Hello! I wanted to share my story with you all. It has been quite the journey, from growing up in Minnesota, Lutheran school, joining the LDS church, going on a mission, and graduating from BYU Idaho, to crossing the continent again, risking everything to live the fullness of the gospel, participate in a United Order, receiving the full temple ordinances, making a family, and building Zion. I am so glad that I’ve made it to where I am today.
I grew up in the Midwest, in a small farming community. It was a place where everybody knew everybody. I loved growing up there. My family was very small and very close to one another. There were only four members of my immediate family and we all loved each other very much.
My family was Lutheran for generations and proud of it. And so was I. I attended a Lutheran grade school from preschool until 8th grade. After that I attended a Lutheran high school as well. I was involved in every ministry that I could be- acolyte, student ministries, confirmation, hand bells… you name it. I loved being at church. And, I thought that was a very average upbringing. I really didn’t associate with anyone who wasn’t Lutheran. It’s not that I had anything against people that weren’t, but when you go to a Lutheran church and school and most of your neighbors are the same religion as you, you can end up a little sheltered.
At school, my teachers taught us stories from the Bible. We had prayer in class. It was… normal. From the beginning God was part of my life, leading and teaching me, and in many ways sheltering me from the world. I am so grateful for the foundation of faith that I inherited. I know that God has been watching over me from the very beginning of my life.
While I was in high school, we were required to take religion classes. I ended up taking a Comparative Religions course. We talked about a lot of different churches: Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists… But there were a few that were mentioned that were labeled as cults. Those being things like Wicca, The Watchtower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses), and Mormons. For every religion we talked about, we had a chart to fill out, with categories like: founder, what they thought of the Savior, scriptures, etc. Although I had been given very little information about them, I had decided that the Mormons didn’t seem like a cult to me. But, I put that on the backburner. I didn’t look into Mormonism any further at that time. I was happy where I was at.
I continued going to my church and being very involved in it. I ended up assisting in leading small groups for Confirmation. I loved being there and for the most part I loved the people as well. It was definitely a big part of my identity.
After I graduated from high school, I started attending a local community college. I no longer had as strong of a connection to all things Lutheran. I had never been around so many people with differing beliefs and values. That probably sounds naïve, but it’s true. I was still attending the same church, although now I was usually the only one in my immediate family attending. Thankfully, I had friends that I went with instead.
There were some things I had been questioning, although I had never once voiced my concerns. Infant baptism, the Trinity, reciting the Lord’s Prayer over and over so much so that it just became something that was said and not really a prayer… mostly small things,
but things that were done all of the time. One day a friend and I were sitting at a local coffee shop, a very common occurrence for us. I had never told her any of the things that had been bothering me, but we had both decided to check out some local churches together. It wasn’t until later that I realized that this was the spirit of God leading me to the next step toward Him.
The following Sunday we attended one of the churches on our list. I didn’t care for it. Maybe it was the traditionalist in me, but that church felt like a concert. I did not like it and never returned. During that week, a thought popped into my head. There was a church that never made it onto our list. I knew my friend would never approve. After all, it was a “cult.” So, I mustered all of the courage my introverted self had and decided I was going to check out the local LDS Ward alone. So, that Sunday I called her and told her I was sick. I wouldn’t be making it to church with her.
By the time I arrived, I was late. It was fast and testimony meeting. The missionaries were still in the foyer, although they didn’t known why. Then I walked in. They welcomed me and we walked into the chapel together. I remember being confused by everything, because it was so unlike what I had ever experienced. A testimony meeting? What on earth is that? But, I stayed. Heck, I stayed for all three hours, which seemed to surprise the missionaries. After that day, I had been given a Book of Mormon, had the first discussion lined up with the missionaries, had been invited over for supper and FHE from a family in the ward. They were obviously good at fellowshipping and I quickly made friends there.
During the first discussion, I got to learn about Joseph Smith and the Restoration. I felt the spirit so strongly. Growing up, I had heard the Holy Spirit mentioned all of the time, but I was not raised with the belief that the presence of the spirit was something that you could feel. I recall the missionaries had to teach me about that as well. They tried committing me to baptism like any good missionary would, and I gave them a soft commitment. I said something like, “Well, if I know it’s true….” They took that as a yes and I’m glad they did. I flew through the next discussions. I felt addicted to the spirit. I loved being with the missionaries because I felt the spirit so strongly and I got to learn so much about the gospel. I was baptized about two weeks after first walking through the meetinghouse doors. And somehow, it didn’t feel a minute too soon. I was ready.
