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Monday, March 1, 2010

On Becoming Mormon in My Own Words


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.

Seriously folks.

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.

25 Comments:

K. Erickson said...

Even though I'm not Mormon, I can relate. You should have seen my mom and my sister's reactions when I told them I wasn't going to keep Christmas anymore. I thought I was going to get a full blown intervention. The hardest lesson I had to learn was how to talk to people where THEY were/are not where I was/am.

Melessa said...

I would SO love my husband to find us a Molly Mormon-type sister wife. But, he says no. Plus, there's that whole illegal/excommunication thing.

I loved reading this. When I'm in a better place spiritually, I may have to write one of my own.

Melessa said...

I should probably explain to other non Mormon readers that Molly Mormon=Someone who LUVS to cook, clean, and play with children all day long. Come to think of it, it's just as well the church abandoned polygamy because I don't think she really exists. I can't think of a woman at church who fits that description 100%

Mindee@ourfrontdoor said...

It's always interesting and informative to read about people's spiritual journeys. Thanks for sharing yours.

Foursons said...

I admit, I don't know much about the Mormon faith. But I do know that you sound content and happy. So what else really matters?

Vanessa said...

I don't know why your posts aren't showing up in my reader. I think I fixed it.

Great post! I had my crazy college years that took me away at times. It was hard not having the gospel in my life. I really did miss it, even though I thought I was being suffocated by all the "rules."

Thank you for sharing this!

ForeverRhonda said...

Thank you for sharing Allie. As I read all the mentioned Mormons in your post I have learned a little something about the Mormon faith and I have found myself defending Mormons, even though I myself am not one! I just hate cruelty and judgment in general. Plus even though I have never met the 4 of you I think you are all wonderful and deserve defending. And yes both Natthefatrat and Screwed Up Texan have glorious rings to them!

tammy said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I was born and raised in the church, but went through my own rebellious time, needing to make my own choices and do my own thing, but then eventually felt the need to come back into full activity again, too. I think sometimes going through that can make us even stronger in the gospel then we would've have been had we not. And like you said, less judgemental of others, too.

Screwed Up Texan said...

Thank you everyone for your kind words. Melessa, your follow up comment made me laugh out loud!

DangGina said...

Allie, thanks for this post. I LOVE the Gospel and can't imagine my life without it. The longest I've ever "gone astray" is, like...well...not that long. That's not to say that things haven't been difficult; I'm not implying anything remotely like that. But I know that life is certainly easier when I go to church and try my best to live my religion. -Interestingly enough, it was right after a spiritual-internal-battle last August/September, when I re-recognized how much the Gospel and my church activity actually mean to me, that I was called to be RS President. (PROOF right there that God's got a sense of humor!)

Loved your post.

DangGina said...

PS I just bought your book on blurb. I've thought about it before, but forgot about it until this post today. Can't wait till it comes!

Screwed Up Texan said...

DangGina, Thanks for purchasing my book! I love that I can make money off a not so fabulous childhood :)

Weekend Cowgirl said...

Nice post. I can understand. I try to just practice my faith and worry about me. I am happy for everyone to practice what they believe and I have never felt the need to change anyone's mind. Since I spend a lot of time in nature setting I think I have lots of time to think on my own. Now that you have finished with a very important post maybe you will consider doing one on my topic today! (Just kidding)

Marylin said...

It is a hard thing to put your whole self out there for all to read! You know being perfect makes life so much easier :) I mean when you make all the right choices all the time you just zip through life singing songs and baking bread!! It must be so hard to be imperfect :) wink wink! I love this post, thank you for sharing your self, for being open and honest and kind!! :) All my love

Sell...Party Of 4 said...

I don't know why it is...but I can never talk about religion...it scares me. Even though I believe, I don't feel qualified or something. Weird, eh!? Maybe it is the fear of being SO judged. I dunno.

Screwed Up Texan said...

Sell...Party of 4, I totally know where you're coming from being scared that you'll be judged even more. I thought about at least ten times not posting this. Then said, ah heck with it!

Thanks Marilyn (and others) for the kind words.

David said...

As a Dr. Pepper guzzling Utah Mormon God bless you! I am a screwed up Utahn.

I enjoyed your story and I am glad you are back in the fold. I have my own journey story. I guess we all do. Anyway I will by you a Dr. Pepper if you get me a Cherry Dr. Pepper. Deal?

Screwed Up Texan said...

David, Deal. Just none of that caffeine free crap.

PennsylvaniaBelle said...

I think the bottom line is that no one knows the "right" way to be, but most of us think we do. I am glad that you followed your heart. People are always scared of the unknown, and Mormons are more common out west. I am so glad you are who you are. It makes me happy reading all your posts and I could tell from the first time I came upon your blog that I liked you.

Kristi said...

That last picture really cracks me up!

Screwed Up Texan said...

Penn Belle, Thank you for the kind words--I always appreciate it!

Kristi, I got that taken in Jackson Hole while I was a day trip in college.

Tracey said...

GREAT POST! I am not a Mormon either, but I think your post was about so much more than what particular faith you are...it's about coming back to that faith in general and I applaud you for that.

Been on sort of a spiritual journey myself and not been doing so well...but your post inspires me.

P.s. Ever had DUBLIN Dr. Pepper with the pure cane sugar? That TRULY is the nectar of the gods...would share it with you if I had some but nothing but regular coke in this house...sorry.

Anonymous said...

I know how you feel. I was baptised into the church at 18 and loved the church with all my heart. But it seemed everyone just loved persecuting me and my family who were Mormon's. I went to college when I graduated HS and made the mistake of kissing a RM and he told all the guys in the Institute I was fast and easy. This never got back to me until years later but I found out that men ruled the roost in this church and so patriarchial. If you were nice and sweet and obedient and Molly Mormon you fit right in. But I just couldn't. As I've gotten older I've not often fit in as single and divorced. I often have found solace in the temple but even that sometimes is so hypocritical. My friend had a screaming match with a bishop just outside the temple and I've seen kids wear blue jeans in the temple. To me it's a sacred place, but when people are desecrating it, it makes even the temple a farce you know? I love the gospel it's the people who attend I sometimes can't stand.

BK said...

I think that took alot of guts to write that... I'm a Christian myself, who just happens to be the daughter of a Southern Baptist preacher! There are certain things I don't agree with in the Mormon faith (there are certain things I don't agree with in S. Baptist too), but the bottom line is: if you accept that Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, came to earth and died to take away your sins (mine too) then rock on! We're currently doing a community biblestudy on different religions, seeing where we agree and disagree. It'll be interesting to see what comes up when we do Mormons! Feel free to stop by my blog, www.cowgirl-photography.blogspot.com

Screwed Up Texan said...

BK: Your Bible study should get interesting when you study the Mormons. When I went to VBS as a kid we were taught Mormons were a cult that sacrificed animals in the woods, LOL!

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