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?”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
It’s been almost two years now, since I left New Hampshire in a van given to me by God and His angels, helping me to make it home to Olympia, Washington after The Car That Ran on Prayerswas finally laid to rest in Manchester in late June 2017. I recently reflected on my Testimony about how God guided me home.
The Whisper: A Baby’s on the Way
The Spirit’s whisper was like a hope I dared not have…my daughter and her husband had been trying for years and wanted a baby so much, was the whisper I could feel just hope?
Go Home, it said…Go back to where you came from…Go Home to Washington…There’s a baby on the way…you’ll hear around your birthday…Have a home established by October…
I shared the feeling with my daughter and my mother and perhaps a special friend along the way on a Fourth of July birthday…but for the most part I kept it quiet. After all, it was just a hope…right?
grandtwins celebrate their birthday in july
The hope of a grandchild via my daughter was not a substitute for my grandchildren already here. My twin granddaughters were celebrating their 9th birthday in mid-July and I wanted to be there. They had recently moved and the area they now lived in was not only familiar to me, but one I wouldn’t mind living in myself.
The girls were excited to see how much my puppy had grown in the six months since we’d been to the area and they loved the seashells from the coast of Florida, but questions remained about where I would live.
Priorities: Finding a Therapist
When I arrived in Olympia after a long road trip with some very special rest stops in places with names like Nauvoo and Kirtland, then with friends in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado then in Eastern Oregon, I was ready to settle down. Unfortunately, my hometown had been undergoing quite a bit of growth and there was no room at any proverbial Inn. The Pacific Northwest’s occupancy rate for low-income apartments was approaching 98%. There was nothing open.
I stayed with a friend, then camped a bit. For a few of the hotter days, the dogs and I got a hotel room…but as I attended church with the Olympia 4th Ward, I prayed for God to tell me where I could find a therapist who was female, specialized in my rare condition AND was a faithful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Although that may sound like a tall order, as a person with a severe mental disorder who also believes heavily in the principle of personal revelation, it is imperative that I have a therapist who understands the basic tenants of our church.
God listens to my prayers. A woman about my age or perhaps a couple of years older sat down next to me and I sparked up a conversation. Turned out she was the Stake Relief Society President and was giving a talk that day. I thought to myself, it’s always my luck to sit next to a Stake official…I had no idea who she was and who she knew. After her talk and Sacrament meeting coming to a close, we continued our conversation. For some reason, I shared with her my diagnosis and challenge of finding a therapist with that specialty.
The Relief Society President shared that her occupation was that of a therapist, and she personally and professionally was aware of a colleague who specialized in my disorder who was, in fact, also female and a church member. I asked for her contact information.
When I first called Dr. S, I was discouraged by the message that she was not taking new clients, but was impressed to leave a message with my details and diagnosis.
The next day, I received a call from her office asking for more information. They were able to schedule me an appointment in the next week. That appointment came quickly and I loved her.
Once Dr. S was on board, I asked her about her Ward…it turned out she belonged to the same one as my granddaughters! Seriously?!
Throughout this time, I kept going by an apartment complex I rented a unit in when I first moved out of my mom’s home as a young adult. I loved the units, having assigned parking spaces, a washer and dryer in each unit and a fireplace in each as well.
Late in August, smoke from forest fires overwhelmed the area. My asthma was insane. I couldn’t breathe. I heard a whisper from Holy Spirit reminding me of a gift card I was given for my graduation a few months before. It seemed perfect, I just finished my final undergrad class on August 20th, I would take that gift card and follow the Holy Ghost’s suggestion of a short road trip around “The Loop” of the Olympia Peninsula and out of the smoke, before checking out the apartment complex at the beginning of September to see if there had been any notices for one-bedrooms becoming available.
Forks and the Dosewallips river were gorgeous. The dogs ran on the beach and I tried to plakate my anxiety. I shared time with friends on the Hood Canal, reminding me of a time long ago with my grandparents. All too soon, it was time to head back to find out if anyone was moving out of a one-bedroom apartment or if I was going to have to expand my searching.
I followed The Spirit’s promptings to the letter on that morning. I remember stopping for a few minutes and talking with the grandtwin’s other grandma…then telling her it was “time to go.”
When I walked into the office, my hopes were high. I was not disappointed. The next few days were full of anxious interactions, but by September 20th, I was holding a key in my hand.
But wait, I hadn’t even seen the apartment I applied for!
On the afternoon of September 20th, 2017, exactly seven and a half years TO THE DAY from the day I became homeless, I held a key in my hand to an apartment.
I followed the assistant manager to the building. To my relief, she was going down the short staircase to the bottom apartment instead of up to either of the second or third floor. I wouldn’t know just how much of a blessing that was until a few months later when I became wheelchair-bound (but that’s another story…).
A Birthday Announcement
Now that I was in the northwest, visiting my daughter at her office was possible. Since her office was next to a physician of mine, it became easy and fun for a few months. During one of these visits, my daughter shared a secret that she and her husband would not make public until the week of my October birthday: They were expecting a baby. Finally.
