It's been a year. Over a year since I picked up a Book of Mormon for the very first time, over a year since I spoke to my first Sister Missionaries, almost a year since I stepped in the Baptismal font.
It's been a year and I have only now realised that I never told you how it happened, most people know... in fact it's sort of a famous story in our little circle, but you, my little blog family don't know anything at all.
Let's backtrack to 19:12 Friday 13th February 2015.
I was 22 and like all 22year olds I turned to social media to vent my frustration, expecting no reply at all and simply wishing to get my #1stworldproblem out there into the ether. The problem was that for some completely unknown reason I had bought a Young Adult Vampire book on my Kobo e-reader, which is odd because I actively avoid Vampire stories in general as it's just not my genre, however I became hooked on this story and was annoyed that the sequel wasn't for sale on the platform but the 3rd book was. Except, I did get a reply, the author promptly apologised and offered me an audiobook copy of the 2nd book which had just been released.
Datestamp on these screenshots are in EST as that's where I currently am, it was actually 7pm GMT
I'd never listened to an audiobook before as an adult so I was dubious that it would work for me, my chronic illnesses were flaring pretty badly at the time though so while I couldn't sleep I began to listen. I was absorbed into this magical world by a soothing British voice, which it turns out isn't British at all...but that's another story.
By March the author, Cheri, and I had been messaging on twitter about all sorts of things almost daily so we decided to move our chats to Facebook where the messages weren't as restricted in size.
Fast forward a little to 01:25 Thursday 23rd July 2015.
We'd now been talking pretty much daily with topics ranging from book tastes and food preferences to personal trauma and the state of the world. We had much more in common than two people from different countries, of different ages and in different circumstances would be expected to have, certainly more than I expected us to have. I didn't send that tweet out in the world expecting to gain a best friend, a sister, a family. At some point Cheri's religion must have been mentioned but the subject had been changed to me telling her about a scene in one of her books that I had read that day on the journey to work which resulted in me trying so hard not to laugh aloud that I cried. My curiosity peaked though so I was brave, or nosy (you decide), and asked her what exactly her religion was. I had an inkling but one can never make assumptions these days, it turns out that my inkling was correct and we began discussing The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or as it's more commonly know The Mormon Church.
Date stamp on these screenshots show EST as that's where I currently am but it was actually 1am GMT
I has actually studied the restoration of the church as part of my GCSE History Settling of The American West topic (I know I said Alevel in the messages, I made a mistake. Also forgive my spelling mistakes, I was on a lot of strong painkillers.) So I knew a little of their beliefs and we were able to jump into conversation about the differences between what I had learnt and the truth. Months then passed with us continuing our usual chatter about anything and everything, becoming closer friends with Cheri unknowingly being that shining light of influence Mormon's know so well.
01:25 Friday 16th October 2015
I downloaded the Gospel Library app and began reading The Book of Mormon for the very first time. I skipped the introduction and dove straight in 1Nephi and his goodly parents. I also ordered a paper copy online to be delivered to me, which didn't arrive before I moved house. I'm told most people read first and then pray to know the truth, to my mind it made much more sense to pray before I read and to ask for a sign that would tell me if what I was reading was true. I already had a personal relationship with God, I trusted Him to show me whether or not this was the right path for me but I'll admit to opening the first page fully expecting to object to everything inside. I didn't believe it was true, in fact I almost wanted to believe it wasn't true which is an entirely different kettle of fish.
By 02:40 I was annoyed with Laman and Lemuel, asking Cheri odd questions about sacrificing animals and trying to process why on earth my heart was so happy.
Again the time stamp on these screenshots is EST, it was around 2am GMT
Have you ever reread a story you used to love as a child? You can remember it a little and it makes you feel so safe and loved, but it's been so long that it's still a new story to you. You have to learn it all over again while it's still familiar to you. That's how I felt. There was no denying it, I knew that The Book of Mormon was true, in my mind it didn't much matter what else the church practised because as long as I was following this book I couldn't go wrong.
Later Cheri tried to find the missionaries in my area, but they proved impossible to find. We had both tried to contact the local branch and had only drawn blanks there too, so she kindly offered her own Sister Missionaries via Facebook. Sister Bre Palmer and Sister Kaylie O'Donnal began answering my questions in videos and messages, they taught me the basic lessons and are still there when I need some missionary support at 2am.
14:00 Monday 9th November 2015
I moved into my new house where a Book of Mormon in hot pink bubble wrap was waiting for me, Cheri had managed to find a Stake service project on Facebook who had put her in contact with someone who had then contacted the Bishop for that ward. The Bishop had then contacted the Missionaries and within 2 days they were knocking on my front door, that first meeting was a little crazy. I had already come so far without them that they were thrown off their usual schedule, yet they came prepared with a Baptism date in mind just a few weeks away.
13:30 Sunday 13th December 2015
My baptism. The girl who was terrified of water; who had only met missionaries face to face a few weeks ago; who was joining a church her family couldn't even spell; who had daily nightmares about drowning in the font; who the adversary had done a great job at hurting recently; was baptised. The weeks running up to my baptism were so of the most difficult times of my life, secrets erupted that shook my world and my heart was broken more than once. The adversary saw where my flaws were, and he dug in deep.
Cheri was able to fly in a few days before hand to be there for my baptism and my husband Kane was home on leave from the Royal Navy too, the Elders were able to video call the Sister Missionaries and Cheri's family in America so everyone I needed was right there.
It was actually around 1pm GMT, again the time stamp is showing EST.
It's been a year. Since then a lot has happened, I've met those wonderful Sister Missionaries a few times and was even baptised by proxy for my late mother with Sister Palmer, Sister O'Donnal and their current companions present. Of course, Cheri was by my side that time too, in fact I'm sat in her living room right now laughing at Studio C skits on Youtube. I've given a few talks in sacrament, performed baptisms for the dead and had many spiritual experiences. I was called to be Young Women's secretary which is a calling I absolutely love and have a wonderful ward family in Hamble River. Those of you outside of the church might not see the significance of the end of the first year, so just trust me that it's important and I can't wait.
It's been a year. Almost two years since I met the silly fish who would become my best friend; over a year since my heart was reminded of a truth it once knew; nearly a year since I made my very first true covenant with Heavenly Father
...and what a year it's been.
- It's been a year since I first wrote this. I am no longer called to YWs, it was a wonderful first calling and I'll forever be grateful for the lessons those young ladies taught me. I got home from Cheri's house a month ago, whilst staying with her I took my endowments for the first time, completed all of the Temple Work available for my mother and great grandmother along with countless trips for non-family names. The sister missionaries who intially taught me came through the Temple with me for my own endowment too, it seemed fitting to have them there and they were over the moon. I'm still thankful, everyday, for the way things happened 3 years ago.