Tag Archives: hope

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.

Three Ways To Keep Your Cool In An Existential Crisis

calm like sunlight through a window

At some point this may have happened to you. You’re in transit somewhere, maybe on a bus to work and playing Angry Birds on your smartphone, maybe driving to school and thinking about anything but class, maybe on a run with headphones in, listening to Adele. And then it hits you, mid-angry-bird-arc across the screen, mid-commute, mid-‘we-could-have-had-it-all’ at full volume: you think to yourself, “What am I doing with my life?!” This thought comes in different versions, like “what is the purpose of my life?,” “what am I going to do after I graduate?,” “I’m not in a job I love,” and “what is the meaning of life?” (although the last one is considered so cliché in American culture that we leave it as a non-vocal, internalized question).This is what I call an existential crisis. It happens to everyone, for some more often than others. To mitigate the negative effects of an existential crisis and to find the real meaning in life, I take a few actions.

 1. I realize that not knowing my full purpose or path doesn’t mean I don’t have one. God has a purpose for us that will bring us the most joy, and that purpose is to enable us to enjoy all his blessings. The scripture that goes along with this comes from a prophet named Mormon. He says, “…I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore, he worketh in me to do according to his will.” Words of Mormon 1:7.  Whether or not you know the specifics, you have a purpose and path for your life.

 2. I talk to God about it. Prayer is a conversation with God. You’re not going to just ramble on, though, because you aren’t going to him just to chat. You’ve got a question (you know, that existential question about the meaning of your life). Talk to God and tell him your situation: you don’t know what to do next or what your real purpose is. God promises “ask and ye shall receive,” but you can’t just pray once, with the attitude “God I’m here to get what I want from you as fast as possible and then I don’t plan to talk to you again until my next existential crisis.” You have to form a good relationship. After all, God isn’t a robot. He’s our father. Believe it or not, he wants us to grow and wants to lead us to the right answer thoughtfully so we can truly incorporate it. You have to be consistent, not because you have to prove to God that you really mean it (he knows; after all, I’m pretty sure he reads minds). You are proving to yourself that you mean it. The more you work for an honest desire, the more you will value the gift. Nephi, the first prophet to speak in the Book of Mormon, says, “I know that God will give liberally to him that asketh… my God will give me, if I ask not amiss; therefore I will lift up my voice unto thee” 2 Nephi 4:35

Action item: Talk to God right now – try it now while you’re thinking about it.

 3. I strive to be interdependent.As much as you think you can find purpose in isolation, purpose just doesn’t work that way. Somehow the magical ingredient that you need is another person or people, and it always involves making their lives better. Consider God’s purpose for a second: “His work and glory – the purpose for this magnificent universe – is to save and exalt mankind” (Dieter F. Uchtdorf, You Matter to Him. Helping and working with others is one part of every human being’s purpose and the key to finding the specifics of your individual purpose.

Action item: Write down the name of one person you know. Next to their name write down one thing you will do to make his or her life better before you go to sleep tomorrow.

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.