Power of Prayer (No.2): Send Me an Angel

I’ve found myself struggling for the past couple of months with most of the stresses revolving around financial instability that me and my significant other have been experiencing. It just seems like one thing after another. One night, I found myself extremely frustrated and uncertain as to how I could fix the situation. I did the only thing I could think of: ask for God’s guidance.

In my prayer, I specifically asked if He would send me someone, a physical person that could push me and remind me that these hardships are happening for a greater reason that I will soon understand. The next night, I was watching TV after a long day at work. There was a knock at my door. I was home alone and wasn’t expecting anyone, so I was a little wary of answering it. I eventually decided to answer the door and there was Elder Brewer and another elder (that I had previously met once whose name is escaping me at the moment). I’m not sure if they received the message from God, or if they just coincidentally decided to check up on me – although, ever since I’ve begun partaking in the LDS community, I’ve noticed that I don’t really believe that anything is coincidence anymore.

“We just wanted to stop by and check in with you,” Elder Brewer told me. “We haven’t seen you in a while and we just wanted to see how things were going.” I told him how I had been struggling, but that I had been wanting to go back to church. Things had been so chaotic and I just wanted a sense of calm, and I felt that at church, listening to other people’s stories and lessons, and singing hymns and conversing with such a happy, optimistic group of people helped me find that calm. I craved that. But I also felt very… “impure” for lack of better word…I had felt that I had transgressed in a way that made me feel that if I went to church, I would feel unwelcomed, that these transgressions would follow me like a dark cloud. I know that I’m being a little dramatic, but I’ve just felt so guilty lately. About being mad and frustrated. About thinking abominable things about certain people and situations. About why I keep reverting to my old habits. I wanted to change, and I knew (and still do know) that the only way to find that forgiveness was to repent and return to church.

The elders wanted to meet again – since I was home alone and I knew that wasn’t allowed. I told them that I’d try to meet with them before I moved, but I couldn’t make any promises – the only thing I promised was that I’d try to make it back to church (which I have thus done).

After they left, I prayed again. Not for a favor. Not for guidance. Simply to thank God for answering that prayer – for sending one of His many great teachers and worshippers of the gospel.

From an Outside Perspective

People might object to this, but as a soon-to-be convert, I like to seek out the people who both oppose and who left the LDS church. I don’t do it to create my own doubt or to convince myself of reasons to not convert, but rather to understand the changes (for those who left the church) and the long-standing debates (for those who oppose the church). It helps me gain more faith in our Heavenly Father, as well as understand a perspective I either didn’t understand before or never thought of/questioned before. As someone who craves understanding and knowledge, a self-identifying lifelong learner, I seek to understand what I don’t know or comprehend.

I was watching the most recent season of The Real World: Go Big or Go Home. One of the cast members was an ex-Mormon and another was a [what I’d refer to her as] “reformed Mormon.” The ex-Mormon’s name was Chris. He decided to leave the church for two reasons: one was that he identifies as “pansexual” and secondly, he alleges sexual abuse with members of authority. The current LDS member was seemingly uncommitted to the commandments of the church, such that she had sex outside of marriage, sported a non-conservative wardrobe, drank alcohol and was incredibly racist and homophobic. While it can be argued that the LDS Church is “homophobic,” their intentions are rather pure and based solely around the core of their faith, which is that “families are forever.” Ultimately, based on several studies conducted, the church believes that homosexuality breaks the family structure. While I don’t necessarily agree with the entirety of the decisions the church has made, I understand and respect their decisions [and it might be ignorant to admit, but the issue also doesn’t directly effect me].

There was a scene in the show where the ex-Mormon (whom obviously practiced the faith) is calling the current LDS member out on being “un-Mormon like,” and she simply responds:

“I have a relationship with God and I believe The Book of Mormon is true. That’s enough for me.”

My immediate response – though I admit is rather hypocritical, but true nonetheless – was:

“There’s a difference between believing and practicing.”

In any case, it was interesting to watch because though Chris didn’t support the Church anymore, he still defended the faith from someone clearly transgressing and using faith as a shield for her ignorance.

If you’re interested, here is Chris’s speech he gave at his excommunication from the church. And here is an article written by Chris about his experience on The Real World and his decision in leaving the LDS Church.

I oftentimes receive the issue of the LDS Church’s stance on same-sex marriages. I think people misconstrue their intentions of the new policy changes they released (“restricting children of same-sex couples from baptism until they are 18… and no longer lives with a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship and the child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage.”), but even members of the Church have reacted. I can understand all angles including the argument that though this policy change was made out of love and concern for the wellbeing of the child at hand, but it seemingly overlooks the fact that the Church is founded on the belief of building and maintaining a healthy family structure (which is believed that the same-sex relationship breaks that foundation/structure leading to broken families).

