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Stake ConferenceA couple of weeks ago we had Stake Conference (this happens twice/year and is a regional meeting when Mormon congregations gather together within a geographical region to listen to various speakers).  One speaker who stood out to me was a young lady named Kayla.  What stood out to me was her funny and enthusiastic attitude as well as her fresh approach to the Gospel.  She described having grown up as a Christian and then leaving the faith for a while and then recently having an experience that led her to the Mormon faith, and having a relationship with the Lord once again.  As she told her story, I witnessed the Holy Spirit come over her and it touched my heart deeply and I wanted readers of this blog to hear her story as well.

After the conference, I asked her if she minded if I asked her a few questions for readers and she was kind enough to answer a few questions for me.  The rest of this post includes my questions and her answers.

Kayla’s Story
Why did you decide to become Atheist?
I can’t remember exactly what brought me down to the path of Atheism for sure because there were many things going on. Some events that are very personal that I don’t wish sharing openly, but what I’m about to express – had a lot to do with myself choosing a Secular path. During my sophomore year of high school – there was a guy in class that I knew was experiencing troubles. I think I told him something along the lines of, “No matter what you’re going through…Jesus loves you.” He explained to me that he was an Atheist, and also told me that his parents were getting a divorce. He couldn’t understand what kind of God would let a family break a part, while letting the children suffer in the process. I told him that if he ever needed someone to talk to that he could talk to me, and I again – assured him that Christ loves him.
Though at the time I seemed fairly confident with my beliefs – after that one particular discussion – I started to question things myself. I even investigated what Atheism, and Secularism was all about. Not to mention that some of my favorite celebrities/artists are also Secular. Quite a few of them were Atheist actually. There are different kinds of Secularists, but Atheists are Secular in general. I even started talking to some of my Christian friends – asking them certain questions that pertained to the bible, the creation of the universe, and the existence of life. There was a lot of events occurring in my life that made me questions things more, and more.
Due to these issues that were occurring in my life. I, myself, was starting to lose faith in the Lord. I didn’t really know what being a real “Christian” meant? And, quite a number people that I knew growing up – that called themselves “Christians” – were not very kind people to say the least. I didn’t want to be associated with those unkindly people. By the time my sophomore year came to an end, and I was entering my junior year of high school – I was an Atheist. To be technical – I was an Agnostic- Atheist. I didn’t know if there truly was a high power, and I just didn’t believe in one. I lost faith, and I became a non-believer. At the time – I accepted that. At least when it came to my spiritual path at the time. Once you lose faith in the good Lord – it’s amazing how that loss can affect a person’s way of thinking when it comes to life, and spirituality. And trust me – it’s a loss. Many people may differ, but before I became a member of the church – keeping the faith was difficult. And, it still can be at times. Life is not easy. Losing your faith – is very easy. But, knowing the relationship that I have with the Savior now – I could never picture myself being Secular ever again. The Lord is my rock. He’s done a lot for me. He loves me unconditionally. It saddens me to know that there are many people that don’t have a relationship with the Savior, or have not accepted Him into their lives. It brings me much sadness to think about it.
 
