Thursday, March 3, 2011

My conversion story..a work in progress

This has truely been a long time coming.
I was born into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
I was raised in the ways of the church. Reading scriptures every morning, family prayers morning and night, didn't date til 16, attended 4yrs of seminary, rebelled, repented, married a RM in the temple and raising 2 beautiful children in the church.

So you can amazing my fear and confusion when I actually started to question what I believe.

How do I know this church is true?

All I could say is because my parents told me. And because my husband knows it is and he has to be right because he's an amazing guy and even went on a mission! Who am I to question! But I did...

At first it was internal. And it was eating me up inside. Then I started going to weekly therapy sessions called Saturday walks with Kristy. So it was then that I finally admitted one of my biggest issues.. Joseph Smith. It all just didn't add up to me. Without going into the details of my confusion, it then went back to The Book of Mormon. How could that be true when the guy who translated was an odd ball? I finally had the courage then to talk to Jon about it. And then to a few others who for the most part offered me insight. A few judged me which got discouraging for a bit but I didn't want to "disbelieve" so I did everything I could to not put up a wall. Including a fun trip to Nauvoo with our friends.
But honestly, it was pretty half-assed. I didn't want to put forth the effort it was going to take to truely gain a testimony of Joseph Smith and the restoration of the church. Why didn't I want to put forth that effort??? Because that means I would have to read and understand for the first time in my life, the book that Joe himself translated. The Book of Mormon. Yes my friends, I never read it! I never wanted to.

Fast forward though....... temple recommend expired and needed to be renewed. I wasn't sure if I should renew it because of my wonderings and concerns. In fact at one time, I told Jon that I didn't know if I believe the church even was true. What a shock for him to hear it and for me to say it! That's when I KNEW I had a problem. I didn't want to start doubting. Questioning is one thing... because we all have a right to question. But doubting my religion is another. That scared the be-cheesus out of me!

Then I realized... I wasn't getting the weekly Jesus love that I needed! I went from sacrament meeting (which a lot of times was stressful because of trying to keep 2 kiddos quiet) straight to 2 hrs of playing the piano for primary. So rarely did I leave church feeling uplifted. And my best friend knew this also...and knew just how bad I needed a little more praising the Lord. And well the Lord did too apparently and she felt inspired to call me to the RS as the compassionate service leader.
It was at that time that my heart changed too. I was having a rough night and totally out of character and out of the blue, I felt the need to pray. Like NOW. So I told Jon and he asked if I wanted him to say it. Again totally out of character, I said no I need to. And I prayed. And prayed and prayed and prayed. Basically pleading with Heavenly Father to let me start over.
Satan must not have liked that because shortly after, our bed frame broke!!!!
But anyways that felt to me like the start of my new journey. I had no clue where to begin or what to expect or even what I was searching for but I knew it's time to know who I am, where I came from and how can I get back through the church I've been attending my whole life!
I have been encouraged and challenged to read the Book of Mormon a lot lately and I always just kinda laughed it off with a "yeah sure okay" answer- knowing I wouldn't. But all the sudden, I wanted to. Not just wanted... I NEEDED! So I talked to Jon and he agreed to start reading them with me.
I'm pleased to say that we haven't missed a day since. I mean it's only been a few weeks but even if we are dead tired, we make it a point to read.
I also bought a BYU study guide for the BofM and D&C hopeing to be able to understand what the heck I'm reading!
And you know what happened when we started doing this? We also started argueing more. Almost immediantly! Strange huh? Nope- not so much. Again, I pissed satan off and he was going to get me down one way or another. But knowing this, we have been able to work through it. One way or another, we are going to grow closer to each other with this. We are going to find peace and comfort in our difficult times. We are going to get closer to our Savior. And if it's a fight satan wants, BRING IT!
So anyways, after my heart opened up to the possibility that I could actually start to become who I always wanted to be spiritually, my other senses opened. I started getting random feelings about people or things that I have come to realize are promptings of the Holy Ghost. Huh.. who knew! As Kristy said, my drain has been unclogged and now the spirit is able to flow freely.

For example- my patriarchial blessing. I have kept it in my barely opened scripture case for 10yrs. It has been through many moves and boxes and somehow my scriptures got seperated from the case. So when I went searching for them, I found the scriptures but not the case. I really wanted to find my blessing but I had no clue if the case even survived the flood! So I went in my room just wandering and all the sudden I had this crazy thought to look into a bucket in my room that I keep the backpacks. Like this thought wasn't mine because I KNEW it wasn't in there. I put that stuff in the bucket myself and I would have remembered. But heck- it's worth a shot. And the more I bug, the sillier it seemed because I know the case isn't there. Or so I thought. There it was.. at the very bottom of this bucket was my lonely flowery not my style anymore scripture case. And in that, my wonderful laminated safe blessing.

And I've had similar instances involving people lately too that instead of ignoring the feelings to do something, I actually acted on them and I'm so glad I did! I just wonder how many people I could've comforted or helped or whatever but I was just too clogged to notice. Sad huh?

