I have seen the power of God throughout my life. From the time I was a small child living dangerously, walking along floor beams open to the cement in the basement during our new home construction. Or falling out of a tree head first only to be caught by my belt on a branch, before I could have been seriously injured. I was suspended in mid air until my brother got my dad to get me out of this predicament. One inch to right and I fall head first to the ground, one inch to the left and I get impaled by a branch that had been broken off, sticking straight up at a slight angle. The branch perfectly hooked my belt and I was left hanging.
When I was 16, I was running down the street with my friend Val Stevens. I had just bought a unicycle and was learning how to ride it. Val was chasing me while I had my unicycle in my hands. I ran into the middle of the road, not looking where I was going. Out from nowhere I hear a load breaking sound, it was a car just inches away from me. The driver was very shaken up and upset at me for running into the road. I was literally almost hit by a car. It shook me up quite a bit, making me ask the question, what is God’s purpose for me? Why am I being protected?
My belief in a higher power was tested when my dad was kicked out of the church he loved. This is the church that is the center of our family. This is the church that taught me how to pray, how to serve others, how to sacrifice, how to love. This experience allowed me to question what I believe. I also noticed how my dad was navigating through this difficult situation. My dad did not stop serving and loving people in this church. He sent hundreds of his books, on unconditional love to missionaries, and spent countless hours convincing missionaries that wanted to come home early from their missions to stay and finish their missionary service. I was amazed with the growth of my dad during these years after his excommunication.
Billions of people on this planet are not even Christian that live beautiful, happy, healthy lives and less than 1% of the planet belong to the church that I was raised in. I was taught that my religion was the only way to get to the highest Heavenly Kingdom and all others are false. I was even taught that one church was an abomination and worshipped idols. At the same time, other churches were marching in front of our sacred temples saying we of all churches was bad and not even Christian. How could so many contradictions exist and everyone feel like they are doing the right things and everyone else is wrong?
One moment of refection for me was one day I was watching a show about the prophet of a polygamous church. The people that follow him believe it is okay for 14 year old girls to get married. When this man was arrested for marrying young girls in his community, these people believe he is being persecuted for his beliefs. When you are living in the bubble it seems normal. Through out history there have been men that believed getting married to 14 year old girls is okay. As people in different societies, we are conditioned to justify why it was okay for one group of people to do this but we think it is crazy for other groups to do the same thing. In my opinion, this is never acceptable, period! The reason I bring this up is it made me ask questions about religion. What things make us question our religion and what makes us proud to belong to our church family. Never underestimate the destructive power for some and the wonderful healing blessings that can happen for others from belonging to the same religion or a different one. Everyone experiences things differently and they are all valid.
I use to be very critical of others inside my faith even asking myself are they worthy to be a part of sacred ordinances like baby blessings, or even temple worship. I regrettably was not kind to even family members when I felt they didn’t measure up, and was vocal about it. I am so embarrassed with my behavior and sorry how I acted. I now realize everyone is on their own faith journey and I find myself more compassionate and accepting of others. I still believe in a higher power, yet have a more nuanced view of my religion. I still feel God’s presence in my life and enjoy seeing God’s love for me in everything around me. When I am serving others, singing songs about the Savior and spending time in nature this is when I feel the closest to God. I am excited to see everyones own personal growth as they go through life and enjoy being apart of the process.