I have at times (OK even this morning) poked fun at some of the ‘cultural’ aspects that are sometimes involved in the association of such a life encompassing belief system like the LDS church. Some may call me irreverent, or disrespectful, but I feel the need though to make some things clear about where I stand. In order to do that- it will take some background, some rambling, and a longer than usual post.
I have often wondered if I hadn’t been born into the church if I would have listened to the missionaries and accepted what they taught as true. The way we expect ourselves to live and invite others to do is some tough stuff. It takes time, and effort, and it’s not as easy as we sometimes quip with Sunday School answers. I’m not complaining here, just wanting to give some background on where I’m coming from. I have never had the luxury of blindly believing anything as some who criticize the church and our beliefs at times assume. I was very young when I had to decide for myself where I stood and why I believed what I did. Maybe that’s why I feel I have the right to poke fun at some things, because we’ve got to have a sense of humor about ourselves, or we’re going to lead a very miserable existence.
My membership and dealings in the church have not always been rosy and sweet. I was six when my Stake President biological father was ex-communicated from the church. I don’t remember a lot about our family involvement in the church in the few years that followed, but one experience sticks out. And it’s not nice. My mom was working nights at the time and some weekends and Dave was not active. I must have been six, maybe seven or eight- I don’t remember. But I remember getting up one Sunday, getting dressed and walking to primary. By myself. When I got to Primary all I remember is the kids teasing me because I was wearing a skort, not a skirt. Kids can be cruel, but these kids knew better. We were in Utah after all and I’m sure they had at least one FHE lesson on kindness. So there I am- a little girl wondering why in the hell I’m coming to church anyway. I must have known it was true. And at eight years old evaluating why I believe what I believe.
A few years later after my parent’s divorce I was visiting Dave in Mexico when one night the subject turned to Tithing. It was not a pleasant conversation. Here is a twelve year old girl defending the principle of tithing against someone who was not only an authority figure, but someone who KNEW the doctrine. He knew the scriptures, the teachings, all of it. He had served as a missionary, a stake president for crying out loud. So, at twelve I again have to evaluate why I believe what I believe.
Now I’m married and we’re ready to start our family. I think every girl secretly fears that she will never marry or bear children. We harp on it so often in so many lessons that it is only natural you would feel like a failure or ripped off when it doesn’t happen. So I’m struggling living in the rabbit hutches of Wymount and apparently infertile, when someone makes a comment to a good friend of mine about how “Yannette’s not the mommy type. She’s more of a career girl. Look at what she has going for her.” Well, the girl knew about my recent promotion to nursing management, but obviously that was all she knew about me. And then another girl, well-meaning but ignorant says to me “You just have to have more faith and then you’ll get pregnant.” So at twenty-one I again evaluate why I believe what I believe.
Our testimonies cannot be based on what others say or do, or how they make us feel whether they be good or bad. My experiences- in and out of the church, have often caused me to reflect on what it is I believe and why I believe it. There is and is going to continue to be some pretty nasty things said about the Church and its members over the next few months. This has always been the case, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it got a little more in your face.
Being a religious conservative has not always carried the friendliest of connotations, but now some will distort them into also labeling us as homophobic, racist, or bigoted. This breaks my heart and I have some things to say about labels later, but for today I just want you to know that I am so grateful for these experiences in my life that have made me stop and think. Many times when counsel is given from the pulpit, I often squirm knowing that there is something I need to improve or change in my life. If I’m being really prideful or hard headed I will roll my eyes. But today I just felt really, really grateful when the Bishop stood and gave this counsel. “Be sure in where you stand and your knowledge in the gospel because the time is coming where you will be questioned by those around you and you will need to know where you stand.”
What can I say except been there done that? On a regular basis whether by my own curiosity into certain doctrines or because I’m asked to by others, I have evaluated what it is I believe and why I believe it. Most recently it came in the form of an e-mail in which I sent to someone. Since it is Fast Sunday (even though it doesn’t go very fast :), especially for those of you with the 2-5PM block schedule) I will share with you my testimony which I wrote in that e-mail.
“P.S. Please allow me to expound on some of MY beliefs…
I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I’ve read it. There is truth there and light and understanding when its principles are applied.
I can tell the difference between an induced “chemical experience” and feeling the Spirit and I can tell you that I have had experiences in my life where I have prayed and I have received divine intervention and guidance from the Spirit whether it be in the temple, my bedroom, a patients home, or as my daughter came into this world and into our family.
I believe that God does call prophets just as he calls a father to head his home, or a mother to nurture her child, to lead and guide his children. I love these men. I am grateful for their love, examples and sacrifice. They are not perfect and I know that. God loves us all anyway.
I also know that Jesus Christ is our Savior and example. I believe in the Atonement and all that it encompasses. What a gift from our Father in Heaven!
But of most comfort to me is that I KNOW that I have a loving Heavenly Father who loves me. He listens to me and he knows my name. He loves all of his children. He is not scary or mean, but only loving and fair. He has to be. We have nothing to fear except for our own guilt and shame which are tools the Adversary uses to tear us apart.
And I write this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”
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