I am sure there are probably a million things I should write about, but where would I begin. Today I am just going to share a few thoughts and feelings I've been having lately.
If I get around to it, there is at least one story I want to share in the next day or two. It is a miraculous story and dear to me and my family, but I want to be able to share it in a way that might touch others and not belittle, (I'm not sure if that is the right term) the event and the people involved.
One thing that I want to talk about concerns something that I have been thinking about lately. I was just talking about this subject within the last week or two. Then, late Sunday night, this popped up on my Facebook news feed. It is from my mission page:
"so has anybody else noticed that a lot of people we served with are either not active, removing their names, or straight out going against it all?
*"lets keep the comments nice in here, we can keep some sense of sensitivity. the point is to help people back right?"
Over the last few days, many of the former missionaries I served with or around, have posted their thoughts and feelings on the subject. Here are some comments that I made:
"I was just talking about this with my parents the other day. I think the best thing to do is not judge and show them that we are still their friends no matter what choices they make in this life. I still love every one of the people I taught and served with. I hope that through my love and example they can find their way back. If not, I will still love them any way. I am so thankful to my Savior for His Atonement. I know I might not be active or even alive today if it weren't for Him!"
"I just saw this on my news feed:
"And yet, in conference they said that the church has never been stronger and continues to grow rapidly. smile emoticon but yes, it still does happen. I just try and remember that we're all on our own journey as we go down the path of life. I've had people in my life who have come back after many many years of being away and they're so much stronger for it."
"It is not just our mission friends.. Satan is working overtime.
I have had a best friend remove his name because of his wife getting him into anti stuff. One left the church to be openly gay and find love. A 3rd found love outside the church moved in with him, now they are married but she forgets to go to church."
"Its heartbreaking. Fellow missionaries, friends, and family. Even the elect are not immune to temptation. Enduring to the end is not "just getting by" that's not enough any more. You have to constantly be feeding your faith. Not just faithful members, but members who are full of faith."
"t is soooo sad. In the last days, even the elect, some of the strongest will be deceived. Fortunately, because of the Atonement, It gives me hope that even those that I loved as fellow missionaries can come back!"
"I still love everyone of them that I came in contact with. They still have that light its just dimmed. We must always remember that those are the ones that we need to pray for as well. And ALWAYS hold on to the hope that the light will come back."
"It is heartbreaking but I think we can still do something for them. We can keep pray for them in our daily personal prayer or put their name on temple prayer roll, contact via facebook or other SNS and share our love to them. I believe that each of us still could be one of the Lord's strong tool to reach them, lead and guide them to come back to the path that the Lord wants them to be."
"We all have trials. And while God said he will never give us more than we can handle, we can give ourselves more than we can handle. To many thoughts and questions can cause doubt and loss of trust. And just like in a relationship....trust is so hard to get back once lost."
"The days that we live in it's very easy to become distracted and over indulge in pleasure. The scriptures talk a lot about waking up or remembering and it becomes very hard to do so if you're constantly stimulated and only seeking Entertainment. Also it says that in the last days that they will have a form of godliness but denying the power thereof. We are becoming very proud and neglecting others. Most of the world is impoverished and are in need of love and care, instead greedy people keep them slaves to richer countries. With evil being considered good and good being considered evil it is easy but sad to see people fall away. I think the best way to help them is to not be preachy. I made that mistake and it didn't turn out well.. I think one of the best things we can do is just be worthy of the Holy Ghost and if we are, then we can be prompted to say or do the right thing that can help those that are in need."
"maybe we organize a mass fast with all of us?"
" I've already seen some leave and then come back again. When they come back it is absolutely wonderful!"
"For me, this coming fast Sunday will be dedicated to our friends!"
"lets do that, this next fast sunday. I'm down for that"
"There are a couple of close friends and some family members who also had big issues with the church in their younger years....when you have experiences like that it easily carries over into adulthood. Again, we all take our own journey and all of us need to honor each other's journey AND our own! Just like President Monson said, "Life is perfect for none of us....." We need to find forgiveness for ourselves too."
"...we continue to stand now as we did 9 years ago. We ought to, as not only RM's, but brothers and sisters in the gospel, stand with and support those in need of comfort. Each of us have, and most assuredly will go through trials. We need to have the courage to love others. In the world today, there is a sharp need for the willingness to serve God and our fellow man. For everyone we served with, the only thing that has changed is their surroundings and circumstances, not their hearts and beliefs. Thanks for sparking so much engagement on here."
"Everyone has challenges, some have sexual tendencies the church does not approve of acting upon, some of us have anger issues, some lack spiritual confirmation and for some they must rely on the testimony of others while others get their own testimony.....and that's doctrine. There are many reasons i could leave the church, many things that don't sit right and don't make sense, especially being a convert and having a black sister.....but i CHOOSE to continue growing and continue going. sooooo with that said, remember Elder Uchtdorf and his talk, stop worrying about everyone elses front yard when yours looks like olive branch grafting glue."
