29 January 2007

Taking Risks

"Along your pathway of life you will observe that you are not the only traveler. There are others who need your help. There are feet to steady, hands to grasp, minds to encourage, hearts to inspire, and souls to save." Thomas S. Monson
On my Google homepage, someone had the fantastic idea to make a function called Mormon Thought of the Day. Elder Monson's is one of today's thoughts, and it made me think about my close friend Jacob (I call him the older brother I never had.) He is currently struggling with I'm not ever sure what in the Church. His parents are very devout Latter-day Saints, and I think he finds it to be smothering. However, I believe he is truly blessed to be raised in the gospel, and I've been trying really hard to get him to see that.

My experience with the branch I attend is that his parents are the ones that everybody admires. I've been to their home, and the church is the dominant influence (and means of decoration) there. They hold family home evening, family prayer, family scripture reading time, etc, etc, etc, I'm sure the list goes on and on. His parents are basically Jack and Jill Mormon with their 7 kids, and all the boys have biblical names. And that's great! I love going to their home because the spirit is really strong there... they have what I want, and it seems to me that they try to share it with me and others whenever they can. I admire his parents for their example, and I respect them a lot.

However, Jacob lives within the home, and sees EVERYTHING that goes on behind closed doors. He sees his parents for who they are when they're depressed, angry, and all of the other times they aren't wearing their Sunday best. And I thought about this, and I came to one conclusion. Our branch admires and respects his parents for how much they serve, dedicate their lives to the gospel, and for being Jack and Jill Mormon... but Jacob doesn't have that right now. He knows his parents aren't the perfect people that we would all assume they are, simply because we don't think to know better. And I'm trying to think of someone else he would look up to, or respect, or confide in... and no one comes to mind. We go to a small branch, and there aren't a lot of members there. And out of all of them, his parents are the ones that are relied on and respected most... so what does he have? And therein, I think, lies the source of the problem.

We all struggle. We all falter. To continue with Elder Monson's analogy, our travels become difficult, the road treacherous and rocky, and the adversary will do whatever he can to separate us from the spirit, and divide us from the loved ones that would strengthen us. This is what happened to Jacob. My clumsy big brother fell off the wagon, and he's angry because the adversary has him thinking that his parents pushed him by being overbearing... and the more they try to reason with him, the less he listens... and now his parents are making desperate statements to lead him back to the straight and narrow... "You don't have to attend your priesthood meeting, but if you don't, it will break my heart," and other such declarations of grief and disappointment have been used against my brother, and it has only exhausted everyone on both sides. I've spent enough time with his family that they've become comfortable with me, and I see inklings of what goes on behind those closed doors, and my heart goes out to all of them because Satan has them all blinded and cornered...

And I'm afraid that Jacob is too far gone to see what is happening... and I'm afraid that if I try to explain it to him, he won't hear it. He has decided that because his parents eat/sleep/breathe/live the Church, they are the Church, and every time they go another round in this battle, he pulls himself further away from all of us... and I don't want to make it worse. He feels like everything is closing in from all sides, and he wants everything to get out of his face. I don't want the cross hairs on me too, and to be accounted as one of the ones working against him. But if I interfere, I run the risk of having that happen.

Elder Monson urges that there are souls to save, and I believe him. I just hope the spirit will be with me as I aid a fellow traveler, friend, and the older brother I never had... but always wanted...

And wish to keep.

28 January 2007

The Flood

A new blog I've discovered Flooding the Earth presented a really interesting idea. Here's a man that travels with Books of Mormon in dozens of languages and, when prompted by the spirit, gives them to people at every opportunity, which is just absolutely amazing. In a recent post, he wrote:
"Every invitation to hear the missionaries, every invitation to visit church is a success. The mere act of making an offer, or extending an invitation, is in itself a successful act. An opportunity was successfully provided to someone. The offer or invitation is in itself a testimony. So if an offer or invitation is made, then a testimony has been successfully borne. Not all testimonies have to start out with 'I know that...'"
This really made me think about the gospel example I want to try and set for the people that I meet. Here is a man that gives out the Book of Mormon to strangers. If he can do that, then what, other than lack of habit, is keeping me from setting a better example for the people I know personally? In order to do that, I do have some work to do.

I have been working hard the past few weeks with trying not to swear anymore. I've greatly reduced the number of times I slip, and I'm currently trying (and nearly succeeding) at going full days without swearing. But this point, I think, is the hardest point of the process. I've broken enough bad habits to know that. I'll have some success, and I'll feel good about it... then I get careless, my vigilance weakens, and old habits creep back in. Soon, I'm doing exactly what I set out NOT to do. It's important that I don't let that happen.

I have to go to school tomorrow, where the language is about as vulgar as... well, something really vulgar. But not all testimonies have to start with, "I know that..." I believe in the Church with all my heart, mind, body, soul! If that's true, I need keep the standards of the Church with all the strength and fervor of my being! People should be able to see my testimony at all times, and in all things, and in all places.

27 January 2007

20 Questions

I must admit, it gets really old defending my religion every five minutes. However, it's my trial to bear, so I won't complain. I've gained an even deeper testimony of my Church by dealing with all of the people that would have it destroyed. For that, I should be grateful.

