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

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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

The Fall: Transgression or Sin

I once read somewhere that Adam and Eve only gained one thing from eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and that was sin. Sin will always subtract as it never adds… so in the broader scope of things, Adam and Eve did not gain anything from eating the forbidden fruit. I never felt comfortable with this reasoning. If the fruit was forbidden.why would God place it in the garden to begin with? I didn’t get it.

When I first started studying the gospel, I believed like most Christians that the eating of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was due to sin. I couldn’t fathom it being anything other than that. I also couldn’t grasp how it was a good thing. Yet as I studied more and asked questions I would learn that The Fall was not a sin, but a transgression.

Sin-To sin is to do something contrary to the will of the Lord. It is to be willfully disobedient.

Transgression– is the violation of a law or rule that may or may not be against the will of the Lord. Thus, all sins are transgressions but not all transgressions are sins.

The first time sin is mentioned in the Bible is in regards to Cain, whilst Adam and Eve’s partaking in the forbidden fruit is referred to as a transgression. (Genesis 4:6-7, Romans 5:14)

God gave Adam and Eve two commandments:

  1. Multiply and replenish the earth
  2. Refrain from eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

It wasn’t until I studied the Scriptures deeply and began to ask why would these two commandments contradict one another that I began to appreciate Adam and Eve’s roles.

How would Adam and Eve replenish the earth (procreation) when they were innocent and knew nothing of pain or even joy?

One of these commandments had to be broken. If they chose to eat the fruit, they would be cast out of the Garden, however if they chose not to eat from the fruit and remained in the garden, it would be impossible for them to have children. The Garden of Eden was a realm of innocence and purity and remaining in the Garden they would not progress. They would remain the same, never-changing, never growing in any way which ultimately included not having children.

“To bring the plan of happiness to fruition [fulfillment], God issued to Adam and Eve the first commandment ever given to mankind. It was a commandment to beget children. A law was explained to them. Should they eat from ‘the tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ (Genesis 2:17), their bodies would change; mortality and eventual death would come upon them. But partaking of that fruit was prerequisite to their parenthood” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 46; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 34).  ~Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

As God’s children we would never understand or grasp joy unless we experienced pain. Adam and Eve knew this and understood free will. They had the freedom to choose. By not eating the fruit they would not have been able to have children or learn to make the right decisions.The Fall enabled us to be born on earth, where we can learn and progress toward exaltation and eternal joy.

We can learn from the story of Adam and Eve. Their choice to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil did not come from a desire to disobey God, but from the need to gain wisdom. Their choice gave each of us the option to be born and live upon the earth to learn as Adam and Eve did. We can learn from them and always choose good over evil.

Resources:

Quote from the LDS Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual:

Partaking of the forbidden fruit was not a sin

To help explain that Adam and Eve did not sin when they partook of the forbidden fruit, read the following statement from Elder Dallin H. Oaks:

“It was Eve who first transgressed the limits of Eden in order to initiate the conditions of mortality. Her act, whatever its nature, was formally a transgression but eternally a glorious necessity to open the doorway toward eternal life. Adam showed his wisdom by doing the same. …

“… We celebrate Eve’s act and honor her wisdom and courage in the great episode called the Fall. … Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said: ‘I never speak of the part Eve took in this fall as a sin, nor do I accuse Adam of a sin. … This was a transgression of the law, but not a sin.’ …

“This suggested contrast between a sin and a transgression reminds us of the careful wording in the second article of faith: “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression” (italics added). It also echoes a familiar distinction in the law. Some acts, like murder, are crimes because they are inherently wrong. Other acts, like operating without a license, are crimes only because they are legally prohibited. Under these distinctions, the act that produced the Fall was not a sin—inherently wrong—but a transgression—wrong because it was formally prohibited. These words are not always used to denote something different, but this distinction seems meaningful in the circumstances of the Fall” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1993, 98; or Ensign, Nov. 1993, 73).

Genesis 1:28; 2:16–17

Moses 2:28; 3:16–17;

2 Nephi 2:19–20, 22–25;

Moses 4:6–12.

The Fall of Adam and Eve, Teacher’s Manual (1998)

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

 

 

Obedience

Today, I’m thinking about obedience.

Many people feel that the commandments are burdensome and that they limit freedom and personal growth. But the Savior taught that true freedom comes only from following Him: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31–32). God gives commandments for our benefit. They are loving instructions for our happiness and for our physical and spiritual well-being.

