When my husband, Joe, told me he wanted to get baptized, I was anything but excited. I had grown up in the Church, but over the years I had struggled with certain ideas and policies. As a young adult, I eventually stopped going to Church meetings and started studying other religions as well as nonreligious lifestyles.
During this time of exploration, I met Joe, and we began living together. My family was concerned about me, but we always had a great relationship. Joe and I often went to family and religious events to support them. We lived this way for four years, and I was happy with it.
Joe and I eventually got married, and soon I became pregnant. During this time, we went to a family reunion with my side of the family. Every day during the reunion, my family held a devotional. Each individual family gave a lesson or bore their testimonies. One devotional was about how amazing my grandparents’ lives had been and what a great role the Church had played in that. Many also talked about how the gospel had brought strength and happiness into their own lives.
When we returned home, Joe was determined to meet with the missionaries. When I asked why, he said, “I need to know for myself what your family members were talking about.” I told him to go ahead. I figured he’d get the basics and then call it good. But after three lessons, Joe wanted to be baptized!
“This is so fast,” I said. “Are you sure you know what it means to be a member of the Church?”
“It means we’re going to go to church and figure it out,” he said with a smile.
I wasn’t terribly excited, but we agreed that he could keep taking the lessons, though he wouldn’t commit to baptism until I was OK with it.
After a few weeks, my feelings about the Church hadn’t changed. But Joe had. He had discovered faith and prayer. He had a sense of peace and confidence that he hadn’t felt before. And it was beautiful to see. I decided that no matter what I was feeling, I couldn’t take this away from him. We determined that if he was going on this journey, we were going to do it together. So Joe got baptized.
A lot of people at the baptism knew I’d been raised in the Church and assumed I must be thrilled. But I felt a mixture of pride in Joe for being so brave, and fear for what this was going to mean for our life together.
I started going to church with Joe, and we made a plan to deal with my concerns. The first step was to identify what, exactly, bothered me about the gospel. We bought a small journal that I brought with me every Sunday. Whenever someone made a comment that irritated me, looked at a scripture with a perspective that I thought seemed odd, or talked about a policy that rubbed me the wrong way, I wrote down my feelings.
I scribbled in that journal for months. I would say things like, “I hate it when people say … ,” “Doesn’t anyone fact-check?” and “That makes no sense to me.” Expressing my feelings as I had them made them easier for me to understand and process. Before, when something bothered me, I would hold on to it all day, and it would poison my church experience. But as I wrote in my journal, I became free to enjoy more of church, in between the moments I struggled with. I was getting more out of it than I had in a long time.
Now that I had identified what bothered me, the next step was determining why these things bugged me. As we would eat Sunday dinner, Joe and I would discuss what I’d written in my journal. Sometimes I would simply say, “This is how I feel. I don’t know why.” Figuring things out took a lot of discussion, personal thought, and prayer. One thing I’ve always believed is that prayer is the most important and accurate source of information on pretty much everything.
Working together, Joe and I realized that when you know who you are and what you believe, it builds a wall of protection around your heart. And so, after a while of writing in my journal and discussing it with Joe and with Heavenly Father, I ran out of criticism regarding the Church.
When the one-year anniversary of Joe’s baptism was approaching, he started asking about going to the temple. Again, my reaction was, “Whoa! Slow down! I’m not ready for that.”
So my patient husband waited. Every now and then, he would slip something into the conversation like, “Honey, I read a great article about the temple. Do you want to read it?” or “Hey, babe, I saw a wonderful video about the temple. Do you want to watch it with me?” His enthusiasm was endearing, but it wasn’t getting me any closer to being ready to go to the temple. Finally, one day he asked me directly what made me feel unprepared.
“You know I had some issues with the Church growing up,” I said. “But I loved going to the temple. Baptism trips were my favorite. I loved the way I felt in the temple, so calm and peaceful. But I don’t know about the rest of the temple. What if someone says or does something that bothers me? What if that ruins going to the temple for me? What would be the point of being a member of the Church if you can’t go to the temple? So I don’t want to go until I’m sure nothing will shake me.”
I found solutions to most of my issues, but I was still struggling with one: how could I be part of a church I didn’t always agree with? This led me to the final step of learning from my journal. I realized I needed to try to understand why other people believe what they believe and say what they say. I needed to know why God had directed the Church to be the way it is today.
I found my answer through my husband. When he first started reading the Book of Mormon, a line from the title page stood out to him: “And now, if there are faults they are the mistakes of men; wherefore, condemn not the things of God.” Joe had quoted this over and over, but now it meant something more to me.
I realized that the Church exists in an imperfect world populated by imperfect people. And that includes me. We all have times when we get things wrong before we get them right. I realized I needed to stop judging others, just as I wouldn’t want them to judge me. We are all on a path of learning and growth.
I also realized that the Church is the Lord’s. It is in His hands. Yes, He works through imperfect people, but He directs His work. He knows what is needed, and when.
After this, I felt ready to go to the temple. I was pleased to find that it felt just as good on that day as it had years before when I had done baptisms. On our third wedding anniversary, my husband and I went to the temple again to be sealed together and have our son sealed to us. It was so sweet and such a happy day. I kept thinking that this was what all families are meant to be—eternal. And I had yet another realization: though there might be policies or doctrines that might take me time to sort out, there are also rare and beautiful truths in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. One is that each of us can actually talk to Heavenly Father and receive answers. Another is that through living prophets, He gives guidance for our day.
Through my experiences, I truly know that revelation for the Church (given through Church leaders) and personal revelation for each of us allow Heavenly Father to guide us through our mistakes and triumphs. As we follow His map for our lives, we can find great happiness in knowing Him and His Son, Jesus Christ (see John 17:3). I am proud to be a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.