My mom asked me more questions over dinner tonight. She says she doesn't understand the whole motivation behind going on a mission to convert other people. She sees something offensive and intrusive in missionary work, and she claims that Catholics are better than Mormons because Catholics, according to my mother, don't try to convert other people to their faith.

OK, so she's talking in what I know to be a false generalization, first of all... and sure, Catholicism doesn't have missionaries like we do. But I've been teased and taunted by Catholics for my faith. Is that defensible to her? She ridicules the Church because we ask questions, and make people seriously consider their own religious convictions, in order to help them understand themselves better. But she'll defend the people that have accosted me and my LDS friends in mean-spirited ignorance for what we believe. I'm sorry, but that doesn't make sense to me.

Since we were on the subject of Catholicism, I mentioned that I didn't like the fact that they hang an over-sized image of the Crucifixion on the front wall. To me, that is morbid. I remember going to Immaculate Conception as a child with my mother and aunt and being scared to DEATH of that thing!

My children do not need to fear Jesus Christ in order to understand him. I don't need to stare at a gaunt and dying image of the Savior to appreciate him! I don't like being bullied into faith through fear. I told my mom that, as a Church, we don't celebrate the Savior's death; rather his life, and the things he accomplished through his ministry. If some people feel better having their crosses and what not, they're free to do so; however, the Church does not treat the Crucifixion with the same attitude as the Catholics. She immediately became defensive, asking if people were all expected to think that way. I responded that it's all a matter of preference.

Then she said something about women not being able to go on missions, and I corrected her. We can go on missions at the age of 21. The Church encourages us instead to get an education. That way, we won't go on missions, come home, get married, and then have no professional education of any kind, and therefore run the risk of not being able to support ourselves. I see the wisdom in this. And hopefully, my mother does now as well.

I don't see why she's so hostile towards what she so obviously does not understand. If I'm a different person now than I was before, it's because I've changed for the better. It's like she suspects them of brainwashing me. Finally, I said that, just because someone is Mormon does not have to mean that they no longer think for themselves. If anything, I've never had to be so independent! I have people all around me that are determined to destroy my faith, and because I treasure my faith more than life itself, I exert much of my energy in building it, maintaining it, and repairing the damage that others seek to invoke upon my testimony... all I want to do is live a Christ-like example, so that my mom won't have to look at me with hostile questions in her eyes anymore.

I must stay faithful. One day, she will see the light. She will know that I have found truth, and want so desperately to share it with her. It is my prayer that she will be at my wedding ceremony inside the temple... and I do believe that Heavenly Father is already leading us there... Heavenly Father is putting these questions in her mind, I just KNOW it! He is answering my prayers!

24 January 2007

Sharing

News of this documentary has hit the Bloggernacle, and I've read some mixed reactions on many a different blog. I, for one, am eagerly awaiting the documentary. I'll probably tape it, and if I think it could be helpful to me, I'll show it to my mother and sister. I think such a means would be a great way to introduce them to the gospel, considering the television has consumed their existence. They might as well watch something that will explain why I've been absent from our household every weekend for almost a year now.

When I was at the temple, I spoke with one of the sister missionaries from Brazil. She told me to think for a moment to see if the spirit was prompting me to share the gospel with anyone. A few people came to mind, but most realistically, I thought of my sister. She will be a teenager next month, and I'm not ready for that! She's in for a lot of rough times ahead, and I'd like to see her come unto Christ... the world is such a cold, unfeeling place, and I don't want her to feel how I felt at her age. She needs the gospel, and ever since my conversation with the sister missionary, I've been thinking of ways to present it to her. And I have an idea.

Currently, my sidebar lists what is on my MP3 player. I've since taken off a few of the songs that have swearing and profanity in it, and will shortly be searching for some Christian rock music to take its place. I have POD, which is probably the most well-known Christian rock group other than Creed. I know she likes POD, and I'm the one that puts the music on her MP3 player, so I think I'll be able to open the discussion with some carefully placed rock songs. We'll see how that goes.

20 January 2007

My First Temple Trip



The temple and the visitor's center were amazing! I love going to both. We saw "Joseph Smith The Prophet of the Restoration," and I was crying within the first 5 minutes. My testimony of Joseph Smith is stronger than ever, and I'm so grateful that he was our Prophet.

At the Washington D.C. visitor's center, they have all kinds of interactive displays that tell you about the history of the church, the temples, and everything you could ever want to know! There is one thing that sticks out in my mind about the display with Emma Smith, and it's her testimony of Joseph Smith as a translator of the Book of Mormon. She said that he could barely write a letter, let alone dictate a manuscript without some kind of divine intervention. She testified that he would dictate for hours upon hours, then no matter how long or numerous the distractions, pick up right where he left off without looking at the written, translated manuscript that was already taken down. Emma herself was the scribe at times, and she said that she believed that his work is genuine, and that even an educated person (which Joseph was not) could not have created what Joseph received from Heavenly Father.

While watching the Joseph Smith movie, I had such a profound respect impressed upon me for Emma this second time of seeing it. I would really love to get to know more about her. I question whether or not I could have possessed her patience, her understanding, her faith in the work of her husband (even if I knew it to be true) despite the adversity of doing so. I would like to believe that I have the faith to be as strong and courageous as she was, and she truly is a role model for all the sisters of this church.







