The first time Natalya Howard, a freshman studying art, heard about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was in 2013, after Howard’s family adopted her from Ukraine at the age of 14.
Three years before her adoption, while living in an orphanage, she dreamed about Jesus Christ.
“I was sitting in a building and when I looked out the windows, it was completely empty outside,” Howard said. “Then, I saw a light appear in the building and the light turned into Jesus Christ. I immediately knew who He was. He smiled and walked toward me. I was crying and I asked Him for forgiveness. He smiled at me again and then disappeared.”
Howard remembers this dream more than any other.
“I could feel that moment even though it was in a dream,” Howard said. “Whenever I think of it, I can still feel it. After that experience, I wanted to have even more dreams like it.”
On her first Sunday in the United States, Howard’s family took her to a church that was very different from the one she attended on Sundays in Ukraine. At her church in Ukraine, worshippers all prayed at the same time.
“Imagine 100 people praying out loud at the same time,” Howard said. “They speak Russian … and then they start speaking non-sense because they think it’s the holy spirit speaking within them.”
The first thing Howard noticed at this new church was that the worshippers did not all pray at the same time. The church was quiet and peaceful. Howard did not know what that quiet and peaceful feeling was that day, but she later discovered it was the Spirit.
Howard’s adopted family were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Every Sunday, the missionaries visited Howard. She could not yet speak English, but she remembered one day when the missionaries showed her a picture of Jesus Christ.
“The picture they showed me of Him looked exactly like the Jesus Christ I had dreamed about in Ukraine,” Howard said. “I had never seen a picture of Jesus before that could describe so accurately the way He looked in my dream.”
Howard was baptized in November of 2014, one month before her 16th birthday. She loved the picture of Christ the missionaries had shown her, but Howard’s conversion to the gospel was much more gradual than simply seeing a picture.
Howard served in the California Los Angeles Mission and began reading The Book of Mormon every day for the first time. Before serving her mission, she had not seen a point in reading it because she didn’t understand any of the words.
“I remember calling my dad on a P-day and being mad at him for not making me read the Book of Mormon when the missionaries were teaching me,” Howard said. “He told me he tried to make me read the Book of Mormon but I didn’t have the desire. And then I remember I just cried because I felt like I had missed out on so much for not reading the Book of Mormon earlier.”
Howard‘s conversion to the gospel came over time. She dreamed about Jesus Christ. She moved to a different country and learned a different language, giving her the opportunity to take missionary discussions. She found the Jesus Christ she had dreamed about from the missionaries’ picture of Him. She served a mission and read The Book of Mormon every day.
“I feel like I could never believe in anything different again because this feels so right,” Howard said.
After 10 years of searching for Jesus Christ and His church, she found Him.
Ether 12:41 reads, “And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophet and apostles have written…”
Seek this Jesus.