My Story: Arlene Bonneau

My sister had called me four years ago to ask if she could send over a couple of young male missionaries to visit me and discuss the gospel, to which I said yes. I had questions that I had had for a number of years that no one in any other faith seemed to be able to answer or to bother trying. I needed these answers because my faith in Christ was huge. As we all sat and chatted; myself, the 2 missionaries and another member from our church, I listened very closely and watched their faces even closer. I wanted to see and hear if what they were telling me was true. I am so very glad that I chose to have them over and to talk. That evening, not only did I receive some of the answers that made total sense, I also saw that these young men lived with what the gospel taught and were so willing to share it with me. I had told them that I would be at the mornings service on that very next Sunday. As I sat, listening and absorbing what was being said, I also felt a unique experience that I understood (later) that what was being said and taught was also the truth since ancient times. Nothing had changed in the way they taught and learned. This was the very first time that I had heard the gospel this way and I was so pleased.

Since that first visit, I have had further instances substantiated. I could now say I was wholly ready to hear and learn more. And the more I learned the more I needed to know! I truly believe, that at that time, and every day since, that I have been blessed to have the true gospel in my home and even more faith. I know that by keeping our commandments that I have made with God, he has blessed me in many ways.

I know that Jesus Christ lives, that his death was necessary since the very beginning and that the Atonement could never have been paid by anyone else. I believe I had the opportunity, as I keep my commandments and to do as Jesus did and taught, that I can be truly happy. By continuing reading the scriptures daily, attending weekly services and having plans with others of our church, who have become dear and close friends, attending the annual conferences we have, I believe that if I continue to live in the tradition and the standards of this church/faith that I will get stronger everyday. My daily prayers and fasting have helped me gain the truth of many things. It has changed me into a better person, a person that I like for the first time in my life. This has strengthened not just my faith in God, but it has strengthened me as a person and as a child of God. I stand taller, am more confident of myself as each day goes by with the knowledge that I have learned. My wish is to never stop learning and to never stop helping others. I know this is the true church and the true gospel with all my being.

Taylor Saraceni: “How did you feel at your baptism?”

How did you feel at your baptism?

 The Renaissance was a period in history in which culture was said to have been “re-born”. The glory of the Classical Era, the genius of the ancient Greeks and Romans, was re-discovered by the people of Europe. This is an important concept to keep in mind when talking about my personal feelings of my Baptism. Just as culture and logic was believed to have been re-born in that bygone era, I had a personal re-birth once I came forth from the baptismal water. That moment was a turning point in my young life, and I’d be lying if I was to say I wasn’t nervous the day of my baptism. With my baptism I made a covenant with our Heavenly Father that I would do everything humanly possibly to live the by the Commandments, and with much prayer I’ve been successful thus far and it has blessed my life more than I could possibly bare testimony of. I felt compelled to write this, I hope that whosoever reads this can find comfort in my testimony that being baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints is one of the best decisions you could make in your life, it will bring you comfort and never ending satisfaction and countless blessings, I’ve already seen these come to fruition in my life and I know you’ll feel and see the same things. I know that our Heavenly Father loves us moreso than we could understand and that baptism and repentance are the first steps in living a righteous life and triumphing over the evils of the world and returning to our Heavenly Father one day.

Fast Facts: Rosa Sanheuza

When were you first introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? 

When I was 12 years old.

Where/how were you first introduced to it? 

My friend and neighbor Raquel, I use to stop by the Mormon church when I was young. There was always someone smiling welcoming people at the door.

When was your baptism?

July 27, 2013.

How many members of your family are members of the Church as well?

Two

In one word, describe your feelings about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I pray for answers to a long journey, God and my faith leads me to the Church, I know is the true.

Fast Facts: Taylor Saraceni

When were you first introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

I first learned about the Church in a US History class while learning about the Second Great Awakening and the formulation of the Church, this occurred my Sophomore year, so two years ago.

When was/is your baptism?

My baptism was the twenty-second of September (2013) and I’ve been the happiest I’ve ever been in my young life ever since.

How many members of your family are members of the Church as well?    

I am the only member of my Family who is a member of the Church.

In one word, describe your feelings about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Happiness.

Inspiration Sunday: Elder Ballard

m-russell-ballard-10

“The Lord knows us. He knows we have our challenges. I realize that some of you may feel heavy laden, but I pray that none of you would ever feel that reaching out in normal, pleasant ways to share the gospel would ever be a burden. Rather, it is a privilege! There is no greater joy in life than being anxiously engaged in the service of the Lord.”

– Elder Ballard

Click HERE to read the full talk

 

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.

 

Edith’s Testimony

Edith Kintu

The first time I saw the Book of Mormon was on a Sunday. A friend of mine did bring it to me after church. I was working in Marblehead, Massachusetts, in the year 2012; I do not remember the date or month. She is a friend of mine, and we met on the job in Marblehead, taking care of an elderly sweetheart lady. I did read a few lines, and I did not get it. I called her and said I do not understand the book because of the “thy” and “it came to pass.” I said to myself, “What came to pass?” She said that I was reading it as if I were reading a novel, because I am an avid novel reader. I put the Book of Mormon on my nightstand table where it stayed until the next time I saw it.

