Christian, exmormon, LDS, mormonism

My Chains Are Gone…

I was thinking about writing about the forbidden drink of Mormonism this week which has become one of my most favorite drinks in the world.  But that isn’t what God had planned for this week so I will address my thoughts on that in a future blog.

This week as I was scrolling through Facebook, I came across a post that discussed the Mormon Church and grace + works. At first the writer seemed to express an understanding of grace.  That it’s free, and gives us hope.  But then they stated “The works that I perform are to keep his commandments, to feed his sheep and to partake of the saving ordinances that He showed us we need”.  This is the part I want to address. cheapen-sacrifice-stg

Anyone who is in the Mormon faith and believes they aren’t in a works based faith is lying to themselves.  The key statement from above is “saving ordinances”.  That is the biggest difference between my Mormon beliefs and my beliefs as a Christian.  In Mormonism there are requirements for salvation; “Saving ordinances”.  In Christianity, Christ did all the work.  There are no requirements for salvation.  When Jesus said “It is finished” (John 19:30) He meant all requirements were fulfilled. There is nothing left do except to accept Him- Christ, as your Savior.

In Mormonism, they believe in order to reach exaltation or the Celestial Kingdom the desired degree of Heaven, you have to follow or meet certain criteria.  You have to be a member of the LDS church which most people in the Mormon faith do at the age of 8 by getting baptized.  I blogged about that last week (the age of account ability). Being a member adds all sorts of requirements and those increase as your age increases.  You are not allowed to say no to any callings, you are required to pay 10% of your income to the church.  You are expected to follow all the rules and requirements which include family prayer and scripture study, tithing, fast offerings, monthly fasting, following the word of wisdom, temple marriage, and  regular temple visits if you are close enough.  Every year you are required to have worthiness interview to make sure you qualify for your pass to go to the temple.  Adults aren’t the only ones who are expected to go to the temple.  Youth, starting at age 12, begin attending the temple for the ritual practice of baptisms for the dead (this will be a future blog).  There are also all sorts of unspoken expectations and requirements that if you’re not meeting you are at risk of not getting your temple recommend, which is basically the pass that your bishop gives you verifying you are worthy.   All of these are exceptions you must follow in order to meet the Mormon requirement of worthiness, determined by a man in your ward who is deemed more worthy than you and now you have a piece of paper showing how “worthy” you are.  I’m not sure how any of this has to do with being saved and or worthy.

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As a Christian, the expectation for salvation is to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior.  He has already done all the work.  There are no expectations or requirements. Baptism, tithing, marriage, church attendance, service work, none of these things are a requirement of salvation.  Do I do these things. Yes.  I was baptized, I pay a regular tithe (an amount that I feel God has led me to give), I serve in my church, I attend church service weekly.  The difference is I do these because I want to.  I do them because they help me be closer to my God and help me grow in His word.  They help me be a better person and connect with other people who are also trying to grow their relationship with Christ.

Nothing in the Christian Gospel is about repaying God for my salvation or doing things so that I can earn my salvation.  Acts 4:12 states “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name  under Heaven by which we must be saved”.  I feel that Mormon believers put as much, or even sometimes more emphasis, on Joseph Smith  or the current prophet than they do on Jesus Christ. They accept the word of man over God’s word.  Romans 10:9-10 states “If you declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved”.  God’s word doesn’t say you need to get baptized, pay 10% to your church, do everything your pastor tells you, go through an annual worthiness interview, fast once per month, get married in a “sacred” ceremony that only those over 18 and who are deemed worthy can attend, do as many good things as you can, then cross your fingers an hope it was enough to make it to Heaven.

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I’m tired just listing a few of the expectations. It’s no wonder I felt so helpless all the time.  Really, I don’t know who would want to live their life under so many rules and laws.  I have a hard time just following the general rules of society. I have to set my cruise control just so I don’t get a speeding ticket.  It amazes me still to look back on my life.  I was truly bound by the chains of Mormonism.  I was bound by rules, requirements, and restrictions.  One of my first blogs was Cookie Cutters are for Cookies, because I tried so hard to be a Mormon.  I tried so hard to live with the chains and restraints of a religion. I believed, just like my friend on Facebook, that the Mormon Church was true and if I tried hard enough and did enough that maybe I would be worthy of God’s love and I would hopefully do enough to be with my family forever in heaven.  As a Christian, I know I can never do anything to be worthy of God’s love.  I was set free from those restraints when I gave my life to Christ.  I began to truly experience what life is meant to be like. I accepted what Christ did on the cross for me and it humbled me.

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The bottom line is, we don’t need any saving ordinances like my Facebook friend stated.  The only thing we need is Jesus Christ.   The most heartbreaking thing is, I see so many people bound by the chains of Mormonism.  Who are exhausted by the struggle of trying to do enough and be enough.  I don’t know for sure, but I believe the comment I saw was in response to me posting a link to my blog post response to grace, of a friends comment that said, “I never think I am enough or doing enough… I just have to keep trying”.  It breaks my heart to see people share these things because I have lived in that world  and now MY CHAINS ARE GONE!! I’ve been set free. My God, My Savior has ransomed me.  Not by anything I’ve done but by what Christ did for me.

