Not as in “why ‘me’ God”, but why God at all. It’s a question I’m being asked a lot. So many people who leave the Mormon religion, especially those that were born into it and raised in it for their entire lives, turn away from organized religion altogether. I can understand this reaction. Absolutely.
Imagine if, for your entire life, you were told something was true, you followed it to a “T”, made major life decisions based on these teachings (such as serving a two-year mission away from your family proclaiming the truth of these teachings to many, many others, or having children, perhaps more than you could emotionally or financially handle based on what you’d been taught), and then one day, the walls of “truth” came tumbling down and you learned everything you thought to be true was in fact, false. How would you pick up the pieces and begin to believe again — or in the case of faith how would you go about sorting truth from fiction?
I wasn’t born into Mormonism, I was a convert, but there are days I struggle with these questions myself — I can only imagine the struggle for someone with 30, 40 or more years invested.
But my story is a little different — in part because I’m an adult convert – and in part because I’ve always believed God exists.
I grew up in a family that attended church on the regular — raised predominantly Lutheran, we attended church each Sunday, dressed in our Sunday best. The pastor, who I remember fondly, would give his sermon, dressed in formal robes, citing a scripture or two to support his message, and then we we return home, change clothes and resume life. I had a copy of the “Good News” bible, but other than memorizing the books contained within it in order to earn my gold stars in Sunday School, we never opened the book and certainly not as a family.
I suffered a personal tragedy around the time I was twelve. A suicide of someone close to me. I struggled after this, as you might imagine. It was compounded by the kids at school preaching that she was going to hell because she committed murder. This wasn’t the God I thought I knew. Compassionate, understanding, all knowing. And so, I turned from God, church, religion, and I turned hard.
I was strong-willed in my youth, which is probably an understatement. I just plainly wouldn’t allow my parents to parent. Not that they didn’t try. I was a wild one. And when I determined I was no longer going to church, there wasn’t anything to change that. My mother tried. Boy did she. In the end, it was easier to leave me be.
My teen years I would have been the first to say I was atheist. I just flat out denounced the existence of God at all. I wanted no part of anything spiritual. I lived in the moment, doing what felt good when and where the moment took me. As you can imagine, that led to some life lessons and bumps in the road…boy did it…but that’s for another time.
I had a rocky relationship with my parents during this time. Especially with my father. Eventually he would suffer a major heart attack that forever changed who he was and what was important in his life. During his initial illness and recovery he began to walk again with God. He tried desperately to make amends with me. It took him nearly two years, but around the time I was 17 it started to “take”. I softened and learned a lesson in forgiveness. Those last few years, when I was still home, we managed to have a pretty remarkable relationship. For that I am forever thankful.
I moved out when I was 19, and away from Chicago when I was 22. All the way to Phoenix, Arizona. That was around the time my father had fallen really sick again. As he was facing the end of his life, I started wondering what happened when we died. A natural, normal endeavor, I think. I started to remember my youth, and this “Jesus guy” that was important to seeing our loved ones after we die.
Over the next two years, dad’s health declined, and my search intensified. I started searching for answers in the only place I thought they could be found — churches. And by searching, I mean I visited nearly all of them. Any denomination. Any platform. Any of them I could think of.
Dad died when I was 24. I was newly engaged and trying to fill a void in my heart that was a mile wide.
A few years after we were married, and after some healing over the loss of my father, I calmed my search down. I wasn’t finding the grand answers I was searching for, and life started moving along. And then I met my friend, Laurie.
Laurie was (and is) amazing. Laurie was married, had a twelve year old son, who I came to adore quickly, and her family was tight. They spent time together, attended church together, studied scriptures together. Laurie’s family was Mormon. I had no idea what that meant, but I was intrigued.
Over the next year, Laurie and my friendship grew as did our discussions on all things religious. I started to realize somewhere along the line that Laurie was leaving our discussions feeling fine, I on the other hand was leaving with more questions and wanting the answers she had.
After a year or so of this dialogue, I invited myself to church. And that was the beginning of a long, long journey into the Mormon religion. Stand by…more to come.