Jenn Ortiz

Jenn was baptized on May 1, 2011. May 1 in many cultures is May Day, and Jenn jokes that if she ever gets in trouble in her life, she’ll just holler, “May Day! May Day!” to remind herself of her baptism date so she can remember where help comes from: the gospel.

Jenn grew up in Foothill Ranch, and despite many encounters with the Mormon church, it wasn’t until her mid-twenties that she began to look into it more deeply. “Me joining the church was a series of really interesting coincidences,” she explains. “I was really frustrated with the way my peers were at the time, so I’d made the decision to go back to a church. I knew I was missing something. For a long time I considered myself Buddhist because I liked the ideals, but it didn’t answer my God question. I still felt like there was something more. I lived really close to the Rancho Santa Margarita stake center and that street is a big row of churches. I’d decided to start at one end and go to a different church every Sunday.”

But she never got that far. She was volunteering at the Pageant of the Masters and got to know one of the security guards working in the parking lot. “He asked me out and I came to find out he was Mormon. I had had several experiences throughout my life where I’d gotten several bits of the church but I’d never connected it until I started dating him.” For example, when she was little she had an informal Catholic upbringing, but she went through confirmation, and her grandmother wanted to buy her a special gift. She went to a Christian bookstore and asked if they had a book or movie that would be a good gift for a child who was going to be confirmed Catholic. The bookstore sold her the movie The Other Side of Heaven, a film about a Mormon missionary! But Jenn watched it and loved it. Another time she remembers being in the car with her mother when she was very young and driving past the San Diego temple.  Her mother told her it was a private church they weren’t allowed in, but Jenn thought to herself that she’d really like to see inside of it some day.

In the meantime, her new Mormon friend brought her to meet his family (the Pearsons in the Aliso Creek ward). “They welcomed me, and taught me more about the church by the way they lived. I’d ask questions and they’d answer. I’d go for dinner and they would pray, or have Family Home Evening, and explain what things were or why they did them.”

Eventually, the Pearsons invited her to join a family trip to Utah over the Christmas holidays. They visited Temple Square and got a chance to peek inside the tabernacle. Jenn was surprised because she’d seen the building in a dream months before. In the dream, she sat on one of the pews and the man sitting in front of her turned around and smiled at her, his face full of wisdom and kindness. “When are you going to join the Church?” he asked. She’d been surprised by the dream because no one had so much as hinted at her joining the church or even taking missionary lessons at the point, so it caught her off guard when he asked her this. Only when she saw the tabernacle with her own eyes did she recognize the building from her dream, and only much later, when she was learning about previous presidents of the church did she recognize the face of the man from the dream: Gordon B. Hinckley.

After the tabernacle, they toured the visitor’s center. “I walked up the spiral staircase and saw the Christus, and that absolutely impressed me. That’s when I decided I wanted to take lessons. I’d studied various religions and gone from pagan circles to Hindu temples trying to learn about their beliefs, trying to find the one that fit me. Then I started taking the lessons from the sister missionaries, and I started to remember all these bits I’d learned about all the Mormons from when I was little and it all snapped together. I committed to baptism in April and I was baptized May 1.”

Jenn went on to meet and date her husband Daniel in the singles ward. They were eventually married . . . in the San Diego temple, of course.