I remember the nervousness that overcame me not long after I felt the impression to seek out and listen to the Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They talk a lot about “being in the world, but not of the world,” but all of my friends were “of the world,” NONE of my family were members of The Church (except my granddaughters) and most of my friends had “alternative lifestyles.” When I decided I wanted and needed to be Baptized, I prayed almost constantly about the situation with my friends. How could I tell my friends I was now a member of the “Mormon” church, would they want to be my friend anymore? Did that matter?
During my repentance process in the weeks before my Baptism I was relatively quiet on Facebook, a social media outlet where I had spent an inordinate amount of time during the previous 5 years accumulating an audience for my writing. At times I had been known to make a spectacle out of myself, becoming rather dramatic about loves and losses and pain and pleasures. I had been known for “letting it all hang out.” How could I reconcile my previous behavior with the life I wanted, no, NEEDED to create and begin to live? I prayed even more.
The answers came gradually, but they came. I was impressed to read “The Articles of Faith.” They all rang so true in my heart that not only did my “bosom begin to burn” but I also wept with joy several times. Then I came to the 11th:
“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
The second part of that statement, “and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may [emphasis added]” caused me to completely lose my cool. I broke down and cried loudly; I bawled. Why? Because it was an answer to my prayers. There was NOTHING in the Mormon Doctrine that said I had to exclude those who
worshiped differently from myself from my life, ABSOLUTELY the opposite!!!
Relief filled my soul. But what about all of the people who followed my social media? Now that I no longer practiced alternative beliefs, should I even be “out there” in the public? What about all my photos and what I had said? As I began to hint about my baptism on social media some people I thought were my friends were quick to delete me from their connections, I cried but continued to pray about it. I didn’t want to lose friends, but those people who had “unfriended” me weren’t acting like friends. My prayers to Heavenly Father continued, so did my tears.
I deleted hundreds of photos of myself that embarrassed me from my social media accounts, I also prayed to know if I should even continue with an online presence. After all, it would have been easier just to delete the accounts. But the impression from the Holy Ghost was persistent: “I needed to be LOUDER about my conversion than I was my sins.” I was at a loss as how to accomplish that. The year before my Baptism was quite humiliating as I looked back upon my own inequity to others in addition to myself. I continued to pray and study my scriptures.
Then came the answer: Start a blog about your conversion to The Church: Share your feelings and be honest with those who follow you. My unease continued even after I started the FIRST iteration of Slightely Mormon on Blogger. Then, in June 2013, came a directive in video conference form to ALL the Missionaries and the Missionary Members of The Church. This was the answer I had been awaiting.
In a few weeks, it will have been 4 years since I sought out Missionaries to receive the lessons leading to my Baptism. In the subsequent years I have “cleaned up my act” on Facebook and other social media outlets, but I am louder than ever! I want the world (including my friends) to know HOW being a Mormon has changed my life! In the last four years I have worked hard trying not to alienate my friends and family. It’s difficult to convey to them how much I love ALL of them and I respect what they chose to believe in, all of that is part of them and I love them.
I had an opportunity to travel with a very dear friend of mine recently. Cub, as he likes to be called, is a professional photographer and acted as my assistant on a recent trip. In our travels across the country, we incurred our number of odd looks at us, but he helped me to see my world through different eyes. I saw judgement from my fellow church members when they watched him light a cigarette, I felt their stares and disapproval in both of our directions. That made me incredibly sad.
We visited the Ft. Lauderdale Temple towards the end of our time together. I asked Cub to take some photos of me when I was done with my session; he enthusiastically complied. When we were finished with our pictures another temple patron asked him to take her photo. Cub graciously agreed to do so.
While he was doing that act of service, I took a few snapshots myself for social media. I shared it first on Instagram as “Cubby doing service at the Temple,” then, after talking it over with Cub, I shared it again on my Facebook page and to a group called “1 Million Mormons on Facebook” with an additional introduction:
For a while I almost felt like I was exploiting my friend and his service. Although he had given his consent for both photos to be shared on the internet inclusive of my comment about his lifestyle, he had not asked for the photo to be taken. While probably wished I had allowed him to continue his nap in the car, I felt it important. There was a lesson here for not only me. I am not ashamed of my friends. I love each and every one of them. Not in spite of their beliefs or actions, but as WHOLE people with different ideas about life and different understandings of the universe.
We read in John 13:34 that Jesus Christ himself told us:
I believe that His love is unconditional. That is something I try to work towards each and
every day. I am so grateful to ALL of my diverse friends, like Cub, who help me to remember what my Heavenly Father commanded me to do.