I was pretty surprised to have come across this website and found it is created/run by someone who is LDS.
This is my story, and it may have some hard content to read, but I haven't shared my story with anyone and I think it is time I did so. I know now that there are people who could greatly benefit from knowing that you can hit rock bottom and still manage to get back up.
My grandmother is the source of much of my knowledge about the gospel. Through my grandfather's line, I have ancestors who helped settle Nauvoo. Unfortunately somewhere along the line his family fell away, and while he was raised with the gospel his father was the town drunk. Later he would marry my grandmother, and he told me the story of how he was a 'jack mormon' drinking and smoking, when his wife would later tell him she wanted to raise their future children with a religion and she wanted to know more about his religion (He remarked about how they had this conversation while he was smoking a cigarette).
I'm not 100% sure of the details from here but during the time she was learning of the gospel someone would give her an anti-propaganda booklet about the church. I recall being told of how amusing she thought it was, it was so ridiculous it actually pushed her into joining the church. While she suffered from depression and other mental illnesses, she became proactive in the gospel and family history. She completed the genealogy on my mother's side going back generations - from our family's time as Plantagenets in England, to the mass execution of Plantagenets at the Tower of London, to their immigration to the colonies. Later they would become Puritans who settled Salem, Massachusetts, and horse thieves and train robbers in the Wild West. I am eternally grateful for the work she did discovering our family roots - although the one family she could never complete genealogy for was my father's side, who came from the Azores off the coast of Portugal. The Portuguese people, for having been a massive empire who explored the world, did not keep records of their families or even written works of fiction, making it impossible to trace back my father's family more than a few generations. I have wondered before if there was not a culling of information that occurred in Portugal, or some kind of massive document/book burning, since it seems unlikely that the Portuguese people would have been as successful as they were without a written word.
Back to my grandmother - she was a woman of science and spent most of her life studying the book of Isaiah and connecting biblical events to real events that have occurred in history. As a child my mother taught me that if God was the Supreme Creator of the universe, then he was also the greatest scientist who ever lived. I have lived by this, and I do not believe science and faith have to be separate.
I would be baptised when I was 8, after an unusual childhood. When I was in kindergarten/first grade, I spent a lot of time playing alone (As I was raised an only child, with my half-siblings being much older). Frequently while I was playing, I would hear my name being called and would run out to wherever my mom was to see if she called me. It happened so frequently, that my mother one day told me to stop responding to my name if I thought I was being called, that if she wanted me for something she would come get me. I believe that she too heard my name being called, and it frightened her greatly. Before I was baptised I would wake up frequently in the night, terrified and overwhelmed because I could hear voices, both loud and quiet, and only through prayer was this sensation cut off. After my baptism these events both stopped.
My mother was the only one who was apart of the church, my father was Catholic, although not very religious. He would later be taught by the missionaries and would join the church, although his faith didn't stick with him. He faced many problems, such as the other priesthood holders refusing to properly teach him how to pass the sacrament. My father has always been an extremely shy man, and now I know he has health complications and possibly even neurological problems that could have been effecting him even then. The neglect in being properly fellow-shipped resulted in him leaving the church, and swearing off religion all together.
We were very inactive in the church, but my mother made it her goal to read to me from the Book of Mormon and the Bible frequently. When I did go to church, I did not get along well with the other children/teenagers my age growing up, because I knew far more about the gospel than they did and my teachers, even in Seminary, would often go to me for answers to their questions because they knew that I knew. I was seen as a know-it-all and it did not help me integrate myself better in with my peers.
My faith was always strong, until tragedy began to fall upon us. My father did not treat my mother good, and she became seriously depressed. While I was in high school she began to plan her suicide, and turned me into her confidant who she went to daily. Our relationship turned around, and perhaps the only thing that kept me going each day was knowing that she depended on me. At nights I would cry in the shower, because I hurt so much and was so depressed, but even my school friends were not interested in listening to me, telling me that if my problems were that severe that I needed to see a therapist. I was too young to know how to react to mental illness, or to even know that I had it, and I had never been taught how to handle it.
