Monday, October 18, 2010

Why I'm a Latter-Day Saint, a Mormon

                                       I never really thought to tell anyone my story. It might be interesting to me, but when people ask it's usually because they want to know what I was searching for, or what was missing in my life.
                                    I always felt close to God. I loved going to church on Sunday. I was a little scared of some of the paintings that hung on the walls, and a lot of the teachings that just didn't sit right. But it was a routine in our family. So I went. Then, before my parents divorced, and if I'm remembering correctly, around the time that my baby brother came into the world for a brief visit and just as quietly left, we stopped going. I would still talk to God as I watched clouds from the windows of my bedroom. It was a HUGE mystery how He could be UP THERE! Didn't make much sense. Children are naive but also very much in tune with truth.
                                       So I did life through the 60's and 70's, most of the time scared of adults and older teenagers and all of the crazy stuff going on in those years for everybody. I found an outlet in ballet which refocused me on taking care of my body...which meant spiritually I was healthier, too. Sitting on the Falmouth library lawn, hanging out with a group of friends I heard about Mormons for the first time. Donny Osmond and BYU. Whatever was said, it was negative. I stored the comments away until I got accepted to the U of Utah...Mormon country! My mom and I laughed how I should watch out or I'd become "one of THEM"!
                                       When I got there I watched people. For years. I worked, and I played, and I danced and I explored the magnificent canyons and parks. I still have the journal I kept at that time in my life that shows the transition I was making to be true to who I really was. I was soooo tired of superficial friendships and partying. I was tired of not feeling healthy. I was bored with parties that left me feeling empty and alone. I wrote, "All I know how to do is to live up to the truth that I have in me. I'd rather live alone and happy than settle for anything less."
                                          I went on a date to see the Salt Lake temple. I was impressed with what they called the Word of Wisdom...a health law. I was shown pictures of past and present prophets and laughed that they were all so old and had big ears! I was sent home with books to read. Even back then I loved to read. I made myself a huge bowl of popcorn and dug in. As I read I felt conflicted. On the one hand, my mind was laughing about angels and modern day prophets. On the other, I knew it was true. In an instant my world of black and white and unfinished melodies that I'd lived in changed to color and symphonies. It was like standing in a meadow of fragrant flowers feeling the warmth of the sun on my face for the first time. I couldn't have left that spot if my life had depended on it. I kept it a secret from my friends and family for a while. As soon as I started sharing my decision to join the church I felt misunderstood. I found out who my real friends were. I found out who was really listening. Eventually I moved back home to the Cape and tried to work out how to stay true to myself AND have friends. I stopped going to church for a while because I didn't drive, I was sick of asking for rides, and I just felt dark.
                                     Then I met my husband. He rekindled an almost extinguished ember in my spirit. To make what is becoming too long a story shorter, we got married and started a family. He joined the church, too. Even though he was touched by the truth of it, he had a struggle like I did trying to be himself in the same old environment. It wasn't easy. When our children started coming we used the principles we knew to be true to teach them about who they are, why they're here on this earth, and what comes next. I've learned to let go and believe that everyone that I know is doing the best that they can to live up to the light they've been given
                                    In the end, we'll all be what we are comfortable being. I  know that there is such a thing as truth. We are free to deny it if we want to. But for me, there's no growth in that. I like to face things that bother me head on. I like to feel peace. And you know, that's one of the only promises Christ gave to us in this world if we were living up to the light we've been given. Peace. Highly under-rated! I like knowing that rich or poor, healthy and full of vitality, or sick and watching death creep closer, that no matter what my experiences are in this life, I feel joy. That's what being a Latter-Day Saint has done for me...among many other things. I have people who are now my family anywhere I go in the world. We stand on common ground. And not one of them is a perfect person. But they love me.
                                  I love my children. It has been very hard to live up to the stewardship of sharing truth with them AND balancing that responsibility with the knowledge that everyone is born free to choose for themselves. I think it's normal to feel like we don't know each other sometimes. I'm emotionally invested. But, I'm learning to trust that everyone really does choose what's comfortable for them. And that is what life is all about. For me, I choose joy. And my joy is not complete without my family and friends! What more can I say but....enjoy the journey! I am!

Betsy Cross


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