I’m a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. By choice. I wasn’t born into the faith, but it came to me as a young person and I grabbed onto it with both hands and all of my heart. The Gospel saved my Life.
"All the tax collectors and sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and the scribes complained, saying, 'This Man receives sinners and eats with them.' So He spoke this parable to them, saying: 'What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?
“'And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”
My background is one of absolute textbook dysfunction: my parents were alcoholics; I went to bed many a night hungry, and unsure where my parents were, or if they would even be home when I woke up in the morning. For some months or periods of time, they didn’t come home at all… So when I say that the Gospel saved my life, I mean it.
From members of the Church, I learned what a happy home looked like and felt like. Their examples to me were priceless. I wanted what they had - an eternal family. Four years later, I married. It was not in the temple, because the man I married was not worthy to go to the temple. I made the decision to marry him anyway, and together, we prepared to go to the temple to be sealed. That process took five very long and busy years. We were in school, we started our family, we served in callings - eventually we served in the temple, and I loved it.
My husband struggled with pornography from the very beginning. I was ignorant about the long term effects, but knew how it affected me short term. We would have long discussions about his addictions (there was more than one), and his weepy confessions and promises of change were not lost on my heart. I loved him, and I wanted that “eternal family” experience, so I hung in there. There were problems that arose from his addictions - and on at least two occasions, I went to our Bishop about them. My embarrassment was so great, though, that I never addressed the actual addictions, just the symptoms from them. So the problems never went away, just as the addictions only intensified. Life became unbearable for me.
After more than a decade of being in that marriage, I’d had enough and decided divorce was my only option. I had to save myself and my children, before there was nothing left to save. This decision was met with a violent fit - my husband tossed me around like a ragdoll, cursing me, and leaving me in a pile on the floor. As he walked away, I stood up, battered and in pain, and said, “I still want a divorce. I’m done.”
Over a year passed, and the divorce was still not final. I honestly didn’t care. He was out of the house, and I was fine, but there was fall-out from Church. The members of our ward knew nothing of his addictions and abuse towards me and our children, and in their ignorance, shunned us.
There were the initial calls: “I heard you’re getting a divorce, what happened?” I was embarrassed to say anything beyond, “Thank you for your concern but this is between him and me.” I was called into the Bishop’s office, hoping for some guidance, and all I got was counsel to return to my spouse, to forgive and forget. When I refused that guidance, I was on my own. I started receiving anonymous letters in the mail. These letters condemned me for breaking up a marriage, for separating my children from their father, and outright called me a “hypocrite”, pledging my departure to hell. I cried at receiving them, and I turned them over to the Bishop. I still have no idea who wrote them, and there were more than one. People just had no
idea what I was going through or why I wanted to get away from that marriage.
Little by little, I fell away - first from the Church, by not going to all of my meetings - skipping Relief Society altogether because of the letters, and then before long, not attending anything but Sacrament on Sundays. Then, I started falling away from the Gospel. I took down all the pictures I had in my home of the temple, tossed out church books, and church music. Prayers went by the wayside too. I had failed to have an eternal family and I just gave up.
About that time, I met someone online. He lived far away and supplied the kindness I so desperately needed at the time. After many months, we met. He was not a LDS, and indeed was more of an antagonist of my faith, and yet, I accepted his friendship. I let my guard down, and my standards.
I put my garments away in my drawer, determined that the Gospel had failed me and I had failed it.
But because Heavenly Father loves His Children, I was not left by the wayside. A year later, I had a dream one night: I was walking up to my Bishop’s doorway and as I knocked, the door opened and there stood the Prophet of my youth, welcoming me inside with his arms around me telling me he was so happy to see me.
The dream was so real, that even though by this time, that Prophet had long been deceased, I knew it was a message from the Lord. I called my Bishop to meet with him. I wish I could say my meeting went really well. It was more of a scolding than anything else, but I did feel like I was doing the right thing by going and was glad I was there anyway.
I had clearly lost my way. I was the Lost Sheep.
Within two weeks, my Bishop hand-delivered a letter telling me that there was going to be a Bishop’s Court regarding my transgressions. I showed up at the Church that night, and waited in the lobby for him to come and get me. Emotionally, I was a mess. I knew I needed this, but I was afraid of the outcome. Physically, my stomach felt hollow and nauseas. Spiritually, I had been on my knees more in the past two weeks than I had been in the past year. I wanted only what the Lord wanted… I wanted Peace.
A Bishop’s Court is really what they say it is: a court of love. My Bishop and his Counselors were kind and patient with me as I explained why I was there and what had brought me there that evening. I did not address my ex-husband’s issues, just mine. The meeting was easily an hour long. Then I was excused to wait in the lobby while they sought through prayer what was to be done for my good. In the end, I was disfellowshipped. I felt relief at the news. It was a place to start over, and I welcomed it.
We moved shortly after that, and so I had to meet a new Bishop and relate my situation over again to him—but again, he was patient and supportive as I continued my renewed commitment to live the Gospel. It was through Disfellowshipment that I found out what the Gospel really means to me. I have a physical/spiritual reaction every time I hear the word “atonement”…my heart fills immediately with gratitude for my Savior’s love for me, a sinner. I also set firm boundaries in my life so I will NEVER get lazy or casual in my membership of the Kingdom of God. I do not look to the left or to the right. My feet are firmly in the straight and narrow way of the Lord. One year later, I was welcomed back into full fellowship. What an emotional day for me.
It’s been over a decade since that day, and since then my life has been blessed in so many ways, I can’t even believe it. My kids have served missions and married in the temple; I remarried an honorable, worthy man who took us all to the temple where we were sealed for time and all eternity, I have served worthily in the temple with my husband, and held many callings of service in the wards and stakes I have lived in over the years. I found peace. It took me a long time, but with Heavenly Father’s love, I was able to hand all that stinging guilt over to my Savior and accept Him as my Redeemer. He is my truest, dearest Friend.
When I hear that someone has gone through a church court, I am careful not to judge them. I can’t. I rejoice in my heart that they too, being the lost lamb, was sought out by the Savior and returned to the fold. I know who my Shepherd is, I know His voice and felt the power of His Redeeming love in my life.
“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.”