Stories of Faith: Cara Brook

June 27, 2014

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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35 Comments

  • Reply corrine June 27, 2014 at 9:59 am

    this is beautiful. i know cara personally but didn’t know her story about her religious beliefs. thanks for giving her a place to share it 🙂

    • Reply Liz June 29, 2014 at 2:02 pm

      Thanks Corrine! We are so grateful Cara was willing to share, and in such an open and inspiring way! xo

  • Reply Sheri June 27, 2014 at 10:09 am

    I loved this. I feel like so many people are struggling right now. I love that you tried and did the “testing of your faith” in giving it your all. I admire you!

  • Reply Pennyp June 27, 2014 at 1:14 pm

    Awesome! Tithing isn’t something you don’t hear people talk about much these days and I found your story very very refreshing!!! Thanks so much for sharing!!!

    I have followed your maskcara blog for a few years now and have always loved it. I think this is why people are so drawn to your blog, because even though you don’t beat people over the head with your faith, it is expressed in the “little things” you do and say. 🙂

  • Reply Kyrie June 27, 2014 at 1:35 pm

    I had no idea you were Mormon. Wow!! How great for you! I love your blog!!

  • Reply Suzette June 27, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    You spoke my truth almost word for word. Thank you! The journey to faith is never over. For me there will still be questions that may jolt me on occasion. But when all is said and done, I know it to be true and completely worth it. A relationship with my Savior is my key to happiness. Beautifully written!

  • Reply Tara June 27, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    An eloquent way to tell your compelling story. Something that stood out to me is that, I think, most Believers have come to their faith only through some doubt and hard times. Many continue to have faith while carrying doubts and questions – I am one of them. But it’s nearly impossible to know something that personal about people we see at church and other places.

  • Reply Lisa June 27, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Cara– I teared up reading your story of faith. It’s absolutely relatable to so many people, regardless of their particular faith. Thanks for being so open with your personal journey. I’m going to have my daughters read it– I think they’ll love it. {hugs!}

  • Reply Ashleigh June 27, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    This is exactly what I needed to hear today.Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

  • Reply Melanie June 27, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    beautiful. just beautiful. I loved this. doubt and faith co-exist simultaneously and I think it makes one stronger when you admit it. you inspire me.

  • Reply Jenny June 27, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.

  • Reply Heather June 28, 2014 at 1:04 am

    Thank you, Cara. I really needed to read this today.

  • Reply Lise June 28, 2014 at 6:51 am

    I don’t know if I’m entitled to an opinion on this particular subject since I’m French and an atheist. But something struck me in that testimony. At the begininning I thought that it was quite refreshing to hear about somenone who feels strongly against organized religion. I was curious to read the words of someone who doesn’t find necessary to belong to a congregassion or a Church to live her faith.
    But even though I respect every choices regarding religion I don’t understand how one can belong to a church, which has such a strong hold on the lives of its members. How can we live our faith freely when church leaders promote such traditional social and family patterns. The mere fact that a lot of young LDS women feel compelled to mary, raise children, and take care of a household at a very young age while their husbands go out in the world, stand on their own two feet is a sign that sometimes organized religion is not about acceptance, open-midedness, about letting people find their own path.

    • Reply Liz June 29, 2014 at 2:08 pm

      Hi Lise,

      Of course you’re entitled to an opinion on the subject! And thank you for sharing so openly. When I lived in Croatia this was an issue that came up constantly-that even if we are believers, why do we need organized religion (or does organized religion do more harm than good?!). I would be happy to chat more , and would love to hear more about your thoughts and experience, if you’re interested email me at liz@thesmallseed.com.
      Thanks for sharing. xo

