I have been a member of the church all my life. In fact I am about a 6th generation Mormon, on BOTH sides of my family. Being a member all my life I have naturally taken my testimony for granted. From the time I was very little I knew what was expected of me and how my life was to play out. As a child, teenager and young adult, I also knew varying from the course would bring the disappointment of my parents as well as my grandparents, and a good old dose of Mormon guilt. I believed because my parents believed, because my grandparents believed, because everyone around me believed. I only recall one time where I did make a choice. I had a boyfriend in college who was not LDS. (Ok, so I did not totally do EVERYTHING that was expected of me.) I loved him and wanted to marry him, but I could not bring myself to do it because I knew I wanted to have children and did not think it would be fair to my kids to have them, know the truth, and then not raise them accordingly. (Ok, I guess I did have a testimony, otherwise that would not have mattered)
I have known my husband since high school and we have always been good friends. After I broke it off with the non-LDS guy I started dating my husband. After a LONG period of dating, (guess that should have been a clue) we got married. At the time we got married he was much more spiritual than me. Again I felt as if I was just going through the motions, like I had been doing for most of my life. I poo-pooed scripture study, because I never really developed a love of the scriptures, probably due to the tortured scripture study my parents forced us to engage in, which never resulted in any spiritual experiences, just torment for all involved. I thought the temple was a “little different,” and poo-pooed going back and doing sessions. Conference, yeah I would catch it if I could, unless something better came along. Ensign, it came to my house, and got opened once a month for determine what the visiting teaching message was. We lived apart due to work for the first few years of our marriage, so we never developed a good habit of praying together. Over the course of several years my husband began to adapt to my less than stellar attitude toward the Church and the check list of things I felt were an expectation to be a good Mormon. In many ways I wonder if I had been more diligent and faithful would he have started to question the Church? Probably, but maybe not as soon. It is a question I will never know the answer to and begs the question “Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate…without them what would shape our lives?”
As he began to question, I became more diligent and faithful, and I did not even realize I was doing it. It was little by little, over time. Suddenly we were at a cross roads. He reached the point where he did not want to return to church and wanted nothing to do with the Church. He began breaking covenants he made without remorse. He even at one point suggested that perhaps we could have an open marriage. I had a choice. It was clear that the Church and my husband could not both harmoniously co-exist in my life. I had to choose one or the other. Either choice would result in a new life for me. A life with him, living a very worldly existence, or a life without him, left alone in a Church where family values are the expected norm.
I chose the life without him. As much as I loved him and wanted to stay married to him, I could not deny what I knew to be true. I could not live a life that was not in harmony with my core beliefs. I could not give the Church up. It was then I realized how strong my testimony really was. It was not my parent’s testimony, it was not my grandparent’s testimony, it was MY testimony. I had a choice and I was grateful for that choice. I was grateful to be awakened from my slumber of going through the motions. I was grateful to feel spiritually alive. I knew it was the right choice for me.
Could the Lord have taught me that lesson in other ways? Probably. But then again, don’t our mistakes make our fate and shape our lives?