Wednesday, December 22, 2004 

Book of Mormon Stories that my teacher tells to me....

A lot of people think that Salt Lake City is the center of "mormondom" Well its not. Provo is, and thats where I was born. And yes, I am very proud of it. I was born into your average family. My dad worked his tail off so that we could have a "good life". We were never over indulged, we were always just satisfied. My mom ruled with an iron fist. I was not allowed to leave our block till I was 10. She tried imposing a curfew on me I was 25 and living at home. But she never forced religion on us. It was just a way of life. My family is not the perfect mormon family that a lot of people come from. They are just real average. I can tell you the two callings my dad has had in the church over my entire life. One Sunday school presidency (for about 2 years) and the other is Webelos Scout leader, which he has done my entire life, all 32 years of it. Not the glorious calling that a lot of peoples parent have had. My parents are not bad people, they are actually great people. My mom's heart is as big as it comes, and my dad...well if there is a service project going on, you can beat he is there, and you can bet he always made sure I was there. You can always count on him to come through. He taught me how to work, and my mom taught me how to be compassionate. And though I am far from the best I can be, they always insisted that I be the best I can be, and always stood behind me when I wasn't. The one thing they did not force on me was religion. That is something I discovered at a very young age. And it is something that I am still discovering.
Over the years, I come to know that the things I believe in are true. Through certain experiences, and through certain understandings, I know they are true.
I could say all the typical stuff like the hope the church brings, or the message of Jesus Christ, or the peace, but I won't. One of the most simple reasons I am mormon is my family. (if you are not mormon you have to understand that families are a center point of the church). My dad is my best friend, I have been able to work with him at his job since the time that I was 13 till now. I love working with my dad. I love mt. biking with my dad, I love camping and hiking with my dad. I love the fact that when my friend Ed and I came up to his work to go hiking, he took off for a couple of hours to hike with us. And of course I love to ski with him. Not many dads his age ski as good as him. I love sitting on the chairlift and talking with him. I love the way he is like a 10 year old kid when he is with my nieces. I love the fact that absolutely NOTHING is more important to him then his family.
As for my mom, she is amazing, She spends so much time doing things for the neighbors, she visits people who are sick or in the hospital, she sends birthday cards to everyone in the neighborhood. She always has a warm meal for my dad and clean clothes, and never does she spout off about womans lib. She is more then happy to tend to her family. Still to this day I get a plate of food to take home with me, and I get phone calls at 6:30 in the morning telling me there is a wreck on the freeway. So for this love of two wonderful people is one of the reasons I am mormon. I could not bare the thought that at death it would all end. The simple message of the church is that families can be together forever. And this gives me hope, and it gives me reason to be the best person I can be, and gives me reason get up when I have been knocked down, and to throw away the very selfish desires that plague me, and make me want to be more like our Father in Heaven.
And this is where I am at in my life. And I am truely happy.
Merry Christmas to everyone!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004 

Sarah Whenever I Hear Your Name

When I was 16 years old I read the Book of Mormon for the first time. A friend of mine was taking the disscusions in spite of my example, rather than because of it. With all this talk about the Book of Mormon and God and Jospeh Smith going on I figured I might as well know what the heck I was talking about. So I started to read. I trudged through 1 Nephi and was so proud of myself that I'd make it through that I did what any sane person would do... I stopped reading it. My friend continued the discussions and even got baptized. My reading of the Book of Mormon didn't continue with any regularity and I wasn't reading it in any particular order either, just pecking through, hoping to find something that would inspire me to be a better person, to be the best person I could be, to be the person I so believed I was not.

I had never, not once, felt wholey accepted when I was at church. I was fat, I was brown, I was more obnoxious than any teen should be allowed to be. My family life was hell, my freinds seems to be so very with it that I was hopeless. I could not find reasons to survive, I could not come up with a purpose for going on. I waged yet another battle with the crippiling depression I'd suffered from for as long as I could remember. I remember thinking I couldn't make it out of that place. I remember thinking the dark was so much stronger than the light. I remember that terrible, terrible feeling of not being able to move, of being mired down is utter and complete sorrow. It was complete hell. My life, every day, was hell.

