Since my baptism in August 2000, I have asked many questions about the gospel, church history, Mormon culture, and modern day revelation. I am often critical – as I also am of society in general. I am constantly aware of things we can do as a people, and as a Church, to be better. This questioning and critical lens come from a place of love for people and the Savior.
Until recently, despite my questions, I never wavered in my faith or testimony of truth. Indeed, asking questions has only served to strengthen my faith and understanding over time.
I can’t say exactly what caused me to really deeply question God – His existence, His love for me, His past and current answers to my prayers. It was a combination of so many things. I can say that I tried to keep Him close. I read, I prayed, I read, I prayed, I went to the temple, I did all I knew to do…and despite everything I did, I felt terribly, terrifyingly, alone. For months I wallowed in the darkness. The world, life, my foundations seemed to crumble beneath my feet.
And yet I prayed and sought answers in the scriptures.
And He answered.
First, a brief history. The first time I set foot in a Mormon church was in Italy. It was Fast Sunday, and I was traveling with dear friends. We sat in the back of a small chapel and listened to speakers through headsets (the missionaries translated so we could understand). There was a hymn in the middle of the service, “Lord, I Would Follow Thee.” I didn’t know the words, but I was so moved by the beauty of the song that I couldn’t stop crying (I’m not a crier, so this was surprising!).
My next time at church was the mission farewell for a friend from high school. “Lord, I Would Follow Thee” was part of the program. This was just one of many spiritual experiences that led to my decision to be baptized several weeks later.
We don’t sing this song very often at church. But, since the beginning, the Lord has given me this hymn when I most needed it. During the darkest, most challenging periods of my life, Hymn 220 is part of a service or lesson, and believe you me, it really gets the ugly tears flowing.
You can guess where this story is going.
The week before Easter, we had a women’s conference in our ward. We sang Hymn 220 and I ugly cried while wrestling Aila in my seat. As we sang, I felt the Lord’s arms around me, holding me, filling me with love. I felt him telling me He loved me. And just like that, the darkness began to lift. My doubts about Heavenly Father began to dissipate.
I felt the loving, guiding, holy influence of the Spirit in my heart again, and I have never been so overjoyed, grateful, appreciative and relieved.
At the time I thought, maybe this is my Golgotha. A time when the Spirit withdrew, when I felt foresaken…only to be reminded that I was never alone, that the Lord will always be with me. Life without the Spirit is not a life I want to live.
Easter weekend was a weekend full of light. And life has gotten even brighter in the following months.
I am so deeply grateful.
Here are some pics from our happy Easter Sunday.
Breakfast and General Conference:
Annual Bradshaw Easter Egg Hunt:
Family fun at Foothills Park: