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).

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Um…Comedy?

I apologize for the lack of posts. Dealing with an overwhelming amount of work right now, plus the worst migraine headaches you could imagine which makes writing a little difficult.

Saturday night, our ward held a talent show. I had a terrible migraine and slept most of the day. This isn’t BS here: I actually had fifteen minutes of rehearsed and well-scripted dialogue for that night, but it was all for not. Due to the headache, I totally ad-libbed, hence the crossing of the legs and the variety of ‘Um’s’.

When Your Spouse Doesn’t Believe

When I converted to Mormonism in 2009, it was to the disbelief and discouragement of many friends and family. None more so than my husband who was adamantly against my joining the church. When I first began studying with the missionaries, he didn’t say much, until he saw I was regularly attending church and talked about getting baptized. And then…

Well, he had a lot to say.

There were fights. A lot of them. At first he told me I was not allowed to go to church– which if you have known me for at least two seconds you would know how well that went. In fact, our marriage up to that point had been more than a partnership. We were a team. Neither of us told the other what to do and we each were confident with the other person. I felt I wasn’t doing anything different…as long as he had known me I had a thirst for spiritual knowledge and he had never not known me to study spiritual books or attend some type of church. He always said he knew what he was getting into when he married me…that Jesus was an important factor in my life. My joining a church shouldn’t have brought on the marital discord that it did.

To say it was bad is an understatement. He began to search anti-Mormon sites on the Internet, but as an atheist, he couldn’t find anything that didn’t dispel the church without bringing attention to a God. Finally, he laid down the law and said I could go to ‘that church’ if I wanted, but under no circumstances would he allow his children to attend. Period.

When I joined my very small ward, I came in with a lot of drama and fanfare. Not only did I accept the teachings of the gospel and felt like a lifelong Mormon, I did it loudly, something of which is not in my nature. A lot of people knew about the problems with my husband not allowing the children to attend and took it in stride. Maybe they’d seen it before…but being that I had been married to this man for ten years and had never been treated this way, it was a tough pill to swallow.

Things in our personal life were starting to unravel and the one person I had always leaned on wasn’t emotionally available to me. I felt stranded.

In August of 2009, I fell into such a deep depression I didn’t get out of bed for two weeks. I had my husband drive me to the hospital and drop me off at the front door. That speaks volumes towards how our relationship was then…it was to such a point I didn’t even want him walking in with me.

I was admitted into the hospital and for eleven days I had to put my faith entirely into Heavenly Father’s hands. I never prayed so hard and so much. My husband saw the visits from members of my ward stop by daily and I saw how this touched his heart. These people barely knew me, yet without judgment and without calling attention to their actions, they loved me enough to visit. They brought dinners to my husband and children. They called. He was overwhelmed with the kindness of strangers and this started the beginning of changing his heart and mind towards the church.

It didn’t happen overnight. There were hurdles and I foresee many more. When I took out my endowments a year in a half later, he wasn’t happy. (Again, major understatement.) He still calls my garments “magic underwear.”

He is still an atheist. We compromised and the children are allowed to attend church when they want to and neither of us are supposed to encourage them either way. I’ll admit this is difficult for me because I know the importance of the Sabbath. Whenever I think how difficult this compromise is…my mind goes back to two years ago and I remember things are a huge improvement.

My husband’s good friends are LDS. When my home teachers visit, he sits and listens to the discussion. The other day when my visit teachers came over, he pulled out the piano bench to listen. I’ve even caught him reading an article or two in the Ensign.

When your spouse doesn’t share your faith, it is a painful burden to carry. Yet, we must remember we all have our own individual spiritual journeys and even though you’re married, you won’t always travel down the same path. I can’t change my husband, nor can I change his heart, only Heavenly Father can and it is in faith and love I turn it over to Him.

