Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Culture Blogs: My Religion and Conversion

A while ago a good friend of mine Amber Mae, posted on her blog about her conversion story to becoming a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  In this particular season of trying to learn about our political candidates and what they stand for; I find it important not only for the purposes of using it in fiction to share my conversion story here, but also to clarify the facts about what I believe as a member of the LDS Church.

My Mom and I came out to Utah because of family strife caused by her own conversion to the church.  It was originally supposed to be a vacation, but after almost twenty eight years I think it would be fair to say we settled here.  Now Utah is a unique place for a black mormon family to live for several reasons.  Paramount among them is the fact that for most of my life I've felt like LDS community didn't accept me fully because I was black, and that the blacks didn't accept me because I'm LDS.  To illustrate this point I'll share a story.

Shortly after my mother and I arrived in the State we moved up to my hometown of Ogden.  (I've lived in Ogden off and on for about twenty seven years now.)  In the one of the first wards (another word for congregation) we'd joined my Mother was told by the Bishop of the ward to not bring me back to Primary (our children's Sunday School Program), because the teachers were unable to teach me.  Now I realize back at that age I might be a little hyperactive, but so were most of the other kids.  It wasn't because I was active, but because I was black.  Later on in another ward I was called nigger by the same kids who I was going to church with on a regular basis.  And mind you seven, eight, and nine year olds don't know that word, unless their parents teach them, but much of that story will be saved for when I talk about hypocrisy in religion.

So you can entirely understand when I say that as a child my faith in the church was shaken.  I say my faith in the Church because I've always had a relationship with God.  I know he lives just as well as I know I breathe.  One of the times he revealed his presence to me was when I was baptized into the Church.  Now I went a very non-traditional method of joining the church even though my mother was a member.  She wanted me to choose this for myself so at the age of eight years old, which in our religion is known as the the age of accountability, so I listened to the discussions from the missionaries and my mother took me visiting to different churches.  I still to this day remember some of the church meetings and have images of missionaries from when I was small (we totally should have taken pictures).  And I prayed about it.  I chose to be a Saint (what members of LDS church are called), because I thought this is what God wanted for me to do.

That isn't what solidified my faith however.  It was something my Mom said about God speaking to me through the wind, and that when it blew that meant he was proud of me.  Mind you there is nothing in the scriptures about this, but I believed my Mom.  On the day that I was baptized the wind was blowing really hard and I felt in my heart a warm feeling that I remembered the missionaries telling me was one of the ways that God would speak to me.  Since that day the zephyrs of the desert and the cold wind of courage have been my companions at times when I needed to know God was there.  And while not always the same warmth it has now grown to encompass greater courage, more determination, and perhaps best of all simply the knowledge that what I'm doing at that point in my life is right.

You might say that at eight I was too young to know.  You are entitled to that.  You might say that because I've had racism problems in the church, I know people who have told their bishops they have been raped and the church has done nothing, or because of controversial issues within the origins of the church that it isn't true.  My response to that is: Faith isn't faith if there isn't substantial enough doubt to test it.  My faith has gone through the fire and has been purified to be made knowledge.  I know a lot more about God and his love and his plan for me, than I did when I was eight.  I know that God lives; That Jesus was resurrected and lives that I might live with him again; and that there is a prophet on the earth today.  All of those things came from the commitment to serve God at eight.

What about you?  Are you a Non-denominational Christian?  Are you Hindu or a Buddhist?  Maybe you are an Atheist.  Regardless of what you have chosen to be, I'd like to hear about it.  What caused you to make those choose that belief system?  I am not here to put down what you believe, or what you don't believe.  But if we are to engage in building cultures in our writing we have to look at what one another beliefs with respect.  Because in the fiction, we will have to challenge the beliefs of our characters with solid reasoning from other faiths and ideologies.  But here we can recognize one another as human beings who are trying to find their way to happiness.

Because I know that sometimes it can be scary to follow or comment on a blog, I thought it would be appropriate to share my gratitude with my readers by offering to you a book that I am currently reading.  It is the "Hundred Thousand Kingdoms" by N.K. Jemisin.  I've really enjoyed what I've read thus far.  A black female protagonist in a first person narrative in a fantasy world is unheard of, but Nora K. Jemisin has made a beautiful and believable tale that I highly recommend.  So from now til the end of this month, if you comment on my blog I'll put your name into a hat to receive during March one of three copies of the book I plan on sending out.  Think of it as my way of saying thank you for conversing with me.

If you have any questions about being LDS, I am a pretty solid source to ask, because I am an active member of my faith.  I would love to hear yiu share about your own experiences with faith and your own ideologies, but I will not permit my blog to become a place to tear down other religions.  "And now abideth Faith, Hope, and Charity, and the greatest of these is Charity, (1 Cor 12:13)" and because charity or love is a power I believe we can all recognize that we believe in, please share your feelings with love and respect towards all others who might read.  That being said, I love all of you and hope to hear plenty from you in the weeks to come.  Peace!
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