They can keep changing the rules, but we don’t have to be obedient. (Plus 3 sneak peeks into Book 8)

My 6-year-old tried to play chess with me at their school’s STEM night last week. I didn’t realize he knew the rules, and it turns out he doesn’t, because he produced a secret weapon: a 6-legged spider he’d made out of clay in his class earlier.

“This is spider-guy,” he announced. “And he can eat all of your little white guys there.”

Before I knew it, the clay creature had wiped a handful of my “white guys” off the board.20180501_182939.
So that’s how this was going to be played.

“Fine,” I said, and looked around for my secret weapon. “This is Stapler Man, and he can chomp your spider-guy.”

“Good job, Mom!” he cheered as I nudged his spider off the board, but then he plunked spider-guy back into play. “But my guy has 175 lives.”

“I see,” I said, and if he was going to change all the rules every minute, like a game of Calvin Ball in Calvin and Hobbes, so could I. “Stapler Man has 180 lives, and he’s coming after your king.”

My son sighed and said, “You can’t change the rules like that, Mom.”

“But you just did.”

He hesitated, seeing that if he turned things unfairly to his advantage, I might too. (Yeah, I’m that kind of mom.) “Let’s go see the salmon babies,” he said, and the game was over as we headed to the fish tanks.

In my sophomore English classes we’re reading All But My Life, about a 15-year-old Jewish girl who is forced into the Nazi labor camps and is one of the few who survives. Last week we read about the ever-changing rules in regards to Jews; they can’t own phones, or cars, or bikes, or even fountain pens. They have to turn over the gold, their goods, their houses. Signs go up: “Gardens only for Germans,” and “No dogs or Jews allowed.”

The rules change daily, to the advantage of the Nazis, but the Jews aren’t able to play that game back at them or they’re shot.

My students, while fascinated by the story, have asked why this “history” book is in our English curriculum. We talk about language—euphemisms, propaganda, etc.—but the class is also about thinking and analyzing.

So I’ll tell them, “This memoir isn’t only about history, but about language, about control, about the direction we’re going right now. How are you going to survive in a country where the rules are changing daily?”

We all see this—it’s no secret: the elite, in various organizations, are manipulating situations to fit what they want to have happen. It’s not about the good of the country, but the selfishness of a handful. The rest of us struggle to know if we can shift those rules again, or somehow subvert them.

In the book we’re reading, Gerda Weissmann begins to learn English on the sly, and even though she’s denied an education, her father teachers her out of the textbooks they still own in the privacy of their house. (Proving that homeschooling is for subversives.)

My parents grew up in Nazi Germany. Their families–not Jews and certainly not Nazis—realized early on Hitler was going to be disastrous for Germany. Quietly, privately, they tried to subvert the changing rules the elite imposed upon them. They had more chickens than allotted and hid them when the inspectors came; they had doctors write notes excusing their children from attending Hitler Youth; they traded cigarette and coffee rations (Mormons don’t use those) on the black market for more flour and sugar; and my great-grandfather blackmailed a Nazi recruiter who tried to secure his money for their cause. The Nazis never bothered him again.

In the Book of Mormon is a story about a group of followers of God who are oppressed by their government (Mosiah 24). They’re told they can’t pray or they’ll be executed. The people simply didn’t pray out loud, but in secret, knowing that God would still hear them. Quiet subversiveness when the rules are purposely stacked against them.

It seems almost daily that the rules are changing, that more and more laws are purposely designed to hold down one group while elevating another.

Unfair? Absolutely.

But the question is, how do we respond—individually and collectively—to the oppressive elite?

Maybe a situation is benign enough that we can pull out our own “stapler guy” and change the rules once again for more even odds.

Or maybe a problem is so grave that our defiance equates our death—politically, mentally, spiritually, or literally. That’s a much more difficult situation to manage.

But there seem to be many opportunities for outward obedience yet inward rebellion.
However, there should never, ever be quiet acceptance.

Because if we don’t even try to fight, then we’ve already given up and they win.

(Because I’m so eager to get you Book 8 “The Last Day” this summer, I’m giving you THREE sneak peeks!)

#1 Sneak Peek

“Oh yes, General.” Young Pere squinted with disdain. “That makes me want to call you ‘father.’ Hit me all you want, Thorne, but you can never change who I am or what you are. So choose the slagging canyon yourself.”

From the corner of his eye, Young Pere could see Hili beaming. But Thorne stood shocked, not used to such flagrant insubordination, and evidently didn’t know how to proceed.

Finally Thorne whispered, in as sinister a voice as he could muster, “I have one more thing to do with you, Shin. Then I will kill you myself. Nothing will give me greater pleasure. Your days are numbered, make no mistake about that!”

Young Pere nodded once, not at all intimidated. Thorne was full of unmet promises; just ask anyone he’d told he’d give a medal. He still owed Young Pere a few.

#2 Sneak Peek

Shin frowned at Sergeant Beaved. “So I’m supposed to go along with all of this?” 

“If you want to live, yes!”

“Is that what all of you do?” Shin exclaimed. “Just go along with whatever unbelievable and unlikely story preserves you for another day?”

“Yes,” Beaved said shortly. “Why not?”

“Living in lies? That doesn’t bother you?”

Beaved leaned in. “What bothers me is the idea of dying, Shin.”

“Doesn’t bother me,” he said, almost believably.

“Look, Shin, just . . .” Beaved groaned quietly. “I don’t know what the truth is myself, but I do know this: you have a chance to survive this. A small chance, getting smaller each time you open that big mouth of yours. But if I were you I’d cling to that chance, do whatever it takes to preserve your life. You can fix the lies later, if necessary, but you can’t if you’re dead.”

#3 Sneak Peek

“I’m as helpful as I know to be, Teach,” Shin said down to the man following him on the slope of the mountain.

“But one could be more helpful, Shin. Considering that Thorne has repeatedly threatened one of your security detail if you fail.”

Below him, Cloud Man bounced his head, oblivious that Thorne had threatened to bounce the vial head down the mountain if the private wouldn’t be more cooperative.

“Interesting,” Shin said as he searched for better footing. “Thorne’s so ‘noble’ as to force us to seek out Salem, and he’s so ‘noble’ that he’s also threatening one of his own soldier’s lives to do so. Perhaps I’m not that familiar with the definition of nobility. Enlighten me, Teach.”

He heard Teach moan below him again, maybe because of the question or because he was smacked by another tree branch. Hopefully both.

“Nobility. Doing that which the circumstances demand.”

“That’s it?”

“Language usage wasn’t my specialty in the university,” Teach admitted.

“What was your specialty?”

“I specialized in it all.”

Shin stifled a snort. “But not language usage?”

“Why bother? Everyone knows how to talk, don’t they?”

Shin reached for another scrubby brush. “So who decides ‘what circumstances demand’? When someone is acting in everyone’s best interests and not just out of his own selfishness?”

“Are you suggesting General Thorne is selfish?” Teach asked.

“Yes.”

The scoff behind him made Shin glance down.

Teach was aghast. “You actually admit that?”

“I said only what you’re thinking, Teach. What everyone on this hill is thinking but is too afraid to say.”

BOOK 6, “Flight of the Wounded Falcon” IS HERE! Get it 3 ways (one is free)!

Book 6, Flight of the Wounded Falcon is ready! And you can get it three ways:

  1. Kindle download, click right here. Priced at 99 cents, that means you’re paying only, umm  . . . well, hardly anything per the 240,000 words. (This is why I majored in English, not math.)
  2. Paperback, on CreateSpace for now, but will be on Amazon by the end of the week. Click here to purchase for $14.85. That’s the cheapest I can price it, but even then per page that’s only . . . well, still not a bad price for 665 pages.
  3. PDF download, FREE right here. Yes, as I’ve written before, I want to provide my books for as cheap as possible or even free. So every book I publish is also always available on my site here under “Start Reading the Books.” (That’s misleading because you can also finish reading the books there as well.) I feel these stories have been freely shared with me, and so I freely share them with you.
    The only catch is that you cannot profit on them by trying to resell them. I’m not profiting either: I earn only a handful of pennies on each book I sell, and donate 100% of that to charity.

SO GO GET IT! Read it! Then let me know what you think, because I love to hear from you. (And for now, I’m going to take a small break and a big breath.)

Book 6 is HERE

All of this is such a strange, strange process. Every time I publish a book I collapse in relief. Sections of this particular book I drafted eight long years ago (the very first images of this series came to me almost a decade ago), and to see yet another branch of it finished is overwhelming.

Back when I first tried drafting this “short story” I wondered if I’d ever get all of it out there, birthed and living. (Books are alive, we all know that.) Every night I’d send the drafts I had written to my email, terrified that all of the work I’d accomplished would be lost. (Then I discovered Dropbox and my email became tidier.) Still, the larger this series grew, the more I fretted that I’d never get it all done. But now it’s 6/8 finished (pretty sure that’s 3/4–I have some math skills) and books 7 and 8 are rarin’ at the gates, desperate to be done as well. They’re well developed, nearly mature, but still suffering from a few growing pains that we’ll work out, no doubt.

But writing is such an odd process in that it’s so involving of one’s entire heart and soul, yet no one outside knows it.

Writing (drafting, editing, researching, formatting, editing, reformatting, editing) is a completely consuming endeavor done solely, quietly, alone-ly (that really should be a word; and no, I don’t mean lonely–there’s absolutely nothing lonely about this). The triumphs of getting this aspect fixed or that part done happens without any fanfare, without cheering crowds, without even a ding of congratulations from my laptop. This past week I mentioned to my kids that after 50 hours I got the covers right and formatting issues resolved, and they said, “Good job!” in the same way I’d say it to my 13-year-old when he tells me something he accomplished on Space Engineers. Clueless, but kind.

My family has no idea when I’ve just killed someone or just saved them. No one in the real world sees the process beyond the tapping at the keyboard. When I go walking with my earbuds in, no one I pass realizes the trials and torments I’m currently putting my characters through, and that I’m walking to help them out again. That the music I hear and the scenes in my mind are anything but as quiet and calm as the mountains before me. I’m striding through battles, I’m walking through heartache, I’m sauntering through celebrations, I’m meandering through joy.

Oh, how I wish you could be with me for every step of the way! For the moments I stop suddenly and exclaim, “I didn’t see that coming!” For the times when my fingers leave the keyboard to make fists that I punch in the air in triumph, either for a character or for myself, because I finally–finally–got something right after spending hours a day, day after day, early in the morning, late at night, or while I’m waiting for the water to boil for dinner. The wins happen about twice a month, about once every 90 hours. But oh, what fantastic wins!

But no one else sees this. No one else knows the schizophrenia of a writer’s mind, how we’re juggling a variety of realities all at once, and often struggle to be in the real one at the correct time. No wonder so many writers are unstable. No wonder so many frequently drink. (Since I’m a Mormon I resort to chocolate chips.)

No wonder so many people give up, or don’t even start that book that picks daily at their brains, begging to be let out, but doesn’t tell the brain how to release it. It’s maddening, like looking at a pile of wood, drywall, wire, pipes, and shingles, and told to make it into a house but you’re not given any plans, any diagrams, no idea how it should look in the end. Why would anybody take on such an endeavor?!

But oh, those materials are just sitting there, with so much potential, so many possibilities that you just can’t walk away, just can’t pretend it’s not there, especially when God repeatedly turns you around and gently pushes you back to the pile. You just HAVE to start sorting the two-by-fours, laying out the framework, again and again and again, until something really interesting starts to happen. You’ll destroy it and remake it a hundred times over until you realize you’ve given it your all and you have to let someone come wander in what you’ve created. You cringe the whole time they do, because you’ve spent years on this, building and fixing and tossing and adding, and you know there’s still more that could be done, but it’s time to let someone else into that massive and complex structure you had no idea you could build, but suddenly here it is.

And you step away, hold your breath, and let everyone in, all the while glancing around and mumbling, “Did I really do this? Is it all holding together?” You tense, waiting for the criticisms that are sure to come, and the praises you know you don’t deserve, until you realize you didn’t do it for those words. You didn’t even do it for yourself, although you wrote the books you’ve always wanted to read. But you did it for those characters, to let them live their lives, to let their world exist, and if they’re happy with what you’ve fleshed out for them, then who cares what anyone else thinks.

And then you wonder, “Can I possibly do it again? There’s another pile of material, right there, pleading to be put together, but do I have it in me to do it all again?”

Oh, yes, God willing, you have to! Because this is life, why you were born, and what you’ve waited thousands of years to accomplish, and it’d be unthinkable to quit.

3 ways in which parents are like God (and 3 ways we aren’t–yet)

I’ve always known that parenthood is how God teaches us to be like Him, but now that I’ve been at it for 25 years, I feel like I’m finally understanding some of those aspects. For example:

1) God WANTS to hear from us. Wherever, whenever. I know this, because currently our family is spread over the country. Five of my nine children are at home, one’s serving an LDS mission, and three are away at college. My husband also works out of state, so connecting with everyone doesn’t always happen. But on some Mondays (the day my missionary son can email home) I find that I’ve chatted, emailed, skyped, texted, or messaged everyone in my family. Those are successful days when I feel as if everyone’s still connected.

BUT, how I am not like God is that by the evening, I AM DONE! My kids will tell you that there comes a point when I loudly announce, “I do NOT want to TALK or even SEE any more children! I NEED QUIET TIME!”

Invariably this occurs after these children have already been read and prayed away to bed, and they sneak into my room while I’m trying to work on my computer to annoy me with something irrelevant. After my explosion, and they retreat to their rooms, sure enough, that’s when one of my away-children will  pop up to chat online, or my husband will skype about something.

You should see the look I give my poor husband when he skypes at those moments. “Ah,” he’ll say, “one of those pecked-to-death-by-ducks days. I’ll make this brief—”

Sometimes (ok, often) I lose it.

But God never runs out of patience, or wants time to Himself, because He doesn’t deal with time. (That still boggles my mind.) He’s got all the non-existent time in the world, and there’s never a queue for those waiting on Him.

I know this, because I’ve prayed at all hours of the day and night, and have never heard celestial bellows of, “I Have Had It With These Children—Today, I Am Done!”

Nope, He’s never going to do that.

2) When you truly love God, you just want to be with Him. I know this, because when I have been patient and kind with my kids (something I pray for every single day—“PLEASE help me be patient and kind!”) they actually want to be with me.

This occurred to me on Sunday as my youngest children squished me on the pew at church. My preschooler is getting too heavy to be on my lap, but since he’s the last, I tolerate it even as my legs lose feeling. My nine-year-old tries to lean on me at the same time because she’s too big for my lap, and my thirteen-year-old will lean on the other side because I’m convenient for when he falls asleep five minutes into the service.

And so I sit, squashed and growing numb.

For a naturally claustrophobic person, this has taken a few years to get used to, but I discovered some time ago that if my kids didn’t like me—or even tolerate me—they’d be sitting much further away. On days like that I think, “I may be doing something right.”

Or I’m just convenient, but I’ll take that.

It’s the same with our Heavenly Father. When we truly know Him and understand His nature, we want to be closer to Him. We read the scriptures more, we pray more, we include Him more in our daily mental conversations. We do all we can to feel closer to Him, and He in turn draws closer to us.

We discover He’s an ally, a friend, a confidante, and while sometimes He needs to chasten us because He loves us, His arms are outstretched still, waiting for us to come back into them.

Image result for painting of jesus with man on bench(I love this painting, “Lost and Found,” by Greg Olsen.)

As a mother, I’m not always successful in this. There are times when my children have done something so heinous (i.e. ruined an appliance/electronic device/toilet) that I have to step away in fury, or my child might be permanently wounded; not physically, but emotionally.

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To be fair, this child had permission to destroy the light fixture . . .

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. . . only because she wouldn’t let go of the hammer, and I feared for the rest of the house.

There have been moments when I’ve wanted to throw a flood at an “evil” child and wash it far away, but then I remember that God had been warning and pleading with and trying to save His truly evil children before The Flood for 120 years while Noah labored on the ark.

But after 120 seconds, sometimes I’m ready to call down hail-fire and brimstone. (See why I’m always praying to be “patient and kind”?)

3) Heavenly Father wants to be our Father. Before I get into this, allow me backtrack—children need parents. I think this should be obvious, but almost daily I read philosophies that try to downplay the importance of parents, claiming they can be replaced by exceptional schools (I haven’t found any truly exceptional yet), well-structured day-care centers which can care for your child from before breakfast to after dinner, and a socialistic state which “serves” to alleviate the burdens of parenthood, so that adults can do what really matters—work for the betterment of the state.

Parenting, in some socialist theories, is a purely physical function, with those functions ending as soon as the child is delivered.

This isn’t how God sees parenthood. In fact, the title this all-powerful Creator of Heaven and Earth has chosen for himself is Heavenly Father. I’ve referred to Him here frequently as God which, while accurate, I think downplays His role in our lives. “God” is often seen as a distant figure, full of power and anger, ready to trick and punish His subjects in Zeus-like ways. The gods love to mess with us puny mortals.

The problem is, much of the world regards the Supreme Being of the cosmos this way. But that’s not a true image. Rather, it’s one Satan tries to promote in his effort to keeps us as far away from our Father as he can.

Our Father is an all-loving, ever-patient, ever-tender Father—to all of us. No matter our race, religion, political background, or any other potentially divisive measure, He wants to parent us, as a Perfect Parent would: solely concerned about our well-being.

