Tuesday, January 29, 2013
A week ago I was sitting in our local Hospital where I volunteer in the Children's department. It was late at night and the room where I work was very quiet. No one had come in for about an hour as I sat there reading. My husband had given me a book of Joseph Smith's writings the Sunday before, and asked me to read it. My husband knows how I feel about Joseph Smith, and although I know he is a true prophet of God, I struggle with who he was as a man. I promised my husband that I would read this book, and no matter what that I would stick with it and finish it. I was 70 pages into the book when my perspective started to change. I was learning to respect a man that I have never respected before.
As I was reading the Book of Mormon for the 1st time a few years ago I struggled with understanding of how a man that I believed to be pompous, arrogant, a little self righteous, and completely off his rocker; could have written the most perfect book on the planet today. How could a man that created Polygamy, and also unabashedly put down other's beliefs write this book of truth? How could this man be chosen by the most high God when he was 14, and hadn't gotten past the 8th grade? How could a man that couldn't even spell very well translate a book in a different language that he didn't even know? I couldn't understand it, but that didn't matter. What mattered was that I knew this book was true. I knew that it was sent to the earth by God, and restored at that time for our world today, and that was all that mattered.
As I sat in that hospital room reading this book I started to see Joseph Smith, not as the man whom I believed him to be, but the man that I had been taught he was. The true, righteous, and caring, prophet of God. I started to see that he was humble. His humility actually blew my mind. As I sat there reading this book, he repeatedly would call himself "unworthy". What?! He considered himself unworthy? I was shocked that even though he restored the Gospel to the earth, was the prophet of God, and writing the Book of Mormon, that he believed himself to be unworthy. This was definitely not the Joseph Smith that I had come to dislike so much. I felt my guard softening, and more importantly, my ever patient Heavenly Father started to teach me the truth that I was longing for.
I'm not ashamed about any of the feelings, or thoughts I have about my church. I completely understand that I am not the everyday Mormon that most people come across. I speak my mind, I admit that I struggle with issues in the church, and I know that I have weaknesses that tempt me most days. I'm a real person though. I'm not perfect, nor do I claim to be. I don't know everything about the church. I'm still learning, and still building my testimony. Heavenly Father still has so much to teach me, and that's what matters. It's important that I remain open to his teachings, and know that this journey isn't always going to be easy. If I will continue to have patience with my shortcomings when it comes to my religion, then Heavenly Father is going to be patient in teaching me the truthfulness of this Gospel.
As I got home that night I was thinking about a letter I just read. A woman had been praying to God to have the prophet Joseph contact her. She was feeling low, and in need of some comfort, and she begged God to have him reach out to her. Well, Heavenly Father answered her prayer. The prophet Joseph felt inspired to write this woman who God loved.
I got on my knees that evening and told my Heavenly Father how grateful I am for all he does for me. I asked him if he would send an apostle or prophet to comfort my heart. I asked him to teach me that Joseph Smith was not this horrible person I had made him out to be. I asked him to have one of them be inspired to reach out to me, or allow me to meet one so that I could feel the love that they have for Joseph Smith. I went to bed that evening and pretty much forgot about my prayer.
Yesterday morning I was getting ready for the day when I remembered that I needed to run to the store. I was about to put my makeup on, and decided that I was just to lazy that day, and I was just going run in and out. I jumped in my car and started heading to my usual grocery store when I had a feeling to go to a store that I NEVER go to. It was a weird feeling, but I decided to go because I could pick up some coconut milk. As I got to the store I sat in my car to finish a song that I like. I then went into the store and headed to the baking aisle for the things I needed. I then went to get the coconut milk, and realized that forgot an item in the baking aisle, so I headed back. Little did I know how much this little forgetfulness would change my soul.
As I was searching for the sugar I looked up and saw a man walking towards me in dress clothes. The aisle was a little packed so I pulled my cart to the side so he could get by. I then looked up again and saw that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland was the man walking towards me. I did a double take because surely I was wrong. He was looking down, and I knew it was him. I actually started to shake I was so nervous. See, I had met Apostle's before, but never since I have gone through the temple and actually been a member of the church. I was so worried that I didn't have make up on, and that this Apostle was going to see all my sins. Right then Elder Holland looked right into my eyes. I got instantly calm. He smiled and I smiled. He got right next to my side and said "Hello".
He grabbed my hand and shook it, as I started to cry. The reason for my tears was because I was overwhelmed by the love I felt from this man. Before I got anything out I had the most clear thoughts given to me by the spirit through my Father in Heaven. In these seconds before I could respond I received the distinct thought that this man truly and intimately knew Christ, was a true apostle of God, and he KNEW that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. If Jeffrey R. Holland knew this, and I knew that Jeffrey Holland was a true apostle than Joseph Smith was a true prophet. I also received the feelings that this man Loved Joseph Smith. Not the prophet Joseph, he loved the Man. If he loved the man that Joseph Smith was than he was a good man. That Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God, that he was a good man, and that I need not question it anymore. Then Heavenly Father let me know that he was answering my prayer from last week.