I happened to be in Seattle visiting my brother, with my mom in late May 2018 when we got the call that my daughter was in labor and on the way to the hospital.
Their precious daughter, Jaina, would be born just after midnight, May 22nd, about a year and a few weeks after I first felt her presence in my personal revelation. The knowledge she was on her way allowed me to prepare myself to be a better grandma for all of my grandchildren.
Two years later, I am still blown away by the blessings showered upon me by God. I still listen to His promptings, and there are many. Few promptings are as profound as being rehomed after 7.5 years of homelessness, full-circle into my first home as an adult with the full mental health support I desperately required just in time for the birth of my fourth grandchild.
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.
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!
I have belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for six years coming up next month. During this time, no matter what Ward or Branch I have attended, each and every year I have joined in the singing the one hymn in the hymnal that recognizes our Mother in Heaven every year on Mother’s Day.
In 1845, Eliza R. Snow (Relief Society President 1867-1887) wrote the hymn, “O My Father,” penning the most well-known reference to Mother God. Written only months after Prophet Jospeph Smith Jr.’s death, it has been speculated that the Prophet may have taught of a Mother in Heaven either implicitly or to limited audiences.
President Nelson went on to say last October, ” Every woman is a mother by virtue of her eternal divine destiny.”
When I listen to childless women and their frustration with some of these quotes and standpoints, I contemplate if they were to substitute the word creator for mother if there would still be offense taken?
Our society, and in particular some of our cultures, tend to pass judgment on what types of parents we are, how many children we produce and how we choose to raise them. How we judge one another trickles down into how we feel about ourselves. When we internalize external judgments, we diminish our own divinity.
Our role as creators is divine. Our Mother in Heaven is just as important as our Father in Heaven.
Elder Erastus Snow stated, “There can be no God except that he is composed of the man and woman united, and there is not in all the eternities that exist, or ever will be a God in any other way,” a statement, according to the Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven, that has been reaffirmed by several General Authorities.
Are not we all mothers? We ARE all creators. Whether we choose to partner with our Heavenly Parents and create human bodies to be populated with souls to come to earth or we partner with them to create technology, books, music or other artwork or perhaps we create a cure for a previously incurable disease; we are ALL creators. We are ALL mothers.
Thank you, Mother and Father, for the gift of creation…for the gift of motherhood.
What the Mother Taught Me
It is snow, birds,
and song. ~Rachel Hunt Steenblik
Since I started this blog, I’ve been guilty of something the leaders of my church warn against: I have only been showing the positive side. That is the simple reason that this blog has only published limited posts over the last five years. I do have another outlet for my writing online, but that outlet has also been quiet over the past six months. On MaggieSlighte.com in December I shared an essay about one of the challenges that has followed me all of my adult life, Major Depressive Disorder.
I remember when I first came to The Church. I had that intense “convert energy” and wanted to ascribe every feeling a Gospel reason or solution. My depression was no different. I prayed and prayed. I fasted. I had been Baptised, that meant my challenges with mental illness would be over if I just prayed and fasted and read enough scripture, right?
I couldn’t be more wrong. But I am far from alone. Six months after my Baptism, Elder Jeffery Holland was inspired by a Heavenly Father who heard my and many other’s prayers when he gave the address, “Like a Broken Vessel,” in which he shared his own struggles with depression and described Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): “an affliction so severe that it significantly restricts a person’s ability to function fully, a crater in the mind so deep that no one can responsibly suggest it would surely go away if those victims would just square their shoulders and think more positively,” while encouraging us all to continue to try to be positive.
Being positive can help. Prayers and reading my scripture does help. Doing my homework for my Master of Arts helps. But then, sometimes, everything gets to be too much and I am “losing it” in the Bishop’s office balling my eyes out. It happens to many of us.
I’m done pretending. This blog, in 2019, will have more posts. I will be sharing more of my Testimony. That side of my Testimony that has been earned through tears and struggles with Heavenly Father. Those prayers that didn’t get answered and how that felt. The healing that I have faith will happen, but for whatever reason, has been extended greatly in time. All of these elements of my Testimony are valid and important parts of the Faith that burns within my heart.
Faith does not grow without lessons. Testimonies do not flourish when everything goes as planned. Please continue to join me as I share more of the journey of my Testimony in the coming months and years.
I will be sharing the struggles that I experience and those tools of my faith that help me to cope. I am hoping that by doing this, perhaps I will also remind myself when those times get tough.
An additional change that I will be making will be the name of this blog. Since my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints no longer uses the nickname “Mormon” officially, I will be searching for a new blog name! I am welcoming suggestions! Please comment and share!
I will be choosing a new name for this blog before March 31, 2019, please comment here with your suggestion soon! Thank you!
Peering down, I could barely see President Nelson standing at the podium in the field usually reserved for nine innings of one of my least favorite games. This was the first time I had been at Safeco Field for any reason. I switched my gaze up to the “Jumbotron” where the Prophet of God’s face was as clear as day. His voice not only echoed due to the less than optimal acoustics in Safeco Field, but it reverberated in my chest. I felt a confirming witness of his words comfort me and bless me as he spoke. I tried to quickly scribble down every word in the new composition book I brought for the event but failed miserably. I kept getting distracted by the power that filled the stadium: Priesthood Power. The Power of a God who seemed to fill the stadium with His love.