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I’m just a small town girl…free from the chains of a works based world.

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exmormon, LDS, mormonism

Perfectly Imperfect…

I have been dreading writing this weeks blog.  Last week was a rough week and I wasn’t a very good Christian, and in all reality, part of me didn’t care. I was rude to people, said and did things I shouldn’t have, and wasn’t the follower of Christ I usually strive to be on a daily basis.  THANK GOD FOR GRACE!grace-blue

I was reminded this week that I am a sinner.  No matter how good of a person I am, I still sin. I know very well I am far from perfect, but most of the time I like to think I’m a pretty good person and am picking up my cross and following Christ.  I make mistakes here and there, but overall I’m a good person. And yet I still have that sin nature inside of me.  I’ve come a long way in my Christian walk and I know I still have a long way to go.  But I am so grateful for God’s grace and that I don’t have to earn it, because I would fail miserably!!  Without the knowledge and gift of grace I would still be living in a depressed, lonely, miserable world.

I’m also very grateful that I have a direct line to God and I don’t have to ask anyone but Him to forgive my sin.  Growing up in Mormonism, when you sin, you are supposed to confess to your bishop.  Most things don’t really matter it’s just the “big sins”.  When you turn 12 and enter into the young men and women groups you have an interview with the bishop every year around your birthday.  I remember this was always nerve racking.  I’ve discussed many times how I struggled with not feeling good enough.  I think this added to it a lot!  Imagine, sitting in an office as a 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 year old girl, knowing that you had your own inner secrets such as cutting, swearing, and depression, that you are expected to confess to some man.  In the office it was just the bishop and I.   I would sit in front of this man whom my parents knew well, and he would ask me all sorts of questions. The questions were centered around if I was keeping my baptismal covenants (that,at 8 years old, I don’t really remember making).  I would be asked about friends, drugs, alcohol, sex, basically if I was keeping my self worthy of a temple marriage.  The LDS.org website has an article that listed the following in regards to baptismal covenants: “Strive always to remember and keep the Lord’s commandments. Keep your thoughts, language, and actions pure. When you seek entertainment such as movies, television, the Internet, music, books, magazines, and newspapers, be careful to watch, listen to, and read only those things that are uplifting. Dress modestly. Choose friends who encourage you to reach your eternal goals. Stay away from immorality, pornography, gambling, tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs. Keep yourself worthy to enter the temple.”  I was a teenage girl!! I didn’t strive to always keep the Lord’s commandments.  I just stated at the beginning of this blog, I don’t always do this as an adult!  Imagine the guilt, shame, and frustration, that consumed me as a teenage girl already feeling inadequate, already feeling like I wasn’t enough, I could never measure up, and the only way to receive forgiveness was to confess to this man I was sitting in front of, the things I had done wrong, and hope that he would grant that forgiveness to me.

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When Brian and I were dating we became very “passionate” several times. We both knew we were doing things we shouldn’t and I believed I wanted to “be worthy” to go to the temple some day. The summer before my senior year of high school Brian moved to another state to live with family and go to college.  I was, of course, heartbroken he was so far away.  He came home to visit in September and signed up to take the missionary discussions from the LDS missionaries.  He took the missionary discussions while he was away at college and I mustered up the courage to go to my bishop and confess about our “passionate” rendezvous.  The bishop told me I need to break up with Brian and not see him any more.  I didn’t tell the bishop at the time that Brian was away at college.  I just told him OK.  I tried to be honest, tried to confess, and again I lied.  Brian was the love of my life, the bishop didn’t even take any of that into consideration.  Again shame, guilt, depression.  Hopelessness.

You all know that so far, Brian and I are living happily ever after  (I don’t listen to authority figures very well).

As a Christian, I am no longer bound by the chains of a religion that forces me to seek forgiveness for my sin from man.  My sin is forgiven.  Debt 100% paid. I take my transgressions and wrong doings directly to Christ.  The Message Bible 1 John 8-10 says “If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves.  A claim like that is errant nonsense.  On the other hand, if we admit our sins- make a clean breast of them- He won’t let us down, He’ll be true to Himself.  He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.”  If we claim that we never sinned, we out and out contradict God- make a liar out of Him.  A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God. Verse 9 is the key, “On the other hand, if we admit our sins- make a clean breast of them- He won’t let us down, He’ll be true to Himself.  He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing”.   We need to confess our sins to God, not man, not a bishop.

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Although my behavior this week most likely wouldn’t have called for me to meet with my bishop and confess anything, I wouldn’t have passed the interview that I would have  been required to have with my bishop as a teenager.  My language and how I treated others wasn’t very Christlike, but I confessed my sins to God.  I am forgiven in Christ Jesus. I am always grateful for the gift of grace and today and am also grateful for mercy.