One night, after pouring my soul into one of my countless journal entries I picked up my scriptures and flipped through the Book of Mormon. As my eyes scanned the words, not really taking them in, I kept wishing for an answer. I wasn't praying, I wasn't directing my thoughts to God... I was just wishing. Wishing to know how I was ever going to get over the things that had happened, how I would be able to tackle what life surely had in store for me, how I was just going to be able to keep on going.

And then I read it. I read 2 Nephi 1:15 : "For behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell, I have beheald His glory, and am encircled about eternally in the arms of His love."

I sat there on my bedroom floor in a house full of agony in a life that was hell and knew, just KNEW, that there was at least HOPE for redemption. There was HOPE that I would make it out of where I was.

In the decade since that moment I have had to fight tooth and nail to maintain the testimony I have. But I have one... I have one and I KNOW. This isn't about what I belive... this is about what I KNOW.

I know who I am. Sometimes who I am is too much for me, too overwhelming in this earthly existance, but I know nonetheless. I may try (and I have SO tried) to deny it, to make it go away by messing up, to make it seem like something I didn't want... but everytime, EVERY TIME, I think about straying, I think about throwing my hands in the air and forgetting everything I KNOW... in the back of my head I hear the words that brought me back the first time. I hear the promise of redemption. I hear the unconditional love. And I know... I know that it's all true.


Carrie Ann's Deal

Hi. I’m Carrie Ann, and I’m a Mormon. (Hi, Carrie Ann…)

It's funny how in my mind it is SO okay for MY mom to get married at 19 and have 7 children before her 31st birthday, but when that is someone else's story, I am appalled and mildly condescending (“pff…how typically Mormon”). But this is my beginning, I'm number three of seven.

Well, I guess the beginning-beginnings are in the 1800's when various poor farmers from England and indentured servants from Sweden came to America to join some crazy Mormons crossing the planes and what have you. That’s how I ended up in America. I'm solid pioneer stock on both sides. (I can’t separate myself and my life from these people, not in a religious sense, but historically.)

On my dad's side, they are all stake presidents, area authorities, and patriarchs. Not only that, my dad (at age 30), his dad, and his brother were all mission presidents at the same time (1970's). I couldn't have gotten away from Mormonism if I had tried. And I didn't try very hard to be honest. We'll get into the nitty gritty later, but generally speaking, I enjoy being a Mormon.

I decided to serve a mission from 1995-1997, and was called to the Edinburgh, Scotland mission. If you want to know what my mission was like, watch the movie "Trainspotting." Not kidding. I have a lot of funny stories from Scotland that I hope I get to share. Like the time I dropped the “F” bomb in the chapel, behind the Stake President and his wife, in front of my investigator… good times…

I am totally curious about other religions, and have honestly studied them with the intent of trying to find truth out there (I really like Judaism - I am a boundary-needing sort of person, but you can’t beat those Hindus for good storytelling). I am probably a little more liberal than most members of my family or my neighbors, but my choices in life have made me so.

I did grow up in "the mission field" (a curious phrase), so that had A LOT to do with personal choices etc. as a young person. I was exposed to everything teenager-dom had to offer. Most of it I found totally unappealing (especially alcohol poisoning and puking black stuff into the shower at the mock UN). The “worst” I ever behaved, religiously speaking, was as a returned missionary at BYU. What does that say about me? Hmmm…

But I do credit my personal happy existence to following “the code” of Mormonism. I KNOW that without it I would be a crack whore. Fo rizzle. But I feel like I have figured out my place in it all, the universe I mean. I don’t have all the answers, by any means!, but that doesn’t bother me, either. And I hate to say it sometimes because it is SO personal and we as Mormon hear it day in and day out, but I KNOW I have a Father in Heaven. Personally, I know this. I totally understand how one person can feel so strongly about this, and another person cannot because they just don’t. It is the great mystery, but that’s why we’re writing this together, isn’t it? To kind of figure it out?


