I’m 25 now, and well, that dream hasn’t exactly come true. I really suck at writing fantasy novels, and I honestly don’t think there will ever be another Harry Potter. Not to be so dramatic, I mean, J.K. Rowling was 32 when she published Harry Potter, and so many other authors don’t get big until after their twenties.
"The Gift of a Friend" is the story of Harper Elias. She was really young when she became popstar "Scarlett Valentine." During this time, Harper starts being sexually abused by her uncle, and she turns to drugs and alcohol to cope. As a result, she spirals out of control, and is pulled out of Hollywood life. Hollywood life led her family to relocate to Utah, and that’s where Harper finds joy in the LDS Church. After Harper graduates high school, she goes back to Hollywood where she has to deal with fame and her new religion.
I knew once I published "The Gift of a Friend" that I wanted to write a sequel, and I was going to entitle it "The Gift of Forgiveness," but no matter how hard I tried, and no matter how outlined my story was, I just could not write it. So I decided to start talking about the issues that "The Gift of a Friend" brought up, including my own.
The day before I picked up Harry Potter, I was raped by someone I trusted. This was one of three instances where I was abused by this man. I wanted to write ‘The Gift of a Friend’ like it was therapy, a way to get out my own pain in writing, but it turned into something more. As soon as I started to tell my own story, people started to tell theirs. Several of my friends started to confess to me what happened to them as a kid. The world changes when someone says to you, "When I was younger, my Dad did this…. You’re the first person I’ve ever told." It made me feel like I was responsible for them. I was their voice, and I was proud of it.
In 2015, I started going to therapy at LDS Family Services, and it turned out to be the best decision that I have ever made. I started sorting out my own issues, and one day, I did something that I thought was impossible--I forgave my abuser. It was so sudden, as I just thought about how I never wanted to see this man again. But, if I was given a chance to do so in the next life, I would ask for forgiveness for him while he is on his judgment seat.
At first I didn’t know how to deal with this new found freedom that forgiveness had given me. I felt so great. Those things that haunted my thoughts were no longer there. I felt so free, and I wanted to share my thoughts with my friends. But my friends did not have the same thoughts. They were furious with me! They treated me like I was evil for forgiving this man. One of my friends, who insisted that she had forgiven her rapist, said that he did not deserve mercy from Heavenly Father for what he had done, and I just cried. Weren’t they happy for me?
I cried for days, until I forgave them too. I knew where they were. A few years ago, I was just like them. I didn’t care one bit if my abuser burned in hell for what he did to me. The idea of a rapist getting forgiveness sounded completely heinous to me! This was around the time that I knew I was ready to write "The Gift of Forgiveness," because I knew what forgiveness was now.
The worst thing that has ever happened to me, and quite possibly the worst thing to happen to me, became a blessing to me. If I could forgive someone for raping me, then I can forgive someone for saying harsh words or stealing my soda in the break room fridge at work. All the little things that happen to me, that can ruin any normal person’s day, didn’t matter at all.
I find joy in my journey. It's rough and hard. I mess up and do things that mock God (even if I don’t mean to). Things happen to me through other people’s indiscretions and my own. I do selfish things, and I think only of myself. But I know the Lord is there, and I know that He can take every single broken piece of us and turn it into something wonderful.
Moroni chapter 7 of the Book of Mormon tells us that "charity never faileth," and I know that is true. I have found my joy in following two of God’s greatest commandments, and that is "love one another" (John 13) and "forgive those who have trespassed against us" (D&C 64:8-11).
In short, I know that joy can be found in the power of the Atonement. By drawing on the most selfless act known to man, we are able to love each other without pause. Love encompasses every heartache we can ever experience. Because He died for us, we can have joy.