LGBTQ+ Mormons (Part 2) | Clearing the Air…What is “Okay?”

     Hey! Welcome back. This is the post that might be a bit more controversial. Before we get started, I want to remind my readers that my blog posts are not necessarily ‘church doctrine.’ Regardless, I have researched this topic thoroughly in LDS Church doctrine. I also have a decent amount of personal experience on the matter. With that said, in this post, I would like to address a few misconceptions believed by many Mormons and non-Mormons alike. These myths surround the LGBTQ+ members of the Mormon church and I–based on my experience and understanding–do not believe are right. I am, in no way whatsoever, trying to ‘preach.’ I am just sharing what I genuinely believe to be correct based on personal revelation, experience, and LDS church doctrine. I want to put it out there for those of you who want help knowing how to handle something you never imagined going through. In this post I want to clearly state, bluntly, what God commands of us and what is expected of every member of the LDS Church. Specifically, I have seen so much confusion on what is “okay” and what is considered a sin in the eyes of God.

What is “Okay” (and even encouraged):

  • being gay/lesbian/transgender/belonging in the category of LGBTQ+ at all
  • being different
  • loving those who belong in the category of LGBTQ+
  • having, raising, supporting children/teens/adults who are unique/LGBTQ+
  • treating the LGBTQ+ person/people exactly the same way you treated them before
  • inviting them to parties, events, holidays, etc. without an ulterior motive for ‘conversion’ or persuasion
  • asking genuine, non-offensive questions about their life
  • listening to them speak about their problems, without giving unsolicited church-related advice
  • hugging them when they cry
  • hugging them when they are happy
  • hugging them just because 
  • postitive, loving counsel
  • giving advice when solicited, church-related or not…and even giving lifestyle/same-sex dating advice if you both feel comfortable
  • sharing testimony with them when they desire it and are comfortable with it
  • REFUSING to treat anyone differently for their beliefs, differences, sexual orientation, etc. and following through to the letter

What is Considered “Sin” in the Eyes of Heavenly Father: 

  • acting on same-sex attraction, gender identity, etc.                                                                                                     ****This is where it gets difficult. Yes, as of right now, Heavenly Father’s commandment is that relationships are to be between a man and a woman and that gender is essential to His plan. However, that does not mean that anyone who commits these acts deserves to be told that they are going to Hell–as members of the Church, we believe that all people (unless a son of perdition) will go to some degree of a beautiful Heaven regardless, so this has never made any sense to me. It is literally false doctrine, and very painful for a person to hear. It does not mean that they deserve to be “kept at arms length.” It does not mean that they are confused by the devil and need to be “converted,” “fixed,” or “cured.” It is not confusion. It is not a lack of faith. It is not because they did not pray hard enough to make it go away. It is something that they are born with and that Heavenly Father knew they would have to experience, and never planned/plans to take it away from them. Without it, they would not be the same person/people we know and love.
  • conditional love for others
  • name calling
  • gossip
  • offensive joking, whether in the presence of the LGBTQ+ community members or not (as far as you know)
  • altering the way you treat the person who just came out
  • judging/deciding what their fate shall be in the next life. Only God knows all. Only God knows us. Only God can judge.

What is Not “Okay:”

  • blaming “the Church” for the sometimes hurtful, offensive, mean remarks or actions from its members. I could be alone in this belief but in my opinion, because we believe Heavenly Father is in charge of the church, to blame the church for its imperfect people’s actions is to blame God. I personally believe Heavenly Father wishes His children to love one another unconditionally, without offending each other. Unfortunately, nobody is perfect and this literally happens to everybody at some point in their church-attending experience.
  • insisting that the LDS Church must change its standards and policies because times are changing. Like I mentioned before, God knows all and He is in charge of His church.
  • on the flip side of that coin: insisting that the LDS Church will never/should never change its standards and policies because God is the “same yesterday, today, and forever.” While this famous phrase is scripture and is true, God’s continuing revelations to His Prophets do change and have changed before (i.e. the law of Moses, Blacks in the Priesthood). This is not to say that God has changed or will change, but that society and His children have changed and are ready to receive that new revelation. I repeat: God knows all and He is in charge of His church. My point here is: we have no true idea of God’s plan is. We do not always fully understand why God’s commandments are the way they are, but we know they are right. We also know that when His children are ready, commandments can be altered by our Heavenly Father but that does not mean it will happen for sure.

This is an extremely touchy topic. The reason I have been so upfront and honest in this post is because I think it is absolutely necessary. I really feel like, until now, the truth has not been laid out in a clear format like this. This is something so sensitive. It is one of those things that is very difficult to understand until you experience it yourself, whether you belong to the LGBTQ+ community yourself or have a close family member/friend who does.

My little brother told me he is gay before he told my parents. I spent months trying to comfort him and let him know how much he is loved by me and his earthly and heavenly parents no matter what. I kept telling him that I believed he would feel best after he at least tells our family. That way, he would never have to feel like he was hiding behind a facade in front of them. One day I was at the gym with my mom, The Ellen Show was on one of the televisions in front of us and I thought I could cast out a hypothetical line to see what I could catch from my mother’s response. I asked, “So Ellen and her wife have been married for a long time now. When they enter into the next life, do you think they will still want to be with each other for eternity when the vail is lifted? I cannot imagine changing your mind after spending most of your earthly life with somebody.” She responded, “I don’t know.”        Unsatisfied with this answer, I fished deeper, “Do you believe gay people really are gay?” I knew about my brother at this point, my mom did not. I knew he was born with it. I knew he did not make it up. I knew he had genuinely struggled with this his entire life. I know my brother very well and I know he is not just confused or lost. I waited in anticipation for her answer, I will never forget it, “I think they believe they are that way.