Our Heavenly Father has no other agenda, no other pressing concerns, other than our eternal happiness. There’s nothing He wants more than to bring us home again with our souls intact from this life-long test we told Him we wanted to take.

Think about the best dad you know—maybe yours, maybe a friend’s. (Interestingly, a lot of people’s perceptions of God are based upon their relationships with their own fathers.) What made that dad so great? His every thought was for his kids, wasn’t it?

Just like our Heavenly Father.

But we puny mortals usually aren’t as wholly devoted to parenthood. Certainly not me, unfortunately. Sure, I’m concerned about my kids, put aside my own plans to help them with theirs, and often forsake sleep, food, and sanity to help them when they’re troubled.

But even as I type this morning, I’m interrupted by my daughter getting ready for school, my son splashing in his bath, my other son  failing again to wake up . . . and here I sit typing. (Notice how I said they’re interrupting me—how I come first, instead of them?) I’m not 24-hours-a-day focused on my children.

“Helicopter parenting,” on the other hand, is not God-like parenting, either, because it’s not done out of concern for children, but out of anxiety of what society may think of us as parents.

While wholly attentive, Heavenly Father is not a helicopter parent. He allows us to make mistakes, to skin our knees, even to punch our siblings, because He knows this life is a test, and no one ever learns from a test if they’re not allowed to actually take it. He allows us to fail so that we can begin to improve.

However, I admit there are times I probably should be more attentive than I am, so that the above-mentioned ruined appliances/devices/toilets don’t get ruined.

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Or so that this, for example, doesn’t happen.

That’s not a problem Heavenly Father faces. A nearly-ruined earth, maybe, but nothing that His Son cannot heal. No, Heavenly Father is far more focused and far more in the details of our lives than we’ll ever understand while in mortality.

Only when we get to the other side and review our existence will we see how often He nudged a situation for us, or diverted a disaster, or steadied us, much like we steady our own children as they learn to ride a bike. Rarely do they know, in their excitement that first time without training wheels, how closely we’re running behind them and straightening their bikes until they can do it themselves.

Likewise, we’ll be surprised to see how often our Heavenly Dad’s hand was touching our lives to make sure we stayed on course.

People occasionally ask me why I have so many kids, and I give my usual, flippant answer of “My husband and I really don’t know. What keeps causing this? Can you explain it to me? Draw diagrams?”

But once another answer came to my mind, when my Heavenly Father was gently nudging me to not be so trivial.

The answer was, So that I can learn to be more like my Heavenly Parents.

Because yes, there is a Heavenly Mother, too, but my theory is that She’s dealing with the children not yet born, or who have already died and gone back, so Heavenly Father is dealing with those of us on “away missions” while She focuses on those “back home.” Even Heavenly Parents have a division of labor.

I also have a lot of children because I’m a very slow learner (no, we figured out how they’re conceived a few years ago—glad we got that cleared up). Each child has taught me a different aspect of how my Heavenly Father wishes me to be, and I’m needing lots of years of practice to start getting close to His vision for me.

But, fortunately, I have Perfect Examples to follow.

Mahrree often felt as if she were looking into the eyes of the Creator Himself as Gleace listened earnestly to Peto’s description of kickball, offered advice to Deck on selecting cattle to start his herd, chuckled at Jaytsy’s explanation of her mother’s first attempt to garden, and laughed at hearing how Perrin became a cat owner. He paid full attention to each of them, as if no one else existed, and what they had to say was the most important thing ever.

Mahrree knew there were some people who envisioned the Creator as a great and terrible Being, full of impatient vengeance for the fallibility of His creations.

But Mahrree had always pictured someone else: a perfect Father who wanted to make sure His children knew they were loved and cared about. ~Book 5, Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti

High Polish Tatra mountains

Why I choose to be a Mormon

I haven’t been haven’t been coerced or brainwashed, nor am I stupid and delusional to believe what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) teaches, despite what commenters on social media and articles about Mormons like to claim.

Instead, I’ve chosen to believe, and here are my six reasons why:

  1. Mormonism makes sense to me.

Straight off, I like what the LDS Church teaches.

Mormonism rings true in my mind and heart, more than any other philosophy, religion, or belief system I’ve researched. And yes—I’ve researched a lot of them, starting when I was a teenager. Even then I agreed with Socrates when he said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” 

While I was born into a family that was Mormon, I took it upon myself to make sure I wasn’t duped into believing all of this stuff. At the age of 16 I started a serious, focused study of the Bible. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing, but I read every single word—even the entire Old Testament, and boy was I happy to get to the New Testament—to make sure I knew what was in there.

