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Wow, I can’t believe I let three weeks go by without updating the blog. A lot has changed since my last update. First of all, I told my parents about joining the church. They were less than thrilled. They are worried about my soul, and honestly, I can’t fault them for that. They think that they know the truth and they just want what is best for me. If I had a child, I am sure I would feel the same way. It would break my heart to think that I had raised a child who strayed from what I view the truth to be. I am having enough trouble coming to grips with the fact that my sister is a democrat, and that isn’t even something that is that important in the grand scheme of things.

Anyway, my parents said that they would treat me like an adult and respect my decision, so I am grateful for that fact. They said that things would change between us because there would now be parts of my life that they could not be a part of and they could never support a marriage to a Mormon because of the reprecusions this would have on their grandchildren. I guess I can see where they are coming from. I mean honestly, it kind of scares me. If I marry a Mormon (which, by joining the Church and believing in this, I don’t see why I wouldn’t) then I would be getting married in the Temple. By getting married in the temple, I would be getting married in a ceremony that no one I am related to could attend. And even though I am not dating anyone and there is no marriage in the foreseeable future, it is still something said to contemplate. Honestly, I don’t think my family would stand outside the temple waiting, or attend the reception.

Anyway, since telling them, things haven’t really changed between us. We just don’t talk about it at all. My friend suggested a book that I should give my parents to read, and after reading it myself, I will see if it is something that would help. My next real obsticle is telling my grandfather. He wrote in a letter to my mother, which she showed me, that he is really looking forward to attending church with me. I do not relish telling him that I will not be attending his baptist church because I am going to the LDS church.

My next question is should I attend the YSA ward (I am 22 and single and unmarried) or should I attend the regular assigned ward? They both meet at the same building, just at two different times.

I am excited to get baptized. My guess is that it will happen in about three weeks, but I haven’t talked to the missionaries yet so I don’t know. I get back to California on Friday (my Dad and I leave the east to drive there tomorrow at 4 am). Then my dad leaves on Monday. So on Monday or Tuesday, I will call in mission president in North Carolina (as per his request) and have a conversation with him. The sister missionaries told me that I most likely wouldn’t have to repeat the lessons because the mission president said he would call the one in California and talk to him about me so they know my story and everything. I hope this means I can get baptized soon!

Well, I need to go to bed because I have to get up in a few hours 😦

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Assignment Complete

I would like to start this update by saying that I HAVE COMPLETED MY WEEKLY ASSIGNMENT!!!!!!!!!!  I will take a moment and explain. This week, the Sister Missionaries challenged me to tell someone, even if it is just the blogger I found online, about my decision to convert to the LDS church. Now, I had already told the blogger, and I have a couple of Mormon friends from California that I have told and they have been walking right along side of me throughout the journey (figuratively of course). So I told my best friend from college. Of course, when I was telling her, the internet kept going off and on so all I managed to get out was “I have decided to get baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” and then receive her message “What? Why would you do that? What are you thinking?” before the internet cut off. She wrote on my facebook wall that we need to talk asap, but I have not had the time to write her back (mental note to self – DO THAT!) Anyway, as if that is not enough, I felt led by the Holy Spirit to tell my 17 year old sister tonight. And let me tell you that I was terrified! I started out by telling her that I had a secret and asked if she wanted to know. She said, only if you want to tell me. So I said I was going to do something that was going to make everyone in the family upset and she said that she thought that she knew what it was. I asked her if she thought I would be going to hell, and she said that she has always believed that if you believe the essentials (i.e. The Bible, Jesus, etc) that you will be saved otherwise there is a problem with so many denominations. I told her that I still believe in the Bible and that Jesus died for my sins and is the son of God. I told her that my biggest worry is that I will be iced out by our family and she told me that no matter what I do, she will always love me the same and look up to me the same and she would never ice me out. I felt such a sense of peace and relief knowing I would not altogether be abandoned by my family. I told her that I just hoped she knew that I had not changed and that I would always love her and she said she knew that. I then told her that my mom and said that when I first started investigating the church, I had upset her so much that she had gone into depression. She told me that that was my mother blowing things out of proportion and that she was actually upset over some boy drama and not because of me and where I go to church. I made her promise that if she ever had any questions, she would ask me or if she felt this upsetting her, she would talk to me directly.
Overall, I am super excited about the outcome of that conversation. I was so scared, but I should have known that of my whole family, Johanna would be the easiest to tell. I know I can’t tell my 20 year old sister, because she would immediately tell my parents before I can. I have less than two weeks to tell my parents about my decision. I can’t even tell you how much I think about it. Multiple times a day. Sometimes, all day long I just think about my decision, even if it is in the just in the back of my mind, it is always there. Since emailing with the Sister Missionaries, I have come to terms with the idea that I cannot know everything and I cannot know why some things are how God made them, no matter how much I want to know (i.e. Missouri and Zion/Garden of Eden). There will probably always be a part of my mind that wonders about it, but I have come to the conclusion that I cannot know the answers to everything and that if God wants me to know why something is as it is, He will reveal the answer. I have decided to take the revelations from the prophets on faith that they are truly appointed from God and that God has revealed to them these things. This is something that I know I will probably continue to struggle with, but I know that if I pray about it, God will help me not get caught up on the little things and just focus on the big things. He will help me work through my little hang ups and focus on my testimony about the truth and what I know is the truth.
The other day my friend, Megan, sent me a message responding to some of my hang ups about the Garden of Eden. This is what she said:
“You’ve got a strong testimony. I just read about the foundations of testimony recently, and the five most important things are: Knowing God lives, that Jesus is His Son, that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith was the Prophet of the Restoration, and that we have a living prophet on the Earth today. And from what I just read in your post, you do have a testimony of those 5 things. So, even though you do have some doubts, you have a strong foundation to stick to.