Why is it so difficult to be obedient? I’m ashamed to admit I’ve always struggled with the act of obedience. I’m a natural rebel and question everything. It is a challenge for me to remain obedient. This may come as a bit of a shock to those who know me personally. (Sarcasm for those who don’t.)

I work very hard to always tell the truth daily no matter what. Telling the truth should be easy, but I often find myself wanting to tell ‘little white lies’ to spare someone’s feelings or avoid confrontation. (What’s the big deal of omitting exactly how much money I spent to The Husband?)

This thought appeared in my head when I was thinking of this topic of obedience and honesty: little white lies accumulate to such the point it will be difficult to differentiate from what is the truth. It seems as if it isn’t a big deal-these little white lies that aren’t hurting anyone-but in truth (irony) is it is inflicting damage to one’s soul.

Years ago, I saw this example about what lies-any kind of lie- can do to your soul. You take a glass of water which represents your soul. There is also a little bowl of black dirt which represents a lie. You have a regular teaspoon for your big whopper of lies and your first finger and thumb will be for your white lies in which you’d add only a pinch to the clean water AKA your soul.

Above the picture is of a clean glass of water. No lies have been told. Imagine adding only a pinch of dirt for one of those little white lies…only a tiny little pinch…would you still drink the water?

“Honesty is more than not lying. It is truth telling, truth speaking, truth living, and truth loving. …”

~President James E. Faust (1920–2007), Second Counselor in the First Presidency

Aristotle said that wicked men obey because of fear and that good men obey because of love. (See Useful Quotations, ed. Tyron Edwards, New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1933, p. 428.) Ask yourself: Are you obedient because of love or because of fear?

We  have free agency in which we can decide to be obedient in all things or not. I’ve found myself justifying my rebellious attitude by implying it is part of my genetic make-up as if can’t be helped. (IE: “That’s just the way I am, deal with it.)

Obedience is the beginning of wisdom and wisdom will come to the humble who are obedient.

The gift of wisdom comes to those who seek it with humility. “Let him that is ignorant learn wisdom by humbling himself and calling upon the Lord his God … ;

“For my Spirit is sent forth into the world to enlighten the humble and contrite” (D&C 136:32–33).

When I study my Scriptures, make time for prayer and listen to uplifting wholesome music, my demeanor is different from if I never read my Scriptures, didn’t pray and listened to music unbecoming for Christians. Our spiritual diet is as important as our physical one. If we eat bad foods that taste good more than we eat the healthy stuff…we have the instant gratification in the taste but have the long-term effects of what that junk food does to our bodies.

It’s interesting how easy it all really is…how if we do the things our Heavenly Father commands of us we will not only be in the act of obedience…but we will be exercising  faith and enjoying the wonderful blessings bestowed to us.

It’s so easy…

Yet, we still struggle, because as easy as it all is, we have the Adversary throwing down the hurdles and blinding us with harmful detours. It is not a matter of what is the right thing to do, it is the matter of doing what is right…easy or not. This is faith. This is wisdom. This is obedience.


(From LDS.ORG)

Feeling the Love of the Lord through Obedience

President Gordon B. Hinckley: “Why are we such a happy people? It is because of our faith, the quiet assurance that abides in our hearts that our Father in Heaven, overseeing all, will look after His sons and daughters who walk before Him with love and appreciation and obedience. We will ever be a happy people if we will so conduct our lives” (“What Are People Asking about Us?” Liahona, Jan. 1999, 85; Ensign, Nov. 1998, 72).

How Can You Find the Strength to Be Obedient?

President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985): “When we are inclined to think it is vain to serve the Lord, we should stir our faith, believe in the rich promises of God, and obey—and patiently wait. The Lord will fulfill all his rich promises. … To the faithful, lavish rewards are offered. Blessings beyond one’s understanding will come. … Great as are the blessings in mortality which follow righteousness, they are dwarfed beside those awaiting in the world to come” (The Miracle of Forgiveness [1969], 305–6).

Elder Henry B. Eyring of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “You will need the help of heaven to keep the commandments. You will need it more and more as the days go on. … But you can bring the protective powers of heaven down on you by simply deciding to go toward the Savior, to wait on him” (To Draw Closer to God [1997], 98).

How Has Obedience Blessed Your Life?

Mosiah 2:41 : “Ye should consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. … They are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness.”

Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “We can … know, through obedience, how much God loves us as his immortal children. It happens just as President Brigham Young said it would: ‘How shall we know that we obey [God]? There is but one method by which we can know it, and that is by the inspiration of the Spirit of the Lord witnessing unto our spirit that we are His, that we love Him, and that He loves us. It is by the spirit of revelation we know this’ (Deseret News Semi-Weekly, 26 Nov. 1867, n.p.). If we can get that witness for ourselves … , then we can cope with and endure well whatever comes” (“The Pathway of Discipleship,” Ensign, Sept. 1998, 7).

