Tag: Savior

The Truth about Martin Harris

This is Martin Harris. Most Latter Day Saints remember him as the man sorta responsible for the lost 116 pages of the Book of Mormon. Because of that, he doesn’t always have the best reputation. The truth is, though, he was loved so dearly by Joseph Smith and his family, regardless of his mistake. Martin Harris defended the church and Joseph Smith several times, even sometimes under oath in a court of law, against his own wife. Joseph Smith spoke so many times about his love for Martin and God’s love for Martin as well. I know so many people who believe they are no longer worth living or even worthy of God’s love because of something they’ve done, the way they think and question things, struggling with their testimony in the past/present, being LGBTQ+, or literally ANY OTHER REASON. That’s just not true. Seriously, it’s not. You are so loved, especially by your Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. NO MATTER WHAT. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING will ever make you or any other person immune to God’s love. Please know that. If you take nothing else from any of my posts/books/blogs/etc. Please know this at least: God’s love is infinite, eternal, and unconditional. SERIOUSLY! 💕 I promise. 🤝 I’ve felt it, and you can too. Just trust Him. 🙏 You can learn more about Martin Harris’ story in my book “1,001 Facts about the Prophet Joseph Smith” in my bio if you want.

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 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! 

 

 

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. 💙

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.