20 February 2007

Hugs

"And I need to be patient
And I need to be brave
Need to discover how I
need to behave
And I'll find out the answers
When I know what to ask
But I speak a different language
And everybody's talking too fast."
K.T. Tunstall, Miniature Disasters
I love this song, because I know the feeling all too well.

The gospel, I have found, has required of me the very opposite of everything I've ever learned from my parents.

It's hard to be patient with the people who only acknowledge your existence to scream at you for something you've done wrong. It's hard to be brave when your father is the one creating disasters all around you because of drugs, alcohol, and abuse. I don't want to seem pendantic with the point I'm trying to make, or like I'm searching for some form of sympathy, so that's where these descriptions of my past stop. I've made my point in an understatement; it's "hard" to be perfect when you have no idea what it looks like...

And hard to trust it once you do.

The Savior's example, to be perfectly honest, goes against everything I've ever taught myself. And because of how my life has played out for the past 17 years, I've had to learn a lot of things on my own. Love is cheap, lies are numerous, trust is overrated, sorrow is certain, and people are the source of disappointment every single time. Those were my doctrine. I believed in myself; because I didn't have much else to believe in.

16 years of doing things my way. 16 years of keeping my distance from people. 16 years of being screwed over by the end of every day, and expecting nothing better than that from my life.

Is it any wonder that Jesus didn't make sense to me?

Do people ever change?

A very deep question with subjective answers at best. If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said, "No. People can change their actions, but they cannot change who they are inside." I would have sworn to that statement and signed it in blood. And you know what? I still believe it, but with certain modifications.

It takes a strong person to change anything about himself, including his actions. It takes an even stronger person to fall onto his knees in repentance. For me, change was impossible until I gave myself up to God, and began to repent. I had relied upon a sharp-tongued exterior long enough in exchange for survival. It was time to return to Heavenly Father before the person I was inside, the kindhearted and loving person I was preserving within my own mind, was lost forever. To find her again, I knew it would take more than I had left in me.

16 years of suffering, and it all ended because I agreed to go to church on some random Sunday in the Spring.

I bring this up because of something that happened to me today. I was in my AP English 11 class, and I was trying to see whether or not I finally managed to get my grade up to a B- or not. When I saw that I did, I was ecstatic. I instantly embraced the first available person, who just happened to be my friend Alexis. With squeals of girlish delight, I proudly announced the reason for my behavior... which, by the way, is (was?) ABSOLUTELY OUT OF CHARACTER FOR ME! And she was shocked.

"Are you HUGGING me?!" she asked in skeptical concern, as if she was afraid of a possible ulterior motive. She probably suspected me to stick a knife in her back, or something equally violent. And you may think I'm joking; and despite all that I've learned, it still pains me for unusual reasons when I say, "I wish I wasn't."

That experience sat with me for a while today. She was shocked, even frightened because she didn't trust my affection to be as it appeared.

Because of the changes I've made, I'll be stepping back into reality as a person with compassion. That's how Christ would have it. I know that because it's because of Him that I am changed. And even though I still hesitate with my new lifestyle sometimes, I know that will change with time and practice.

And I'm glad to report that it's my mask that I'm locking inside of my internal Pandora's Box anymore, instead of my identity.

16 February 2007

Analogies

“I signed a slip requesting more information,” Stokes explained, “and several weeks later two nice little white guys knocked at my door in Chicago. I listened; my questions were answered. The questions about life were like a brick of Swiss cheese and the gospel filled in most of the holes. Joining the Church was the most important thing I have ever done in my life.” Article from the Church Newsroom site.

One of the tendencies I've noticed about the Church, rather the people in it actually, is the tendency towards cheesy analogies. (I'll just say the pun was intended.) And anyone who has been in the Church knows what I'm talking about. Perfect example: just this past Sabbath, we had branch conference. Our stake president was there, and compared sharing the gospel to going fishing... (Because you have to use the right lure basically. He even brought a couple different lures from his tackle box as visual aids.)

My favorite however was from "The R.M." If you haven't seen it, imagine every stereotype you can think of about Mormons, and put it into an LDS comedy about a return missionary. And what does the mission president say to him about dating?

"I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't be an octopus with a testimony."

What does that even MEAN?!

(You know you've heard a good one when you can't figure it out.)

