Why I’m Mormon

By Guest Blogger Denia-Marie Ollerton

I grew up in a religious LDS household. My parents were and are hardworking, God-fearing, sacrificing people. But it wasn’t easy. We had our difficulties and challenges, and at the time I felt we had more problems than my seemingly-perfect Mormon neighbors.

Church was just a thing we did every week. My friends were there, but I didn’t feel much else pulling me besides them. I remember thinking that religion as taught in my church was for perfect people only. They’d talk about the virtues of being good, and of happy families. I didn’t feel that fit my experience. I thought that God was cold, mean, and punitive.

In my teens, I got into some trouble with school, friends, and had some close calls with the law. I wasn’t happy, but I was trying desperately hard to become so. I still felt that religion was too strict and family relationships too sterile. Around eighteen years old my parents loosened their grip, and I began to experience the reality of being all on my own. I had long since lost any close friends I had in high school. My interactions with my family were minimal, and my life consisted mostly of going to school, trying to stay out of everyone’s way, and going home to sit in my room. Yes, it was very lonely. I knew that the life I had lived and the choices I had made up to that point were not making me happy.

I noticed my siblings were good enough people, and they seemed happy. They were active churchgoers, and always talked about how great the church was. I decided that I’d try religion one time, and one time only. If it was true, if it did work to live by certain rules, then great. If not, I’d know and I could move on with life. At this time, a lot of teachings from my childhood started to come into mind. One principle that came to mind was repentance. Repentance as I understood it was supposed to be this thing where you told God (or your bishop) about all the bad things you’d done, and somehow that was supposed to make you feel better. Oh yeah, and you weren’t supposed to do it again.

I also remembered the teachings about Jesus. I didn’t have much of an opinion on him. I had heard about the crucifixion and the atonement, but those were just words to me. And yet, he did seem like the only forgiving person in the entire story of religion. I remember thinking, “Alright, if he really is merciful and kind, I’ll test it out. I’ll see if he can handle me and all I’ve done.”

I went to my bishop after thinking this over for some time. I expected some harsh words and punishment, but I was willing to go through the process to get to the other side whatever that was. I went in and just let everything out to him. I was surprised but grateful at how calmly and kindly he handled the situation. He just listened for a while, and then asked if we could meet again after church. I agreed. I went to sacrament meeting, and the speakers all spoke about repentance and the atonement. I cried. I felt like a spotlight had been shone on me, and God was finally noticing me. I went back and talked more with my bishop. All of his words were encouraging, hopeful, and healing.

I walked home that day and went to ponder all that had gone on. It was as if a heavy load had been lifted off my shoulders, and I didn’t even know I was carrying it until it was gone. I felt incredibly happy. I think it was joy. I can honestly say I hadn’t felt joyful or happy up until that point in my life. I had seen people cry “tears of joy” before, but I didn’t want to cry, I just wanted to smile. I went through the rest of that week with a huge grin on my face. I knew then that God lived, and that there was so much more to life than I had known. Who knew that because Jesus Christ died thousands of years ago, and went through the atonement, that I could find healing and happiness in life? I didn’t before, but I knew it then. And there was no way I was going back to the life I had lived before.

I became fascinated with religion. I realized that I had been surrounded all along by a wonderful road map to a successful and happy life! I felt that I was doing years of make up work, but also felt that I was given an increased ability to soak it all in. Everything was positive that I found out. My previous notion of a punitive God was erased in large, sweeping motions. I found out he really did care about me. He did answer my prayers, he listened to me, he talked to me, and he helped me connect with others in ways I never knew were possible.

By relying on the teachings of the gospel, I’ve overcome fear, judgment (mostly of myself), and discouragement and have instead found opportunity, growth, excitement, and love. I thought my past would weigh me down, but it has buoyed me up. It has taught me that if God can right the wrong in life, he can make the good even better. I can come to the Lord, imperfect and all, and ask him to change me. And he does!

I love living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not because it’s what I’m used to, or what I’ve known all my life, but because it makes me truly happy. And although I haven’t had a perfect life, I don’t hold myself to that perfect standard anymore, and I know God doesn’t either. He and I both know that I am powerful, and I have so much potential. And I’ll continue to draw on that potential, with his support, for the rest of my life.

