I knelt next to my bed, my head down, my heart a heavy metronome of beats. My hands, shaking like an Aspen, held a chunky white envelop, eight by eleven in size, holding a destiny I’d arrived at some months ago. I prayed,
“Oh Heavenly Father, help me relax.”
I did what I said I was going to do in London when I sent my parents a No Going Back email. Upon my return flight home I made arrangements with my newest friend Amanda to find an apartment in Salt Lake City and apply at the University of Utah, get a job and work on sustaining myself. That was eight months prior and I had done well for myself establishing independence, though I had to use the last bits of my grandfather’s trust fund and learn how to make meals from the Chevron on 40th using my parent’s gas card.
The hardest part to transition was separating from my boyfriend. In a desperate attempt to have space, I rejected the idea of marrying him and instead bought more time in the idea that I’d only consider marriage if he were a returned missionary. This meant a revolutionary change in his lifestyle and some modifications to mine as well. The bumpy road that led to his departure nearly derailed us spiritually and physically. But his existence in the southern most parts of Chile gave me a reassurance that I was safe--safe to make decisions outside of the confines of our complicated and bi-polar relationship.
I cleaned up. I made peace with God and man about actions of my past and I dedicated myself to making a serious study of the religion my parents gave me. On an early north-bound bus on frozen mornings along the Wasatch Front I started a curious read of the Book of Mormon for the first time of my life. I expected it to be boring, frankly, but my morality knew it was imperative. How could I call myself a Mormon if I had never even read the book?
After time, those colorless mornings and dark evening rides on jerky buses reading my Book of Mormon became my preferred times of the day. I was studying incredible ideas in all of my Human Development and Family Psychology classes and yet nothing held my intrigue like the wispy pages of my Mormon scripture.
Then, one morning in late fall I came to the last page of the book. I was at my family’s cabin in Walsburg, Utah in my parent’s expansive bedroom covered in pioneer quilts, landscape paintings and braided rugs. I knew what was coming, a couple verses which asked me, the reader, to ask God if this book were true.
But I already knew. It was.
In the course of reading the Book of Mormon something awoke inside of me. The seeds of strength which had been buried in my mortal soil started to bloom. I was a daughter of a God. I was capable of great power. I had completely misidentified myself as a Mormon woman. I was not a chess piece on a man’s board of success, I WAS MY OWN.
This new connection with my true identity transformed me, seeped into my pores and changed my body and spirit. Suddenly my soul felt lighter. I laughed more. I connected to people with love. I wanted less consumption. I craved intimacy with others and with God. I noticed my hated hair started flipping in soft waves just as I always wished it would. Even my skin projected clarity of deeper origins. And my body, generous and voluptuous, fit right on my small-boned frame. The world, after all, was a safe place for the authentic me.
I had spent two decades avoiding spirituality, thinking it would only lead to a robotically cloying, drab little life. And here I was nearly twenty-one feeling for the first time explosive, utterly interested and increasingly fascinated. My brain no longer saw the world as rights and wrongs, but as a spectrum of truth. There was truth everywhere, in culture, in literature, in everything.
And I knew what God was really asking me at the end of the Book of Mormon, as I devoured the last page one orange morning in my parent’s cabin-bedroom. He was asking,
“Will you go share this book with others?”
I wanted to reach out to other people. I wanted to serve. I wanted to help others. I wanted to follow my new-found friend Jesus Christ in living a self-aware, selflessly-donated life. I responded to this call with a heaviness of heart, knowing mine would break a million times if I were to say yes. And I never thought I would be this person, this girl who would put her educational plans on hold for God. But I said it anyway.
Then one day I found the chunky, white envelop, packed into and protruding out of my narrow mail slot adjacent to my apartment building in Salt Lake City. I knew it was the response from Church Headquarters to my request to be a full-time missionary for the next eighteen months of my life; my mission call. I knew it was full of instructional papers, what to wear, what to study, how to prepare. I had seen these pages spill from the envelops of my five missionary brothers before me. And I knew the very front page would be from the prophet. He would ask me to serve in a specific location, a part of the world which would become like home to me for the rest of my life. This mission call would be wrapped up in my identity and my compassion, a place where I would go to give myself to God completely.
So after my prayer asking God to soothe my jumpy heart, I slowly opened up the envelop reached inside and read the top page of courier font and heart-felt greetings.
You are hereby called to serve as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the Canada Montreal Mission. You will be speaking in the French language.
I can’t really say what happened next, I was alone in my room, but I remember jumping up off my knees. I remember screaming with thrilling vibrations out of my throat. I remember thinking it all felt exactly like I knew it would--as though Montreal had been home for a long time. And there were people there, though I had never met them at all, waiting for me.