Sunday, September 29, 2013

Why I am Mormon: A Simple Confession.

I have been wanting to write this blog for a really long time.
Every time I think about starting something happens, or I make an excuse, and I never start it.  Or I think that no one really cares either way.  Last week I felt like I really needed to write this again.  So I started writing on paper and then never picked it up again.  Until today.  I felt like I needed to do it again.  So here I am.
A little over a year ago I received a calling in church where I would have the opportunity to teach the youth and more specifically the 12 and 13 year old girls.  I was (and still am) so excited for this assignment and the opportunity to spend time with such a good group of girls.
As I've taught lessons over the last few months I have stumbled on several of them where I don't know if I am quite the right person to be teaching them.  When I was in High School and in Junior High I made plenty of questionable decisions. This blog isn't going to be a confession of all the things I have done wrong in my life. Some of you reading this could probably write that blog for me.  Instead, I would like to write about where I have come from since then.
So why am I a "Mormon."  I have been a Mormon, or a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), my whole life.  That is probably the answer that you were expecting.  In fact, I have generations of Mormon blood flowing though my veins.  Some of them gave up everything and risked their lives to be able to call themselves members of this church.  I have always been proud of that heritage and the sacrifices that the pioneers made for me.
 If you would have asked me why I was a Mormon in High School or in Jr. High my answer would have been very different than it is now.  It probably would have had something to do about genealogy or because I was blessed as a infant, found my way to church in primary, and assisted every Sunday in Young Women's.  Or maybe even because I felt like it was right.  So that's why I'm a Mormon.  Right?  Short answer.  Yes.  Kind of.
So here is my little confession.
When I was younger I was taught by many worthy people with strong testimonies and beautiful experiences about the church.  I thought my testimony was strong too, but when I started to be tested I quickly found that it wasn't.  I started doing little things that weren't bad, but they weren't things that church taught.  I was far from a good example of things that the LDS religion, and Jesus Christ, taught and probably wasn't someone that you would have maybe looked at and considered religious.
One day after school I was hanging out with a couple of people I considered friends.  They started to question some of the things that I believe and why I would be a member of that church.  Actually.  I don't think 'question' is quite the right word.  They were mocking and making fun of things that were sacred to me. The worst part is that I let them. I never stood up to them.  Their jokes were inappropriate and grossly offensive to what I believed and to the people that I loved and admired.  Looking back I wish I could have yelled what I know now.  I wish I would have stood up and walked out of the situation and then that I would have lived in a way that I would have never been put in those positions again.  Instead I laughed awkwardly. I laughed.  Ten years later I am still embarrassed that I didn't have the integrity to at least defend the good people I knew in the church.
One good thing did come out of those experiences.  I began to question for myself what I believed.  I started to think about some of the things that were said and pondered if they were what I believed.  Did God exists?  I had been taught in school that scientifically there is enough evidence to prove that He didn't.  Was that true?  Is that what I believed?  Was Joseph Smith a fake?  Was the Book of Mormon just a good novel, or was it something more?  The questions weighed on my mind for weeks.  It was a quite internal battle that I don't remember voicing to anyone.  One thing I had always been taught was how important it is to pray when you have questions if you want to get answers.  Since at this point I didn't even know if God existed  I also didn't know if it was going to work.  I decided to pray anyway.  And...I didn't get an answer.  Or maybe I did since I felt like I needed to keep praying and keep studying.  I kept going to church and kept asking to get some sort of answer if there was a true church.
One night, several weeks later, I knelt and prayed and was filled with love.  Seconds later a thought came into my mind. "I am a child of God."  To me in the moment, that wasn't the answer I was expecting, but at least I knew that God existed which was a huge comfort to my racked soul.  Soon I recognized the feeling that I had in my heart.  It was the same feeling that I have had in church.  One of the first songs children learn in the church is, 'I am a Child of God.'  In the Young Women's program of the church they have a theme that the girls 12-18 stand and say every week.  It starts off by saying, "I am a daughter of God who loves me and I love Him."
I had been taught my whole life in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints that I AM a child of God. It was my answer.  This simple experience testified to my heart and mind that I was in the right church.  It was an experience that was very special and personal to me.  Someone could say, how could I possibly know something is true from just a feeling.  I don't know how else to explain it, and really I don't think there is a way to explain it until you have had the feeling for yourself.  I've heard it compared to trying to explain what salt tastes like.  But I know it is something that anyone that sincerely looks can have and feel. That is exactly what James was trying to teach us in James 1:5.
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.  For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed."
In fact, no message is repeated more in the scriptures then that.  Ask and ye shall receive.  Seek and ye shall find.
After that experience I didn't magically become Miss Molly Mormon.  I continued making some really stupid choices, but I did start to change.  First I changed my friends.  I started thinking more about other people, because they are children of God too.  I changed my way of thinking.  I started to grow up and I am so glad that I did.  I was becoming converted.  For the first time in my life I was confident with who I am.  I was happy.
Soon the idea of serving a mission started to dance in my mind.  I was quick to push it out.  I was far from mission material, but whenever I would least expect it the thought would pop back into my mind.  I was happy and I wanted everyone else to be this kind of happy with me.  I knew that this happiness came from a change that is only possible by believing in a Heavenly Father who loves us and His son that was sent to die for us so that we can change.  That all those stupid choices that we have been made in our lives can be erased and we can move forward.
Do I still make stupid decisions.  Yup.  I still say dumb things.  I still randomly yell at my kids. I still have changing to do.  But I am trying.  I think most people, whether you are a Mormon or not, are trying.
So why am I a Mormon?
I am a Mormon because my beliefs were questioned and I had to find out what I really believed.
I am a Mormon because of the same reason that millions of other members have joined the church since it was restored.
I am a Mormon for the same reason my ancestors sacrificed so much for the truth.
We prayed to a loving Heavenly Father and He sent us the exact answer in the exact way that we needed. We felt it.  We know, and once you really know there isn't anyway to deny it.

This weekend there is a General Conference where all of the members of the LDS church in all parts of the world gather together to listen to a living prophet, Thomas S. Monson.  It's on TV and online, and sometimes it's even on the radio.  I know that if anyone that is reading this is struggling with what they believe or could use a little extra inspiration in their lives and would like to know more about Heavenly Father or about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints it is a really great place to start.  Listen with a prayer in your heart asking if it is true, or even if it isn't.  Pay attention to that special feeling that you get in your heart.  That feeling of love.



You can find the best way for you to listen here:
http://www.lds.org/church/events/october-2013-general-conference-dates-announced?cid=HPTH091213090&lang=eng

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