I've read a few articles talking about people leaving the Church, and people coming back, and I had a lot of deep thoughts to share about it. But, other people have discussed these articles and have done a much better job than I.
Hopefully what I have to share is more uplifting than what I would've said about that anyway.
As I was writing about one of the articles, which was the point of view of a woman who had left the Church, and had returned to full activity, I was reminded of my own experiences with being inactive and more importantly, my experience in returning to my faith. That made me think about the lesson I taught in Relief Society this past Sunday, from the teaching of Ezra Taft Benson, titled "Principles of True Repentance." Here's the link: https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-of-presidents-of-the-church-ezra-taft-benson/chapter-5-principles-of-true-repentance?lang=eng
The lesson affected me, as most lessons do. This one brought back the memory of my own return to my faith.
The ultra-super-short version of my journey to inactivity goes like this:
I was a return missionary. I got lazy in my ongoing conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I was complacent. I had a boyfriend, I thought we were getting married. We weren't. I think I thought he was my reward for being good, and I got bitter. (It's funny, when we don't feel like doing the work of living the Gospel, we can find the most convincing reasons, which just sound stupid later).
I worked law enforcement, where many/most of my coworkers medicated with alcohol to relax/de-stress from the traumatic jobs we did. I stopped caring, and started partying.
I was never "anti-Mormon"... I actually said, "I fully believe in the Gospel, I just don't believe that I am worth the trouble." I had a LOT of fun, but not very much happiness--and they are different.
Jesus found me and brought me back. That part of the story is interesting only to me, but it involves a vacation to a good friend's house in Utah, an unexpected Saturday morning session of General Conference wherein each and every song and talk was aimed DIRECTLY at my heart, and long discussions with my friend and her husband about my relationship with my Heavenly Father and my Savior and how that relates to my happiness.
I will be forever grateful to Kristine for those conversations and for the example that she was for me that helped me to return. Somehow her friendship and her ability to speak to me without awakening my rebellious devil inner child, rescued me.
THOUGHT ONE: There is no point of no return. No one is too far gone. Exhibit A: Me. Also, Alma the Younger, Ammon, Aaron, Omner, Himni, Saul/Paul, Zeezrom, King Lamoni and his whole Lamanite kingdom.....
The Savior WILL find you. He's already paid your price, and He is standing right there outside your metaphorical door, knocking, and He'll keep knocking, with bloody knuckles and tired feet, right up until Judgment Day.
So, as I was working my way through MIRACLE OF FORGIVENESS by Spencer W. Kimball, referred to hereafter as "The Manual," there was a part about forgiving to be forgiven. I've had my share of hurts perpetuated by others, and I realized that I needed to very conscientiously and deliberately go through a process of forgiving them. In doing so, hurts were healed and I felt my Savior's love bind up places in my heart I didn't know were broken.
THOUGHT TWO: The Atonement is the thing that makes everything okay. It's not just for repentance, it is also for forgiveness. Accessing the Atonement is HOW we can forgive even those things that are so horrific that we feel we can never be whole again.
As I worked my way through the repentance process, I came back again and again to the idea of the "change of heart," as spoken of in Alma. I felt peace in stages, I felt the Spirit testify that I was on the right path, but "The Manual" teaches that we don't just check things off a list and then we're good with the Lord. President Kimball said that the true feeling that we've been forgiven will come in the Lord's time. I was willing to wait and keep doing the work. I knew it would be a long haul.
So when the moment came upon me suddenly that I felt "forgiven" it was--amazing isn't strong enough of a word. The experience is too sacred to share, but what I can tell you is that I felt the "change of heart" in a literal sense.
Change of heart--one way to think of it is that your heart is changed.... hard places made soft, little stains and rips and tears mended and cleaned, until your heart is as "as good as new."
Change of heart--a metaphorical heart transplant. This is what I felt--like the Savior took out my beaten up and abused heart, and placed His own perfect heart in its place. Truly mighty.
THOUGHT THREE: What am I doing with the Savior's heart?
“I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually
If the Savior loved me enough to give me HIS heart, somehow, through that wondrous and infinite Atonement, then shouldn't I love Him enough to keep it as unmarred as I can?
Something that fell out of my mouth while I was teaching, which means it indubitably did NOT come from me, is this:
Life is messy. Us screwing up IS the plan. We have to make mistakes in order to learn. It's intended. We don't have to beat ourselves up, because it IS the plan. It was already accounted for. Our Savior took care of it, whether we repent or not. It's already covered. All that He asks is that we take the ugly, broken-down fail of a pile of crap that is our smallmediumlargeginormous mistake, APPLY the Atonement, and with His help, turn it into something beautiful and glorious. Here's the proof:
I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them
(that's Ether 12:27, by the way)
For those who have strayed just a bit away; for those who have jumped off the train and wonder how to get back; and even for those who have no interest in returning--please know that there's always a way back through the Savior, from however far. There's nowhere too far for Him to reach.
I love my Savior. The plan is truly THE PLAN OF HAPPINESS.
(PS I have lots more thoughts but.... this is a blog, not a book.)