What was life like as an Atheist?
Before I answer this – I would like to say that the path of Atheism is different for everyone. Just because I feel a certain way, or lived a certain way when I was an Atheist – doesn’t mean that other Atheists are the same. Atheism is basically a non-belief in a God, or higher power. An Atheist is a person that denies the existence of a God, or any supreme being. There are Atheists that differ, and are similar – when it comes to a moralistic life view, or common concerns, etc. Just like there are Christians that view faith, service, and life in different ways. Or interpret the scriptures differently at times. And believe me – there are. There are Atheists that believe they know the truth when it comes to a higher power, and there are those that don’t know the truth, but surely do lack faith in the Lord. There are Atheists that are still just finding where they belong. Then, you have Atheists that were never taught about the Gospel at all, and are taught to not believe in the Lord. Which I know is a sad thought, but it’s true. There are those that feel lonely, and confused. There are those that are fine with their lives. Not all Atheists are alike. Not all Atheists are scientists, or philosophers. Some, don’t care for science at all.
Most importantly – we need to remember that these people are also flesh, and bone. They’re human.
When I was an Atheist – there were times where I was okay. There were times when I was really lonely, and confused. I was never really rebellious because of the way that I was raised. I’ve never really gotten into any kind of trouble. I have a clean record. So, I never got into any serious trouble with the law at all. However, I was very obsessed when it came to death. I would obsess over my mortality a lot. Which is ironic to look back, and think about because many Atheists claim to believe that Theists, or believers can’t accept as death natural consequence, which is why they have faith in a “non-existent” deity, or higher power. I still fear death at times, but I’m not as obsessive over it as I was when I was Secular. There were times where I would be afraid, and pray, but I still lacked faith. I would only pray when I was in need. I felt that I was an idiot for praying at the time. I felt that I was weak when I would pray. I would think to myself, “What am I doing? This is hogwash! Don’t pray.” However, I respected those that did to an extent. There were times where I would mock religious individuals, but overall – I respected those that believed in the Lord when I was Atheist. Even as an Atheist – I did my share of defending those that are religious. Now, I see myself defending Atheists sometimes. (laughs) Of course, I don’t agree with their lifestyle, but not all Atheists are bad people. Just not all Christians follow the Gospel like they should.
Thankfully, this is where Christ comes into the picture. He died for our sins. He deserves our respect, admiration, and love, etc. Overall, I would say that I was a boring Atheist. I can’t really define what life was like for me. I just lived. I just lived my life like there was no God. I believe that I didn’t need God at all. Well, I was definitely wrong. I had good moments, and bad moments, but I can say that I did feel very empty, and lonely a lot of the times with not having the Savior in my life. Sometimes, I tend to think that my past probably would have been better if I would have kept the faith, but…that’s the past. I’m thankful that I have made the changes that I have. The Lord is my rock. Living life the way I am now – I couldn’t imagine myself not having Christ in my life ever again. He is definitely my rock. I need Him. I love him.
 
How did you view people who believed in Christ?
At times, I was jealous. This is jealousy, for me, is indescribable. Probably because I knew a lot of Christian people that were going through a lot, but we’re still happy as if life were easy for them. Which amazed me. Other times – I thought that they were mentally weak, but if believing in a “sky daddy” (as some Atheists put it) made them happy. Then, more power to them! “Just don’t force your beliefs unto me, and then, we’re cool.” As I would put it. At the time – I had friends that were believers, and non believers. I still have friends that are believers (like myself), or believe in something else, and non-believers. I believe in “to each their own.” I highly believed in this then, and I believe in this now. I should be honest, and say that I would sometimes antagonize believers though. Try to make them question their own faith. Even though I believe in the concept of “to each their own” now – I still share the Gospel. I even try my best to share my faith with those who don’t care for the Gospel. You never know who will truly be listening, and whose life that you’ll make a difference in.
 
What lead you to start believing in Christ again?
This experience that I had is very personal, but I’ll explain with as much detail as I can. Life hasn’t been easy for me. Then again, life isn’t easy for hands of godanyone. Anyway, I was going through much stress, anxiety, and I had a very bad panic attack. I was actually having frequent panic attacks before this one. It was so bad that I thought I was going to die. I went where I could be alone, and I prayed. I don’t want to go into much detail of what I was saying, but I was asking for help, and for the Lord to reveal Himself to me. I was tired of living this Godless life. I told the Lord that I would serve Him to the best of my ability. Just please…help me. Then, I felt this warm grasp on my left shoulder. It was a gentle grasp. It actually felt like someone was behind me, but there was no one behind me. I couldn’t see anyone in the room with me, but I felt this grasp. It felt like a hand. I didn’t freak out, but I did cry. Then, my right hand reached for my left shoulder. I was trying to touch the hand that I felt grasping that shoulder. I wanted to feel it with my own fingers. This warmth that I felt was unexplainable.  But, I can try to define this warmth for you. It was…love. I didn’t have to say anything. I knew the truth right then, and there. I don’t know if that was the Lord Himself touching me, or one of Heavenly Father’s Angels? Nevertheless, it made me certain that the Lord is real. When I cried out to Him with much intent, opening my heart out to Him – I got an answer. I’ve even had some other personal experiences that’s made me certain that the Lord is real, and lives. The Lord is real. He loves us all. I testify this.
 
