In order to bear my testimony, I have to start at the beginning. I'm the daughter of a Jewish mother and an evangelical Christian father. They divorced when I was three and I was raised by my mother, who sent me to an orthodox Jewish day school. It was there that I learned that I was part of a proud people. I had a history and a story. When I was five, I spent several months carrying a baby doll of Moses around with me everywhere I went. I learned the Hebrew Alphabet along side the English one. I loved Judaism, and I continued to love it. When I would visit my father and he would make me go to church with him, I would slump in the pew, crying. Church was an alien place, full of strange smells and too-loud voices, and enormous social pressure to turn my back on who I knew myself to be. I had no interest in embracing my father's faith. What I knew to be true is that I was a Jew, and it was the most cherished part of who I was.
As I grew older, Judaism continued to be important. I taught Hebrew prayers to bat and bar mitzvah students. I taught religious school on sundays, and I yearned to become even more religious and to grow in my observance of the commandments.
But, several years ago, I moved to Madison to pursue a PhD in English. And everything felt different. I wasn't able to find a Jewish community that felt quite right. So, I took up yoga and meditation. I became flexible, and not just in my limbs, but in my thinking, too. Slowly but surely, adherence to Jewish law no longer felt meaningful. I didn't feel that God loved me any less if I drove on Shabbat or if I lit Sabbath candles after sundown. And once I no longer felt the pull of observance, the rest of Jewish ritual felt somehow empty. If I didn't feel that God's love for me was connected to strict adherence to Jewish law, then what was it all about? What was the point? And, most importantly, how was it bringing me closer to God?
The answer is that it wasn't, at least not for me. And being the spiritual seeker that I am, I decided that I needed to embrace other religious traditions, to try to access God in whatever way I could. I even visited a psychic who insisted that she couldn't get a read on me because my chakras required cleansing. So, I got my chakras cleansed, and after doing a quick google search online, I found a woman named Carol Tuttle. She was a Mormon who happened to write about chakras and energy healing. I felt oddly drawn to her, and so I read a book she had written entitled Remembering Wholeness, which talks about how each of us is a divine child of heavenly parents. She talked about the atonement, what she called at-one-ment. She taught me about Christ's love for us.
And instead of turning away from a book that was filled with language that struck me as strange, uncomfortable, and even sacrilegious, I started to really think about Jesus, about his sacrifice, and for the first time in my life, instead of rejecting the possibility of a savior, I began to believe. About four months ago I sat my kind, gentle, but very Jewish husband down and tearfully confessed to him that I was a Christian and that I wanted very much to be a disciple of Christ.
I had no idea what this profound spiritual awakening meant for my life, for my marriage, or for my identity, but I knew that I craved Christ's light in my life. I also knew that I was terrified of calling myself a Christian and of going to a church like the ones my father had forced me to attend as a child.
It was then that I decided that I needed to explore Mormonism, and I wondered if it might provide me with a spiritual home, and a closer relationship to God. I remember telling a Mormon friend of mine that I had started to daydream about missionaries stopping by my house, at which point she told me that I didn't have to day dream, that this could definitely be arranged. And within a few days Elders Martell and Humble stopped by my house, sat on my porch, and gave me the book of Mormon. I was drawn to their goodness, their deep faith, and their astonishing patience with all of my questions. I loved our brainy conversations, and I loved what I was learning. Eternal progression, heavenly parents, forever families, a tight knit community that ministered to one another, and a faith that is necessarily accompanied by right action. I fell in love with Mormon theology, and with a big, bold, generous God. I felt a peace and excitement that I hadn't ever felt before. I found myself watching general conference talks, listening to hymns, and staring at images of temples.
I didn't have a vision, or a dream, but I still feel like something mystical happened. I felt Jesus knocking on the door of my heart, reminding me that he was here, even though I was scared and unsure of what it meant for me. My path to Mormonism feels extraordinary. If it hadn't been for a woman who told me that I needed to clear my chakras, or a new age Mormon lady in Utah, or a chance meeting with the sisters at a relief society event, or Sister Brewster's timid but prayerful invitation to be baptized, I wouldn't be here today.
But I am here. And I am so deeply grateful, to the missionaries, to divine timing, and to all of you who have welcomed me with such incredible kindness. I am so proud to be part of this community.