I’ve always felt I’ve had an expectation to live up to. Growing up the daughter of two steadfast members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints people have always expected me to be just as spectacular as my parents. Don’t get me wrong I am forever grateful for their example and what they have taught me but it wasn’t always easy.
As I grew up in our Church I watched girls older than me and got excited to participate in the activities that they did. Most of all I was excited that I would be allowed to attend Girl’s Camp when I turned twelve. I was so excited that I didn’t sleep a wink the night before my first girls camp, in fact in six years I never slept the night before girls camp, and I got up extra early to make sure I didn’t miss the cars leaving.
Once we arrived the festivities began and essentially never stopped the entire four days we were camping. Honestly, I don’t remember many of the activities we participated in but rather the feeling that was there. There was an undeniable bond between all of the girls that was stronger than any friendship I had ever experienced. We were united in friendship and the gospel--that is an unbreakable bond.
In particular one of the older girls took me under her wing. She appreciated my sass and I adored her because she was older, wiser and completely gorgeous. I watched and observed her the entire week. I knew I wanted to grow up to be like her. She became my big sister in those four days and has continued to be since that day.
On the last evening of girls camp we always hold a testimony meeting. My new, adopted big sister Sarah was one of the first to bear her testimony that evening. I remember that she bore a powerful witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I had a glimpse of the testimony that I wanted to have. I realized that my parents hadn’t always been stalwart members of our church. They had started as young, unsure twelve year olds once too. I just had to make stepping stones for myself to one day be like them.
My first stepping stone was bearing my own testimony that evening. I stood up shaky and unsure of what I was going to say. I made some simple comments about the knowledge and testimony that I did have and took a seat. After that evening I could never deny that this Gospel had power.
Two summers later I would take a gigantic leap in my conversion process. I attended two youth camps through the church. First I attended a camp with my local church members called Moroni’s Quest. We spent several days in the mountains reenacting the events of our scripture the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon literally came to life for me that week. We had some time to go on our own and write down our own testimony. I positioned myself on top of a hill and pondered for some time. As I looked over the valley I had a moment of pure revelation. I heard a voice distinctly say “These people were real. The people you read about in the Book of Mormon lived and breathed. This record is for you to learn from their lives not just stories.” I was shocked.
I’d never had such a clear moment of revelation in my life. That week I also had a clear moment where I realized that I really am a child of God. Not just a child of my earthly parents but also of Heavenly Parents. Things I’d learned my whole life but never pondered or necessarily believed became crystal clear that week.
The last evening we ended with a testimony meeting and I again experienced the feeling I had at girls camp every year. An undeniable and unbreakable bond between all of the youth.
I made another stepping stone that testimony meeting. I knew that as a fifteen year old I shouldn’t just sit in the background anymore, I needed to lead. I chose to be the first to bear my testimony that evening so I could be an example I am so grateful that I didn’t shrink into the back but took the lead. I didn’t realize it then but I was fulfilling those expectations that had always been placed on me. After Moroni’s Quest I could never deny the Book of Mormon. I knew it to be true and I would be held responsible for that knowledge.
Later in the summer I attended a second youth camp called Especially For Youth. Unlike Moroni’s Quest this camp is with Mormon youth from around the country and even the world. I was shocked to find that same undeniable and unbreakable bond at EFY. The bond formed with people who had been complete strangers just six days before. After we had our testimony meeting our group was heart broken that we were going to have to separate. We felt like family and we didn’t want to leave one another.
We were walking back to our dorms each of us arm in arm and wiping away our tears. Our EFY counselor stopped us and had us sit down under a tree in the summer evening. He bore his testimony about eternity and the Celestial Kingdom. In our faith we understand that we can spend eternity with our families when we are sealed in one of our holy temples and if we live righteously. He told us that if we lived righteously our group could be reunited in the Celestial Kingdom. I had never thought about or considered being with a friend for eternity. What a fantastic way to spend eternity, eternally bonded with friends and family.
Then it all clicked. The feeling I had experienced at girls camp, Moroni’s Quest and EFY was an eternal friendship. Heavenly Father had blessed me with a glimpse of eternity. I could form these friendships and have these friends forever if I only lived righteously. After this EFY I could never deny that I knew the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was true. What a blessing in my life.
My testimony has continued to grow after those pivotal summers but my testimony would have never been the same without those years. I was even surprised to find out that I lived up to those expectations that were placed on me. It did take some effort on my part but people have expected me to be great because I am a daughter of God and I have eternal potential just like everyone on the earth. What’s different about members of our church is that we have the Gospel of Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father expects us to live like we know the truth because we do. I may have had a very different conversion to this gospel than other members of the church but that’s the beauty of this gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is for everybody on the earth but is completely personal and unique for everyone.