Susan W. Tanner, Young Women general president: “Each week we renew our baptismal covenants to take His name upon us, to ‘always remember him,’ and to ‘keep his commandments’ (see D&C 20:77). We are steadfast in Christ when we do these things, and our spirits are lifted and our hearts are filled with love. … Covenants enlarge our hearts and allow us to feel the ‘love of God and of all men’ (2 Ne. 31:20)” (“Steadfast in Our Covenants,” Liahona, May 2003, 101–2).

John 15:10 : “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love.”

You Talkin’ To Me?

I have a terrible weakness when it comes to trash talking… especially regarding things I dislike. I can’t help but criticize things that are so obviously being done in the worst way possible. (Translation: Not my way.) I’m usually not judgmental towards people I know personally, but anyone in magazines, television and/or movies, you can bet I’m telling someone SOMETHING about how wrong they are.

Before becoming a Christian, this behavior didn’t seem to be something I needed to correct. I prided myself in being a positive person so I thought this mentality was okay, because after all it wasn’t like I was criticizing people I actually knew. That’s totally harmless behavior, right?

Since converting to Mormonism and even the few years before my conversion in which I studied spirituality with earnest, I found this mentality could actually crack open a door to full-blown TRASH TALKING/ALL AROUND GHETTO/POTTY MOUTH Plaza. You know that place we all visit from time to time…especially when we’re ticked off? (I had my own suite.)

I found when I dabbled (okay, not dabbled, but full-fledged body immersion) in trash talking of any kind, it became harder and harder to eliminate it from loved ones and friends. The more I found myself in this negative light, the easier it was to justify it to all other areas in my life.

It’s like once you decide to break your diet of not eating sugar of any kind and think: “Hmm…perhaps, sprinkling some brown sugar on my oatmeal isn’t bad enough to believe I’m actually breaking my non-sugar diet…” that keeping this mentality for so long (because you’re lying to yourself) the line becomes so hazy that taking a huge bite of chocolate cake seems perfectly reasonable. And before you know it…you’re eating brownies for breakfast, cake for lunch and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for dinner.

Yes, I know, the above example of the non-sugar diet and RPBC’s for dinner seems far-fetched, but think about it for a second: Is it really?

How often do we allow a ‘little bit’ of things into our lives that we know are negative and can cloud our judgment because it is only a little? Because we think we’re not hurting anyone?

When things become so annoying it is difficult for me to keep my mouth shut, I pray for the strength to ignore it. After all…I have been known to ignore Heavenly Father and His many blessings…shouldn’t ignoring the things that cause me the most annoyance and lead to bad behavior be just as easy to ignore?

Not always, sadly enough, but I’m working on it. Becoming more Christ-like has never meant more to me than it does at this point in my life. Perhaps it is because my children are paying more attention to the things I do and say…or perhaps it is because things are starting to make more sense in my ‘mature’ age.

The great thing about having free will is we also have it in us to will OUT the negative and will IN the positive. We just have to actually want to do it.

Learning Discernment

Article Posted on March 9, 2011 on All Things Diva.

Although, I live my life with a certain amount of censor and regulation-by choice– I am often filled with a tad bit of guilt and feelings of failure. The world of Christianity is perplexed and at times very contradictory. You have your devout Catholics with your devout Mormons with a mix of devout Evangelicals and someone in that group-no matter how devout- is doing it all wrong.

I have a wide range of close friends who are a mixture of religions and cultures. Very rarely do I talk about confusing doctrine to a non-member of my church nor would they voice their questions upon me about theirs. Yet, what we do have in common: our love for Jesus (and if not Jesus, our love for God or with my atheist, Buddhist and other religious friends our love for Grey’s Anatomy) we find a common thread in that we all experience some sort of guilt in our daily lives. Religious or not.

With my devout friends who are very religious, I am cautious to the point it feels as if I’m being fake. A few years ago, long before I joined the Mormon Church, I went to the movies with a few friends who were of another Protestant faith. I had chosen the movie and was excited to see this comedy that at the time was a huge hit.

About forty or so minutes into the movie in which I’m choking on popcorn because I’m laughing so hard, I feel a nudge on my elbow. “We’re leaving,” one of the ladies whisper. Thinking something was wrong, I followed them out. I learned that the reason for them leaving wasn’t because the elastic went out in their pantyhose BUT the movie  was bad enough to make Baby Jesus cry. (I’m not being funny here, that’s what she said to me: “Bad enough to make even Baby Jesus cry.”)