I was able to get out an hello with a smile. I talked with him for minute all while basking in the immense love and calming spirit that my Heavenly Father was allowing me to feel. I had never felt the spirit like this before, and I was taking in every moment. It was the most sincere, real, heartfelt, and true, feelings of love from the spirit, and I will never take that for granted. As I gave him a hug goodbye I thanked my Father in Heaven for allowing me to have that incredible experience, and for answering my prayer. A prayer that I thought was so trivial, and something that would fall on deaf ears. How wrong I was.
I realized that day that my Heavenly Father hears every single one of my prayers. He listens to every word I say, and no matter how insignificant I feel in my life, I am not insignificant to him. He loves me, he wants me to be happy, and like always, he's being patient while he teaches me the things I need to know for my life. He's shaping and molding me into the woman he wants me to be. The true, righteous, daughter of God, that I am. I'm so grateful for the love that he and my Savior have for me. His unconditional love and patience never cease to amaze me. It just goes to show how truly special every single one of us are.
Monday, January 21, 2013
As I was growing up I remember very distinctly being taught by a lot of leaders in the church that you shouldn't look into "anti-mormon" literature. Well, as we all know I left the church when I was 14 years old for a number of reasons. When I came back to the church I really had to make sure that it was right for me. How did I do that? I started researching EVERY piece of mormon and non-mormon literature I could find on the LDS church. My research gave me the knowledge that the church is True.
Let me start a little earlier than age 23. When I left the church at age 14 I knew God was real. I know that I had a Savior that died for me, I just didn't know what church was true. I had such terrible feelings towards people in the church that I wasn't even interested in learning about the Mormon religion because I didn't want to be associated with the people that I took offense to. So I started out with the Catholic church. I went to church after church, spoke with some of the most amazing men I have ever met. Some of the most knowledgeable men I have ever spoken with, and it gave me an amazing confirmation that the power of God is real and that he loves us no matter what. I just didn't get that feeling that it was the church for me.
I then looked into Baptists, Protestants, Born Again Christians, and on and on. All of them had pieces of the truth that I could connect with but none of them had the full truth that I needed to be okay with. At age 19 I still wasn't going to think about becoming a mormon, but I was interested in learning about the church. My heart had been softened enough to start "looking" into the Mormon religion.
President Uchtdorf said "Truth is true even if nobody believes it."
The truth can't be denied, it can't be changed, and it will always, ALWAYS be the same. Knowing this, I went into my research of the church with somewhat of an open mind. I still had bad feelings towards the church but I was willing to think about it. I wanted to find the truth that I was looking for, and I went into my research with that kind of an open mind. No matter what I was told if the Mormon religion was true then that was that. I wouldn't be able to deny it because it would be true.
I remember one day reading about Joseph Smith. I read all of the non-mormon sides of him, and the mormon sides. There are always 2 sides to every story, and I wanted the good and bad. I have to admit when I started learning about Joseph Smith I was shocked. I thought he was as crazy as a delusional clown. No way did this guy who didn't have an education write the Book of Mormon. And then he created polygamy? Why because he was a crazed sex addict?! I was so furious with the stories about Joseph Smith that, that is where my research stopped. I closed off that opening once again.
It wasn't until I met my sweet husband at the age of 24 that I started to look into the church again. Even though I had a problem with Joseph Smith, and I thought he was a crazy person (Yes, I still do a little bit) it wouldn't change the fact that if the church was true, than Joseph Smith had to be a true prophet of God. If it's true it's all true. So, I read the Book of Mormon for the 1st time in my life. I got down on my knees and poured my heart out to my Heavenly Father. I begged him to soften my heart towards the prophet who restored the gospel, and teach me about the true church if the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was really the true church. You know what happened? He taught me that it was true. I prayed with real intent, having faith that God would answer me and tell me if this was the church that was true. If this was the church that he put on the earth for this day and time. And I got the feeling for me, that this was the most perfect church on the planet. This was the church that I needed to be with. I jumped in with both feet and I haven't looked back.
All of this seems so perfect. "Oh, Jill got on her knees and God told her it was true and she lived happily ever after." WRONG. I still struggle with my feelings towards Joseph Smith. I still get a knot in my stomach when I think about him, but it doesn't change the truth. My own personal feeling towards this man that I think is a little crazy doesn't change the fact that he found the true church of Jesus Christ. It doesn't change the fact that he translated the Book of Mormon, and that book is true. It doesn't matter how he translated the Book of Mormon, because all that matters is that I know that it's true. I can struggle with certain things that my church has done in the past or even now, but the knowledge and faith that my Father in Heaven has given me that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the most perfect church on the planet for me is all the truth I need.
Because of the research I did, I not only found my eternal companion, I found a purpose in this life, I found out the woman that I am, and I became who my Father in Heaven always wanted me to be. I became a true daughter of my Heavenly Father who loves me, and I love him. If you are searching for the truth in your life, read the Book of Mormon. I promise you that if you go into with an open heart and open mind that Heavenly Father will teach you, just as he taught my stubborn soul, that it is true. He loves us. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to return to him someday. He is there and all you have to do is ask for him to show you the way.