When your spouse doesn’t share your faith or believe in God, these words of encouragement will hopefully help you as they have for me:

  • Pray: Prayer is the most powerful weapon to safeguard any marriage, especially one in which there is an unbelieving spouse. Pray and ask God to soften your spouse’s heart and bind the adversary’s control over his/her life. When I pray for my husband, I imagine I’m holding him up for God’s viewing and ask to open my husband’s heart so he can see how real our God is and how much God loves him. Never stop praying. (1 Thess. 5:17)
  • Stay Encouraged, Not Discouraged:Things do not always happen when we want them to occur. Do not get discouraged and give up on your spouse. If I had walked away from my marriage two years ago, I would have missed out on the blessings I have seen regarding my husband’s heart. I believe there are still more to come! You must remember your spouse has free agency and will respond to Heavenly Father’s revelation of his/her own free will.
  • Witness without a Word: Constantly nagging and preaching the Word of God isn’t working, so why not try something different? You can surely bet your spouse is watching you. You can witness without a word by practicing what you preach. Don’t stay home from church to sleep in, read your scriptures, and remember your own conduct and be an example.

  “Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD” ~Psalm 27:14

His Glory and not Our Own

A few days ago I was studying my Scriptures and I started to feel antsy. My mind began to wander about how little I do in the Church and how unfulfilled I feel when it comes to doing things within our ward. I found myself dwelling on the fact that if only I could do this and this and oh yeah this then I’d be spiritually uplifted.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m walking an uphill battle in regards to spiritual things within my family and what I feel is important to help me grow spiritually in my ward. I find myself irritated with the thought that the entire universe is working against me.

As my mind was having this conflicted pity party, I suddenly had this thought that the adversary is working to lure people away from our Heavenly Father by placing these obvious great ideas in our heads. These great ideas that seem harmless and spiritual aren’t always working for the greater good…but to our own spiritual detriment.I believed this was what was happening to me.

Wait…what? How could something holy with positive actions NOT be good for our spiritual growth?

It happens easily and sometimes without us even noticing. I’ve witness it time and time again. Callings given to people sometimes take over their identity and they feel as if their calling defines them as a person. There are parents and spouses hardly seeing their children and sweethearts because of their over-involvement in church activities which they feel is bringing glory to God.

But is it really?

As a convert, I know this isn’t strictly within our faith, I’ve seen it in other religions. I know the over involvement in church activities isn’t always a good thing if you’re doing it without your family members. I know the adversary works on me continuously as I use my writing and speaking engagements to share the gospel with others. This isn’t a bad thing, yet if I allow it, I can be lured down a path of faux holiness. In my busy moments to do ‘God’s work’ I can become edgy and temperamental when interrupted by family members because I’ve convinced myself it was going to bring so much glory to God. I want to simply be left alone to do what I want- which if I’m honest with myself- isn’t really what God wants for me or my family.

With my natural disposition to be busy, it is easy for the adversary to have me focus on some big project and neglect the people I love in the pretense of doing God’s work.

So what are we as Christians supposed to do?

Heavenly Father is a loving and gracious father and He has set for us clear and easy instruction for our daily lives. We know Heavenly Father would never have us do anything that would mean being neglectful to our spouses and children. He would never have us involved in spiritual activities in which we are beginning to feel resentful towards our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we feel as if these things are taking over our spiritual work, it is time to evaluate what we’re doing and make sure we’re doing it for the right reasons.

Leaning on Heavenly Father and giving Him complete control over my life has allowed me to be sensible in deciding which duties I’m involved in. The moments in which I have felt frustrated with ward members-and even God- were the times in which I was trying to glorify myself. I’ve also noticed when I’m thinking of only myself when involved in projects, it is those projects that usually never work out. Yet, when I’m obedient to God’s instruction and work my projects in accordance to His word, I’m astounded to see His hand opening more doors for me.

Remaining obedient to God when deciding on what projects to accept has been completely liberating. I’m not plagued with the thoughts that I’m not doing enough in service. I’m doing what I’m capable of doing and keeping harmony in my family life. I also know the difference between ‘holy’ inspirations and ‘selfish’ ones. Having the inspiration to read my Scriptures instead of playing on Facebook or even doing the dishes has never been a disappointment. If anything it makes cleaning the house or doing the most mundane tasks later a bit less daunting.

I’ve found a sense of peace in understanding God’s commands in my life and by doing His work for His glory (and not my own) my family and I will continually be blessed.

 

Being a Mormon is Being a Christian

“You don’t look like a Mormon!”

