Wrestling with God

I haven’t been writing here for quite some time. I have been engaging in a wrestle with God.

That wrestle was started a long time ago, yet I was unaware for most of it. I felt angry. I took that anger out on the most innocent people around me.

These last few months, without church services, I lost connection with most of my Ward. So, I began to seek out more connections online with members of The Church, not just in my area.

When I was talking with a new friend and a bit of the world fell out of my mouth, I began to see that I wasn’t as close to Jesus Christ as I thought I was.

In last month’s General Conference, President Nelson advised us, “As we seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ, our efforts to hear Him need to be ever more intentional. It takes conscious and consistent effort to fill our daily lives with His words, His teachings, His truths.”

The Holy Spirit witnessed to me that my stage in my continuing conversion process was far from where I wanted it to be. Unbeknownst to me, I had allowed myself to fall far to the side of where I wanted to be. I was swimming in the stream of filth alongside the path to the Tree.

How did I get there? Why was I there? How could I fall so far, so fast?

Spite. Anger. Betrayal. And I felt like I had a RIGHT to those emotions. After all, I had been lied to and betrayed, right?

Then, I prayed. I poured myself into The Book of Mormon. I read Isaiah.

I was impressed to seek to be closer to God. First I needed to change my environment. I turned off the worldly entertainment, both video and audio. I deleted all of the apps.

I turned on Gospel music and General Conference talks. I spent hours every day reading and pondering on scriptures.

In April’s talk “Hear Him,” President Nelson taught:

It has never been more imperative to know how the Spirit speaks to you than right now. In the Godhead, the Holy Ghost is the messenger. He will bring thoughts to your mind which the Father and Son want you to receive. He is the Comforter. He will bring a feeling of peace to your heart. He testifies of truth and will confirm what is true as you hear and read the word of the Lord.

I prayed again.

The Holy Spirit said in answer, “The natural man includes the temptation to hold grudges. Anything that is not based in Love, not based in God, in good, is none of these things. There is no darkness in the Lighte.”

I was given the impression that I needed to forgive.

When I asked God how I could forgive those wrongs that the world around me proclaimed my right to hold in a grudge for all their lives. Often using phrases that begin, “I could forgive anything except _______.”

Didn’t I have a right to my anger? But…???!!

I prayed again.

Immediately I heard, “What have I forgiven of you?”

Wow.

I was flooded with images of my own sins from before I was Baptized in 2013. I was informed by the Holy Spirit that God no longer remembered those sins, as He promised. However, I was being shown that I must forgive, as He had forgiven me.

I needed to forgive all who I felt had wronged me in any way, and I had to ask them for forgiveness for all the ways in which I had wronged them.

That impression began days of crying and repentance. I wrote and sent a letter I was impressed to send. I removed blocks on social media that were placed in haste.

As I struggled, I asked a friend to pray with me. I asked for a prayer, and instead received a Blessing. Within that Priesthood Blessing, once again God told me He knows my name. So many tears. So much Testimony. Oh how I love God.

He is perfecting me. Line by line. Precept by precept. I love the Lord.

May God be with you. In Love and His Holy Lighte. I’ll write more very soon.

A Pioneer of Diversity: Dennis Schleicher

In last week’s Come Follow Me lessons in the New Testament, we read:

Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

Acts 10:34-35

In my Come Follow Me study group comprised of several people of all different walks of life, I was startled at a question left hanging for more than four days, “Peter came to learn that the blessings of the gospel are meant for people everywhere. The Church today is composed of a variety of people from many different backgrounds. How are Church members blessed by such diversity?”

I can tell you that it has been an incredible blessing to me and my Testimony in Jesus Christ, to have met a pioneer of diversity in our time, Brother Dennis Schleicher, and spoken to him about his love of our mutual church, Heavenly Father, and what it is like to find his church home.

Dennis Schleicher is a gay man. Dennis has known he was gay for most of his life. When he joined a network marketing company and saw members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who were his superiors acting in a way that he admired, never judging, always edifying God and the people who worked for them, he asked them what religion they belonged to. They replied they were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This kept happening to Dennis. The people who he admired, who treated him with love and friendship and welcomed him into their lives in an excited manner, were members of The Church and bore their Testimonies gently but constantly in their actions and words.

