Monday, March 24, 2008

How I Came to Be Jenneology

I was introduced to the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through my dad. He was a substitute teacher in the local school system and was told by one of his students about a show for a performing company for children and teenagers. I was hesitant to go because earlier that year my dad and I had had a falling out. I knew that this was his attempt at reconciliation. I am so glad that I went to that performance. I knew that I wanted to join the company and dance on stage with them. A few months later, I joined the group and found that the director, producer and many of the performers were LDS. At that point in my life, I was atheist attending the Unitarian Universalist Church so it was very difficult for me to comprehend my dad's death from a car accident just 6 weeks after joining the company. I became depressed, despondent and spent a year barely living each week. But I was in the perfect place to get my questions answered and to receive the consolation that I desperately needed. I needed to know that I would see my dad again, that the end of this life is not the end of existence and how I could be with my dad again. I started asking members of the performing company about the LDS views on the afterlife and the purpose of this life. A family gave me a copy of M. Russel Ballard's book "Our Search for Happiness." After reading it, I knew that I had to learn more. I started attending church and meeting with the missionaries. I prayed to know that God was real and received the sweet assurance from the Spirit that God knows and loves me. I was taught that I could be with my dad forever through the ordinances of the priesthood in the temple. I found that the gospel of Jesus Christ encompasses all truth and beauty found in this world and that my search for truth and meaning brought me to the true Church of God on the earth. In October of 2001, I was baptized. At the time of my baptism I felt that the following scriptures described how I felt:

Rev. 21:4-5
"And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things anew. And he said unto me, write: for these words are true and faithful."

I felt new that I had started a new life and that the gospel has turned the pain of losing my dad into joy. My tears had been wiped away and I knew that I would never have to think that death was the end of existence again.

Because of my depression, I felt like Alma has he described his conversion story in Mosiah 27:28-29:

"Nevertheless, after wading through much tribulation, repenting nigh unto death, the Lord in mercy hath seen fit to snatch me out of an everlasting burning, and I am born of God.

29 My soul hath been redeemed from the gall of bitterness and bonds of iniquity. I was in the darkest abyss; but now I behold the marvelous light of God. My soul was racked with eternal torment; but I am snatched, and my soul is pained no more."

Since my baptism six years ago, I have experienced great joy as I attended Institute, studied the scriptures and learned the deeper doctrine of the gospel and had my unending questions answered. In 2002, when attending my high school graduation, I happened to sit next to a friend of mine who hadn't seen me since before I joined the church. After talking for awhile, she asked me "What happened to you? When we were hanging out you were always so sad but now you are so happy." I couldn't not explain to her the change that had taken place in my life so I told her about the gospel and my conversion. She was interested in knowing more so I invited her to Institute for a fireside. She started attending Church and I was privileged to work with the missionaries in teaching her the doctrines of the church. She was baptized 364 days after me.

I also had the joy of being guided to attend BYU in Provo where 3 weeks after I transferred there as a junior, I met the man who became my husband. I remember the overwhelming joy I experienced as I waited in the dressing room of the Salt Lake Temple to be sealed to him and I fell to my knees overcome with joy. We are now expecting our first baby who is due to be born in a few short months. The happiness I've known being married to Peter surpasses any previous happiness I've known.

One of the activities of the church that has brought the greatest amount of joy in my life is doing the temple work for my family members who have passed away. A few months after my baptism and on my first trip to the temple to do baptisms for the dead, I witness the proxy baptism for my dad and felt the assurance of the gospel that he had accepted those ordinances. I felt the same joyous assurance when I completed the work for my grandmother who passed away a few months after my dad. I didn't know how she would receive those ordinances but I knew because of the feelings of the Spirit that I experienced that she accepted those ordinances. Since those experiences, I've felt strongly compelled to work on my family history and I thoroughly enjoy the spirit of Elijah in my life as I excitedly find new information.

I have experienced some disappointments and losses since joining the church but I don't experience the same degree of fatalistic despair that I knew before being changed by the gospel. My mother has yet to join the church and it has been a struggle for me to wait patiently for her to find that the time is right. One of the most bittersweet experiences I've ever encountered was when she told in a Christmas letter a few years ago to "Keep trying." In 2006, four years after my baptism, my mom and I watched my grandmother slowly pass away after a debilitating stroke. But this time, I wasn't plunged into the same confusion and darkness as when I lost my dad. I had the sweet assurance of the gospel to comfort me so I knew that she was free from the bondage that her body had been subjected to.

In 2007, our first child was born. We have had great joy watching him develop and learn new things. But the happy event of his birth was marred by a traumatic and abusive birth environment. While adjusting to motherhood, I struggled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by inappropriate treatment by hospital staff. But the love I felt for my child from God and my husband was enough to give me strength. I have been chronicling my struggle with that on my
birth advocacy blog .

I share these struggles to show that although I feel I was give a new life with my baptism, I still suffer the pains and sorrows of life. I still have faced death. But my life as a member of the LDS church and my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, gives me hope that someday, after this life, I will know the peace and joy John described in Revelations.

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