It could be taken as an insult, I guess. Depending on the context.  If let’s say I were at a club, shooting down shots of whiskey and table dancing to a hip hop song and someone mentions in passing, “Wow. I can’t believe she’s Mormon,” then perhaps that would be a wake-up call that I am not living in accordance with the Gospel and surely not being a good example. (Of course, my dance moves would be a great example of how I have skills. Just sayin’.) However, if it is stated: “You don’t look Mormon” simply because I’m awesome and have great hair, then yeah, that would probably be a tad bit insulting. (Not for me, mind you. But for all other Mormons.)

Interesting statistic, especially for those who are converted: 70% of Mormons worldwide were not born into the faith. (Accurate as of 2006.) What does that have to do with anything? Well, not much, except to show that the cookie cutter Mormons you may have imagined in your mind, simply do not exist.

Granted, as with all religions, there are those who may shed a poor light on the Church and there are those who give it a bad name. Each individual who is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is unique, made up of the same complexities as any other human being.

What does being a Mormon mean?

  • There’s a Plan and I understand it.

The LDS Church  teaches that God has a plan for His children.  As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints we believe life here on earth, is like a refiners fire.  If we turn to God in our trials, He will strengthen us, and ultimately through the atonement, purify us.

  • The Gospel being true, doesn’t mean life is easier.

To truly experience joy, we must also experience pain. Within our own experiences of tough times, we know we can appreciate and grasp the intensity of pure joy. I equate this to being a mother. Yes, I knew love before having kids. I loved my parents, my husband, my siblings, however until I became a mother, I never knew the intensity and complexities love actually has. It didn’t mean the love I had before was less so…far from it. If anything, it made my showing and receiving love more grand.

  • You may not think I’m awesome, but Jesus thought I was to die for.

I have a Savior in Jesus Christ who loved you and I so much that he died for us. This has always blown my mind, because the thought of it is complex and escapes human logic. I know the details, yet cannot hold it together. This was a human being…the Son of God…who is my Savior. His love for us and the love from our Heavenly Father knows no bounds and hearing it isn’t the same as feeling it. This is where faith comes in. My faith is stronger than the words and details. It overrides it in all capacities.

  • Knowing Jesus Christ and having faith

Faith is a choice. It’s also our choice to be willing to accept and receive the redemptive efficacy of Jesus Christ’s death on our behalf and it is still our choice to receive him into our own heart and soul. Being a Mormon is many wonderful things, things in which I didn’t think existed…but the biggest and greatest is that being a Mormon is also becoming a Christian. And whilst some may disagree with the assessment that Mormons are indeed Christian-I don’t wish to argue the point. I only know what my heart tells me and it is a heart who now knows how to receive and give love…one in which was taught to me by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

  • Having a gift and sharing it

The Gospel is a wonderful gift, one in which I don’t want to keep all to myself. I share the Gospel with anyone who wants to know it, keeping in mind that I’m offering a gift, not wishing to convert for my own glory. That’s not what Jesus taught. He taught kindness and love and he did it with those virtues. Being a Christian isn’t about conversion, it is about love. When I extend the invitation for those to know Jesus, I do so with love.

13 Articles of Faith


1.
We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
2.
We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
3.
We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
4.
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
5.
We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
6.
We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
7.
We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
8.
We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
9.
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
10.
We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
11.
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
12.
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
13.
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

I’m a Mormon

 

 

Gaining a Testimony

When I was researching Mormonism, I constantly heard about the power of prayer and gaining of a testimony. I understood the power of prayer having been a long time person of prayer, but I didn’t understand the whole testimony thing.

What did it mean to gain a testimony?

A testimony is a spiritual witness given by the Holy Ghost. The foundation of a testimony is the knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves His children; that Jesus Christ lives, that He is the Son of God, and that He carried out the infinite Atonement; that Joseph Smith is the prophet of God who was called to restore the gospel; that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Savior’s true Church on the earth; and that the Church is led by a living prophet today. With this foundation, a testimony grows to include all principles of the gospel.

I believed the Church was true. Yet, believing this, I expected the occurrence of a testimony to be a phenomenal event. Heavens opening, angels singing…you know, small miracles like that.