Monday, December 20, 2004 

Hello, my name is Rebecca and I am atheist.

Atheist, I know what you are thinking. “Wow!” “Wait!” “That is really strong… you mean agnostic.” Don’t worry even my friends that aren’t Mormon say this to me. One of my best friends, Yvonne, always stops me and in her, “Come on Rebecca” voice says, “No, you believe that there is something more out there. I know you do. Hello, of course there is.” And my favorite of all, “Don’t be silly, of course there is a God.” Silly is not what I am trying to be, avoiding hypocrisy is my goal. One of the partners at my work always tells me, “One day you are going to be Relief Society President, I can see it now… and you’ll be great at it… and when you are I am going to call you up and say ‘I told you so’.” He is Catholic and if he is right, so be it, but for now I am not and I don’t have any prospects, or thoughts or desires. If I end up there… that is fine too.

I have nothing against being Mormon, nothing at all… I would never allow any of my siblings to leave the Church, not one of them, or my parents, or most of my friends. I would be first in line to march right up to them and set them on the straight and narrow.

Here is my deal… If I was going to believe in God I would believe in my parents God, in the God that my entire family believes in, in the God that draws them all together and tells them they are going to live together forever as a family. I would believe in this God that makes my siblings, parents and nieces and nephews strive to do the right thing and remain pure and are happy and wonderful and perfect. (Yes, I recognize that I have simplified). This would be my God. But it isn’t so I am atheist. I believe when I die I become part of the earth and that is all.

At first I wrote a big long post about how I got to this point. I had the entire thing broken down into a timeline… at 5 I did this, at 14 this, at 16 this and so on… and in the end discovered it was a pretty simple step that took me from believing to non-belief. The rest, the timeline, was what convoluted the process with a lot of guilt and worry for others feelings and eventual hatred for an organization that never wronged me and then a return to seeing the goodness in it… but really that was just the process of dealing with no longer being a part of something that had defined my youth, my moral development, my community, my life, who I am.

The truth is I am not a practicing Mormon for the simple reason that the only reason why I practiced Mormonism is because I did. I did it because I did. I did it because every body else did. I did it because I was told I was supposed to. I did it because that is what good girls did. I did it because that was what many, not all, popular girls did. I did it because I liked my friends that did. I did it because my mother’s womb was Mormon. I did it because my dad is smart and he is a convert, so he must be right. I did it because it was easy… I promise being LDS in Provo, Utah is a lot easier then not being LDS. I NEVER did it because I knew.

So if you ask me why I am not a practicing Mormon my answer is just as simple. I am not because I am not. I am not because I am not going to live on borrowed faith. I am not because I am happier when I am not. I am not because, very simply I AM NOT. I didn’t find the answer I needed and I am not going to sit back until it finally comes. To me, for me, it is worse to do it simply to do it, than not to at all.

The funniest for me is how many people, Mormon or ‘Not’ tell me that they know I will return one day. Why would they say this? I think about this often and I think it has to do with the fact that I smile a lot, that I love my family more than anything in the world, that I love life and that I try to live it to its fullest. It is my demeanor that makes people think that I will return to God, which makes me believe that they believe that you must be God loving to have this demeanor. Possibly, but possibly not!!

My point? I was raised with a certain set of values, golden rule type stuff, understanding of community, especially family, understanding of right and wrong, etc., not uniquely Mormon, not uniquely associated with God. Goodness and happiness can exist with out believing in God and I believe to be a testament to this theory.

I may be wrong… all wrong…

But I have much love and respect for all of the individuals that I know that are religious and I am grateful that their respect for my choices is prevalent in our relationships.

btw... getting this in before Monday came to a close was a task... and be it known I only rushed for Fromage... possibly our only outside visitor so far... Still, After The New Year Is The Starting Date... All of this just be fun for us right now...

Saturday, December 18, 2004 

Kaycee's Choice

I was baptized on my 8th birthday. I chose the earliest possible moment I could to become a member of the LDS faith. Upon reflection, this had more to do with my impatience than my faith.