12 February 2007

Mitt Romney

On Tuesday, February 13, Governor Mitt Romney will travel to Michigan, the place he was born, to formally declare his intention to seek the Presidency of the United States of America. As one of the Governor's earliest supporters, we invite you to watch his announcement speech streamed live on the web at 9:00 a.m. EST: Click here to watch Governor Romney's presidential announcement.
I received this message in my e-mail from Mitt Romney's campaign manager.

I must admit, I'm excited for what Romney's running for President could do for the Church and its members. As he becomes more familiar to the public, I suspect that his faith will be questioned and analyzed and speculated to death and back; opportunities for sharing the gospel will frequently be presented to the members of the Church because of the heightened awareness of Mormons in contemporary society. And as always, the adversary will create tension between Latter-day Saints and the rest of America. But think about all the barriers that could be transcended if a Mormon won the white house; the great achievements we would see if someone truly in-tune with the Spirit held the most powerful political position in existence.

I will be old enough to vote for the first time in the 2008 election. What better first-time election could I ask for? If all goes according to plan, I will be in Utah at BYU by the time the presidential election comes around.

I'll be old enough to vote, and in a place where "Republican" is not a dirty word.


(Maryland: Where our crabs are as blue as our Democrats)

11 February 2007

Gold Plates

Today, I took place in branch conference, which was an interesting experience. I believe it was the stake president that came to speak to us, as well as other gentleman from the Stake High Council. I met with them this morning when they had a meeting for new members, and they were wonderful to talk to. I got to share my conversion story, and the stake president mentioned me later during his talk. I'm unusually active and verbose in my appreciation of the gospel, so that's not the first time I've ever been mentioned in a talk.

The highlight of the day came when I got to sustain the Prophet! That was truly an experience! By raising my right hand, I sustained the wise and wonderful Gordon B. Hinckley to be the leader of our countless members unto righteousness. I have the utmost respect for President Hinckley. He's in his 90's and he's as active as he ever was in his youth, travelling around the world to help perfect the saints. We are blessed for his leadership, and I'm proud to have raised my hand to sustain him and the other general authorities.

My last thought that I will share before I work on my US History homework is a thought that occurred to me multiple times today. As each speaker stood at the podium today, scriptures in hand, I noticed that the pages on all of them were lined in gold. I pondered that, and wondered how the world would view us if we still had the original gold plates. I truly don't think we would be any better off, such is the world and its capacity to be faithless. And then the spirit made me realize, we DO have the plates. That's what my scriptures are...

And as I left my boyfriend's house today, I hugged them to me a little tighter. My scriptures are bound in emerald green leather, and are my most prized possession. They give to me the same spiritual witness that was given to Joseph Smith, and I am blessed to live in this new dispensation with them available to me.

I stand all amazed. . .

09 February 2007

Temple Marriage

So I was thinking about temple marriage today. As far as I understand it, the marriage doesn't take place in the temple, but that's where sealings take place, and you have your marriage sealed in the temple. You can wear your wedding dress to the sealing, but that's not essential to the process. I'm not sure though. That YW lesson was, I believe, before my baptism. And it inspired a breakdown of sorts, so I can't recall very well what we discussed, or the details of temple marriage as we were taught. Which really doesn't help me now.

(And surprisingly, not only can Mormons get married in Vegas, the Vegas temple is really pretty. Go figure.)

I don't see anything wrong with thinking about marriage right now. I'm decisive enough to at least have an idea of what I want, and then when the time comes, I won't have to start a plan from scratch. And who wants to do that anyway? I feel better having an idea of what I want before it becomes an issue. But that's just me.

I was looking at images of the different temples around the world, and there were so many that I thought were beautiful. Our temples are some of the most beautiful buildings in the world, in my opinion. The Manti, Utah temple is no exception. As you can see, it look like a castle.




(Isn't it beautiful? And the great thing about BYU is that I would be close enough to go and see it!)

Temple marriage is a more immediate concern for me at the moment, because my mother has already asked me about whether or not I'm going to have one, since non-members (she and my entire family) would not be allowed inside. But because she always assumes the worst about my intentions, she fails to realize that I would never exclude her from the most important day of my life. I intend fully to have a "traditional" wedding, with both families. Then, my husband and I will go to be sealed. From the looks of it, I'd like to be sealed in the Manti Temple.

And then, THE HONEYMOON!

In the meantime, I have the awesome experience of Personal Progress!