The temple was beautiful inside and out, but I must admit, I was nervous to perform the baptisms. I'm not sure why, but I was stricken with terrible anxiousness, and was not able to relax until after the baptisms and the confirmations were performed. Once it was over, and we went up to the vend-eteria, we (tried) to get something to eat from the vending machines. But, alas, it was not that simple. It kept eating our money. The Pay Day got us twice. The M&Ms, however, eventually dropped two down so we got what we paid for. It got to the point where I had to ask, "Isn't this gambling? This putting money in a machine with no certainty that we'll actually get anything in return? We're gambling in the temple!" The brethren standing there in all white, I'm sure, got a kick out of that, because he was laughing.

We went to the LDS bookstore, and I got Ben a book by John Bytheway: What I Wish I'd Known Before My Mission. He'll love it because it's John Bytheway, AND it's about missions. He takes his mission very seriously (as he should), and I know he'll appreciate this.

I also bought a Hymn book, and a French Book of Mormon. They were both relatively cheap, so I look at it as a birthday present to me, from me. The Hymn book will give me something (of worth) to practice on my guitar now that my guitar class is over. The French Book of Mormon will help me increase my French vocabulary, and I really want to work on being fluent in a second language. Because I've taken French classes, I figured a French Book of Mormon would be good for that. So really, I got two books that will help me achieve two goals that I already had. I'm just proactive about achieving what I set out to do, I suppose.

Since I've been home, I called my mom as she said to do in her note. She wasn't very pleased when I talked to her. She said that, because I told her we were leaving early so as not to be gone all day, meant that I would be back around 4 at the latest. That's what I thought was going to happen. Little did I know, baptisms for the dead require an entire day, starting early and ending late in the evening. I didn't mean to do that, and she isn't very happy with me right now.

And then, of course, my father had to call me to make me feel that much better about myself. I promptly hung up on him, as I always do. Just because my patriarchal blessing says to pray for him, which I've done, does NOT mean I have to speak to him or see him. I am firm in this resolve. What I'm doing with him at this point isn't out of anger; rather, self-defense. He cannot be trusted. That is a fact. And now he must live with the consequences. He doesn't seem to understand that. But I don't really care what happens to him at this point. He is the Lord's problem now, not mine.

I think I'll go and play some hymns now. I want to start working on #98 right away. It's my favorite.

19 January 2007

Stubbornness

I almost lost my chance to go to the temple. Because tomorrow is my birthday, my mom wasn't going to allow me to go. Then I threw my version of a tantrum (which is more a guilt trip) and my mom finally gave in and said, "Do what you want."

I've worked too hard for too long for her to take this from me! I'll stay home on Sunday if I have to, but I WILL go to the temple! This isn't negotiable! I'm sorry, I know the scriptures preach obedience, but this is ridiculous! I shouldn't have to fight with my mother in order to be a member of this church at every single turn. It's unnecessary. What does she accomplish, other than seriously agitating me? And making me want to get away even more? Church is my refuge, and I can think of a couple of LDS parents that would trade one of their limbs for their child to have one iota of my faith and dedication! I look at the other Young Men and Women in my branch, and their very demeanor, the acquiescent silence in which that half-heartedly partake of the lessons, screams "I don't want to be here right now!" If they only knew how fortunate they are to have what I long for, pray for, every day!

Blessings are wasted on those that don't appreciate them...

What I would give to have parents in the church! I can't even begin to tell you! If my mother cared about the gospel, if church was something I could share with my family, instead of having that "line of demarcation" as a circle in the sand that divides me from them!!! If ONLY that were so! And the nature of this division only manifests itself more and more as I continue in the church... even tonight as I was preparing the names of my family members for temple work tomorrow. Only 1 of them can be done, and I didn't know that until a few hours ago. Apparently, if the person was born within the last 95 years, you have to have permission from the person's closest family to perform a baptism for the dead. That left me with one person I am able to baptize from my family. And I was inwardly very upset about that. My family is stubborn and not at all receptive of my choice. I would not have their permission to do this, so chances are, I'll be waiting until they all die before I can DO anything about this temple work I've been trying so hard to accomplish... but once again; to my family, I'm on the wrong side of the line.

And I can FEEL these family members on the other side of the veil becoming increasingly impatient. They WANT this work done! They've been waiting so long, and I got SO CLOSE! And NOW what?

The situation may look hopeless now, but that doesn't matter to me. I will do what I have to in order to be a faithful servant of Heavenly Father. I will not let some minor setbacks dissuade me from the straight and narrow. I have a mission, a work to do, and I will get it done!

(I inherited some of that stubbornness. Now, watch me use it!)

Hunger

So much to share, so little time before lunch.

But I'm fasting since I'm going to the temple tomorrow. And you know what? I haven't been swearing as much! AND I was perfectly nice to my friends this morning, with whom I am otherwise inconsiderate (You have to know me better to understand why I do that.) And it feels good, let me tell you, to see that I CAN be righteous.

