Latter-day Saint Life

I know what it’s like to consider straying—here’s why I stay and support others on their journeys

hug of friends shopping on the street
Like the father in the parable who ran to his son when he saw him walking toward him, running and welcoming our brothers and sisters can also be literal.
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One day, I decided that I was going to take my own way—my own path. I was tired of being the “good girl.”

Nothing exciting seemed to happen on the covenant path.

I knew there were pointing and mocking from those in that great and spacious building, but I “heeded them not.” I wasn’t ashamed, and I didn’t desire their fancy clothes and worldly possessions. I just wanted something different, something exciting. This desire seemed to come out of nowhere, and I knew that I might talk myself out of it if I didn’t act quickly.

In his October 2023 general conference talk, “The Prodigal and the Road That Leads Home,” Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf shares, “Who among us has not departed from the path of holiness, foolishly thinking we could find more happiness going our own self-centered way?”

In my premeditated “great adventure,” I reasoned away my uneasy feelings and attributed the voice of the Holy Ghost to human nerves. I rationed that I wouldn't go too far off the path, just make a small detour and come right back.

Like the prodigal son, I was tempted to stray from the life I knew. Other paths seemed like they could offer something more interesting—and it felt easy to justify my idea when I felt weary from well-doing.

On the other hand, we can feel tempted to stray in a different sense—questioning who deserves to return to the path and feeling angry when others receive forgiveness (Luke 15:28).

As I reflected on the brother’s side of the story, I wondered if he never felt celebrated in all the time he was faithful. Maybe he asked himself, "Why am I still serving? Do I need recognition for all the good I’m doing, or am I doing all of this because I want to honor my father?"

Maybe he didn't fully understand the "why" behind staying on the path or realize everything that he had already. The only thing he didn't have really was his brother, whose ultimate return was a chance for him to rejoice.

My thoughts then turned to this question: "What if my brother or sister comes back home, and I’m not here?" I realized that I couldn’t risk straying from the path and miss the chance to support my friends and family. I want to return to my Father in Heaven with my loved ones, and I want us to stay on the covenant path together.

Elder Uchtdorf says that we should find joy in each person's return, especially our own: “I bear witness that the moment you decide to return and walk in the way of our Savior and Redeemer, His power will enter your life and transform it. Angels in heaven will rejoice. And so will we, your family in Christ. After all, we know what it’s like to be a prodigal.”

I know what it’s like to consider straying, but I also want to rejoice with the angels! Choosing to stay on the covenant path doesn't mean I won’t face temptations, but it allows me to help others and welcome them back with open arms.

This shared struggle to stay on the path helps me avoid judgment. As a favorite hymn reminds me, “Who am I to judge another when I walk imperfectly? In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see. Who am I to judge another? Lord, I would follow thee.”

I ultimately chose not to stray, and it’s a decision I continue to make each day. There are many reasons why I decided to endure to the end, and one of them is my desire to rejoice when my brothers and sisters return. It’s exciting to see my friends come back to church, and I don’t judge them for their journeys.

I ultimately chose not to stray, and it’s a decision I continue to make each day.

Like the father in the parable who ran to his son when he “was yet a great way off” (Luke 15:20), welcoming our brothers and sisters can also be literal. When we see them returning, we can “run” to them in the ways they need, throw our arms around them, and let them know how much they are loved.

For me, one of these literal welcomes has been music. My mother is a member of a Baptist church, and hand-clappin’, foot-stompin’, Baptist-rooted gospel music was my spiritual foundation before joining the Church. When my family lived in Utah, my mother, daughters, ward friends, and I would periodically do gospel music firesides at various congregations in the Salt Lake area.

It strengthened my testimony to see the gospel music that I loved be welcomed and celebrated among members of the Church. These experiences helped me stay on the covenant path and invite others to feel a sense of belonging as well.

When I'm following Heavenly Father's will, I know there are going to be some bumps in the road. I'm going to be frustrated, shed some tears, and be weak at times, but I've made up my mind that I'm going to see it through to the end. Whatever comes, I will accomplish what Heavenly Father asks me to do.

Every day, we get to prepare for the greatest return—the return of Jesus Christ. What does that look like? For me, it means replacing temporal thoughts with spiritual thoughts, thinking about things eternally, immersing myself in the scriptures, attending the temple, and connecting with other women who want to stay on the covenant path. It also requires talking to Heavenly Father about it because He knows me better than I know myself.

I know He loves me. He wants me to stay on the covenant path, and He will help me. He will never leave me, and I don’t want to leave Him.

We can rejoice with angels at all the wonderful returns—our return to the covenant path, the return of family and friends, and the greatest return of Christ. When He comes back to the earth, I hope to be caught in the very act of preparing for His return.

Until then, I’ll be here on the covenant path, working and waiting, finding joy in my journey, and supporting others on their way home.

▶ You may also like: 12 days of Christ: A Christmas advent to help you connect with the Savior

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