Dennis would ‘steal’ a Book of Mormon from a Marriott hotel (before realizing that the Marriott chain is the largest distributor of The Book of Mormon, having them in each hotel room for their guests) without really knowing why. As he told me in our interview, he “took the thing and shoved it in [his] bag.”

The supposed thievery was short-lived because he blurted out a confession to 8 missionaries at the airport about stealing the book, then proceeded to take a selfie with the missionaries and the ‘stolen’ Book of Mormon. At the time he had no clue, thinking it was all in fun, but the sparkle in the eyes of those gentle servants of our Heavenly Father show they felt his testimony growing.

Dennis and his Book of Mormon

His network marketing friends would invite him on a trip to go to Palmyra, New York and they suggested he read Al Carraway’s book, More than a Tattooed Mormon, but Dennis was confused and thought, “Why would I want to read about some tattooed woman, I’m afraid of needles!” It would be another year before he would relent. But he did read the stolen Book of Mormon and quickly gained a testimony.

Dennis knows what it is like to be the victim of brutal hate crimes, having been attacked as a teenager, and found empathy within the stories of the history of Joseph Smith Jr. and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, just as he had found a friend in Jesus Christ through his faith in our Savior. Before too long, he had received the impression from the Holy Spirit to follow his Testimony to the waters of Baptism.

On August 19, 2017, Dennis was Baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His baptism was remarkable for many reasons, but not as miraculous as the next year would be. Dennis would receive First Presidency Approval to attend and receive his Temple blessings on August 11, 2018.

After over a year of hearing the suggestions to read Sister Carraway’s book, Dennis relented and downloaded the audio version and began listening to it. “This woman is telling my story,” were Dennis’s first thoughts. His second, after finishing her book, was to write his own.

Dennis at his Baptism with Brother and Sister Hall, two of his personal missionaries

Dennis subsequently had a conversation with an unnamed General Authority who stated, “Son, we need more LGBT children in the House of the Lord and in this church,” then asked Dennis what his LGBT+ friends say when he tells them he converted to The Church.

Dennis answered, “They say ‘Is he NUTS?! Why would a gay man become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?!”

The General Authority then stated, “There’s the title of your book.” And it was so.

Although Dennis states emphatically that he “did not become a member of The Church to write a book,” I can’t imagine a better medium for this exuberant and joy-filled missionary-minded member to spread his love of Jesus Christ and for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Is He Nuts?: Why a Gay Man Would Become a Member of the Church of Jesus Christ comes out on Cedar Fort books in a few weeks and is available for pre-release ordering from Amazon. Dennis is traveling to Utah and Arizona for the book launch and to meet Al Carraway, who also wrote a forward for his book.

During his travels to Colorado, Utah and Arizona, Dennis will be speaking a fireside in Holladay, Utah on August 4th, the week before his book launch party in Provo, Utah on August 13th and then a book signing in Orem, Utah on August 16th. Please follow the links for those events for more information about them.

With all of this excitement surrounding his upcoming book launch, I wanted to ask Dennis what message he wanted to leave other people who were struggling with their part in our diverse church, and this is what is said:

I bear your burden with you. You are still a fellow brother or sister to me. This is my story, my journey, it is what is working for me.

Please don’t judge me – know that I love and care for all of you. We are all loving children of God.

If you’d like to hear more of Dennis’s testimony in his own words, please listen to this podcast in which Richard Ostler interviewed Dennis this spring:

Dennis talks with Richard Ostler about his book

(Photos courtesy of Dennis Schleicher)

Following Him

When 2019 began, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began using a new tool for their scripture studies, a book with the title Come Follow Me.

A simple notebook-sized paperback book divided into weekly sections with room to write notes and guidance and prompts to study The New Testament, the section of the Scriptures assigned to members for 2019 study.

