June 6, 2022
Growing up in a divorced home, I struggled with knowing who I was, where I fit in, and what role I ultimately played in my family. Those feelings followed me into high school and university. To cope, I rebelled and self-medicated, which ultimately led to flunking out of university after one term and moving back home to Arizona, USA.
That’s when I met a family who were faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they invited me to attend church with them. The first Sunday I attended, I was overcome with a feeling of peace and belonging that I’d never felt before. So when they invited me to learn more with the missionaries, I accepted and was baptized shortly thereafter.
Trying to find my place
In a strange twist of fate, I found out I was pregnant right after I was baptized. A wave of conflicting emotions crashed over me all at once, leaving me in what felt like an impossible situation. I was trying to understand this new and sometimes difficult faith. I knew I needed to be part of the Church, but I didn’t understand the nuances of its teachings. This paved the way to embrace my newfound faith and begin the journey to become fully converted.
While I tried to reconcile my past experiences and choices, I often wondered, “What does this mean now that I’m baptized? Where do I fit in?”
Finding myself a young, single mom, I moved to West Virginia to be closer to family and to get back on my feet. I got an entry-level job and was barely able to make ends meet. In order to provide a better life for my daughter, I realized I would need not only an education but the skills to obtain better employment. My job offered tuition reimbursement, so I started attending school in the evenings and on weekends while working full time.
Through it all, I was trying my best to navigate single parenthood, improve myself, and nurture my ember of faith as a new member of the Church. It felt like I was straddling the fence between who I once was and who I was striving to become.
Opening new doors
Thankfully, I had some loving and caring bishops who were not willing to let me give up. They gave me a calling and a purpose that helped me feel like I had a place in the Church. One of them encouraged me to make the temple a priority. As I prepared to enter the temple, I met my husband and had to make the tough decision of putting my education on hold in order to relocate to Texas to begin our life together. I was only one semester away from graduating, but I put my trust in the Lord’s timing and took a leap of faith.
Even though family became my priority, the desire to complete my education still lingered in my heart — and getting my degree was going to be more important than I could understand at the moment.
In Texas, I looked into degree options, but none of them met my needs. Most were too expensive for us at the time and would require me to be away from my growing family. Then, one Sunday, I was introduced to BYU-Pathway Worldwide. Service missionaries shared how the courses were designed to be affordable, flexible, and supportive of other important priorities in life, like work, family, and the gospel.
It was a eureka moment! It was like the Lord had opened a new door for me, saying, “Hey, I see your efforts.” I realized it was the perfect opportunity for me to finish what I had started. l applied immediately.
As I took courses and attended academic and religious gatherings weekly, I realized that the most important part was the education I received about Jesus Christ. I had always had faith in Him, but my time at BYU-Pathway solidified my knowledge of the gospel. Including God in my studies increased my understanding and gave me perspective of what I could truly accomplish.
Discovering my divine worth
BYU-Pathway helped me finish my bachelor’s degree, and through the prompting of a family friend, I decided to pursue my lifetime goal of law school. All of the blood, sweat, and tears of previous years culminated in my admittance to BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School. This was truly the hand of the Lord.
From my experience embracing my new faith and continually seeking for education, I now know what it means to be a daughter of God, how much He loves me, and my capacity to grow into the person He knows I can be.
Nikki lives in Utah, USA, and is earning a Juris Doctorate degree from BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School. She hopes to mentor others through her legal training and empower others to pursue their goals. Outside of schooling, Nikki can be found spending time with her family.