I prayed for a testimony, still not understanding what it meant to gain one. Nothing seemed to happen…meaning the gates of Heaven didn’t open up with angels singing Hallelujah! Undeterred, I started to study and talk to others about what gaining a testimony actually meant. I guess I believed I could study it to action.

The thing about testimonies is you can ask twenty different people about the definition of a testimony and you’ll get twenty different definitions.

Not one person’s miracle of a testimony is exact. For me, this makes it even more special and divine.

I wanted one. So I did what I always have done: I prayed. I researched. I rushed through my studies as if I were writing a term paper on the subject and then it hit me…

Since I started studying and praying for a testimony, I had never actually sat still long enough to actually meditate on anything to gain a testimony on.  Ever. I was so excited with the teachings of the Church, I rushed through my studies and wanted to go on to the next spiritual subject.

I had not been meditating on His word. I was not meditating in prayer.

I wasn’t meditating on anything, period.

The revelation occurred when I was trying to wrap my head around The Vision. I asked myself, ” Why Joseph Smith? Why him?”

I thought about this for a very long time, allowing the question to flow through my brain.

And then…I felt the words: “Why not? Why NOT Joseph Smith? Why Paul? Why Peter? Why is anyone ever chosen?”

Gaining a testimony about Joseph Smith being a prophet was a tranquil moment. There wasn’t a gigantic burst of energy within me wanting to yell it from the roof tops. My testimony regarding Joseph Smith being a prophet was a silent whisper in the form of a question:

“Why not?”

President Loren C. Dunn of the First Council of the Seventy wrote in the January 1973 issue of Ensign:

The three steps, then, in seeking a testimony of the truthfulness of the gospel from the Lord himself are to read, ponder, and pray with real intent and sincerity of heart. If a person will prayerfully read the pages of this inspired book and carefully turn over in his mind what he has read and constantly ask the question, “Could any man have written this book?” the promise of the Lord is that he “will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”

Gaining a Testimony in Three Steps:

  1. Read
  2. Ponder
  3. Pray

I try to do those three things everyday…gaining a testimony on a variety of spiritual things and sometimes despite doing those three things, a testimony doesn’t always occur. It doesn’t always happen instantly…yet there are times when it seems a testimony has always been.

Testimony—real testimony, born of the Spirit and confirmed by the Holy Ghost—changes lives. ~Elder M. Russell Ballard

My testimony: I believe this Church is true. I believe we have a modern day prophet in President Monson and I believe the Book of Mormon is added Scripture to the Holy Bible and all the Scriptures are inspired Word of God. I have felt and seen the power and blessings of prayer and I believe with all of my heart that our Savior is Jesus Christ.

I say all these things in Jesus Christ’s name, Amen

 

 

 

 

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Atonement, Repentence and Addictions

Most of us know the scripture in Matthew 6:24 in which we are told we are not to slave for two masters. I have to always go back to that scripture daily…so I will always remember I was once a slave to two masters.

I am an alcoholic/addict.

As an addict, converting to Mormonism wasn’t easy. At the time, giving up alcohol wasn’t a huge deal. I didn’t believe or even consider I was an alcoholic. I believed this based on how I drank compared to others in my life who suffered from the disease. No, I didn’t drink everyday. I could go months without drinking with ease. Yet, when I finally became honest with myself and looked at the reasons WHY and HOW I drank…I knew I had a problem.

Drinking was my escape. Tequila was my outlet I used to ease my anxiety, cover my insecurities and lose my inhibitions. I’ve always been somewhat of a dork in a socially awkward way. I have a moronic laugh and I’m anything but graceful. That’s how I am sober. Apparently, I thought drinking erased my social quirks. Turns out…they only enhanced them…I just didn’t care.

Alcoholism isn’t a black/white disease. It isn’t the same for everyone. When I accepted I had this disease, I was already a baptized member of the Church. I had some slip ups and it was only after I fell into old habits that I had to come to terms with the truth concerning this illness.

Here’s the thing about addictions of any kind: you can not get help for your addictions until you accept and understand you’re powerless against them. You can not do it on your own.

As a Christian…you have to take it one step further: you must grasp, understand and accept The Atonement.