And I decided that I wanted to believe in it. Belief is a choice, after all. While I think that some of the Bible is figurative, I believe that most of it is literal as far as it’s translated correctly, and I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior, making me firmly a Christian.

But still I wanted to know what else was out there.

So beginning in high school when I had to read Siddhartha, I’ve researched over the years the main tenants and theories of the major belief systems, from Atheism to Zen Buddhism, and just about everything in between.  In each sect and philosophy I found elements that rang my inner “truth bell.”
(Except for Karl Marx and Christopher Hitchins; they barely clanked my brain.)

But my inner truth bells rang constantly when I read The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, and when I studied the ideology of Mormonism. All the truths I found in the other religions and philosophies were represented in the LDS Church along with so, so much more. It’s that depth that won me over, because . . .

  1. Mormonism is the kind of life I want to live.

I’m baffled when others who don’t even know me, or any other Mormons for that fact, take it upon themselves to mock and deride our decision to follow this way of life: to be morally clean, provide charity to our friends and neighbors, pay tithing, actively worship Jesus Christ, observe the Sabbath Day, and make covenants in temples in order to perhaps in some distant epoch of time eventually grow, develop, and mature to become even like God himself.

I would never, ever make fun of the way another person lives their life—it’s their life; why would I be so arrogant as to criticize their decisions?—so I’m not sure why it’s always open season on Mormons.
(By the way, “The Book of Mormon” musical is not written or endorsed by Mormons. Trust me.)

But I’m a Mormon because I want to live a deliberate and purposeful life, and the teachings of the LDS Church provide me with the most logical and inspired guidelines to do so.  

The way I see life is that I have such a short time to be here, and I want to do as much and as best as I can.

I look it at this way: I’ve always wanted to visit London, England. In my mind I’ve fantasized and romanticized about what London would be like and secretly wished I were British. (I’m German, may the Brits forgive me.)

Now, if someone came to me and said, “You will have 24 hours to spend in London next week,” I assure you I wouldn’t just step off the plane in Heathrow, buy a six-pack, and sit on the banks of the Thames watching the boats go up and down for the day.

No, I’d start planning now for the best 24 hours ever. What would be the best and most important places to visit? Once I got there I’d ask the locals, where should I eat? What tourist traps should I avoid? Is Shakespeare playing in the park? Where’s the park? I wouldn’t want to waste any of my time idly.
(As you can imagine, my idea of a vacation isn’t the same as everyone else’s. We once vacationed at the beach, and by lunchtime on the second day I was bored out of my mind. “Isn’t there a museum or national park anywhere?!”)

I see my entire life in the same way. I get the feeling that my soul is very, very old, and that I waited for thousands of years to come to this earth. My existence after this life will also extend for thousands of more years, and beyond.

The line, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience,” by the Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, also rings true to me, as does C. S. Lewis’s statement that “You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

Because this is my ONE shot at life (I couldn’t get behind the idea of reincarnation, unfortunately), and I’m sure I’ve been waiting for this chance for several millennia. I don’t want to waste it.

I’ve also decided (a choice, again) that Jesus Christ was the best example of how to live fully, and no other religion or ideology I’ve explored follows His example closer than the LDS Church.

Follow the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the way I want to spend my life.

  1. The LDS Church doesn’t require blind obedience.

This is another trite, overused cliché leveled against those who are Mormons: we’re non-thinking and gullible.

One man, trying to point out how stupid I was for following Mormonism, claimed that if the prophet said to jump, I’d ask how high.

I shrugged and said, “I thought that was only true in the armed forces.”

Silly me, I’d forgotten he was career military. What ensued next was a brief but lively conversation about the difference between commanders expecting absolute obedience to commands, versus people obeying prophets of God.

When I pointed out that the LDS Church never requires blind obedience as the armed forced did, the gentleman changed the subject because he really didn’t know that much about Mormons, which is my experience with most detractors.
They know hearsay, and little else. 

The truth is that the LDS Church emphasizes, again and again, the importance of individuals discovering truths for themselves; “gaining a testimony” is how it’s frequently phrased.

Here are some of the most often quoted scriptures in the church:

“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right . . .”

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true . . .”

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God . . .”

It’s a church that encourages its members, and those investigating it, to ask, ask, ask; to find out, find out, find out for themselves.