My heart broke. Maybe Riley was right to be afraid to come out. Maybe they really would not believe him. However, just like I know my brother, I also know my mom. I knew that she–like me–knows my brother very well too. I knew that once he told her, she would have a huge faith crisis and she would be confused because it is contrary to what she originally believed. BUT! That she would ultimately realize for herself that Riley did not choose this but it was something he was born with and that it was somehow, someway part of Heavenly Father’s plan for my sweet little brother. I was right. Only a short while after that, he come out to our parents. They were extremely tormented and confused, mostly because they knew that Riley could not have chosen this for himself and that he did not lie for attention, nor was he confused or any other possible excuse commonly used for coming out of the closet in a religious culture. I think it is so difficult to wrap our LDS brains around the possibility of an LGBTQ+ Mormon until it becomes a reality in our own life. Because of that, I think it is difficult for members of the LDS church without this experience to fully understand the origin of same-sex attraction and gender identity, the gravity and weight of the trial, and the lack of understanding you really have of God and God’s plan until then. I am so grateful for my little brother and his bravery. I do not judge him for his differences, lifestyle, or choices; nor do I care. He is still my brother. He is still my partner-in-crime and I know Heavenly Father loves him, maybe even more than I do. I know that Heavenly Father will work things out however is best. I know that Families are Forever. 

LGBTQ+ Mormons (Part 1) | Unconditional Love for the “Unconventional” Person

So your devout LDS child/niece/nephew/sibling/cousin/friend/person just confided in you. They told you they are gay/transgender/etc. You are in shock. You are thinking to yourself, “I didn’t know Mormons were gay…I didn’t know it was possible.” Some of us even think, “Are they just saying this to get attention? Is this their choice? Are they sure?” In most cases, we very quickly realize that is just not the case–especially when we really know the person who just came out of the closet. Then we think, “What should I do? How should I react? How do I treat them from now on?” I will touch on those questions later in this post. Then the next questions are usually something like, “Will they be excommunicated? Will I have to cut them out of my life forever? How could God do this to me…to them? This is my child/niece/nephew/sibling/cousin/friend/person! I never imagined this for them. Have they been going through this hurt, for their entire lives?” The answers to those questions are, put simply and respectively: No they will not be excommunicated for simply coming out, No you should never cut anyone out of your life for recognizing and becoming who they were always meant to be, God knows all and God knows their hearts and loves them so much and we do not fully understand the His plan, Yes they most likely have been struggling with this for as long as they could have ‘crushes’ on what you might have assumed was the opposite sex or as long as gender roles were enforced.

Hey everyone! I am making this post in collaboration with a video my brother and I did on my LDS youtube channel a while ago. It is about loving unconditionally, specifically those in the LGBTQ+ community. You can watch it using the link above. My brother and I filmed this video a long time ago. However, I could never figure out exactly what to put in words on this blog for some reason…until today. We watched the new documentary by Imagine Dragons singer, Dan Reynolds called “Believer.” It is about the effect that the LDS Church has on LGBTQ+ youth. Anyway, I agreed with basically everything said in the film. It was then that I realized how I was going to explain my thoughts here…bluntly. It is not as necessary to be blunt in this first post on the subject. Although, part 2 may be a little bit more controversial.

As for the answers to the questions of “What should I do now? How do I treat them from now on?” The answer may seem complicated, but it only requires just a few simple steps.

Step #1. LOVE THEM TO DEATH & Treat them exactly as you did before you found out.

Step #2. KEEP LOVING THEM…no matter what they do, say, become, decide to act on,

‘side’ they choose, life choices, etc.

Step #3. repeat.

   Seriously! That’s it.

   And no, this simple 3-step-plan is not to help you ‘love them enough so they come to church.’ This 3-step-process is to ‘love them unconditionally because they are humans, children of God, and deserve it regardless of what trials they were born with.’

Jesus Christ commanded that we love everyone and withhold our judgements of others, as Heavenly Father is the only qualified, righteous judge. For some reason, the LGBTQ+ community is sometimes subconsciously considered an exception of this commandment. This is false. We are to love everyone, no matter what. 

My Experience with Mental Illness in the LDS Church | Part 2

     Hey everyone! So last week I wrote about my experience with mental illness. This week I am going to talk about how it effects my testimony and relationship with the church.

I never really suffered from anxiety and depression when I was growing up. I will admit, however, that I can now look back on my teenage years and recognize small tendencies I had towards anxiety and depression. Nonetheless, I did not start suffering full-time (I do not know how else to explain it) until I became an adult and started struggling with my chronic physical afflictions. I grew up in a beautiful family. Everybody seemed happy. I never actually witnessed any of my family members suffering with mental illness, so I thought I was the only one when I was first diagnosed. I eventually learned that some of my happiest and most positive family members have experienced their own trial with mental illnesses as well. It is just not something people like talking about, which is understandable. I don’t personally prefer to speak about my experiences either. However, I feel that with the path Heavenly Father has given me in life, and the platform that I have, I must share my experience to help others. There is something very important and specific that I want to talk about here regarding mental illness in the LDS church.

