Today marks the one-year anniversary of my baptism. On that day I had chosen to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of this Church are typically referred to as Mormons by non-members. It’s kind of funny that I am a churchgoer; just a few years ago I was agnostic. I would be fine watching shows on The History Channel about various religions, but I did not want to hear anything about anyone’s church. There were some personal reasons that lead me to question the existence of any type of god, and I just did not want to even entertain the possibility.
Almost four years ago I met with the missionaries for the first time. The Church encourages young men and ladies to spend 24 months (men) or 18 months (ladies) serving those in distant lands. Elder Likes and Elder Adams had begun to come to my home to share their lessons. After a long journey, learning a totally different way of being, I was ready to make sacred covenants with my Father in Heaven. Through the final lessons from Sister Madsen and Sister Sanders, I was ready to be baptized.
So many things in my life have changed over the past years. Going forward I would no longer drink alcohol, coffee, or tea. Doing business or work on Sundays is strongly discouraged; the mind should be focused on rest and service to others. Any sexual activity outside the bounds of marriage is forbidden. One of every ten dollars earned is to be donated to the Church to cover the cost of operations, creating / maintaining Church buildings, and furthering the Church’s worldwide welfare / relief efforts. One of the first things learned by investigators is that this is not a church you go to just on Christmas and Easter. Participation does not end after one hour of mass / service each Sunday; it begins with a three-hour block of the service and classes. Eventually positions of responsibility are added to the time spent as a member. Then there are other activities that happen each month. This is truly a new way of living!
I would like to pause to mention that I had envisioned this post to be some brief explanations to non-members what my Church is all about. It sounds like there is no easy way of doing this; there is just way too much to cover! Either I will miss a whole bunch of important stuff, or this will turn into a novel. This will just be the first post that will later be followed up upon.
One thing that would have been hard for me would have been giving up alcohol. Although the last time I got drunk was in January, 2007, I still loved beer. I did not want to have to give this up. Then in February, 2012 I came across Brene Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability. When I got to the 15-minute mark, she described numbing. That reminded me how even the slightest buzz I got from drinking beer changed the way my mind works. I cannot be as quick and witty as I am when I am sober. When challenging events occur, I don’t want to cheat and take the “easy” way out. In the end, numbing simply prolongs the pain. I have not had any alcohol in over two years, and I could not imagine my life with it again.
Being a Mormon has taught me a lot about life and what’s really important. Not even counting the blessings during the earlier three years that I attended the Latter-day Saint Church, there have been unimaginable amazing things that have happened this past year as a member; there are just way too many to count. Don’t get me wrong; so many things have also gotten harder! I joined the Church at a very pivotal time in my life; I happened to experience two very major changes in my life at once. Plus, things just get more challenging as more and more expectations were placed on me.
All these rules are not meant to make my life a pain. Instead, strict guidelines are set to help me on the path to true happiness. It’s just like going through training at work. You can start a job knowing little or nothing, only to have to fail a lot because of lack of knowledge / experience. Training is there to help us learn PROVEN methods for finding success. Why go through the same failures as others? If someone took the time to let you know what already works, then you don’t have to go through those otherwise necessary periods of trial and error. The whole idea is for us to become better people.
It’s easy to fall back onto bad habits; that’s where it really gets hard. We fear what we don’t understand. Plus, it’s just so much easier to go with the things that we’re familiar with. It’s hard to change and do things differently. Even though it can be so hard to do the right thing, I know very well how being disciplined and doing what I need to do brings so much happiness and success to my life. There’s just no reason to do things that are proven to bring with them failure and unhappiness.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned is to be patient. Throughout most of my life, most of my decisions were made with instant gratification in mind. Most of the time we can only see what’s right in front of our nose; looking towards our future sometimes seems like too much work. It’s easy to do what is going to make us happy the quickest. In the end, we sacrifice tomorrow’s greater happiness so that we may experience a lesser happiness today. Through discipline, I have learned to experience more and more intense moments of happiness.
That is what we are here for is to be happy, right? It’s fascinating that we still do stupid things that eventually lead to our lives becoming harder.
Another huge lesson I have leaned is to love others unconditionally. See them as people, just like you and me. Each one of us has needs, desires, and fears. Just like how you had a rough time the other day, the guy down the street that has been getting on your nerves may have had a bad day recently. No, that does not give him the right to mistreat you. However, maybe he’s just so stressed that he’s not able to think clearly and be conscious of others.
Just be a good person. Be nice to others. So many people have gotten you to where you are today; now is your chance to pay it forward. Nothing else in life brings greater happiness than serving your fellow men and women. Through service you learn something amazing – you’re so awesome that you have plenty of talents and love to share with others!
Although it has been four months since I last wrote here, I am certain that follow-ups to this post will come soon.
Be well. Do good. Make others smile.