This story is part of our Tales of Return collection. Read more from Tales of Return.

I was the young lady that attended every meeting—first to volunteer to give a talk or help with whatever was needed.  I was referred to as “perfect,” which is hard to live up to. I guess I just decided to go astray. No one influenced me or tempted me. I made the decision to start doing all the wrong things. I do not want to dwell on the stories of my past, but if it was wrong to do I did it. I was 17 and feeling unworthy, and I stopped going to my church meetings. I still watched General Conference and I know my testimony was still there, just buried deep inside.

I was blessed during this time. Heavenly Father gave me three wonderful children. He also kept me safe while I was going around making bad choices. He loves us and hears our prayers always.

Jump forward about 17 years. The Bishop and his wife in the ward area I was living in started coming to our house and invited my son to Cub Scouts. He started going and loved it. Soon he was invited to Primary and then wanted to be baptized, so the missionaries started coming over to teach him because he was over nine. My then boyfriend started taking the boys and went to church. I didn’t go.

Soon my boyfriend wanted to be baptized, so we got married. I still didn’t go to church with them. My husband wanted to start paying a tithe, so we did. I remembered my father’s testimony of tithing.

Then along came the Primary program. I went to see the boys and my hard heart was softened by the beautiful Primary children. I had several habits to overcome and I started working on them. However, smoking was a hard one for me.

I started going to church and soon was called to be in Cub Scouts. This calling helped me so much—the boys and the parents were an excellent example for me. They all loved and accepted me. The sisters in the ward always gave me a hug which embarrassed me because I knew I smelt like smoke. They never seemed to notice.

One Saturday before Fast Sunday I had the impression that our family should fast and pray for me to stop smoking. We did. At work a couple of people noticed that I was not going out for “smoke breaks” anymore and asked about it. I told them that my family had fasted and prayed for me and it worked. To my amazement they and their families had fasted and prayed for me on the same Saturday and Sunday. A sweet wonderful feeling overcame me, and I knew I needed to work harder to do everything I could to get to the temple. It had been a dream of mine to be sealed in the house of the Lord. However, I did not think that was possible anymore. My, how Satan wants us to think our loving Heavenly Father will not forgive us. 

With a very loving and helpful bishop and his wife I was soon headed on the straight and narrow path. Our ward was also fantastic. We started taking the Temple Prep class and everyone dropped out except my husband and me. The teachers were a husband and wife and they took us in. They taught us how to have family home evening and family prayer, and they took us to the Visitor Center at the temple. They spent a lot of time with us and will be eternal friends. It did not come fast but we were sealed in the temple as an eternal family.

Going through the repentance process I came to understand my Savior Jesus Christ’s Atonement. My faith grew and grew. My testimony of a living Heavenly Father and Savior, the First Vision, tithing, was growing; sometimes it felt like my heart would burst open it was so full.

Each one of my callings has helped me grow and learn so much. I also learned life is more enjoyable sober and following God’s path. There is so much more, so many faith building stories, so many trials that taught me what I needed. So many wonderful friends that are examples for me to follow.

I know Heavenly Father and Jesus love me, Janice Esplin Oviatt. With that knowledge I can do whatever They need me to do. I know following His plan is the only way to have true joy.