The sweet lady we were taking care of died the following year. I got sick, and they brought me to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). To cut a long story short, my friend did bring the book to me again at MGH. I tried to read it but not that week. I went back home, and she took me into her house to care for me. That’s when I really came to read the Book of Mormon with my eyes and mind open. I asked her whatever I did not understand. She did explain and she also did encourage me to pray.

Little by little, I did come to find out by myself what the true church is. [I liked three things about the church. One is] that the church is not for profit (i.e., priests, pastors, etc., should not be paid). Second, the church should not have anyone’s name on it. And also that I had to repent of my sins in order to be baptized; which means that because a baby does not have any sins, there is no reason for them to repent and be baptized; which means that we do have to be a certain age where we have sinned and we know we have sinned, we can confess our sins, and be baptized the way our Savior was baptized. By that it means being submerged into the body of water as he was and not just a few drops on our foreheads as they do when we are babies.

To cut a long story short: the day I was baptized was the happiest day of my life. Before that I did some investigating by going to church a few times, just to be sure and also compare what I had read in the Book of Mormon and what the elders had taught me. My baptism did go off without a hitch. By that I mean they only had to do it just one time. My bishop, the elders, and my friends were there. It was small because I wanted it that way. My best friend who introduced me was not there because of a prior engagement we did forget about. But she did give me her blessing and wished me well. I did have some naysayers, but it was my decision and also what I believed and also what I knew was the truth.

From the day I started going to church, including the investigation period, I just felt welcome, included, and people were always asking me if there was something, anything, they could do for me, big or small, religious or not, starting from my bishop to the members of the church. That is something I never felt in the other churches. I just went to pray, they did collect money, and go home. But in my new church I had people calling me every day to find out how I was, what I needed, etc.

I am really thankful to my best friend for bringing me the Book of Mormon. It did help me find out the truth about the different churches. I am also thankful that she did not pressure or sway me in any way. I just found out the truth by myself.

So please do pick up the Book of Mormon, read it, and if you need help ask for a missionary to help you with what you do not understand. I know that they are not going to pressure you but just answer your questions.

Editor’s note: Edith gave me this copy of her testimony on Sept 2, 2013, just two weeks before she lost her battle with cancer. A nurse was reading the Book of Mormon to her as she passed away. 

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.

Where Art Thou, My Father: A Testimony

Reflection in waterby Gabriel Sebastian Hathaway

My search for God has been happening for a very long time. After spending years stuck in a great rut, I began to wonder, “Who is God?” and “Is he really there?” I can remember feeling alone in my trials, and I felt like no one really loved me.  I began to run from my problems, and found that no matter how hard I ran, no matter how hard I tried, I could not overcome my issues and feelings alone. What I considered my faults started to grow incredibly large, and I started to doubt myself and my beginnings. Gradually, I was being overwhelmed by a sense of destruction. My body began to fight for ways to feel relief, as did my spirit. My soul was tormented continually. Fear entered its way into my heart. I was lost.

Or so I thought.

After years of spending life in chaos and pain, I wanted out so badly that my soul was starving for the things of God. I often wonder if God let me spend time in this torment so I could come to know him better. I started to search for him, so to speak. I mean, I have always known there was a God, but I must confess my testimony of that was wavering, as was my belief in the Atonement. I felt that no man could help me out of my situation. I felt that no matter what I did, I could not bring myself out of the darkness, so that I could even begin to see the light. My thoughts were very self-destructive. My soul was aching.

Finally, I could not take it any more. I needed healing, and I did not know where to find it. As I sought to run away from my addiction, I found I was powerless to overcome it by myself.  I needed help. My soul hungered.

I found solace in visiting with the bishop in my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As I visited with him, I felt something I had not felt in a very long time. Love.

Throughout all my suffering, I had not felt loved. This is what I believe caused me to sink so low. After meeting with the bishop, I felt empowered, strengthened, and fortified against what I knew was trying to destroy me. The bishop taught me that I could overcome anything if I had the help of the Savior, Jesus Christ. He told me that Christ loved me. He told me that God loved me. He forgave me of what I had done wrong, but also helped me to see what I had been doing right. I knew he cared about me. I began to pray after this meeting with him. I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and joy. I knew then that Christ would help me overcome my problems.

The next several months after this, I found continual improvement in myself. I could then see the traps that Satan and his minions had set to catch me, and I was able to avoid them. I know that I was able to overcome this because I had the help of my Savior. I testify that he lives, that he is the Christ. I know that he loves me, as he loves everyone. I know that he can help you. I know that all things are possible if we will turn to God. I know we have a being with immense and infinite power on our side. May we all turn to him.