Twenty-four-year-old Shivam Shah was born in India and raised in Kenya, yet he jokes that it took moving to Draper, Utah, for him to be shot at. It was an attempted murder case that made headlines across the nation, but Shah doesn't remember that terrifying event as the day he almost lost his life—he remembers it as the day God saved his life, setting him on a path that helped him understand the reality of miracles, grace, and Heavenly Father's love.
From a young age, Shah has realized the power choices play in our lives. Having lived in India until the age of 8, grown up and attended high school in Kenya, and pursued a bachelor's degree in Tampa, Florida, Shah describes himself as having "been lost in transition."
"I was a very obnoxious, short-tempered, agnostic, and crazy guy. I never believed in anything," Shah says, recognizing his early life as being full of mistakes, anger, and poor choices.
In fact, when he was 15 years old, Shah spent 12 hours in a Kenyan prison as a result of those poor choices. "I was blowing fireworks in my yard—which is illegal in Kenya," Shah says. "Around midnight, I am almost done with my fireworks—that’s when I see a police car at my front gate. At that moment, I knew I was in trouble. I started to cry while making that innocent face—but the cops never cared. They took me in their Land Cruiser, and that whole way to the police station, I kept on thinking about this one wrong move. Just one wrong decision. . . . I spent the next 12 hours in the jail, and I still remember every minute of that time I served."
Shah continues, "The difference between you and I and the person sitting in prison right now is one bad decision, literally." But Shah also understands the power of one good decision to transform lives and shape eternities. In fact, he credits all his success and happiness today with one decision: choosing to be baptized as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Learning About Mormons
Shah was finishing his degree in Florida and searching for his next step in life when his family decided to leave everything behind in Kenya and move to Draper, Utah, to start a new life.
When Shah's father first called him to tell him about this new opportunity in Salt Lake City, Shah thought it a strange coincidence. He had just finished a show on Netflix detailing the role Mormons played in the Union and Central Pacific railroads, and now his family was moving near the headquarters of the LDS Church.
Shah decided to join his family as they started to rebuild their lives in a foreign place. He says, "I could relate my whole story to the Lehi/Nephi story, how they left everything and just jumped right aboard. I think the Lord was for sure, for sure watching us, and I think He has brought us here for a purpose."
While searching for a new house or apartment, the family lived in a hotel. Shah happened to find flyers about the Book of Mormon, plan of salvation, and other gospel topics that had been left behind by a mission president who had stayed in the room previously. Having nothing better to do, Shah began to read.
The very next day, four missionaries knocked on Shah's hotel door, one of whom was from France. Shah was struck by the timing of their visit, feeling something besides coincidence was linking together these encounters. Shah kept thinking, "What is the coincidence there is a French guy teaching an Indian guy in America? This has to be something. I have got to pay attention to this."
The first lesson the missionaries taught Shah was about the nature of the Godhead, and Shah found himself enthralled by the idea of the Holy Ghost and His ability to protect, guide, and strengthen lives.
"After a couple of lessons, the missionaries humbly asked me to pray," Shah says. "At first, I was somewhat confused, but for the first time that night, I knelt down and prayed to the Lord Jesus Christ. My life took a drastic turn ever after. Prayer after prayer, all the bad temperament started disappearing. Even my family was quite shocked to see this change in me. . . . They saw I was trying to change my path, so they were very supportive since day one. "