I talked some in an earlier post about how I felt about Jesus and God from a young age, as far back as I can remember.
But there was a huge event which changed my whole life, and I believe my whole future eternally (although I don’t see that as linear any more, but that is another topic). That event was joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
It sort of began when I was twelve, and in 7th Grade in Junior High (that was where we went instead of Middle School back in those olden days 🙂 ), and I met my first friend who was Mormon. She became my dear friend, and we are still friends today.
It was so long ago, that there are only certain incidents I remember well, but I know she started even at that time talking to me about things about the Gospel and the Church. One memory, for example, that sticks out that happened early on, I think, is us sitting in a stairwell at school and talking about dinosaurs, and how did they fit into the Genesis story, and Adam and Eve being 6000 years ago, etc. I loved talking about that kind of cool stuff.
Sometime after I joined the Church, she told me that it was scary for her to bring up Church or Gospel stuff with me because she didn’t know how I would take it. It’s always high stakes when you are in the Church and truly believe it all, because you want your friends and everyone you love to believe it, too, and you are taught you have a responsibility to tell them about it. But you also never know if telling someone about it will make them feel pressured and judged, and/or if they will think it is all too weird and not be your friend any more. Lot’s of stress there always. I was sad when she told me it had been stressful for her, because even if I had not eventually joined, I would not have even thought of not being her friend because of it. I learned later that she had a valid fear (although not with me). I have learned that religion does divide, even people who love each other. But I was young and naive then and couldn’t see as clearly that it so often does that.
My memory is that until we were 15 or so the talks we had weren’t super often, nor super intense, but somewhere around the time I turned 15, I think, things ramped up 🙂 .
Anyone who knew me for years in the Church has probably heard me talk about this event, and it was huge for me. My friend invited me to a Church Young Women’s Standard’s Night (I think that was what it was called). It was held at someone’s house. I remember we were all sitting around in a circle, and they went around the circle and each young woman bore her testimony. During their testimonies they talked about the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith, and I’m sure lots of other stuff. The things they said struck me to the core. It was this crystal clear knowing that what they were saying was true, and this was an incredibly huge thing, and I started to cry. I think I was crying sort of uncontrollably, and I remember going into a bedroom in the house, and my friend and maybe some other girls came in with me. They were all happy because they figured I was feeling the Spirit and feeling this was true.
So many of the incredibly pivotal spiritual moments in my life are only more fully understood as I look back on them later. Later I can see so much more of what things mean, or what the Lord was trying to teach me then, and also more of what an eternally important moment that really was. This was one of those times that was huge even in the moment, but as the years go by, I can look back and see that it was even more vital in my life than I even had an inkling of at that moment. It is one of those things that almost everything in the future hangs upon. And I cringe sometimes when I look on those moments and think, “What if I had chosen not to go, or somehow missed what the Lord was trying to tell me?” because my whole existence would be different. I sometimes wonder if I have missed some of those things. But the ones I know about, the Lord has usually made pretty clear effort to get me to notice, but there still is always the choice to reject those things. It certainly is a precarious existence! It’s a good thing we have the Lord on our side and eternities to go.
The next part of that same experience is something I probably haven’t talked about as much, because it took place when I was alone that night, praying to know if the Book of Mormon was true, if Joseph Smith did have a vision, and if he was a Prophet, and if so, if I should join this Church. I still remember lying in my bed and praying those things with all my heart and soul. My memory is that I was in prayer with the Lord for a really long time that night, and that it was wonderful! This glorious feeling of light and love stayed with me, from during that meeting and into that night. It really was that night that I knew I was to join the Church, and that those things were true.
I can’t remember how much my friend had told me about the Church and the Gospel before that night, but I know my interest ramped up after that 🙂 . My friend was super smart. She was also very well read and well taught in the scriptures and the doctrines of the Church. We were probably not your normal 15 year olds. And certainly she was not the normal 15-16 year old you would generally find in the Church today as far as her broad knowledge base. And she was very spiritual. I remember once spending the night at her house, and we were lying in bed for hours talking about angels, and seeing angels, and all the stories and possibilities of that. I felt angels with us in the room that night.
I was allowed by my parents to go to Young Women’s meetings with her during the week. It was arranged that I would take the discussions from the missionaries on those nights, since I had to take those before I was allowed to be baptized. The missionaries thought I was “golden” and that I was really smart, because I already knew all the stuff they were teaching me. I already knew it all because my friend was teaching it to me before the missionaries did 🙂 .
