Not Always As Planned

Things don’t always go as planned.

A long time ago, there was this young girl who thought she had life pretty much figured out. There she is, barely twenty years old with a baby living in Alaska and set to show the world she could do it on her own without any help from anyone.

Yeah, she was a stubborn idiot.

And then she met a guy. A kid-like herself-who just wanted to have a good time and hey! So did she! Fun during those allotted three hours a week she wasn’t working and taking care of her baby.

Three hours a week they spent together-somewhat-because he was young with no responsibilities and she had tons of other things that took precedent over any social life.

She took what she could get, because love is a very peculiar thing.

Some have suggested she settled, but even now-after all that has happen end, she refuses to agree.

She didn’t settle. She just fell in love.

And of course, so did he. So they decide to marry, refusing to accept their blatant differences.

One had faith. The other didn’t need it.

One was optimistic and made plans. The other succumbed and gave up.

And now…many years later, the couple perceived by many who would live happily ever after…are no longer a couple.

 

I took a long break from this blog-not because my faith was wavering-but because the circumstances in my life had changed. How to write on this blog now-which was meant to be uplifting and encouraging for others… well, I couldn’t do it. Not when I couldn’t encourage myself.

2012 began with the ACCEPTANCE of my marriage unraveling. It is a private issue, obviously, and there are no need for specifics. It wasn’t an overnight decision, nor was it the result of one incident.

There’s no hate…and I doubt there ever will be.

Today, I received a letter from a sister in my ward which I’ve paraphrased and shorten to keep her anonymity.

“Jaime,

I heard about your separation and I am sorry. I don’t know the details, (and I don’t need to) but I wanted you to know I am praying for you and your family. My heart breaks for you and I pray for the best possible outcome.

I hope my letter is not offensive to you as we do not know each other that well. If it is, please forgive me and know  it is given in the spirit of love. Forgive me if I cause more hurt.”

With her letter she attached an article regarding The Atonement and how it helped someone survive their divorce. I cried as I read it, because somehow in the midst of all these months, I had forgotten I didn’t have to deal with this alone.

It’s been almost five years since the beginning of the demise of my marriage-and I’ve kept it to myself. I prayed, fasted, cried…and I told no one. Not even my closest friends knew anything was wrong…

And now here we are.

Now here I am…

The tone of this site will change somewhat as now I feel the need to write for myself and I can’t promise regular posts. What I can promise is I will always write with the Spirit.

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Isaiah 41:10

 

Soon

It’s been over a month since I’ve updated this blog. I have logged on and started many posts, only to delete before finishing.

Three topics have been on my mind in the last couple of months: Obedience, Families and The Atonement. I want to take up the next three posts and write about each topic individually.

Stay Tuned…

Prayer

I have had difficult few months.  Not difficult in the sense of anything truly bad happening to me, but just months in which there are a lot of little things I’m dealing with and a lot of time spent wasted with being worried, instead of being productive.

I’m mentally tired and cranky, feeling as if I’m at a point in my life in which I’m just wading in the water, not really going anywhere. In truth, I’m really not at all that happy. I can’t really explain other than I feel as if I have hit a huge boulder and can’t find a way around it. There are a lot of things I’m dealing with in which there are no immediate solutions.

My prayer life hasn’t been great lately. When I sit down to meditate and have my time with God, I find myself uncharacteristically speechless. My prayers are something out of a Valley Girl dialogue. “Like, yeah, God, you’re like so awesome, like you know, all awesome like. And like, you know, I am like grateful for you and stuff.”  Granted, I do know there is the option of keeping still and communing with our Heavenly Father without words, but I find myself having a double dialogue inside my head which adds to the insecurity of me losing my mind- for reals this time.

Faith is a funny thing. When we are dealing with struggles within our faith, an important question to ask, “Is it really our faith we are struggling with? Or is it what we’re doing-or not doing?”

A lot of my unhappiness has been the way I have dealt with life’s struggles. I have not been praying or even taking the time to look over my scriptures. I am an all or nothing person and if I can’t devote all the time I need for anything,  I tend to throw my hands up in discouragement.

In a moment of what I can only describe as Heavenly Father slapping me to reality (with love, of course) I remembered God is the literal Father to all of us humans. He loves us and is genuinely interested in our welfare and wants very much to communicate with us-if we are open to listen and to turn to Him. Despite all that may be going on in our lives, God tells us that no matter what-no matter how… we should always pray.

Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. (D&C 6:36)

We are all prone to sin. Yet, with that said, God knew all of our shortcomings beforehand, yet He sent His Son to assume responsibility in our place.