I've almost gotten to the point where I'll start my first 10 hour project. Lo and behold, it's for Individual Worth. I haven't even thought about what I could do as a project, but I'm sure I'll think of something with the help of my YW leaders in church this Sunday! Because I'm going to church this Sunday! For the first time in 3 weeks... I did manage to get the sacrament from my boyfriend's dad while I was over at my friend's house watching the Super Bowl. To my mother, it makes sense to keep me home from church as a punishment, but I'm free to go to my friend's house to watch the Super Bowl apparently. 

06 February 2007

The Difference

"Those who have felt the touch of the Master's hand somehow cannot explain the change which comes into their lives. There is a desire to live better, to serve faithfully, to walk humbly, and to be more like the Savior. Having received their spiritual eyesight and glimpsed the promises of eternity, they echo the words of the blind man to whom Jesus restored sight: 'One thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see' (John 9: 25)." Thomas S. Monson
I think Elder Monson was the one I quoted recently. I respect him as an Elder, and I find I really enjoy what he has to say. This quote, which was E-mailed to me by the Church, is no exception.

And what's amazing is how these E-mails seem to connect with exactly what is happening to me each day! One of my friends, Alexis came up to me and said, "You know, you look different... happier in a way. You look good!" And I know what she sees--It's the spirit! I keep the spirit with me. I don't swear like a sailor on fire anymore, and I live the gospel as it was meant to be followed: with complete obedience at any cost. And I'll admit, it costs me a lot at the moment.

The latest update on my mom? The last time I talked to her about the Church, she randomly brought up my wedding and how she'll "have something to say about it" if I marry someone Mormon... I don't really care though. There's nothing wrong with being Mormon. We have the healthiest lifestyle you could ever hope to find, and I know I'm blessed for my faith. That's something that her disapproval cannot take away from me, even if she threatens to try and ruin my wedding. She will only bring the disapproval on herself, not on me and my husband. So it's whatever. It's not in my nature to dwell on things.

I just wonder if she sees the difference in me that everyone else can see now. Alexis wasn't the first to notice. I've had many a non-member guy approach me recently, including one that is very persistent despite the fact that he has met my boyfriend, and I tell him I'm happy with my relationship. And I'm pretty much what you would call anti-social. I don't go looking for other people's attention. I keep to myself unless I have something to say, at which point I'm brutally honest about what I think, and then I retreat to my own thoughts again. That's how I choose to be. I don't need interaction with people to make me feel validated as a person, especially not now that I have the Savior to look unto in every thought (D&C 6: 36)... I believe highly on that scripture because of the peace it brings throughout my day. And I can't imagine my day without the strength of the spirit, or the love of the Savior.

And the great thing about the gospel? Matthew 6: 20-21

Nobody can take it from you.

03 February 2007

The Constitution

I was looking at the Church's newsroom site, which like their web site, is now out of beta form. One of the sections on the site is currently set aside to analyze how the public is receiving a Mormon candidate for President. It mentions two articles; one from CBSnews and one from The Boston Globe. Both articles raised viewpoints that are worth reading; however, I'm at a loss for which one offended me more.

The CBSnews article addresses the situation best with its connection to the Constitution:

"The U.S. Constitution says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." It also says that "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

I think the country as a whole has failed miserably at delivering the promises in the Bill of Rights. I look at these promises as literal guarantees of what the Founding Fathers wanted to promise every citizen of the United States. They wanted religion to be a private affair, and for Congress to never involve itself in faith-based politics... and look at what we've done with their promises! We forced a Catholic (John F. Kennedy) to take an oath that he would maintain a separation between church and state because the country could not handle having a religious minority as a President. That, to me, is a religious test. But Kennedy set the precursor by complying to such a demand. Should we be grateful for that?

I look at the wording of the Constitution, and a particular phrase jumps out at me: "no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." What is public trust? The trust of the public? The trust of the people that label us, the minority, as "absurd and irrational"? Or as a "cult"? Or any of the other ways they look at us and say "Your faith isn't good enough because it doesn't look/act/pray/think/preach/practice like ours." The Framers tried to promise that we would never have to pass a test of religion to hold office, or to have the public trust. And they promised something that, to this day, the American people cannot deliver.