Another instance was when I was on one of my walks, I felt instead of music, maybe I outta listen to conference talks. Say huh??? Only Kristy Barkley would do something like that! Apparently now, Shannon Harris does too!
I turned on the RS session of the Oct 2010 conference. The presidency members had wonderful talks. Very uplifting. But the one that kicked me in the pants and will stay with me forever is the one by Thomas S. Monson.
I encourage everyone regardless of your faith or situation to read this!
Without rewriting the whole thing, the things that really touched me were:
None of us is perfect. I know of no
one who would profess to be so. And
yet for some reason, despite our own
imperfections, we have a tendency to
point out those of others. We make
judgments concerning their actions
or inactions.
There is really no way we can
know the heart, the intentions, or the
circumstances of someone who might
say or do something we find reason
to criticize. Thus the commandment:
“Judge not.”

I have in
mind the charity that manifests itself
when we are tolerant of others and
lenient toward their actions, the kind
of charity that forgives, the kind of
charity that is patient.
I have in mind the charity that
impels us to be sympathetic, compassionate,
and merciful, not only in
times of sickness and affliction and
distress but also in times of weakness
or error on the part of others.
There is a serious need for the
charity that gives attention to those
who are unnoticed, hope to those who
are discouraged, aid to those who are
afflicted. True charity is love in action.
The need for charity is everywhere.
Needed is the charity which refuses
to find satisfaction in hearing or in
repeating the reports of misfortunes
that come to others, unless by so
doing, the unfortunate one may be
benefited. The American educator and
politician Horace Mann once said, “To
pity distress is but human; to relieve it
is godlike.” 11
Charity is having patience with
someone who has let us down. It
is resisting the impulse to become
offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses
and shortcomings. It is accepting
people as they truly are. It is
looking beyond physical appearances
to attributes that will not dim through
time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize

I am so guilty of judging outward appearances and ideas as well as a victim of being judged for mine. But listening to this has completely changed my perception. And because of that, I have been able to make friends with people I wouldn't have otherwise.

Isn't God great?

I can tell you-- I am stronger spiritually than I have ever been..which is kind of sad since it's only been a few weeks! But I have so many other emotions and issues going on right now internally that I truely feel I can handle if I keep my heart open and don't give up.
It's just the beginning. I know I'll be tempted and tried.. I always have been. But this new taste of learning is so swwet that I don't think I want to loose it! And how blessed am I to have someone by my side who wants to go through this with me?? And such great friends who haven't given up on me.

So there you have it... FINALLY I will know without a doubt what I have said I already did all these years! FINALLY I will be able to say I've read the Book of Mormon. FINALLY I will be an example!

And I'm proud to say, I got my temple recommend renewed!
Bring me on some Jesus!

PS- how's this for random.. last week I scratched my nose and ripped my nose ring out. I was too out of it to mess with it and all that day I didn't even think about replacing it. So the next day I tried to put one in and the hole is gone. Totally closed! That shouldn't have happened after having a ring in it for months. Go figure! So I'm nose ring free.


Nicole Grotepas said...

Hey Shannon,

It's good to have the courage to question! The restoration only happened because Joseph Smith dared to question the established religions. We're all like him at some point. I think for me, the important thing to do is to ask the Lord, not the world because the world will mix truth with the philosophies of man.

I've gone through periods of inactivity in my life and have struggled to get back on the straight and narrow, and when I've gone through that fire, that's when Satan has always tempted me the strongest. I can tell you about some funny experiences sometime if you want. In my opinion, it's good to recognize temptation as much as it is to recognize the hand of the Lord in our lives. My faith has grown strongest through the blessings of tithing and fast offerings.

I'm always thinking about what our church offers in contrast to other churches (partly because of where I work), and lately I began reading "Rough Stone Rolling" which is written in a way that doesn't paint a perfect picture of Joseph Smith. One thing that has really struck me is the fact that of all the ways to organize a church, we have the order of the priesthood. I mean, that in itself is so seminal to our church and is something that didn't exist after the apostasy until Joseph Smith restored it. It's present in the Old Testament--the lines of authority extending from God to Christ, and through the men who functioned as patriarchs and priesthood holders in their families--but not in an explicit manner. And to think that Joseph Smith would be baptized by someone (John the Baptist) with the authority to administer that ordinance, and then to have him receive the priesthoods (Peter, James, and John) in the same way....well, it's pretty astounding. No man who wasn't functioning as a vehicle for the restoration of Christ's church on earth would come up with that. Especially not someone as little educated as Joseph Smith was in religious matters.

So, to me, it's a testimony builder. Just like Alma points out, there are so many things in the world that testify of Christ and of the Father being a God of order, we just have to look and recognize what we see.

It's cool that you'd share your experiences. Thanks for doing it. I hope my comment's not too long. ;)

Alice Wills Gold said...

I so needed this today. Thank you for baring your soul. This story was inspiring.

Nashville Canuck said...

Thank you for sharing your story and reminding me of President Monson's talk on charity...powerful concepts. I can learn a lot from you, Miss Shannon!

Christy Jett said...

I loved your post! You are amazing. You have inspired me in many ways. So sad you live so far away. Keep blogging and keep staying true to yourself. (((HUGS)))

Kris said...

I've been meaning to comment on this for a long time. This post made me happy- I luv you!