I've been reading an article on the FAIRwiki, and it's REALLY fascinating. Seriously, it had me LAUGHING at times because of the conclusions it was drawing against fundamentalist Christians. I suggest that, if you're reading this entry, you need to also read this article.

I went to the historical society yesterday, and I managed to find a lot of relatives from my father's side of the family. I wanted to also find what I could for my mother's side, but that didn't really happen. Somehow, I think my father's family are the impatient ones on the other side of the veil. I think I ought to just go ahead and prepare what names I have, that way I can be certain I get ANY of them prepared, instead of going back to the historical society to see what else I can find. It was an amazing experience nonetheless, and I was so happy that I was able to be the one to bear the burden. I'll admit, it was a burden. I had to go immediately from school to the historical society to work, and I didn't get home until almost 9 PM. I only started to enter the information from my research to my family history software when I finally was so tired, I went to bed around midnight. I will definitely say, however, that it was worth it.

I talked to my mother last night about going to the temple. She didn't seem too thrilled about me going, since tomorrow is my birthday. But honestly, this is the best and only way I'd like to spend my birthday, especially since Ben is supposed to be coming with me.

As feminine as I DON'T want this to sound, I just have to figure out what I'm going to wear, since it has to be white. I do have some white skirts, but I think they have blue lines on the waistband, so we'll see what happens... I have other private matters that are of more importance at the moment, and I have someone looking into for me. Hopefully, THAT won't be an issue, because if it is, I might just have to cry. And we just can't have that.

I can't believe I'm finally going to the temple tomorrow! I can't can't CAN'T believe it! I have been waiting for so long, re-shaping myself constantly to make this happen, and it just seems so surreal now that it's the day before... I almost don't know what I'm going to do afterwards....

Prepare for my SECOND trip!

17 January 2007

Pensive

The line of demarcation between the Latter-day Saints and the world has been drawn so sharp and distinct that they find themselves (unless they become open apostates) compelled to take sides with their parents and friends; and the difference between their religion and that which is opposed to it is shown clearly to their hearts and consciences with a force never before known to them. This persecution is driving the rising generation together with surprising compactness. It is making impressions upon the youngest children of the community which the future years can never obliterate. They are learning the truth of the words of the Savior by the painful experience which our enemies are now giving them. “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” John 15: 19
This is an excerpt from a letter written by President John Taylor in 1896. Because the practice of polygamy was so controversial, many of the Christians of the time were taking it out on both polygamous and monogamous Mormons. The only option for many of the brethren was to go into hiding. Such was the fate of President Taylor. The letter in its entirety can be viewed here.

That line of demarcation is just as sharp as ever in how it divides us. But I wonder... what would he have said if I asked if, instead of circling a family and dividing a family from society, it circled a single member of that family, and separated her from them permanently? What would he say? What COULD he say? What can anyone say to that?

I want to take comfort in what my patriarchal blessing has promised me; that there will be unity in my family again. I want to believe that so much... and at the same time, I can't fathom it... at the same time, I can't trust such an assertion, to the point where, right now, I DON'T want it. And it's foolish, I know, to say that I don't trust something that comes straight from Heavenly Father. But change takes time, and I'm just not ready to make that change. I can barely handle not swearing, which I screwed up again today. I'm to the point where I can count how many times I swear, and usually on one hand. So that HAS to be worth something. And if not, then I'll just have to keep working on it until I get it right.

My patriarchal blessing has been a source of comfort to me, as I knew it would be; however, it says some things that hopefully will be clarified for me soon. Like it says, I have a strong testimony of Joseph Smith, his importance to the church, and his struggles. I have a special place in my heart for him because of what he went through. I was his age when my struggle with religion began. I prayed and pleaded with Heavenly Father for answers, to know where I was supposed to be. I didn't have any answers... and then a miraculous change occurred in my life, and I suddenly had my place. I felt like I KNEW him. I knew his trials because they were mine.... but ever since I've been wandering around the Bloggernacle, I've read some things that have shaken my perceptions of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Is he who I've been told he is? Was he the man to whom I felt such a strong connection?

I tried searching all over the church website, and there is nothing, save for one web page, that acknowledges Joseph Smith's polygamy. And all it does is list the names of his wives. I need more than that. I need to know who Joseph Smith was as a person. If he did things that were questionable, I want to know what they were, and WHY he did them.

But at the same time, I'm afraid... afraid of what I'll learn. I wonder if I'm happier just not knowing.
Unfortunately, I've never been a coward.

Questions

It wasn't until my incident in English last week that I stopped to consider the polygamy of the early church. And it wasn't until I read a post over at Feminist Mormon Housewives that really makes me think about the situation... and consider Joseph Smith's motives for what he did. Because, honestly, I don't know what to believe.

The Church does not deny his polygamy, (see here, a church website) but I've found that it still remains a secret to a lot of people. The members of my branch are more than willing to remain in blissful ignorance about the early church; at least my friends in seminary are. I think what I need to do is ask the question myself, and get the truth from someone I can trust to give it to me. Even though the subject is extremely uncomfortable to me, I can feel myself being prompted to learn the truth for myself. I'm thinking that this information is going to serve me for something in the future, possibly a conversion. So whether I like it or not, this is territory I'm being told to address. All I can do is trust Heavenly Father, I suppose.