I had been so diligent in my research of movies! It was PG-13 with no sex scenes, no violence and no blasphemous dialogue.

Where did I go wrong?

And so I ask, “What was wrong with the movie? I don’t get it.”

To which she replied, “Are you kidding!!! It was the use of the F word! We hear it one time, we’re out.”

Was I so worldly that I didn’t even notice that the actors even used the F word?

Apparently so.

I get it from the other side too. I have my laid-back Jesus is great for funeral friends…and when I joined the Mormon Church I got an ear full of lectures and screams. ‘WHAT? NO COFFEE? NO BEER?!”

It’s always with the no coffee and no beer with these people.

If I casually mention seeing a movie with a particular group of friends, they become indignant as if they’re the Spiritual Police and scold me. “Aren’t you Mormon? No R rated movies for you.”

There are times in this life in which I do not feel as if I fit in anywhere. My Mormon friends are mostly lifers and I have yet to befriend a convert like myself. My husband isn’t a member of the church either and with the exception of my oldest daughter, I’m the only member of the church in my entire family.

Yeah, there’s pressure. On both sides.

For instance, my husband is constantly scolding me about my need for a filter. Once I was telling him a story in which the word “freaking” was used. Okay, so no…it wasn’t exactly G-rated verbiage, but certainly not R rated either. My husband looks at me and says, “What would your Bishop say if he heard you saying ‘freaking this’ and ‘freaking that’. You think he’d approve?”

Earlier today, I had a conversation with a friend who said she couldn’t comment on one of my articles because of a particular word I used. Whilst she admitted that it wasn’t that big of a deal, it was big enough for her not to comment if by chance one of the teenagers she taught saw her name by it. “I can’t let them think that  that’s okay.”  The article in question wasn’t (and still isn’t) anything for me to be embarrassed by or ashamed. However, being that I am who I am, I did begin to feel guilty. But not for the article itself (it was an awesome piece) but more for not feeling guilty to begin with.

What is wrong with me?

So there I am feeling judged by someone who is more Christ-like than me…AGAIN.

This whole Christian thing? Yeah, I suck at it.

As I do with feelings of doubt and pity, I took it to my Heavenly Father. As I was praying there was a word that kept popping in my head over and over again. The word: ‘Discernment.’

Spiritual discernment is calling on the Holy Spirit to lead or give direction on a matter.

I open up my scriptures and stumble on this verse in the Bible:

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.  ~ 1 Cor. 2:14

I pray. I cry. I pray a little more and feelings of blessings sweep over me. I am not a failure as a Christian. I am just me. A human being with all the complexities and contradictions all other humans have that make them who they are.

I am ME.

God’s Child. Imperfect, but loved just the same.

I realize in my life as long as I use discernment and rely on my own conscience, I can only keep doing the best I can. The lessons I have gained from my faith are a thousandfold and I must keep them to the forefront of my mind and heart. I must  accept that the ones judging me or more importantly my feelings of being judged are irreverent when it comes to my walk with Christ. With that being said, this doesn’t give me free reign not to use a filter once in a while. I do not want to be the cause of anyone stumbling in their faith.

Learning to depend on God and to trust in Him is a daily lesson. In my most solitude moments in which I feel desolation, I feel His amazing power as He fills my heart to the fullest…and I know He’s real. I know He loves me. He reveals Himself to me at those times in which I’m filled with doubt and insecurity.

I’m not perfect. (SHOCKER.) I will fall a lot more in this life, but everyday I will reaffirm my faith.

My walk with Christ? It’s pretty freaking awesome.

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.

Faith

There is a thin line I cross when it comes to encouraging my children to attend church and forcing them (with bribery, threats, and evil glares) to attend church. I walk this line each week, cautiously, trying not to sway to the art of force. It’s not easy. It’s frustrating. There are many times I want to throw my hands up in the air and give up. Is my being  Mormon worth the headache?  The Husband doesn’t even believe in God! How am I supposed to be a good example and prove the truth of the Gospel when he doesn’t believe God exists? And how do I be a spiritual leader to our children without causing friction between The Husband and I?

It’s difficult. It’s very, very difficult.

I have always had a strong faith in God, but when it came to religion, I couldn’t grasp why there were so many religions out there all claiming to be true. How do we know which one is right? How could I be right?