For the most part, I was a good Mormon girl. I didn't cuss, didn't drink caffine, and I tried to read the scriptures every night. I got the necklace with the girl on it proving that I worked hard at being a good Mormon girl. I went to BYU for four and a half years and had a job offer (not in teaching, my chosen field), but I decided to move home so that I could become a teacher.

When I moved home, I met with the stake president and told him that I was worried because so many of my single friends in the area became inactive. So... he made me the Stake Young Single Adult Rep. I held that calling for a little over a year. I was also the Regional Council Secretary.

I put a ton of time and effort into my callings, but I still felt dissatisfied with things, constantly.

Then I met the man to whom I am now engaged. He was not a church member and didn't understand a lot of the things Mormons did and believed in. We had a lot of conversations about this and his side of the story always made more logical sense than mine. Eventually, I lost faith, asked to be released from my callings and broke my mother's heart.

My mom cried a lot when I stopped having faith. Neither my sister nor my brother were active and I was always the "strong" one. (Oddly enough, though, as my faith weakened, my brother's increased and now he has taken the role of the "strong" one.)

My mother told me that I made her sad. My non-member friends were also shocked, amazed, and even dismayed. My member friends... well... I stopped returning their calls after one told me that I made him sad. The thing was that I was happier than I'd been as a member.

When I stopped holding myself up to the impossible standard of perfection that made me miserable, a weight was lifted and I relaxed.

And so, I am agnostic and I have found that there is a great freedom in not knowing. This isn't to say that I live hedonistially, but I do go through life without guilt hanging over my head and eating away at my heart.

Not knowing gives me peace.

Thursday, December 16, 2004 

JP's Story

This is much longer than expected...but my name is JP and this is my story:

I grew up in a very Mormon family. My parents became active in the church when I was very little. Being a part of the church was a HUGE part of me growing up, although, it must be said that with all my extended family (on both sides) The Mormons were the minority. Not that it was a problem it’s just the way it was. My parents (and therefore my 4 siblings and I) were very involved in the church, but they weren’t your “over the top Mormons,” if I can call it that. We drank caffeinated sodas and kool-aid, or whatever. We didn’t do family prayer and scripture reading EVERY night…but still, a very devoted and religious family. My dad’s been in the bishopric several times…but has had more callings with the Young Men and Scouting (with Kaycee’s dad, even) for as long as I can remember. My mom also has held several callings and still continues to do so. I was very involved in Young Women’s, received my Young Womanhood Recognition…the whole nine yards. That’s just the kind of family we are.

Or the kind of family we were.

I wonder if my parents are looked on, by other members, as those “wonderful ward members” and just can’t figure out how they possibly got the “Inactive” sinner and black sheep of the family daughter. I know they do. I used to wonder those things when I was active in the church. You see, when I was 18 I started dating and fell in love with a “non-member” and ended up getting pregnant AND THEN married.

I had brought shame to the family. (Insert Godfather-type voice here.)

I’m not sure if I can portray the emotional fall-out of going from the epitome of “Good Little Mormon Girl” to “The Sinner that Had S-E-X” all at 18. I was the child in my family that never did anything wrong. I got good grades and went through high school with FABULOUS Mormon friends…so I never got in any trouble. I was the girl all the mothers wanted their sons to marry. I’m not saying this to boast, I’m guess I’m trying to explain how “Goodly Mormon” I was.

However, I probably don’t need to explain the hurtful things that went down during that time. I just don’t need to get into it. I kept going to church throughout all my pregnancy, but found it very hard once Paige was born. Coming from two very different religious backgrounds, Hubby and I had SO much to deal with during this time...and family came first. And while my parents would have loved for Hubby to convert and be baptized, that just didn’t happen. I suppose that I could’ve continued going to church without him…and maybe there are you that think I’m weak for not doing so. I’m okay with that. Because I know it wasn’t a weak decision. I did what I did for my family…my new little family that had such a hard start. I still don’t go to church, seven years later…and until further notice that’s how it will stay. Hubby and I are spiritual/religious with our girls, but without the actual “religion” part. And I guess that’s the best way to tell my story.

This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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