Days 2017

Days 2017

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I belong.

Last night I dreamed that Mark and I went to a housewarming party thrown by a friend I haven't been in contact with since high school.  He had quit his job working on submarines on the East Coast and come to Utah with his wife and kiddos to sell a new kind of superwhammy barbecue he had invented.  (Haha.  Now you know I'm not making this up.)  After observing his happy, comfortable family and welcoming household, I fielded a question I had been wondering about.

"Did you guys join the Church?"  (In the state of Utah, this question is understood to be, did you join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormons.)
"Yes, actually.  A few years ago."
I faked a stern expression and responded, "Oh.  You are going to have lots of trouble now!"
He looked a little taken back, but answered with, "Why is that?"
My punchline arrived; I allowed a broad smile to spread across my face.  "Because you didn't even tell me!"
Instead of the expected reaction, my friend only raised an eyebrow.
He said, a little coldly, "I didn't know you were Mormon."

Speechless and deflated, Mark and I soon left the party with mixed emotions.
The dream was instructive.
What it means to be a member of the Church has been on my mind lately, I guess.  Last weekend my son Boston was baptized. 
Boston was baptized by Mark (who is a High Priest, authorized to baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.)  The white clothing represents purity/being washed clean.
 When my daughter Leslie was baptized four years ago, I had already had many serious discussions with her about her feelings about joining the church, making a commitment to follow Christ, and also receiving the Holy Ghost.  She was and is a very easy, obedient child and I know that she felt the gravity of the covenants she was making. 

Well, Boston is very different from Leslie.  We have also spent a lot of time teaching Boston about what it means to be baptized and he was super excited for his big day to come.  But, the night before his baptism, my feelings surprised me.  I was suddenly worried and turned to Mark in tears after the kids were in bed.  "Did we do a good enough job?"  He just laughed and gave me a hug, confident that Boston was exactly where Heavenly Father wanted him to be.  After some thought, I was grateful for the doctrines of faith and repentance, baptism and the Holy Ghost, that are welcoming and perfect for every personality type.  The gospel of Jesus Christ can help everyone find happiness and become better people. Old grandmas and loud teenagers, busy moms and businessmen, sweet little girls and hardened criminals.  Even rascally little boys who don't sit still during Sunday school!   And Mark was right.  Boston willingly walked into the water with a huge smile on his face that I will never forget.  I hope he doesn't, either.

Boston and I have a special connection.  We were both baptized on September 28.
I had to rummage through my hope chest the night before, looking for mementos from my own baptism.  I found a few, confirmed that Boston and I would indeed be baptized on the same date, and told him what I remembered about the day I was baptized.  How much did I understand about God at the tender age of 8, anyway?  Well, looking back, I knew enough. 

First of all, I don’t remember really thinking too much about believing or not believing as a little girl.  I liked hearing the stories out of our illustrated New Testament book or the big blue Book of Mormon stories, and I never doubted them.  I loved the children's songs we sang in church and their messages.  I felt very comfortable and sure that Heavenly Father and Jesus loved me and I am sure that feeling came so easily because I have good parents to show me what that kind of love would feel like.  I also think that my mom and dad did a really good job of teaching a sense of reverence and seriousness about Holy things, especially prayer, heaven, and the temple.  

I’m really glad that we had Family Home Evening so regularly.  One of the first lessons there I remember (on a lighter note…) is the one about the boy who kept telling lies and there was some kind of illustration where the lies were entangling him like a big hairy spider.  Scared the devil right out of me.  I’ve talked to some of my friends at one time or another about it and surprisingly, this is also one of the only specific lessons they remember from childhood because that picture scared them too!

I do remember preparing for baptism.  A few weeks earlier, in Sunday school we had watched a video about a little Mexican boy who was learning about the covenants he would soon make, and about what it meant to have the Holy Ghost.  I listened very carefully.  On the way home from my baptism, I remember having a very serious silent prayer in the dark of the car, wholeheartedly repeating my promises to Heavenly Father.  I was and am committed!

I think from that point my beliefs grew in a typical line-upon-line way about various aspects of the gospel.  I would learn about them or try them out. They sounded right, and I could see how happiness would come. So I would believe.  However, when I was probably about eleven, for some reason my mind got stuck in a doubting mode for a little while.  I was really bothered for a few days and the thought kept going around and around in my mind, “What if none of this is true?  What if it’s all made up and there is no God?”  I don’t think I was questioning the Book of Mormon or the restoration of Christ's church by Joseph Smith, just the basic existence of God.  (This shows how much I already knew in my heart. Because of course, if God existed, our church was the only one that would make any sense, anyway.) 

I prayed a lot about it and remember lying on my back on the grass in the middle of our yard looking up at the circle of trees around me and the cloudy, windy sky.  I thought to myself, “What if there is really no one up there?”  Right then, the darkest, saddest feeling of despair came over me, so much so that I knew the feeling was wrong.  What I had been thinking was wrong.  I knew that I was not on earth for nothing—for no reason.  Then I tried thinking the opposite idea.  That Heavenly Father was really in control and had in fact created everything around me.  Everything that ran through my mind then felt SO right and true.  I felt so happy and thankful for my blessings. 

It wasn’t until after I was married that I realized that there is a story in the New Testament that very accurately describes what I felt and what I decided that day.  It’s when Jesus asks Peter if he, also, will abandon him.  Peter says, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  Thou hast the words of eternal life.”  (John 6:68) There is no where else to go!  Jesus is the only way.  His way is the only way in this life to feel true happiness and to recognize of who we are and why we are here.  He is the only way that life makes any sense at all.

And so, I believe, and I belong.

1 comment:

The Haynes Herd said...

Nice post Jackie! Tell Boston we are proud of his decision and excited for him to keep learning.