I do not share the most negative portions of my mental illnesses in detail in public/online. I believe too much detail might make those who are suffering similarly, feel even worse. For that reason, I will touch on this experience only briefly. One of the most difficult parts of the peek of my anxiety disorder, was how it effected my testimony.

I have written about my life-changing ordeal on the Church History Trip in 2014, where I genuinely believed that Heavenly Father had forgotten about me and stopped caring. I quickly, effectively, and memorably was corrected by the scripture from Doctrine and Covenants 121:7-8 & 122: 9 (full story in my blog titled “Are you trapped in your own, personal Liberty Jail?”). I knew Heavenly Father was telling me that He had NEVER left me and that He NEVER would. Ever since then, I have always known the love of God and that He really exists. I have never doubted it. Although, I confess that when I began suffering with mental illness, that I physically could not feel the Holy Spirit. I would attend church and feel like I was going through the motions, even through the most uplifting talks and meetings where I found myself to be the literal, only “dry eye in the house.” It was so strange. How was it possible for me to feel so many negative things outside of church, and then when I would try to reach out to my Heavenly Father through scripture study, prayer, or church attendance to feel completely numb? How could I get so annoyed with the other members of the church who did nothing but smile at me in the hallway? What kind of a person am I to really dislike good people for no reason like this? How could I believe in the gospel that I couldn’t even physically feel was right anymore? Like I previously mentioned, I had never forgotten that Heavenly Father existed and that He was always there. I really believe that one of the main reasons I experienced that wonderful night on the CHT was to help me later on in life when I found it easy to forget God. I held onto that knowledge, even though it was extremely difficult.

Finally, I understood why I had felt so negatively and why I felt so far away from the Holy Spirit. I was introduced to the amazing and informative website: www.lds.org/mentalhealth . (HIGHLY RECOMMEND for anyone who struggles with or knows somebody who struggles emotionally). There I learned, among so many other beautiful things, that mental illness really can build a wall between us and the Spirit of God. I had no idea that was even a thing! Ohhhh, but I was sooooo relieved to hear it. It wasn’t really me. It wasn’t really God or the Gospel. It was mental illness. It was something that was not my fault, and that I had no control over (something else I worked hard to accept before this.) I found this website a few months or so before I started taking medication. I spoke last week about how the medication is what made the biggest difference in my life and most effectively improved my mental health. Everybody is different. This is not always the case for those who suffer with mental illness. But for me, it was exactly what my body needed.

    

     As a hopeless romantic, teenage girl, I watched the 2004 movie The Notebook a lot. It is a classic, tear-jerking chick flick. There are spoilers ahead for this movie, so skip to the end of the blog if you do not wish to read them but this is pretty important to the story. Anyway, right after I had started taking medication, I was able to attend church a few weeks in a row (something that is rare for me with my physical illnesses). Each week I felt closer and closer to my Heavenly Father and I felt my testimony and relationship with God was fully restored. One morning while sitting in sacrament, I was saying a little “thank you” prayer to Heavenly Father in my head. I wanted to thank Heavenly Father for helping me get back to feeling the spirit, helping me get back to being my positive self, and for being there the entire time. While I was praying, one of the final scenes from The Notebook popped into my head. It was the part when ‘old’ Ally finally recognizes her husband and remembers everything. She asks him, “What happened to me?” and he responds, “It’s okay. You just went away for a little while.” I felt Heavenly Father was telling me, in a way I could understand (yes, The Notebook, cheesy…I know, but that’s what Heavenly Father knew I would understand…I definitely speak the language of chick flicks!) that He was there all along, waiting for me patiently while I was “away.”

I wanted to address how difficult mental illness can be for members of the church in this blog, specifically how it effects testimonies and feeling the spirit. Unless you experience it for yourself, you never fully understand how challenging it is to feel God’s presence and even believe He exists at all. Like I said before, if I had not experienced what I had on the CHT in 2014, I might have lost my testimony completely before I was able to fix my chemical imbalance. I had to hold on– more tightly than ever–to my knowledge that God is real, that He loves us all, that He never forsakes us, EVER! My advice to those who struggle is to first of all, get help. Second of all, hold on tightly to what you know to be true. Remember those experiences of your life when you knew for a fact that God exists and that the church was true. Keep those memories locked inside your mind. One day, hopefully soon, you’ll be able to look back when you are speaking with Heavenly Father and He will say, “It’s okay. You just went away for a while, but I was here every step of the way. I am so glad to have you back.” God never leaves us. He never forsakes us…no matter your thoughts, no matter your actions, no matter how you feel about yourself. Heavenly Father has NEVER left you and He NEVER will. I swear, ask Him yourself! 

 

 

My Experience with Mental Illness in the LDS Church | Part 1

    Some of you–especially if you have seen a few of my youtube videos–may know about my struggles with mental health, while the rest of you probably have no clue. Around the same time I started getting sick with my chronic physical illnesses, I also became afflicted with anxiety and depression. At first it was easiest to deny it, pretend it wasn’t there. Eventually, after one of my first pair attacks in front of my new husband, he was scared and confused. He could see my struggles and I knew I could not hide it from anyone, especially myself, any longer.  I finally said to him, “Something is wrong with me, with my mind. I cannot control it. I need help.”

