I am not a bad Mormon

Today I finally felt like writing down my thoughts around something that I’ve let bother me for quite some time now. And the reason why it bothers me is because it’s something that I do/say to myself as well as something I have heard from others.

It’s this thought that “I am a bad Mormon”.

Maybe the idea of this phrase is all of my own doing or maybe it has to do with things others have said to me. Things like “You’re a good person, but the whole Mormon thing just isn’t working out for you” or “Aren’t Mormons not supposed to do… x, y and z but haven’t you done that, so you’re not really a FULL Mormon are you?” and a few other things like that which have been said to me over time.

And in my head I think I believe them. They are right, I think to myself. I’ve done things that our churches teaches and advises us not to do. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. That is just a simple truth. Sometimes I feel as if all I have ever done is screw up and make mistake after mistake after mistake. Sometimes I feel as if I have learned nothing and that I am unforgiveable.

My church, like many other Christian churches, teaches us to abstain from sex and sexual activity, drugs, and alcohol for our own good. Most of my LDS (Mormon) friends have never done any of these things, or maybe slipped up once or twice in one or two areas. I look up to them for their faithfulness and self-control.

And then there is me. The one that broke all the “rules”.

I once was the kid that told myself “I will never smoke, I will never drink, and I will wait until I am married to have sex.” And back then I believed that it would be easy, that I would be strong enough to not fall into sin. That I had a real testimony of the Gospel.

But I was naïve.

Back then I didn’t realize how much Satan would really come at me. I didn’t understand how completely Satan knew me, how deeply he knew my weaknesses and my hearts longings. I didn’t comprehend how real Satan was and how his temptations are directly targeted at us in our weakest moments. He knows when we are feeling alone, sad, lost, and helpless. And at those moments he appears, and he tempts us with lies that promise we will feel better. And I gave in, I gave in to all of it. I let him into my mind, and I let myself fall.

Human beings need love in order to be happy. It’s in our DNA, we are bonding creatures who need loving relationships in order to thrive.

I started dating when I was 13 years old. Which is 3 years before I was supposed to be dating.

Modern prophets have counseled us to follow this standard because they know that it will protect us and help us to be happy. Turning 16 isn’t necessarily a magical event that makes you suddenly ready to date. The counsel against dating before you’re 16 is based on principles of physical, emotional, and spiritual safety.

“Do not date until you are at least 16 years old. Dating before then can lead to immorality, limit the number of other young people you meet, and deprive you of experiences that will help you choose an eternal partner.””

For the Strength of Youth, 24. https://www.lds.org/new-era/2010/04/dating-faqs?lang=eng

I kept my relationships secret from my parents because I knew it was against our family rules to be dating before the age of 16. But everyone else I was friends with was dating, so I didn’t see why is was such a bad thing to do. Of course my first relationships were short and didn’t mean anything other than “I like you, and you like me” But then I reached high-school and dating was more serious than it had been in middle school. By sophomore year, at the age of 15, I found myself in my first serious relationship, the kind where you say I love you every day and see them outside of school. I tried to keep this more serious relationship secret from my family just like my previous ones. But my parents were smart enough to figure out that this “friend” I would go hangout with was actually my boyfriend. They grounded me for a week when they found out, and told me that I needed to break up with him.

I considered breaking up with him. But I was “In love”. And as a 15 year old girl I was head over heels for this guy. He quickly became my whole world. And Satan saw this as his moment to strike me hard, with thoughts like “If you really love him, then what’s the hurt of doing this (sexual act) with him.” I was able to hold the temptations at bay for a little while. But then we started seeing each other alone, and in secret, and nothing good came of being alone.

I had a young women teacher who gave us a lesson about sexual transgression while at the same time I begun seeing my boyfriend alone. She brought in a toy car and told us that the car was us. She drew an imaginary line on the floor, and told us that it was a steep hill and that the car was going down it, and the brakes were not very good when the car started to go fast.

The start of the hill was flat and the car went slow, like the occasional flirtatious smile, or a cute hug.

Then the hill began to descend, the car went a little faster, like a first kiss, and holding hands and long hugs.

