Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You did WHAT? Mormon Writer Blogfest: Restoration of the Gospel

One evening in February of 1998, my stomach was churning with these strange convulsions even though I'd been too nervous to eat. Or maybe I'd been so nervous I'd eaten a whole bowl of ice cream. I don't remember the exact details, just that my stomach was in flip-out mode. My mom answered the phone and our conversation went something like this:

"Hey Mom."
"Kelly! Is everything okay?" Mom might have asked. I never called home as  much as she wanted. I'd met this guy the second day I was at college and had skipped the homesickness that she hoped would have me on the phone at least a few times a week.
"Um, yeah. Can I talk to you? There's something..."
"Just tell me."
"I'm getting baptised. Not right away. In six weeks." She hates me. It's official. My mother hates me.
Choking silence.
"When did you decide?"
"Last week. I've wanted to tell you, but I..." knew you would say something, do something to try to change my mind.

I have no idea what else was said, just that this enormous weight lifted off of me. My mom was much less upset than I expected, given that she was sure at the time (she has since rescinded this surety) that me joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meant I would be going to hell.

Which doctrine, ironically, was the reason that I was joining the Mormon church. I couldn't believe that someone could do their best to follow God and end up burning...for eternity. It seemed a tad harsh. The church I grew up in was pretty easy-going on doctrine- I could believe pretty much anything except as long as I confessed that Jesus was my savior. But that wasn't enough for me.

I'd read 'The Chronicles of Narnia' by C.S. Lewis and in 'The Last Battle' there's this young man from a heathen nation who'd diligently served Tash instead of the true God, Aslan. When he meets Aslan after his death, he asks Aslan why he didn't get sent to Tash, and Aslan said that all true devotion and sacrifice belong to Aslan by rights. No goodness or kindness or bravery can belong to Tash because they are against his nature. I understood that in my heart and knew it was true. I asked my leaders at church camp what they thought of that, and no one had answers for me. They either didn't know, or told me that "Unless a man be born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven." I could not reconcile the two.

What happened next was either an act of faith or an act of apostasy. I went with the feelings of my heart. I knew that a loving God would not condemn the thousands of people who die every day who have not even heard the name of Jesus Christ. The things that C.S. Lewis had written were of such comfort and beauty to my mind and my heart that I chose to believe C.S. Lewis over what I was told the Bible meant.

Skip ahead a year or so. I met my now-husband Nathan. We dated our freshman year and I avoided churches because, besides my doctrinal concerns, the church I'd grown up in had very nasty politics. He attended the Mormon church, but talked very little about it (Can you believe that? Have you ever known a Mormon who didn't like to go on and on about it? *wink*). I remember one conversation we had about the nature of our spirits- he had this strange idea that we were eternally male or female, and I disagreed. And he'd said that he wouldn't marry anybody who wasn't Mormon, but I hoped to change his mind. That was our entire religious conversation in an entire year.

I went home for the summer after my freshman year and my mom got the missionaries' phone number from a secretary at her school who was Mormon. Mom expected that I would learn about the religion and take Nathan out of the church. They taught my sister and I the discussions, but I was basically trying to convince them and myself that I knew everything and there was no need to be baptised again. Except I'd always had this nagging feeling that I should be baptised again, but I'm stubborn and I don't like people to tell me what to do. So the Summer ended and I was relieved to say goodbye to the missionaries.

Classes started, I went with Nathan to church a few times. I went on a young single adult canoe trip. Besides a giant alligator that killed a wildlife photographer a few weeks later, all I remember of that trip was that Bishop McNeal told me that I seemed to be a very unhappy person. Wow. Sign me up!

But I started really reading the scriptures. I prayed daily, for the first prolonged period in my life. The missionaries taught me that if you die without learning about the entire gospel, you will have a chance after death to be taught. That Jesus himself had gone to 'preach to the spirits that were in prison' after he was crucified and before his resurrection. I thought about it. For months I thought and prayed to know if what they were telling me was true, I watched the movies and hung out with Mormons, and read the entire Book of Mormon, but nothing had changed inside me.

Then one February day I was walking back from Russian class and the sun was shining so bright- February is beautiful in Gainesville, FL- and I knew. It was like shaking a box of puzzle pieces and throwing them on the floor, and instead of a pile, they just fell...into...place. I knew that God loved me, personally, as His actual daughter. I knew that Jesus was really my Savior and not just some man who taught people to be kind. I knew that the Book of Mormon was true and that Joseph Smith really had been visited by Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. I knew that prayers are still answered in unbelievable, writing-on-the-wall clarity. I knew it in the same way that I know that I am alive and that life is good.

All of us can talk with Heavenly Father, regardless of the church that we go to. He is the perfect judge that we can never be, so I'm not telling you what you should believe, but I wanted to share with you that my life has been changed. I don't look up at stained glass windows as I did as a girl, wishing that I could have been there when Jesus healed the man who was lowered through the roof, because I know that He is here as much as he was then. We are not forgotten.

There's a lot to the restoration of the gospel- God and angels and golden plates from a lost civilization, a new promised land, and prophets leading the people across the desert in a modern exodus, but those things happened to other people. This has been the story of how the Gospel was restored to me, and in my view it is no less miraculous.

I'd like to thank Krista V. for inviting me to be part of the Mormon Writer Blogfest.

Temples with Krista V.

The Book of Mormon and missionary work with Kayeleen Hamblin

Faith in Jesus Christ with Myrna Foster

Families with Charity Bradford

Family history with Laura D

Joseph Smith with Annette Lyon

Stories from the Book of Mormon with Kathi Oram Peterson
 
Thanks for reading! Any questions? Comments? Fire away!

8 comments:

  1. This is a great post, Kelly. I love hearing people's conversion stories. Interestingly, that moment when you knew, when you were just walking down the sidewalk, sounds exactly like the moment that converted my dad.

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  2. That was beautiful. Thanks for sharing your story and testimony. And I love C.S. Lewis. I can't read anything of his without it making me think.

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  3. Thanks guys! Conversion is a funny thing. It is never what people expect. I wanted an angel to come down and give me an engraved invitation, but oh well;) And C.S. Lewis was completely remarkable, wasn't he? He really helped me through a lot of doubts.

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  4. I love hearing conversion stories. This was beautiful.

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  5. I loved your conversion story. You're an inspiration! Thank you for sharing that very personal side of you.

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  6. Kelly, thank you so much for sharing your story. What a wonderful way to share the restoration.

    Once again I sat in tears reading someone's blog. You've shared the spirit with those open to it.

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  7. Thanks for making this a great experience for me by commenting! And I enjoyed reading all of your blogs yesterday, too.

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