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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.

A Christ Centered Home

My family is now a family of 4. Don’t ask me how we got to this point, I have no idea. I feel like I should still be in college with my roommates eating pizza and cookie dough while watching chick flicks. But here I am, finally realizing I’m a real adult (think it took me long enough?). I’ve been reflecting on the influence I have on my family and especially my children and I’ve realized that the influence I have on them could either make or break their happiness in life. No pressure. I’ve had a few negative experiences lately (in places where I was expecting positive experiences) that have made me take a step back and recognize that really my home is the only place where I can guarantee that there will be a loving and Christ centered atmosphere. But the only way to guarantee this is if my husband and I make it that way. It’s harder than it sometimes seems. Now that life is much more hectic and jumbled with a very young baby  and a 3 year old I’m finding it’s harder and harder to stay focused on Christ and to have that loving environment.

Though my husband and I have always tried to be doing what is right we are realizing we need to be more dedicated and more diligent. The past 4 days we have made sure that we have read scriptures together as a family (usually only a few verses, we do have a 3 year old) and talked about what the scripture meant and how we can apply it to us. We have had a family prayer before my husband is out the door for work and we had a short but meaningful Family Home Evening (this one is tricky for us because my husband works late so we are going to be experimenting to find out how we can better fit it in).  I kid you not, the past 4 days have been so much better than the month before. My son has had fewer tantrums, I have been more patient, I’ve felt less scattered and all over the place. There has been a real difference in how our home feels. Though it’s hard to always fit things in with crazy schedules and crazy children I’ve learned I can’t afford not to. I owe it to my children to have Christ as the center of our home so that they can feel love here and feel safe here and know that no matter what lies outside of our front door they will always be able to feel the spirit in our home.

Hearts Knit Together

I’m totally panicked. It’s hard to get air. I’m on the passenger side of a car that’s barreling down the road to Urgent Care. I need my husband to breathe with me, “Out through your mouth. In through your nose.”

In the end, it doesn’t look too serious. Aside from one scary night, I’m doing fine. But this experience reminded me of what it means to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Loaves of BreadAs Lindsey explained earlier, being Mormon means more than just attending church on Sunday. It’s about being part of a community. When we become a member of the church, we promise to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light.” We seek to have “one eye, having one faith and one baptism” and have our “hearts knit together in unity and in love one towards another” (Mosiah 18:8-9, 21).

During the week I saw this in action. I was given rides to where I needed to go. Somebody cleaned up our garden plot. And two women offered to bring me and my husband dinner on the same night. That made me laugh. I’m not sick, I don’t have kids, and my husband is perfectly capable of cooking dinner (and does regularly). Food is just one way Mormons show love and support. And you know, it works.

A Partner With God

I am now counting down the weeks before our little girl is born. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can be best prepared both practically speaking and emotionally. I have been working hard to make sure we have everything ready: meals in the freezer, diapers and clothes ready, babysitters for my son arranged, etc. There is a lot to do to get ready for a baby but what I learned from my son is that the most important preparation is emotional and spiritual.

I am a bit of a control freak. I really hate giving up control, especially if it’s because I feel like I can’t do it all on my own. Giving up control to benefit someone else is not too hard for me but being forced to give up control is extremely hard for me. I am a really independent person and I feel that I have no business getting myself into things that I can’t do on my own. I’ve always known this about myself and it’s never really been much of a problem. It’s caused a few stressed out days/weeks but nothing too much beyond that. And then came motherhood.

After I had my son I literally did not sleep for 72 hours. I was so overwhelmed with not only the responsibility of motherhood but the responsibility of having a newborn. If you’ve experienced what it is like to be a first time parent you know that newborns are so fragile, anything could go wrong. And, as a control freak I had to be the one to make sure nothing happened, it was all on me. With each passing day of no the sleep the crazier I got. It literally became too much for me. I couldn’t do it on my own. I couldn’t watch him constantly. This was very hard for me to accept and I didn’t know what to do. My husband gave me a priesthood blessing to help calm my mind and spirit. In the blessing I was reminded that motherhood is not meant to be a solo job. It’s not even meant to be only a partnership between mother and father. Parenthood is meant to be a partnership with God.

