Yesterday, the 24th, would have marked my 20th wedding anniversary if I had not persisted in studying Mormonism. I have to say the last few years of my life have been at a minimum stressful. The pressure has been so enormous, the events so heartbreaking to me, that at times I was sure I would not be able to survive.
The question I am often tempted to ask myself is “Was it worth it?” The answer is unequivocally yes. Do I say that because my life has been better or easier since joining the church? Actually, no. Life has been abundantly harder- and it wasn’t easy before. I say yes for other, more important reasons.
I’ve always been a little odd, never quite fitting in my surroundings. From the time I was a young child I was always trying to figure out who God was and what he wanted me to do. I was a religious child in a non-religious home. Because we were Italian, we were Catholic. It kind of goes in tandem with the nationality. But, we rarely attended mass as a family.
For some reason though, it wasn’t enough for me. As young as seven years old, I remember often walking to mass on my own. My dad would graciously give me some money for the offering and off I’d go. The mass itself always confused me and, being a little girl, I would quickly get bored and leave, using the money my dad gave me to buy a chocolate bar. (Naughty I know, but it was an opportunity to get chocolate that I couldn’t resist). I would go back often trying to figure out God, and always leave without knowing anything more.
I remember once asking my mom about religion, to which she replied, “There are two things people should never speak about, religion and politics.” I was a kid, so I didn’t understand her answer. As a result I turned to movies to learn about God. Movies and television were always in abundance in my childhood home. At the time the rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar was popular. So I watched that with intense interest. My parents helping to explain what confused me in it. I saw it several times and even had the records. I remember feeling very wicked because the man who played Jesus was kind of cute and I had a crush on him. It just seemed wrong to have a crush on Jesus. For the longest time, that movie was my understanding of religion. I would walk around the house singing Mary’s solo “He’s Just a Man”. Eventually I became old enough for confirmation classes. I was sure I would finally know who God was then, but all I really learned was how to say the rosary.
In high school I became protestant. We moved from Staten Island to the Bible belt. I now had an abundance of people willing to discuss religion. We’d been in Arkansas less than a year and I was baptized into a protestant tradition. Yet, my questions continued. I couldn’t understand why at the church we’d obey some of the Bible, but not all of it. I asked A LOT of questions, but mostly was told that if I had grown up in their church I would understand. Well, I didn’t, and I still wanted to. Eventually, I found a church that seemed to take the Bible seriously. But, I still had questions that people couldn’t answer. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my faith. I had confidence in the Bible and I worked hard to live according to my understanding.
Why am I bringing all this up? There are people who think I’ve made a horrible mistake giving up so much for “religion”. Some feel that way because they think my faith is a heresy. Others because they don’t think it is worth giving up a 19 year marriage and all my associations and financial support for. Maybe if they understood that I’ve been searching for God since I was little it might make sense to them. Even before I knew Him, I loved Him. That may sound really strange, but that was why I wanted to know Him. He was GOD. I knew that intrinsically. I just didn’t know what to do about it.
Those of you who read my blog know that I am often studying about faith. I want tremendously to improve my faith. I feel the weight of my failings. As a result of that I’ve been re-reading Lectures On Faith by the prophet Joseph Smith. There he outlines three things necessary for faith:
“First, the idea that he actually exists. Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes. Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will.For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness, unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (emphasis added)
I’ve never had a problem with the first one. It is the second idea that I have spent the majority of my life searching for, so that I could be sure of the third. When I began looking at Mormonism, part of my fascination came in realizing some of the questions I’ve had that were left unsettled had answers. In one of my ex-husband’s more reasonable moments he said, “I get why you like Mormonism. You like knowing things. You want answers and they give them to you. Why can’t you understand that they’re just making them up?” But, they didn’t feel made up to me.
I finally feel I am on the path to accomplishing what I’ve searched for my entire life. I still have so much to learn. I’m essentially re-learning God. But, I feel peaceful about what I’m learning. It feels right. I’m still confused about many things and I have even farther to go in order to be completely worthy of Him. But, if I had to do it all over again I would still pursue my study of Mormonism because there is nothing more important than knowing and serving God. So, yes, it was worth it.