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Loving My Friends as They Are

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Sister Lloyd, me & Sister Johnson

I remember the nervousness that overcame me not long after I felt the impression to seek out and listen to the Missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They talk a lot about “being in the world, but not of the world,” but all of my friends were “of the world,” none of my family were members of The Church (except my granddaughters) and most of my friends had “alternative lifestyles.” When I decided I wanted and needed to be Baptized, I prayed constantly about the situation with my friends. How could I tell my friends I was now a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, would they want to be my friends anymore? Did that matter?

During my repentance process in the weeks before my Baptism, I was relatively quiet on Facebook, a social media outlet where I had spent an inordinate amount of time during the previous 5 years accumulating an audience for my writing. At times I had been known to make a spectacle out of myself, becoming rather dramatic about loves and losses and pain and pleasures. I had been known for “letting it all hang out.” How could I reconcile my previous behavior with the life I wanted, no, needed to create and begin to live? I prayed more.

The answers came gradually, but they came. I was impressed to read “The Articles of Faith.” They all rang so true in my heart that not only did my “bosom begin to burn” but I also wept with joy several times. Then I came to the 11th:

“We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

The second part of that statement, “and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may [emphasis added]” caused me to completely lose my cool. I broke down and cried loudly; I bawled. Why? Because it was an answer to my prayers. There was NOTHING in the church Doctrine that said I had to exclude those who worshiped differently from myself from my life, ABSOLUTELY the opposite!!!

Articles of Faith Library Copy

Relief filled my soul. But what about all of the people who followed my social media? Now that I no longer practiced alternative beliefs, should I even be “out there” in the public? What about all of my photos and the things I posted?

As I began to hint about my baptism on social media some people I thought were my friends were quick to delete me from their connections, I cried but continued to pray about it. I didn’t want to lose friends, but those people who had “unfriended” me weren’t acting like friends. My prayers to my Heavenly Father continued, so did my tears.

I deleted hundreds of photos of myself that embarrassed me from my social media accounts and  I prayed to know if I should continue with an online presence. After all, it would have been easier just to delete the accounts.

The impression I felt from the Holy Ghost was persistent: I needed to be LOUDER about my conversion than I was my sins.

I was at a loss how to accomplish that. The year before my Baptism was quite humiliating as I looked back upon my own inequity to others in addition to myself. I continued to pray and study my scriptures.

Then came the answer: Start a blog about your conversion to The Church. Share your feelings about God and your faith and be honest with those who follow you. 

My unease continued even after I started the FIRST iteration of Slightely Mormon on Blogger. Then, in June 2013, came a directive in video conference form to ALL the Missionaries and the Missionary Members of The Church. This was the answer I had been awaiting. It was a confirmation of the personal revelation I had received from the Holy Spirit.

In a few weeks, it will have been 4 years since I sought out Missionaries to receive the lessons leading to my Baptism. In the subsequent years I have “cleaned up my act” on Facebook and other social media outlets, but I am louder than ever! I want the world (including my friends) to know HOW being a Mormon has changed my life!

In the last six years, I have worked hard not to alienate my friends and family. It’s difficult to convey to them how much I love ALL of them and I respect what they chose to believe in, all of that is part of them and I love them. img_20170204_093448_445.jpg

I had an opportunity to travel with a very dear friend of mine recently. Cub, as he likes to be called, is a professional photographer and acted as my assistant on a recent trip. In our travels across the country, we incurred our number of odd looks at us, but he helped me to see my world through different eyes. I saw judgment from my fellow church members when they watched him light a cigarette, I felt their stares and disapproval in both of our directions. That made me incredibly sad.

We visited the Ft. Lauderdale Temple towards the end of our time together. I asked Cub to take some photos of me when I was done with my session; he enthusiastically complied. When we were finished with our pictures another temple patron asked him to take her photo. Cub graciously agreed to do so.

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The first share on Instagram

While he was doing that act of service, I took a few snapshots myself for social media. I shared it first on Instagram as “Cubby doing service at the Temple,” then, after talking it over with Cub, I shared it again on my Facebook page and to a group called Facebook group focusing on members of The Church with an additional introduction:

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The second photo, captioned for Facebook

For a while, I almost felt like I was exploiting my friend and his service. Although he had given his consent for both photos to be shared on the internet inclusive of my comment about his lifestyle, he had not asked for the photo to be taken.

While Cub probably wished I had allowed him to continue his nap in the car, I felt it was important. There was a lesson here for not only me. I am not ashamed of my friends. I love each and every one of them. Not in spite of their beliefs or their actions, but as WHOLE people with different ideas about life and different understandings of the universe.

We read in John 13:34 that Jesus Christ himself told us:

 34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

I believe that His love is unconditional. That is something I try to work towards each and
every day.  I am so grateful to ALL of my diverse friends, like Cub, who help me to remember what my Heavenly Father commanded me to do.