After I really internalized that God was in charge and in control I was finally able to sleep and relax. I have to try my best to do my best but more importantly I have to have faith that God will give me strength and that he has a plan for my family. Without God I can’t do it and it is supposed to be that way. Just like my newborn is dependent on me, I am dependant on my Father in Heaven. And just like I love my children with all my heart and will always do what I can to help them, my Father in Heaven loves me and will always help me.

This time around I can feel myself getting nervous about having to give up so much control again but I know I can do it and I know that God will be there for me. I know that He loves me. These are the ways I am trying to prepare for the arrival of our little girl. This is the most important preparation I can do, to prepare to be a partner with God.

What it Means to be Christian

Sometimes it gets a little frustrating when everyone feels entitled to define your religion for you. There has been a lot of talk about whether Mormons are Christians or not, whether we are a cult or not, and why it actually matters. As you can probably imagine, I have a few thoughts on the matter. But, I feel like it would be a waste of my time to write my own thoughts on this because I just read an article that I think explains it so wonderfully and already includes everything I was thinking (except Jeffers, the author, enjoys politics and I am quite the opposite :)).

I really enjoyed this post because I felt like it explored all the different sides of what it means to be a Christian and how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fits into that. For me, Christ is the center of everything I do. He is why I strive to be a good wife, mother, neighbor, citizen and human.  If you have any questions about Mormons’ stance on Christ (or even if you don’t and you just want a good read about what it means to be a Christian) I highly recommend reading this article from our friends over at mormonperspectives.com.

My Journey through Bereavement

Mackinac Island, MI 1984

In December 2010, I lost my 28 year-old brother to a very aggressive cancer which took his energy, health, and ultimately his life in roughly six weeks – from the time he was diagnosed to the day he passed away.  My immediate response was pretty typical – I went into survival mode taking of care of everyone but myself.  In fact, when I got the first bereavement letter from hospice six month after my brother’s death, I thought, “thanks, but I’m already passed this point.” Only recently have I realized how long the process of bereavement really is, the extent to which this loss impacts my life, and just how much I did need all the support that was given.

There are five stages of grief that most experts appear to agree on – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. We can experience them in any order and sometimes go back and forth between stages, culminating into something that feels very much like a roller coaster.

A few weeks ago I decided to finally track my progression through the bereavement process to better understand where I am and the decisions I’m making. I actually have a very real fear of choices being based solely on emotional motivations and needed to ensure there was some logic behind my past 10 months of decision making.

So where’s the Mormon tie-in? Bargaining.

I’ve been in this stage since day one and while I may have briefly ventured into other stages, I feel I have yet to move out of bargaining due to my faith in principles such as eternal families and temple ordinances. I don’t mean this in a negative way at all. I choose for faith to be a real and significant influence in my life and in this case, it’s helped me cope with a terrible loss and the moving on process.

But at some point, I will have to accept that being an eternal family will not enable me to grow up with my brother here on earth and participate in the important chapters of each others’ lives. Temple ordinances open the door for different, not identical, opportunities. The entire experience has forced me to rethink where I stand on certain issues – and to be comfortable knowing that future experiences may change how I feel about it all over again.

Have you ever experienced something that made you hold on tighter or clarify what you really believe?

Regaining Patience and Sanity

Last week I road tripped to my brother’s house, 2-year-old in tow, to watch his 3 kids for him while he and his wife took a little weekend away. Hurricane Irene brought a few (more like a lot) of stresses to their home and so I offered to give them a break. I saw this as a great opportunity for my son to spend some time with his cousins as well as give me some practice with multiple children. I realized I need a lot more practice. I wouldn’t consider myself a particularly patient person but I’m not the most impatient person I know either. Last week I was the most impatient person I know. I really started to wonder if I would be able to handle multiple kids (a little late now!). I mean, what are you supposed to do when someone has a stinky diaper that is emitting toxic fumes, a 2-year-old is scaling the kitchen cabinets in search of marshmallows and the other 2 kids are wrestling to the death? All at the same time!  Fortunately for me though, Saturday night brought some much needed perspective.

