I was born and raised a Mormon, also known as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Both of my parents are very devout and their love for the gospel was threaded into every part of our lives. I mean, my mom replaced the faces of the ‘Guess Who’ characters with the Prophet and the 12 apostles (the spiritual leaders in our church). “Is yours bald? Does he wear glasses?” It becomes very a long game that way! I loved growing up in a Christ centered home. I loved the values that my parents taught me and I more or less figured everything I learned at church was factual, for a while…
I’m not really a “take my word for it” type person so it didn’t take long into my teen years before I started questioning everything.
The first time I remember having any real doubts was at a church camp out. I had gone to the showers and only brought a towel which meant I had to scamper back to my tent with just the terry cloth for coverage. It was a poorly planned event, but since I was covered by the towel, I didn’t think it was a big deal. When some of the leaders were showing sincere alarm over such a small incident, some of my doubts and concerns came to a head.
I understood that modesty was important but I didn’t know how I felt about making it a tool and measurement on which to judge someone. I didn’t understand the focus I was seeing, on things that were mostly outward displays of our faith, rather than a personal relationship with God.
I remember lying in the tent and for the first time thinking, how do I know for sure that any of this is even true in the first place?
I really didn’t… but I had believed those things for so long that I didn’t really feel a need to change anything. Throughout my teenage years and into my 20’s I felt basically the same way. I still ran through the motions most of the time for my parents benefit but I never had any strong convictions that the Mormon Church was true. I believed in God and Christ but I didn’t really go much farther than that. I often felt oppressed by the limitations I thought were imposed on me in my home town. I couldn’t dress the way I wanted to or do what I wanted without judgment which had me itching to get out and go somewhere where I could finally be myself.
So I moved to San Francisco!
How exhilarating it felt driving over that state line into that gorgeous city!
I could be whoever I wanted!
I could do whatever I wanted!
I had no one to answer to but myself!
Which was all very freeing and exciting in the moment… until a few weeks into my new life I realized something that was probably basic to others but to me, it was profound.
Real life has its own set of rules and consequences.
My parents might have been taking the blame all of this time for my lack of “freedom” but when I took the responsibility on myself it just so happened that what seemed like oppression back home just seemed like common sense on my own.
I knew right off the bat, for instance, that I didn’t actually like dressing any differently than I did before. If I wore provocative clothes, I just felt uncomfortable and drew the wrong kind of attention.
I didn’t want to party, or be promiscuous, or use drugs.
Those things simply did not appeal to me whatsoever.
In fact, I found myself wanting to feel the goodness and the spirit that I had felt back home. I wondered if I was missing the LDS Church or just church in general, so I started exploring other churches and other ways of belief. I didn’t find any that I felt strongly about or that their history seemed any more or less hard to believe than Mormonism to me.
It wasn’t long before I found myself in a new category of Mormon belief. Not exactly believing in the trueness of it, but instead believing the way of life to be a good one. It seemed to me that if I followed the commandments, prayed daily, focused on family and had charity in my heart, then it wouldn’t matter if I died and just turned into dust. My life would have been better while I was living it.
And that was how I felt until I became pregnant with my son.
Suddenly the stakes were so much higher.
How could I teach my baby something I didn’t know to be true?
What if he felt the judgment and oppression I had felt?
Is this, without a doubt, the best way I can raise my child?
I think because I was going through a very difficult time in my life and I felt so alone in so many ways that at this point I was really questioning the existence of God.
I could no longer float on partial belief. I had questions I felt were never answered and there were things that I didn’t know if I could ever gain a testimony of. I began to ask questions and it seemed to me that many people I talked to didn’t have the answers. It seemed that they didn’t even really care about the answers. I understood that it didn’t matter to them because they had such strong testimonies but I didn’t and it DID matter to me.
I hate to say that I began to judge those around me. I felt like they were blind and didn’t even want to see. I thought I could see better than they could and I could understand truth better than they could. I even kind of pitied them.
The strangest part of my so called superiority is that I was very unhappy. Maybe the unhappiest I’ve ever been. It was obvious that I was the one that wasn’t able to see and feel and understand and yet I was projecting that on to everyone else.
The turnaround began when I finally had a conversation with someone who had answers. He didn’t think my doubts and worries were shocking and he didn’t judge me for them. He completely understood. He had a testimony and he believed, but not blindly. He believed with his head and his heart. He showed me some literature and told me to read. Which I did.
I found what I read to be so helpful and inspiring. It was enough to get me to make a decision. I would try.
For once in my life I would really try to get a testimony and if it didn’t work I would be done. I would let it go and leave it behind. I was willing to risk becoming a disappointment for my parents, but only if I had really given it my all and had to ultimately do what I felt was right. I would be able to, without guilt, if I did that.
Many of the commandments were already pretty much in place, since I had already viewed most as positive lifestyle choices. I just needed to read scriptures, pray daily, go to church and pay my tithing regularly. I had never paid my tithing 100% regularly in my life …and since the time I was a teenager the others were all pretty sporadic as well.
At the time I was VERY short on money. I never had enough to make ends meet, so giving 10% was a huge sacrifice. The first check I wrote gave me a gut ache, but I was determined, so I powered through.
After just a few short weeks I noticed something really incredible.
This was the turning point.
I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing but my entire testimony grew from a monetary seed. I just could not run out of money.
I have never been particularly good at keeping track of the stuff and because I was so low on it I would go negative in my account all the time. Before I started paying my tithing every time I would look at my account my heart would sink with disbelieve at how little was left.
Like clockwork that disbelief took a 180 and each time I would check my bank account I would be floored at how much money was still in there. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t understand how that could be.
Anytime I got low something would come up. To me, it truly was a miracle. I guess I’m a hard sell. I think all my life I was waiting for a miracle and finally, when I was ready, when I was willing to do my part, I got one. I’ll tell you, I have yet to reach the red in my account. My financial situation has continued to steadily improve from that day forward, and so have my testimony and my happiness.
I love the Gospel. I love prayer and I gain so much strength from my relationship with Christ. I love having a congregation I can go to each week and learn from and lean on. I love gaining wisdom from the scriptures. I love having an eternal family. I love having a sacred Temple where I can go to feel peace and to grow. I love having a love focused life.
And while I feel my beliefs are completely in line with what the prophets teach and what I hear in our general conference, I still do disagree with other members from time to time. I still do think there are, at times, cultural imperfections that do not reflect my own views and priorities…but I don’t mind anymore. People aren’t perfect. Especially myself. I now choose to look past that and to focus my attention on becoming more Christlike myself and putting my focus and the focus of my family on the things that I believe are important, and letting everyone else do the same – or not. It’s their life and their journey.
When I have friends who are in the same place that I used to be, I understand how they feel. I listen to their concerns and I offer what I can, but I know that my story probably won’t change their mind. It doesn’t prove anything. It was my miracle, but to someone else it might just be a coincidence. I don’t intend to sway them. I just hope that they are happy. It’s natural for me to want them to find happiness the way I did but I think that being Christlike is to allow them to decide for themselves.
I’m amazed by what unconditional love and understanding can inspire in people. I’ll take my chances with that.
Cara is a wife, a mother, a beauty blogger, and was the winner of the 2013 Allure Beauty Blogger Awards for her beauty blog www.maskcara.com.