Sprinkled heavily throughout this book is artwork of a quality that made me want to hang the book on the wall! I was pleasantly surprised to see the artwork could be printed out for Family Home Evening personal use and purchased on the church’s store for formal display outside of lessons!

As a single disabled woman who lives alone with her dogs, I probably have a different schedule than most people. If I pull out my Come Follow Me book with my Bible in the middle of the day when it is nice and quiet, I am easily directed to my area of study. Interruptions happen, and using the book it is easy to return to my place after.

The paperback is not the only version available, Come Follow Me is also available digitally on the Gospel Library app as well as on The Church’s website.

As a disabled person, it is never easy for me to attend church. There are times that the tasks that I would need to complete to go into the building are too much for me physically or mentally. It has been during these times when I have appreciated the Come Follow Me program the most. The respect that our Prophet has for the members of our church with this program feels wonderful. I am comforted to have an outlined path of study even for those days I’m not able to make it to classes.

As a convert who often wishes I had been a member of The Church during my high school years so I would have had an opportunity to attend seminary, the Come Follow Me program gives me a bit more of guidance in my studies that I have yearned for.

I look forward to following Him more and seeing how this Come Follow Me program develops!

Guest Post: The Moments I Knew

A few days ago a fellow writer noticed me sharing “Experimenting on His Words” in a Facebook group and asked if I would be open to sharing a guest post. I thought it was a fabulous idea, and we agreed to exchange posts. Watch for my Testimony on his blog soon as well!  Enjoy “The Moments I Knew” from Daniel Christensen:

Church members can often point to a singular experience when they “knew” it was true. Maybe it was the knowledge that God existed, or knowing that the Book of Mormon was true, or that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

I never had that experience. I’ve actually had thousands of them.

We as humans are good at a few things and horrible at others. One thing that we reeeeally need to work on is remembering. God understands this better than anyone, and especially knows this of me. In moments of weakness, I forget about the moments that I “know” the truth, yet choose to do the opposite. It’s really frustrating.wp-1509068224209..jpg

I imagine this is true of everyone. That’s why I think we are given so many reminders. I’ll tell you of my most recent reminder. I listened to Tad Callister’s talk about the Book of Mormon and it hit me particularly hard. He asked logical questions about the origins of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s involvement. I normally am a little apprehensive about trying to “prove” certain things within the gospel because I had always felt that it was not a logical matter, but a spiritual one. I realized, however, that some people need that, and at certain times in my life, I’ve needed a logic to back up the spiritual claims made as well.

It’s not like I’m constantly asking myself, “Is the Book of Mormon True?”, but it is nice to have some assurances once in awhile. As I was reading, I came across an oft-quoted passage, 1 Nephi 3:7, which says, “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”

PicsArt_10-03-01.11.25.jpgI’ve known this scripture since I was a little kid, but this time I focused on the “accomplish” part. I don’t recall the other authors in the Book of Mormon using that phrase-ology. So I went hunting, and sure enough, Nephi uses this exact phrase another 4 times. The other 418 pages of the Book of Mormon show no other such reference. Zero. Would Joseph Smith have been able to keep that phrase just within first and second Nephi and never use anything similar in the rest of the Book? To me, the answer was a resounding ‘No”, and it was just the latest moment that I “knew” the Book of Mormon was true.

wp-1509068895564..jpgThese experiences can happen quite frequently if we are able to recognize them. They add just one more time in our lives that we can look back on and remember, that at that moment, we “knew”.

img_1474Written by Daniel Christensen

Maggie and the Missionaries

OR
“Those Tender Kind Souls Who Would Have LIKED Preached His Gospel to Me and Those I Finally Listened To”

I have rarely admitted to anyone the long road it has taken me to get to a point where I invited missionaries into a house in which I resided.

Image from: https://i0.wp.com/www.mormonwiki.com/wiki/images/c/c8/Missionaries-elders-mormon.jpgIn fact, I don’t believe I ever did; until I personally ASKED them to come to my current location.