No blind faith. Put God to the test. Try it and see.

Back to my military friend; one thing he did admit was that the reason the soldiers obeyed their commanders was because they trusted them implicitly.

I likewise trust the leaders of my church. Their admonitions and suggestions have been correct again and again, and I’ve decided (choice, again) that they are prophets who receive revelation from God.

Here’s one example of thousands I could give. A president and prophet named Gordon B. Hickley said these words in a general conference of the church: Hinckley 2

“I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order.

“So many of our people are living on the very edge of their incomes. In fact, some are living on borrowings.

“We have witnessed in recent weeks wide and fearsome swings in the markets of the world. The economy is a fragile thing. A stumble in the economy in Jakarta or Moscow can immediately affect the entire world. It can eventually reach down to each of us as individuals. There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed.”

He said this in 1998.
He was right.
It’s been storming for 17 years now, with little relief in sight.

You can see what Mormon leaders have been saying for decades by clicking here and doing a search. Try it for yourself.

So yes, if the prophets of the LDS church says jump, I will, because I already trust their judgment.

And not blindly, but with my eyes and ears wide open.

  1. The LDS Church gives me great comfort.

No other religious organization or philosophical ideal I’ve encountered can provide the depth and breadth of explanations about life and death than the LDS Church. They literally have the meaning of life.

This understanding—that life is a brief but a very important point in our eternal existence—helps me understand why I’m here, what I’m supposed to be doing, and where I want to go afterwards.

This life is a test—a critical, calculated examination—of the nature of our hearts. What do we really, really want? Placed in this mortal state, with problems and struggles, we can truly see what we’re made out of based on how we treat our brothers and sisters.

We’re here to be tried, not to be partying. 

Years ago I worked with a woman who asked me, with the obligatory sneer, why I wanted to be a “good girl” to go to heaven where it undoubtedly would be boring because all anyone ever does is sit around strumming harps and singing. She was planning on going to hell, where all the “cool” people would be.

Befuddled by her overly simplistic ideas of heaven and hell, I hemmed and hawed for a minute before explaining that I believed heaven is a extension of this life where, with our friends and family, we continue to grow and are given greater responsibilities and abilities, whereas hell was a place where all of our regrets and failings torment us with what could have been.

She blinked at that, never having given any real thought to heaven and hell beyond what she saw in Saturday morning cartoons, and never again disparaged my beliefs. In fact, she asked about a few more details over the next few months, and I sensed she was looking for comfort for a pain she couldn’t yet admit feeling.

I recall the song by Eric Clapton called “Tears in Heaven” about the loss of his 4-year-old son. The lyrics are heartbreaking: “Would you know my name/if I saw you in Heaven,” as if the relationships we have on earth would somehow be lost in the next world.

Mormons know that not only will we recognize each other when we die, we’ll know far more about those we love because we’ll remember our relationships we had before we came to this earth.

And additionally, Mormons know that all pain in this life is temporary. 

All frustrations, all troubles, all disappointments will be rectified in the life to come. 

I can’t imagine how I’d live without that understanding. I think I’d be constantly depressed, like the older woman I met at her mother’s funeral.  She knew—knew—that everything about her beloved mother was gone forever. The Mormon bishop conducting the service for the family (because they weren’t affiliated with any religion) tried to assure her that her mother’s spirit was alive and well, and they could be together again someday.

But this woman shook her head and said, “That’s just too good to believe. I can’t accept it.”

Heartbreaking.

She didn’t dare take the comfort, too broken down by this life to imagine any other. I couldn’t live like that.

I need comfort to survive.

  1. What I “sacrifice” to be a Mormon is no sacrifice at all.

You’ve heard it all: Mormons don’t drink, don’t smoke, believe in chastity, fidelity, modesty, charity, and are focused on keep families strong.

Boooorrrring.

When I was 19 I worked in a mall on the east coast where I was the only Mormon among a lot of college students. Frequently they came to work with hangovers, slipped outside to smoke, and complained and fretted about their one-night stands.

I listened to the conversations but never said anything because it wasn’t a world I was part of. Dutifully I’d fold shirts, help customers, and just do my job.

One day a huge shipment came into the store, which meant pizza and beer as we unloaded. After a couple of hours most of the staff was impaired, and when customers rushed the store for the new products, I was the only one sober to deal with them.