A huge part of my drawing a blank in prayer was due to the feelings of shame I felt when I prayed. Understanding and accepting the sacrifice of God’s Son and knowing God is a loving Father, I immediately felt at peace.

And I felt the glowing warmth of His love.

Luke 21:36

2 Thess 1:11

2 Ne. 32:9

3 Ne. 18:15,18

D&C 10:5; 19:38; 20:33; 31:12; 61:39; 88:126; 9:24; 93:49

Pre-Mortal Existence

 

One of the subjects I’m most interested in is the pre-mortal existence. It is one of the main reasons I felt The Church was true.

In my book, By the Way, I wrote about reading the book by Carolyn Myss, Sacred Contracts and the impression it left on me regarding life templates and the pre-mortal existence. I was taken with the fact that we are all a family before we came to the Earth. There is a plan and we all had a say in the plan.

The question regarding if we choose our families and individuals in our lives have always sparked a certain twinge of curiosity in my heart. I decided to do some spiritual research on the subject, instead of relying on what I believed in faith.

Not a lot has been written on this subject,but if we lean towards the word ‘choose’ I did find concepts which related to the subject worth considering.

Do we know in the pre-mortal world what our mortal lives would be like?

 

We do know this: God certainly does.

O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it (2 Ne 9:20).

And so did the angels in Heaven:

The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord (D&C 130:6-7).

It seems there is a choice and we do not make this choice only from the information of our ‘past’ (past being the pre-mortal existence). We are aware of the conditions into which we will be born into.  I believe we are given a hint of the trials we will endure which a valuable lesson(s) will be taught.

A related concept in which could be argued for both our choices and our foreknowledge is those who are sealed in the temple have sealed upon them all of the blessings that were promised to father Abraham. Reason also dictates that there must have been familial commitments made in the spirit world that were to be honored in mortality and in eternity.

Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born. ~Abraham 3:22-23:

 

Believing that we all have free will and with that free will comes power of our own destiny, does foreknowledge imply predestination?

The simple answer is no, it does not. However, one can not answer this question without using scripture as if you’re like me, a simple answer will not suffice.

Free agency of men in the pre-mortal spirit world there is this scripture:

And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil–for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency (D&C 29:36).

The following scripture below refers to the agency of many during his mortal sojourn:

That every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency which I have given unto him, that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment (D&C 101:78).

The course of our lives is not predetermined. It may be modified and is directed by our actions and the acts of God. God has a certain agendum for His universe. God operates by His own glory and articulates what will happen without exception:

For behold, by the power of his word man came upon the face of the earth, which earth was created by the power of his word. Wherefore, if God being able to speak and the world was, and to speak and man was created, O then, why not able to command the earth, or the workmanship of his hands upon the face of it, according to his will and pleasure? (Jacob 4:9)

 

Who shall say that it was not a miracle that by his word the heaven and the earth should be; and by the power of his word man was created of the dust of the earth; and by the power of his word have miracles been wrought? (Morm 9:17)

 

What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same (D&C 1:38).

From askgramps.org:

Now, there may be supposed by some to be a conflict between the will of God and agency of man. The question could be formed as, does the foreknowledge of God preclude the agency of man? There is no causal relationship between the thoughts in one being’s mind and the actions of another being. When those thoughts are expressed as actions or words, they impact the external world. Although we may not have the power of rhetoric to fully explain to other rational beings that foreknowledge does not preclude agency, yet it is true, because the contrary would preclude the fulfillment of the word of God. Therefore, if it cannot be rationally defended, it must be accepted on the principle of faith, because it is the truth. God’s complete foreknowledge is voiced in the following scripture—

 

The angels do not reside on a planet like this earth; But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future, and are continually before the Lord (D&C 130:6-7).

 

From what I’ve studied and meditated on I can only summarize we are all given a template of our life before being born, but our choices-our free will-can alter the results. Sort of like those “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. When you think about it, isn’t that what life really is? An adventure to determine exactly what you want to be in life and who ultimately you are living for.

Done

Ever just felt done? Done with people and relationships? This entire year of 2011 had been a troubled year of broken promises, relationships and the dealing with unexplained illnesses. Today, I took in a deep breath and muttered, “I’m done.”

Just done.

I have found I am more content inside my home, in my favorite sweats, hair in a bun, working on articles, school work or the never-ending manuscript. I love my daycare kids and working on our art projects and taking long walks. What I have come to loathe is the dynamics between groups of people and how and where I fit in. I never really thought about fitting in because my huge ego automatically thinks I do, so I don’t question it. It’s either that-or the hard truth that I don’t really care.

What happens when you are in a ward and the friendships aren’t real? Gossip is everywhere, hypocrisy is spreading, and the friends you thought you had only viewed you as a ‘project’?