I have a firm testimony of the church. I've had many experiences that allow me to have that testimony. However, it's so difficult for me when I get these mixed messages that make me wonder... was Joseph Smith adulterous with his polygamy, as some have accused him? Is this true? I don't know. That's something I have to find out. But I can see this leading me through very uncomfortable territory, through lots of anti-Mormon literature, and all that will do is frustrate me and anger me.

A sister at my church told me she would call me about the incident I had, and no doubt she intended to help me through this. But she has a large family, is no doubt very busy with them, and has not called me as of yet. I'm hoping she will, because I can feel myself becoming increasingly perturbed by where my mind is leading me at this point. I trust that talking to her will help me, because her children are home schooled, but play their sports at the local private (Baptist) Christian school. They're frequently accosted by Baptist students who have made it their mission to convert them; so I'm sure Sister Strange has dealt with MANY of these questions...

I hope she can help me with all of this... because honestly, this is no time for me to slip into an identity crisis. I've been preparing too vigorously to go to the Temple on Saturday to have this problem right now.

So while I think it's a stupid thing to do to remain blissfully ignorant as a defense mechanism to these feelings I'm having about the subject, it's going to have to wait. And I don't care if that doesn't make sense! That's why I'm Paradox!

14 January 2007

Being Normal



Don't assume that there's some theological reason why I placed this here. If anything, I needed the validation of knowing that I can still outsmart Blogger.

I watch this, and after getting my chuckle at the young nameless elder, I think of something that was said during one of my new member lessons. The sister whose home I was in said something along the lines of, "Our church is unique in that we entrust the growth of our church with 19 year old young men; the ones that are not assumed to be capable enough by others, but have proved to be more capable than the world would like to think."

I watch this elder, and his humble ability to forget to take himself too seriously, and I'm am not numbered among the concerned. If anything, I'm PROUD! I'm not the only paradox! There are others that attempt to align themselves on the straight and narrow while still remaining carefree enough to blow up a glove with their nose!

I'm also reminded of a scripture that is one of my favorites:
"Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word,
in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." 1 Timothy 4:12
I love the church, and part of the reason is because of the esteem in which it regards the youth. Young men and women are respected as capable individuals with insight that is valuable to the congregation during Sacrament Meeting. On Fast Sunday, we are presented with the opportunity to share our testimonies of gospel truths. We are participants in the choir, we hold callings, and we are entrusted with a responsibility that, I admit, is sometimes hard to bear: to be a representative of the church at all times, and in all things, and in all places. We hold ourselves to standards that others ridicule us for coveting. They accuse us of being gullible and narrow-minded for conforming to such outrageous practices. But, it has been my experience, that the ones handing out condemnation could never bear such a burden.

Every day, they are the individuals joining the pop culture rat race that concerns itself with sex, money, vanity, drugs, making the grade, or any combination thereof. Even the adults; the teachers passing religious judgment behind closed classroom doors, the guidance counselors that encourage high school students to sell their soul to a heavy course load in exchange for a college acceptance letter. How relieving it is to be able to enter the church, take my usual place on the right-hand end of the second row, close my eyes, and have the world disappear from my sight.

And I think to myself, There is nothing the world can offer me that could surpass this feeling. The world will ALWAYS fall short.

I'm sure there are comments on YouTube from prejudiced Christians that mock us for our "gospel peddlers," and make fun of the Elder for being ridiculous for playing with a rubber glove. However, I cannot help but see, not a missionary, but someone's son, or someone's older brother. And I'm sure he returned to his lodgings that night, looked at pictures of his family, and thought, I miss them terribly. It's the burden that all of our missionaries undergo when they leave home to share the church's message with people that, for the most part, slam doors in their faces. I commend the missionaries for their sacrifice, and for the message they send to the world:

"Watch and be amazed as I blow this glove up with my nose and leave you speechless, because I'm just like you!"

And that, I think, is what bothers people most about Mormons.

Waiting

I can't wait to get my names ready for this weekend.
I can't wait to go to the temple.
I can't wait for Ben to turn 16 so I can see him more.
I can't wait to go to college.
I can't wait to have my own room.
I can't wait to have a talk.
I can't wait to have a calling.

The new missionaries for out branch asked me to come to the gospel principles class to meet a young woman from Peru that will also be going to the temple this Saturday, and a man that has been investigating the church for about a year. Ingrid was very nice that is also very excited, and David was a quiet, reserved gentleman. I was thinking to myself, I really hope he decides to be baptized! The church is the best thing in my life right now, and I imagine he'll be happy too.


The hardest part about the church is the waiting! I had to wait to wait to be baptized because I had to do new member lessons. Then I had to wait for the new member lessons. Then I had to wait to get my patriarchal blessing interview. Then I had to wait to meet the patriarch. THEN I had to wait for the blessing to come in the mail!

And now I have to wait to get my names ready for the temple, which will also take time. I'm just lucky that the local historical society has a subscription to Ancestry.Com and other websites like that. I should be able to find what information I still need because of that. But I still have to wait.

Then I have to wait, once I get the names taken care of, to GO to the temple... I just hope I don't forget to wear white undergarments that day... when I'm impatient, I tend to be careless.