Saturday there was a meeting held worldwide for the Relief Society, the women’s organization or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I watched this meeting via live stream on lds.org. There was one segment of one of the talks that really stuck out to me. The person who shared this message is an apostle of the Lord, just like the apostles of Jesus Christ in the New Testament times. I also have great respect for this man, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, because of his life story. As I’ve mentioned before, some people think that all Mormons are totally naive and closed off to the world. Not this man. He grew up in Soviet controlled East Germany. His family eventually had to flee to West Germany because it became too dangerous for them in East Germany due to his father’s differing political views from the Soviets. When this man talks about surviving hard times, keeping perspective, or hope I listen extra hard. He has experienced the worst of what the world has to offer. This particular message is about patience.

Dear sisters, many of you are endlessly compassionate and patient with the weaknesses of others. Please remember also to be compassionate and patient with yourself.

In the meantime, be thankful for all the small successes in your home, your family relationships, your education and livelihood, your Church participation and personal improvement. Like the forget-me-nots, these successes may seem tiny to you and they may go unnoticed by others, but God notices them and they are not small to Him. If you consider success to be only the most perfect rose or dazzling orchid, you may miss some of life’s sweetest experiences.

As a mother I feel like most of my successes go unnoticed or are considered tiny. I would imagine that people in other circumstances feel the same way also. After listening to this message I realized that the person I was most frustrated with was myself, it wasn’t the kids. I should have been able to go in there and be the super fun aunt/mom that everyone wanted to obey and knew how to take care of 4 kids with ease. When I realized I was losing control of the situation quickly and I had no idea what I was doing, I lost all patience with myself. But, when my sister-in-law came home she proclaimed with joy, “The house is still here and the kids are alive! Thank you!” That is a success I will take. I survived elementary school pick-up for the first time; a success I will take (and trust me, this is a big one). We didn’t go to the ER, not even once; a success I will take. All the children went to bed every night; a success  I will take.

I am grateful for apostles of the Lord that share inspired messages of hope. I know these men and the other leaders of The Church are called of God. I never feel so empowered and so filled with hope than when I listen to their words. There will be more messages shared by these men and women this Saturday and Sunday. If  you are interested in listening, you can do so here. I know their words will help you no matter your situation or circumstance. I know I’ll be listening.

Mormon Missionaries

On Sunday we had the full-time missionaries over.  When we asked them how things were going they really brightened up and told us about a family they just started teaching. They said in their first lesson with this family they talked about prayer because no one in the family had ever prayed before. They shared with us what a powerful experience it was for them to watch this family pray for the first time and how happy it made them that the family had a good experience praying together.

I think often people are kind of scared of the full-time missionaries or think of them as aggressive preachers.  I wanted to share this moment we had with the missionaries to just display the attitude of most of the full time missionaries. Most of them just want to help people be happy. They get excited when they see people coming closer to God because they know it will help them find happiness. Missionaries go around teaching the gospel as a way of helping people.

Not everyone is going to be interested in what the missionaries have to say and trust me, they know that, but they try to reach and talk to as many people as possible so that hopefully they can find the people that are interested or who are looking for more out of life. I very much respect and admire the full time missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Generally, missionaries are 19-23 years old. They leave home for two years and work every day from 6:30am-10:30pm. They often have to learn a new language or be immersed in a new culture with very little training. They face rejection daily and quite frankly serving a full-time LDS mission is just plain hard. But, the vast majority will tell you that it is worth it because they were able to help bring even just a few people closer to Christ. That takes guts, courage and strength. I’m really glad to be a part of church that cares so much about those searching for more truth.

