For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Adam Krstich. I live in Romeo, Michigan, and I have been a member of this Church for about 11 months now, and I have a story to tell. It’s a story of conversion, of hate, pain and neglect, but one that ends in love, strength and hope. I have been asked to tell my story to you all today, and so I pray that it will bring to you whatever you need, and that you take something of use from it. Thank you.
My story begins back in 1997, in a village outside of Izmal, in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. An 18-year-old woman gave birth to her second son, and life was not easy. She was selling herself to feed her drug addictions, and when those needs were satisfied the kids were then taken care of. That son was me; my name was Carlos at that time. My father was involved heavily in the drug cartels of southern Mexico, and therefore life was dangerous for those who were attached to him in any way, especially for his family. Deals went wrong, and my mother and brother and I eventually ended up in America. My mother took my brothers and I (She had another along the way) up to Hispanic Village in Detroit, Michigan to live with our aunt and cousins. Sadly, it wasn’t long before my mother got wrapped up in her old problems and began to cause trouble again. She was caught in a car chase after a set-up drug deal. The officers were probably surprised when they found three boys in the back seat. After many dodged court hearings and probation violations, my brothers and I were legally emancipated from our mother, and her parental rights were terminated entirely. We were put into foster care. My older brother got adopted by a family, leaving my younger brother and I alone. Meanwhile, in Troy, Michigan, a family was looking to adopt another boy, after the loss of their youngest son. They stumbled across my younger brother, and decided to adopt him. However, the adoption agency did not want to tear the two of us apart, so they asked my parents to adopt both of us as a set. They agreed, my name was changed, and we all began our new life together!
Now, I wish I could say that this new life was a happy one. After all of the child abuse and neglect from my birth-mother, most would say that I deserved a happy life with a happy family in a happy home. Sadly, that idea was always just a dream for my entire childhood. My family that adopted me did not want me. I was beaten, locked in closets, and emotionally torn apart on a daily basis for most of my childhood. I was not raised with hugs, kisses and “I love you’s”. I was not raised with family trips, with catch with my dad, or with story time at night with my mom. I was raised instead alone, sad, and afraid. I was raised with no trust in adults, and low self esteem, and a burning pain in my heart, that grew with each fight. When I got older, things did not get better. Junior High brought only more violent fights, and more knives thrown into my soul. Child Protective Services visited more times than I can remember. I was alone. I hated my life, and I hated myself. And more than anything, I hated God, for allowing all of this to happen to me. I’m sure you can imagine how I felt about families by the time I reached High School. I just wanted to die. I wanted to release myself from all of the pain and anger of my home, but there was no way anything could change. I was to be hated forever. I was to be alone and unloved forever. I had made up my mind. But then, everything changed.
It all started at a bonfire after a football game my sophomore year. I had found myself with nowhere to spend the night. My parents were out of town, and my friend had decided to bail on me. I was so alone. I was even contemplating spending the night at a nearby park. Then, my life changed forever. A kid across the yard had overheard my problem, and so he approached me. He lent out a hand, I shook it, and he said “Hi, my name is Anson, and you’re gonna spend the night at my house, okay?” I laughed at first, but I quickly realized he was serious. I wasn’t sure why this kid, who was a very popular football player, was talking to very unpopular me, let alone offering me a place to stay for the night. I hesitantly accepted, and before I knew it, we were walking to his house and began to talk.
It turned out that I had more in common with this kid than anyone I had ever met before; we were even both adopted! When we went to bed that night, I asked him one more simple question: “What religion are you, or do you not have one?” He smiled and said he was Mormon, which surprised me. But I when I asked him what specific beliefs Mormons had, he told me, “We believe families can be eternal.” Something stirred inside me when he said that, a feeling I cannot begin to describe. He then added, “And we believe we are all children of God, and he loves us all. He loves you too you know.” That was the first time I had ever heard those words. I couldn’t shake the feeling I had gotten out of my head, so I decided to ask Anson if it would be alright for me to go with him to Church. I’m sure you all can imagine the field-day he was having in his head, since I had asked to know more about the Church, and had asked if I could come next Sunday all within 10 minutes.