It's just so hard! I've done almost all the preparations, and what preparations I've yet to make, I have to WAIT to do. I'm extremely goal oriented and proactive; when I want to get something done, I want to get it done as soon as possible. And that's useful, because it makes it difficult for me to procrastinate (unless it's something I REALLY don't want to do) but it makes it hard to be patient.

And I remember praying to Heavenly Father to help me to be more patient... and of course, you have to be careful what you pray for; because the way to become more patient is out of necessity, and necessity usually arises through trial... so I was basically ASKING for all of these things to be in a difficult timetable for me. But I know it will be worth it!

The one thing that is hardest to wait for is my boyfriend, Ben. He is probably, aside from the church, the greatest blessing I have in my life. He introduced me to the church, he encourages me to be the person I would be, and is a really great example, as well as a wonderful friend. I have nothing but good things to say about him, and I can't wait until he turns 16 in less than 2 months. We've been waiting ever since he was 14 for this, and it's hard to believe that we're so close.... but we've been so caught up in waiting and passing time that we really haven't thought much about how things will be once he IS old enough to date. So the e-mail I just sent him asking him to consider what he wants, and warning him that I intend for us both to talk to his parents about it, is the latest development between us. And while it's safe to assume that the conversation with his parents will be one of the more uncomfortable ones I've ever had, I know it's necessary, I more than know that he's worth it to me, and it's a great idea for his parents to be involved and informed about our intentions.

Plus, having someone to whom I can be accountable will make it easier for me to control myself. I know they're trusting us both to do the right thing, and by letting them know that I understand that, I know I'll be holding myself accountable for what I do.

The waiting may not be easy, but I've seen that it's necessary. The timetable in which everything takes place ends up being perfectly catered to what it is I need to accomplish, so it really is fruitless to complain. All I can do, I suppose, is to catch up on my D & C reading, say my prayers, and know that everything will work out the way it's supposed to, and in Heavenly Father's time frame.

He has innumerable years experience with humanity and it's problems. It's safe to trust that He knows what He's doing.

13 January 2007

My Conversion Story

Being a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been, without a doubt, the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. I never would have thought it possible either. I've been to so many churches; Catholic, Episcopalian, Baptist, Seventh-Day Adventist... there was even a point when I was experimenting with Buddhism... and none of them were really all that fulfilling to me spiritually. The most recent church before the LDS was with my friend Jessica's, whose father was a Southern Baptist minister. I remember sitting through his sermons, with a small voice telling me, This isn't where you're supposed to be. And while I knew what was happening, I didn't know what to do about it. So I didn't change. I just sat in quiet desperation, hoping and praying for something better... for the place I knew I was waiting for before I ever found it.

My boyfriend and his brother (both LDS) were the ones that introduced me to the Church. Miranda is our friend, and the only one that matches my ability to be stubborn. I went with her to my first church activity, which thoroughly scared me to death. I tried to resolve to myself that I didn't want to see anything else of their church, but something stopped me. Try again, I could feel the voice prompting me. But I didn't understand. I wondered; what did these crazy people know that could help me? Was there something ELSE behind everything I was hearing? I needed to find out more.

I made the mistake of asking my pastor. He tore the Mormons to shreds, and tore the shreds to tinier shreds. I could tell he was insulted that I had gone to the LDS church, and I was sorry for that... but I couldn't keep myself away from it! It sparked a passionate thirst and a curiosity that I couldn't even articulate, for lack of understanding. I decided that I would do what I felt was right if the opportunity came again.

And come it did. Miranda invited me to come to church with her this time, instead of to an activity. I remember stepping inside the Rising Sun branch and thinking to myself, this feels so different! I couldn't comprehend why, or what it was. I went into the chapel and sat down. As I listened to the speakers, I was so amazed I couldn't speak! The spirit was so strong! THIS is what I've been searching for! I exclaimed in silent jubilation. I was home! This is where I'm supposed to be!

I would have converted at that very moment if I had been allowed to!! The gospel was everything I ever could have wanted, and SO much more! Everything I always wanted and prayed for in the silent hours of midnight's desperate sorrow... I didn't want to leave! I wanted to hear MORE, to learn more, to be Mormon! I wanted to be Mormon!

That initial thrill was exhilarating, and probably what gave me the resolve to tell Jessica and her father that I was converting to Mormonism. It's what gave me the courage to tell my mother that I wanted to be a Latter-day Saint. And it never goes away! Every time I close my eyes and reflect on how much I've been given since that day, how wonderful my life has become, even WITH all the adversity, I'm amazed! I'm struck dumb with awe and wonder that someone so powerful as my Heavenly Father would bless me with so much joy! ME! Of all of the people that live on this earth, that HAVE ever lived on this earth, he has given me all of my blessings... surely there are those that deserve it more than I do... and he gave it all to me anyway!

Since that time, I've cultivated a testimony that is strong and deeply rooted in faith. I have confidence that this is where I am meant to be. Heavenly Father has blessed me with the ability to see my experiences with a clear perspective, and a gift for public speaking that allows me to share them with people. Fast Sunday is pretty much what I look forward to most anymore, because I get to go up and talk about my favorite thing in the world! The gospel, and why it's important to me!!! What more could I ask for? What more, rather, could I be given?

