Moab was an entirely different universe. As I approached my new home, pillars of red rock zoomed past my car window and little houses that were smudged into canyon walls littered the valley. It was like being dropped onto the planet Mars. It was a small town and the living quarters provided by the company were—and I say this generously—modest, but it was perfect. My days were filled with desert hikes and Colorado river swims.
At first I had trouble making friends with the other employees I lived with because many of the groups already had cliques (what a rip off that this leaks from high school into adulthood!) but it was okay. With my newfound faith and confidence in Christ, I knew it was okay to be alone—because I was never truly alone. He was always there, He loved me, and my life was an active conversation with Him through prayer.
As much as I loved my new home, there was one small problem: the town was the size of my thumbnail. As far as I was aware, the only two churches in town were a small Catholic church and a meeting house for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I no longer had my cute, loving, non-denominational Christian church to sing my heart out in on Sundays. So, as an alternative, many cactuses were hostage to the worship songs I belted on Sunday solo hikes where I’d pack my scriptures and simply get lost.
As the summer rolled on, more people came to work for the business. The girls that came to work for the store had absolute hearts of gold. I started playing volleyball, going hot tubbing, and hiking around with my new friends. One of the best things about this job was that we all worked AND lived together. This gave us the amazing opportunity to become close. I felt like I could talk with them about everything.
And we did! One of the treasures I found was that practically everyone I worked with had a deep love of Christ as well! Afternoon hikes were spent talking about Him and sharing our personal testimonies of Him. I finally felt like I could fully embrace myself by actively sharing my faith so openly—this was something I struggled with at home because my family was not particularly religious.
However, one thing did confuse me: my new friends were all members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I was incredibly familiar with this church because my best friend growing up was LDS, but I struggled to understand how all of my friends had these heart-touching experiences with Him, but belonged to a different faith than I did.
I could not get enough of their stories—they told me about wonderful experiences they had through prayer, and miracles that occurred on their missions. (An LDS mission is an eighteen-month to two-year commitment to serving God, typically in a different area than where the missionary is from.) I believed every word of their experiences. I could hear it in their voice that they knew the same God I was getting to know! But how could we both be right?
Then one of my dear Latter-day Saint friends was asked to give a talk at her church. (This is when a member of the church is assigned a topic, then studies it and speaks about it in front of the whole congregation.) She told me it would mean a lot to her if I came to support her.
I went. And looking back, although I did not realize it in that moment, I never really stopped going to church after that day. Sitting in that wooden pew, I had absolutely no idea that this was the first step I was making towards finding the wholeness of the gospel. I simply thought I was doing a favor for my friend. That day in church was not even particularity impactful, but I still found others who shared a deep love of Christ. There was a peace and safety I had not felt before that resided in the church walls. After countless solo hikes worshiping Him, it felt so good to have a community to rejoice in His love with.
I began regularly attending this church, but I knew I was Christian and not LDS. I just loved my friends and I loved Christ a lot, and this seemed to bridge the two together. Still, my heart ached the question, How are we both right?
So I set out to find my answer and picked up a Book of Mormon.
As a homegrown Portlandian feminist, Lauren Mckinnon sometimes wondered how she fit in as a new member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — but through her testimony and everyday experience, she realized that no matter how different we may feel, we all belong in Jesus’ flock.