I remember when I was getting ready to get married, Satan was working so hard against me. I could feel it– and I didn’t like it. But, what I figured was that I was getting ready to do something righteous (get married in the temple for time and all eternity and start a family). And so that was why (I think) Satan was working so hard against me. He was trying to stop me from doing something the God wanted me to do. So maybe, that is why you are having so many doubts now. Satan is trying to stop you from doing something God wants you to do.

I was also thinking this… Satan knows that your family is very important to you. And maybe he will try to use that knowledge to get to you. By making it difficult for you to talk to your mom and putting this barrier between you and your family, he is casting stronger doubts in your mind. Maybe its a way for him to make you think that it would just be easier to forget about being baptized and not worry about hurting anyone.”

 

So I have been focusing a lot on what she has said. I do have a strong testimony and I do believe that God lives, Jesus is His Son, the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that we have a living prophet on Earth today.  I am determined to focus more on this and less on silly things like where the Garden of Eden was, because, as the Sister Missionaries have told me, will it really make that huge of a difference to what I believe is the truth if it was in Missouri or in Ethiopia? All I know is that I will keep on praying to God that He will strengthen my testimony and make me stronger in my faith. Also, to anyone reading this, if you could add me to your prayers as I prepare to tell my parents sometime in these next two weeks about my decision, I would really appreciate the prayers and support.

Major Struggles

One of the things that I have struggled with the most in my journey into Mormonism is the notion that The Book of Mormon is more accurate than the Bible. I have been raised to believe that the Bible is wholey divinely inspired and that nothing has been added or taken away. So to now not only have The Book of Mormon and The Pearl of Great Price and The Doctrines and Covenants is somewhat hard for me. I love the things they teach. I do believe that they make me a better person, but it is hard for me to look at The Book of Mormon and say that it is more accurate than the Bible. The reason this came up recently, and hence is now a blog post, is that I wrote to the missionaries and asked them about why a book in first or second Nephi was pretty much an exact of the chapter in Isaiah except that baptism was mentioned as a requirement in the Book of Mormon, but not in The Bible. The reply I got was to remind me that some things in the Bible had been changed as it was handed down from generation to generation. In some ways, this makes sense to me. But in other ways, it is hard for me to accept. This is something that I am praying about and working about.

Another issue that I have really been struggling with is the revelation that the Garden of Eden was in Missiouri. Genesis 2:10-14 describes the location of the Garden of Eden. It says that it is at the headwaters of the Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates. We know that the Pishon has never been identified properly. The Gihon is said to circle the land of Cush, which is suppose to be Ethiopia. The Euphrates runs through Turkey, Iraq, and Syria. The Tigris went through Turkey and Iraq. None of this is even remotely close to Missiouri, even during the time of Pangea. So how is this suppose to be? There is just so much about the Garden of Eden being in Ethiopia or in that general area that it is very hard for me to accept the concept that it is in Missiouri and that Zion will be rebuilt in Missiouri.