Before being introduced to the idea of The Church, (then it took me another 3 years to soften my heart towards the Book of Mormon, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), I rarely even opened my door when tracking pairs came knocking.

When I did, I was MUCH less than polite, let alone hospitable.

If anyone had told me then, that I would now delight in the company of Missionaries, being overjoyed when I had the opportunity to invite them to join me for a meal; I would have called them a liar. Not a chance!!

I never listened long enough to hear their messages, until it was the right time for me. AND the right Missionaries.

During the past three years, I have often stayed in the homes of friends who were both inactive and active members of The Church. On many occasions, they have invited Missionaries to visit while I was present.

Even in the month before my baptism, only weeks before I downloaded the Book of Mormon and began reading it; when the Elders appeared at the door, I ran to my room and hid.

It was only last February when came to the point that I found myself HIDING from the Missionaries!

I had no idea why. But God KNOWS His children. He knew me better than I knew myself.

After 46 years of being treated in a certain way by the male gender, and having had NO exposure to righteous priesthood holders; I didn’t have a clue as to what to feel around them. They were just men. Right?

There is no such thing as coincidence, happenstance or kismet. Call it “fate” or by any other name you wish, but it is ALL part of God’s Divine Plan. Everything.

Photo of Sisters Johnson & Lloyd
Sisters Johnson & Lloyd

When I experienced my personal revelation on 6 March 2013 and requested that Missionaries be sent to my home to teach me; I didn’t even KNOW Sister Missionaries EXISTED!!!!

Before I met Sisters Lloyd & Johnson, I hadn’t even formulated the idea that Sisters COULD be Missionaries. I had never seen any, it had never even crossed my mind. “Strangely enough” (#HolyHighFive), my area had very recently been assigned their first Sister Missionary pair!

When the Sisters placed my first “hard copy” of The Book of Mormon into my hands; I felt my spiritual eyes open.

In their presence, I was finally able to relax and feel the Comforter, The Holy Spirit, and KNOW what that feeling WAS!!!  I wanted Sisters Johnson and Lloyd to tarry forever.

The very next day, they were impressed to introduce me to a woman who would become my guide and angel through my baptism and new member period of time; as well as a friend for life.

All three of them guided my fellowship and friendships with prayer and listening to promptings of the Holy Spirit. That day they guided my tour through the Ward Meeting House. I felt at home for the first time in my life in the company of three Sisters.

When they asked me about baptism (it felt like forever, but it was probably only days after they met me); I was over-anxious. They mentioned the 30th of March, and I reluctantly agreed. In retrospect, they probably thought I was being hesitant, but I wanted it to happen sooner. I just knew that wasn’t my baptismal date.

Sure enough, a few days later, they asked me if I wanted to get baptized a week sooner; on the 23rd. I was elated, and agreed. God had heard my unstated prayer.

When my lessons came to the daily preparation for my baptism, I never wanted them to end. Much the same way I felt about my new member lessons, in the home of a wonderful Ward Missionary family; I felt the Spirit so strongly I never wanted the lessons to be over.

Photo of Margaret Slighte between Sisters Lloyd & Johnson at her baptism 23 March 2013
Sisters Lloyd, Slighte & Johnson
23 March 2013

 

It is wonderful, now, to be in the presence of returned, current and future Missionaries. I now delight in the Light of the Holy Spirit that surrounds them.

Thanks to a few pairs of Sisters who have been VERY instructive and loving, I am learning about Missionaries. Sisters Lloyd & Johnson have moved on to other areas, and I had the blessing to meet Sisters Frandsen and Langi; wonderful young women.  I love each and every one of the Missionaries.

Seattle, Washington Temple
Seattle, Washington Temple

I feel the excitement of the Second Coming when I am around them.

With the Missionaries, I feel the JOY of knowledge; The GLORY of the Testimony of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father, God!!!

I anxiously await a time, in the future, when I might be graced to serve a mission. But I really would like to share that experience with my future Eternal Companion. I do hope he is up for it! 🙂

Holy Love and Lighte to all!!! Holy High-Five, Jesus, I am SO thankful for all of the blessings!