When I was 9 years old, my mom and I moved to Utah to live with Grandma Ellen. She was the mother of my mom’s foster mom when she was in the LDS Indian Student Placement program.
The day before I started 5th grade at my new school I remember asking my mom and Grandma Ellen what clothes would be appropriate to wear on the first day of school. I wasn’t sure if the dress code would be different from the schools I attended on the Reservation (Rez).
Grandma Ellen suggested that I wear something a little dressier than jeans. I didn’t have any clothing that was “dressy” so Grandma Ellen found a pantsuit that she thought would be perfect.
The first day of school arrived. I put on the light blue, polyester pantsuit with yellow flowers on the side. I walked to school since it was just one block down the street.
As I approached the school I saw other children arriving who were ALL WEARING JEANS! The closer I got to the school the more anxious, embarrassed, and mortified I became. I just wanted to run home and hide. Just as I had thoughts to turn around my friend Mindi saw me and ran towards me. (A few days after moving in to my new home, my neighbor Mindi came over to introduce herself. We developed a quick friendship). That morning she said nothing of my attire or how different I looked. She only invited me to join her friends who were playing a game in the school playground. Mindi introduced me to her group of friends and told them how cool I was because I was a real American Indian who had lived on the Indian reservation. Throughout the entire day none of the school children made fun of my clothes, strange accent, or just how different I looked from everyone else.
Shortly after starting school my mom and I started receiving discussions about the gospel of Jesus Christ from the LDS (Mormon) missionaries. I enjoyed learning about the plan of happiness. But there were times I wanted to be playing outside with my new friends from school rather than sit in an hour long discussion with adults. One day I decided to ditch my gospel discussion and stay after school to play with my friends. One of them asked me why I wasn’t at my appointment with the missionaries. I told them I didn’t want to go. This group of friends told me that it was very important to attend these appointments with the missionaries. They then walked with me back to my house to listen to the missionaries’ lesson. To this day I don’t remember what gospel lesson I received that day. All I remember is how these friends made me feel LOVED.
After receiving all of the gospel lessons, I felt what I was taught was true doctrine and I decided to get baptized and join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My mother made the same decision too. Our baptismal date was January 2nd. In attendance were my mom, Grandma Ellen and her family, church members, the missionaries, and my friends; the same friends who had extended a hand of friendship on the first day of school.
That afternoon after my baptism, I remember playing outside in the snow with my friend Mindi. At one point she said to me, “Today you made one of the most important decisions you’ll make in your life”. It’s been over 30 years since that day and my memories of those friends, who made such a huge impact in my life, are an eternal treasure. I am deeply grateful for their kindness, their love, and their friendship. What I thought would be one of the worst days of my life wearing a light blue, polyester pantsuit with yellow flowers on the side turned out to be one of the best days of my life. So many other “best” days have followed, all because some 9 year-olds chose to fellowship instead of shun, to lift instead of belittle, to encourage instead of bully, to love instead of hate. They were simply doing what Jesus would do – love one another. Their gift of friendship played an important supportive role in my accepting the precious gift of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I know Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I know that God is our eternal Heavenly Father. I know that God sent his only Begotten Son because He loves us. I know that Jesus Christ atoned for our sins. He is my Savior and Redeemer. He loves me. He rescues me. He heals me. He can do the same for you.