Monday, March 1, 2010
If you hate testimony type posts, now is your chance to change the channel.
As you know, I am not one of those Mormon bloggers that seems to have no problem bringing up the topic of religion like CJane, Nie, and Nat the Fat Rat. Don't you just love the name Nat the Fat Rat? Has a certain ring to it like Screwed Up Texan. Just sayin'. What many of you don't know however is that I went through a huge struggle with my own faith--once when I was a teenager and then again just two years ago.
I was not born into the Mormon faith. In fact, my mother and stepfather were converts. I can still remember the missionaries that visited our home. I enjoyed their visits. I distinctively remember as a seven-year-old watching the video tape, Together Forever, and thinking it was the most beautiful thing my spirit had ever witnessed. I vividly remember the day my mother and stepfather were baptized into the Mormon church. What I don't remember were the fights my parents had with their families for their choice in joining the church. Apparently there were many arguments and great displeasure over their decision.
I remember a few short months later when my sister, just a year and a half older than me, got baptized. I remember her white dress and I remember how proud she was to have made the commitment to follow Jesus Christ. Then one year later, a month after I turned eight, my twin brother and I were baptized by my stepfather. I remember my pre-baptismal interview with Bishop Lilly, I can remember how cold the water was, I can remember how shy I was, and I can even remember the exact spot we were parked in the parking lot. In fact, I attend church at this same building and each Sunday I look at that parking spot and remember how happy and full I felt of the Holy Spirit.
(See, we women never forget anything. In case you are a male and were wondering.)
Then somehow, and I think part of it was pressure from family, my mother and stepfather began to fall away. We attended church quite frequently until around 1990 when we moved. After that our church attendance became quite infrequent. I could go into all the details, but I am sure that would get rather boring, but to keep things short both my mother and stepfather had a falling away over the next several years. Something had happened, a seed wasn't nurtured, and we stopped attending church. I am sure this situation isn't just a Mormon phenomena--but would have happened anyway whether my parents chose to stick to their Southern Baptist and Church of Christ roots or not.
Religion was such a barrier to fostering a healthy relationship with family. It was God this, and Jesus that, and hell this, and cult that, and after a while it got mentally and spiritually exhausting for me to even deal with it. To hell with it is what I dedicated my mind to. Religion sucked.
Then when I was fourteen and I was living with my stepfather and his new wife, my mother's ex-best friend, things got so hard for me emotionally that I felt a need to come back to my religious roots for spiritual nourishment. Having a Christian background, I felt the strong desire to read the Holy Bible cover to cover and so that is what I did. The New Testament got boring after John, but I persevered and finished it. That is when I gained a testimony of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. I felt spiritually uplifted, but still felt something was missing. So I took out my Book of Mormon that a friend had given me and began to read it. Now to be fair, The Book of Mormon gets boring after the first chapter of Nephi (that would be the first chapter in the entire book)--hence why almost every Mormon, active or inactive, you meet will know the verse: "I Nephi, being born of goodly parents..." but can almost never quote you anything else. However, the first time that I read The Book of Mormon I could not put it down--I could not stop reading. Even if I read the book backward for variety, I felt my spirit and my heart inside me grow. That's when I gained a testimony of Heavenly Father's plan for me and when I decided to go back to church and be a part of the fold.
(Oh my word this post is getting long. Someone shoot me.)
I felt my spirit after reading both the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon filled with happiness, love, and joy. I felt the need to do kind things for others, serve my fellow man or woman, share my testimony with the world--these were the fruits of the Spirit. However, there was a great turmoil building up at home and soon my life would be turned upside down as I was forced to live in a group home for runaways and abandoned children in Indiana which was more like a prison than it was a home. I hated what had happened to my life and I became severely depressed, but the only thing that kept me going daily or even minute to minute was my faith in God and His plan for me.
Three very long years later, I graduated high school, relieved to finally be on my own and not subject to wondering whether I was ever good enough for anyone else. I traveled cross country two weeks after I graduated high school and went to Ricks College in Idaho, a Mormon church owned school. A year and a half later I left Ricks, traveled back to Texas, and met my future husband at a Single Adult activity playing with fire by throwing hot embers at each other. We were married four months after our first date in the Manti Temple and everything for the first time in my life seemed to be going well. Then somehow my husband and I slowly became semi-inactive ourselves just as my mother and stepfather had.
Eventually we stopped going altogether.
Two years ago, I wrote a letter to my Relief Society president and to the bishop telling them to never contact me again. I told them I didn't believe in the teachings of the church and that I was in fact considering leaving. I told them I didn't want to hear from them and to not bother responding to my letter. I was done with all organized religion. I read tons of anti-Mormon literature, I turned to drinking alcohol heavily, I bought my first tank and short shorts, because I could.
Then last spring I had a change of heart. I realized how lonely and empty I felt inside during my inactivity. It is hard living life while purposely rejecting the Spirit. I considered attending other churches, but in the end I went back to the Mormon faith. I went back to church. Most importantly, I made an effort to have a relationship with my Father in Heaven and my Savior. I was very nervous at first, especially when I sat in the back row of Relief Society with my bottle of high caffeine energy drink hidden inside my purse, but I felt something renewed within me. I even felt like the entire congregation's eyes during our worship services were upon me as they saw this "new" person attending with her family. I knew once I started going back I would not only commit to regularly attending, but that also I had to leave the last two rebellious years of my life behind completely. I was ready.
So here I am today, nine short months later and I feel happier and more spiritually renewed that I ever have. I think many of my non-Mormon friends can relate in their own faiths. I've stopped judging others for their beliefs and I hope others are tired of judging me for mine. I avoid talking about religion, but when I do sometimes I get a little carried away like in this post. No, I don't have sister wives (although if I did I'd use them as maids and babysitters). I don't participate in rituals out in the woods (sorry, but we only camp and hike). I don't plan on having any more babies of my own (the hubs got a vasectomy---yeah!). Most of all, I don't have horns. Unless you're referencing this photo:
In the end like one commenter expressed: Why can't we all just get along?
I think it is because we are imperfect humans. That's my guess. Like in the movie Dragnet (1987), there's only two things that separate us from animals--cutlery and self-control.
Unless it's Dr Pepper. Self control is not possible while drinking the nectar of the gods. You Utahns have no idea what I'm talking about. In general.