Tag: God

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 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.

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. 💙

Why is Spreading the Gospel So Important?

Okay, I am going to share a few random stories. By the end though, they will all tie together…I promise! So hear me out.

My first story was actually shared in a previous blog post, titled, “Are you trapped in your own, personal Liberty Jail?” If you haven’t read it, I will give a little summary but more details can be found in that post. Right after I graduated high school, I went on the Church History Tour. It was life-changing in many ways but the most life-changing experience of the trip for me happened on the very first night. At this time, I was feeling the worst I had ever felt about myself, about my life, about God. I felt like God had abandoned me. I had never felt that way before. On the first night of the trip, we read Doctrine and Covenants 121-122, the letters from Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail to the church. Joseph, like me but obviously in a more extreme circumstance, felt like God had abandoned him. As he prayed in agony to God, Heavenly Father responded, “My son, peace be unto thy soul. Thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment. And then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high…” In the next chapter, we read “Therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you, forever…” As I read those words I physically felt God tell me, “I have NOT forgotten you. I have NEVER left you, and I NEVER will.” The spirit was so strong as I read those words that I knew it was true. I knew The Lord would never leave me. I have never felt that God has abandoned me ever again, even though I have experienced far worse trials since that day. This scripture changed my life. I am much happier and understand–just a little bit more–the love God has for His children.

This next story is about my Grandma and Grandpa, my dad’s parents. My grandfather was a convert to the church, he was baptized after years of witnessing the blessings and happiness of his beloved wife and children in the gospel. They were sealed in the Temple for Time and All Eternity shortly after his baptism. When I was 17 years old, my grandpa passed away from complications with Leukemia combined with a car accident. At his funeral service, my grandmother–his wife–was emotional of course. However, she seemed oddly at peace and almost relieved to know he was with God and free of pain and suffering. She sat next to me on the bench of the chapel and told me a cute story, that also broke my heart. In the few days or so since his passing at the time, there were moments when something interesting, frustrating, or funny would happen. She would think to herself, “Oh! I have to tell Fred (my grandpa) about that!” Then immediately realize she could no longer do so. She told me about how the day prior to his funeral, she just sat in her car and felt the presence of God and my grandfather there with her. She said she just “told him” everything that had happened recently. She said she just “went down the list.” I have always remembered this story. I remember thinking, ‘I cannot imagine losing that person who you have been with everyday, who you told everything to, who you raised children with, who was your eternal companion and best friend.’ I wasn’t even married yet, and I was still heartbroken for her. To my surprise though, she still seemed more at peace than I imagined she would.

My best friend in the whole world is a convert to the church. Before she was a member she lost her only sibling, her older brother, to a drug overdose. After losing him, she became bitter and angry. According to her, she despised God. How could He let this happen to her? How could a loving God take away her lifelong best friend and leave her an only child? I remember attending the memorial services of her brother, and watching her shake and cry uncontrollably as she spoke from the pulpit of the funeral home. She could not even physically finish her speech. About a year later, she met the man who would later become her husband and eternal companion. He was a returned missionary of the church. She started taking the missionary lessons. At first she thought they were full of bologna! However, she gave them a chance. Eventually, it was her realization and strong spiritual confirmation from God that her sweet brother was okay and happy, that made her decide the Church was true. She was baptized by her then boyfriend, now husband. Right after she received her endowment in the Temple, she finished the work for her brother, so he can accept the gospel and go to the Celestial Kingdom. 

The final story is about a time when I taught with the sister missionaries. I never went on a mission. I spent years praying and begging the Lord to let me go on a mission, but the answer for me was always ‘no.’ Here’s what I did instead: Before I got married, I went teaching with the sister missionaries in the singles ward ALL THE TIME…I’m talking…around 3-6 times a WEEK! I did this for over a year. I felt that if I was not supposed to serve a full-time mission, I would serve a bunch of mini-missions! I felt as if I was being rebellious and ‘cheating the system’ somehow, I thought “THAT’LL SHOW YOU, HEAVENLY FATHER! HAH!” (; Anyways, we had been teaching this young man for a few weeks. He read the Book of Mormon and said he believed it to be 100% true. However, when we asked him if he wanted to be baptized, he said no. He said he knew the Book of Mormon was true, but he did not want to join the church because he desired to keep living his worldly lifestyle. He said he did not want to change. He claimed to love the gospel and Book of Mormon, but refused to accept it fully by repenting and getting baptized. After a long talk with him and trying to understand him, we realized he would not be coming to church or accepting the gospel fully, at least not at this stage of his life. Normally after teaching with the sisters, I would feel amazing. This time, I felt absolutely drained. I was upset because I knew since he said he knew it was 100% true, he was going to be held accountable for rejecting it now and refusing to repent. It broke my heart. Even though I knew he would NOT likely be considered a ‘son of perdition’ and suffer those extreme consequences, I couldn’t help but feel like it would STILL have been better for him if we had never taught him the gospel at all. 

I knelt down and asked the Lord, “Why do we even teach the gospel if it could mean accountability and suffering for those who leave or reject it? If we all go to some degree of a beautiful heaven anyways, what’s the point of having the gospel on earth?” The Lord answered me in the most beautiful way. I was immediately reminded of the time I received comfort from Heavenly Father through D&C 121-122, how God spoke to me directly, how it changed my life and brought me the most exquisite peace and joy. I would never have had that joy and peace without the scriptures, without the knowledge that we can speak to God and He back to us, without the the gospel. Then I was reminded of my grandmother. How peaceful she was even after losing her lifelong best friend, the person who took care of her, who she told everything to. She knew he was happy, free of suffering, reunited with his parents and family. Most importantly, she knew that she would soon be free from her pain, happy, and reunited with him and God for all eternity. I thought of the happiness she must feel knowing she can one day sit with him again and “just go down the list” and tell him everything. I was finally reminded of my best friend, how she unexpectedly lost her brother in such a tragic manner but is the happiest I have seen her now, knowing her brother is happy and that she will be with him again. I thought of so many times when peace was brought to my life, or the lives of those around me, even in the darkest of times…through the gospel. As I prayed for the answer of my heart-wrenching question, “Why do we teach the gospel at all? What’s the point?” I thought of these stories, and so many more. The answer came to me, “This is why.” Peace, comfort, happiness, knowledge, safety, etc. I mean, what is the other name for the Plan of Salvation? The Plan of Happiness. 

