Lina Legorreta, a freshman from Jordan studying computer science, was born and raised in the Middle East as a Muslim. She moved to Virginia in middle school and since then, she said she has felt like she was floating and lost without structure or religion. She said she feels relieved to have found the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Legoretta was baptized on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018.
Why did you choose BYU–Hawaii if you were not a member?
In 2016, Legorreta and her family came to Oahu, spent a week or so in Waikiki and took a trip up to the North Shore. “I chose to come to school in Hawaii because of the location. I loved the location as well as the community and ‘aloha spirit’ surrounding Hawaii.” Legorreta also said she chose to come to BYUH because it was culturally diverse, and she liked how the school had standards and was religious.
“After I graduated from high school, I took a year off to save up money for college. My uncle remembered that I loved Hawaii so much, so he Googled schools on Oahu. He gave me a list of five schools, and I saw ‘Brigham Young University–Hawaii,’ on the top of the list. I knew I didn’t want to apply to five different schools here, so I just applied for the first one on the list.”
Legorreta said she was about to enroll in a community college in Virginia when she found out she was accepted to BYUH. “When I was accepted into this school, I was so happy. For some reason, I knew I needed to come here and that my heart was in Hawaii.”
What did you know about church culture before you came here?
Legorreta said she knew little about the Church before coming to school here. “I actually thought you guys still practiced polygamy.”
Legorreta said she did have a Mormon friend in high school, and she began meeting with the missionaries before coming here, but it was just to get her ecclesiastical endorsement.
Legorreta said when she met with a bishop back home, he was surprised she wanted to attend a CES school. “I remember the bishop in Virginia looking at me and say, ‘Out of all 300 students I have interviewed for an endorsement, you are the first one who is not a member.’ That really shocked me for some reason. I didn’t really realize only LDS students went here. I just thought that was preferred.”
Did you think you were going to get baptized before coming here?
Legorreta said her friends and coworkers back home would always give her a hard time, and tell her she would get baptized and become super religious after coming here. “I did not think I would get baptized at all honestly.”
Was it weird transitioning to a school with strict standards?
BYUH is set apart because of the faith of the Church and its standards on dressing and grooming. At BYUH and other CES schools, there is an Honor Code that students must sign and follow before attending. Legorreta said she was pretty motivated to follow the rules here because she was so grateful to come here.
She said she believed her Muslim background would help her adjust to the culture and standards, because their beliefs and ways of life are so similar. “I was wearing outfits I thought was okay. But after a few weeks here, I realized that a lot of the things I thought were okay really weren’t and that was hard. After being dress coded a few times, I was really hurt because I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I then took a step back. I realized this was all new to me and there was actual reasoning behind that.”
Legorreta said it was weird having to be so mindful about what she was wearing and how late she stayed out, but other than that the adjustment wasn’t as hard as she thought it would be. “I knew the rules are there to keep us safe—but it was so foreign to me.”
How does your family feel about your baptism?
Legorreta said her mother is super grateful she finally found her “path” in life. “To be honest, my family doesn’t really understand. My older brother is really confused at my decision.”
Legorreta said her family is super supportive of her and her decision—but they don’t really understand. However, they are super grateful she now has structure and believes in something. “For the majority of my life, I have always been free-spirited and didn’t have any structure. I didn’t really believe in much, but now I know there is a purpose for everything and I am so grateful for that.”
Who has had the biggest impact on you?
Legorreta said her religion professors have had a huge impact on her. “I don’t really think they realize this, but it was because of them assigning us so much work and making us dig deep into the gospel and the reading that I got baptized.”
Elder McAffee, a full-time service missionary from Washington who teaches in the Religion Department at BYUH, is one of Legorreta’s former Religion instructors. He said, “Lina is one of the most enjoyable students I have ever had. She was not afraid to ask questions, and you could tell she was sincere and genuinely wanted to learn.” McAffee said he did not know Legoretta wasn’t a member until he asked her, but he remembers watching her in class and noticing she was a little bit confused. “I tried to make my lessons a little easier to understand and direct them toward teaching Lina.”
When Legorreta was interested in taking the missionary discussions, she reached out to McAffee and asked him to teach her the lessons. McAffee said, “I started teaching Lina the missionary discussions, and then we got the elders involved and went on from there.”
Legorreta said, “I’m not sure if she knows this, but my Religion professor, Dr. Kruse has made a huge impact on me. She assigns a lot of homework, and really encouraged me and the rest of her students to dive into their work and really find their own testimony. She really helped me dig deep into the scriptures.”
Dr. Line Kruse, an instructor in the Religion Department, said, “It was amazing as I witnessed Lina’s spirit really take flight. It was such a blessing to watch her find her happiness and witness the love of God herself.”
Kruse’s husband is a recent convert, and she said there is no other way people can accept the gospel besides finding out about it for themselves. “My class is structured in a way that allows the gospel to be the center focus.”
Along with McAffee having an impact, Legorreta's roommate’s friend, Libby Templeton, a junior from Washington majoring in history education, also had an impact on Legorreta and her conversion.
Legorreta and Templeton became friends through Lina’s unit mate. Templeton said she had no idea Legorreta was not a member, but it came up one day.
“I remember Lina telling me she had a really hard time understanding her religion course. I mean, she still did well because she is just a smart girl, but she has no Christian background whatsoever. She was born and raised Muslim.”
Templeton said she encouraged Lina to seek help from the missionaries to help her understand her Religion courses better.
“I didn’t want to push her, but I kind of planted the seed of Lina talking to the missionaries. And before we knew it, she accepted the invitation to get baptized.” Templeton said it has been amazing watching Legorreta grow and accept the gospel.
Legorreta said, “I am very grateful to be here. Looking back on everything that has happened, even from coming to Hawaii in 2016 and falling in love with this place, I know that everything happens for a reason.”
Legorreta said she feels no other school offers such a unique way of life and experiences. No other school allows students to be so open about their religion and the way they choose to live. “I honestly couldn’t have gone to a better school. I was meant to be here, and I know that now. I am so excited that I’m finally baptized and part of something bigger.”