I believe God exists and I believe what the LDS Church teaches is true. (You can read my testimony here.) It took many incarnations and lifetimes for me to get to where I am today. During my moments in prayer, I have begun to understand why I converted and accepted what I know to be true two years ago verses ten years ago. There is a season for everything and when I find myself feeling frustrated about where my husband is on his spiritual journey, I force myself to remember that I wasn’t always in this place. I wasn’t always content in my faith.

However, today...this moment…what keeps me going…what keeps me coming back to church every Sunday… what has me continuing to pursue spiritual knowledge… is simply: faith. I feel the presence of God in my life. I know His existence is real and I know the Scriptures to be true. I’ve prayed for a contentment like this my entire life and in His time and in His wisdom and grace…He gave it to me.

Now I pray for the same contentment for my husband. For my children. And I know it will never be in the way I think it should be…in the manner of how it should be given…it isn’t my call. Yet, I have faith my prayers will be answered.

God shows Himself to those who are ready and want to receive Him. I pray my husband and children experience His love and grace. When we  experience the grace of God’s light…big or small…our lives will change drastically. Things are not magically easier, but we develop a wisdom we didn’t have before. Faith is funny like that…we don’t have to prove or explain…we are content within our hearts that what we know to be true… just is.

When we’re ready…God is there. Our eyes and heart are opened to the fact that He never left us. Ever.

 

 

 

Judging Isn’t Helping

“I saw her the other day and she was wearing short shorts. Obviously, she’s not practicing modesty.”

“Oh, is this a new thing in the Church? We gossip and condemn people who we think are slipping? I didn’t get that memo.”

A few months ago, I was on Facebook when another friend and I began to banter back and forth. In the exchange, I called him a jackass…without typing jack. I reasoned it was perfectly suitable for me to use that name because, well… he was being one. (You call a duck, a duck, right?)

Long story made very short: someone decided to be offended (not the person who received his new nickname though. I think he thought it was a compliment.) and in our conversation it was mentioned that I was losing my testimony and “What would my children think if they read that?”

Losing my testimony? What would my children think? Okay, this is confession time: I have probably said that word around my kids many times, usually with the word ‘Smart’ in front of it. If using that word meant losing my testimony, then sadly, I lost it a long time ago.

Obviously, the entire thing was an over-exaggeration and probably had little to do with my name choice. However, I felt condemned and judged and that wasn’t the first time I had felt that way.

In my two years of being a member of the church and my twenty plus years of being a Christian…my paths have crossed with the critical, the over-the-top zealots, and the condemners…all in the name of Jesus Christ.

As a new Christian, it can often take the wind out of your sails when you feel persecuted by your Christian brothers and sisters. When we see someone slipping away or having difficulties living the principles of the Gospel, how do we help them? How do we lift their spirits and provide encouragement without condemnation?

Refrain from passing judgement: That sounds easy enough, we all know Christ’s teachings about judging others. Yet, it is something we often forget.

I am guilty of passing judgement. I find myself tsk tsking people’s church attendance, their parenting style, and their understanding over certain church doctrine. I have also been on the receiving end of being judged…anywhere from my choice of movies, my tattoos, my ‘tell it like it is’ attitude and my parenting style. (Probably because I use that word around them. What do you think?)

When it comes to people who have slipped from the church, we should remember one simple thing: Free Agency.

“Agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to act for ourselves. Agency is essential in the plan of salvation. Without it, we would not be able to learn or progress or follow the Savior. With it, we are “free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil” (2 Nephi 2:27).”

Everyone’s spiritual journey is unique. We all have our own path and we all have our ups and downs. Being a Christian is not about developing a life of perfection. We are going to sin, it is in our nature. However, we can repent and ask for forgiveness.

It is not up to us to judge anyone. We are not God.

I have a hard time with people who claim to be unable to partake in certain things because of their roles in the Church, but do partake in hateful gossip and judgement Your position in any Church doesn’t give you a free pass to condemn others. If anything, you will be held to a higher standard, because whether you like it or not, people are looking to you for an example.

As Christians we should always be aware the world is watching us. Whilst we are not perfect, we should always try to live in a Christlike manner, refraining from gossip, judgement, and reckless living. If we see a fellow Christian slipping, instead of judging and whispering behind their back, how about calling him up and asking if there is anything we can do for them. Chances are what they really want is to be welcomed back. Or maybe not… but at least they know there is at least one person who cares and would be welcoming them back with open arms.

Judge not, that ye be not judged. ~Matthew 7:1

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. ~Exodus 20:16

The Parable of the Lost Son: Luke 15:11-32