Friday, February 13, 2015

The Letter I sent to Coleman - if anyone is interested

I just want you to know some things that maybe I should have told you before.  All through my teen years I went to seminary and read the scriptures -- I really, really studied them because I felt so behind everyone else because I never learned about the church or the scriptures at home. But never once did I feel like I felt the spirit.  I also wondered if God existed.  I had no problems believing the Joseph Smith story or that the Book of Mormon was true -- as long as there really was a God.  Never did I feel Him reach out to me, even though I was trying to reach Him.  But I just kept going, acting as if I had a testimony in the hope that I would get one.  When I started university, and the university ward, for the first time I felt socially accepted at church.  That went a long way to convincing me that church was a good place.  So that year I decided again to fully commit myself to reading the book of Mormon to find out if God lives -- but maybe it was my second year -- I can't remember.  Anyway, I did it -- I really read and studied -- not just read to get through -- I committed myself to church -- fasting, fast offering, visiting teaching, callings, social activities, reading lessons -- I did it all -- and guess what, when I read the Book of Mormon that time -- it was probably my third time through -- I just knew it was right. It wasn't a huge thing, a "burning in my bosom" or anything like that, it was just a feeling that this was right and good.  A quieting of the questions, the doubts.

So I knew the BoM to be true, so then I accepted that everything else had to be true too...even though I had yet to feel that God loved me or that He existed.  But that feeling of rightness was enough to feel I had a testimony and to believe firmly and completely in the rest.

Going back in time, sometime during my YW years - I was a beehive I'm pretty sure, I had a teacher tell us to go home and pray to know that God loves us.  She told us to stay on our knees until we felt His love.  So I did -- and I felt nothing.  Just an empty room. Guess when I had that answer -- sometime in my 20s.  10 years later I knew that God loves me.  10 years of continual church commitment -- based on a desire to believe and a willingness to continually do what was asked and required.

Anyway -- after that reading of the Book of Mormon in university, it wasn't as if all doubt just departed, rather my own commitment increased.  I remember attending a lunch time lecture at the institute, and this older lady who I really respected said something along the lines of realizing that every time she had a doubt/crises/trial, she didn't need to go back to square 1 and wonder if there was a God -- she'd already figured that one out, and she could just accept that and build from there, no matter what she was feeling/struggling with at the time.  That hit me so hard, I realized in that moment that since I knew the Book of Mormon was true, then I had to know that God lived -- and I never, ever needed to doubt that again.  And so I didn't.  From that moment forward I CHOSE to believe in God -- to use that as my foundation.

And I wish I could tell you of a defining moment -- a huge revelation that tells me that He lives and knows me -- but I don't have that moment.  What I have instead is years of service, of commitment, of belief and desire that add up to a knowing He lives and loves me.  It's going to the temple for the first time and feeling that it was so, so right and made so much sense.  It's meeting your dad and just knowing that we would have a future together.  It's a peace that comes on me when I read my scriptures -- a quieting of the voices in my head.  It's a softening of my own harsh side, my anger, when I go to church.  It's about learning of the life of Jesus and feeling his love towards his disciples and just somehow knowing that I'm one of them --- that that love extends to me.  The combined total of 20 + years of discipleship is a firm knowledge that Heavenly Father and Jesus live and love me.  It's a choice to exclude doubt, to turn away the negative thoughts, and focus on the light.

Even now, this morning, my mind was on a recent trial/struggle, and  I went into my room and prayed for comfort, for peace, for an assurance of the eternal plan of happiness -- I got nothing. Absolutely nothing -- talking to the ceiling again.  But I got up, took the kids to the bus, all the time thinking about these things. When I came home, I had the thought -- just sit down and write these things in a letter to the kids -- and you know what, maybe they aren't helping you -- but they helped me. Because as I typed my testimony, that strong feeling of love, peace, safety, assurance has come on me.  Now I can shrug it off as emotion --sadness because of the trial and the pain of others-- because the spirit and emotion feel so similar to me (mostly because I don't feel a lot of emotions naturally, they mostly come as a gift from God) -- and I could say that the idea to write this was my own -- because it came in my own voice in my head -- but I know better.  I know from experience that this was a tender mercy from the Lord -- a gift to help me.

My mom lived her whole life waiting for a great revelation to know that the church was true, and the God was real  -- she was waiting for that assurance and then she was going to start reading her scriptures, attending church, and keeping the commandments -- I've seen first hand that life doesn't work that way, and it led to a life of disappointment for her.  So that's why I chose my way -- to act first, and then wait.  And it took more than a decade --- but the wait was worth it.

I want to tell you a story from the life of Pres. Lorenzo Snow. When he heard of the death of Pres. Woodruff, he knew that he would be ordained the president of the church.  He went into the celestial room of the temple to pray for guidance -- and do you know what answer he got -- nothing.  Not  a thing.  So, he did what he knew he should -- he stood up and walked out the door ready  to be the prophet anyway.  He was able to stand and move on because of experiences in his past that had led him to trust, belief, and act whether or not he had an immediate answer.  That's what faith is -- kneeling and asking for help, but then getting up and doing the work anyway -- knowing that the answer will come at some time.  And for him, what followed was the most significant spiritual experience of his life -- when he left the room, he saw the Saviour in the hallway.  That great blessing, that ultimate knowledge and assurance, came only after a lifetime of study and acting, and a moment of complete and total faith.

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