A to Z, East to West: A Journey of Faith

A to Z, East to West: A Journey of Faith

Sandra Friesen (BS ’70) graduated high school eager for adventures and experiences. Grabbing their local phone book, Friesen and her friend flipped open to the section dedicated to churches and they began to attend each congregation beginning with those that started with the letter “A”. After making it through the “C”s for Catholic and attending catechism, Friesen decided to take a break, leave her home in New York and head to Europe.

Upon her return Friesen heard that her grandmother was meeting with two young men who were reading the Bible to her. Friesen reflects, “I wanted to meet them. I was really intrigued, and I began to take the lessons from them. I went through several sets of missionaries, but eventually I did decide to be baptized.”

After her baptism that April, Friesen and a friend decided to move 2000 miles away to BYU. Trusting in their 1957 VW bug, they putted across the Midwest and the Rocky Mountains to Provo, Utah. “I was so happy to be in a place with no swearing, no smoking, no drinking,” Friesen commented. “I was surrounded by all of those habits my entire life; yet, somehow, I hoped for and knew there was a ‘utopia’ someplace where I could get away from that lifestyle.”

Although Friesen was thrilled to be at BYU, she admits that the transition as a new convert was challenging at times. Friesen explains, “My friend and I did not get to read the entire Book of Mormon [before attending BYU], let alone understand the names and events in the book! For much of my first required religion class I did not know what the professor was talking about, but he was a very energetic and animated instructor and I really enjoyed the class.”

Upon graduation Friesen decided that rather than return home to the East Coast she would head west to California. “I knew if I were to stay active in the gospel I needed to go where there were lots of members, and that was not upstate New York. So I moved to the Central Valley of California and got married.” Sadly, Friesen’s marriage ended after several years, but as she faced her divorce she decided to return to school for her master’s degree. Reflecting on that year of intense change, Friesen reflects, “It was a really challenging year; getting my master’s and also going through a divorce at the same time.”

Despite the intense challenge of her divorce, Friesen remarried a few years later and now enjoys a life full of service and meaning. Nearly 3000 miles away from her native New York, Friesen looks back on her miraculous journey of faith with gratitude “I’m very happy. I’m a temple worker now. I love BYU and it has influenced my goals and my choices throughout my adult life.” 


--Madeline Buhman (BA ’18)


Full Name: 
Sandra Friesen
Grad Year: 
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn