Why I believe

I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I’ve been a member since I was baptized at eight. I grew up in Utah and currently live in Arizona. I’ve experienced Mormon culture as I’ve participated in church. I want to talk about the  challenges and benefits I’ve experienced as a member.

Jesus Christ and Thomas
Jesus Christ and Thomas

Being a Mormon is challenging. There are plenty of doctrines and commandments to try to follow. I believe God expects me to continually improve. I not only do my best, I also acknowledge that my own efforts will never be enough. Only Jesus Christ has the power to overcome my human nature, so I must develop a relationship with him and learn how to connect with his limitless power. Sometimes I get bogged down in my “to-do’s” and feel distanced from God. Maybe I don’t know if what I’m accomplishing is really enough to qualify as my best effort and I wonder if I’ll still be good enough. I keep finding pride in myself and sometimes despair of my ability to be fixed. Some of the hardest times are challenges that seem to occur for no reason. I struggle to get through periods where I feel less enlightened, less connected to God, and less inspired. It’s hard to keep up the effort when my reasons to continue are based on trust and past experiences.

I may seem like a faithful Mormon, but I still struggle with the basics in the life I’ve chosen. I have a beautiful family of five children and a loving husband, which is my life’s dream. Despite this, I regularly feel overwhelmed, unable to keep up with the demands of caring for my family, including housework. Part of me still puts too much emphasis on outward appearances of success. If I seem to be accomplishing what I am asked I get asked to do more. I want to be able to accomplish more, but maybe I still struggle with doing what I’m working on now. I don’t feel like I regularly receive answers to my prayers, more often I go along and feel okay about my direction and once in awhile (if I pay attention) notice blessings along the way. I do feel the spirit of God in my home regularly, which is my most tangible connection to God. I would love to experience the peace and joy the gospel promises, but often I find myself reminding myself that life is mostly enduring.

One challenge of church membership I want to talk about is interacting with other members. The Mormon church welcomes anyone to follow the steps of faith, repentance, and baptism. Because all are invited, inevitably the members are anywhere on the road of discipleship. In the church, I’ve met some of the nicest people of my life. I see people that I admire and would like to emulate. But most of the members are regular people, sometimes shallow, easily caught up in appearances, with a tendency to gossip. Most members are so busy living our lives that actual deep friendships are rare. I tend to keep my own barriers to prevent a relationship being able to hurt me, which means if someone says or does something that hurts my feelings, I can brush it off. If I serve and expect something in return, I will probably be disappointed. When I am struggling, I wish there were more people out there to help lift me. Yet, the road of discipleship has always been lonely. It is not the yellow brick road with friends by your side. Since everyone is at a different place along their own narrow path, your challenges are usually yours to face alone.

So far, when my faith has ebbed and I feel unable to go on, there is still a conviction underneath that swells up again and carries me forward. I may not understand everything about my life direction, but any alternative I pursue doesn’t bring me the peace I seek.

PhoenixTempleStormy

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is unique. It claims things like being the only authorized church representing Jesus Christ on the earth, Divine inspiration and revelations, living prophets, angelic reception of priesthood authority, the imminent return of Jesus Christ, etc. The doctrines of the church are both fantastic and incredible, unbelievable to some and inspiring to others. For example, the church teaches that families are eternal. Our very concept of God is different, because we believe God is our literal Father and that we can someday live with God and be fathers and mothers in His extended family. Essentially, we believe in a God who is part of a relationship that connects Him eternally with us.

The demands and fantastic doctrines of the Mormon church can be hard to accept, yet they are the element that draws me in. Who would be so audacious as to say they were the only ones with authority to administer a church in Jesus’ name? Only a church who had been told so by God. Why would a church demand so much? Jesus said, “be ye therefore perfect.” Only God would. We struggle to realize happy family relationships, yet cling to the promise that happy families and healed relationships are one of the rewards of heaven. The unique ordinances of baptism and temples, as well as the doctrine of eternal families isn’t offered anywhere else. I don’t want to get into apologetics, and obviously there are lots of opinions about Mormon beliefs from inside and outside of the church. Still, I feel the spirit when I talk about these things, so for me they are true. The scriptures command baptism, and only baptism under proper authority will count. Despite the challenging nature of my beliefs, I believe that the rewards of this lifestyle more than surpass the demands. My own personal spiritual experiences have been positive, even sometimes overwhelming. To me, that is real.

Today I had a prayer answered. I have been praying to see how miracles still occur in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At our stake conference, Elder Gay shared his testimony that Jesus Christ lives and really directs this church. He shared an experience where he gave a blessing to a young man who had been in a motocross accident and was paralyzed from the waist down. Three weeks after the blessing, the young man was able to walk. He shared a few other experiences, all of which felt powerful to me and directly answered my recent request. No, I didn’t see a miracle. I may not be worthy of that. I hope to be someday. But I know that the leaders of the church are good enough to ask for miracles and see them happen.

One obvious benefit I see from living the gospel is happy children. the strictness of living a life according to the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ help me provide my children a happy childhood and values that lead to success. while I don’t personally feel happy every day, I have a two year old who daily says, “I love you mommy. You are the best mommy.” My 13 month old still thinks his world revolves around me. I can pick him up and hold him close and just soak in his sweetness. My other children are cute and obnoxious by turns, as children usually are, so sometimes I enjoy being with them and other times I can’t stand them any more and ask my husband to take over. My own parents were able to give me a happy childhood despite their own shortcomings, which I treasure. So while I don’t feel happy all the time, when I look back over the past, my life has been happy. I don’t have regrets and there are lots of positive memories. Following the gospel has allowed me to experience that happiness.

I love that God knows me better than I know myself, that He sees where I am, and plans for my success despite my imperfections. I love the principles that have changed the direction of my life. I love the bridge between the divine and the messy reality of human existence. I love Jesus Christ, whose message is eternally of hope. Hope for all mankind. Hope for those who are lost, or struggling, or trying and failing. Or seem good outside but still need so much help inside. I love the church despite all of the imperfections of the real people I worship with on Sunday. I believe The Church of Jesus Christ is what it claims: the only church directed by Jesus Christ and representing Him on the earth.

I’ve been inspired by Nikki’s thoughts at LDS Woman at the Well. Her words describing God’s love resonate with me (and evidently with thousands of others). I like her honesty. She shared this, which describes why I am a Mormon even though I find it challenging to live my religion:

“Living the Gospel demands a lot, but living “in the world” I found demands a lot more and it gives a lot less. It has an insatiable appetite with standards that are impossible to meet. Unlike finding completeness in Christ, who came in the fullness of Truth and Grace, the world offers us nothing.”

I am Mormon even though my faith has caused me to do the things I find hardest in my life. And I plan to continue on, working to overcome those things that challenge me with the help of Jesus Christ.

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Backpacking Trip

Last week I took a four day backpacking friends with some friends. My husband strongly encouraged me to go, which surprised me, since he’s so busy right now. I wasn’t sure about leaving my family, but I went.

Pack and boots
Pack and boots

***More photos to come. Waiting on my friends since I didn’t bring a camera.***

Our group started out with five women, three over fifty years in age. None of them but me had ever backpacked before. We drove to a trail head and started out; after half a mile Bonnie’s 60 pound pack wasn’t working so well. Plus our trail wasn’t taking us where we wanted to go, and the friend with the detailed topo maps had decided not to come the night before. So I hiked back to the truck and drove around to where the ladies were resting. We drove back the dirt road to the ranger station, where we picked up a map. Then we re-read our trail head description and found the right starting point. Is it amazing that we can spend six months planning to go somewhere but forget to figure out exactly where until we’re there?

We started hiking again. This time we did much better. We took a slow pace and took breaks when the trail went up hill to allow everyone to catch their breath. It was already afternoon, so we had to hike steadily until evening to make it to our planned camping spot. It rained on us during the afternoon for about half an hour. That would have been no problem, except I had convinced everyone to leave their rain gear behind to save weight because the forecast said only 10% chance of rain. Really, we only got damp and none of our gear got wet, so we managed fine. We made it to our stopping point and set up camp. By the time everyone had set up their tents, cooked dinner, and filtered water, they were ready for bed. Frogs and an owl serenaded us during the night.

Tuesday morning we woke with the sun. Those of us that had slept, that is. When backpacking there is no option but to sleep on the ground. Even with a pad, this isn’t comfortable and takes a few nights to get used to. The dew covered our tents, so we waited for them to dry before packing up.

Bonnie asked to go home. Logistically it didn’t work to walk her back to the truck without all of us quitting so she said she’d keep going. We repacked her pack, taking all of the heavy items out and giving them to her granddaughter to carry. We gave her moleskin for her blisters and she borrowed my sandals. Then we started out. First thing we had to climb out of the canyon, but as we continued on we kept a steady pace. While looking at the map, I noticed our trail joined the next trail within 0.1 mile of a forest road. “Bonnie,” I said, “if we hike to the road and get cell reception enough to call your husband, you can get a ride home.” She liked that idea. So we hiked the couple of miles to the road, texted for a ride, and got a reply that he could come. Then we ate lunch together, brought their gear to the road, and left Bonnie and her granddaughter to wait. It was sad to have them stop, but I would rather let them leave than push them beyond their physical capacity. So far, blisters were the only injury.

Only halfway to our destination, we continued hiking. The afternoon was warm, and sweat soaked our shirts. The roasted pine needles released fragrance with each step. The trail was easy to follow, crossing four small canyons. With encouragement, we reached our next camp, a spring. We had more daylight left than the previous day to set up camp, eat, and filter water. We all took sponge baths using water from the creek below the spring. I lit a small camp fire and stayed up until the stars came out, but my two companions went to bed. I enjoyed the solitude of being alone in the wild. I heard elk calling across the canyon. I thought about how I saw God’s hand everywhere around me.

Our third day we had half as many miles to go. We hiked along a creek through a sunny canyon, with tall grasses and wildflowers. To our surprise we arrived at a cabin by noon. It wasn’t on the map, but the spring next to it was our planned stopping point. My friends took naps in the scenic meadow. I hiked up a side canyon and spend a few hours reading and thinking. We had finally adjusted to the slow pace and peaceful surroundings. Backpacking is a timeless occupation. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 10 or 2. There are no deadlines, only the rough plan to hike until you arrive at a certain point, which is negotiable. You hike, eat, rest, as your body needs and spend the rest of your energy soaking up the beauty of nature.

We enjoyed a refreshing night of sleep. Then after leisurely eating and packing up our gear, we hit the trail one last time. Before we knew it we saw the familiar point where we had begun our journey. My companions smelled a bit more seasoned than they had begun, but their faces reflected the fulfillment of completing the trek. We hopped in my truck and stopped to eat some burgers before driving the rest of the way home. I dropped off both friends, and just as I tried to pull into my neighborhood, the power steering pump on the truck quit and I had to muscle the wheel to make it the last half mile. Whew!

Life is just like this trip. You can decide what to pack and where you’d like to go, but you have no control over what happens to you along the way. You hope what you brought will be enough for the challenges you’ll face. Your friends can be your greatest assets. When it’s over you look back at all of the memorable challenges and say, “Wow! That was amazing! Let’s go again!”

Payson Utah Temple Open House

Payson_utah_temple
Payson Utah Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Last week I attended the public open house for the Payson Utah Temple. Streams of people surrounded the temple and flowed through the building. I enjoyed joining them for a glimpse of the beautiful building. I won’t go into as much detail as my last experience at the Phoenix Temple open house. The basic tour followed the same format. The flower beds overflowed with perfect spring bulbs. The warm weather made it a great day to walk around the grounds.

Temple-grounds-flower-spring-tulips
A riot of spring color on the temple grounds

I got to hold a charming, squirmy baby through the tour; a tangible reminder of the connection between temples and eternal families. Im-P1out-X72wn39gsdeiThe members in this area will love having a beautiful temple in their community. The exterior reminded me of a courthouse plus a spire. Lots of columns and embellishments. Layered corners. The stained glass gives a lovely splash of color. On the west side of the temple are the words “Holiness to the Lord – The House of the Lord”. As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I am trying to build my life like the temple–into the most beautiful thing it can be. With God’s help, it is possible. Payson-Utah-House-of-the-Lord

Thanksgiving gratitude

Here’s my list of thankful things…

  • Peace
  • Family and the relationships I share with them
  • Prosperity
  • Plenty of food
  • Health
  • Time
  • Sunshine
  • Knowledge
  • Babies
  • Love from others
  • Friends
  • Truth
  • Words of God… scriptures
  • The Holy Spirit that connects me to God
  • Jesus Christ and His infinite atonement

“Ye are eternally indebted to your heavenly Father, to render to him all that you have and are” 

– Mosiah 2:34

Thanksgiving pies

God blesses us daily, and in return asks that we choose to follow Him. Everything we have is part of a plan by our Heavenly Father for us to grow and prove ourselves. He allows us to experience good and bad and asks us to freely choose Him so that we can return to heaven and live forever in happiness.

“If you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants. And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments.” Mosiah 2:20-22