Then the hill was steeper and the car went quicker, like making out, touching each other (petting/fondling)

And then the car went even faster, like clothes off and touching of private parts

And then the brakes stop working and the car continues to speed down the steep hill with no help of coming to a stop before “It’s too late”.

She had told us that the best way to save the car from losing control over the brakes was to stop before the decent even began. To save the ride down the hill until we are married, because once you start going down the hill and catching speed it becomes harder and harder to stop.

As I sat there in that lesson I was confident that I would be able to stop my own car before it was too late and before the deed had been done. I thought I had good enough brakes (self-control) that I could stop whenever I wanted to.

But I was wrong. And my car raced down the hill faster than I expected it to.

After my car reached the bottom of the hill I was confused. I had grown up wanting to save myself for marriage. And now I had given myself away to this boy who I was in love with, who I thought I would marry one day. Satan had convinced me that this boy was “The one” and that it was good to give my body to someone that I loved.

But my heart hurt. I knew it was wrong, but I was conflicted. I wanted to be loved, and in our world today, we are told that sex = love. In high-school all of my closest friends were not LDS, I didn’t have someone from my church that I could talk to. And my faith started to vanish, and I stopped going to church. And I kept seeing my boyfriend even though my parents didn’t allow it.

I became hopeless and lost. And temptation struck again. The voice came back and said “If you smoke this then you’ll feel happy. If you drink this you’ll forget about the pain.” So I smoked weed once and drank alcohol once for the first time in my life.

Then I was sent to wilderness.

And then to boarding school in Montana.

While at school, I still hadn’t decided whether or not I wanted to go back to church. My faith was still shaken, and I was still finding myself and rediscovering my faith. After about 10 months of not going to church I started to attend the church in Kalispell, Montana after being given permission by my boarding school. Going to church again made me happy, it brought me long needed peace and comfort and I was eagerly awaiting each and every Sunday. It was an escape from school, and a place of solace for my soul.

For the first time in my life going to church actually meant something to me, it was something that I began to cherish and love. And my true conversion into the gospel truly began.

You may have expected me to have learned my lesson on what not to do from going back to church and regaining my faith. But that’s not exactly how life works. I know what is right and wrong, and I’ve known that my whole, life. I know what makes me feel guilty and what makes me feel joyful. I wish I could have never made the mistakes that I have made, I wish I could have never done some of the things which I have done. But at the end of the day, those mistakes happened. I cannot take them back, so all I have left is to move on, to learn something from it, and to repent.

Yet at the same time there are outside influences at hand. I have felt as if there is two voices constantly trying to influence me. One for good and one for bad. Like there is a devil and an angel on each shoulder.

I have tried my best to only listen to the angel, to the good, and to follow God as best as possible. But then life happens, I fall, and I find myself listening to the wrong voice.

And the thing about the devil and his lies, is that it sounds almost exactly like the angel. He mixes truth and doctrine with deceit. He twists the words of God so slightly that it’s hard to tell which is which in some instances.

For someone with a brand new, emerging testimony and a fragile, yet growing faith I was easily knocked down again. I was doing so well for many months, until I fell in love again. And the devil, he knows us so well. He knows our weaknesses and our character traits, maybe even better than we know ourselves. And one of my character traits which can be both a bad thing and a good thing is the desire to make others happy/ or to please others. So along came my first real love after being sent away, and along came that evil enticing voice of temptation, saying “Do this for him, you’ll never have another chance, if you love him, and this is how you show him.” And I gave in.

I kept it a secret. I was disappointed in myself for allowing it to happen for the second time. For letting myself get tempted again, for not heading to the promptings of the spirit. I felt unforgiveable. I had worked so hard to overcome my previous transgression. Yet I had done the one thing I promised myself I would try to never do again. I had failed myself, I had failed God. But yet I was too upset with myself to tell anyone, so I hide it in the back of my mind.

Then a few months later I went to College.