I was an adult and knew I was allowed to make those decisions on my own, but I still felt a little guilty for not telling my family. I mean, I was abandoning the religion of my family for generations. I had been attending the same church that my great-great-uncle had attended. Maybe even some relatives before him. It had been a major part of my life. I didn’t want to make anyone angry. It took a while, but eventually I told them after the fact and although they weren’t happy with my decision, they accepted it. I remember my dad was worried. He didn’t want me to rush in to anything. Well… too late. When you know it’s what you’re supposed to do, it can be hard to go into something slowly. Especially when the spirit testifies to you of what you are supposed to do.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is the end of my story! : )
Only a few days after I was baptized, the local YSA (Young Single Adult) Ward was going down to Missouri to check out a bunch of Church History sites.
I knew only one person that was going. I was a brand new member. I don’t even think I had even heard of a YSA Ward before I went on the trip. But, being new, of course I was curious, so I decided to tag along. It was quite an experience. On the way down there, I heard people talking about many things that were over my head. Someone was talking about a restoration of all things in this dispensation. I don’t remember most of what he talked about, but one thing I for sure remember was plural marriage. But, I knew that Joseph Smith lived it, so obviously it was already restored. I already felt that it must be a true principle, but no one around me was talking that way, and I was still pretty shy, so I didn’t say anything.
But, besides little things like that, I was very happy in the LDS Church. I eventually attended and graduated from BYU Idaho, a Church school. I served a mission. I served in the temple. I truly felt that what I was doing was right, and maybe it was, because it led me to where I am today. I found a lot of joy serving in the church. It’s what I was used to. And being at school at BYU-Idaho with a lot of like-minded people was a good experience as well. But, while there, I did have moments where my testimony wasn’t nearly as strong as it had once been. I learned that there were many people that professed to be Mormons but acted differently when it came to religious things. There were also cultural differences that I had to get used to.
There were other things I had heard mentioned in classes in college or at church. Things like the change in the temple garments, the endowment, etc. It didn’t bother me a ton at first. I mean, the people I loved and trusted were totally ok with these changes. Shouldn’t I be too?
But in my heart I knew I couldn’t be. I thought that I would just stay in the Church with these feelings and never tell a soul. I didn’t want to get in trouble with Church leadership. Especially not while at school. That would put not only my church membership, but also my education, and my degree on the line. So, I kept my mouth shut. Open discussion about the original doctrines and controversial topics is simply not valued in the LDS church. What is valued is conformity.
Earlier in my membership in the church, I had learned that lesson as well. I had once talked to a friend about sealings. I told her that of course, if a man had been sealed to more than one woman in the temple, perhaps if his first wife had died or something, that they would all still be sealed after this life. The tone of her voice when she said, “You believe that?” made me realize that maybe not everyone was comfortable talking about things like that. So, even at school, I knew there were things I shouldn’t bring up.
But after researching things online and finding even more changes the church had made to the unchanging doctrines of Christ, I finally decided I had to do something. When I had gone on that first YSA trip, I had learned there were more Restoration churches than just us. There were churches that had broken off when the pioneers made their exodus to the Salt Lake Valley. And, I also knew that there were these “Fundamentalist” groups out there. Some of them seemed kind of weird, extreme or even dangerous. I didn’t want to associate with a group like that. I mean, Warren Jeffs??! Scary! But still, I just wanted to be where the priesthood was. And I didn’t know how to find that. I thought there might be groups out there that were “normal.” But, at the same time, I didn’t get my hopes up. I thought I might just be stuck in an LDS ward, with these leanings forever.
In some of my free time, I would continue to research things online and in the college library. One day while looking things up online, I stumbled upon this blog. I read a bunch of the articles and knew I needed to learn more. I was still nervous about it, because I didn’t want to put my education in jeopardy. But I also knew I had to do something. So, I sent an email to the editor of this blog. He gave me his number and I gave him a call a few days later.
We talked about many gospel topics, things that I hadn’t been able to talk with other people about. I felt like it was a relief! And I definitely felt the spirit during our conversation. So, after that phone call, he mentioned something about missionaries from Christ’s Church coming up to see me. I was excited, but also a little scared. What was I getting myself into?
I remember they came up to Rexburg on a Sunday. Thankfully, my roommates were taking our traditional after-church nap. So, I snuck out of the apartment, not having anyone asking me where I was going. We met in a conference room at a hotel, just the four of us. It was hard to come up with questions. Everything was a question! I felt like I didn’t know anything. We discussed Adam-God for a long time, because this was something I had heard of, but didn’t know much about. I remember a professor had mentioned it once, saying it was just something Brigham Young had taught. And that was the end of that discussion at school. But here, I actually got to learn about it. We also talked about the priesthood lineage and who holds the priesthood in these latter days.
After that meeting, I prayed about the things we had talked about so much. I sincerely wanted to know. I felt it was good, but was it where the priesthood truly was? Was it truly Christ’s church? I wasn’t sure yet. If it was, this could change my whole life. I went to the temple a lot. I would sit there in the chapel before the session started, pouring over the scriptures. I would just sit there praying and praying. The whole time I was there, I felt like I was trying to figure out where the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was.
