Follow-Up to Post Straight Judgment

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

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

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

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

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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.”

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

 

 

 

 

.

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.

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.

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.

 

 

 

Shine, Baby, Shine

Sitting upstairs in my bedroom, I began to think about Jesus. Simply, the man and who he was and how he lived when he was on this Earth. It struck me as somewhat ironic, that this man, the Son of God, who created numberless worlds and could have manifested himself in such a way that there would have been little doubt that he was in fact a god. The SON of THE God, no less. And yet, what did he do? He lived humbly as a carpenter’s son, barely noticed by his social and economic class.

He didn’t force anyone to hear his message. He was a man of love, of truth, of charity. Yet, his mission was that he would sacrifice his life for all of us…which he did. His purpose was clear and he stayed on his directed path, never faltering, even when he was faced with magnificent temptation. (Mark 1:9-13, Luke 4:1-14)

We all want to have our shot in the limelight. Who doesn’t think it would be fantastic to be popular and be noticed for our talents? Yet, how many of us are truly ‘popular’ as defined by the world’s standards? Have we found ourselves shifting gears and stumbling off our path in an attempt to be noticed? To be popular in the standards of this world?

I know I have. Many times. And each time I’ve detoured off my path, life gets amazingly harder and things are never quite right. Things I thought were important, (IE:Materialism) became less so as the different areas of my life crumbled.

As I pondered over my Savior, my thoughts shifted to my own life and what legacy I will leave behind. Will I be known as a gossip? A liar? The recovering alcoholic with the mental illness? My stomach dropped when I thought of every aspect of my life in which I’ve been rebellious and haughty. When my illness had gotten the best of me and my broken mind saw and caused things to be chaotic and painful…not only for me…but for my family and friends as well. These illnesses are not who I am…they are not what define me…they will not be the essence of my soul. I have these things…yes, for now… in this life… and I do what I can to control it. I will not allow these illnesses to control me. Heavenly Father knows my soul. It is with that truth I keep close to my heart, never allowing it to be the start of my drifting off course onto another path.

My light may not be noticed by the entire world, but it shines brightly by those who are near.

When you find yourself thinking you are not being of service to people, or are not receiving the opportunities to present your talents because of your own insecurities or that you may just be under the radar in your church, school or work…think about this: Jesus lived simply, but gave gloriously…in such a way that you and I will one day be able to live with Him again in perfection.

Live simply. Give gloriously…whether it be your talents, your wisdom, your sense of humor…you are a light. Never allow this world to define you. We know that it will end eventually. We have amazing things to look forward to.

Our light? Will shine on for all eternity…