Atonement of Jesus Christ

As used in the scriptures, to atone is to suffer the penalty for sins, thereby removing the effects of sin from the repentant sinner and allowing him or her to be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ was the only one capable of carrying out the Atonement for all mankind. Because of His Atonement, all people will be resurrected, and those who obey His gospel will receive the gift of eternal life with God.

For years…without even realizing it…I was a slave to alcohol and prescription drugs. I thought I was okay because hello…LOOK AT ME. I do not look like a drunk. I’m little. And cute. And I speak with a southern accent.

Alcoholics surely cannot be little, cute and speak with a southern accent. Right?

In His loving and firm way, God showed me I was fooling myself. As a creator of false facades in many areas of my life, I convinced myself and others that I didn’t have a problem with addictions. I had somehow shifted and justified my sins in order to be a slave to the illness.

Why?

Well, because it was fun.

Drinking was fun…in the beginning. That stage of drinking most call ‘tipsy’ is exhilarating. I always wanted to stay in that phase…yet as my tolerance level grew…the shorter the tipsy phase would be. And because I always felt I had something to prove, I’d find myself in these situations in which I tried to out drink everyone. I think my reasoning was because I was little. And cute. And spoke with a southern accent.

The first time I spoke the words: “I am an alcoholic” was one of the worst and best days of my life. I won’t sugar coat it…I felt as if I was a failure. I didn’t want to admit to alcoholism and addiction. It didn’t seem fair I had to say those words and do the steps and go to meetings and then REPENT? I had to repent too? Are you kidding me?

I didn’t want to repent to God. I was really mad at God.

Being angry with God did not align well with repentance. I was angry with God for allowing my life to be so messed up. It didn’t seem fair He created me to have all these things wrong with me.

My anger with God led me toward a season of rebellion. I gave up caring and trying to  live a spiritual life. I felt as if I had given everything I had to be a good Christian woman and I kept failing. So what can a person do but throw their hands in the air and give up? May as well have some fun!

Alma 34:32-34 tells us we shouldn’t procrastinate repentance. We will all have to one day answer for our sins and be held accountable. My having the disease of alcoholism wasn’t the sin…it was my ignoring it and acting with a rebellious heart that was sinful.

The fun of drinking was long gone. I knew that, but I wanted it to be true again. What was fun about it? Who can really say at this point…most of those days are hazy. Drinking can only be fun for so long for an alcoholic. The fun never lasts.

To admit weakness is also not a sin. In the scriptures we can find many righteous and humble men who admit their frailties: Moses, David, Peter, Paul, Alma, Ammon…those are only a handful of examples. When we repent…we acknowledge regret for doing the things that separated us from God. Admitting our sins isn’t weak…it is the buildup of strength in which creates a stronger bond between us and our Heavenly Father.

Accepting The Atonement of Jesus Christ for me was a huge factor in my recovery. Elder Boyd Packer explained it best: “Atonement is really three words: At-one-ment, meaning to set at one, one with God; to reconcile, to conciliate, to expiate.”  The Atonement could cleanse me of sin…but only after the condition of my repentance.

It seemed as if I would never live the life Heavenly Father created me to live. I continued to make the wrong choices, made excuses, and honestly didn’t care…as long as I was having fun! Then one day, life wasn’t fun anymore and the things I was doing in the name of fun had turned ugly. Yet, I couldn’t repent because I felt as if I wasn’t good enough to be a daughter of God.

Then one day I realized I wasn’t that “great” not to be forgiven for my sins. Yeah, I’m little. And cute. And speak with a southern accent…but I’m not that powerful.

Here’s the thing that we all must accept: We will never be so powerful to be to messed up for our Savior to redeem.

Ever.

Take 5 Friday Quick Notes (1)


— 1 —

Fifteen years ago on a hot and humid afternoon at 3:20pm, I gave birth to a 7lb 12oz baby girl in Fort Benning, Georgia. I was nineteen years old and scared to death. When I began having contractions, I remember thinking it was because I ate too much corn on the cob the night before. It wasn’t until my water broke that it dawned on me I was actually in labor.

Fifteen years ago, my life was forever changed…enhanced by this child who has brought me tremendous joy, has driven me crazy, has made me laugh, has made me cry, gives me hugs and gives me migraines. She’s been a blessing and a pain.

Fifteen years ago…I finally understood how amazingly intense and complex love actually is.

