As a child I would see those old Latter-day Saints commercials on television. I would ask my mother, “Who are they?” Her response was always, “Only white people are Mormons.” Which is how I felt most of my life—that certain things were white, and others were for minorities.
I grew up Catholic—that was what I had to be and the only thing I could be—because I am Puerto Rican. I attended Catholic school and was even in a pre-seminary studying program. I was going to be the priest in the family.
My family is not and has never been a close one. At dinner, we got our meals and went to our rooms and watched television. There was no community involvement in our lives because my mother felt those people would take advantage of us. So I what learned at a young age was no close family and no sense of community.
Flash forward a few years; I am a combat veteran of the United States Air Force, medically separated for PTSD, alone, tired, and suicidal.
One day after leaving a bar, a missionary called out to me and asked me if I’d like to learn how to be happy. I lied to a stranger and said, “No, I’m happy with my life as is.” I look back and think about why I lied. It’s because I was lying to myself. He tried to hand me a pamphlet. I crumbled it and tossed it away.
Somehow after getting home, it fell out of my pocket onto my couch. After this, I googled the church, and began to explore more and more. One thing I saw over and over was just truly happy people devoted to Christ.
I found families that love each other, families I saw that could have only existed on 80s TV sitcoms. I searched my heart and was looking for signs to help me. I went to community meetings where people were not sad, but had a strong support system—the community.
I learned that the church is for everyone, whatever race, religion, or creed you descend from. I have seen great sorrow in my time in this life, but all the true joy I have witnessed is in this church—His church. The restored priesthood is here with us. I can be a priest and have a family here because it is what Heavenly Father wants us to have.
I joined the church in February of 2013. I have never looked back. Family, community, devotion to Christ, and happiness is what I can tell you the church will bring.
This is a church for everyone, regardless of skin color. When people ask me, “How can you be a brown Mormon?” I tell them because I can.
Justin Diaz: I'm a Puerto Rican video game addict, trying to be a blogger, and my faith is in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm proud to be Mormon. Some would say, "Why Mormon?" Please ask me and find out why, maybe you might learn something new.
Image: Justin Diaz (used with permission).