A few months ago, a friend and I shared a day together which included lunch and shopping. Nothing specatacular happened, certainly not newsworthy, but of course, one incident has seemed to make the rounds. (Totally G-rated, legal and actually, boring.) I found myself getting my ghetto on last night when accused of something I didn’t do by a very well known pot-stirrer (I’ll never learn with this one!) and today I get a text by the friend that said  she looks back on our day with regret.

That hurt.

It isn’t only the gossip in which has gotten me down. It is also the hypocrisy.  Don’t do something you can’t own up to. You do it, own it. But don’t play it off as if the other people who have done it are less ‘Christian’ than you because they’re not lying about it.

I want to permanently remove myself from my ward. No longer do I feel a part of the ward family and I was quite comfortable with my decision. I began to bemoan the fact that unlike other denominations, I couldn’t just switch to another congregation. Across town. In another state, perhaps.

Of course, my phone rings.

Voice of reason on the other end.

“Take a break,” she says. “I get that. But do not let this rob you of your right to receive your spiritual time on the Sabbath. Don’t let it rob you of your desire to go to church. With or without hypocrites and gossipers.”

In every church, there is going to be your ‘drama’. It’s the Adversary’s way of creating havoc amongst God’s people. I know this, I get it. However, sometimes, even knowing the logic behind it, a person can only take so much before they finally say, “I’m done.”

Elder Harold B. Lee made a comment at a Branch Conference in a small town in Texas in November of 1942 which I stumbled across whilst writing this entry: He  said, “Be kind, forgiving and overlook the faults of others.”

The reality is everyone at one point or another says unkind things about others. (Raising hand! Guilty.) It does feel as if I’m being singled out (big ego) yet, logically, I know this is not true. I know by shifting my focus from this useless crappola of drama and focusing on the Lord and care only what He thinks about me, I’ll be a much happier and content person.

I’m done with the offensive ghetto-smack down attitude wanting to take down whoever pisses me off. It’s not worth it and it is simply not the legacy I want to leave behind.

Does this mean I’m going to be a doormat for people to stomp on? Um,  No.

It does mean I will treat people with kindness, rather than showing offense by things they say (or don’t say) and treat them in such a way that it  will merit their respect, not their fear.

Simply put: I’m done.

The Visiting/Home Teaching Dilemna

Since my conversion in 2009, I have never had an active Visiting Teaching partner and have never done a VT with someone assigned to partner with me. At first, I was ill at ease to do my visiting teaching by myself.  I thought being a convert, I’d be paired up with someone more ‘seasoned’ if you will. After a while, I accepted it and in the past year, I’ve worked alone and did the best I could with making time for the sisters I’m assigned to teach. Some months it’s a card or a letter, maybe just a phone call…but I try because I look forward towards my visit teachers visiting/teaching me and to be honest…it’s a pretty cool gig.

Earlier today when I called to schedule my meetings, one of my households asked who my partner was. This took me by surprise as it’s been quite apparent I didn’t have one. She gave me a tsk tsk…and said I should have one. I MUST  have one.

I hung up the phone with a knot in my stomach. Sighing, I wondered why something which carries many blessings have to be so difficult?

Sometimes things aren’t going to be exactly the way they’re meant to be. That’s called life. Usually, I only have one teacher visit me, but I never doubt either of their compassion or love for me. Schedule conflicts, time restraints, family duties…it isn’t always the ideal scenario in which the Church instructs for us. You do the best you can and hope for the best

I always brag about my visiting teachers because both have taught me many things in very nontraditional ways. I never felt their visits or  speaking with me during church breaks were ‘dutiful’. It has been my hope and prayer that the ladies I teach feel the same way about me as I look forward towards visiting with them.

Of course, being I am a paranoid and insecure person, I immediately thought the woman who tsk tsk me doesn’t like me or perhaps I offended her? We all seek wisdom and guidance from others and I’m the least knowledgeable between the two of us.  I can totally understand her wanting  to have someone else there, preferably a person who didn’t sound like Mae West.

I guess the entire thing took me by surprise as I am one of those people who feel we are all doing the best we can do. Knowing the ward list for visiting teaching is a never-ending chore as members move in and out all the time, I didn’t want to nag my district supervisor about having a partner. She-along with the entire RS presidency knows already and have been working on it.

As for home teaching, I’ve had two visits from my home teacher since my joining the ward in 2009. The two visits are from my current home teachers as I went the first two years without home teaching. (If I had  home teachers, I was not aware of them.) I’ve toyed with the idea of casually suggesting new home teachers as one is a good friend and there is a huge schedule conflict between the three of us, but I keep thinking it will all work out.

