Thursday, October 23, 2014

Go in Peace

As long as I have been alive, I have identified as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It’s shaped me into the person I am today, and it’s been the foundation for everything I’ve ever done in one way or another.  Throughout my years in the Primary, Young Women’s, and Relief Society organizations, I learned to identify myself as a child of God.  I learned that I was a literal daughter of God, and that His Son, Jesus Christ, my elder brother, died for my sins as long as I would try my very hardest to repent, follow Him, and endure to the end.  I learned that the Godhead was composed of three distinct and separate beings- the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.  I was taught that if I read the Book of Mormon and listened to the Holy Ghost, which I would feel both in my mind and in my heart, I would know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and thereby, I would know that everything I had been taught by the living prophets was truth.  

A great deal of importance was placed on these testimonies from the Holy Ghost, the Great Testifier.  The Holy Ghost is capable of testifying of truth.  Telling you exactly where you should go and what you should do.  When you read the Book of Mormon.  When you attend a testimony meeting.  When you hear a prophet speak. When you witness the beauty of the Earth, as created by God.  When you learn something new, the Holy Ghost is always there to confirm its truthfulness.  

In the Summer of 2012, I found myself on a family vacation to Washington DC.  One evening, we found ourselves on the temple grounds of the Washington DC LDS temple, and I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness.  I walked a little way away from my family, and I began to pray.  Without any intervention from me, the sudden, urgent idea came into my mind, “It is no longer right for you to continue living.” As the tears began to flow down my cheeks, I felt the distinctive feeling that I’d always recognized as “the spirit,” the feeling that accompanied my prayers about the Book of Mormon, the feeling that lifted and enlightened me each time I sat through General Conference, the feeling that confirmed my decision to marry my husband, the feeling that met me at the births of each of my children.
“...If it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” (D&C 9:8)

This “burning in the bosom” that signified revelation from God for my life had confirmed my suicidal thoughts.   How could this be?  

From that moment, a seed of doubt was planted in my heart.  I knew that God wouldn’t command me to kill myself.  So I carried on anyway, but I knew that the feelings I’d relied on couldn’t always be accurate.

At the end of 2013, I found within myself, a desperate longing to learn more about Christ.  I looked for Him in sacrament meeting.  I sought Him in Relief Society.  I prayed fervently that I might come to know Him better.  I prayed daily.  Hourly.  Sometimes nearly every minute of the day.  I was studying my scriptures.  Begging for a calling.  Serving people around me when I could barely keep myself breathing.  I was working with all my might to throw myself into the gospel, and that is precisely the reason I was so shocked when I found my answer.
A casual study of the New Testament began to reveal the startling truth that the Gospel according to Joseph Smith (and the prophets and apostles who came after him), who professed to speak for God, was strikingly different from the Gospel Jesus Himself taught.

Ezra Taft Benson, speaking as a prophet said, “The revelation to produce and store food may be as essential to our temporal welfare today as boarding the ark was to the people in the days of Noah.” (Prepare for the Days of Tribulation, October 1980)

Jesus said: “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Matthew 6:25, KJV)

Joseph Smith tells us, “ The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.” (D&C 130:22)

Jesus tells us, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24, KJV)

Joseph Smith teaches us that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate beings.  (see above)

Jesus teaches us: “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:30, KJV) This declaration made the Jews reach for their stones to kill him.  For blasphemy.  

Joseph teaches us: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” (AoF #3)

Jesus says, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6, KJV)

Throughout my youth, I’d been sustained by my testimony of Jesus Christ.  These verses in Alma 7 comforted me on a very regular basis.

11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
12 And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.

I believed in Jesus.  I trusted Him.  I wanted to follow Him.  Why then, were the things He taught so different from the teachings of Latter-day prophets?  My heart was broken, and I was lost.

One night, as I stood trembling on the precipice of this great change, I knelt in prayer with tears streaming down my face.  “Father? Which way do I go?  How could the faith that has brought me this far have been false? How can I remain in the church knowing what I know now? How can I deny my testimony of Jesus Christ to bear testimony of modern prophets?” That was when I knew.  The time had come to plunge headfirst into the unknown.  I was terrified and panic-stricken.  Weeks and weeks of tear-stained cheeks and sleepless nights followed.  The more I learned about the restoration (from church-approved sources) the more I knew I could not trust Joseph Smith.  The less I trusted Joseph Smith, the more I leaned on God.  The more light I shone on the doctrines of the restoration, the more discrepancies I found.

One night, I found myself in the car alone.  The radio was on, and I was blissfully tuned-out of my life.  I felt a distinct impression that I should turn off the music and begin to pray.  Now, I’ve never been one to blatantly ignore thoughts and impressions that felt like they were from any sort of higher power, so I did.  I turned off the radio, and for the first time in my entire life, I let myself speak to Jesus.  I thanked Him for His sacrifice.  I asked Him for forgiveness.  I promised Him my life.  In an instant, my entire world changed.  Suddenly my God emerged from his human-shaped box and was bigger than anything I could ever have comprehended.  More powerful. More majestic. More forgiving. More loving than anything my imagination could have conjured.  For just a moment, I felt released from the weight of my life, and was enveloped in a peace like I had never felt before.  My heart was full, my mind was clear, and I encountered the most encompassing feeling of pure love I have ever known.  After a moment of rest in this breathtaking new kind of love, the feeling gave way to an overwhelming sense of love for the people around me.  For my husband, my children, my family, my friends.  I felt so much love, and all I could think of was sharing it with everyone I encountered.  I rushed home, bounded through the door, and could barely contain myself as I grinned and announced to Christopher, “I want to be baptized.”  

When I found myself upon stormy waters, Jesus beckoned me out of the boat and asked me to have the faith to walk on the water. I spent months thinking, “If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole,” (Matt. 9:21 KJV) and in an instant, I was transformed.  Jesus taught that He was the truth.  And the truth has truly set me free.

"Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over." 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written. Thank you for sharing, Adrienne.
<3 Allison