Darkness is the absence of light.
This is what my life was covered with from about the age of 16 until I turned 21. Living in the sunny state of California was a trip, although is not as bad as movies and t.v. make it out to be it's still bad enough for people not wanting to live there, I grew up in a City called Lancaster, the high desert. Not a bad place to grow up if you ask me but that was back in the 90's. As time passed by the city like many others has grown, and with that growth population has deteriorated. Now I am not trying to talk bad about the place I once called home, but it has gotten worse over the years.
So many stories to tell about my adolescent years, but if I wrote them all down we would be here for days, so lets just do a quick summary of what it was, I was not one for school, I mean I'm smart but I just lacked the interest to get the grades I should have had. I hung out with the wrong crowd, when I say the wrong crowd I don't mean I hung out with killers or thugs, I just liked to hang out with the guys and girls who like to party.
I had the same "friends" since 5Th grade and I was not one to make any changes, specially in high school where I could get my butt whipped in an instant. I didn't go to the best school in town so my expectations for a future were close to none, but none the less I graduated high school with allot of friend changes in the way, sticking to one friend, one who I could honestly call a good and true friend. With high school behind me I was ready to have fun, but I had been having fun since the age of 16, I'm not going to get in to much detail but I'm sure you can figure out what I'm talking about. Parties, alcohol, girls, and pot where mainly my interest. Not for long do, I didn't really like getting high, and the drama of dealing with a hang over got me off drinking quick, so my only vice if you could call it that was girls.
I come from an LDS family, if you don't know what that means its Latter-day Saints. The world knows us as Mormons. But the real name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was raised to know right from wrong, good from bad and yet I still didn't agree with the views of the gospel. I always told myself that I knew there was a God, and I knew Jesus lived and there was a an evil in the world, and as long as I knew I was exempt from the rules, they didn't apply to me. So I did everything I was taught to be wrong. To my defense I was always contradicted as a child, you see my father was a devout Catholic who only converted to please my Mother (I think) and all of my brothers are not and weren't active members of the church, so all that was taught by my mother to be wrong such as masturbation, pornography, drinking, sex etc. was contradicted by my only male figures in life.
We are taught in the gospel that we are given free will, and that is the one thing God will never take from us, I had and still have my free will and I chose to use it to the best of my abilities. I didn't go to church,I didn't need to. I was in with the big guy and he was OK with me messing around, oh but if trouble came knocking guess what was the first thing I did? oh yeah got on my knees and prayed to Heavenly Father just like I was taught to do. Now that's something, that as a kid who was exempt form the rules of life, I always managed to go back to the good old fashion way of asking for help. It got me through allot, pregnancies, fights, tests, job opportunities, dates. You name it I prayed for it, but once I got my answer or what I asked for (or so I thought) I would go back to my old ways.
It's amazing the way we look at life through worldly eyes, when we let everything around us dictate our life, the media, government, friends but once your eyes are opened to what really matters you begin a whole new life, this is what happened to me. In 2003 I made one of the most crucial decisions of my life, I moved to Orem Utah to live with my aunt and cousins. There I was, this naive punk wanna be thug fresh out of Lancaster California, getting thrown in to the "Mormon" capital of the world. It was hard at first, bouncing form job to job, making all the same mistakes I was making in California and what was worse, for the first time in my life I was away from my Family, all that I knew for so long was no longer there. You begin to appreciate what you had when its gone, there is no doubt about that. I struggled for months trying to keep a job and I was getting fed up, ready to go back to what I knew, my comfort zone. Until one day my aunt Martah said to me, don't give up, there is light at the end of the tunnel just wait and see. If in 3 months you don't see a change I will help you move back home. That gave me a boost in motivation, I worked as hard as I could but still failure, job to job, no income, and not to mention my personal life was the same that it was in California.
My cousin Kevin is an "RM" Return Missionary (in the church young men go to serve a 2 year mission, this consist of preaching the gospel to anyone who is willing to listen. Women also serve missions but theirs is only 18 months long, they are the guys and girls in bikes wearing suits with white shirts and modest dresses with a name tag, I'm sure you seen them but if you haven't, when you do, be nice to them and listen to their message it might just change your life) He had approached me several times before to talk to me about church and how it was the only way and blah blah blah, but this time I actually listened. I had run out of options and I needed something different in my life, something that could give me meaning, keep me in line, help me succeed in life. So I said OK, ill give it a try. Not short after I got a job at Dialogue Marketing, this is where my life truly took a turn for the better. I met a guy named Jordan who was also an "RM" nice guy, full of life and spark. Religion was a topic of non stop arguing like always and I was used to the same robotic answers, but one day this guy gave one of the most honest answers to a question that I have ever heard. He caught my attention and after work I asked more questions and he told me to come to church with him, I passed but the seed had been planted.
Shortly after I was approached by him again and he asked me to come that Sunday as he was teaching class, I said I would try to make it. I asked my cousin if he would go with me and so him and his then girl friend (now his wife) went with me, and Jordan taught a beautiful class. I had never in my life paid attention in church, but he had my full and undivided attention. I was hooked, and after class was over he said one of the sweetest things to me. He told me that he had prepared 2 classes, one was design for me, and if I didn't show up he had prepared a totally different class. That touched me so much that I will never forget that day. To make a long story even longer I embraced the gospel like never before, this was a gift that I had my whole life but I never bothered to open it. The Gospel or "The Good News" has changed my life in ways that I never thought possible, and I continue to see improvement within me. I am a better person because of it and I owe it all to my Jesus Christ. Words can't describe the peace and love I feel inside, something that I never had and its all because of a few people who took the time to patiently wait for the right time to say something.
It is my testimony that God lives and he has a plan for all of us, Jesus is the Christ, he atoned for our sins. He is the light of the world and his Gospel has been restored on this earth through a young man named Joseph Smith Jr. Its our choice to listen, and its our duty to try and know. I say this in the name of Jesus the Christ, amen.
For more info on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints please visit www.mormon.org