So often I fall short.  I am a perfect sinner.  I fall short every day and yet my loving God is quick to forgive me.  I am a perfectly imperfect human, made perfect by a loving and faithful God.  perfectly-imperfect-2-stg

I am glad last week is over and I get to start over this week.  But the thing that has been on my mind most this week is how grateful I am that I don’t have to sit in front of someone who I go to church with every week and confess my shortcomings to them and ask them to give me the forgiveness that God already promised me in His Word.  I’m so glad I don’t have to worry about the shame and fear that would rise up in me when I would walk into the bishops office.

I see my pastor several times a week.  There is never fear of judgement, shame, or worry.  I know he is a human, just as I am.  I know he makes mistakes at times.  I know he is also covered by grace.

The biggest struggle this week is that I was focused more on myself and was trying to take control of situations that I have no control over.  When I take my eyes off of God I very quickly fall back my sinful self and do things that I later regret.

I’m just small town girl… living in a sinful world.  Praying for a better week.

 

exmormon, LDS, mormonism

Laughing Out Loud

So today we went on an adventure to find a Christmas tree.  We piled my 2 daughters, who are still at home, and the dog in our trusty old suburban and traveled about an hour into the mountains.  We got to the point where the roads were no longer maintained and almost got stuck.  At one point, the girls, a kind stranger, and I were pushing the suburban to keep it from sliding into the gutter and getting stuck in the snow.  It was fun and although it was stressful for my loving, amazing, husband, who entertains my crazy ideas, the girls and I laughed and had a fun time.  I’m still smiling from the experience.

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In the past, an experience like this would have sent me into a  complete melt down.  I would have been in tears blaming myself and feeling like a failure for having such a stupid idea to go into the mountains to get a Christmas tree. Or, I would have blamed Brian and been frustrated and angry with him and the rest of our day would have been ruined.  We ended up buying a Christmas tree at a local store and won’t put it up until tomorrow or Tuesday but that’s ok. It was still a fun adventure!

I love to laugh!  I spent so much of my life not even knowing how to smile, let alone laugh.  E.E. Cummings once said, “The most wasted of days is one without laughter”.  I completely agree with him.  I’m not sure why I struggled so hard to be happy.  There were times that I experienced happiness, moments that I can look back on, and I was happy in that moment.

I remember spending time with my cousins and the fun games we played.  I have 2 girl cousins that are close to my age and we spent a lot of time together.  In the summer when we were together we lived in my grandparents camp trailer.  It was our house, we liked to pretend we were in college. Those are some of my most cherished memories.  I remember birthdays and holidays, family get-togethers and celebrations, and yet, no matter the memory, the happiness was only for the moment.

As I got into jr. high and high school, the happy times faded even more.  I struggled to even feel happiness.  My smiles were fake, and laughter was rare if it ever happened.  I felt like I was living in a fog.  There were so many things that happened that I didn’t understand.  I felt confused about my world.  I felt like I was just floating along.

It’s easy to look back now and understand that I was struggling from depression.  I had a deep emptiness that I didn’t know how to fill.  I felt nothing.  I can’t even find words to describe it.  I just felt like a black hole, void, empty, nothingness.

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I tried many things to fill that void over the years. I tried beer for the first time when I was in jr. high.  It was nasty.  I had no desire to try it again. Not long after that, I tried my first wine cooler, and that I loved!  I liked it a lot.  The fortunate thing about living in a Mormon community and having a dad who knew the kids in the community, they didn’t let me go too many places that might get me in trouble.  If they had been more lenient with me I may have ended up in a lot more trouble than I did.  When I was in jr. high, my group of friends got in trouble for drinking on the bus.  I wasn’t on the bus because I had older siblings who could drive.  I think in a lot of ways, God was looking out for me.

I was never exposed to drugs, although I probably could have gotten them if I had really wanted them.  I was scared of using drugs because I already felt dumb and I didn’t want to be any dumber.  I did take some of my mom’s blood pressure medicine.  It made me really sick.  I’m not sure what my motive was other than I knew it wasn’t something I was supposed to do.

I really think I tried to find ways to rebel or do things that would go against my core values and beliefs.  I did this because I knew I would never be enough.  I remember thinking about every little thing I did wrong and how I could never do enough to make up for the sins I had already committed, so what was the point.

By the time I got into high school I had a new resolve to at least try and do better.  I had better friends but I still struggled with the void in my heart.  I continued to try and fill that void with everything other than the one thing that was meant to fill it.  I believed that if I found a boyfriend I would feel better about myself.  I had a few.  And then I met Brian, and although he brought me more happiness, he didn’t fill the void.  I believed if I focused more on the Mormon teachings and tried harder to be a good person that would help. Again I fell short.  I thought if Brian became Mormon and we got married then I would be happy and the emptiness would be gone.  Brian got baptized and that summer we got married and, although I was happy, it was only a temporary fix.

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Everything I did, it was only temporary, having a baby, moving closer to family, moving into a house.  It didn’t matter. In the moments when things did seem to be going right I would find a way to sabotage the happiness because I didn’t know how to handle happiness. I don’t think I ever did this intentionally, but I would do this because I was afraid of having anything good because I knew it would only be temporary.  I was looking for the missing piece to the puzzle inside my heart in all the wrong places.  It wasn’t until the dark moment in my life when I was tired and ready to give up on life that I finally figured out where to look for the piece I was missing.