(This article was previously published on Sister Maggie)

 

Meet The Earls a Love Story

Audrey and Andrew Earl

Meet The Earls a Love Story
By Audery Earl
It All Started in January 2014
I was a missionary and was called to serve in the California Anaheim Mission. I had been on my mission for 6 months and I had just got transferred to a new area. In this new area, we didn’t have a car and our mode of transportation was a bike. As you can probably imagine, grocery shopping and biking back to your apartment with all those bags do not work. Thankfully my companion knew a girl our age, Linda and she took the sister missionaries almost every Monday to get groceries (thank goodness).

We went to the local Walmart and my companion is looking for some food down an aisle. I am following her as I talk with Linda and I get to know her. Linda is also asking me some questions and she finds out where I’m from and then she starts to tell me about this boy. He served his mission in Anaheim as well but a few years ago AND he’s also from the same town that I am from. She tells me right then and there that I am going to marry that boy.  My instant reaction: No way. I don’t even know him. And who is this girl?

She asks me to email him. My thought process is thinking, “Why would I write a guy I’ve never met?” and other things along that line.  She gives me his email and I didn’t do a single thing with it. That night she called him, told him that he is going to marry this sister missionary that she just met and that he needs to email me. He also refused. He didn’t want to freak me out.

This goes on for about a month. Linda is showing me pictures of him on Facebook. “Do you think he’s cute?” “He is going to graduate this year.” “He speaks  Vietnamese.” “He has a good job.” I was getting the 411 on this boy.

After much pestering from Linda and my companion, I decided to email him. Every week Linda would ask if I emailed him yet and it was always a no. I could finally tell her, yes and then I would not hear much more about it. My email to him was really awkward, “Hi! It’s Sister Clifton- Linda’s friend. I told her I would email you so I am!” (how else are you going to explain to this random email to a guy that you’ve never met?) He responds a few minutes later, “Yes, hi! Linda is so funny! How are you?”

And that was the start. We emailed and got to know each other. Our emails became longer and we emailed for about 5 months but then I stopped. This emailing thing was taking too much time. I didn’t even know him. I would much rather email my family, go grocery shopping, go hiking, or some other activity. Our free time was so rare that emailing him was not at the top of my priority list.

Fast forward to a year later since Linda first told me about Andrew and my mission is almost over. I was saying goodbye to Linda and she told me that I should email Andrew again and invite him to my homecoming.  I laughed and told her no.

I came home and I decided that if I were going to ever meet Andrew, my homecoming talk was probably the least awkward way to do it. The day before I emailed him a quick invite and then  I completely forgot about it. During my homecoming, I saw so many people. Ones that I hadn’t seen for a couple of years and somewhere missionaries from my mission. Sacrament meeting was over and I was talking with some of my friends in the back. I see this guy come towards me and I instantly knew it was Andrew. Linda had shown me his picture so much, his face was ingrained in my memory.

“Hi, I’m Andrew.”
“I know.” (I was so awkward!)
We made small talk for about a minute and the next thing I know I’m inviting him over to my house for the open house, something that I vowed to myself not to do. That failed.

He hung around my missionary friends and they all had no clue who he was. One of my previous companions was saying that he liked me. How awkward was that? We took pictures of all the Anaheim missionaries who were there. People told him to join in and I thought, “Get out.” He was in the picture.  He asked for my number and I had my mom give it to him because I had no clue what my new number was. We then got a picture of just the two of us to send to Linda. Linda freaked out and the amount of heart, marriage, and love emoji’s (some involving children) that were sent back was insane.

Later that week I get a call from him but I was busy so I missed it. I needed to call him back. My heart was so nervous when I called him. How would I even talk to him? He answered and he asked me out for a date a few days later. The date comes and he was late! ha. We went to a BYU basketball game and since he hadn’t eaten dinner we went to Cinnamon afterward. He drove me home and we talked in his car outside my house for hours. We finally decided to call it a night.

Our second date was Vietnamese food and Nickle City. On the way to Nickle City, I thought he was taking me home and realized that I did not want the date to end because I wanted more time with him. Thankfully that was not the case and we played games and bought mustaches with our winning tickets.

Dates continued and thus began the start of mine and Andrew’s “romantic” relationship. We got along so well and had so many things in common. The next few months came with road trips, dating, embarrassing moments (I’m full of them), long distance, and falling more in love with each other. We realized that what we wanted the most was to be together, as Andrew and Audrey Earl, for time and all eternity.

On January 16, 2016, Andrew made me one of the happiest girls on earth when he got down on one knee and asked me to marry him.

Who would have ever thought that I would marry that temporary pen-pal of mine? (besides Linda)
This love is ours and we cherish it deeply.

Whatever souls are made of, his and mine are the same.

Earls Ever After

Audery Introduced Dennis too one of the most inspirational books I’ve ever read. by Al Carraway