I don't know if I'll publicly post this or not, or if anyone will even want to read it if I do. (Obviously I did, but this was written about a month and a half ago.)
Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking, and I've been wanting to journal about this ever since I was told months ago in Sunday School that I should. The teacher suggested that we journal about when we said "yes" to God. I thought that was a very interesting way of putting things, and it got me thinking... When did I decide what I truly believed? When did I come into myself and sort out my inner feelings on life and religion?
I always claimed to believe in the church and all of its teachings. I had a few very close friends in high school who, at the time, did not believe in a higher power of any sort. Life was the here and now, so why try to get all philosophical about it... right? Often, they would try to get me to talk about my point of view, but sometimes they would be critical, and I didn't always feel as if they supported me in it, so I generally shyed away from any religious discussions. I was Mormon in a small town where that wasn't necessarily the cool thing to be, and everybody knew you for it. I was a good Mormon though. I followed the church, and did everything that I should to live parallel to the teachings of the church. I knew that the public eye was on me, and I wanted to prove to people that I knew what I was doing, and that I could be true to it, even while I was struggling internally.
It was very hard for me to decide for myself whether or not I truly believed in this Gospel. I know that I have always grown up being told that it is true, and that I truly did love the values instilled by this church. However, it was sometimes hard for me to know that there was a higher power; that there was a God who was watching over me, and extending His love unconditionally. I wanted to believe so badly, and I went to church faithfully every week hoping that someday I would just magically have that rock-solid testimony that I'd always wanted.
I had heard, growing up, that it is ok to lean on someone else's testimony until you have one of your own. My inspiration in this regard was always my older sister, Amanda. She has always had such a sweet spirit about her, and was always true to what she believed. She always prodded me to do the right thing and was just an amazing example of living a good life. However, I feared that I would never have a testimony of my own; that I would never be able to get up in church and say with 100% certainty that "I know this church is true."
I think that I started to sort out my own beliefs when I turned 18 and moved away from home. I needed to get out on my own (sort of- I was living in an apartment with Amanda and 2 other roommates). However, I was away from the pressures of any of my previous friends, and those of trying to lead a particular life because that's what was expected of me. It was a fresh start, and I was surrounded by people who had the same values, and belonged to the same church as me. It was exciting to be around people that I had so much in common with, but I quickly realized that it also made me feel inferior spiritually. These people knew who they were, what they believed, and what they wanted out of life. I had no idea. I wanted to be just like them; I wanted to know these things for myself. Over the course of the year, I went to church every single Sunday and participated in each and every side activity. I still struggled, but I felt like more a part of the church than I ever had before, and I was definitely making more of an effort to belong.
One thing that I have come to realize - for me at least, is that truth comes with knowledge. My sophomore year at BYU I was called as a Gospel Doctrine teacher, and this calling scared me to death. Who was I to teach others about the Gospel? You know... that one thing I have struggled my whole life to fully commit myself to? I was terrified of being a hypocrite, and this was a time-consuming calling. I was so nervous at first. However, through the course of the year I feel like I got a lot better at it. Lessons did not take me as long to prepare, and my voice didn't shake when I talked in front of a room full of people. I felt like I was contributing. I was an integral part of the ward, and I was actually important. This calling helped me to grow immensely, and I learned so much about this Gospel. I learned more through studying and teaching than I ever did through just plain listening. Once I was more informed, I was able to actually apply it into my daily life, and I quickly began to see how the Gospel was literally present in every aspect of my life. That year I did a lot of soul searching. I had a couple of hard moments, but throughout those various struggles, and the frantic and searching prayers that followed, I was able to draw closer to God than I ever had before. I came to realize that I did need Christ in my life, and that His Gospel was the best source for the comfort that I was so desperately seeking. I read 2 Cor. 1:3-6 so many times that year, and many times since. Whenever life starts to feel like too much to handle, I still read over it and pray for that comfort that it promises. Try it, it works! :)
The revelations didn't end there. The experience that has most recently reaffirmed these beliefs and how imperative the Gospel is to my way of life happened just this past week when a friend stayed with me for a few days. I did not know this friend very well when I invited her into my home, but she needed a place to stay and I knew she was going through a difficult time. As we talked long hours into the night and learned more about each other, I was very happy I had been given the opportunity to get to know her better. Her life up to this point has been incredibly difficult. She had to make many decisions that someone of her age should not even have been exposed to yet. She had made a lot of mistakes- things that I could not even imagine having to go through, and in turn had fallen far from the ideals of the church. However, she is now making the effort to come back. This truly amazed me. She is a strong and inspirational woman. It was also a much-needed reminder to me of the gratitude that I should feel every second of every day for the opportunity to be a part of something so amazing; to have the knowledge that I do of this church, and for the contribution it has undeniably been to the person that I have become.
I never magically grew a testimony, but bit by bit I came to know that my Father in Heaven does indeed exist, and that He loves me and wants me to be happy and successful. I know that God will always be there for me, and that I am never alone. I am so grateful for the scriptures and the comfort that they are to me, as well as for the knowledge that when all else fails I can turn to them to calm my troubled heart. I do believe in this Gospel, and I am so incredibly grateful for its constant presense and the guiding force that it has been in my life. I know that it makes up a huge part of my values and beliefs and that it is the single biggest contribution to the person that I am today. I am glad that I never had to question moral issues. I grew up knowing right from wrong, and I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to be born into this church, to grow up with it always being a part of my life. I am so grateful for modern-day revelation, and latter-day prophets. I don't know where I would be without their constant guidance in my life. This is the true church. I know that now, and I am going to do all in my power to strengthen that resolve and solidify my testimony. I have just been called as a Gospel Doctrine teacher (again- best calling ever!) and I am so excited to learn even more about this beautiful Gospel!
I love you all, and thanks so much to those of you who have been such shining examples to me. :)