I was also reminded of a quote from the Prophet Joseph Smith in Doctrine and Covenants Section 128: “Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth…a voice of gladness for the living and the dead; glad tidings of great joyShall we not go on in so great a cause?” 

Dictionary.com defines the adjective ‘great’ in two ways: “of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average” and “of ability, quality, or eminence considerably above the normal or average.” The cause of spreading peace, comfort, happiness, knowledge, safety, and truth, is great; by all definitions of the word. 

Are you trapped in your own, personal Liberty Jail?

Okay, if you are related to me, have heard me speak in church, or are even just an acquaintance, you have probably heard this story. I don’t care though, it is so good. Hands down, it was the most life-changing experience of my entire existence. So deal with it!

Right after I graduated high school, I had the opportunity to go on the Church History Trip to the eastern United States. We got to visit several historical church sites for two whole weeks! It was life-changing in many ways, but the most life-altering experience for me happened on the very first night. This was a time of major trial for me. Because of these trials, I genuinely felt like God had forgotten me, forsaken me, or just STRAIGHT UP  hated me. I had never experienced that feeling before in my life. I was miserable. I spent too long in the pool of comparison…and my hands were getting pruny enough to prove it.(; I believed that Heavenly Father was picking favorites and giving them blessings…and I definitely did NOT think I was one of His favorites. I really thought I had no reason for living, and I was about to abandon my belief in a higher power altogether. SPOILER ALERT: I was wrong…OH EM GEE, I was DEAD wrong. I would not wish those emotions and feelings on my worst enemy, and I never want to experience anything like that again.

The first night, one of my four awesome (seriously, amazing) roommates told us that our chaperones assigned everyone to read Doctrine and Covenants 121-122. It was the story of the Prophet Joseph Smith while he was wrongly imprisoned in Liberty Jail. None of the other girls, including myself, remembered hearing that assignment, and we were not going to visit Liberty Jail in Missouri until later in the trip. Regardless, the four of us read the two chapters together as a room. This time in Joseph’s life is arguably the most difficult time up to that point. He was captured and incarcerated one day following the Haun’s Mill Massacre where almost twenty saints died and others were beaten and brutally attacked. His wife and children were robbed and threatened, before having to flee to Illinois for their lives. Over 60 of his closest friends were being thrown in jail, and kept in jail until they testified against the Prophet in court. He, like me, and like all of us at some point in our lives, felt like God had forsaken him. Although, I know Joseph Smith’s situation and trials of that time were way worse than mine have ever been. I still felt like I could relate to him on a smaller scale.

The four of us read the Prophet’s agonizing prayer, “Oh God! Where art thou?” A prayer I sympathized with now, more than ever. Then a few verses later, we read the Lord’s sweet answer, “My son, [to me, I read, “My Alexa”] peace be unto thy soul, thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment; and then if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high…” Later, in the next chapter, I read the final verse, “Therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever.” When I read that, I physically felt the Lord tell me, “I have not forgotten you, I have NEVER left you, and I NEVER will.” For the first time in months, I physically felt the love of God. At least, I let myself feel it…for the first time in months. I realized that God’s love for us is INDESCRIBABLE. I heard and felt so many reasons why Heavenly Father loved ME, why He had NEVER forsaken me, why He was proud of me, and how beautiful HE thinks I am, inside and out.

I got out of the pool of comparison. I will admit that I still find myself in that nasty pool even now, but I never let myself stay too long anymore. I found out the next morning that none of the chaperones assigned us to read any scriptures…and they never gave us official scripture assignments even afterwards. I know my sweet roommate was inspired to have us read those two chapters, whether she knew it or not. God needed me to hear those verses, and He used my amazing roommate’s spiritual intunement to help me. I found myself trapped in my own, personal “Liberty Jail” and nothing and nobody could ever pull me out…except God. The person who I almost abandoned and stopped believing in altogether, had been there all along. He was not mad at me, or punishing me, even when I was not very nice to Him at the time. I learned how much God loves me. With that, I learned how much God loves everyone else…how much He loves YOU. I normally would feel weird comparing myself to somebody as awesome as the Prophet Joseph Smith, but it was Heavenly Father who told ME, that the “worth of every soul is great in the sight of God.” (D&C 18:10). HE told ME that I am not worth any less than even His greatest Prophets. This applies to ALL of His children, no matter how unworthy you may THINK you are of His love and forgiveness.

Here I am, almost four years later and I have suffered through far worse than I had ever dealt with before. Yet, I have NEVER, EVER doubted that Heavenly Father was really there. He promised me that he had “NEVER forsaken me, and that He NEVER would.” I believe Him. Now, I physically feel Him and His Son going through these trials with me every step of the way.

Have you ever been, or are you now, trapped in your own, personal “Liberty Jail?” The only one who can bail you out, is God. Turn to Him. Know how much He loves you. Know that He is proud of you. Know that He thinks you are beautiful, inside and out. Know that “thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment,” and that our trials are for our good and give us experience. As hard as any trials are or ever will be, God NEVER forsakes us, and He NEVER will.