A few weeks later, I traveled down to Utah to go to a wedding. At first I wasn’t sure if I was going to go. I didn’t want to be a wedding crasher. I hadn’t met the bride or the groom in person before. Actually, I had never talked to the groom at all. But, some members had invited me, and I thought it would be a good chance to meet more people. Plus, who doesn’t want to go to a wedding? It was a fun experience.
The next day, I got to attend church. That was a unique experience as well. I had never been to church at a house before! I noticed some differences from an LDS meeting. It led to some questions, but then I realized that this is how the LDS Church used to do it. That was amazing. The whole trip back to school seemed to be one big long prayer. I was sorting through everything in my mind. I could feel the Spirit while I prayed about what I had seen and learned over the weekend. I knew what I had to do.
I was baptized, this time in the river, only a few weeks after that. That was a little over a year ago. Through this whole experience, I’ve learned that when the spirit prompts you to do something, act. I’ve also learned that it’s important to learn to recognize the spirit. After that first meeting, I felt that it was good. But, I didn’t really understand what that meant. But through studying and prayer and relying on my Father in Heaven, I’ve come to realize what He wants of me. And I’m really happy I listened.
Just because someone gets rebaptized doesn’t mean their life is going to be all sunshine and roses. It’s not. Even afterwards, I still had doubts creep up. We want our life to be comfortable. We want what we’ve always known. But, that’s not what Christ taught.
24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still the same person I’ve always been. But there are some sacrifices that we need to make. We have been commanded to follow Christ. And that can bring us great joy. I’m so happy that I found Christ’s Church. God has been with me, guiding me, since the beginning. Even before I was born I know that he loved and cared for me, and I’m so grateful that he led me here, step by step, to the fullness of his gospel. I’ve had to make sacrifices, but the blessings are real, and they’re worth it.
Since graduating from college, and getting rebaptized, I’ve now lived in two different states. I moved back to my dad’s house for a little over a year, while working and then figuring out what my next step would be. I had a feeling that I was supposed to gather with the Saints, but I was stubborn and a little afraid. It’s a big step. In my mind, it was a HUGE sacrifice. I had to give up my home, my family.
We had lived here for generations, how could I move almost two thousand miles away? Also during that time, I felt like my testimony was on a rollercoaster ride. It was mainly because I was back in my “comfort.” It seemed like things were back to the way they used to be. And I love my family. Like I said earlier, at home I had been surrounded by family my whole life. Most of my extended family lived in a thirty-mile radius of one another. And now I was thinking about leaving. I didn’t want to be the black sheep.
It took me a long time to move. It even took the prophet telling me that I was supposed to move. I knew in my heart it was true, I felt that I should, but at the same time, I wanted baby steps. I thought that perhaps I would move closer, where I had some friends, and then eventually gather to the temple and the united order community where I had been called. I prayed a lot about this, because it was causing me a lot of stress. Eventually my heart was softened. I needed to give up some of my own thoughts about how my life should go and instead allow God’s will to be done. I listened to what the spirit was prompting me to do and moved.
I’ve been here for a few weeks now and I’m so glad that I made it. I was having a lot of anxiety about the move prior to being out here. I didn’t have a place of my own. I didn’t have a job. I thought I would be all alone. But, that is not the case. I got a job quickly.
I’ve also felt the support of church members. It’s a humbling experience to realize that sometimes you can’t do everything on your own. We are one big family.
I love how the Saints all seem to work together. Every week we come together to help with temporal things for our church. This is part of the United Order. I’ve found that temporal things and spiritual things are very closely related. They influence one another. And the work that we are doing is very important.
I’m very thankful that we are able to perform ordinances for those who have passed away. A week ago, we were able to do baptisms in the Temple, and I was able to be rebaptized. That is something that I love about Christ’s Church. Rebaptism was a doctrine taught in Church history, but isn’t talked about nearly enough anymore.
The spirit came into my heart strongly telling me that this was a sacred work, and that I should be baptized for my mom. She died when I was still fairly young, but I felt her presence there in the temple. I was baptized on behalf of my mom and both of my grandmothers. That was a moment that I had been longing for. When we perform ordinances for ourselves or our deceased ancestors, the spirit is very strong. When I was baptized for my mom, I felt peace. I’m so thankful for the priesthood power that is exercised to perform these ordinances.
I have a testimony that here in Christ’s Church is where the fullness of the priesthood of God is found. We have a prophet of God on the earth who leads and guides us. I know that Christ died for our sins and that He lives. Heavenly Father might require some sacrifices from his people, but they can lead us to even greater joy.