Once I gave my life to Christ, things were different.  The void was filled and I no longer struggled to find something to fit into that hole.  It was truly an amazing difference.  As I’ve stated in previous blogs, through all of this struggle I was cutting, binging and purging, and had constant suicidal ideation.  That all stopped when I gave my life to Christ.  I work in mental health and I understand mental illness.  I know there is a time and a purpose for medication and time and a purpose for counseling.  That wasn’t the path God set for me.  When I gave my life to Christ, it’s like I woke up.  The fog I lived in was lifted, I was no longer living in a black hole.  I began to see the world in a different way than I ever had before.  I began to understand things that seemed so confusing before.  And the best thing, I learned to smile, and with smiling came laughter. Not just a giggle or a small ha ha, genuine belly laughter, laugh out loud laughter.  I had not genuinely laughed or smiled in so long the muscles in my neck were sore.

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I don’t remember exactly when it was or what happened, but I remember I laughed out loud at something and Brian just looked at me, almost stunned.  I asked him what was wrong and he said something about me not ever laughing, he was a little unsure.  I think there may have been some uneasiness about me sabotaging the situation.

Even today, we talk about how far I have come.  I know my happiness and laughter is a direct result of accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I am still amazed that I can see humor and laugh at things.  I have not only learned to be happy, but I have found joy.  One of my co-workers told me my laugh is contagious, he loves to hear me laugh.  For a girl who didn’t even to know how to laugh that is one of the greatest compliments.  I laugh on a daily basis and can’t imagine a life where I can’t laugh, at least laugh at myself. I think laughter is contagious, it can be a universal language, it can diffuse tension and bring people together.

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I think one of the hardest things in this world is letting go of control, especially to God, who you can’t see.  But one of the best most amazing things I did was quit trying to fill the hole in my heart by myself and let the God of the Universe who crated everything take control of my life, and it brought me happiness, laughter, and joy.

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I’m just a small town girl… living in a gleeful world.

Just for laughs!!

exmormon, mormonism

Believing Isn’t Enough…

After Brian and I went through the temple, we began to pull away from the Mormon church.  There were so many things that just didn’t seem right to us.  We were so tired of the hypocrisy and double standard that existed.  I am grateful for the fact that I never doubted that God was real or that I believed in Him.  So many people, when they walk away from Mormonism, are angry and hurt and they become atheist or agnostic. They don’t just walk away from Mormonism, they walk away from God altogether. My heart hurts most for the people who walk away from God completely.

Brian and I didn’t immediately start attending a Christian church.  In fact, we didn’t even really know why we were walking away.  There were just some things we didn’t like and didn’t agree with; and honestly, we just didn’t want to spend our Sunday filled with church.  I had a desire to teach our kids about God and I had a plan to teach them what I wanted them to know, someday.

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At the point we were done with the Mormon belief system, God put us back in the thick of my Mormon world. I had just given birth to my 2nd child and Brian was in the hiring process for his dream job that would eventually become his career. We moved back home to our small town and lived with my parents for a month until the house we were going to rent was ready for us to move into.  This was a difficult transition.  Brain had stopped wearing his garment top the previous summer, it was hot wearing 2 shirts and he just didn’t want to do it any more. When his bottoms wore out we just bought him regular underwear.  My decision to stop wearing them came while I was pregnant, they were uncomfortable and expensive.  I couldn’t afford to buy extra maternity sets.  When my pregnancy was over, it was a lot cheaper to just buy a pack of underwear at Wal-mart than to buy even 1 set of garments.   I don’t remember the exact cost but it was just over $3.00 for 1 top and $3.00 for one pair of bottoms. We were young and still trying to figure out life and we didn’t really believe it anyway, so we just stopped wearing them.  I must not have realized the impact this would have when my mom found out. I remember my mom offering to do our laundry, being grateful for the offer because I had a 19 month old, rambunctious boy, and a newborn baby. She came to me extremely upset that she wasn’t washing any garments.  I think that was the first time I said anything to anyone in my family that we didn’t really believe Mormonism anymore. Needless to say, my mom was extremely concerned about us. She lectured me, with a hushed voice, about the repercussions of taking off our garments.  I’m not sure why she was whispering, it’s not like the neighbors would hear.  Maybe she was worried about my little brother or sister hearing.  We had been going to the Mormon church while we lived there because we felt it was easier than having the fight or discussion, I think this gave my mom some hope that we weren’t completely lost.  We moved out a few weeks later and never attended church, a Mormon church or any other church, other than for special occasions again.