    • Reply Julie July 9, 2014 at 9:16 am

      Hi Lise, of course you can have an opinion. I’d like to share with you who I am. I am LDS and yes I got married young (21) and my first child was born when I was 24. I guess I fit the mold 😉 I have a college education a cosmetology license and a supporting husband who built me a salon in the basement so I have the freedom to do hair whenever I want.
      I can see your perspective from what you know of our religion. I want to show you mine. I can honestly say that I always wanted to be a mother first and foremost. I could have chosen many career paths but none of them excited me to spend doing all day every day. I love math (took calculus because i like it, i know I’m weird) and in college thought of many options career wise but I still kept coming back to being home with my kids. (I was not yet married) I want to be the one teaching my children, I want to be the one seeing their “firsts” I don’t want to give that privilege to a babysitter. My kids are only awake for about 12 hours a day and I don’t want to spend only a small portion of that with them. I funny want to spend what time I have with them always rushing to get ready to leave in the morning and getting ready for bed. Trust me the getting ready for anything is not the fun part of parenthood! I want the fun in the middle (and the hard that comes with it) I wasn’t the his and snuggles and be the one that comforts them when they are hurt. We just recently adopted our youngest child who is 8 years younger than my bio youngest and I can say from experience that children bond with those who take care of them. It took her less than a week for her to know I’m her mama. We got her at 3 weeks old. I’m so very grateful that I am able to stay home with my children. I feel it a pleasure to be the one teaching them and playing with them. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had, but also the most rewarding. The big slobbery kisses I get from my 9 month old are priceless.
      This is the path that I want. This is the path that I chose. And my husband and I stand together, we are a team, we stand together. I don’t want to stand alone and yet I could if I needed to stand on my own 2 feet. I have never felt oppressed in any way, in fact he calls me his little spitfire, poor man. We have grown together which is what I believe makes our marriage strong. We have learned how to run our house and finances together and I guess you could say grown up together. If we had done it solo I’m sure it would be harder to figure out which of our ways to do it would work best but finding the way together has worked for us.
      The lifestyle we have has made me completely happy. I never once felt pressured to choose it either. Rather education and being able to provide for myself was promoted. Being prepared for the unknown future is very important in our religion.
      I can’t imagine being happy any other way as it sounds like you can’t imagine being happy my way. And that’s fine! We are different, no way of life is perfect for everyone. Our church is very big into agency and choice.
      A thought on perspective. My 2 oldest kids had to run back to the school because my daughter forgot something. Her brother was less than thrilled to go back with her. When they got home they each happened to tell me what happened at different times and without the other around. What I found to be interesting was that while their facts were the same the stories were very different. My son told how they were told to hurry and they only had 3 minutes and was very bugged that the secretary only gave them 3 minutes and his story had a very negative tone. My daughter told how they were given 3 minutes and she was so excited that they did it faster and were done before their time ran out. Her story was of success and validity in what she did. I tell this story because you might see my life as the first with a more negative light, you might persieve me as oppressed and without finding who I am. But I see myself as happy, with a huge impact on the world through my 4 children. I have found myself and i have done it with my husband. I am a mother/wife/cosmetologist just as my husband is a father/husband/IT director. And personally I think my job (meaning stay at home mom) is more important than his and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. (Don’t get me wrong there are days I think I might go crazy staying at home with these cute kiddos, but my husband feels the same way about his co workers sometimes)
      I hope I have answered your curiosity in some small way. And I hope I haven’t offended you in any way because that was not my intention. I just wanted you to hear from someone who is happy in this lifestyle, it doesn’t mean it’s right for everyone. And I honestly hope you are happy with yours. We don’t have to agree or even understand why someone has chosen for themselves the way they live. I just hope they are happy.

    • Reply Juliana July 31, 2014 at 10:37 am

      Hi, Lise. I’m jumping into this conversation late. Not even sure if you’ll see this. But I thought I’d share… I am an active LDS woman and always have been. I was married at 32. I have a masters degree and worked many years in Human Resources and upper management. I’ve traveled much of the world- multiple Latin countries, Asian countries, European countries, and across the US. The gospel of Jesus Christ focuses on the family. But, there is no commandment to marry young. (Especially not in the family I was brought up in. Haha!) It’s a cultural side effect of the emphasis on family. The truth is God will direct our lives as we live close to Him. For some that is marrying young. For others that is marrying later. Life is unique to each of us.

  • Reply Ashley June 28, 2014 at 11:36 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story Cara. I needed to read this today.

  • Reply Kristen Tu'ifua June 29, 2014 at 3:07 am

    The whole article is wonderful, but the last three lines are perfect, and so true. We have to let others find their own way and love them no matter what. Beautifully written.