Soon that fateful night turned into Missionary Lessons, Weekly Mutual, Church every Sunday, and a perfect Seminary attendance. After some heavy reading, 13 Elders, 3 Sisters and over a year of persistently fighting with my parents to get permission, I finally had a date set for a baptism. On September 21st, 2013, my best friend Anson baptized me a member of this wonderful Church. Before stepping into the font, I hugged him, and cried and thanked him for all he had done. I thanked him for not being afraid to be Mormon. And when I walked down into the font and turned to see all of the people there for me, because they loved me, I got that special feeling once more. All of the pain, the anger, and the sadness in my heart was gone completely, and replaced entirely with love and joy.
That is my conversion story in a nutshell, but that is not the main focus of this message. There is a lesson to be learned here. For those of you who are members of the church, you have all heard the generic cut-and-paste “every-member-a-missionary” spiel, and quite honestly, I know we all find ourselves tuning in and out of these talks and lessons because we feel we’ve gotten all that there is to have from the message. This couldn’t be farther from the truth! I want all of you to think for a moment about why you are Mormon. Yes, you’re personal testimony is vital to your conversion, but that’s not what I mean. If it wasn’t for faithful parents, a family member, a teacher, a co-worker, a boyfriend or girlfriend, a friend, a stranger, or even a 14 year old boy if you wish to go back that far, none of you would have had the opportunity to even be a part of this church or to gain your testimony. If you think about it, everyone is in a sense a convert. It doesn’t matter if it was your parents, or those old-teens with the badges that taught you about the gospel, we all have to gain a testimony on our own and in our own due time.
I am so grateful I have this Gospel in my life now. It may be hard for some to imagine what it would even be like not being LDS or knowing all of the Eternal Truths we know. I promise you, it is so much better on this side of the fence. My life is exponentially different now that I am a Latter Day Saint, and the struggle to get here is forever worth it; the benefits are literally eternal!
I recently had the privilege to attend a session of EFY in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. It was flat-out one of the best experiences of my life. I learned so much about myself, and about the Atonement, but one of the most important things I learned was the eternal worth of our souls. Heavenly Father’s plan for us was never intended to and never will fail. There is no room for hate, or anger in the Plan of Happiness. It is our duty, to carry out that plan, which in turn includes lifting the burdens of others, and actively displaying the Love and Light of Christ. It includes hastening the work, and bringing the salvation of man to pass. The EFY theme this year was to be “Anxiously Engaged”, coming from D&C 58:27 which states: “Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness; For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.” We must be anxiously engaged in missionary work. It is the greatest miracle we can partake in, to bring someone to Christ through the Restored Gospel. There are people out there, waiting for you. You promised them in the Pre-Existence you would find them and help bring them back to Heavenly Father through the Gospel. Don’t break that promise! Now that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I am a new man. I know, and you all do too, the wonders and blessings that come through membership in this Church. We should do everything in our power to make sure that other people can experience that. That’s what Christ did after all, He wanted to make sure that everyone who crossed his path heard His message. Christ was anxiously engaged in the Salvation of Man.
In closing I would like to remind you all of the contrast of my life pre and post baptism. No more yelling, or crying myself to sleep. No more depression and anger. Only love and happiness fills my heart now, and that is because of the Church, and because of Missionary work. We are all so important, and so loved. We are all so powerful as well, whether you realize it or not. It is our responsibility and solely ours to build God’s Kingdom here on Earth. The EFY theme song, Anxiously Engaged states: The faith that moved the mountains, the power that calmed the sea, is the saving strength and promise, that’s living in you and me. We were made for greatness, we were created to be, Anxiously Engaged. That says it all to me. We WERE made for greatness, and we WERE created to be anxiously engaged, in being a light to everyone, especially if that means missionary work of any kind. Missionary work is so important! Just Remember. We are all converts. We are all missionaries. We are Mormons. We’re Latter-Day Saints. We must seek after these things, and accept our call to share this Gospel, to spread it to all of the ends of the Earth. But most importantly, if you can gain anything from this message, let it be that no matter what our story is, we all have one, and in the end, we are all still Children of God, and everyone deserves to know that.