Some of this is also covered in this article. Also, let me preface this by saying that now, almost 10 years later, my parents and grandma are at least accepting of me being a member of the church.
Telling my family about my decision to serve a mission for the LDS church was one of the most difficult things I had ever done. Growing up, I was always seeking their approval. I didn’t want to disappoint them or hurt their feelings. I knew that my mom, and especially my maternal grandmother would be very unhappy with this decision. I decided it would be best to tell them in person while I was at home in October of 2003.
I remember having constant inner debates trying to determine the best timing. Finally, I decided I just needed to get it over with and talk to them. I sat down with my mom in the living room. (I don’t remember my grandmother being there at that point but she was there within a day.) It seemed to go over pretty well. She wasn’t over-the-moon with the idea but she didn’t have anything bad to say. I thought to myself, “Well, Grenzie, what were you so worried about? That wasn’t such a big deal.”
By the next morning, her feelings had changed a bit. (I think she had talked to Grandma.) She utilized the mom-trick of having me come with her to the store. While trapped in the car, she was able to tell me how she felt, which included the idea that I was, “sick and brainwashed” and that I had “lost any intelligence I once had.” It hurt. A lot.
I told my dad later that day at dinner. Thankfully, he was more understanding. His opinion was, “Well, I don’t know much about that church but I feel that now is the perfect time in your life to serve others and to take time to learn what you want to do for a living and where your priorities lie.” He promised to try to help calm my mom down a bit.
When Grandma arrived, she took my hands in hers and, with tears in her eyes said, “I want you to know that if you do this, you will break my heart.” She also wrote me a 5 page letter letting me know that her heart was broken and the only way it would be mended would be if I “returned to my roots in the Lutheran church.” It was very frustrating to me because in that letter, she stated things that demonstrated to me that she had many misunderstandings about the church but, at the same time, she would not even listen to me long enough to let me explain them to her.
I felt completely and totally alone during that trip. Not having ever attended the LDS branch in my little hometown, I didn’t even know anyone I could reach out to for support. I went out to my dad’s cabin on Lake Pokegama. No one else was there and I just knelt down in the woods near the lake and pleaded with Heavenly Father to let me know that there was someone, somewhere that was on my side and that I was doing the right thing and this wasn’t going to cause a permanent rift in my family. I felt strengthened by the Spirit and knew that I could find strength in knowing that my grandfather, who had passed away in 1996, would help to soften my grandmother’s heart.
My best friend from high school, Melissa, did not use the term “brainwashed” but did tell me she was concerned that I was not thinking clearly and that someone else was making decisions for me. My response to her really encompasses my feelings at the time.
As for me choosing my own path, I think I’m doing that more at this time than I have at any other time in my life. Ever since I was 10 years old, my grandmother has been calling me “Dr. Anne” (and still is pushing me in that direction). Also, it turned out that I was good at math and science so I was really pushed in that direction whether or not I had a passion for it. And at that stage, I may have had a passion for it but now I am sure I do not. Over the past months, I would just sit in my class and think about how much I hated it and didn’t want to do it anymore. I would wish that something extreme would happen just so I would have an EXCUSE to quit at that stage, I realized that I didn’t need an excuse but the fact that I was having those feelings was REASON enough to withdraw from my program.
For a long time in early 2003, I wanted to serve a mission so that I would have an excuse to quit but I never got a confirmation from the spirit that I needed to serve a mission. Obviously, I did get a confirmation but it came later. It came at a time when I had already decided on what I was going to do about school. I think that is something that a few people don’t understand. I did NOT quit school in order to serve a mission.
And as far as my church choosing my path, that hasn’t occurred either…there has been no persuasion or pressure whatsoever. In fact, I’m kind of going against the grain since I am older (usually sisters go when they are 21) and also was in a very good academic program. Mel, please know that everything from deciding to join this church to my decision to serve a mission truly has been only between me and the Lord. My foundation has not been Lars or the missionaries that taught me or anyone else. My foundation has been my own, personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I made both decisions after I had said a sincere prayer and had the Holy Spirit let me know what it was that I was to do.
A lot of people that I have come across have stated something about me “turning Mormon”. I really don’t like the term “turning” because it gives the image of rejecting something else in order to be a member of this church. I guess I would prefer “become” as opposed to “turn” since I feel I just added a deeper understanding of the gospel truths I had experienced in my life. I would not have made the decision to join this church, (or serve a mission for that matter), unless it was something I truly felt in my heart and soul. I would not have caused such tension within my family and friendship circles if it weren’t something I knew in my heart that I had to do because otherwise I would betray our Heavenly Father. If I were brainwashed, trust me – the hurtful things my grandmother has said would have been able to make me change my mind but I cannot go against what I know in my heart to be true. Melissa, I may have said this before, but as I was learning about the principles taught in this church it was like I was learning something I already knew – it was just a review session. Some of that was because it is the same as what was taught in the Lutheran doctrine and some of it was just an expansion of that.
I wish I could express how much my testimony of this church and of Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer means to me and how it has evolved in the past couple of years and how much happiness and perspective it has brought me. I refrain from doing so at this time for two reasons – one, it is so difficult to put into words much less to not be able to say it in person and two, I’m not sure if your heart would be open to what I have to say. There are a TON of misconceptions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints which I’m sure you have heard or read about but please know that these are in fact just that – misconceptions. Have faith in ME – you know how much I analyze everything. I did the same when first learning about this church. I looked at all kinds of websites – everything from the church’s official site to those of some very severe anti-Mormons. In doing so, I became aware of a lot of the misconceptions and how so many can take a little bit of truth, add a bunch of exaggeration and turn something pure and good into something that seems awkward and different. My grandmother is listening to a couple of books right now that are written by people who do just that and I said to her, “Grandma, if you wanted to learn about Catholicism, would you read a book written by a Rabbi, one written by an ex-Catholic or, would you prefer one written by an active Priest?” (I think she got my point.) I guess what I’m trying to say is this – if you have questions or if you hear things that concern you, please come to me and ask me about it. I will give you an honest answer and, (as much as I want you to understand everything), I won’t push any information on to you that you do not ask for. I used to love our talks about the gospel and I miss them terribly. I don’t understand why we can’t continue with them even now.
I realize that you may not understand all this and that you are still very concerned about me serving a mission. Please know that the love, concern and prayers are greatly, greatly appreciated by me but please don’t worry about my heart being in the right place. I have, in fact, found exactly where I am supposed to be right now and what I need to do with my time. I know this with all my heart.
Looking back now, I realize the importance of the adversity I faced at this time. It really forced me to stand on my own two feet of my testimony and do some self reflection in determining if what I felt was of God or if it was just a whimsical decision. It helped me to gain a conviction and strength that I may not have obtained otherwise.
Your experiences are now inspiring others. I've been a member all my life and have never REALLY had to stand up for myself like you have. I've had to at moments, in front of friends or acquaintances but never to my family. I've never had to endure long periods of misunderstanding from loved ones. I've never had a true test of faith such as this. I commend you for your diligence, your faithfulness and your willingness to be what you were sent here to be. I'm privileged to know you and call you a friend.