  • Reply Friday Favorites | Maskcara June 29, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    […] So…Way back in January when I asked you all to weigh in on what you’d like to see more of here and what you’re interested in etc. I was surprised to see how many voiced interest in learning more about my Faith. I felt somewhat torn about that because, this is a beauty blog and I just didn’t feel it would be an appropriate place for religious discussion. Which is why I was really excited when I was approached by some ladies who run a lovely Faith based blog called The Small Seed. They asked if I would like to write a post and I was more than happy to. I decided to write about my journey and conversion to becoming a mormon and my struggles with organized religion along the way. If you are interested in reading about that it posted today: HERE. […]

    • Reply Jessica Adlard November 14, 2016 at 2:10 pm

      Cara, what books did your friend recommend? I love that you searched until you found. That is the right thing to do. I would love to read those books!

  • Reply Blanca Martineau June 29, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    Cara dear you are pure “Radiance”… love your story. Thanks for sharing ♡

  • Reply Kathy June 29, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and your testimony. They inspire me to see and acknowledge the tender mercies the Lord shows me. “Lord I believe. Help thou my unbelief.”

  • Reply Carol June 30, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Beautifully said! Beautiful journey! So glad that you are so willing to share. I certainly blesses my life more than you can know to read about you, your perspective, and your life. Thank you! Lots of love to you all!
    Carol

  • Reply Boni Michelle July 3, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    Hi Cara! Thank you for sharing your story. Faith and believing in something can be quite the journey, I know many people feel this way. I grew up in the Mormon church too. I have to say that for me if I’m going to belong to a church the LDS church feels best to me. I love your beauty blog, by the way!! I really do. Take good care of yourself and your little family.

  • Reply Carrie July 6, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story, Cara! I can relate to much of what you said. So glad to hear your testimony!

  • Reply Alexa October 18, 2014 at 8:28 am

    Jesus is enough. There is nothing else you NEED. Yes, faith without works is dead but the gospel of Jesus coming down from heaven and dying for our sins and then rising from the dead defeating evil is all you need to believe to have eternal life with Him! You cannot cheapen what Jesus did by adding more to the story! Jesus Saves! The Bible, which is the Word of God is all you need. Jesus loves you just as you are wearing a tank top and all. It’s so sad to me how many LDS women feel the pressure to be perfect wives, moms, … God loves All! He wants us to lean on him with our brokenness. Once you have faith in Jesus’ resurrection your life is forever changed and you desire to please God alone. It’s free and it’s beautiful. Gods Grace and forgiveness are amazing. Just wanted to share my Christian faith.

    Thanks for all your beauty tips. You are very good at what you do! 🙂

  • Reply Alyse October 28, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    So cool Cara! You amaze me so much! Thanks for sharing this. I like to ask lots of questions too. So glad Heavenly Father still loves us for us and wants us to find out for ourselves.

  • Reply Gina December 7, 2014 at 2:43 pm

    What a beautiful testimony, Cara. Love God, love people. Truly very simple.

  • Reply Laureen January 4, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    Thanks for sharing your testimony. It was exactly what I needed to hear.

  • Reply terri March 7, 2015 at 7:06 am

    Beautiful testimony.. so what religion are you? Still a LDS?

  • Reply Debbie May 29, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    I believe with all my heart, faith, not sight is true. And I also believe that God is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And I also believe that only through God is the way to live each day, putting Him first in all we do. That makes everything else in our lives come together as they should. Deb

  • Reply Elle Johnsee August 5, 2015 at 4:06 pm

    This was amazing. Thank you SO MUCH for sharing and using the internet for good. I love, love, love it. Bless you!!

  • Reply Kate December 28, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    Just curious? What was the literature you read that your friend suggested?

  • Reply Natalie Palmer January 21, 2016 at 7:57 pm

    So glad my friend directed me to your site. Thank you for sharing your story!

  • Reply Julie June 8, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I loved that you decided to just believe and act on faith. I have had friends who stopped believing and trying and they have eventually come back and said the same things you did (looking down on believers, being angry or unhappy but wouldn’t admit it, they weren’t trying to really pray or really read scriptures etc). Now they have come back, they are so happy and radiating goodness. Stay strong and keep on keeping on!

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