But it hasn’t…and this is why:

I am in a place in my life in which  I need to surround myself with as many spiritual leaders as I can. I need more spirituality from leaders in the church…as being married to a non-member, it is easy (and quite justifiable) to find reasons and excuses that go against church doctrine. I often find myself feeling as if I’m treading water and at any moment the beginning of a leg cramp is going to take me under.

So dear readers, I ask you: How do you handle visiting teaching and home teaching? Life is busy and conflicted for so many…how do we remain influential when we ourselves are at times struggling?

The Liberal Feminist Converted Mormon Chick with the Southern Accent


“What kind of Mormon are you?”

This question presented to me by a friend surprised me for a few minutes, because even though logically I knew I wasn’t (and will probably never be) a typical Mormon, it was a question that gave me pause. Isn’t Mormon in itself descriptive enough?

No. It actually isn’t.

I’m not your typical Mormon. Not by a long shot. This could be explained by the more conservative Mormons that I am a convert, so you know how those pesky converts are! Always trying to reinvent the wheel! But long before my conversion, I knew in my heart certain doctrine was true…I just didn’t have any idea it was beliefs held by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

I speak the language of the LDS Church. It is-despite the cheesiness of the cliché- feels like home.

I’m liberal. I accept gays and feminists. (I am a feminist.) I’m married to an atheist. I’m not a fan of Republicans and I will tell you I will not be voting for Mitt Romney. Ever.

I live in a small area of Anchorage which is mostly conservative and my ward is definitely filled with deeply conservative Mormons. However, I have to say my ward is very diverse and filled with the most loving of Christians I have ever met.

Being Christ-like is about being compassionate even towards things we do not understand. Each of us has a history-a specific history with responsibilities to live a morally good life.

 

Does this make me less “Christian” than my more conservative Mormon peers? I do not believe so, nor do I believe either side is wrong. The great thing about being a Mormon is the belief in free agency and the knowledge that every single one of us on this planet is unique.

I do not have all the answers and I’m still asking a lot of questions. I fail more often than I succeed in my spiritual journey and I am in no way the poster child for any Christian sect.

I’m simply…me. Someone who believes strongly in God and Jesus Christ. I know the Bible AND The Book of Mormon is true. I may have doubts here and  there about certain doctrine, but it doesn’t shake my faith in the overall teachings of the Church. I doubt it ever will.

Faith… is amazing.

 

 

Follow-Up to Post Straight Judgment

In regards to post Straight Judgment, I have received phone calls from a couple of women who were in Relief Society on Sunday. After I left, a lot of the points I brought up in my post were also spoken. The main consensus was we all are struggling with SOMETHING and we are all without sin. As Christians, we are to be loving and judge not. Only God is the final judge and what we know is God is a loving and just god.

In my post, I wrote I too was being judgmental and was very irritated with myself for feeling that way. I also was having a difficult time finding the correct words to express my feelings regarding the subject.

What is important for readers to know is I believe the LDS Church is true and I have a very strong testimony in regards to this. This does not mean I’m perfect and have all the answers, because if you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know this is not true. This blog is not intended to argue or debate the teachings of the Church, but to chronicle my journey as a convert who is dealing with a variety of issues-as many people in any religion or faith are. This is my blog and my thoughts, opinions and perspectives.

What I’ve come to appreciate from my own experiences and trials, along with stories shared by readers and friends, is this: heterosexuals also face far greater challenges to live the gospel. Does this mean homosexuals who sacrifice to live the gospel as they understand it are being slighted? I don’t know. What I do know is we can’t possibly know one’s conscience as God knows it. An individual’s relationship with a person’s God is theirs and theirs alone. Selflessness is required of everyone and we should all follow the commandment of “Love One Another” as Christ has loved us. Gay or Straight.

LDS Bishop Speaks Out. Your Thoughts?

My last post struck a few nerves and this morning I found my inbox with a few emails regarding the post. One reader sent me this link to the Salt Lake Tribune in which a LDS Bishop from Illinois was speaking at a conference. He is quoted as saying: “the way gays are treated and perceived by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an “atrocity”“.  The bishop also said that “If you leave here not remembering what I have to say, remember this: I’m sorry“.  He then went so far as to say that ” The straight members of the church have a lot of repenting to do“.

Yet, according to the conference sponsor, this is not what the Bishop had said and are saying the Bishop’s talk is being misrepresented.

The emailer added her opinion  in which she felt strongly the Bishop had no right to speak his opinion in public in which it could be taken as ‘official.’

