Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Gradual Change, A Wonderful Dream

Jessica "Untypically Jia" Woodruff's Story

There wasn't a moment in my life that I never believed there was something greater than what the world was trying to lead me to believe. And when I joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was 15 years old, that belief was confirmed.

Life has never been easy, but I've known that if I look to the Lord with faith that He will see me through my trials, I will live on and be the better for it. A very good friend in my first Home Ward once told me, "The Church is true. There is no doubt in my mind. But if by some chance that it's not, it's still the best way to live your life." I believed that with all my heart. There is no doubt in my mind that Joseph Smith recieved a vision that day so long ago, and that the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to this dispensation. God lives, and He loves each of us for we are His children and He knows us completely.

I was raised half in the Church and half in the world. My family had generations of Mormons, but my parents and Grandparents had been inactive for many, many years. With no regard for their own salvation, they were determined to at least send me to Church when I was a young girl. Unlike the other kids in my Ward, I was not baptised when I was eight years old. My Grandmother had a stroke and the family became more concerned about her health than taking me to Primary every Sunday. I didn't go back for years.

In fact, I grew to be far from Mormon. Raised on and off by three of my Aunts growing up, I was tossed between Christianity, Agnostic, and Wiccan. I followed the Wiccan path set before me by my Aunt Kathy. I remained a solitary practitioner until I was fifteen years old. That's when I met Matt. Matt was LDS, only inactive. He was the kind of bad boy I craved to date, and eventually I did date him. To suck up to his parents I said yes when asked to go to Church. I felt cornered and odd. I didn't fit in there at all. At fifteen years old, I did not dress modestly, I wore black makeup and had purple hair.

I was such a fool for Matt that I agreed to take missionary discussions in order to suck up to his parents. I had finished the discussions and come January 14th, 2000 I was ready to start my new life, in a new century, with a clean slate. I was taught by two wonderful missionaries, and then as they were sent away, three Sister Missionaries were ready to take me the rest of the way. I asked my Bishop at the time, Bishop Brown to baptise me. He was a good man, and had been very kind to the fifteen year old girl who came to Church with purple hair.

I was completely against joining the Church. I wanted to be a rebel, and so did my boyfriend. I was however polite and went to Church with his family every single Sunday. In November of the same year, my Grandmother was sent to the hospital. Her heart was bleeding and there was nothing that could be done. On her deathbed, she asked of me 3 things. I was to marry Matt (she loved and adored him), I was to take care of the family, and I was to join the Church. I prayed about the decision for weeks and weeks, and then I had a dream about my Mother one night.

My mother had died when I was 2 years old, so dreaming about her was a special thing for me. In the dream, she and I talked about the Church, about Grandma and about everything else in my life. She told me she needed me to join. She said that her temple work had not been completed, and I needed to do it for her.

I remember being so nervous. I thought for sure that during my last interview before my baptism they would say they had changed their minds and I wasn't supposed to be there. I was worried that I would do something stupid to embarrass myself, or that everyone would know all the wrongs I had done in my life. I was afraid my former Wiccan friends would burst in and kidnap me. I was worried that if I turned a new leaf, Matt wouldn't want me anymore. Of course, little did I know that while he took the discussions with me, his heart turned as well.

I got dressed in white and had walked into the font looking down the stairs at my Bishop who stood there with a smile on his face. I was so nervous. The water looked freezing, and I was certain that the fabric I was wearing wasn't thick enough to be both white, and wet and modest. But I went in anyways. I remember the rush over water over my face and I remember thinking, "This is it. I'm clean." And I was pulled back up. Water dripped back off of me, and I barely had opened my eyes before my foot slipped and I went back down under a second time. I guess God thought I needed a second dose . . . just to be sure it took. It's a running joke in the family, and I was the first to laugh about it.

A short while later I found out that my Mother's temple work was completed more than ten years earlier. I like to think that it was her way of telling me that I should stop doubting that the Church was where I needed to be. She gave me that final push.

So here I am now. 8 years later. I went to Seminary for 3 years, Institute for one. I served as Seminary Secretary, Laurel President, Laurel Secretary, Ward Missionary, Sunday School Secretary and Sunbeams Teacher. I was able to watch Matt leave for his Mission, and I waited for him. We were married in the Salt Lake City Temple on February 28th, 2004.

All in 8 years. I can only imagine what eternity has in store for me.

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