Author Archives: mlmorris

Being Mormon While Being Myself

Name Witheld

On Sundays everyone would go to the pulpit explaining how the LDS Church made them happy. They explained their life and the role the church played in it. In church class discussions, everyone would offer their personal believes about church teachings, the commandments, service, and everything in between. Twice a year, the General Authorities would give their talks. Days, weeks, and years of this, and I start to realize that I had nothing in common with the general culture of the LDS Church, or mainstream Christianity for that matter. Whether it was my day to day interests, my hobbies, or my philosophy on life, I could not have been more opposed to the vast majority of the culture of the LDS Church and mainstream Christianity. I’m not saying their culture is a bad thing, like all cultures it has its good and bad points.

I knew that the teachings of God were separate from the culture of Christianity and Mormonism, but for some reason, it began to bother me more and more. In fact, I realized I didn’t just dislike LDS and Christian culture: I was growing to hate it, and I was growing to hate the fact I was letting it bother me.

I had a firm belief in the Book of Mormon and in Jesus Christ. I had been helped by God in so many direct ways that I believed strongly, but it bothered me that what I believed was God’s religion, and his path to enlightenment, could produce a culture that was in my opinion naive, close minded, and superstitious.

I started thinking maybe there was something wrong with me. This upset me more. What if I was supposed to become more like these people that I was so diametrically opposed to on such a fundamental level? This would never happen. I prayed a lot for some sort of answer. All in all, things were pretty upsetting. While I am not a bad person, most of the things that I like and enjoy have been condemned at some point by popular LDS or Christian culture.

None of this had ever bothered me before. Why was it bothering me know?

I had all but given up on an answer when I got a call from the bishopric of my church on a Saturday (A kind of local leadership in the LDS Church). They told me that a member of the stake high council (local LDS leadership) was coming to the ward and he wanted to talk to me. I had never talked to this man or even knew what he looked like. What could this be about? Nothing good, I thought. I was fairly confused. Sunday I went to church and after Sacrament Meeting he greeted me and asked if we could talk. I agreed.

We got an empty room and introduced ourselves. After a little small talk he asked me, “What is the hardest part of living the gospel for you personally?” This was pretty easy for me. I explained to him how I did not really feel like I belonged, how I was the opposite of what LDS culture thought I should be, and that I was beginning to struggle with basic Christian teachings because I was becoming so defensive about who I was.

He told me something that has changed my life for the better. He said, “You’re a lot like me; I never meshed with Mormon culture. And one thing I learned is that the Church is true, and it is okay to be different.”  That reassurance: “It was okay to be different.” Something profoundly simple and something most people knew naturally. This was something I needed to hear.  We kept talking for a while and then parted. I had never told anyone prior to this meeting about my struggle with my beliefs and identity.

I know that God had answered my prayers. I did not have to change who I was for any group or culture regardless of the basis of that culture. I could be myself, and there was nothing wrong with that. God gave us all commandments to obey that help us evolve spiritually. We are all unique, and can be who we want to be. I could be okay with myself, and on the flip side, I should learn to be okay with people, even if I thought that they were being naive or illogical. This was a huge step for me, and I’m glad that a man that did not even know me decided to talk to me and help me out. I know God helped me through him.

Since then I have learned that God knows us all personally, and he does not want us to be clones in a herd. In fact, I think that living the commandments and being worthy to have God’s influence in your life is the only thing that can help us become our highest selves, or who we are destined to be.

I have stopped worrying about the fact that what makes most of my Mormon and Christian peers happy makes me miserable. Through living the commandments and being faithful, God has changed aspects of myself that I could not change myself, and they have helped me become closer to my true self. Closer to who deep down, I truly want to be. Being okay with yourself and what you love is a major basis for anyone’s happiness. The only two people who matter when it comes to my hobbies and interest are me and God. We are all different and because of that we all see God, the commandments, right and wrong, and being happy differently. There is not one definition of happiness that we all neatly fit into. The world is a complicated place and is full of really cool things we are meant to enjoy. We were not put on earth to simply go to church. The church was put on earth to help all of us enjoy our lives to the fullest. Mormon and Christian principles are the same for everyone, but how we apply these principles in our lives are different for everyone.

Not everything has been perfect for me since I had the talk with the stake leader, but I have been much happier and optimistic about the future. It has not taken away my struggle with feeling alienated; however, it has made it bearable and much easier to handle. I have learned for myself that God knows me perfectly, and that he actually does want me to be happy. Not only does he want me to be happy, but he is much better at making me happy than I am. I now know that submitting to God is not an act of giving up something we want for something foreign and unappealing. Submitting to God means ignoring our limited understanding and trusting God’s. When I do this God always gives me something so much greater than I could have ever done on my own. I don’t just say this because it sounds nice, I say it because for me it is true. God has helped me be myself much better than I can be myself on my own.