I disagreed with the emailer after I watched the video of the Bishop’s message. He directly says this is his opinion and felt strongly moved by the Spirit to speak out. He did not suggest-or even hinted-this was an authoritative message. He was prompted by the Spirit to speak up and so he did.

There is an ongoing conversation amongst gay advocates, both inside and outside of the LDS Church, in regard to the responsibility in which the Church should “officially” assume for the tragic suicides of young gay Church members. There has been a public outcry for the Church to “officially” apologize for what some perceive to be mistreatment of gay Church members. The Church’s  involvement of California’s Prop 8, on same-sex marriage continues to be  debated as being anti-gay.

There seems to be a divide within the Church and as more members speak out publicly and more people take the time to educate and understand homosexuality, I can only hope that this is the beginning of bridging the gap between the Church’s gay members and straight. Healing needs to take place, but before this can happen, knowledge and education must begin first.

I’ve included the Bishop’s video here along with other links for you to look over. Curious on your thoughts in regards to the information provided.

Huffington Post’s Article regarding the Gay Mormon Conference: “Circling the Wagons”

Salt Lake Tribune’s article

The Church’s Official Stance on Same-Gender Attraction

Straight Judgment

 I found myself extremely frustrated in Relief Society, causing me to bow out early. Usually, I’m pretty eloquent, but today, I couldn’t get my words to flow together when commenting. At one point the teacher completely cut me off as I tried to make ‘uh’ and ‘yeah’ into a sentence. I am pretty passionate about today’s lesson and thought I had resolved a lot of things I thought were ‘wrong’ within the Church’s doctrine. Turns out, I’m okay with the doctrine of the church, just not okay with church members’ attitude towards them

Today’s lesson was on chastity.

Chastity is sexual purity. Those who are chaste are morally clean in their thoughts, words, and actions. Chastity means not having any sexual relations before marriage. It also means complete fidelity to husband or wife during marriage.

Back in the early days of my conversion there was a huge concern which  weighed heavily on my mind: “What about the gay thing?”

I have never thought much about  homosexuality. I have gay friends who are dear to me and didn’t feel one way or the other about their lifestyle.  I have always carried the ‘Thou Shall Not Judge” commandment when it came to homosexuality, mainly because I didn’t feel human beings are perfect. My thinking is what makes one sin more detrimental than the other? (If in fact, you believe it is a sin.) I felt that if I became a Mormon,  I would be part of a belief system that said that there was something wrong with the homosexual lifestyle.

It gave me enough of a pause to rethink not only Mormonism, but religion as a whole. One of the reasons why I didn’t want to join a religion, was the fact that religions seem to take on some ‘holier than thou’ stance in which all who are not of that religion are doomed to damnation. And I didn’t believe it was my place to judge anyone when I was far from perfect- Mormon or not.

With that said, so much with the teachings of the LDS Church seemed true and there was no denying I was on the right path.However, I didn’t see how I was ever going to be able to justify homosexuality as being wrong. I do not feel right in saying Joe and Cindy’s relationship is more superior than Brad and David’s or Kelly and Samantha’s when the only difference between them was that Joe and Cindy are of opposite genders and had a piece of paper from the state saying they were “married”.

If God’s law is such  that sexual acts between two people of the same gender are always wrong, even if those same acts might be committed by a heterosexual couple with no problem, it sounded as if God has something against people who are attracted to the same gender and how can that be when we are all created in God’s image?

Today, in Relief Society, all of these thoughts resurfaced as I heard homosexuality mentioned and how wrong it was and detrimental it is to the family unit. It made me nauseous, and whether it was intentional or not, I found the comments to be judgmental and not at all loving.

And at the same time, I was also very much ashamed of the fact, I was judging the commenters for their thoughts because 1) I didn’t agree and 2) I wasn’t allowing my heart to actually hear past what I felt was a judgmental attitude.

My attitude towards chastity and sexuality is each of us should try to understand it humbly and respectfully. Targeting in on homosexuality-especially in a room full of straight people who can’t possibly understand the trials of what being a homosexual is like- is -in my opinion-wrong and not at all what I find to be helpful to one’s hope of salvation.

The thing is-and this is what I keep coming back to- is we each struggle with something. For heterosexuals to smugly promote homosexuals as deviants and they are wrong! wrong! wrong! is NOT what I find to be Christ-like behavior.  I can’t find the logic in how that is okay.

I doubt I ever will.

We all will stand before our God one day and have to be accountable for our actions. When it comes to being Christ-like and living in love and kindness, we do not get to say, “Hey, it’s all good!  I’m straight.” as a reason to justify our own sins.

“With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother: Let me pull the mote out of thine eye—and behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (3 Nephi 14:2-5).