We spoke about it all night, he stayed home from work the next day, and we made an appointment to speak with our Bishop about reaching out to LDS Family Services for counseling. I started going to therapy for about a year (until I started medication, but I still go to therapy because I work best with help from both.) I got better and was equipped with the tools I needed to help manage my mental state. Regardless, it was still an emotional rollercoaster where I occasionally found myself engulfed in scary and even life-threatening thoughts and situations. I would be fine one moment, then something would happen to upset me and I was rapidly spiraling into darkness. I was eventually hospitalized and I was not allowed to be discharged until I had an appointment with a psychiatrist to receive medication for my condition. I was avoiding medication like the plague. It was another attempt to deny what was going on inside my head, to pretend I did not need help. I also feared a new medication would make my physical ailments worse.

About a month later, I was sitting in the room with my new psychiatrist while I explained my situation. I realized at that moment how lucky I truly was and how God’s hand is really in all things–even when I felt unworthy of His love and help. I told her my stomach was paralyzed (normally much easier that saying I have gastroparesis and then have to explain that my stomach was paralyzed anyway…just easier to skip the name and give the explanation first.) She responded “Oh! I have a few patients with gastroparesis!” *Reminder: I hadn’t said the name of my condition, but she knew what was going on already, something that was very rare for me…even with medical professionals.* She then told me that her patients with gastroparesis normally do well with the specific medication she later prescribed to me. She warned me that it would likely take me a month or two to actually feel the effects of the medication. However, I was one of those very lucky, rare people who felt the effects almost immediately. After about two days after taking the medication, the dark cloud above my head was lifted. My almost uncontrollable, seemingly instinctive pessimisn (abnormal for the real “Alexa”) was gone. It was replaced by my true attitude of positivity, love, and happiness. I was compassionate again. I was truly happy.

Everybody’s experience with mental health is different. Most people’s bodies really do take a few trial months with several different medications until they find what works best for them. Some do not even need medication and need only a few sessions of therapy. However, regardless of the path, mental illness can always get better and be managed with the proper care and help. It is probably one of the most difficult things to go through sometimes, even now with medication. There are some days where I genuinely think to myself, “I will never be happy again,” “Everyone would be better off without me,” “I am a waste of space.” It is one of the most challenging things to overcome, when it feels physically impossible to make myself believe otherwise. The day following one of my worst nights, I wrote

A Letter to Myself, When I am Not Myself

  Last night was the worst I have ever felt up to this point. Because of my illness, I just feel like I wake up, sit in pain and discomfort, then go to sleep, then repeat the next day. Then, last night my feelings were royally hurt at a family get together. (Turns out it was just a simple misunderstanding, but at the time it felt like the world was ending.) I thought for sure that my family members would never want to speak with me again. I literally felt like I had nothing and nobody to live for except my husband. However, I felt like I was just a large burden on him with all my health issues. I was sure that I was going to end my life that night. I do not want to go into much detail, it will only give you (talking to myself) ammonition for later on when you might feel this way again. Dalyn laid in bed with me trying to comfort me, as I stared at the wall, completely numb to anything he could possibly tell me. All the sudden, I caught a glimpse of one of the photos on the wall of he and I at Disneyland. I thought about how much I wished things would be better in my life: my relationships, my illnesses, if I could get pregnant and carry the baby to term without health scares, and raise a healthy baby and take them with my family and friends to Disneyland and have a ‘normal’ life like everyone else. I was not sure how (I am still not completely sure how) I could ever have any of those things. But I was reminded of Heavenly Father’s plan. I felt the Spirit tell me that those things, those blessings, are in store for me. Even if my illness never gets better, I do believe (even though it seemed impossible at the time) that my life will get better in other ways. So as Dalyn sat there, trying to comfort me but still oblivious to the depth of the situation and my plan to end my life, I decided to come clean. It was scary and extremely tough to do. I will never forget the look on his face of pure terror and sadness. It sounds weird but his face reminded me that he did love me, and regardless of how bad I feel about being sick when he does so much, he still wanted me there and to take care of me however necessary. I also told Dalyn about my new plan: to get better, to mend the relationships with family members that I thought were over forever, and to look forward to that vision I saw in my head…of me, Dalyn, my whole family, and our future children, enjoying a vacation at the Happiest Place on Earth. It is a small dream to accomplish, but it will mean the absolute world. It is a representation of a better life.

I made up with my family members later that night, it was really not as big of a deal as I had made it out to be in my head. Then I decided to write this letter only 24 hours later. Life is still hard, but I already feel a million, zillion times better. Things would still be better even if I wasn’t able to mend the fight with my family members. It would have been better because I remembered my Heavenly Father. I am very grateful to have mended the wounds with my family though.

What I ask and plead of you (myself, or you…reading this…) is this: just give it another 24 hours and then see how you feel, just talk to somebody, spend time with the people you love, give it one more shot. This too shall pass and you will win this fight and live the BEST GOSH DANG life Heavenly Father has to offer! Just give it one more shot, I promise you will feel better. Pray, even when you feel so focused on your plan, feeling so low that you really don’t want to talk to God.   