I always had a plan to sit down and teach my kids about God.  I thought I would teach them the Bible stories I loved so much.  I thought I would teach them about Noah and the flood, David and Goliath, Samson and his hair.  Every week I planned that Sunday mornings we could do this over breakfast.  Sunday morning would come and I would lay in bed or I would get up and spend hours on the internet in chat rooms.  Teaching my kids about God always turned into next week.  I bought them some books that talked about God.  We sang songs.  They knew, and probably still do know, I Am a Child of God.  They knew some Christian songs because I bought them some CD’s that had songs like This Little Light of Mine, Jesus Loves Me, and He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.  But I didn’t even know what it meant to believe in God or what I believed.  I just knew that I didn’t want to be Mormon any more.
This transition was really hard.  Brian and I were growing apart at this time.  Brian had started a new job and I left a full time job and started working part time and being more of a full time mom.  I worked from 7 am until 11 am.  I was able to be home most of the day.  It’s a good thing social media didn’t exist back then.  I would have had a complete melt down.  I already felt so inadequate about myself, still struggled with not feeling good enough, still cutting a few days a week, social media and the “super mom’s” that you see on Facebook and Pintrest would have made me feel even worse about myself.  I realize now  I have other skills and talents, they just aren’t able to be highlighted on social media. 😉
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Part of the reason I decided to start attending a church was because I realized I couldn’t teach my kids how to follow Christ or what I believed because I didn’t know myself.  For the first 2 years of my Christian walk I went to church faithfully.  I listened to Christian radio and I would swear that every Pastor I listened to knew my story and knew exactly what I needed to hear.  I learned a lot about God during that time and I learned, somewhat, about the Christian walk.  But I didn’t learn much about how it applied to me.  I learned that God loved me and accepted me.  I learned that I am a sinner saved by grace and grace only.  I learned that Christians believe that you need to say a prayer to accept Christ and I understood where that belief came from.  I said that prayer every week for a long time because I didn’t understand what it meant to accept the gift of grace.  I had such a hard time believing that I was really “saved” or that I could ever be good enough to make it to Heaven.  One of the hardest things about transitioning from Mormonism to Christianity is learning to let go of all the misconceptions that are ingrained from growing up in a Mormon world.

Brian and I have been out of Mormonism for about 18 1/2 years.  We have been Christians for about 16 years and in so many ways I would still call myself a “baby Christian”.  In 2009 God led us to a church where we actually started, not just hearing His word, but truly growing and learning what we believe and why we believe it.  In the past my family would ask my why I left Mormonism and I would get upset and defensive.  There were many times I got mad a just walked away because I didn’t know how to talk or have a discussion with them.  In the past 7 years I have learned so much. I haven’t learned just why Mormonism is wrong, I have learned what I believe, and why I believe it.  I have learned that the Bible is a historically accurate source. I have learned that there is one God, existent in 3 beings, called the Trinity.  I learned that the old laws of the Old Testament are no longer valid today.  They have been covered by the blood of Christ.  I know why Christ died on the cross for my sins.  I realize that his death on the cross is just as important to my salvation as his resurrection.

I think the biggest thing that I have learned in all of this time is that I can’t do this on my own.  I can’t live my life without God at the center.  When my life isn’t focused on Christ, I struggle.  I drift away and life seems so much more difficult.  When I am rooted in Christ I grow.  I can manage life.  I have also learned that the best way to keep me rooted in Christ is to keep people around me who are rooted in Christ.  I have learned the importance of having a church family, Christian friends, and a Pastor who you can connect with.

Believing in God isn’t enough.  In James 2:19 (NLT) it says, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God.  Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.”  The church we attend started out as a group of friends who struggled to find a church they wanted to attend locally.  They got together and it has grown into an amazing group of genuine believers who able to connect and grow in God’s word.  One thing I didn’t realize as a Mormon, that I’ve since learned as a Christian is, all Christian denominations are the same.  We are all the same body of Christ.  The difference is, in preferences in worship.

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I think I say this every week but I am amazed that Brian and I were able to make it through all that we went through on our own.  We didn’t have people to surround us and help us through.  We made it because, I believe, it was God’s desire for us to make it.  If you are a believer but don’t have a place you are connected, go find one!  One of my favorite authors is Brene Brown, PhD.  She is a research professor at the University of Huston.  She studies vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.  She talks a lot about connection and the importance of connection.  We are made for connection, we aren’t made to do life alone, we are made to do life together.  “Connection along with love and belonging, is why we are here, and is what gives meaning and purpose to our lives”- Brene Brown. 

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I don’t know if my walk and journey as a Christian would have been easier if we would have been connected to other believers, but I know it would have been a little lighter.  I wouldn’t have had to walk through all of the confusion and struggles I had by myself.  I would have had a group of people willing to wrap their arms around me and help me where ever I needed.

Just the rants and ravings of a small town girl… living in a connected world.

 

exmormon, LDS, mormonism

Why do you check your box?

One of my favorite quotes states “The essences of a lie isn’t the words you choose but the intent behind it.” Unknown.  I feel like this can be applied to many things in life.  What is your intent behind the things you do?

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Growing up in my small town Mormon world, I was always asked, reminded, and told, to “make the right choices” and “what will people think”. Of course there were always different variations of those statements.  But my motivation and intention in life was to live according to LDS standards and because my dad was a prominent member of the community, I had to always be aware that people were watching and judging what I did.