Matthew 7:15-20 talks about being wary of false prophets. I came across a pray my mother has written down and it is a major concern of hers that I am falling prey to a false prophet. But I was reading the passage and it talks about knowing a bad tree because it cannot bare good fruit. I know that in every faith there a a few rotten bananas that aren’t really saved but fake it or whatever. But there are a lot of great people in the LDS church. There are the sister missionaries and my best friends from California and their families as well as the many families I met while attending the ward in North Carolina. There are far to0 many “good fruit” for me to say that it is a bad tree. So I don’t think that Joseph Smith is a false prophet.

I have been playing the devil’s advocate in my head a little bit and thinking about things. I have thought about what if my parents are right and Joseph Smith was nothing but a fraud that managed to seduce millions of people (eventually) into following him and his made up religion. What if I die and it turns out my parents were right and I was wrong. But even then, I believe that the Saints will be saved. John 3:16 says “whosoever believes in Him shall not perish…” and the Saints do believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He died for our sins. I know that this might sound like I am taking the “safe route” playing both sides of the fence, or whatever, but that is not it at all. I do believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I do believe that The Book of Mormon is another Testament of Jesus Christ. I do believe that Jesus Christ appeared in America, and in fact, all over the world upon his resurrection. I believe in the Plan of Salvation. I believe that we have a living prophet right now, through which revelation can be received and given to all those who choose to listen and believe. I believe that I have to get baptized so that I can receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost and that is something that I am longing for.

So what are these doubts that are constantly oppressing me? Why is it that I can’t talk to my mother about it right now and tell her that I want to be baptized into the LDS church? Why do I lie awake at night wondering if I am going to make the most colossal mistake of my life, whichever way I go? Why do I pray and pray for God to reveal the truth about where to go and what is the true church and yet feel like I have received no answer to my questions? I want to feel like I have received an answer.

SCRIPTURE READING UPDATE: (to be at the bottom of all my updates so as to keep me accountable)
Old Testament: Genesis 1-15
New Testament: Matthew 1-7
Book of Mormon: 1 Nephi 1 – 2 Nephi 23
Doctrines and Covenants: 1-10
Pearl of Great Price: nothing yet

I guess to start off, I should probably introduce myself. Afterall, I am not really anonymous. My name is Kate and I am 22 years old. I was raised in a Protestant household as a missionary kid. I don’t have a problem with what my parents believe and I have a lot of respect for what they do and for all they have given up in their life to do what they do. But for me, I have always felt like there is more. I have always had questions that have never been answered.

Before my family moved to Africa, we lived in a predominantly Mormon town in Northern California. All of my friends were Mormon and I had always admired there dedication to their faith, though I knew nothing  about it. All I knew is what my family told me, and it wasn’t pretty. I was told the the Mormons were a part of a cult because of the secret things they do in their temples and the secret “magic” underwear they wear. I was told that they don’t really believe in Jesus and that their God is not the same God as our God.

For years, I was led to believe a bunch of lies about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I do not think that my parents meant to deceive me on purpose… I think they are just ignorant as to the truths about the LDS Church.

At the beginning of October, I was in between moves. I had just graduated from University and moved all across the country to North Carolina. I had attended the local church of my families denomination and was very disappointed by the lack of , well, anything there. There were very few people in the church, but worse than that, there was no sense of community and no welcome. I went and sat in the back and was never approached at all or greeted by anyone. It was incredible lonely and inside of me, I knew that I could not continue at this church. I spent a couple of weeks lying about attending church, but actually going to Borders instead until I finally decided to take a leap of faith and go to the Mormon church. I had always been curious and now I was determined to find out what it was all about. I went to Mormon.org and used the ward locator and typed in my address and found out which was my assigned ward.

As a side note, I should probably mention that I have spent years trying to convince myself that everything the LDS church teaches/believes in false. I researched them to great degrees so I knew a lot of what to expect before I went to church that morning. I knew about assigned wards and stakes, etc.

