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7 things that have helped me as a convert to the Church

by | Sep. 30, 2020

On September 27, 2015, I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while attending Michigan State University. Before that, I wasn’t religious and struggled with many doubts—including whether God was even real. Now, five years later, I can easily see how Heavenly Father has been so good to me throughout my life, even when I wasn’t sure He was there.

Converting to the Lord and joining His Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, felt overwhelming at times. I wrestled with questions I never thought I would need to ask and made sacrifices I never thought I would need to make. But even amidst all the uncertainty and unknowns, I found that the Savior has always been ready and willing to help me.

For me, that help has come in many different forms. Often it has taken the form of discovering inspired words that strengthen my faith and trust in the Savior. But it can be challenging to know where to look for answers when trusting God feels unfamiliar or even scary. These are many of my go-to favorites in the six years since I first met with missionaries. It is my hope that these teachings will help you or someone you love to find strength to be truly “converted unto the Lord” (Alma 23:6).

1. Alma 32

For most of my life, I was unsure whether Heavenly Father was really there. So when I began learning about the restored gospel, it felt like I was starting from ground zero. I had no idea how to develop and maintain strong faith in the Savior. In fact, the idea of faith seemed blind and ignorant to me. But the Book of Mormon proved me wrong.

One of the first chapters that the missionaries assigned to me was Alma 32 in the Book of Mormon. It was completely life-changing. I was a budding scientist when I read the words: “If ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, yea, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words” (Alma 32:27). Experiment? It was music to my ears.

As a biology major, I knew all about experiments. An experiment requires sound logic, problem-solving skills, trial and error, and deliberate observation of specific parameters. It is anything but blind. Rather, it actually encourages you to keep your eyes open and bring all of your skills to the table. So, for the first time in my life, having faith in Jesus Christ felt like something I was capable of doing.

I still revisit Alma 32 whenever I feel like faith in Jesus Christ feels too out of reach. Alma’s teachings provide the spiritual framework to start wherever you are.

You can request a physical copy of the Book of Mormon from your local missionaries. You can also find it online at the Church’s website and on the Gospel Library app.

2. True to the Faith

For me, learning about the restored gospel initially felt like learning a new language. There were so many words and concepts that I struggled to understand. Early in my journey, a dear friend gave me a copy of True to the Faith.

I like to think of it as a dictionary for all the things you want to learn more about in the gospel but might be afraid to ask someone. It is full of concise definitions and explanations for topics like “Agency,” “Endowment,” “Stake,” and “Zion.”

Whenever I came across something that I didn’t understand in the scriptures, I would look it up in True to the Faith. It increased my confidence. It also helped me feel at peace with everything that I was learning.

True to the Faith is available on the Gospel Library app and on the Church’s website for free, or you can also purchase a physical copy.

3. “Trifle Not With Sacred Things” by Elder Larry S. Kacher of the Seventy

The first general conference I ever watched was in October 2014. I remember how the crash courses friends gave me before the first session all boiled down to one truth: messages at general conference are tailored to us personally because they are inspired of God. To me, that was extraordinary. I went into general conference prepared with complete optimism and a pen and notebook, ready for answers.

But I was completely unprepared for the joy I felt when I listened to Elder Larry S. Kacher’s talk “Trifle Not With Sacred Things.” He spoke of his personal conversion and the unexpected struggles he faced. “Everything was new to me. At times I felt lost and confused. Questions and challenges were posed by both friends and family,” he said.

“I had a choice to make. Some of their questions created doubt and uncertainty. The choice was an important one. Where would I turn for answers? There were many who wanted to convince me of the error of my ways—'riptides’ determined to pull me away from the peaceful current that had become a wonderful source of happiness. I learned very clearly the principle that there is ‘opposition in all things’ and the importance of acting for myself and not forsaking my agency to others.”

Elder Kacher had no idea who I was. But he knew exactly what it was like for me to face questions I struggled to answer. How did he know to talk about this? How did he know I would be listening?

He didn’t know. But He followed the Lord, who has always known my every concern and heartache.

Elder Kacher continued, “I asked myself, ‘Why would I turn away from that which had brought me such great comfort?’ As the Lord reminded Oliver Cowdery, ‘Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter?’ (Doctrine and Covenants 6:23). My experience had been similar. Therefore, I turned, with yet more commitment, to a loving Heavenly Father, to the scriptures, and to trusted friends.”

As I listened to Elder Kacher’s counsel and testimony, my next steps were illuminated and my heart felt heard. I knew that God had paid attention to the thoughts and questions that kept me up at night.

There are many other talks that are similar. Many General Authorities have joined the Church later in life and have experienced challenges. But the Savior knows you best. In preparing for the October 2020 general conference, perhaps you will find someone’s message to be a direct and definite answer to your struggles.

4. “A Welding Link” by Elder David A. Bednar

In efforts to comfort and strengthen me, many friends said that I was a pioneer—that my decisions to learn and live the restored gospel were trailblazing and would impact generations. Admittedly, it was hard for me to grasp what they were saying. Most of the time, I just felt exhausted. I certainly did not feel like a hero.

Nothing has improved my self-esteem and perspective of my eternal worth quite like the broadcast “A Welding Link,” by Elder David A. Bednar in 2017.

Elder Bednar based his remarks on this insight from President Gordon B. Hinckley: “To you I say with all of the energy of which I am capable, do not become a weak link in your chain of generations. You come to this world with a marvelous inheritance. You come of great men and women, of men of bravery and courage, of women of accomplishment and of tremendous faith. Never let them down. Never do anything which would weaken the chain of which you are a fundamental part.”