How is your life now that you are a Mormon compared to when you were Atheist?
Life is still hard at times. However, I know that I’m not alone. I’m going through a lot, but I feel a spiritual fullness. Something that I never had as an Atheist. I know that the Lord is with me always. Wherever I go – He’ll be there to catch my fall. Whenever I cry – He’ll be there for me when I need to bawl. He loves me more than words could ever describe. He loves me more than I could ever love myself. He didn’t just sacrifice Himself for me, but for the world. I have much more of an understanding of the Gospel. And when I say, “Gospel.” I don’t just mean – The Book of Mormon – itself. I mean all of the scriptures that have been laid out before us.
When I read the Holy Bible – I feel inspired. And this inspiration makes me that much more grateful to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, and a daughter of Heavenly Father’s. I have much more of an understanding than I ever did before – when it comes to reading the scriptures. I’m still ignorant in some areas of the Gospel, but I’m learning a lot. In the Holy Bible (King James Version), here’s a verse that explains a little bit more clearly of where I’m trying to get at: Proverbs 2:10 (KJV) – “10 When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;” – I love this verse. In order for that wisdom to enter your heart though – it first must be open. It can’t be closed. Open your heart, and you may surprise yourself.

Why did you decide to join the Mormon church rather than the church you were raised in?
I was never exactly raised in the church growing up. My mother actually stopped going to church before I did. She was raised Catholic, but hasn’t practiced in years. Even though that’s true – she would still talk about the Catholic religion with me, and talked about the Pope quite a bit. She still does at times. She has major love, and respect for the Pope as most Catholics would – I’d imagine? I think she stopped practicing as a teenager, or young adult? I know that she stopped practicing Catholicism way before she met my father. She, and I would go to church off, and on with some friends of hers, but she just stopped attending. I think she felt out of place because a person raised Catholic going to an Evangelical Church – would feel out of place I would imagine? That didn’t keep her from being pushy at times though. And she was. She encouraged me to go to church when I was younger, and such.
My father never attended church with my mother, and I, when we did attend (before she stopping going overall), but he went as a child. Despite them not being “church going” people – they certainly do believe in a Higher Power. I started going to church on my own with friends, or other relatives. It was fun at times. Other times – it was boring. Overall – I never felt like I was able to fit in. I never really read that much of the Gospel when I attended church as a child, or learned that much of the Gospel for that matter.
An old friend of mine in elementary school – even bought me a brand new bible years ago, and I never hung onto it. Not even the necklace that came with it. Which was a beautiful necklace indeed. The more I think about it – I believe the reason why I did lose faith in high school was because of my lack of knowledge of the Gospel, Heavenly Father, and the Lord, etc. I was already lacking faith before I lost my faith. If that makes sense? I think that played a big role in myself losing faith in the Lord when I did. Ironically, I actually started reading bits, and parts of the bible when I was Atheist – just to know what was in there just so I could use the bits of knowledge that I had for debates, or personal discussions. The problem was – I didn’t fully understand the scriptures like I understand them today.
I found Heavenly Father when I opened my heart, and welcomed Him, and the Lord (our Savior) back into my life. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints found me. And I do believe that things happen for a reason, and myself being a part of the church was not only influenced by Heavenly Father, or the Lord, but also the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost made me certain that the Church is indeed true.
 
What advice do you have for those who are searching, or do not believe in God?
Open your heart. You must have an open heart, or you will not get far in your search. Also, for those investigating the church – I would encourage you to read these words: The Book of Moroni (BOM) – 10:3-5 “3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. 4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. 5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”
I appreciate Kayla for taking the time to answer these questions.  I can relate to her experience with opening our hearts and searching for an answer from the Lord through prayer to know truth.  I’ve written previously about a similar experience I had with the same scripture that Kayla outlined.  I hope I can always remember to have an open heart towards the Lord because I know that when I do have an open heart I’m in a better position to be led by His Holy Spirit.

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