The first time I heard the story of Joseph Smith and the First Vision was at Temple Square in Salt Lake City during a guided tour. I believed it. But my family didn’t. My father said it was the most bogus story he had ever heard. I was crushed and disappointed that the story wasn’t true after all.
This guided tour was in the fall of 1976. My family had just driven me to Provo, Utah so I could attend Brigham Young University. I was 18 and a freshman. People often asked me why I went to BYU as a non-member. I would joke that I had come to BYU to check out Donny Osmond. In reality, I didn’t know why. It just felt like the right thing to do.
Freshmen were required to take the Book of Mormon class, regardless of their religious affiliation. My first semester of this class was a disaster. I had no idea what was going on, and the Book of Mormon was difficult to read and understand. I barely passed the class.
I wanted a better grade in my second semester of this class. My new professor’s name was L. Grant Shields. I often stopped by his office for help, where he brought the Book of Mormon to life for me. It was like a lightbulb had been turned on in my heart and soul.
During that freshman year, the local ward sent missionaries to teach me, and I started attending church every Sunday. By March of 1977, I had entered the waters of baptism. I was born again at age 19. Though my family was often critical of my new life, I had no regrets.
BYU became a gospel training ground for me. I learned about prayer, service, faith, tithing, apostles/prophets, trials, forgiving, repentance, scriptures, Jesus, Heavenly Father, the Holy Ghost, eternal life, and so much more!
The gospel became my anchor during the trials and challenges of life. It was there for me when I got divorced at 26 with a toddler and almost zero self-esteem. The gospel reminded me that I was a child of God, that no cheating, abusive husband could ever take away my birthright.
The gospel was there for me as I remarried and raised three additional children. It was the anchor for me to hold on to as my husband and I navigated through the ups and downs of marriage and our children’s teen years.
The gospel offered comfort when one of my children went astray. The Lord reminded me that my child was taught the gospel, and she will know how to come back when she’s ready.
The gospel was there for me when my dad passed away. It warms my heart to know that I will see my dad again.
Whatever happens in the future, I know the gospel will continue to be my anchor. In good times and bad, my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will always walk beside me.
—Mannie Ong, Fall 2022 Writing Contest Winner
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