In my first weeks there, I was alone, I knew no one, and I decided to make friends by going to parties. And again I smoked weed and drank. I had now fully repeated history. Last time I had smoked once and drank once. This time I went out and got high and tipsy on several different occasions. I wasn’t sure who I was anymore, I wasn’t sure what I stood for. But the spirit finally broke through the cloudiness of my mind, and I stopped going out to parties after only the first month of college. Thank goodness I stopped when I did, otherwise I would probably have made smoking and drinking a common practice and leisurely activity for myself given my somewhat addictive personality.

Once I had stopped partying, I started praying. I started investing my time into church, and into church weekly activities like FHE and Institute. I was happy again, and back on the path of righteousness. I was no longer alone in Richmond. I had my puppy, and I had made new friends at school and most importantly at church. My first LDS friends. I even started to think about serving an LDS 18 month long mission for my church. So I started my papers during my first semester of College. I was excited and proud of myself for overcoming my past. I submitted my papers and anxiously awaited for my call to arrive.

And then I did something stupid, I prayed and asked God for someone to come into my life – and by someone I meant a boyfriend.

The same month that I would get my call, I met that boy. The first LDS boy I had EVER dated. I expected there to be no temptation. That he wasn’t like the others. That he would be the one to set boundaries and say no. And everything was great at first, we would go on double dates and all we would do was cuddle and watch movies and kiss occasionally. I thought everything would be fine and dandy and easy and that I would go on my mission with nothing holding me back. I got my call, and I wasn’t as excited as I should have been, I guess my mind was elsewhere. I returned back to college, I was still excited to be going on my mission but I felt as if there was a spark missing.

As time went on in our relationship he started to stay at my house until later and later hours. I knew I should have told him to leave, and set boundaries but I was falling in love, and I was happy with him around. But they always say “The spirit goes to bed at Midnight” or “Nothing good happens after dark”. And down the hill we went.

As my car had once again landed at the bottom of the steep hill I found myself crying on the kitchen floor with blood on my wrist after cutting myself. I was angrier at myself then all the other times. I had more on the line. I had a mission that I now had to postpone indefinitely. And questions to answer as to why I wasn’t going anymore. I was embarrassed and ashamed and angry.

For this first time, I met with my bishop and told him that I could no longer go on my mission and couldn’t go to the temple to receive my endowments which I already had scheduled for that very week. I was mortified at myself. How could I have thrown away my mission? Why was I such a bad person? Why did I make the same mistake yet another time?

I decided to pray and ask for guidance as of what to do with myself now that I was no longer going to be serving a mission for 18 months. And then the answer came. Move to Utah, and work at a wilderness therapy program. So in May, when school had ended I packed up my life in Richmond and fit it all inside of my car to drive it home to NC, and then to Utah.

In July my mom and I drove for 4 days from North Carolina to Utah, driving 8 hours each day. It was a great time to spend with her. And I am so lucky to have a family that no matter how many time I mess up, they will always be there to support me and love me despite my flaws.

So instead of going on a mission for the church I went on a mission for myself, and to help troubled teenagers, much like the girl I was when I was 16 and sent away.

We all make mistakes, and although my mistakes may be on the more serious scale of things, are my short fallings really any different than anyone else’s? We are all tempted in different ways. Because Satan knows us just like God knows us. But God is there to save us while Satan is there to destroy us. Some say that he often tempts those whom he fears could do the most good. I’d like to believe that is true. I think Satan wants us to be miserable just like he is, and he tries his hardest to prohibit us from making it back to God by finding our weak spots and hitting us when we are already down. He may have been able to throw some really great punches at me, but I’ve kicked him back harder.

I am not a bad Mormon, I own my mistakes and I do not hide from them. I may stray away and let go of the iron rod at times, and wander off the straight and narrow path. But I always manage to find my way back. I am nowhere near perfect. And although I was raised in the church my testimony is still relatively new and still constantly growing and strengthening. I will continue to falter at times but my faith is ever growing stronger, and one day I will be strong enough to never give in again, and God will never give up on me, or on any of us, all we have to do is reach out our hand to him and let him carry us.

To end, this is my favorite quote. 

“Mistakes in the past don’t Define you, they Refine you.”  

I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. So comment below!