Coming back to Church was bittersweet

by Jacqueline Oh

Jacqueline Yang

When I was about 14 years old, I became interested in religion.  I was brought up in a Taoist family but there were many things that I did not feel comfortable about Taoism.  Christianity was not my cup of tea – I thought it was too pushy and judgmental.  After attending a Japanese Buddhist testimony meeting with an aunt, I started to practise chanting.   However, I gave it up after a while because I felt that was not the way to communicate with God.

First time I prayed

In 1981 my maternal grandma fell down in the bathroom.  She was sent to the hospital and the doctor did not think she was going to make it. I was home alone the night before she passed away.  It was the 15th day of the Lunar New Year and the moon was big, round and bright.  As my grandma was very dear to me and I did not want her to die, I knelt down and prayed to the moon for her recovery.

I actually felt good after the prayer though it was not answered as I had hoped.  I thought that praying was the way to communicate with God, being able to say how I felt, unlike chanting or going through the Taoist rites.  I knew that Christians pray to their God and my praying to the moon, asking for a blessing for my grandma, actually changed my view about Christianity. 

How I came to know the Church

My aunt, Jaime who had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the only Christian in our family.  I went to her and asked her to bring me to her Church.  Soon afterward my brother and my sister took discussions with the missionaries, and we were baptized in June 1981.   

Completed a full-time mission

I was active until I turned 18.  Though inactive, I tried to find ways to pay my tithing and wanted to be re-activated.   I started to date a non-member, returned to activity and served a full-time mission (1987-1989).   My boyfriend joined the Church while I was on my mission. We were married a year after I completed my mission, and sealed in the temple in 1992.  My husband stopped coming to Church shortly after but I continued to attend Church with my baby.  I became inactive again shortly after the birth of my second child. 

This time, I stayed away from Church for almost 20 years.

Attended Church as a family in Vancouver

In August 2016, Laura, my second daughter was preparing to attend university in Vancouver, Canada.  I was worried about her living alone in a foreign land. A non-member friend offered to get her church friends in Vancouver to fellowship Laura.  That really sparked the thought of getting Laura acquainted with our Church in Canada.  Surprisingly Laura was agreeable to the idea. 

At that time, my elder daughter, Chery was in New York for a summer program. I have planned to meet her in Portland, Oregon and drive to Vancouver to help Laura settle in.  Before going to New York, Chery visited some church friends in Utah and started attending Church there.  And it was Chery who helped locate the Church in Vancouver.

The second Sunday we were in Vancouver, Chery, Laura and I went to Church together for the first time in 20 years. The moment sacrament meeting started, my tears started to flow.  During our two weeks in Vancouver, Chery and I accompanied Laura to all the Church activities and got her acquainted with the missionaries serving in her ward.   I also decided it was time for me to come back to Church myself.  I was a little worried about fitting in after 20 years of being away.

Coming back was bittersweet

I stepped into the Stake Centre on 18 September 2016 with Chery's encouragement.  I did not feel awkward as I thought I would but was happy to be back.  My comeback was bittersweet - sweet because I managed to fit in so perfectly after such a long absence; sweet because Laura was baptized a little over a month after we came back from Vancouver; and Chery's baptism a month after Laura's.  It was bitter because there were regrets, regrets that I did not hold on to the iron rod, regrets that I have missed so many years of Church.

I now understand my own conversion story.  I did not keep my faith when I was younger because I was merely a hearer of the word.  In his talk 'Conversion and Commitment', Elder W. Mack Lawrence, said ' is insufficient to just hear the word of God.  In order to have God's word impact our lives - to receive the promised blessings - we must follow it....'

Elder Richard G. Scott in his talk, “Full Conversion Brings Happiness,” recounted the story of Peter, the apostle who had served alongside the Master for three years, observing the miracles and listening to his teachings.  Jesus knew him very well, and said unto him, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you. But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”  To which, Peter pledged his allegiance to the Lord,  “I am ready to go with thee, both into prison and to death.”  And we all knew that Peter denied the Lord three times before the cockcrow twice just as the Savior prophesied that he would.  When Peter remembered the word of the Savior, he went out and wept bitterly.  I cried when I read this account. It was like a personal message from the Savior to me.  The Lord knew me, just like he knew Peter, my years away from church was like Peter’s denial of the Lord and the message to Peter impressed upon me: “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”  Elder Scott’s talk brought me a lot of comfort and helped me to move on to become what I am today.