Squeaky Clean Language

I have a very vivid memory of being on the school bus when I was in 4th or 5th grade and having some boys my age offer me candy if I would say a swear word. When I declined they tried to get a little more persuasive and try to convince me that it didn’t count if I said a swear word because I could just quote them saying it so it wasn’t  actually my own words. To their great disappointment, I didn’t end up saying a swear word that day.  I don’t mean to paint this picture in a persecuting light. The boys were my friends, they were having fun  teasing me and I was having just as much fun being stubborn back to them. I was somewhat of an anomaly to them. I was the only Mormon in my elementary school besides my little sister so they were curious to see what my limits actually were and if I could be bought over by candy.

Avoiding profane and vulgar language is something that most Mormons strive to do. My brother-in-law requested that I do a blog post on this subject to try and help explain why that is. Sometimes it’s not so obvious why it matters so much. In the situation on the school bus I didn’t really know why I wasn’t supposed to say swear words, I just knew I wasn’t supposed to. My reasoning, as it often was when I was younger, was that it was against my religion. At that time that was a good enough reason for me. As an adult though I desire a little more insight as to why our church leaders have asked us to avoid profane and vulgar language.

Now let’s get something straight before I go any further. If you haven’t heard a Mormon use a swear word you probably don’t know very many Mormons. This is something that is difficult for a lot of people to master. Sometimes the tongue is a little faster than the mind but as a general rule we do try to keep our language clean.

What somebody says, or how they say it, reflects who they are. All kinds of assumptions are made about someone based on their speech. If I spoke with really bad grammar people would assume I was uneducated or if I spoke with my best Boston accent people would assume I either had a speech impediment where I couldn’t say my “R’s” or know that I was from Boston. As I have explained before, when we are baptized we take the name of Jesus Christ upon us and agree to be his representatives throughout our lives. That means our language not only reflects who we are but also the Savior. It doesn’t really matter if people are watching and assuming or not, I covenanted to represent Jesus Christ at all times;  when I’m alone, when I’m angry, when I’m with friends, when I just got cut off driving, etc. so my language should also reflect that at all times.

We also don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. We do not use the Savior’s name as an expletive or that of our Heavenly Father. Those names are to be used with only the utmost respect and reverence. In the bible James explains about why language matters. He says that if we can control our speech then we can control our whole bodies but if we allow our speech to be vulgar our lives will follow. He also explains that the same mouth that teaches God’s word has no room for profane and vulgar words, it’s hypocritical.

Mormons don’t avoid profane and vulgar language to be self-righteous  or to prove a point, we do it because we are trying to represent Jesus Christ and want to lead clean lives. But, we’re just normal people and we say things we regret in the heat of the moment or perhaps sometimes the candy being offered just looks too enticing. When you avoid profane language do you notice a change in your behavior as well?

What I Like About Being Mormon

I was thinking today about what I really enjoy about being Mormon. There are a lot of things but I decided to go with a pretty practical one. We just moved, not a big move, just across the city but big enough where it has been an adjustment. Since we moved we’ve been traveling a lot and as I divulged a few weeks ago I was pretty sick so getting to know people in our new neighborhood has been very slow moving. And, if you’ve ever been to the Boston area you know that when something is just a few miles away it translates into a 30 minute plus commute due to traffic and just the general layout of the city. So if I wanted to I could easily go a long time (like weeks probably) without seeing anyone I know besides my husband and son. This is where being Mormon comes in.

I’ve talked about Relief Society before, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints women’s organization. In addition to providing spiritual needs for the women in the ward there is a very practical side to the Relief Society as well. My chapter of the Relief Society has been doing park days/outings throughout the area every week as well as meeting together at church on Sunday. Because of these outings and meeting together on Sundays it gives me the extra nudge I need right now to get out of the house and get together with friends, which for stay-at-home moms is really essential to maintaining sanity. This is one thing I love about being Mormon. The Church helps us with our practical needs as well as our spiritual needs, because really they are all interconnected. I love having something to be involved in, no matter where I am currently living or what my present situation is. I will always have a congregation to be a part of, a natural way of meeting people and making friends and a natural way to serve and contribute to something other than my own home.

The gospel of Jesus Christ does not coincide with isolation and it’s not about just bettering ourselves. It’s about being a part of a community and serving each other and loving each other, no matter our current needs or situation. Have you experienced a time when being a part of an established community helped you?