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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Stake Conference

So for this Stake Conference I was blessed with the amazing opportunity to speak in front of the 750+ people who showed up to the Saturday night session. It was amazing.

This is my talk:

Hi. My name’s Casey Watts and I’m from the Allen 1st ward. I was baptized on December 15th, 2013 but my heart was converted to this wonderful gospel long before then.
My 3 year long journey to my baptism started on a simple day in my freshman gym class where I was invited to a nativity at my friend’s church. I was thrilled and immediately said yes. So that Friday night I dragged my family to a big beautiful white building on Exchange Parkway where my friend took me to all the nativities and told me the different stories of each set and about Jesus’s birth. I LOVED it. I had this indescribable feeling inside the whole time; that feeling was the Spirit. My family wanted to leave early because they wanted to go see the Christmas tree lighting at city hall. Reluctantly, I left, but not that long after I left my friend texted me and invited me to church with him. So on December 19th, 2010 I attended the Christmas program of the Allen first ward. I loved every second of it, so much that I asked to go to church with him again in February and I just kept going.
One day I decided to ask my friend where I could get my own scriptures, before then I had been borrowing one from the library every Sunday. He walked away and not too long after that 2 strange men with nametags came up to me and handed me a Book of Mormon. They were missionaries. They invited me to take the discussions with them and told me that I needed to get my parents’ permission to do so. I thought my parents would like the idea, so when they told me no I was shocked and discouraged. I continued to ask my parents for permission to take the discussions over and over and over again. In July of 2012 they finally agreed. So I started my discussions with Elder Lyman and Elder Whiting on Tuesday and finished them that Friday. Yes, it only took me a week to finish them. At the end of the last discussion, Elder Whiting asked if I would get baptized. I said yes, but I had to get my parents’ permission. I wasn’t surprised when my answer was no. I just kept pressing forward like I was a baptized member of the Church. I attended early morning seminary, earned my young woman’s medallion, bore my testimony on fast Sundays and so much more.
But I went through a huge trial in my life. I gave up on asking my parents if I could get baptized and decided to just wait until I turned 18. I stopped reading my scriptures and praying as often. My testimony was faltering. A couple missionaries offered to come teach me, but I made up stories about why they couldn't, just because I didn't want to be taught.
One day we got a new missionary named Elder Christensen. He heard my story and decided I was going to get baptized before he left. He kept trying different things to talk to me. But I just kept ignoring him and avoiding him at church. One day, though, he caught me before I could get away and he gave me a little piece of paper. It was a quote that said “Faith in God includes faith in His timing” with a little letter on the back about how much I inspired him. That little note put me back on the right path. Soon my testimony was as strong as ever.
I decided to ask my parents again and they told me they would think about it. On November 11th Elder Christensen and his companion Elder Saenger got a phone call from a screaming 17 year old girl who had finally gotten the permission to enter the waters of baptism.
Elder Christensen baptized me on December 15th and I received the Gift of the Holy Ghost the next week on the 22nd. My testimony has continued to grow and it is as strong as it has ever been. I’ve done baptisms for the dead, I’ve done mini missions and I finished my new member discussions with two of the best missionaries I have ever met – Elder Christensen and his new companion Elder Payne.

So here I am, 3 years later a totally changed person all because of one question. It’s as simple as that. I took President Durrant’s challenge to ask someone to meet with the missionaries every week for 6 weeks and it was amazing, brothers and sisters. So amazing that I kept with it. And my challenge for myself is to invite someone every week this year. This church is the best thing that has ever happened to me and because of the pure joy it brings me I want to share it with the people I love.

*testimony*

Okay, so I didn't completely look at the talk as I was speaking. I mean, it was my conversion story, I know it pretty well. :) 

But when I turned around to sit back down, President Durrant looked me straight in the eyes and said "Good job, Casey!!!!" and when the meeting was over he bee-lined to me and told me how proud he was of me. The MISSION PRESIDENT was proud of me. That really means a lot to someone who is trying so hard to be a missionary without the name tag. 

Elder Payne and Elder Murphy (Elder Christensen was on an exchange, so he missed it.) had come yesterday to support me. That meant more than they would ever know to me. Because they had to switch back, they had to leave early, and since I was the first speaker after a member from the stake presidency welcomed us and talked for a couple minutes about the topics of the night, they only came for me. 30 minutes they could have stayed in the apartment eating food, or tracting, or talking, or teaching and they spent it on me. In fact, they left right after I finished my talk, so they missed the rest of conference (which included Sister and President Durrant's talks). 

So today I was walking around being the little happy person I am and I saw some of my little missionary friends. Elder Murphy shook my hand and expressed how much he loved my talk and that he gave it 10 out of 10 stars. WOW. How cool is that?!?!

That was one of the coolest experiences of my life. I loved every second of it and I'm SO grateful for wonderful missionaries and fellow members around me. If I hadn't had the strong support system I do, there's NO WAY I would be able to get up and do that. 

I love this Church and everyone in it. 

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