Nikki Yaste tells the raw, emotional story of the hardships that brought her to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and shares her testimony of the transformative power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ in her book “Latter-day Woman at the Well” (Snowy Peaks Media, $14.99).
“I realized that there are a lot of people out there with stories like mine, and we just don’t ever talk about it,” Yaste said in a phone interview of deciding to write a book about her experience. “We paint over it in a certain way or think that we shouldn’t talk about it, or we get afraid, but it needs to be talked about because it's through the process of sharing our testimonies that we are able to be healed.”
Yaste calls herself the Latter-day Woman at the Well because when she first read the story of Christ teaching the Samaritan woman at the well in the Bible, she loved the way she could relate to the woman. Seeing Christ interact with, teach and love this woman despite her sins and mistakes gave Yaste hope in her own transformation and conversion to the gospel, she said.
Yaste was born and raised in Orlando, Florida. Growing up in abusive circumstances forced her to strive to live up to unattainable expectations. Seeking the acceptance she never felt from her family, she found friends who introduced her to drugs and alcohol. In college, her then-boyfriend suggested she become an exotic dancer in strip clubs, which led to working in the pornography industry to earn money, leading her further into a world of substance abuse and psychological trauma.
Realizing she was looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places and wanting a fresh start, Yaste decided to join the military. After she finished basic training, the military stationed her in Las Vegas. Surrounded by the life she was trying to distance herself from made it difficult to do so, and she found herself slipping into her old habits.
In 2006, Yaste met and married her husband, Alex. The early years of their marriage were plagued with continued substance abuse and pornography addictions, pushing them to almost divorce. Despite the trials, they determined to build a stronger relationship and become better when they found out they were going to have a baby.
But even after the birth of their son, Mason, Yaste and her husband still struggled to break away from their addictions.
While her husband was deployed, Yaste met the Mormon missionaries and began learning about the gospel, even though she had turned them down many times before. She was amazed at the joy she felt when she was learning with the missionaries, studying the scriptures and learning of her divine potential as a daughter of God.
“My fresh start that I wanted so badly after I joined the military didn’t exist until I converted to the gospel and accepted Jesus as my Savior, instead of my judge,” Yast wrote in her book.
In June 2009, Yaste was baptized and began attending church with her son. Although Alex Yaste initially disagreed with her membership in the church, he supported Nikki Yaste’s decision. As he watched her grow and find joy in the gospel, his heart was softened and he was baptized a member of the LDS Church in December 2009.
As many converts know, however, baptism doesn’t mean an end to hard times, and it definitely doesn’t mean full conversion to the gospel. Yaste and her husband still struggled, and hardships in marriage and life drove them away from the gospel once again.
“What I’ve learned (about change) is to be patient with myself and to realize that God loves me right where I’m at, but he also loves me enough not to leave me there,” Yaste said. “He wants me to change. We have a Heavenly Father who has a compassionate embrace, one whose arms are extended in mercy. When I realized that I am loved right where I’m at and that acceptance washed over me, I could be more patient with myself.”
In 2013, Yaste and her husband recommitted to the gospel and turned their lives toward Christ for good. They both went through the temple, and they were sealed to each other and their son in 2014.
“I couldn’t believe this was us,” Yaste wrote in her book. “Five years before, we had been drunk and wild. Three years before, we had relapsed and sworn off all religion. Despite addictions, disappointments, failures and mistakes, we made it. Only by the grace and mercy found in the Atonement of Jesus Christ could this have ever been made possible.”
Soon after her conversion, Yaste began posting fearlessly about her testimony on Facebook. Seeing the traction she was getting from posting her spiritual insights on social media, a friend suggested that she create a blog, which she named LDS Woman at the Well at ldswomanatthewell.wordpress.com. On her blog, Yaste writes in greater detail about her conversion and the insights she has as she continues to live life as a Latter-day Saint. In everything she writes, she said she strives to be an open book, being raw and honest about the path that led her to where she is today.
“Why is it important for me to be so raw? Because that is where Christ met me,” Yaste said. “It’s where I, in my own way, collided with him. I didn’t find him when I was happy, I didn’t find him when things were peaceful. I found him when I was at my lowest of lows. Grace, I’ve learned, flows downward.”
In addition to writing her blog, Yaste is the founder of Alabaster Outreach, a program designed to reach out to women in the sex industry and offer them refuge, relief and an introduction to a better way of life.
“(Women in the sex industry) need to know and have a safe place where they can land,” Yaste said. “Alabaster Outreach has two folds. One is to teach people to be less judgmental and more Christlike towards these women. For these women that I talk to, it’s just to show them that God loves them where they’re at. We go in and show them that there are people out there that love (them) and if (they) want to leave (the sex industry), we have resources for them.”
Now, Nikki Yaste, her husband and their son live, as she says, “a peaceful, quiet life” in Northern California, where Yaste starts her day with God, studying scriptures, conference talks and motivational literature, before spending the day home-schooling her son.
“Wherever you are today, I would encourage you to stop at Jacob’s well and let Jesus Christs reveal to you one more time that he is the way, the truth and the light,” Yaste writes. “Drink deeply from the well of living water before you set one more foot back on the dusty roads. Let God love you today.”
“Latter-day Woman at the Well” does not use foul language but does make mention of alcohol, drugs, abuse, pornography and the sex industry, although nothing is discussed with descriptive detail.