I wrote this letter only a few weeks before I started taking medication, which made a world of a difference, as mentioned before. I also would receive the revelation to write 1,001 Facts about the Prophet Joseph Smith only about a week or so after writing this letter as well. Looking back, yes, things today ARE SO MUCH BETTER ALREADY. Yes, I still struggle with mental health. Yes, I still struggle with physical health. No, I still haven’t been able to have children yet. However, I have my amazing and thrilling career now. I have built new and/or stronger relationships with my friends and family. If my life would have ended then, I would have never had these experiences. I know it is just the beginning. Heavenly Father still has great things in store for me to experience and blessings left for me to receive. His plan would not be complete if I decided to end my life on my own terms.

I have a lot more to say on this matter, which I will continue in the next blog or two. For now, I wanted to focus mostly on the fact that is does get better. REALLY! I swear it. If necessary, try writing a letter to yourself when you’re not yourself…or you can use mine ( seriously, that’s why I decided to post it in the first place.) Create a safety plan and practice it and know it by heart, like a school student knows what to do during a fire drill. As soon as you notice the triggers, take action before the spiral. Communicate to those you love about what is going through your mind. Speak with a therapist, psychiatrist, or even a Bishop. You can fight and win. My battle, like yours and everyone else’s, is not yet won. However, with God’s help and the help of others, I can summon the strength that I never knew I had before to overthrow my mental illness…and win in the war. 

 

I’m back…Here’s why.

I’ve been somewhat MIA on this blog. I have to admit that it is wayyyy easier to post all about theme parks and funny stories on my other youtube channel and social medias than it is to try posting anything about God, the Church, Joseph Smith, my book, etc. and then deal with the aftermath of hate I almost always get in my DM’s/comments. The small, somewhat break has been nice. I feel amazing about what I am doing and the message I am spreading. I know the church is true, it has nothing to do with that. At this point, there is nothing anybody could say/do to make me believe otherwise (I’ve heard it all, I’ve read it all, I’ve researched the entire story from primary accounts and I have literally seen the truthfulness of the gospel with my own eyes. You can try me, but I don’t recommend it).

    Regardless, dealing with mean, hateful, or even sexual remarks from random strangers who do not follow me, but deliberately seek me out for the sole purpose of arguing or to bring me down is hard.

Believe it or not, I was NOT super pumped about writing a Joseph Smith book in the first place.

Believe it or not, I knew what would become of my public image and career if I did.

Believe it or not, I knew I would deal with more ‘bullying’ as an adult when this book was published than I ever did when I was a kid.

Believe it or not, I knew the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Mormon church were extremely controversial topics.

Believe it or not, I was asked several times by family members if I would ever write a book on Joseph Smith and I always responded with a “HARD NO…NOT IN A MILLION ZILLION YEARS” because I didn’t want to deal with what I now deal with.

However, believe it or not, once God told me to do it, I knew I needed to do it regardless of the mountain of trial that would come with it.

Believe it or not, it was the best experience of my life…hands down.

AND! Believe it or not, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is true. I cannot stress enough, that I have literally seen it with my own eyes. And like Joseph Smith, “I knew it, and I knew that God knew it…and I could not deny it.” I am not going anywhere. People can and will keep hitting me with your weapons but my faith is not only unshaken, but unshakable in the Book of Mormon, the Prophet Joseph Smith, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

1,001 Facts about the Prophet Joseph Smith

I have had a deep emotional connection to the Prophet Joseph Smith
ever since I was a little girl. The first time I read about his martyrdom, when
I was eight years old, I bawled my eyes out! Whenever we spoke about him
in church or seminary, I felt exceptionally interested and invested. My two
favorite scriptures of all time are about him. The first time I visited places like
the Sacred Grove, his home, the Kirtland Temple, Nauvoo, and other Church
history locations saved both my life and my testimony. I was diagnosed with
idiopathic gastroparesis at twenty years old; it was devastating. My dreams
of graduating from college and becoming a registered nurse were shattered.
Then I found a new passion: writing fact books. My first book is called Disney
Till You’re Dizzy: 1,001 Facts, Rumors, and Myths about the Disneyland Resort.
Only a short while after it was published, the Lord told me that it was time to
write a new fact book. This time, Heavenly Father wanted me to write a fact
book for Him, about the Prophet Joseph Smith. I was nervous and shocked.
I was accustomed to writing theme park books. I never thought I would have
to write about something so serious, important, and even controversial. But I
knew that if God commanded me to do it, He would help me through it. I was
right. God helped me every step of the way.

This book was definitely the most difficult one

I have written to date, but it was my favorite!

I genuinely believe that any decent person who seriously studies the
Prophet’s life through credible primary sources—including the writings of
Joseph himself—cannot honestly say that Joseph Smith was anything but a
truthful, virtuous, and incredible man, even if that person does not believe he
was truly a prophet of God. One of the main goals of this book is to tell the
real story, while making it simple to read and understand. 1,001 Facts about
the Prophet Joseph Smith is a history book for this generation. The entire book
can be read in one sitting, or readers can jump around to different moments
in the Prophet’s life and learn about their favorite and the most fascinating

events. I wrote it using only primary accounts to make it as accurate as pos-
sible. This book is not meant to portray Joseph Smith as a perfect man.

