Andrew Shugart’s life in Colorado took a complete 180 degree turn when he learned about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He was raised in a non-religious family, and he grew up not believing in God. His father didn’t believe in God either, while his mother was raised a Christian.
“I would be the last person you would expect to join the Church if you knew me in high school,” said Shugart, a senior studying business finance. “You would have said, ‘He would never be a good person,‘ and I would do whatever was the most convenient for me. I kept making bad decisions and going down the wrong road, and it led to me being more miserable, sad and mean.”
After a few years, he decided his life had no meaning and it wasn’t important. He dropped out of school in Denver and went to work full time.
He had friends who were examples to him, and he noticed that his friends who were members of the Church responded differently to trials.
“I had a best friend who was going to BYU at the time,” he said. “After I dropped out of college, I started messaging her, and we became really close. She piqued my interest in the Church, and I started to wonder about it in secret and maybe there was something to believing in God. I started to study different religions at the time because my life had no purpose. My friend Lexi inspired me to start reading The Book of Mormon in secret.”
In 2011, Shugart researched all he could about the Church for the next year and a half and read The Book of Mormon within six months, without anyone knowing.
He learned who Jesus Christ was for the first time in his life. For the next year and a half, he became a completely different person, changing his view on life and learned to love those around him.
“In 2013, I set a New Year’s resolution,” Shugart said. “Because I know the Church is true, I consider myself a member already and I haven’t told anybody about it and I haven’t even set foot in the building, I am just going to start going, because I know that this is the foundation for the rest of my life. I went the first week (to church) because I wanted to know what church was like even though I knew I was going to get baptized.”
In May 2013, Shugart was baptized.
Two days after his baptism, he received his first calling as a ward missionary, and within a month he was the assistant ward mission leader.
His mother, Deb, asked questions about the doctrine Shugart was learning, and she somehow knew it was true before anyone told her about the gospel.
“I knew that someday she was going to join the Church,” Shugart said. “A few months before my mission, I convinced her to come to church with me. I could tell she was loving it, and she fit in so well. Two weeks before my mission, she talked to me and said, ‘Andrew, I feel like I need to be baptized. But I need to wait for you to come back from your mission because I’m not ready in the next two weeks.’”
Shugart strongly encouraged Deb to not wait two years to get baptized because she could be missing out on opportunities and blessings.
Shugart left for his mission on Oct. 8, 2014. He interviewed with his mission president a couple of weeks into his mission and asked him if he could baptize his mother while he was serving.
“When I went to my first interview with my mission president, I asked him: hypothetically, if a missionary’s parents wanted to come to get baptized, could they come to the mission and do the baptism here? My mission president knew exactly what I was doing. He said, ‘Elder Shugart, your parents should come up here.’”
In March 2015, Shugart’s mom came to the mission to get baptized by her son.
The members of the ward were supportive and helped arrange the baptism. The mission president gave the talk on baptism, and Shugart gave the talk on the Holy Ghost.
By the end of the baptism, there were no dry eyes.
Shugart and Deb are both strong members of the Church. Just after her baptism, Deb received a calling to be in the Relief Society presidency.
Both Shugart and Deb have a different view on the world and their sense of purpose.
“The gospel has a way of blessing families that doesn’t make sense on paper,” Shugart said.