First, let me start by saying that I am in no way trying to convince anybody of anything. I am merely sharing my testimony of my journey to and through the LDS life.
Secondly, I am open to listening and learning of others’ experiences with the LDS church, but I simply ask that you do it in a way that does not “attack” the church, its members or people who disagree with the church. I simply created this blog to document my story and open the microphone for others to share theirs. I’d like to keep it as peaceful as possible. I think there’s a lot to learn from each other, even in our differences.
Now, let me tell you a little background about me and what originally brought me to the LDS church. I grew up in a small town in the Midwest where the community had a bad reputation for being racist and narrow-minded. We were community that enjoyed degrading people who were “different,” whether that be culturally, racially, sexually or whatever. If you were “different,” you became a victim. Unfortunately for me, I was “different.” The community happened to be predominantly white. I’m Asian, adopted from South Korea, so my parents are white (and not racist!). I have an older brother, also Asian. He fit in great. He was sociable, funny and smart – all the qualities you need to fit in new environments. Unlike me, who was socially awkward and painfully introverted. Anyway, my mom grew up Baptist, but converted to Presbyterian when she married my dad. I only have vague memories of my time in the Presbyterian church (as I only attended church services until about the second grade, which I later found was a result of a political divide in the community that my parents disagreed with). I could probably tell you more vivid memories of my time spent at bible studies with my friends at the Methodist church or the things I learned from my Catholic friends and their families than anything I learned or know about the Presbyterian church.
I don’t hold this against my parents by any means. They made their decisions and as a result, allowed me to make my own and establish my own beliefs. Within my community, I learned of just a small handful of Mormons existed/resided there. The rest were some form of Christianity (Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, etc.) or Catholic. The things I heard throughout my time in the community about Mormons created a very negative image.
In my sophomore year of college, I took an anthropology class that was titled, “Comparative Religions,” which delved into the five world religions: Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism. As a requirement of the class, we were to attend a church/religious service of a religion different than the one we believed in. I wanted to attend a synagogue (Judaism) and temple (Buddhist). I quickly came to believe in Judaism simply on the belief that Jesus was not the son of God (founded on the belief that God is merely a “spiritual being”). I saw they didn’t eat pork. Great, I don’t like pork anyway. Upon my decision to pursue a Jewish lifestyle, my family mocked me. I’m talking, they made menorah and the star of David cookies for Christmas, teased that I wasn’t getting any presents for Christmas since Jewish people don’t celebrate Christmas, etc. While I don’t think they meant it maliciously, it deeply affected my relationship with God and created a rift between me and the things I chose to share with my family. Again, my family is my rock – they’re all incredible people whom I love unconditionally, I’m simply reiterating that this is just my perception of my experience.
I eventually abandoned my belief in Judaism and began wandering again in search for any answers. I simply wanted a “home” in religion. I always believed in God, but I didn’t grow up with an understanding or having ever read the Bible (and still haven’t to this day – though I know specific excerpts), which made it excruciating as a believer of God and Jesus Christ with no regard with what to make of those beliefs and nobody to guide me (except our Heavenly Father, of course). I tried to live my life in a Buddhist “light” – I have to admit that I’ve never truly viewed Buddhism as a true religion, but more as a “way of life,” which I know some may argue is one in the same or go hand-in-hand.
About two years ago, I had been online dating and came across a man I truly enjoyed talking to. There was something so refreshingly genuine about him that made me feel comfortable opening up to him about anything and everything. On our second date, we approached the subject of religion. He saw that on my dating profile I neglected to fill out the “Religion” section and wanted to know what my beliefs were – if I had any at all. I told him about my parents’ backgrounds, my time exploring Judaism and my choice to apply Buddhist principles to my life to merely preserve my actual (and minimal) religious beliefs: that God and Jesus Christ exist.
I then turned the table and asked him what his beliefs were. He told me that he was raised Catholic, but converted to LDS. I was both intrigued and terrified. I only had the negative (and later found to be incredibly skewed) perception of the LDS church, so ultimately, I was terrified that he would have these crazy, unrealistic principles and that he’d tried to force me into baptism or tell me that I’m going to Hell. But he was actually very receptive to my seemingly novice approach to religion. He understood my confusion and desire to “belong.” We didn’t really delve into it much more than establishing the basics (“Ok, you’re Mormon. I’m not baptized and simply believe that God and Jesus Christ exist. Ok, good to know…moving on now…” type of conversation).
Over the next couple of months that we dated, I began asking questions. As he continued providing me answers, I began formulating questions in response to his answers. Finally, he encouraged me to reach out to missionaries.
“What are missionaries?” I asked him.
“Have you ever seen guys wearing dress pants, a white button down and tie riding bikes?” He asked in return.
“Those are missionaries. They go around teaching the gospel to others. They can answer any and all questions you have regarding the LDS church.”
I never knew those were missionaries! I went to Mormon.org to schedule a meeting with missionaries.*
*If you’re interested in learning more about the LDS church and would like to meet with a missionary, there’s one thing you should know (that I’m glad my boyfriend informed me of before meeting with them): a male missionary is referred to as “Elder [Last Name]” and a female missionary is referred to as “Sister [Last Name].” While I’m sure they will tell you their first name if you asked, calling them by Elder/Sister [Last Name] is a matter of respect (or at least that’s what I gathered from it).