What more could ANY of us be given?

Templebound Paradox

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My birthday, and the day I will enter the temple for the first time, is in 6 days!!! My LDS friends and I will be headed to the Washington DC temple, where I'll be doing baptisms for what names I've been able to gather from my family.

I am the first LDS member in my family (of which I am aware) and it hasn't been easy to get what information I've found about anybody. My parents are divorced, but the commonalities between the two branches is that none of my relatives are willing to discuss family matters. Or to cooperate. Especially on my dad's side. My grandmother is a Protestant, and when she heard I was Mormon, she said it was "unusual," and was noticeably less willing to talk to me... and one thing I'll defend about Social Security is the Death Index, which is the only online resource that has offered me anything as far as useful information. If it weren't for that, I wouldn't really have anything about my mother's side of the family.

I must admit, I was disappointed when I found out that I'll only be able to perform baptisms for females. I wanted to be the one to baptise my grandfather. However, that's not the way things are done. Now I must re-focus my energies on discovering what I can about my female relatives, which is proving difficult. I'll be going to the family history center soon to see what I can find out, plus to prepare the names I have for baptism. Then I'll be all set!

I cannot WAIT to go inside the DC temple! The closest I got to the temple was the visitor's center a couple of months ago. I remember looking at the temple in the reflecting pool and deciding, with every fiber of my being, that I wanted to be worthy of going inside! My life, ever since then, has been dedicated to making the necessary improvements. It hasn't been easy. I have a chronic swearing problem, and I still find myself, every day, repenting for all the slip ups that I have. It's so frustrating. If I let my guard down for a second, I slip up. And I have no one to blame for it but myself. At least I'm willing to admit that now. Before, I would blame everyone else. But I'm getting better about that.

But the changes are worth it, that much I KNOW is true. I'm taking the steps not only to improve myself, but to reunite my family. My ancestors will finally be able to receive the gospel! And what's really amazing is that, being a convert, I remember what that FEELS like! When you receive the gospel, and you know you have returned home...

I can't deny my ancestors that... I have to get these names ready.

Opposition

This is what I posted on my MySpace after an incident I had with my teacher on the 8th. It describes what happened to me, and how I reacted to it. And to be honest, I still haven't decided how I feel about it. I'll let you be the judge though.