In the year I have been a member of the Olympia Second Ward, I have gained many friends. I was so happy that I could catch a ride with some of them who shared a few of my physical challenges. The traffic was a little heavy through Tacoma, but we pressed north. When we took our exit, we noticed cars filled with other members heading in the same direction. Soon we found the parking garage and headed to a disabled spot on the roof.
After a relatively short line (the lines below us were back and forth and around blocks), we went through the metal detectors and then over a sky bridge. The ushers directed us to an elevator where we walked (all four of us with canes), then stood in line to go down to the 100 level. When we made it to the 100 level, an usher attempted to find seating for four disabled members but decided that our needs could be met better in one of the suites upstairs. We were given a pass for a suite, then directed back to the elevator and back up to the suite level.
The walk around the stadium to an open suite was excruciating but worth it. The four of us in our van were each disabled. Three with broken backs. The freedom to have a suite to sit in several soft chairs, then to be able to walk around in a private area all while not missing one word of the Prophet’s talk was a true gift from God to four disabled Latter-day Saints. It was a gift that set the tone for the evening.
I was relaxing and putting my feet up while going through some of the photos I had already taken of the suite and the stadium, when we heard members that were sitting in the suite’s seating exclaim, “That’s you!” They were referring to an Instagram post I had made that was being displayed on a Jumbotron screen that I couldn’t see from my vantage point. I smiled at the camaraderie the post caused both in our suite with the strangers become a suite family and the text I received from other Ward members who had seen it. I blushed.
After I missed being embarrassed on the Jumbotron (for a writer with a heavy social media presence, I am remarkably shy in some situations), I decided to change my seating to the combination desk/bar seating that the suite windows open up to. I could see the Jumbotron and the field filling up with Latter-day Saints from around the northwest. As the time neared, even the outfield seats began filling up. The overwhelming feeling of love in the stadium was felt by more than just the members. Workers who were in and out of the suites began to comment that we were not their normal crowd.
President Eyring began the talks after an introduction of hymns and prayer with statements about the character of God and His Prophets, “God is omniscient and omnipotent…Prophets give us revelation to assist us in our daily life.”
He asked us to seek and receive personal revelation to confirm the words of Prophets who receive direction in our lives. He expressed that we should NOT blindly follow what the prophet invites us to do. It is up to each one of us to confirm that the President of the Church is leading us all in the right direction.
Following President Eyring’s talk, Sister Wendy Nelson surprised the four of us with her insight into the private life of a Prophet of God. Never before could I have found myself picturing President Nelson in his bedroom closet writing revelation for us all on a yellow-lined pad of paper after his wife was called out of the bedroom by God. I never could have imagined that a Prophet’s wife would be awoken and told (by the Holy Spirit) to leave her own bedroom in the middle of the night so that her husband could in essence, ‘speak’ or really, get spoken to, by God.
Sister Wendy Nelson’s testimony of her relationship with her husband, our Prophet and the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was a stirring insight into their personal lives. One I never imagined having. Sister Nelson’s witness that President Nelson appears to grow much younger than his 94 years was confirmed by each person watching his talk which was next.
President Nelson opened with remarks about the fact it was his first time to speak at a baseball stadium, and then proceeded to share a story about his family whitewater rafting. In that experience, President Nelson learned it was important to hold tight to the raft, just as it is important for each of us to hold tight in our lives to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
He reiterated his witness that reading the Book of Mormon every day immunizes us against the evils of the day and allows us to draw closer to the Lord.
President Nelson invited each person who is not on the path to return and not to allow the temptations of the world distract from the real reason we are on Earth.
“The Lord uses the unlikely to do the impossible,” was one of the lessons President Nelson stated he had learned in life. He followed and preceded this statement with his experiences after having been given the prophetic task of opening Eastern Europe to the preaching of the Gospel. He stated, “The Lord likes effort, He blesses our best efforts.”
The page following these notes in my composition book selected for this event is filled with a personal revelation written while President Nelson was finishing this portion of his talk. My testimony of the lesson, “The Lord uses the unlikely to do the impossible” is strong.
One of the most significant changes to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since the mantle of Prophet fell on President Nelson has been the evolution of “Home and Visiting Teachers” to “Ministering.” The Prophet spoke about the life lesson he had learned about focusing on others as a part of the ministering lessons to us all.
“We long to build bridges of cooperation rather than walls of segregation,” President Nelson seemed to speak to the hearts of the Pacific Northwest audience, before closing with a blessing for us all.
If any in the audience doubted Sister Wendy Nelson’s allegation that he was growing younger, the veritable leap President Nelson performed out of his seat, interrupting the closing hymn’s prelude, and back to the podium to correct the number in attendance did much to assuage it.
The corrected number was 49,089. It was a record for a non-sports event in Safeco Field.
As a member who lives in an area that has been characterized as the “least religious in America,” I was very very happy to see that many of my Latter-day family turn out. The power of the Priesthood was palpable and heartwarming.