That first morning, I went in very nervous. I had almost turned around several times on the drive to the church. But in the end, I made it there and took a seat towards the middle of the room. The room was crowded and there were people talking to each other and children playing around. It was so alive, and that was the first thing that had struck me. Of the several churches I had gone to of my families denomination, they were so dead… lifeless with few to no families. Just before the service began, the woman in front of me turned around and asked me if I was new to the ward. I said that I was and that I had just moved their from North Carolina. She in turn invited me to dinner at her house where several of her daughters and their families would be joining us. For some reason, in my heart, I felt compelled to accept. As the meeting finished, I had come to realizes that they lady had thought I was an active member who had just changed wards and I felt like I needed to be honest and tell her that this was my second time at an LDS church (the first time was two years previous with a Mormon friend at a Christmas program).

The lady was so gracious and understanding and she asked if I wanted to meet the missionaries. I said that I would and she took me to meet them. The sister missionaries were so nice and excited to meet me. It turned out that I had come into the meetinghouse via a side entrance and so I had missed the sister missionaries went entering. They took me to Sunday School with them and then to Relief Society. At Relief Society, I sat next to another lovely lady who struck up a conversation with me. She also invited me to her house for dinner but I told her that I was already engaged.

After Relief Society, the missionaries asked me how I enjoyed my Sunday and the things that I had learned. I told them that I enjoyed it and that if felt really good and that I would most likely come again the next Sunday. They asked me if I would like to start meeting with them for lessons. I told them that I would but that we could not meet at my place of residence because my aunt and uncle would never allow it and there was a distinct possibility I would be kicked out of the house. The Sister I was talking to at the beginning of Relief Society said that we could meet at her house and it was decided that we would meet on Wednesday.

To shorten up my story (because it is getting long-winded) I met with the missionaries and continued to attend church until November. My baptism date was set and moved twice. However, at the start of November, my living situation became unbearable and my family persuaded me to move back home for three months before I moved back to California. I met with the missionaries and explained the situation. They talked to the mission president, and it was thought that I could get baptized at the end of the week, days before going back to Africa. I was very hesitant with this plan because, although I was fairly confident in my newfound faith, I hadn’t made it known how serious my investigation was to my family.

Just the brief mentions of it to my family had set one of my sisters into depression and another cried any time she thought about me. My father was hardly talking to me and my mother was not sleeping at night. I was told outright that if I converted, I would go to hell because they did not believe in the same God.

I was asked to meet with the mission president so that we could talk about what should be done. I went to his house and met with him and his wife and I poured out my heart and ended up crying. Now anyone who knows me knows that I don’t tend to get that emotional about things. The mission president told me that as I was speaking, he felt like I should go and be able to tell my mother to her face that I was going to baptized into the LDS church. He cautioned me that I needed to remain diligent in my Scripture reading and prayers and to keep to the Words of Wisdom. He then offered me a priesthood blessing.  It was my very first priesthood blessing and I was filled with such a feeling of fullness. He also said that as an extra help, I would be able to contact the missionaries once a week via email.

That was a month and a half ago. And how is the moment of truth… It is the moment I confess how weak I am and how much I wish that I had the blessing of the Holy Ghost with me. I have done my Scripture readings only about a quarter of the time. I pray about half the time. And much of them time I feel a great sense of doubt. I wonder if I am making the right decision and then I realize that I haven’t really made a decision at all anymore. I feel lost in a limbo were there is no real decision made and I don’t know which church to turn to anymore. I have again started praying for God to show me if what I read in the Book of Mormon is true and if not to show me, but to show me if it is so that I can finally make a decision. After an initial two weeks of struggling, I rededicated myself to the Words of Wisdom and have been following them for a month. (FYI – the problem is coffee and tea, not alcohol or drugs or anything else).

Anyway, my hope in creating this job is that I will make more progress. Maybe somebody will find this blog and be able to help me. Maybe I will be able to work through some of my questions. I don’t know how often I will update. Maybe daily, maybe weekly, maybe not even consistently…  I just hope that I will be able to draw closer to my Savior and that HE will guide me to the truth and help me do what I need to do to join the correct and true church.

If you made it this far, thanks so much.