Elder Bednar testified, “To you who are first-generation members of the Church: it begins with you! You are the pioneers for both your progenitors and your posterity. Deceased family members who precede you in the chain of your generations are praying for your help, and those who will come after you are counting on your faithfulness. You indeed have the power to become strong welding links. Remember, it begins with you. And with the Lord’s help, you can do it.”

As I listened to his remarks, I couldn’t help but lift my chin up and smile because I realized that every struggle that I had truly mattered—for reasons much larger than myself. Although I am not sure if those who come after me will accept the gospel, I find great beauty in knowing my decisions could have a lasting impact.

5. “Saving Your Life” by Elder D. Todd Christofferson

The only reason I heard about “Saving Your Life” by Elder D. Todd Christofferson was through a friend of a friend of a friend. And I am so glad that I did.


In this Church Educational System broadcast, Elder Christofferson shared insights related to Matthew 16:24–25: “Then said Jesus unto his disciples, if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”


For so many, this invitation from the Savior can be heartbreaking because it means the sacrifice of dear relationships. I have been so fortunate that my loved ones have been kind and respectful of my beliefs, but I understand that not everyone has this experience. Elder Christofferson spoke directly to those who face uncertainty in their relationships after discovering the gospel: “In one way or another, your superior love of Christ has required the sacrifice of relationships that were dear to you, and you have shed many tears. Yet with your own love undiminished, you hold steady under this cross, showing yourself unashamed of the Son of God.”


In just a few sentences, Elder Christofferson validated the isolating and gut-wrenching feelings that so many brave converts to the Church experience. He then shared helpful counsel for how to move forward.

“In reality, the best way to help those we love—the best way to love them—is to continue to put the Savior first. If we cast ourselves adrift from the Lord out of sympathy for loved ones who are suffering or distressed, then we lose the means by which we might have helped them. If, however, we remain firmly rooted in faith in Christ, we are in a position both to receive and to offer divine help,” he said.

Read or listen to Elder Christofferson’s full remarks here.

6. “His Grace is Sufficient” by Brother Brad Wilcox

As I learned about the restored gospel, I wrestled with questions about faith, works, grace, and mercy. Specifically, I often wondered how to reconcile the differing opinions between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other churches regarding these concepts. I wanted it all to make sense. But everything just wasn’t clicking into place the way I hoped.

Then I listened to Brother Brad Wilcox’s speech at Brigham Young University, called “His Grace is Sufficient.” His illustration of a child taking piano lessons cleared up questions about grace that I had struggled with for so long.

“Christ’s arrangement with us is similar to a mom providing music lessons for her child. Mom pays the piano teacher. How many know what I am talking about? Because Mom pays the debt in full, she can turn to her child and ask for something. What is it? Practice! Does the child’s practice pay the piano teacher? No. Does the child’s practice repay Mom for paying the piano teacher? No. Practicing is how the child shows appreciation for Mom’s incredible gift,” he explained.

In my initial efforts to develop faith in Jesus Christ and repent, I couldn’t help but wonder if the Savior’s love and approval was conditional and dependent on my performance. But Brother Wilcox’s testimony made all the difference: “No, we are not earning heaven. We are learning heaven.” And that felt like something I could do and even come to cherish.

Read or watch Brother Wilcox’s full BYU speech here.

7. "Don’t Miss This" (New Testament) 

I heard about "Don’t Miss This" toward the end of my full-time mission for the Church. I had a feeling it would be helpful, but I had no idea just how transformative it would be. In "Don’t Miss This," Emily Belle Freeman and David Butler share Come, Follow Me insights through weekly videos. I started watching the videos each week and then felt prompted to watch all of the New Testament videos, which I had missed while I was out on my mission.

That was perhaps one of the best spiritual promptings I have ever followed.

During my journey toward baptism, I came to know Jesus as the Deliverer. During my journey as a full-time missionary, I came to know Jesus as the Redeemer. And as I watched the New Testament videos for "Don’t Miss This," I came to know Jesus as my most cherished Friend.

That realization led to a deeper and fuller conversion to Him than anything I had previously experienced. It was special for me to first experience the sweetness of His deliverance, then His ability to refine and purify, and then His gentle kindness.

I learned He was willing to not only heal a leper, but also touch him—a man who was ostracized for his disease and who likely endured years without being touched (Mark 2:40–41). I learned how Jesus saw right through the social labels and superficial needs of the woman at the well and chose to heal her heart (John 4:3–29). I learned about His untiring patience with Peter time and time again, tutoring him with kindness (John 21:15–17).

There was something about His gentle compassion. I realized that He was willing to go out of His way for imperfect and broken people. Not only did He perform miracles, He performed miracles in the best possible ways for each person involved. He thoughtfully went the extra mile, without reluctance or hesitation. I came to fully know and believe that He would do the same for me as I studied the New Testament alongside Emily and David.

That was more than enough for me to fully embrace repentance with complete delight and enthusiasm. But what stirs your heart might not be what stirs mine. The Lord will lead you to everything you need. I encourage you to find whatever makes your heart sing about the Savior.

Author profile

Valerie Russell

Valerie Russell is the current editorial intern for LDS Living. She is a graduate of Michigan State University, which is also where she discovered the restored gospel and joined the Church. With a bachelor’s degree in human biology, she delights in translating her research and analytical skills into journalism. She believes that nothing is too hard for the Savior and that life is made infinitely better by good stories and sweet dogs.

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