Fifteen years ago…I became a Mom for the first time.

Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. (Psalm 127:3-5)

— 2 —

It’s only been Day 5 of waking up at 4:45am to have my daughter at Seminary by 6am and all I keep thinking is…”It’s only Day 5.” She’s not complaining and seems pretty happy about attending. However…call me a pessimist…but it is only Day 5.

— 3 —

There are many things occurring in our lives right now including the unexpected roadblocks which had me on the telephone all morning yesterday. I also was finding myself trying to track down paperwork from almost twenty years ago and trying to remember how to speak my birth language: Hillbillynese.

— 4 —

I received a new calling this past Sunday in which I’m in charge of our ward’s bulletin. Having always felt the font on our bulletin was difficult to read, a bit jumbled and confusing, I’ve been working on creating an easier to read bulletin that isn’t causing anyone to strain their eyes. In my ‘research’ (AKA Google) I found this wonderful site that has everything you need to assist you in your church callings. I’m sure many people who have been members for a long time already know about this site…but for us recent converts…this site is fantastic! MormonShare.com

— 5 —

I received a couple of emails from readers (which allow me to say…I LOVE receiving emails from readers of my blogs! I’m tickled of how many readers this site has already accumulated. I’ll blog for comments and emails, people. Really.) who have asked me if I had any book suggestions regarding spirituality and LDS faith that has helped me since my conversion and aided in the conversion itself. With the exception of The Scriptures themselves (which is a total given) here are some of my favorites and must reads:

The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother

Not only does this book give you a sense of who Joseph Smith is as a person, but it also gives you an insight on how difficult it must have been for not only him and his young wife, but also his mother. It strengthen my testimony in knowing Joseph Smith is a true prophet and helped me understand all that he had to suffer and lose to do God’s will.

When You Can’t Do It Alone

I went through a very difficult time after my conversion. A friend had given me this book and it is still a book I turn to every now and then when I need some reminders that I don’t always have to try to do it alone.

“It’s easy to trust in the Lord when everything’s going your way. But what happens when you experience challenges and difficulties that leave you so spiritually exhausted that you can’t see God’s hand in your life? As a newly called mission president, author Brent L. Top experienced a severe emotional and spiritual crisis. Desperate for help, he discovered that knowing where to turn is not enough; we must allow the Savior to rescue us.”

Mere Christianity

This book is an easy read and one of the first books I read after I left the Jehovah Witness organization. It helped me understand true Christianity. “Rejecting the boundaries that divide Christianity’s many denominations, C.S. Lewis finds a common ground on which all those who have Christian faith can stand together, proving that ‘at the center of each there is something, or a Someone, who against all divergences of belief, all differences of temperament, all memories of mutual persecution, speaks the same voice.’ “

Below is a linky list if you’d like to add a link to your own Take 5 Friday Quick Notes post. (1) Make sure the link you submit is to the URL of your post and not your main blog URL. (2) Include a link back here.

My Mission

One of the biggest eye-opening moments for me since my conversion was a conversation I had with Elder J before his transfer. This was over two years ago, but I found myself thinking of that particular day this morning as I drove my daughter to seminary.

The missionaries had been recounting their memory of receiving their mission letter which told them where they’d be serving. I was touched as I heard these two young boys share their excitement and some of their concerns about leaving home and traveling to Alaska for their mission. In a state of envy and moved by my eagerness to share the Gospel, I blurted: “Man! I wish I could have went on a mission!”

I’ll never forget the look on Elder J’s face as he stared at me for a moment before replying with: “But Jaime, you are on a mission.”

I was taken aback. No, I’m not on a mission! Are you kidding me? I was only a few days into my being a baptized member of the Church with an angry husband and some confused friends. No one in my circle was happy for me…and certainly had no intention of listening to me share my testimony with them.

Me? On a mission? The only mission I had ever been told I was on was the mission of driving my husband crazy, which he reminds me of this weekly.

Elder J. explained that whilst my mission wasn’t the mission I was envisioning for myself…a letter with family gathered around in excitement as I read outloud where I’d be traveling…my mission was just as important. If anything, I had to be even more diligent, even more resilient in practicing my faith because my husband-whether he believed it or not-depended on me.