"Not a day goes by that I don't think of my mission and the many people I met there, including the many wonderful missionaries I served with. Many of those missionaries have gone inactive or left. I pray and think about them all the time. I love and miss you guys and I'm all in for a fast this upcoming Sunday!"
"Guys! This awesome, I miss all of you! It's fun to be interacting again like this, years later, without any hostility. One thing I always try to do is remember that were here in this temporal state, we don't understand everything, but one day we will. And when that day comes we will have each other and the bonds that we nurtured. No matter where we are in life we are and should always be a support to each other!"
Mission President: "I read your comments this morning and was touched and grateful to hear from and about all of you. It seems that the one lesson we should take from these and other comments we may hear, that none of us should be a judge. I'm confident that every one of us has our private battles to fight and we have plenty to occupy our time fighting our own weaknesses and short comings without pointing out those of other people."
"I just want every missionary I served with to know how much I love and appreciate them. I have very special memories of every one. Some might have worker harder than others, some may have been more effective; some may have enjoyed their missions more, but really, this is not the most important thing. I viewed each and every missionary as an individual who made a decision to come on a mission. That itself showed a desire to be there. I just wanted each missionary to make the best contribution he could and learn and grow himself or herself the best possible way. Thanks to you all for your kind thoughts and words to each other. I hope you will keep it up. I am pleased to see the use of this website to share and care with each other. Sister Brown and I send our love and best wishes to you all and hope to hear from you. If we can ever help anyone, we will do our best to do so. The temple keeps us busy now, but we have time to help if there is a need. Love and best wishes, [Mission President]"
I'm apologize for this post not being my own words, but the thoughts of those I posted, echo my own. I am saddened every time I hear of somebody leaving the Church for whatever reason. It doesn't matter if they are family members, friends, acquaintances, or complete strangers.
I have seen this happen to many good friends. They make choices that go against the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or just decide they don't want to go for whatever reason. I am not judging them. I just know how much the Gospel has helped me and I want others to have the opportunity of allowing the Savior to help them, through His teachings.
By no means am I saying that if you don't believe in this Church and it's teachings like I do, that you are a bad person. As I said before, I try not to judge. I try to follow my Savior's example and love as He does. I know that He and our Father in Heaven love each and every one of us, no matter what.
One of the many reasons I try not to judge, is because I have felt myself going down the path to becoming less active in my church attendance. There have been many times when I have not felt accepted or have just not felt comfortable. Mostly, my depression and anxiety have caused me to feel like it is not worth it, that nobody would care one way or the other if I attended my meetings or not.
On the aforementioned Facebook posting, another dear,former sister missionary talked about her depression and the things related that made her go less-active for years after returning home. She has returned to activity but says she is finding herself slipping away again. This sister was a former companion, who, I admit, I didn't get along with while we were together. She and I had many struggles. I blame my part in it on the fact that my depression was worsening.
Anyway, despite our struggles, I admired her deeply as a missionary and also a friend. HEre is my response to her post:
"I know we had a rough companionship, but I learned so much from you. I admired your knowledge if the scriptures and also how you always tried to be exactly obedient.
"I was fighting with depression my whole mission. It came to a real low point when I was with you. I never blamed you, in fact, after I returned home, I realized that if it hadn't been for your example, things could have been a lot worse. I realized you were struggling too, but you kept going. It was for that reason I felt like I could stick it out.
"Since coming home I have struggled a lot with my depression. As you may know, I survived two attempts of taking my life. What most people don't know is that there have been many, many times when I wanted to give up. I know the only reason I haven't is because I am afraid of disappointing my Heavenly Father. I have to remind myself often, that my Savior loves me and He is the only one who completely understands what I am going through, because He's been there. My favorite scriptures since the mission are Alma 7:11-12. I won't quote them because you already know them.
"I don't think I have ever told you how much I love you. I have always considered you my friend, even through our difficult transfer together. I often pray for you and even put your name on the temple prayer roll.
"Please stay strong, my friend, and remember that you are a daughter of God, and you are loved."
I guess the main reason I am posting this blog entry right now is because I feel like a hypocrite in saying some of the things I did. I am struggling right now with wanting to go to church. I feel like I mostly go because it is what is expected of me. My faith is weak. I'm not sure what I believe any more. I have always struggled with prayer. I'm not sure the Lord really hears and answers me unless I am praying for others.
I am not asking for sympathy. I am also not saying that I am so far down with depression that I would do something I might regret. I am just asking that maybe you say a prayer for me, and also look around you at your family and neighbors who may be struggling and say a prayer for them as well.
To end I would just like to share a link to a talk that I found titled, "Feed My Sheep" by Elder Ben B. Banks in the October 1999 General Conference.