Latter-day Saint Voices | Liahona | June 2019
If I had to guess, I’m sure there are many Latter-day Saints who can relate to this story. I wasn’t an overly rebellious person in my school years. Having said that; however, when I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 19, I was very aware that to manage the new standards I have newly introduced to my life and covenanted to abide by, I would have to make changes to the company I was keeping, amongst other things.
I was in my last year of high school when I was baptized into the Church. At the time, I attended a Catholic school, and in the ’80s, it was unusual to have students of other faiths attend a Catholic school. Although it was a joyous time for me to have found a church that answered all of my doctrinal questions, it was also a very challenging and sad time as I noticed a change in my friends. They clearly did not understand why I would allow myself to be “brainwashed” by a different sect, but they also went out of their way to prove to me that I had made a grave mistake and that what I had done was like turning my back on Jesus Christ. Being a new member of the Church, I didn’t know how to properly defend myself. I wasn’t a religious scholar, but I knew in my heart and in my mind that the steps I had taken were honorable and right, and I felt incredibly sensational. I didn’t join the Church because of what someone told me about it. No one preached to me. Rather, I joined because I had gained experiences that provided me with the longing desire to learn more. While I was studying for myself, I felt the Spirit testify to me that the Church is the true Church of God, that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the head of His Church. I knew that the choice I was making to be baptized by someone who had the proper authority, and in the same way that Jesus Christ was baptized was favored by God. So I did what I knew God called for me to do.
By the way, I realize now that my friends were not the ones that changed–I did–and that was a good thing. Many of them chose to ostracize me. As despairing as I felt at the time, I realized later that it was actually a blessing in disguise. Had I kept myself associated with this company, I may not have had the spiritual fortitude to persevere through their negative influences.
How do I know this?
Through the years, the Church has provided me with so much comfort and peace. I am so thankful for having a strong enough spiritual foundation through my membership in the Church that when I did falter occasionally, I was able to find my way through the mist of darkness and back into the light. I needed that as I went through my trials of faith. Many of those trials came from extended family and friends whom I would associate with. Most were not members of the Church, and many were not engaged in the same moral standards I knew had become a strength and a blessing in my life.
And thus began my downward spiral. It is so easy to be influenced, for good or bad, by others around us, especially if we affiliate with them often. We begin to see things differently and start to justify our behavior. Slowly, small justifications become significant ones, and before we know it, we have rationalized our way back into that dark mist that can lead us to confusion and eventual discontent.
I’ve learned some valuable lessons from the company that I keep, and I choose wisely who I associate with. Most importantly, I keep my moral and ethical standards polished, the Spirit close by, and the knowledge of the gospel strong in my life, so that when I do fraternize with those whose standards do not quite match mine, I can focus instead on being a spiritual strength and example to them and to all those around me. ~Emilia Julian
As a teenager, I had a rebellious streak a mile wide, and I acted in ways that were contrary to how I was raised. I began drinking alcohol when I was 13, and by my senior year of high school, I drank every weekend.
I attended church on occasion to reduce confrontations with my parents, but I would sleep through sacrament meeting and then head to the beach before Sunday School. To say my parents were unhappy with my behavior would be an understatement. To their credit, they respected my agency while continuing to encourage me to live the gospel. Still, I had no intention of staying active in the Church, and I certainly didn’t see a mission in my future.
After high school, I attended a community college and continued my rebellious ways. But late one night, I remember lying on my couch wondering about my future. What type of girl would I marry? If I turned my back on the Lord, would I ever find my way back? As important as these decisions were, I wasn’t motivated to change.
A short time later, I attended a friend’s backyard party with alcohol and a blazing bonfire. After joking around with my buddies for a while, I stepped away for a moment and closed my eyes.
When I opened my eyes again, I had a moment of clarity. I watched my friends acting foolishly and no longer saw myself belonging to that group. I left and decided to stop drinking and going to parties. That meant I would need to change my group of friends, which was not easy. But I did it.
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