If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know a little bit about me. Amongst other things, you know that I have been married to my husband for 20 years. I have five kids who are starting to leave the nest, and I believe in keeping things real. You might know that I once had a week of fame when my heartfelt post about my strong-willed child went crazy viral and was republished all over the web (in multiple languages).
But do you know what I value most? Do you know why I believe?
Before we get there, please allow me to tell you a little about where I come from. All branches of my family tree go back to faithful Mormon pioneers. Many of them were driven from their homes in the dead of winter by angry mobs who threatened their lives because they did not agree with their religious beliefs. To escape persecution and find peace, they walked 1250 miles from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City, Utah, suffering many hardships along the way. Yet they remained true to the God whom they loved.
The following picture shows an excerpt from my great-great-great grandfather’s journal, found on a plaque along the Trail of Hope in Nauvoo, Illinois (Please excuse the dirtiness of the plaque.)
That is my heritage. The blood of those stalwart saints runs through my veins, and their examples mean everything to me. I feel a great responsibility to uphold the faith that they sacrificed everything to practice. But it is more than responsibility I feel. It is a deep sense of gratitude and devotion to them and God.
To be true, I have lived through periods of doubt. I have questioned the validity of some gospel principles I have been taught since childhood, causing me to wonder if the gospel was nothing more than a good story. The very foundations of my faith have been tested on more than one occasion, driving me to my knees for direction. And, though I do not know the answer to every difficult question that arises, the peace that always eventually fills my heart as a result of prayerful searching encourages me to keep pressing forward.
Through this process, I have learned to focus on what I DO know, doubting my doubts before doubting my faith. And one thing I do know is that God loves His children. I know that because I have felt of His tender embrace many times. I know because He has answered my prayers in very specific ways, leading me down paths that I would not have chosen for myself but, in hindsight, were precisely what I needed. I know because He calms my heart in the midst of life’s storms that are growing in number and intensity.
I may not know everything, but I cannot walk away from the faith of my youth for one simple reason: I believe with all of my heart that it is true. Otherwise, why would my ancestors give up everything to follow its precepts, remaining diligent despite their very lives being threatened? And why do peace and joy fill my soul when I do the same (without threats from angry mobs, of course)?
My son, who is currently serving a mission and teaching the gospel to the good people of Hawaii, said it so beautifully in a recent letter:
Talking with him makes me realize why I came out here – to help people find the JOY of the gospel in their lives. As their eyes light up when we teach them, it helps me to know that I am in the right place, despite any discouragement. THAT makes all the difference, in their life and in mine.
The gospel I love is about joy. About hope. About peace. It is about finding purpose in life by understanding that there is a bigger picture than mortality alone, and God’s hand is in the details of orchestrating that plan. It is about understanding that we cannot be saved by our merits alone – that we need the grace of Jesus Christ. It is about knowing that family relationships can continue beyond the grave.
That knowledge, my friends, is what I value most. It is why I believe, and why everything in my life revolves around those beliefs. It keeps me going when times get tough and brings me more joy than I could possibly explain in a few short paragraphs.
I don’t tell you this to disparage any other religion or to convert you to my faith. If you believe differently than I do, we can absolutely be friends. I just wanted you to understand a little more about where I find direction and purpose, and what brings me peace and joy amidst the whirlwind of life. I wouldn’t be a good friend if I kept all that to myself.
If you are interested in learning more, please contact me. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have. If not, no worries. I will be back to talking about motherhood and the craziness of family life before you know it. Thank you, as always, for joining me on this journey.