My Spiritual Journey – so far… (SW)

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The past two weeks have been really tough for me. Work has been really crazy and my personal life has been a little rough. This week I got another colonoscopy and this time got an endoscopy at the same time. While I’ve had both of these things happen before separately, it was definitely the first time they were both within the same 20 minute window… like ever. The day before I had an appointment with the gyno, I guess I needed all my holes checked in a week. TMI? Yeah probably… but this can’t be the first time you’ve felt that reading my stuff.

Anyway, I have been feeling overwhelmed, down and stressed and then I saw the below prompt from my Storyworth and it ignited a lot of thoughts I have on this topic and my experience.

Have you ever doubted your faith?

For a long time in my life I equated the word faith with organized religion and more specifically being LDS or even broader being a Christian. Before I became LDS, I remember our family dabbling in a lot of Christian churches. My first memory was when we visited the church of our next door neighbor. He was a pastor at an Agape church (still no idea what that means- I should look that up shortly). It was a predominately black church but I remember feeling welcomed and it being fun and loving. I think we only went a couple of times, maybe only once.

The next experience at an organized religion was when the LDS missionaries came to my house when I was very young. My dad joined the church and was baptized. At the time, I was too young (in the LDS church you have to be 8 to be baptized). My dad was converted to the church and started dating a Sister missionary who was part of his conversion after she went home. Now I know that this is strongly “against the rules” of the church, but I had no idea then. It was just Julie from Utah. I don’t remember much of that time except running through the hallways at FULL speed with the other kids while my dad played church basketball and crying because I didn’t want to go to the kid’s program. After that relationship ended, our connection with the church ended at that point.

This was until I was 12 or 13. I often talk about how it was my dad’s grand plan to get us in the church so we didn’t get pregnant. What I normally don’t talk about is the exact day my dad decided to go back to the church.

I had been playing with my neighborhood friends and came home to grab something, probably a drink or snack. The smell of marijuana was strong in the air and I distinctly remember looking at the bricks outside our home and feeling furious. I hated when my dad smoked. From my time in DARE and my experience with my Mom and alcohol, I hated having the judgement of someone who is responsible for me to be skewed. I barely trusted adults as it was. Plus, I could recognize subtle changes in behavior and my Dad being high was not acceptable.

I walked into the house with my disgust and anger on full display. The power struggle between my Dad and I has always been an issue and this time it was uglier than usual. I don’t remember much from the fight but I’m sure it got physical as many of our fights did. I do remember deciding I was going to “run away” which was a first for me. I grabbed a backpack full of stuff and headed to the creek near our home. I knew the creek had been dry from lack of rain and thought I could sleep under the bridge for a night if I needed to. Like most children running away, the time away was less than a day. I didn’t want to be home but I had nowhere else to go.

I came home after it got dark feeling defeated and walked into the door. The missionaries from the church we left were now again at our house. My dad later told me that they called asking if they could visit our home during my hours away and my Dad invited them over then. He said he knew our family was in trouble because I had run away and he realized he didn’t care when/if I came home. We were in crisis.

From that point on, for many years we went full speed into the church. We went from no religion at all to the missionaries being at our house multiple times a week and us being at church every Sunday. This time was a lot of fun! My dad would host multiple fun tournaments at our home that consisted of Nintendo Tennis, Badminton, Ping-Pong, and Tecmo Bowl. (PS I typically won the Tecmo Bowl tourneys because I knew the different plays by the sound the controller made).

Learning about the church and our discussions was made fun by cute 19 year old guys (missionaries) and games. Plus, the people of the church were so kind to our family. The story of a single dad of two daughters attracted the best women into our lives and I had really great friends. I’m still beyond grateful for those people and their kindness toward my sister and I.

The relationship with my Dad was still strained but was better. The consistency of the church and the morals we were being taught kept us both in line and both trying our best to be better. My dad had stopped smoking weed and was working hard on stopping smoking cigarettes. This didn’t mean that we still didn’t have our fights and some of them were pretty violent but all in all it was definitely the honeymoon phase.

I chose to be baptized at 13. There were a lot of people at my baptism and I remember the love and support I felt from my new friends. I knew this was the church for me and this time I was the one who chose to go all in. I attended church every Sunday, Wednesday, church dances, girl’s camp, and conferences. Then during high school I went everyday before school. I was asked to speak at a couple small church conferences, gave talks during Sunday and got the superlative “Molly Mormon” at girls camp. I made my AIM profile LDSJill, my email address LDSJill01 and when I got my license my dad bought me personalized plates that were also LDS JILL. It was my life and my identity.

For my own personal experience, I prayed everyday and really built a relationship with my inner version of right and wrong and the definition I had in that time of God. It was strongly influenced by the church but was also built on its own. These years also helped me define true friendship, the power and gentleness of women and true dedication to a power greater than my own. I will forever be grateful for those years, it really created a strong foundation of who I am now.

My dedication to the church remained for many more years but my Dad’s did not. The truth was my dad had a lot of battles he struggled with and the church demands a perception of perfection. It was a lot to live up to for me, let alone a man who has an entire history of life and demons before the church.

When I turned 16 and got my license my Dad took a huge step back from the church and our family. He no longer had the pressure of taking us to church or really anywhere as I could now drive on my own. It was then that I saw the other side of religion, the side that happens when you can’t pretend to play by the rules. For those next couple of years, each week would be people asking me where my Dad was, encouraging me to bring him to church (as if I it wasn’t already a huge strain on our relationship) and my Dad enjoying his new found freedom of not having to parent. It was such a weird dichotomy of being in a religion based heavily on family togetherness and having a checked out Dad who came home very late from golfing and sometimes drunk.

I don’t want it to seem as if my Dad was bad during this time he just wasn’t the version of a parent that I thought the people around me had. He lived a really rough life and raising two daughters on your own was not an easy task. I now do not judge him for making the choices he did, but back then it was different and it caused a rift between us.

My whole direction of my world and relationship with the church and my dad changed in one night when I was 19….


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