I was very good at playing the role, putting on the mask, and saying the right things.  I would complain and whine about having to go to church on Sunday, for all 3 hours.  I would try to find excuses not to go to mutual or any of the other church activities they would have.  It wasn’t very often that I was able to get out of it.  And so, I would show up, I would put on the face, and go through the motions.  All the while, the intent behind my actions was because, I had to.

I feel like this is a common practice in the Mormon church.  They often talk about service and doing things for others.  They boast about the service they do.  Yet the service that is done, is often out of requirement to earn their position in Heaven, and not out of a desire to worship God.

When Brian and I had our first born and I was in the hospital, the Relief Society President showed up, unexpectedly.  We had lived in the ward for several months but we hadn’t been to church yet.  She decided showing up at the hospital was a good time to stop by and introduce herself to me.  I had no clue who she was. My labor was long and difficult and I wasn’t up for meeting new people.  I don’t believe she was there for me.  She was there to check the box off of her list,  “did her good deed for the day”,  “met her obligation as Relief Society President”.  Needless to say, I don’t remember her name, what she looked like, or even what we talked about.  I’m not sure if I even ever saw her again.  We lived in the same ward for about 2 years.  We were still living there when we had our 2nd child.  Did she come to meet with me out of true care and concern for me as a human being that she wanted to get to know, or out of obligation to her role in her church?  I believe it was completely out of obligation.

Sadly, this was a very common theme in my adult experience as  Mormon.  Wherever Brian and I lived, it was common for us to have a knock on the door and there would be our home or visiting teachers.  They would come in for their brief visit and then they were gone again until next month.  We were always welcoming and friendly.  Sometimes they would bring cookies or little gifts and I was always kind.  We would let them share their messages and never argued or contradicted their teachings.

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When we moved back to our home town, things were a little different.  By this time we had started attending a Christian Church. We weren’t outspoken about our Christian faith but we weren’t open to Mormonism at all, and weren’t willing to have that discussion.  We were what is considered an “inactive” Mormon.  We were still on the list, so the check mark still had to be made.  We still had to have visiting teachers and home teachers, but because we were going to a different church, the rules must have been a little different.  At this point our son was starting be involved in community sports because of this we were more involved in the community than we had been in other places that we lived.Every month at a game or practice the same guy would come up and talk to us.  Ask us about the family how things were going.  We would engage him in conversation for a few minutes and then he would go back to his side of the field and go back to his life.  It didn’t take long to figure out he was our home teacher and this was his way of being able to check the box off the list.  “Did you meet with the Johnson’s this month?”  check-mark

One of our neighbors, was a guy I went to high school with and I soon realized his wife was one of my visiting teachers.  Every month at the beginning of the month she would stop by for some reason or another.   She stopped by with a catalog of something she was selling.  She stopped by with cookies.  She would stop by just to say hi.  But it was never to get to know me.  It was never to see if I needed anything.  What was her intent? check-markTo check that off her to do list.

When this neighbor moved, every month I started getting a letter in the mail with no return address that had the visiting teaching message for the month in it.  And I guess that counted as the check mark too.  Because at least they were sending me the message.  This was more insulting to me than than anything else.  I would have preferred someone to say, “Hey, I’m your visiting teacher and I know you’re not Mormon anymore but can I stop by once a month and say hi to you so I can do my calling?”

Another great example is when I had my youngest daughter, I was very sick and she was born 2 months early.  I was in the hospital 40 minutes away from home.  At this point, Brian and I had not been attending the Mormon church for 3 years.  Due to the problems I was having, they kept me on the surgical floor for 3 days and I don’t remember much during that time.  They had finally moved me up to the maternity ward and I was starting to feel better and become more stable.  One day, I was sitting in the bed, in my hospital gown, I hadn’t been able to shower for several days, and I was pumping some breast milk. I had a double breast pump and in walk the whole bishopric from our ward.  I of course looked horrified.  We had never been to church.  I only knew them from my childhood.  I’m still not sure why they were there.  I don’t remember much about the conversation.  I was focused on making sure my blankets stayed up so I didn’t reveal myself to these men that I only knew from when I was a kid. It still mortifies me to think about.  Why did they drive 40 minutes without calling to see if it would be OK if they stopped in?  I don’t believe there was any intent to worship or connect with Brian and I out of true care and concern.  I believe it was to,check-markcheck the box.

Since becoming Christian and finding our home church, I have learned a lot about service and the intent behind what you do.  When we started attending Journey Church, I was just finishing my bachelors degree.  I started my Masters program shortly after, which was only a 1 year program.  When I was done I need to come up with $300.00 to take my licensure exam.  My church family organized a fund raiser to help me pay for my exam.  I was blown away.  They raised enough money for my exam and gas to drive to Utah where the testing center was.  I felt so unworthy of such a blessing.  What was their intent? To be of service and worship God by helping others.  There was no box to check off.

The other thing that changed in the aspect of worship as a Christian at our home church is, when people talked to us and interacted with us, it was authentic and genuine.  We have friends who reach out to us during the week and we also reach out to them.  We know their struggles and they know ours. We have people we pray with and read the Bible with and truly share our lives with.  This is the truest form of worship.  Not who we are on Sunday or at a church activity, but who we are in our daily lives and our willingness to accept and connect with people regardless of where they are at.