The group of youth in that ward at that time were pretty much amazing. There were at least two others who joined the Church shortly before or near the time I did. And it seemed to me all the youth were incredibly interested in really learning and understanding the gospel. We had youth leaders and teachers who would talk to us about anything. We could ask any questions, no matter how far out. This was back in 1973, and things weren’t nearly so correlated then, and people really seemed to study a lot, and asking questions about off topic or weird stuff was not shut down. So, I learned a lot pretty quickly.
I was baptized on March 24, 1973. That summer I decided I would read the whole D&C while I was visiting my Dad’s in NY for several weeks. So, I did. I learned a lot from that, too. I read lots of the Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and I don’t remember when I read the Book of Mormon all the way through the first time, but I was reading it, too. I read some, maybe all, of the Lectures on Faith early on, and I remember older members of the Church saying they were sad it had been removed from the scriptures. I knew about having your Calling and Election made sure, and having the Second Comforter early in my membership (maybe before I was baptized, but I can’t remember) because of things I read and things I was taught.
Anyway, the other day I was thinking about all the doctrines and teachings that I remember as being reasons why I wanted to join the Church and why I loved it so much from the beginning. I joined because it was really clear the Lord was telling me to, but I had certain things I loved the most that were my most important reasons. Quite a few of them were things that I already believed, or had inklings of before I even knew about the Mormon Church. (When I met my friend, literally all I knew about Mormons was that there was a guy named Brigham Young who had lots of wives, and who was the leader of the Mormons, and he went out to Utah and settled there. I had never even heard the name Joseph Smith and knew nothing of what they believed.) These are the main things I remember trying to tell everyone around me in my family and my other friends who were not Mormons when I was a new member, because I was very naive, and I thought, “if they know these things, they will surely also see that this is true”:
The Book of Mormon is a true book, and it tells about Christ visiting America after His resurrection.
We lived a pre-mortal existence. We existed with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and our family and friends before we were born on this earth.
It’s not just heaven or hell after we die. There’s lots more to it. And we can still be with our family there.
The Lord didn’t just quit talking to people at the end of the Bible. There are living Prophets who literally talk to God and tell people what He says.
It is possible for anyone to see Angels and Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father in mortality. And Jesus Christ and His Heavenly Father aren’t the same guy.
There should be no paid clergy. (I was a bit distressed when the D&C said something about Bishops being paid, but they weren’t anymore, and I didn’t know about that until I read the D&C, I don’t think.)
There are other things I learned and believed, and lots of nuance to those things I listed, too. But those are generally the main points I remember telling people about because they were the main important and beautiful things to me.
The very interesting thing, to me, is that I realize that all of the things that were the big things for me then are still things I believe now. It is so amazing to me to look back and see the Lord teaching me aspects of these things from my childhood until now. Of course, I have a broader or shifted view of these things, but the concepts are things I have been being taught pieces of all my life. I am very grateful.
I am incredibly grateful for the path the Lord has taken me on. I have to say, “Wow! This has been HARD!” But I wouldn’t trade the knowledge of truth for an “easier” time.
I am so thankful that I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1973 when I was 15 years old. I am so thankful to my friend for teaching me about it and about the gospel.
Many know I am on a different path now than they think I should be on. Many friends and some family are sad or confused by what I believe. Generally, I think, the people who feel that way don’t actually know what I believe, even though I have tried to write some of it on this blog. Still, it is such a small sliver of the journey I have been on that gets written about on this blog, that the whole picture is not seen at all. And that causes a lack of understanding. And I keep being taught new things, too. And human beings always misunderstand each other anyway 🙂 .
And it’s Ok if people are on a different path. If you think I have gone astray, you don’t have to fear that if you hear, or read, or know the same stuff I know, that you will fling off and do something you don’t want to do! You don’t ever have to do or believe anything you don’t want to. Another thing the Church teaches is that agency is paramount. The Lord won’t take your agency away. Others will, though. Almost everyone will try to, even unconsciously. We all do here in this telestial state. Even the best of us often try to save each other through inappropriate means.
But searching out knowledge is important. I would say to be incredibly wary if people tell you not to seek certain knowledge, or not to read or learn certain stuff. Teaching and learning discernment is vital, but controlling others is not.
So, this post is to tell some of the beginning of my journey, for my children and grandchildren and anyone else who has any desire to know it. It has been a cool ride, and that is how it started! In another post I think I will write about what I believed about those topics above even before I learned about the Church, and a broader view of what I believe about them now.