The next morning we had to clean up the mess left behind the night before (the manager was as undisciplined as the kids he managed), and as one employee threw up in a trashcan and on a woolen sweater, and another sobbed uncontrollably in the corner because she and another worker had become “too involved” in the back room, someone asked me if I regretted being a Mormon and missing out on all of the fun.

I laughed until I realized he wasn’t being sarcastic.

I glanced around at the chaos and the employees still quite impaired, and said, “I have yet to see any of you have any fun.”

There was a full minute of silence in the store as they contemplated my statement, and since that day I’ve realized that what the world considers a sacrifice to be a Mormon isn’t any sacrifice at all. 

While I may have given up what the world considers “fun,” what I’ve gained instead is peace of mind.
Purpose.
Joy.

If you’re considering investigating the LDS Church, but worry about how difficult transitioning to that life may be, consider this weak but parallel example.

Over a year ago I was tired; bone-weary, deadly tired every single day and needing a two-hour nap just to get by. My brain was also fogged so much that I couldn’t think. I was forgetting important things, such as my 6-year-old out at a friend’s house until they sent her home at 9pm. Plagued also with constant bowel issues, I began to search for some solution to this daily misery that was robbing me of life. I was growing desperate and deeply worried.

I discovered that I was gluten intolerant, and I willingly gave up—for just a week—all the bread that I so dearly loved. In only two days I noticed everything in my life improving, and I made the change permanently. No, it wasn’t easy at first, but it was definitely worth it.

Fast forward to a dinner I had with some friends last month. One of them, enjoying a fluffy roll, apologized to me and said, “I don’t know how you gave up bread.”

“Because once I gave away bread,” I told her, “I got back my brain and my energy. Whenever I’m tempted to eat something I shouldn’t, I think ‘Do I want bread or my brain?’ Even though I’m not a zombie, it’s an easy answer: brains! And while I occasionally miss all things containing gluten, I’d give it up again in a heartbeat.”

Then it hit me: What I gave up at the time seemed like a sacrifice—I still struggle to find worthy equivalents to the food I loved, and would kill for a slice of thick, chewy pizza. But what I got in return was much, much more. I literally got my life back, and I feel 15 years younger (and have even lost weight to boot).

I invite you to find someone who joined the Church, and ask them if they miss what they gave up. Like my mother, they’ll likely say they had to give up alcohol, smoking, or something else, but what they received in return more than made up for what they lost.

In fact, they’ll wished they had “sacrificed” earlier to enjoy sooner what they have now.

  1. I love what I believe.

Some will still think that I’m delusional, that choosing (choice, again) to believe in golden plates and additional scriptures and visiting angels and temple worship and the notion that God still speaks to people is all absurd.

But you know what?

I love all of that.

And this is why Mormons want to tell you all about their religion: we want you to love it as well. 

Think about this: if you find a fantastic restaurant, or watch a movie that blows you away, or read a book that rocks your world, you tell everyone you know about it, right? You want them to share in what you’ve discovered.

So do Mormons. That’s why we send out missionaries (my third one is getting ready to leave at the end of the month for two years), make videos, extend to you invitations, and write blog posts about what we believe.

Now that doesn’t mean you have to embrace what we do. Maybe you don’t like that restaurant your friend recommended because you aren’t keen on curry, and that chick-flick doesn’t have enough car chases, nor do you like to read long books without pictures. No problem. Appreciate that your friend wanted to share with you something they love, then move on.

Same with those trying to share Mormonism with you. Just tell us you’re not interested, and we’ll still be your friend. 

But I’m warning you now–we may try to wave that curry bowl under your nose again every now and then, not because we don’t respect your decisions, but because we have hope you might change your mind someday.

Forgive us. We’re just too darn enthusiastic sometimes.

All people are free to choose what they want to believe—how, where, or what they may. We don’t want to infringe upon your right to believe what you want, nor do we want you to infringe upon our rights. We’re a “live and let live” kind of folk. Works best that way, we think. Let’s just all do what we think is best, and let God sort us out later.

Yet deep in my soul, I feel—scratch that, I know that being a Mormon is the best way to go, at least for me.

Call me delusional, I don’t care. 

But if—if— I wake up dead some day and discover that all of what the Mormons teach was pure nonsense, I still would have believed, because this “nonsense” gives me great joy, and I’d rather eke out my meager existence in delusional joy rather than in the quiet desperation I see ruling the lives of so many that I know and love.

That’s why I choose (choice, again) to be a Mormon. There’s simply nothing better in the world for me.

(7. Bonus reason: The LDS Church makes cool memes; I got all of these from lds.org.)