This book is meant to show Joseph Smith as the man he really
was—as accurately as possible—based on primary sources. This book contains
the real story.

A Pillar of Light

This week has been one of the most difficult of my life. One of those weeks where, just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get worse…it does! Something amazing happened this morning though. Things GOT BETTER for the first time this WHOLE WEEK. Ah! It happened right when I was about to give up, right when I almost lost hope.

When young 14-year-old Joseph Smith prayed in the sacred grove, something happened that made it extremely difficult. Years later he wrote about it saying, “immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction. But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction…I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound.” If you don’t know the rest of the story, it’s pretty cool! You can find the rest of it on lds.org or mormon.org, type in the search bar “Joseph Smith first vision.”

Anyway, I am sitting here on my couch just thinking about the craziness that was this past week. I thought about how I, like Joseph Smith, was about to give up. How I, like Joseph, was “ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction.” But then all the sudden I, like Joseph, looked up to see light. I looked up to see God. Although I, unlike Joseph, saw God figuratively…God was there, and His light broke through the thick darkness that surrounded me this week.

Sometimes our hardest trials last only a few days, but others can last months, years, or our entire lives. However, I learned today that sometimes—even though God is supporting us the whole time—He will allow our trials to send us to our breaking point (maybe even passed what we THOUGHT was our breaking point) before He allows the trial to end, to teach us something—both about ourselves and about God. I am so grateful for this gospel, for the Prophet Joseph Smith and every Prophet before/after him, for my Savior Jesus Christ, and my Heavenly Father. And EVERYTHING they have blessed me with…good AND bad. 💙

Lucy Mack Smith and God’s Timing | Author’s Notes

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Hey everyone! Welcome back to another installment of “Author’s Notes,” where I share a specific fact from my book, 1,001 Facts about the Prophet Joseph Smith, and my thoughts on it. (Pre-Order your copy TODAY, you can do so by pressing the “Pre-Order” button either on the right side of the computer screen, or the bottom screen of your mobile device). Here is this week’s fact:

5. The Prophet’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith, was born on July 8, 1777, one
year and four days after the United States Declaration of Independence
was signed. She was brought to this earth when the freedom of religion
was possible for the first time ever. Just in time for the Restoration of
the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which was brought forth by her
son Joseph.

This might be one of my favorite facts–even though I have so many favorites. I noticed the connection between the dates immediately. God does not make mistakes. Lucy Mack Smith was foreordained to her calling on earth–as we all were in the life pre-mortal existence–to be the mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith and an instrument in the restoration of Christ’s gospel. However, before the freedom of religion was available to anyone, this would have been impossible. I personally believe that our founding fathers were also foreordained to their callings to bring freedom and liberty to God’s children–not only in the United States, but to make the freedom of religion (and freedom in general) eventually possible all around the world. As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, we believe that after Jesus Christ’s death and ascension into Heaven, the apostles worked really hard to keep the truth of Christ’s church together. But after thousands of years, there were several Christian churches who each had truth in their doctrine, but not the full truth from Jesus Christ himself since the truth had been changed so many times and/or people broke off and formed their own churches based on certain beliefs they wanted to believe. In the year 1820, Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith and revealed that none of the churches at that time were correct. Joseph Smith was commanded by them to keep the commandments, wait, and prepare himself. If he would do so, he would be permitted to be an instrument in restoring the fullness of Christ’s church. Years later, an angel appeared to Joseph instructing him about an ancient record written on gold plates sharing the story of Jesus Christ visiting the ancient inhabitants of America. Years after that, Joseph Smith was permitted to translate the plates with God’s divine help and publish it as the Book of Mormon. Once it was published, Joseph was commanded by God to re-organize Christ’s true church, now known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or nicknamed the “Mormon” church.

As far as Christ’s gospel goes, this is what I think Heavenly Father had/has in mind here:

Adam and Eve are cast out of the Garden of Eden after partaking of the forbidden fruit. They are then able to have children to multiply and replenish the earth, which was the beginning of mankind on earth. It is also the beginning of trial and error, and learning from our mistakes. Years pass and some people continue to follow God and prophesy of Christ’s coming.

Jesus Christ’s birth and ministry: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born. At age 30, he began his ministry and teaching the gospel. He organizes his church with the help of his twelve apostles.

The Atonement: Just before His crucifixion, Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. He experiences every sin and suffers for them. Since Jesus Christ lived His life without sin, he was able to do instead atone for our sins. He also experiences what it’s like to go through trial, pain, and any sorrow anybody who ever has lived, is living, or will live upon the earth will ever go through. Because of this, we are fully understood in our sufferings by Christ himself. We are also able to repent and return to live with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ again.

Christ’s Death, Resurrection, Visit to the Americas, and Ascension into Heaven: Because Christ was resurrected, we can be too. After Christ’s and the apostles’ eventual deaths, several Christian churches broke off to form their own. The fullness of Christ’s gospel was lost. This time in church history is called the great apostasy. 

