When I was growing up I had a good friend named Alana. She lived across the street from me. Never were there two people so completely different, and yet we were amazing friends! We had some great times that mostly involved Spanish class, and we went to Spanish camp together. Oh, the stories I could tell! I was raised as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and Alana was not. Her background was Catholic, but I’m not sure if her family attended church or not because I never really paid attention to those things. While Alana was outgoing, gregarious, loved to party (and did so often) I was more the quiet type. She couldn’t wait to grow up and leave our tiny town for places unknown, she wanted to get married (but not right away) and never wanted children. She had dreams way more lofty than me. I planned to go off to college, but never really yearned for the wings that she wanted. I wanted to be a writer, knew I could be content with a good place to call home and a family, and couldn’t wait to someday be a mother. As I said before, we were polar opposites when it came to lifestyle choices but we were always good friends and I loved to talk and laugh with her and neither of us ever spent even a moment of time judging the other because we weren’t the same.
Now, thanks to the miracle of the internet and Facebook, Alana and I can still be friends even when we live worlds apart in more ways than one. We enjoy a good online discuss now and again, keep up with each other’s comings and goings, and even occasionally talk on the phone. We are still different in more ways than we are the same, but I can still say that I love her like I always did. I had one of these conversations with her several nights ago and hearing her voice from the other side of the country took me back for a minute to when I was sixteen and we laughed about the past and wondered about Senor Mansfield and where he might be these days.
During my conversation with Alana that night, she asked me some tough questions that I never expected her to ask me. Considering we’ve been friends (even from a distance) most of our lives, she’s never asked me these types of questions before. They weren’t tough as in “I have no answer for that” but tough in the sense that I absolutely know the answer but trying to get it from my heart out of my mouth is challenging. I know my answers at the time were less than adequate, and I have been thinking about it ever since. Maybe not so much because I need to give Alana a better answer, but I guess when someone, anyone, takes the time to ask us why we believe what we believe or why we choose to live like we live, it’s best to have a response so it doesn’t look like we don’t know.
Obviously I believe in my religion. I willingly sent my son off to spend two years of his life sharing it with others (granted, most of that decision was on him, but I still went along with it) and I’m paying for it out of my own pocket. I sacrifice all of my Sundays to worshipping and attending church services, choosing not to participate in other activities that I enjoy in an effort to keep the Sabbath day holy. I take on jobs in the church for which I never get paid, but that eat up my time, cause stress occasionally, and create work when I have a million other things I could be doing. I willingly part with 10% of my income in tithing. The list could go on and on. Ours is not an easy religion to live. It requires time and effort and WORK every single day.
I know this doesn’t sound like much of an advertisement for joining up, but it does lead me to explain why I choose this life.
Sending my son off on a mission was difficult to do, but these last two weeks I have had the opportunity to watch my daughter prepare to send the boy she loves off on a mission as well. It has been really hard for her to do it, but she supports his decision to go. There have been a lot of tears shed (by both of us). But then I got to watch her get lost in doing some projects for him during his time away. She created a little photo album filled with pictures, quotes, and memories, all designed to encourage and lift him when things got tough. Then she wrote him a series of letters, all intended for him to take with him and open when he needs them. They included talks from church leaders, scriptures and quotes, and, of course, her own words of love, support, and encouragement.
She delivered these things to him the Sunday before he left and said her last in-person goodbyes to him.
Tuesday, in an effort to keep her busy and not let her dwell on his leaving, she and I spent the day together. We just happened to be passing the airport when his flight departed, and she watched as it slowly became a tiny dot in the sky. As the day wound to a close and I was taking her back to her apartment, she told me that she knows she’s going to be okay. She talked about what a great missionary he is going to be, and how caring he will be to the people he is serving. I’m proud of her for her strength, and she’s right—she’ll be okay.
So why do we do these hard things?
Because, ultimately, it makes us happy.
For all of these hard things that I do, each time I choose to do them, I receive blessings without measure. Those blessings make the sacrifices worthwhile, and, in the end, I am happy.
Many people look at the life of a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and see nothing but restrictions and rules, wondering why we are forced to live a life with no fun, no freedom, and no choices. I never look at it like that at all—so when asked why we have so many restrictions, I’m not quite sure how to answer. All I see is a loving Heavenly Father that gives us guidelines to follow, promising that if we will follow, it will bring us joy. So far, that has been the case for me. There is nothing out there “in the world” that I feel like I am missing out on—not one thing. There are, however, an abundance of things that I have gained by living according to the standards that God has given me.
I have seen more miracles in my lifetime than one would think a simple girl like me would ever deserve. I haven’t seen an ocean part, but when the small miracles come in your life that give you exactly what you need in that moment, it might as well be the parting of a sea. I have no doubt in my mind that the Lord knows my name, He knows what I need, and He will perform miracles in my life at exactly the time that I need them. By comparison, all that He asks of me seems so very small.
My faith provides hope
To sum it up, I have faith that if I do what I am asked to do, I will see the promised results. So far I have never been let down.
I could go on and on about the reasons why I choose to live my life as a Mormon, but I think I will sum it up with words from my daughter, who posted the following on her Facebook page last night:
This Tuesday the love of my life left to serve our Heavenly Father, and help bring His perfect gospel to others. I am so very proud of the wonderful man I’ve got to see him become over the past two years, and I can’t imagine my life without him. He is so loving, and he always does his best in everything he does. I have never met anyone as loving and caring as he is, and I know he is going to be so great out there. Our relationship has brought me closer to where I need to be in my life, and because of Spencer’s help, I have grown stronger. One thing I can now say with complete surety is this:
Christ lives, and he loves us. He experienced all the pain and torments of the world, and he did this in order to save us and bring us back to our Father in Heaven. Heavenly Father loves us, and nothing can separate us from that. Romans 8: 38-39 states:
“38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
I know this is true, and I feel His love every moment I take a breath. And I most definitely feel this love when I see the wonderful gifts that Heavenly Father has given me in this life. My mom, my dad, my brothers, my friends, Spencer… These are all wonderful examples of gifts that Heavenly Father has sent me to help bring me closer to his love. Yet the perfect example of God’s love for us is in Christ. He sent His only Begotten Son down to this world out of his pure love. He sent Him to save us so that we can all return to the love that dwells within Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. In October of 2009 Deiter F. Uchtdorf gave a talk on the pure and all-encompassing love of God, stating:
“[God] loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked.
“What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us.”
I am so grateful for all those around me, whether past or present. You all mean so much to me, and you are all examples of God’s pure love. Though these next two years will be hard, I am so glad that Spencer will be spending it sharing Heavenly Father’s love with others.
I love my Heavenly Father. And I love His perfect son. I know that I can always turn to Him, and I know that He will always be waiting with His pierced hands outstretched.