~ by Jenny
At the impressionable age of nine, Emily witnessed the murder of her 13-year-old sister at the hands of their own mother. After hearing this one fact about Emily, probably much like you, I wanted to know more about her. Thankfully she has an open heart, even after all she has been through, and is willing to share it with us. However, this is not about relating the negative experiences that Emily had to endure as a child, it is about the healing that she has found since that time.
After growing up abused, and in foster care and adoptive homes Emily didn’t have a good attitude towards religion, families, or her own body. Emily was not a Mormon at this time of her life. She admits that she tends to think in a scientific way, needing evidence for belief. She was not looking for religion or change, but it came anyway. Her change of heart began with an interest in ballroom dance.
As she took ballroom dance lessons she learned many true principles that she had little experience with in her life before. Because of the physical abuse that Emily suffered she felt disconnected from her body, although she didn’t realize it. Through dance she was forced to think about her body, to feel it, to focus on how it helped her. The healing of negative emotions associated with her body began on the dance floor. It taught her to be present in her body in a way that hadn’t happened before.
Through dance Emily began to learn the power of relationships- that when each person in the relationship does his or her part there is a wonderful reward. This would later lead to her comprehension of the importance of covenants.
Emily’s dance instructor was a positive influence in her changing life. She spent time with his family and it was an eye opening experience after the abnormal family situations she grew up in. Getting to know his family taught her entirely new ideas about families. She never felt the need for a father before, not the kind she had seen anyway. But now she saw a new type of father – loving, supportive, kind – maybe she could use that kind of Heavenly Father.
There is no doubt in Emily’s mind that without the lessons she learned in dance she would not have been able to understand, or have a heart soft enough, to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.
There is something I haven’t told you about Emily that may surprise you. She is Deaf. That’s right, a ballroom dancer who is Deaf. Just chalk up another “Wow!” in her story. Keep reading, because there are more.
Emily’s dance instructor asked for her help in return one day. He was attending a job fair at church and found someone who was also Deaf who needed a job. He asked Emily if she had any leads. It impressed Emily that this church would provide interpreters for the Deaf, because they are so hard to come by at other congregations she’s attended, so she asked what church it was. She didn’t even know what the name of the church meant! Thank heavens for the internet because that’s where she found Mormonism – Mormon.org and then later LDS.org.
It was not an overnight process for Emily though. She doesn’t want anyone to think it was that easy. It took nine months from that first missionary contact until she was baptized just last week.
“I was like a broken glass that had to be slowly and patiently fused back together so that I would be present and whole and able to make that choice. If people had been disrespectful or pushy, it would have shattered me, and I would not have made the choice to convert.”
“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
“And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” Moroni 10:3-5
As Emily’s studies went on she also made changes in her life. She had been living with a man she was not married to, so she moved out and into a tiny apartment at a financial loss. Her eating and drinking habits changed. Her wardrobe became more modest, due to her righteous desires, but also due to a mystery gift box of modest clothing. She learned to tithe and re-read the Bible with an increased understanding of her place in God’s plan.
Looking back the change seems huge to Emily, but really it wasn’t. It was a culmination of little steps, a progressive sequence. At any point her progress could have been stopped. Emily’s confidence that it has all unfolded as it should can give us all peace in troubled times.
This step-by-step process is similar to how she views her baptism. It is a large step to take in her life, but she knows it doesn’t mean she is perfect. It is just another step in the path to get closer to her Heavenly Father. It is another beginning.
Join us Thursday to see what Emily has been doing since her baptism.