 

The New NextDoorMormon

NextDoorMormon is moving in a new direction. We have focused, over the years, on sharing experiences and perspectives of everyday Mormons. We have tried to provide another place on the web to find out what Mormons are all about, to highlight the diversity of our community and our shared faith in Jesus Christ. None of that is changing.

But we are now focusing on sharing the experiences and perspectives of a particular group of Mormons, those who are new or returning to participation in the Church.

New Mormons and those renewing their relationship and commitment to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints experience many and varied challenges. Affiliation with the Church often requires great sacrifice. It usually means adjusting to a new social, cultural, and theological environment. In general, it’s not easy.

However, new and returning Mormons also experience great joy and generally find their engagement with the Church personally enriching and deeply meaningful. That is part of why they choose to be Mormons.

We hope that providing a forum where these converts can freely share their faith, thoughts, experiences, doubts, and difficulties will strengthen them as they seek to remain committed to Jesus Christ and the Church. We hope that those who blog here will strengthen each other.

We also hope that the conversations, stories, expressions of faith, sincere questions, and, in general, the perspectives of these new and returning Mormons will inspire all who read and respond to seek God in their own lives. We believe these new NextDoorMormon bloggers will provide a powerful example of everyday Mormons who are converted to Christ.

As the number of full-time Mormon missionaries (those smartly dressed young women and men with the black name tags) surges toward 100,000, the commitment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to sharing the teachings of Jesus Christ with all who will listen becomes increasingly evident. We’ve never tried to hide it.

So as it relates to this blog, it is probably worth mentioning that we would love for everyone to make a free and informed choice to become a Mormon, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We would love for everyone to be converted to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

But we believe that conversion is a process that each of must independently choose to pursue. We believe that we do not have the power to change hearts and minds, but that God teaches truth and spreads his love through the Holy Ghost. We are not out to convert anyone through NextDoorMormon, but we do hope that all will be converted.

If you are a new or returning member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we hope you will consider blogging with us. If you would like to join the team, please submit your information on the “Blog With Us” page of the website.

To everyone, we hope you will return frequently to enjoy, ponder, question, comment on, share, and otherwise interact with the thoughts and stories shared on this blog and with those who shared them. We hope you will feel welcome to participate whatever your religious affiliation (or non-affiliation).

There’s a place here for everyone who is willing to engage in a civil and respectful conversation about topics and experiences that matter deeply to many of us.

More Than Just Stories

Bible-and-Book-of-Mormon by Sylvia N. Topchiyska

I grew up Eastern Orthodox half of my life. My mom would put us to bed by reading from the Bible. I always liked the stories from the Bible but they were just “stories” to me, nothing else. Reading from the Book of Mormon for the first time wasn’t much different. It was full of stories about people I had never heard of, and I assumed it was referring to the American Indians and that was all. Things changed when I prayed and when I had the desire to actually understand and know what the Bible and the Book of Mormon are about. Most of you might have wondered why there’s such a big emphasis put on prayer? Well, prayer is a gift from God given to each one of us for direct communication with him. The communication goes both ways! We pour our hearts to him and he answers us back through the power of the Holy Ghost. Sometimes answers come through other people. It wasn’t until I knelt down one night and simply asked Heavenly Father if the Book of Mormon was scripture and if it was a book coming from him that the answer came clearly and I had no doubt that the Book of Mormon was true. I did not see any angels or heard voices, but I knew it in my heart. Another thing that helps me to know that the Bible and the Book of Mormon are true is by putting them to a test. Reading the stories, pondering on them, applying them in my life, putting myself in the shoes of the “heroes”, and I come to find that they are for ME (as well as for each one of us). It was an amazing experience and still is when I do that. Many people believe that the Bible is true because someone else has said so, or because it is written by prophets. How do you know if those men are true prophets? Did you ask God about it? Often, the answer is because the word is prophetic and it testifies of Christ and God. The same question is valid for the Book of Mormon. One must read it before they make the conclusion that is false. People are good in passing around information they’ve only heard. Experiencing something and checking it out for yourself is a different story. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that it is the word of God and a compliment to the Bible. I know that it stands as another testament of Jesus Christ. I know that he is the Savior and Redeemer of the world and that he lives! He will come again in glory and power and we, now, have the chance to prepare for that glorious day by reading and studying the words of the prophets, aka, the Bible and the Book of Mormon.