Global Exploration leads to the discovery of the Americas. Several countries claim parts of the New World to rule over. Religious persecution leads Puritans and other religious people to flee to the New Land where they are mostly free to live their religions. Great Britain’s taxation without representation of its thirteen colonies in America leads to conflict…which leads to the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The Declaration of Independence leads to the American Revolutionary War (which…fun fact…Joseph Smith’s grandfather’s both fought in…meanwhile, Lucy Mack Smith is born in 1777). The colonies eventually win the war and form their own country called the United States of America. A few years later, in 1787, the Constitution and Bill of Rights were written…officially allowing the Freedom of Religion in the United States as an inalienable right. At this time, Lucy Mack Smith is around ten years old. Joseph Smith Sr., the Prophet’s father, was around sixteen.

Dec. 23, 1805: Joseph Smith Jr. is born in Sharon, Vermont, to Lucy and Joseph Smith Sr.

Spring 1820: Joseph Smith is visited by Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ at fourteen years old. He learns that there is no correct church on the earth.

September 1823: The angel Moroni visits Joseph Smith, giving him instructions regarding the ancient record on gold plates. He is instructed to prepare himself and live worthily so he can be permitted to translate it.

1829-1830: Joseph Smith translates and publishes the Book of Mormon.

April 6, 1830: The first meeting of Christ’s true church is held at the farm of Peter Whitmer Sr. Jesus Christ’s church is restored. Gradually, line upon line, precept upon precept, Joseph Smith taught the Latter-Day Saints the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Once he was finished, the Lord allowed him to be taken to Heaven in 1844 when he was killed by an angry mob. Because of the work done by the Prophet Joseph Smith, we not only have the opportunity to learn of gospel, but also perform ordinances essential for salvation. Because of the restoration of the gospel, we can perform these ordinances for those who have passed away too. Heavenly Father loves all His children and wants each of them to return to live with Him.

Okay, that was just a really long way of saying: God makes no mistakes. The church is true. He knows exactly what He is doing. He has all of history, the present, and future planned out, down to every last detail. He has done all this because of His infinite love for His children. Including you. 

Never Smile at a Crocodile

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I have a confession. I am imperfect…like SUPER imperfect. I have weaknesses, and those weaknesses sometimes lead me to mess up. I am going to share something I learned (or had to re-learn) today.

These past few weeks, I have not been living my life the best way I could. It was nothing too crazy or malignant, I didn’t put myself in too much danger…or so I thought. I could still feel the spirit when I read scriptures and prayed, etc. but I was basically allowing myself to experience two polar opposite emotions and spiritual thoughts all in one day when I entertained things that weren’t exactly uplifting and positive. I found myself bouncing back and forth between the line of good and ‘not-so-good.’ It made me feel this odd, slight distance in my recent relationship with Heavenly Father. It honestly was affecting my happiness as well, just felt slightly less upbeat and cheerful.

Fast forward to last night, I had this very, very vivid dream. I should mention that I often receive a lot of answers to my prayers through dreams, it is one of the methods Heavenly Father uses to communicate with me in a way that I understand. Not all of my dreams are from Heavenly Father of course, but this one definitely was. We were at Universal Studios/some church bus tour…don’t judge me, it was one of those weird dream locations, you know? We got to this body of water and it is filled with crocodiles. FILLED! For some reason, we had to drive through it to get home. Some crocodiles followed us home, terrorized us, and hid under our bed all while we are trying everything in our power to get them to leave. (Again, it was in weird dream world where this all seemed logical). Another thing I should mention is that I LOVE scary animals, especially crocodiles and sharks. I am an alligator/crocodile expert. I have loved crocodiles/alligators since I was a little girl. In fact, here is a picture of me on Halloween trick-or-treating with my friends who dressed as princesses while I dressed like…you guessed it, an alligator! (I think it was technically a dragon costume…because what normal kid wants to dress up like an alligator for Halloween?!)

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Anyway, in the dream I kept calling them crocodiles and if anyone ever referred to them as alligators I would correct them (the problem with that is the fact that crocodiles don’t live in North America…so when I woke up I was like “what the heck, why would I be so adamant about that when I was actually wrong?” #NerdAlert #SorryNotSorry). Nonetheless, the dream was all scary and vivid and we eventually got them out of the house before I woke up. I woke up thinking about it. I know that dreams are usually messages from your own sub-conscious, so I almost always research the meaning behind them to know what my body is trying to tell me.I looked up the meaning behind crocodiles and it said this:
“forewarns of hidden danger. Someone/something near you is giving you bad advice and is trying to sway you into poor decisions. Because crocodiles can live in water and on land, they also represent your conscious and subconscious and the emotional and rational. Perhaps something is coming to the surface and you are on the verge of some new awareness.”

I was immediately reminded of the “spiritual crocodiles” Mormon youth message that was popular when I was a teenager. I believe that’s why I was so persistent about making sure everyone in my dream knew that they were crocodiles, not alligators. God needed to make sure I got His message. If you need a refresher of the story, I will summarize. Even better though, here is the link to watch it yourself!

It comes from a talk by Boyd K. Packer warning the youth of the church against “spiritual crocodiles” or things that can “maul” or eat away our spirit, our testimony, our relationship with God, or our happiness. These ‘crocodiles’ are everywhere. He said that during his time in Africa, there was not a single body of water without a crocodile in or near it–whether seen or unseen–preying on innocent, unsuspecting animals and even humans. He warns the youth by stating, “Those ahead of you in life have probed about the water holes a bit and raise a voice of warning about crocodiles. Not just the big, gray lizards that can bite you to pieces, but spiritual crocodiles, infinitely more dangerous, and more deceptive and less visible, even, than those well-camouflaged reptiles of Africa. These spiritual crocodiles can kill or mutilate your souls. They can destroy your peace of mind and the peace of mind of those who love you. Those are the ones to be warned against, and there is hardly a watering place in all of mortality now that is not infested with them.”