“This is about family; this is about love and especially the love of the Savior and how He wants people to be helped and fed and lifted, and that’s the whole motivation that underlies our effort. It’s a matter of being clear; it’s a matter of understanding right and wrong; it’s a matter of a firm policy that doesn’t allow for question or doubt. We think it’s possible and mandatory, incumbent upon us as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, to yield no ground in the matter of love and sympathy and help and brotherhood and serving in doing all we can for anybody; at the same time maintaining the standards He maintained. That was the Savior’s pattern. He always was firm in what was right and wrong. He never excused or winked at sin. He never redefined it. He never changed His mind. It was what it was and is what it is and that’s where we are, but His compassion, of course, was unexcelled and His desire and willingness and proactive efforts to minister, to heal, to bless, to lift, and to bring people toward the path that leads to happiness never ceased.” –Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

It’s hard to remain neutral and to stand behind the faith that Heavenly Father loves each and every one of His children and that the commandments He provides are made for us to follow so that we can live a fulfilling, blessed life. Ironically, there has been a new development in the realm of being Mormon and Gay.

The Power of Prayer (No.1): My Saving Grace

I eventually stopped believing in coincidence. The power of prayer is real and it’s an incredible grace we’re able to receive through His son, Jesus Christ – through the Atonement.

Growing up, I was never the confident, upbeat person I am today – though I know some people will still argue that I still have a darkness that follows me, but I’d like to think that I’ve made great strides forward to a more positive outlook on life. I was bullied, which I blame for a combination of growing up in a dominantly white and racist community, excelling academically and athletically, and staying true to my weird, I-don’t-fit-into-a-specific-clique self. When I was younger, I felt as if I grew up in the shadow of my older brother who was an even more stellar student and athlete than me. My brother and I are quite opposites, though. We’re both social butterflies, but he has a wide network of friends – he’s the type of person that loves to have tons of friends and acquaintances. Me? I like to have a group of five close friends. Sure, there are people that I don’t mind hanging out or talking with, but there aren’t a lot of people I share my past or secrets with.

In any case, my senior year of high school, I was dealing with a lot of anxiety, depression and angst. I liked to point my fingers and just let the rage flow out of me because obviously, someone was to blame and of course, it wasn’t me. (Yes, that was sarcasm). I was accepted into a college about two hours away from my hometown, which for many reasons than not was a good thing.

During my freshman year, my depression sunk in – and being far away from my closest friends was one of the biggest factors in that depression spiraling downward fast. I turned to very destructive behaviors like smoking, excessive exercising and poor nutrition (I lost the “freshman fifteen” instead of gaining it), self-injury (breaking knuckles and cutting) and eventually binge drinking. I wasn’t a very likeable person and I certainly didn’t treat my friends the way they deserved.

The one thing I feel obligated to point out is a common phrase people say to those who are suicidal: “You’re selfish.” While I’d never deny this (it is true, we are selfish), if you’ve never been suicidal or suffered from depression, you’ll never truly understand it – that during that period of time, when we’re so numb to everything and everyone around us, we don’t realize how selfish we’re being – and even if we do realize it, we’re in the mindset that, “hey, if I kill myself, I’d be one less burden,” instead of “hey, if I kill myself, I’m going to inflict pain on the people that truly love and care about me, who want to help and may not know the struggles that I’m facing because I’m too scared or prideful to be vulnerable.”

One of my friends told me that I needed help. I’d been seeking counseling upon the request of my friend as well as a mandatory requirement of remaining an active student at my college (one of my RA’s reported me to the student housing supervisor, who then made it mandatory to seek counseling or I’d be removed from campus)– which I have to add that counseling isn’t for everyone.

One night, my thoughts were racing – I couldn’t stop them. I was flooding with “what-ifs” and they were all circling around the fact that nobody would even notice if I died or disappeared. There was a bridge on the college campus that is built over a 70-foot drop over wooded areas. I turned my headphones on loud and walked to the bridge. I leaned over the edge, sucking in deep breaths of the bitter autumn air. I started crying. I was so angry. With myself. With my parents. With my friends. With my life. With God. I prayed and prayed for answers, for guidance, but I never received anything from Him. I heard something (somehow, with my music so loud), and I spun around to find this girl who had fallen behind her friends, pausing to speak with me.

When I pulled my headphones out, she asked, “Are you okay?” She was dressed all in black, but she had a kind face and her sincerity poured out of her delicate eyes staring at me in disbelief.

“What?” I was stunned by her choice to stop and to ask that simple question everybody is either too scared to ask or thinks is “stupid.”

“Are you okay?” She repeated. I nodded and thanked her for stopping and asking. She smiled and said, “Of course,” pausing once more before walking away, “Are you sure?” Again, I nodded and thanked her.

I sat down on the bench at the end of the bridge. I cried. Others passed me by – some staring as they passed, whispering amongst their friends, but most just passed me, carrying on with their evening.

I’ll never forget that girl. And after seven years, I’ve finally come to name her Grace. I don’t think that’s her actual name, but I hate calling her a “stranger.” She was the answer I sought. She was the grace I was hoping for. She saved me. She reminded me that I had a purpose here. She reminded me that God is there for me. I wish there was a way I could thank her. I wish there was a way I could repay her. I hope that she’s living a blessed life. I hope that if she’s fighting a battle, she’s winning it, that she’ll never give up.

Because that night, I witnessed my own miracle…a miracle I never believed in before. Through Grace, God granted me a second chance.

This was the first testimony I received that God truly exists, that miracles do happen and that if you pray, if you ask God for help, He will answer.

And I testify that these things are true in the name of thy son Jesus Christ, Amen.

Welcome! I’m Nic.

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.

“Yeah.”

“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).