I'm not a polygamist!!!!! 
Yeah, I don't think I've ever been so insulted by a teacher as I was today. And what really bothers me is that I said nothing back. Me... the one who trains people in self defense... I didn't say anything.... I chose not to act... and it's just another thing I'll end up regretting and beating myself up for. 
And the more I think about it, the more I know I can never do anything about what she did, because of HOW she did it... 
I suppose starting at the beginning would be helpful... 
I was in English today, and in order to explain to Soon what a talisman is, she started using some example of Joseph Smith, the originator of the Mormon religion. Apparently, according to some book she read, he gave all of his wives some kind of rock or something and told them it would keep them safe or something.... (yeah, but a Catholic can have a rosary and put the same kind of faith behind it, and THAT'S not strange? OK. Fine. And no offense to any of you Catholics out there... I'm just making a point.) 
But my teacher initiates a conversation that basically demonizes Mormonism, and has my entire class saying what a bunch of retards the Mormons must be. And it's one thing when a bunch of people I don't even care about start discussing my religion that way because they don't know I'm Mormon... but when the people that are my friends (or at least claim to be) only aggravate my situation by loudly saying, "Wow Heather, that guy WAS A REAL CRACKPOT!".... 
(Yeah, that didn't help me there guy. I have never judged you for smoking pot as a means of coping with your life.... don't judge me by the way I deal with mine. Especially since Spence doesn't know what she's talking about.) 
There is so much more to my religion than just polygamy. Yeah, a faction of the church out in the middle of no where that broke away from the main church ages ago still practices polygamy. They live in the desert of Utah. They are not the Mormons I go to church with. You look at ANY religion, and there will be the extremest sects that do things that are bizarre. But I don't begrudge them anything, because it's what they know. I don't begrudge ANYONE for their choices. That's just how I am, because I always thought that I would be given the same courtesy by extending it to other people... my mistake I guess. 
This isn't even the first time my teacher has done this about Mormonism. She did the same thing to my face right before Christmas break by saying that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon based off of Jewish texts. And that's not what we believe. We believe they were translated off of golden plates that were given to him by God. And I don't care how insane that sounds. Ever hear of Daniel? Or Jonah? Or any of the other miracles that defy logic that are all throughout the Bible? So don't tell me that I'm crazy for believing what I believe. It takes no more faith than reading the Bible-- like any other Christian who reads it and believes in what it says. 
The only one that stood up for me wasn't some one I called a close friend. She's a classmate; one that has a good heart, and knows what it's like to be alienated because she loves her religion. Even though she's Catholic, her best friend is Mormon, and she defended our religion by communicating the displeasure that I couldn't bring myself to speak regarding the conversation. I'll always remember her for that, and I'm glad she was there. 
A lesson I didn't think I was going to have to learn is that when the stakes get really high, you know who your real friends are. I always thought I was a good judge of character. Turns out, I see good where it exists only when it's convenient. The people I've known for years said nothing to help or defend me. Even saying, "Perhaps we should change the subject," like I was TRYING to say would have been helpful.... 
Someone I've always tried to help turned on me and did what, I thought, was a stab in the back. (But I know her well enough that she meant no harm, so if you're reading this, know that it's already forgotten.) People who know that I'm Mormon fed the conversation and gave it life.... all of this instigated by a teacher, whom I always viewed as nothing short of professional until recently.... 
And the one who spoke up for me wasn't who I thought it was going to be... instead, THAT person left her comments with me this morning... and to that person, who claims so succinctly that I'm basically a horrible example for my church, I say "Consider how far I've come. And at least I'm TRYING, even if I always seem to fail with you. And for that, I'm truly sorry." 
I said nothing. I teach self defense for a living, and I was frozen in my seat. It felt like sitting in the middle of Hell. I was shaking I was so angry, but I couldn't speak. And I knew that, no matter what I said, I couldn't improve the situation. I only would have shouted and made a scene, solidifying in everyone's mind that all Mormons are crazy.... but instead, I sat there and said nothing. I grappled with my rage in silent agony... I allowed the situation to step on me and fade into the distance.... and while it was Christ's way to turn the other cheek, it isn't MY way... it isn't what I wished to do... I wish I could've defended the church. I wish I could have said something that shut that stupid woman up. I wish I could have said or done anything that would have left something better about the gospel with people. But I didn't. What kind of servant am I? 
Everyone needs something to believe in. I've made my choice. I have the experiences to back it up. To me, they are enough to keep me in the church, no matter what anyone may say. If the Church was just a bunch of polygamists, do people REALLY think I'm stupid enough that I would stay there? Is that it? I'm trying to understand... and I come up short. 
I'll never forget coming home and collapsing on the floor, because I lost the will to keep myself together. All I want is for people to let me have my religion. I don't have much in this life. I work in a karate school, and I do more volunteer work to make a difference in this community than probably most of my school combined. That, and church, is the only thing I really allow myself to take joy in because they're things that aren't tangible and can't be taken from me. I go to school, I work hard, and all I want is to be left alone. I want to be left to my sphere of existence in order to have my peace. Yet I can't have that. I give of myself constantly to people, despite my anti-social tendencies because I DO CARE! I care a lot... more than I want people to know. Why can't that be enough for now? Why can't people see what I'm trying to do? 
My experience this afternoon only exemplifies WHY I believe in God. I had to sit on my living room floor, and was crushed because, once again, I had no one. My mother is one of the many who thinks I'm a freak for being Mormon. My friends just proved to me that they didn't care. My Mormon friends weren't home from school yet, and what could they say? There was nothing they could say... I called them, and they were angry... but anger doesn't really do much except raise your body temperature, I've come to realize... once again, people failed me. That's what people are good at: failing one another. And I'm not saying I don't. I'm just saying it's something we do. 
Can you blame me for not being satisfied with that answer? For wanting something more? For wanting to go to a church that truly makes me feel that I CAN be better? God is very real to me. I wasn't just converted to Mormonism. I was converted to a way of life that has cleansed me from the inside out. And it hasn't failed me yet. It's not that I've sacrificed my free agency to a bunch of Bible beaters. HARDLY! I live the lifestyle because I've learned that doing what I please doesn't make me happy. I finally accepted that my way doesn't work. So I've changed my ways. I'm a better person for it. 
And so it kills me when people look at my religion, and see Polygamy. They then turn to me and ask, "What are you DOING?!" 
And to them I say, "Not being a polygamist, for one. I'm being happy. What are YOU doing?"

People have asked me why I'm so upset about it, and why I'm so concerned with what everyone thinks of me. Really, I could care less what they think of me. My concern is for the Church. I see everyone so miserable all the time, and if I had my way, they would understand that there ARE ways to be happy. And I'm not talking, I-got-something-for-my-birthday momentary circumstantial happiness. I mean that if someone asked you about your life, and whether you were truly satisfied with it, you could smile to yourself, close your eyes and have tears coming down your face because you can answer, "Yes!" with all the fervor of your being.... that is what I have. And if I had my way, I would be able to share that with people. But experiences like the one in italics prevent that from happening, and it angers me. It absolutely infuriates me that people can be so egotistical as to tear something apart that they don't understand.

The church supported polygamy at a time when being Mormon was a good enough reason for someone to kill you. The early saints were forced further and further west, away from everything they had ever known and loved with nothing but what they could carry in covered wagons. If the Christians didn't kill them, then the journey would, more likely than not. There were so many widows that could not care for their children during the voyage that the Prophet (Joseph Smith), had no choice. He received revelation to allow polygamy as a means for taking care of those who were left that didn't have fathers and husbands. The society was extremely patriarchal, and therefore, polygamy became necessary. Don't you think that the saints struggled with that? And they did it out of obedience to our Heavenly Father. To me, that is true faith. To believe something even when it sounds crazy, or asks of you what society tells you is too much, is faith.

Our present-day Prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley, says that to discuss polygamy, or to give it the attention that it receives is absolutely unnecessary, and I agree. The church is not about polygamy. Mormons are not polygamists. And that's all I have to say on the issue.

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