I have seen my church family come together and build a tree house, paint a house, bring meals to families, and to raise money for medical needs. We have come together for weddings and funerals, for Sunday service, and Bible study.  The intent of coming together at these times isn’t out of obligation to earn our salvation.  It isn’t to make sure we are trying hard enough or doing enough.  It is completely, 100%, because we have a desire to worship our God!

The most telling part, to me, of the intent behind the actions of the Mormon church, at least here in this small town, is… When the ward bishop came to us and told us we needed to remove our records or face disciplinary action. When I was in grad school, the ward bishop approached Brian and I about removing our records, honestly I was a little surprised.  I was unsure why he felt it necessary for that to happen.  I had thought about it, but never felt it was that big of a deal.  I didn’t care what they did with the paperwork they had on me.  Brian and I spoke with our pastor about it, and he advised us that removing our records would be the right thing to do.  Just a way of “playing nice”.  It would create less struggle and problems for us and our kids since we planned to continue living in the community. The bishop came to our house several times to ask us about this.  He had never spoke to us ever.  But for some reason it seemed like it was his personal mission to make sure we had our records removed on his watch as bishop.   The bishop told us, “You’ll still be part of the community, you’ll still be invited to do things with the ward”.

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We of course removed our records, not out of fear of disciplinary action, but because we felt it was the right thing to do.  Just a few weeks before his time as bishop was completed, he stopped by to verify when he would have our letter.  We turned it over just a week before he completed his calling.  When I asked Mormon friends why he would do this, the only answer I have gotten is that for some reason he feels some sort of obligation for our salvation. Since then, many people from the ward who would at least say hi to us won’t even acknowledge us.  And that bishop won’t even make eye contact.  The motivation and intent behind doing any thing in Mormonism is because they have to do it, not because they want to. It’s all about making sure they are trying hard enough and has nothing to do with God.

I’m just a small town girl… living in a checkbox world.check-mark

 

LDS, mormonism

Leap of faith…

This week I need to give a shout out to my amazing kids.  I’m not sure how they turned out so well.  Thank you Zak, Chey, Kassi, and Aspen for letting me include you in my blogs.  And to my amazing sister in Christ, Lisa, you give me the courage to keep going and sharing my story.  Thank you for always being there for me, for encouraging and giving me feedback, you’ve helped me uncover some of myself.

I really struggled this week with coming up with something to blog about. In grow group this week we talked about grace and knowing where your heart is so you can do what God is asking you to do.  I feel like I have kind of covered those topics in my previous blogs. When I sat down to blog nothing was coming together, the topics that came up this week didn’t flow.

I told my husband maybe I should just skip this week. I had to work on Saturday and also spent some of Saturday creating the power-point for church so I didn’t have time to blog yesterday.  He encouraged me that I am doing what God wants me to do by blogging and I need to write something.

So what is on my heart today is my testimony.  The events that happened that led me to Christ.  This is a story I have shared with some.  The details I have shared with few.  I am open to what God wants me to say and do with my story so I am just going to let the words flow and see where they go.

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Brian and I were “sealed” or went through the LDS Temple wedding ceremony 9 months after we were married civilly.  This was a special circumstance the Mormon church allowed because my oldest sister was getting married and would allow us to attend her wedding.  Shortly after we went through the temple we quit going to church.  The Temple wasn’t quite what we expected.  We still attended church on occasion, holidays and special occasions.  I think we basically still believed it all but, it just wasn’t important.

When I gave my life to Christ Brian and I had been married for 6 years.  We had 2 amazing kids, our son Zakary was 4 and daughter Cheyenne was 2.  We were able to put on a good face.  Many people thought we were doing well.  Brian had been working at his job, that quickly became his career, for 4 years.  I was working part-time as a paraprofessional at a local school.  We had moved 10 minutes from our home town and were just living our lives.  Brian was doing his thing and I was doing mine.

Over the years, my depression had worsened.  I was depressed daily.  It was hard to get out of bed.  It was summer so I wasn’t working at the time. Before I went to bed I would turn the TV to the Disney channel so all Zak had to do was turn it on.  He would get up and turn on the TV, and a lot of the time, he would get himself and Cheyenne cereal for breakfast before I would get out of bed.

I had a lot of guilt and shame in my life.  I wasn’t happy.  I still loved Brian a lot, but felt that our relationship was distant.  He worked shift work and there was a lot of time I didn’t see him and we didn’t spend time together.

The internet was fairly new and I spent a lot of time in a chat room.  I had a man I talked to often.  I was able to pretend I was someone different.  He gave me praise and verbal affection that made me feel better, at times, but also added to my shame and guilt.  My cutting also escalated at this time.  I cut a few times per week.  I also would binge and purge because I thought, if I was thinner, I would feel better about myself.

I hated myself, and hated everything about my life.  I didn’t want to live, but didn’t want to live my kids without a mom.  I struggled daily with suicidal thoughts. I would contemplate a plan and think about how I could make it happen.  As a person who assesses suicide risk I now understand how serious my suicidal thoughts were.  I wanted to die, I just wasn’t to the point that I was willing to go through with it yet.