Our beliefs are not irrational, and are certainly not absurd. While The Boston Globe questions our beliefs and labels them as such, did they ever stop to think that the religions to whom they compare us are even more irrational? People question why we believe we will achieve godhood based on the principles in the Ten Commandments. Yet a Catholic can pray to the Virgin Mary and the Saints, yet claim the Ten Commandments as scripture, and nobody says anything? An evangelical Christian can believe that the earth is only 6000 years old, and nobody says anything? But we are compared to Scientologists by these same two groups.... OK. Whatever. (I don't condemn either one for their doctrine; however, I ask for fairness for mine, and I expect to receive it. That is not a crime.)

Our expectations for the afterlife create within us the same reverence, the same awe for our Creator, the same love for Christ that characterizes the faithful Christian. The Christ-like charity and service you find in ANY branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is unlike that found in any other church I've ever seen. We function as an institution that emphasizes HEAVILY on public service. We are the ones that step up time and time again for the same people that judge us, because that is who we are and what we stand for. If we must be hated and persecuted to be who we are, then I say, "Let them judge!"

The Savior would not do so, stating in John that he came not to judge the world, but to save it. Perhaps these judges need to re-read their scriptures and take a long, hard look at the gospel example they set... Look at the tenants of "being saved" in any Christian denomination. They all follow the same basic outline: accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior, repent of your sins, and be baptized in His name. What do people think we do at our baptisms?! Basket weaving?! As far as they need to be concerned, we've fulfilled their tenants, and we don't need them to save us; and certainly not to judge us. We are perfectly capable of saving ourselves by coming to the Savior as he commanded of us.

But we were talking about politics...

There's no difference. And the reason for my contention is located in every moment I've ever been accused of being a polygamist, in every label people have given me personally because of my faith, and every time I've proclaimed to be Mormon, then braced myself for the reaction that it inspires from my audience. My contention comes from people that demand an explanation from Romney for his faith when people get away with faith-based politics EVERY DAY. Yet we're supposed to be demonized in this endeavor because we're Mormon? Get outta here!

I believe Romney said it well when he stated he was running for President, not a representative of his church. I admire his ability to be a faithful member, a figure in the public eye, and to put himself in a position to be questioned and cross-examined on issues that are sensitive to other saints; all for the sake of improving the lives of everyone else, not just the people who agree with him.

His example, I think, is truly Christ-like.

And people's problem with Romney as President was.... what now?

01 February 2007

The Truth

"We don't always know the details of our future. We do not know what lies ahead. We live in a time of uncertainty. We are surrounded by challenges on all sides. Occasionally discouragement may sneak into our day; frustration may invite itself into our thinking; doubt might enter about the value of our work. In these dark moments Satan whispers in our ears that we will never be able to succeed, that the price isn't worth the effort, and that our small part will never make a difference. He, the father of all lies, will try to prevent us from seeing the end from the beginning." Dieter F. Uchtdorf
I saw this among the daily quotes and news I have e-mailed to me from the Church. The timing on this one is perfect, because I truly am in the midst of challenges and trials. My mother has decided that the proper way to punish me is keeping me home from church, which has got to be the most asinine thing I've ever heard. Did she ever stop to think that I stayed home from school because I was too exhausted to move? She assumes the worst in everything I do, and I'm really tired of it. And of course, she couldn't resist using her new favorite phrase:

"No church."

This will be the 3rd week now... but I won't tolerate this anymore. I'm making arrangements to have the Sacrament blessed and brought to me. That should show the adversary that he picked the wrong person to screw with.

What kills me is that there will be people in my branch that would happily trade places with me and be at home rather than at church. What I would trade to be in the chapel on Sunday, instead of in my room, in tears, because I can't go to church!!! And despite my trials, my faith has not wavered. At all. If anything, I've gained a testimony of how ruthless Satan is. He will not hesitate to use ANY means necessary to tear down the Church. He would put my own mother against me in order to cause me to hate her, and to divide me from my family.
We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed" 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

The scriptures have been a great source of comfort to me throughout this ordeal, and I'm so grateful for the Bible AND the Book of Mormon. Alma has proved to be a great source of inspirational scriptures, as well as the D&C... and I think what I ought to do is write my testimony out and have someone read it on Sunday so my testimony can still be heard. If Satan is working this hard to keep me from the Church, I must have something in my mind he REALLY doesn't want me to say.

Now to go figure out what it is so I can thwart his plan!

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