Tag: lds testimony help

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. 

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.

We will NEVER stop running.

Every summer my entire family–grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, everyone–goes on vacation to Coronado Island off the coast of San Diego. The beach is beautiful, the weather is amazing, and the best part is relaxing with the whole family. One morning, my mom and I decided to go for a run on the beach. That year there were huge sand dunes scattered along the beach. Each were about 5-8 feet tall and maybe 6 feet wide. We had no clue why they had randomly popped up this summer, but we ran around them regardless.

We ran along the water as the sun rose on the horizon (think Lion King-“Circle of Life” kind of stuff). It was magnificent and beautiful. All the sudden, we hear a stampede behind us and loud chanting. Startled, we looked to see what the noise was coming from. We discovered a group of Navy Seals running straight towards us (again, think Lion King). Coronado Island houses a large Naval base. It is not uncommon to see them going through rigorous training late at night or early in the morning.  They caught up to us very quickly. We like to brag that we “ran with the Navy Seals” like super fit, cool people. Before we knew it, they sped passed us without any hesitation or difficulty. We were not “running with the Navy Seals” for very long! Now that they were in front of us, we got to observe their training methods as we ran. We noticed several of the Navy Seals were carrying heavy loads on their backs and shoulders. Some carried small boats, some carried sandbags, others even carried fellow Navy Seals! These specific Seals seemed especially exhausted, sweating profusely and breathing heavily. We also noticed the Navy Seals did not avoid the mountainous sand dunes like we did. They ran full speed up and over them without skipping a beat, whether they carried heavy loads or not.

We watched in amazement. We were running at a slower speed, without heavy loads on our backs, and avoiding all obstacles. Yet, we seemed even more exhausted than most of them. Their military leader (I am so sorry, I am not familiar with the proper term and I do not want to mess it up…so I will just refer to this person as the “military leader”) was leading their chant. He would start by yelling, “Did you stop running?” They would reply, “We did not stop running.” He would chant again, “Did you stop running? I believe you stopped running.” They would chant in reply, “We did not stop running.” Finally, the military leader would chant, “Will you ever stop running?” And in perfect unison, they replied, “We did not stop running. We will NEVER stop running.”

I could not help but shed a few tears watching this in the sunrise of the beautiful beach. In life, we are constantly running. Sometimes we are carrying heavy loads. Sometimes we might feel like we are even carrying the burdens other people on our shoulders. Sometimes we feel like we are carrying more than we can handle, all while running through difficult obstacles. Everyday we are tempted to give up. We can feel like stopping, dropping our burdens on the floor, and letting the tide wash us away forever. Unfortunately, we do not always have the option to simply run around our trials and obstacles. We do not always have the choice between running vigorously with a heavy load, or a peaceful walk on the beach. I do not know if a peaceful walk on the beach through life is even possible. We will hear the constant chanting of the world–asking us if we have ever stopped running and if we will ever just give up. We have a responsibility to ourselves to respond, “We did not stop running. We will NEVER stop running.” And to keep our word, and never break that promise. We cannot stop running. The moment we give up the fight against trial, against the adversary, against hate, against negativity, against fear, is the moment we give up on ourselves and our eternal happiness. Do not let that happen. If you are here now, you have never truly given up. Promise yourself that you NEVER will. Promise to keep that promise…and promise to keep that promise.

After the Navy Seals finished their run, they sat and relaxed in the shallow water of the beach. The look of relief on their faces was obvious to anyone watching. For a few minutes they talked and laughed like it was all worth it. They did not at all seem like they regretted their decision to join the Navy. They did not at all seem like their training was too hard for them to handle, at least not while they rested in the water after they finished. They probably knew their intense training was going to prepare them for whatever they might need to accomplish later. No matter how hard we feel our life is, God never gives us ‘training’ that we can’t handle. It sucks, but you keep running up and over obstacles without hesitation. Before you know it, you will find yourself relaxing in the cool water and realize that it was all worth it

 

 

 

 

P.S. This blog post is dedicated to my grandma and grandpa, who helped make this blog a reality. Thank you. I love you guys so much. 

How Firm A Foundation | “Anti-Mormon” Arguments

     My favorite Hymn of all time is called How Firm a Foundation. Whenever I find out we are singing it in sacrament, I look at my husband with a huge smile on my face and whisper in a giddy voice, “That is my favorite song!” This has happened so many times now that Dalyn always responds by affectionately nodding and saying with a smile, “I know.” The first line of the song goes like this: “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in his excellent word.” God has laid a steady, strong, and firm foundation for our faith, through the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

While researching for this book (1,001 Facts about the Prophet Joseph Smith), I stumbled upon an internet article from a bitter, former member of the Church. The article tried to use certain elements of Joseph Smith’s life to ruin the testimonies of others. I read through their entire argument. As somebody who was in the middle of studying the Prophet’s life intensely, I knew and understood the full story from the original sources before I read this article. There was only misleading and twisted information. This person wrote about specific things in Church history, without including the full story or explanation. I could see how using this–and other articles like it–as the main source of gaining information can easily mislead those who once believed in or are trying to learn about the truth. After further research, I’ve noticed this is often the pattern of modern anti-Mormon arguments regarding Church history. They manipulate the story by only sharing certain portions or their sources come from those who were trying to destroy the early Church and/or even helped kill Joseph Smith. They do not include the details that would possibly discredit their argument. It is not the full story. Every member of the Church is likely to come across these arguments at some point in their lives. Please remember to consider the source. Know they have an agenda and are therefore not telling the truth. There is really no reason to ever entertain them. Of course the Church does not highlight the ‘controversial’ times of its history in sacrament and Sunday School lessons all the time because that is not what church is for. However, real primary source accounts (meaning: journals, letters, etc. from those who were actually there during the historical events) are available online for anyone to see. My favorite resource is josephsmithpapers.org. I strongly encourage those who have doubts or questions to use primary accounts as their main source for historical information. I believe that any decent person who seriously studies the Prophet’s life through credible primary sources–including the writings from the Prophet 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.

     In 1 Nephi chapter 8 of the Book of Mormon, we learn about Lehi’s vision of the tree of life, the iron rod, and the great and spacious building. In verse 26 Nephi says, “And I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building; and it stood as it were in the air, high above the earth.” The great and spacious building, which we know is run by the adversary and his followers, floats in the air. It literally has no foundation. We later learn that the great and spacious building randomly crumbles to the earth and all its inhabitants are destroyed. Like the great and spacious building, these opposing arguments literally have no foundation, except lies and fallacies…like floating clouds of hot air with no substance. Like the great and spacious building, the adversary’s arguments look and sound legitimate and can be very enticing. However, like the great and spacious building, they do not hold up; they will fall.  Do not be among those who will fall. One of the final lines of How Firm a Foundation goes, “Fear not, I am with thee. Oh be not dismayed. For I am thy God and will still give thee aid. I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand.” If we listen to Him, follow Him, hold to the iron rod, and stay firmly planted on the strong foundation of the gospel He created for us, He will not suffer that we should fall. Stay strong, stay faithful, stay firm. Doubt not, fear not. God is with thee. He is real. Stick with Him.