A few weeks before I was at my rock bottom Brian and I had somewhat of a fight.  I don’t know if I would really call it that.  We were talking, which we didn’t do often at that point.  I so wanted to be special to him, his soulmate, and he said he thought he could’ve been happy with anyone.  At that time he obviously wasn’t happy with life either.  We were at a breaking point and considered divorce.

I was so frustrated and angry.  Everyone told me, Brian and I would get a divorce because we got married so young.  But I knew we were meant to be together.  He was my savior.  He was my knight in shining armor.  He was my everything.  If he didn’t love me, if he didn’t want me, then what did I have.

A few days later I was taking a bath and hitting my head against the bathtub hoping I would knock myself out and maybe drown.  While I was in the bathtub, I was creating a plan in my mind of how to end my life.  I was considering shooting myself, we had a gun in the home.  I was thinking of shooting Brian and the kids too. Brian didn’t deserve to live if he didn’t want me, and I didn’t want the kids to not have parents. I was trying to figure out the order of events.  When I got out, I knelt in front of the toilet and stuck my finger down my throat. The whole time thinking of how I would end our lives. This is what I did.  This is how I coped with my life that I felt was so out of control. While I was sitting in front of the toilet between purges, tears started streaming down my face, and I cried out to God and said, “I don’t want to do this any more.”

While I was kneeling in front of the toilet, the phone rang. I thought it might be Brian because it was late and he was at work.  It was an acquaintance.  Someone I had only met a few times.  Her husband worked with Brian.  I didn’t really know her but I answered the phone and talked with her.  She said that God had put me on her heart and she felt she should call me.  For the first time ever, I was honest with her about what I was doing. I told her about the struggles I was having.  I don’t open up to people.  Brian was the only one who knew of my struggles and yet I was pouring my heart out to someone I barely knew.

She was the first person who told me God loved me just the way I am.  That there was no such thing as being good enough for God.  All I had to do was ask Him into my heart.  That was such a foreign concept to me.  And yet, in that moment, it felt so right.  It was so clear and I felt comfort, calmness, for the first time in my life since I could remember, I felt thing were going to be OK. I had hope, a reason to live, a reason to survive.

In that moment I said the sinners prayer.  I don’t believe it is the words that save me, but the belief in my heart that changed, and truly accepted that God was in control and Christ died for me so all I had to do was accept that and live for Him. This friend invited me to church and we’ve never looked back.

After I gave me heart to Christ, my depression lifted, not to say I didn’t have struggles.  I only cut 1 time after that.  I didn’t binge and purge any more.  I was healed.  God came into my life in a very powerful way and healed my life and my marriage.

Brian and I agreed to stay together and work on our marriage.  We both agreed that God had to be the center of our marriage in order for it to be successful.  We found our home church, Journey, 7 years ago and are grateful for our church family.  We love them more than words can express and we have grown so much in our time there.

I would love to say since then life has been unicorns and rainbows.  It hasn’t.  In fact, since then, I think we have faced some pretty big storms.  None of them have been as big as facing divorce, depression, and suicide.  We have 2 more amazing daughters Kassidy and Aspen.  We are blessed beyond measure.

The concept of grace was hard for me to grasp.  I said the sinners prayer every Sunday for a year.  I’m still learning that some of the things I thought were truth, didn’t come from the Bible. I had to learn new ways to cope, and I had to find myself.  But I have realized over the years, the closer I grow with my Lord, the better I know myself.

I am truly grateful to my friend who followed a prompting on her heart.  I will forever be indebted to her.  I don’t know where I would be if God hadn’t stepped in in saved me and my kids that night.  It’s scary to think about.

So in Mormon tradition, I want to bear my testimony.  I know the Bible to be the only true word of God.  I know that Christ died on the cross for my sins and it is only by His grace that I am saved.  I don’t believe in religion.  I believe it is important to have a relationship with Christ.  I believe in the Trinity.  That the Father, His son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are One.  I believe that Jesus Christ came to earth, died on the cross, rose from the dead, and ascended to the right hand of the Father.  I believe He will return.  I believe all you have to do for salvation is to accept Christ into your heart.

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I am so grateful for the joy and blessings that come from just having Christ in my heart.  I’m grateful for the chains that were broken, that were keeping me from being able to find happiness and accept myself.  I am grateful that I don’t have to be perfect, and that I am perfect, in my imperfection. I am grateful for, not just overcoming my struggles, but for conquering them.

I share this only to help others.  I know I am not alone.  I know I am not the only person who grew up in Mormonism who struggled with depression or thoughts of suicide.  I write this to reach out, and let you know, there is hope,  hope in Christ, hope for something better.  God loves you just as you are.  He created you and wants you to come just as you are.  There is more to life than struggling with being good enough.  You are enough, right here, right now.   If you are struggling, please contact me.  I am more than willing to talk to you or help you in whatever way I can.

I’m just a small town girl…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwsvqVmFV6Y