I know it was Heavenly Father telling me to get my act together and beware of spiritual crocodiles. I physically felt God tell me, “I love you and I miss you. Please close this gap between us, stop playing with the spiritual crocodiles.” I am so grateful to have received that reminder from my Heavenly Father. The metaphor of spiritual crocodiles can be applied to several things, there are crocodiles who can destroy our happiness and mental health as well. It is so important to remember that we do not have to go in the water. We have the choice to stay on land. We have the choice to be happy, to seek help and advice when we need it. We also, unlike an experience with actual crocodiles, have the choice to get out of the water and fix everything, even if we have already been attacked.

I really felt like I needed to share this with you guys. Thank you so much for all your support and love. Remember how important and loved you are by our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. If Heavenly Father was willing to make sure I was as close to Him as I possibly could be and remind me of his tremendous and priceless love for me…He feels the same way about you. Do not forget why you are here, who’s hands you’re in, and how much He loves you. It is indescribable. Regardless of how close you’ve come to the crocodiles, or even how many times or how severely you have been bitten. It is never too late. God’s love is never ending and unconditional. 

Joseph Smith shot at before the First Vision | Author’s Notes

Hi! So I am starting a new segment on this blog called “Author’s Notes.” It is honestly the reason I wanted to start a blog in the first place. While I was writing this book, 1,001 Facts about the Prophet Joseph Smith, there were several times (and I mean SEVERAL times) when I would be typing a fact and I would want sooo badly to add my own opinion, commentary, or “two cents.” However, my opinion is not fact (even though it is, let’s be honest(;..). So, I censored myself a lot and tried only including the facts. I decided that I would add my commentary to a blog instead, called “Author’s Notes.” I am so excited. I hope you all like it! Today I am going to share a fact from my book, and also share my thoughts on that fact specifically.

 93. Just a few months before his visitation from Heavenly Father

and Jesus Christ, fourteen year old Joseph
was out on an errand for his parents. He was just about to reach the house on his way
home when he heard a gun being fired in his direction two times. Somebody was trying
to shoot him. He was frightened and quickly ran inside. The family went outside later to
try finding the shooter, but failed.
94. They did find the tracks in the snow where the shooter hid under a wagon. The next
morning, they found two balls in the head and neck of a cow nearby, which the shooter
hit instead of Joseph. They never found the shooter and never learned why they tried to
randomly kill the fourteen-year- old farm boy. This was before Joseph received
persecution for the first vision because it hadn’t even happened yet.

To the Smith family, the motive of the attempted
murderer was a total mystery.

     It is important to remember here that Joseph Smith was only fourteen, and had not experienced the visitation from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ yet, therefore had no reason to be persecuted at that time. While Lucy Mack Smith, the Prophet’s mother and source for this fact, never explained this outright…I made my own assumptions as to why she found this important enough to include just a few paragraphs before recounting the story of Joseph Smith’s First Vision in her biography.

We know that the adversary can make us believe and listen to things that are illogical, dark, and evil. There is evidence even today of men, women, and children losing control of themselves and committing horrible crimes. Yes, most of these people suffer from mental illness. I am not at all trying to downplay that. I do believe, however, that Satan is the author and father of mental illness. Not only that, but he always seems to find ways to make mental illness worse. That is not the point here, though. The adversary is smart…smarter than I think we even realize. He can manipulate our minds and hearts into doing basically anything, if we let him influence us. Have you ever done something a little messed up, and not even had a real reason or understanding why you did it? Or have you ever done something a little messed up, and felt totally justified in doing so? Satan feeds us those reasons, and sometimes he succeeds in getting us to do things without reason.

We know that Lucifer was cast out of heaven in the pre-mortal existence. He was never born to earth and the veil was never lifted from him. He knew Joseph Smith in the pre-mortal existence. He knew Joseph Smith was pre-ordained to restore the fullness of Christ’s gospel. He knew the beginning of Joseph Smith’s journey was just about to begin. I think this anonymous shooter was manipulated by the adversary into randomly trying to murder a ‘random’ fourteen year old (or so the shooter probably thinks, but the adversary knows exactly what he is doing). My belief is that this was the adversary’s last-ditch effort (or one of his last-ditch efforts) to stop God’s work from progressing. If the Prophet of the restoration was killed before his First Vision, then maybe Christ’s church would never be restored. However, as Joseph Smith himself once said, “The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecutions may rage, mobs may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

Even though this fact may seem somewhat insignificant, to me this is just further evidence to support the truthfulness of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I know it to be true. I have seen the proof with my own eyes. I have grown to love the Prophet Joseph Smith so deeply, it is hard to put into words. I am grateful for everything he went through to bring the fullness of the gospel to the Earth. It is true what John Taylor said after Joseph’s martyrdom, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.” I cannot wait to help bring some of the stories and facts of his life to you all through this book and more “Author’s Notes” segments.