Yes, I was on a mission. I still am. And whilst there are days when I lack the demeanor of a missionary, there are those gentle reminders from The Spirit which urge me to always choose the right. I am driven to be a good example to my family and friends and show humility. It isn’t easy…in fact, I probably fail more than I succeed. Yet, I remain steadfast in my faith. It isn’t that I don’t have my days I’m clouded with doubt and disappointment. I’m still very much a human being with the same faults and complexities as anyone…but I never stop trying to be the best person I can be.

My goal each day is to be a humble missionary to all I come in contact with-not just with words-but with my actions. There will be those days in which I stumble into muddy puddles, but if I do not ‘puddle sit’ and whine about the fact I fell-Heavenly Father will extend His hand and allow me to brush myself off and continue down my path. Showing others my human side with my imperfections, is not being vulnerable and weak, but being true to myself. In this way, I believe people are more apt to hearing my testimony and the truths of the Gospel.

As a missionary…I still have to be true to myself but at the same time I must be diligent in keeping the commandments and remain faithful to my God.

Yep, I’m on a mission. It’s been pretty eventful and the cool thing is…it is only the beginning.

Why I’m Mormon

Disclaimer: I am asked with increasing frequency why I converted to Mormonism as opposed to one of the other Christian denominations.  I’m apprehensive about sharing my reasons because I’m quite aware the subject could attract a heated debate. This is not my intention…it is my experience, my story.

Conversion stories can often be interpreted as an implication that ones who have had a different experience and have drawn a different conclusion regarding religion/spirituality/God are wrong. I do not believe this.

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It all began a few years ago when I became interested about why people chose their religion. I asked the question: “Is God actually leading individuals to their religion?” I couldn’t fathom that the majority of religions had to be wrong in order for one to be right. How could one religion have it perfectly clear and others have it so wrong?

It didn’t make sense to me. It still doesn’t.

I began to quiz my friends.  Each genuine and kind, they offered thought-provoking statements which gave me more food for thought. By then I had been studying different religions for four years and many considered my studies an obsession. Obsessed or not, questions rattled in my brain:

“How does one’s faith be so strong, they do not question their religion or need to seek out other religions? Is this short-sighted? Or is this simply a matter of having a security in one’s faith?”

I had always felt a special bond towards my father when it came to the Catholic Church. I have many beautiful memories of my father taking me to Mass on special holidays. Whether or not, my father was a ‘good’ Catholic is irrelevant in the sense he had some belief the Catholic Church was true. He felt a duty to at least fight for his children to be baptized and felt in good conscience he was saving us from limbo if we were to die as babies.

My grandmother took me to services at the Baptist church every Sunday. The sermons were often the fire and brimstone kind, yet what I remember most was the music. I always felt a certain feeling of goodness with those old southern hymns. Is there anything more moving than hearing Amazing Grace and Just As I Am?

As a child, I remember feeling as if it would be much easier if I could be one or the other: Catholic or Baptist. I felt drawn…in different ways, to both. Yet, couldn’t honestly call myself one or the other. It never seemed honest.

At the age of twenty, I began studying with the Jehovah’s Witnesses and was baptized at the age of twenty-three. I will not go into that part of my life just yet…it will have to be an entirely different post all together. I left the Witnesses in 2005 after certain life changing events. The questions I had found myself asking were difficult to push aside. I knew I was living a lie by claiming to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It wasn’t anything against them as a religion…it was me. I should have never joined to begin with and I joined for the wrong reasons.

The thing about leaving the Witnesses…is you have to give up friendships and relationships. That had been a main reason why I stayed as long as I did. I’m not disfellowshipped, but I may as well be. The friends I considered family do not talk to me. That was and is difficult. I miss them.

 When I left…I wiped out everything I had ever been taught…I started anew. A clean slate, if you will.

I read, I prayed, I talked, I bugged everyone I knew who had a faith in God and everyone I knew who didn’t.

I talked to a friend of mine during this time who is Catholic and believes that the Catholic Church is the original church founded by Jesus Christ. She explained to me that her church and other religions are governed by humans, therefore they are subject to sin. A relationship with God should be more important than the religion. It is the personal responsibility of the person to make this a priority, not the religion.