14 thoughts on “Why I’m Mormon

  1. liel

    I think that there are a lot of people who can relate to this in one way or another within the church. I know that I didn’t feel like I was really in the demographic the church was trying to talk to when I was growing up. It took a long time and being fairly unhappy to realize that the gospel was a good way to feel better. I kind of feel like we lose the big pictures sometimes because we concentrate on how we want others to feel about our religion. In the end, we’re more or less a church about a personal relationship with God and Christ. Even those ‘perfect Mormon families’ have to convert to the gospel in order to feel that joy and power, in the end.

    Reply
    1. Denia-Marie Ollerton

      Liel, thank you for your comments! It’s a funny thing that we all feel we’re on the outside looking in at different points in our lives. We’re always taught in the church that conversion is a personal thing, and I think your experience and mine are two great examples of that.

      Reply
  2. Brooke

    I love how you talk about feeling like a spotlight was shining on you. One of the biggest questions or challenges in my life has been wondering if God really knows me, and trying to figure out how to communicate and have a relationship with him. I love the imagery–focused light.

    Reply
    1. Denia-Marie Ollerton

      All I can say is too keep searching and asking those questions and He will answer you, in the way that best speaks to your heart.

      Reply
  3. gui

    The church is what people make of it. I know the gospel is perfect, but not the members, but there’s always a learning process. If there is a church for perfect people, there would be no such thing as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I don’t consider myself as a churchgoer (which I don’t want to go anymore), but I know there’s such thing as people who care about each of us. I’m not an Anti-Christ, so please don’t think of me that way-ha ha ha jk 🙂

    I have learned through people in my life who have helped me overcome my mental illness, that we have to define our own religion. We can’t let anyone tell us what to believe or live by, we need to make those choices of what we will accept.

    It’s very difficult to grow up in a conservative, uptight household that misrepresent Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ isn’t supposed to be an Adolf Hitler who tries to control a person’s interpersonalities. I was never taught who Christ was, so I had to learn for myself. My illness taught me that. Yes, people can be very ridiculous of how they portray the gospel, and it makes me chuckle.

    But seriously, don’t let anyone try to determine the course of your life. I always thought that you had to let Heavenly Father make your choices for you, but no that’s not what he wants. He wants you to party like it’s 1999! You only live life once, why take it too seriously. We all need to have fun, and it’s excellent to follow our Father in Heaven.

    I can honestly say, that learning about our Lord has made it easier on me. I hope I said some good. If not, you can give me a phone call to tell me that I need some sense. Party on, dudes & duettes!

    P.S. Be excellent to each other! (that means love one another in Bill & Ted)

    Reply
    1. Denia-Marie Ollerton

      Gui,

      Love the reference to Bill & Ted 🙂 I like what you said about the church being what you make it, and also the fact that we are imperfect people trying to become better. You write about a lot of difficult trials you’ve experienced, and I think it’s so great that you’ve been able to find God and a form of worship that works for you. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  4. Anonymous

    thanks for your story. I think that we all have a time where we will want to decide for ourselves what is the purpose of life – what the bigger picture is. I feel that we can come to this deciding moment via many different pathways, but in the end we all have a desire to figure out why we’re here. Sometimes it may take a while to come to this point or feel the need to find this out because we can be consumed in a million other things, but for me it also centered around understanding who Jesus Christ is and going through an experience where I changed some things in my life and literally felt the burden of guilt lifted off of my soul and I also had that smiling feeling for a long time – I never wanted to do anything bad ever again, I just wanted to do good. It’s a lovely thing. Thanks again.

    Reply
  5. Mique

    Wow, what an amazing story. You are a beautiful writer and you put into words some things I’ve been unable to my whole life. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Reply
  6. Ingrid

    I like how your story is so real and you don’t try to make it sound better than what it actually was. Honesty is very important in addressing questions and doubts. Your example of faith helps everyone who feels religion is only for “perfect” people. If that statement were true, then nobody would be in the Church. Religion and even organized religion is for everyone who is willing to pay the price to make it so.

    Reply
    1. Denia-Marie Ollerton

      I like what you say about “organized religion being for everyone (I’d say anyone) who is willing to pay the price to make it so.” While people have varying experiences with organized religion, I do believe that it can improve the quality of life. It requires sacrifice which seems scary at first but is so worth it! The relationship you gain with your heavenly father, plus the blessings, make those sacrifices doable.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*