hard to believe in something we cannot see. It is hard to believe something we have not experienced ourselves. But it was through personal revelation that I was able to know that Joseph Smith’s account of his vision was real and that is happened. His experience has allowed me to have a closer and more personal relationship with the Saviour, Jesus Christ. And Joseph’s vision always reminds me that light will always overcome darkness