That statement changed my entire outlook.

“It is the personal responsibility of the person to make their relationship with God the priority…NOT the religion.”

Another friend during this time I spoke with is a member of the LDS Church. We were talking over lunch one afternoon and I began quizzing her about religion, spirituality and God. She told me she believed in free agency and told me basically the same thing as my Catholic friend: “The relationship you have with Heavenly Father is more important to me than my religion. My religion enhances my relationship with my Father in Heaven, but it isn’t more important.”

 I read the book Free At Last by Larry Huch and marked it with so many notes and highlights, I ended up having to purchase a new copy. The book explains how Christians can break free from their past. It delves into great detail on how one can find freedom from depression, anger, abuse, insecurity and addiction through Jesus Christ. Looking back, it was meant for me to read this book. As someone who was still trying to heal from a disturbed and abusive past, was terribly insecure, had bouts of hostility  and felt broken on the inside…there was no way I could move forward in my spiritual journey without some kind of healing. It was a stepping stone…and I was able to skip happily (although a bit dorky) towards my destination.

My days were spent praying with more belief and more passion than I could have ever thought possible to muster. I delved into more spiritual topics, intent on knowing Jesus my Savior and God my Heavenly Father.

I studied Judaism, but from the Christian standpoint. After all, Jesus was Jewish! I read my Bible with the mindset of the traditions Jesus taught as a Jewish man. I asked my Christian friends, “Why do Christians choose not to celebrate the Jewish Holidays? Why don’t we celebrate Yom Kippur and Passover? Jesus did!” (I still haven’t received a clear answer!)

In my studies, I learned Jesus died to take away the curse, but not the blessings!

Growing up I had a fear of the fire-burning Hell. I never felt good enough to go to Heaven, but was I really bad enough to go to Hell? Yet, what were the options? It was one or the other!

During my many talks with  friends, visiting churches and attending spiritual lectures, I always felt a strong connection. In every single circumstance. BUT, what I wanted was to have that contentment my friends had in their religion. I could feel the Spirit…but not the contentment in joining another religion. Nothing ‘clicked.’ I couldn’t tell you that the pieces of the puzzle were coming together for me.

Not then, anyway.

One afternoon, I was reading the Bible and I was trying to decide which church the kids and I would attend that Sunday. Something prompted me to go  lds.org and before I knew it…I was studying with two missionaries that same week.

As I’m writing this, I texted Jeff, the missionary who studied and baptized me (you can read more about how he is part of my story here) if he could share his thoughts on teaching/studying with me.

This is what he had to say: “You contacted the church the day I got in the area. I really felt the hand of the Lord in it from the beginning…We [his companion, Elder B.] were excited to teach you and shocked a little bit that you had read The Book of Mormon and bought your own quad.”

(To add to his text…not only did I contact the church when he arrived in our area…he was only in our area one transfer. Six weeks…long enough to teach me the Gospel and see me baptized…which he did.)

It was during one of our studies in which something clicked. I can’t even remember what we were talking about, but I clearly remember where we were and how I felt. We were at the church, studying in the Relief Society room. During the conversation, I had this amazing feeling that I had found what I had been looking for. It was this sense of peace…a feeling of exhalation. I wanted to be baptized which shocked the missionaries because they hadn’t even broached the subject of baptism with me yet. I may have been out of their teaching element…but I went with my heart. Everything made sense to me and I knew…without a shadow of a doubt…even with the discord between my husband and I about my joining the church…it was the right thing to do.

I’ve never regretted it.

When I started living my life according to the teachings of the LDS Church…everything seemed to fall into place. Things just worked. Do not misunderstand me… life didn’t get easier. After my baptism, I had a really tough road ahead of me…but there was and still is this powerful contentment that has never left me.

My life has changed profoundly and I can’t imagine not having this gift in my heart, in my soul.

When I enter Church, read my Scriptures, or close my eyes in prayer…I feel content.

I feel at home.

To follow up: Today, my husband is supportive of my being LDS and has close friends who are Mormon. This past Sunday, for no reason at all…he decided to attend church with me. Whilst he still maintains he’s ‘doubtful’ about there being a God…I have seen small miracles taking place in our home and in his heart.