Around this time we had moved to Washington state, and I was attending early-morning seminary while going to church and mutual. One of the young men my age decided he didn't like me and made it his mission to consistently mock me whenever I answered a question. He was the Stake President's son, and when he teased me my teachers in school, and even my Sunday school teachers, would laugh. This, with my mother's intense depression, made me dislike church and I stopped going, to both seminary and every other church activity.
I fell away from the church my senior year of high school, my faith crumbled, and I tried to look into other religions without much success. They did not have the same depth of the gospel, and yet I was in such a state of mental turmoil that I did not even believe there was a God or someone out there who cared about how I felt. My mother would get help for her depression and somewhat recover, but the same did not happen for me.
I had a boyfriend who was probably the only thing that kept me going after that. His father was bipolar and he was used to my neurotic behavior, and was my companion for many months. Towards the very end of my high school year missionaries came to my school for our World Religion class, and for the first time in a long time I felt the spirit. I told my boyfriend my plans to try to become active in church again and he supported my decision. Around this time the mission ages were also reduced, and more than anything I wanted to be back on track to serve a mission. I went to the bishop of my ward for help praying for forgiveness for the things I'd done and my lack of faith. What I never expected was to hear him say they would have to consider excommunicating me, an 18 year old girl, because I'd had sex with my boyfriend. I had never felt shame for those actions because I believed that God understood how lost I was, how much I'd hurt, and hearing those words almost resulted in me committing suicide.
I remember sitting in my business class, thinking of ways to kill myself, before I finally had to come to the conclusion that if I wanted to live I had to let my religion go. I knew if I killed myself my mom surely would too, antidepressants or not, and I would not do that to my family. I survived, and went on to college where I learned to paint. It was through painting that I think my soul really began to heal, and it is still something I hold very dear to my heart. I colored my hair bright colors, got a couple piercings, and even a couple tattoos. I did not believe in the gospel so these were simply small decisions that I lost no sleep over.
I looked into Pagan religions and decided eventually that they weren't for me. I don't know when it happened but there came a day when I could not deny that there were certain parts of the Book of Mormon that I KNEW were true, that I simply couldn't deny. Particularly the story of Alma the Younger resonated with me, but I still did not believe.
Fast forward a few more years to the present. My parents separated, and as a result they sent me to live in Arizona with my extended family for a time, who are all mostly LDS. I was very sick and living with my grandparents when I finally asked for a blessing. I had considered it before while in Washington just a few months prior but I couldn't follow through with it; it didn't feel like the right decision at the time, and perhaps that was because I was meant to receive it from my Papa.
The next day I instantly was feeling better, for the first time in a while. Due to financial issues my grandparents sent me to live with my aunt and uncle, and as you know General Conference was not long ago. It was the first time in a very long time I heard the gospel again. That, along with my aunt and uncle's completely selfless acceptance of me despite my tattoos and nose ring, was what sparked my faith again. It was sitting there listening to those talks during General Conference that I realized how hard the adversary had worked to take my faith away from me. If I stopped believing, and didn't teach the gospel to my future children, then Satan would have succeeded in ending what has become my family's culture and inheritance.
I am so very grateful to be able to feel the Holy Spirit again when I had not felt it in so long, and now it comes easily to me again. I was told in a blessing years ago that I would be a very important teacher of the gospel, and those words have come to me more than once in the past few days. I do not think it was by chance that I ended up here, during this time. Faith is often described as a seed which you must water and grow, and before I came my faith was just a little spark, but it was enough to have me listen to the words of our general authorities.
I was very alone and very depressed when I came back to Arizona, and yet I do not feel that way anymore. This is probably a very long message but you never know who may feel like they are too far away to feel the Spirit. There was a talk during General Conference at which it was at least referenced that we should not allow the people of the Church to affect our faith, and that felt like it was for me. Elder Holland's talk about fellowshipping those with mental and physical illnesses, so that they may at least join the choir and perhaps for the first time in their lives sing that there is sunshine in their souls today, also felt like it was for me. Wherever you are in life, you are never truly alone, and you never know when you might be in the right place at the right time. I have a comfort and a happiness I did not have before. And again, I am so grateful.
Comments: I love the gospel and read the Book of Mormon often because it prepares me for the day ahead and gives me a path that I can follow back to my maker.