"So it was with me. I had actually seen a light, and in the midst of that light I saw two Personages, and they did in reality speak to me; and though I was hated and persecuted for saying that I had seen a vision, yet it was true; and while they were persecuting me, reviling me, and speaking all manner of evil against me falsely for so saying, I was led to say in my heart: Why persecute me for telling the truth? I have actually seen a vision; and who am I that I can withstand God, or why does the world think to make me deny what I have actually seen? For I had seen a vision; I knew it, and I knew that God knew it, and I could not deny it, neither dared I do it; at least I knew that by so doing I would offend God, and come under condemnation." - Joseph Smith HIstory 1:25.
Heavenly Father hasn't asked me to go through what Joseph Smith has. But I have been given my own cross to bear. I can learn much from the passion and intensity of that young prophet. I now know what it is to be hated and reviled for righteousness' sake...even by those who have the truth as well. I know what it is liked to be scorned and laughed at; to be told that I am crazy and out of my mind.
Yes, I know these all too well. And all because I refuse to deny what I know is true, and I refuse to break a promise that I made to my Father in Heaven. My unconditional love, my unwavering testimony, my genuine desire to serve, and my passion for the truth has not brought happiness and joy to my life in the temporal sense...on the contrary, I have known much heartache and despair; many nights on my knees praying...learning line upon line about truths I didn't yet know...realizing my place, my mission, and increasing my desire to love, to serve, and to teach the gospel.
Yet I am reviled and hated for it -- and not by enemies, but rather, by the very people I love the most.
I made a decision today. "Fear is not an option". I have been too scared and so focused on my feelings and on my self-preservation, and at risking "offending" someone, I would just remain quiet. Every missionary opportunity always backfires on me anyway...and people misunderstand the purity of my intentions for some sort of offensive attack on their personality or their choices. I can't seem to get across, no matter what I do or say, what I mean in my heart...and people just get so mad at me and convince themselves that I am judgmental and NOT to be trusted.
This has caused some considerable fear on my part when it comes to sharing the gospel. And you know what? I am more scared to share it and my testimony with someone who has already been baptized a Latter-Day Saint but is going through a difficult and confusing time than I am with someone who hasn't. Why? Because they tend to be the greatest persecutors of them all.
I can't allow my fear to continue. I said many prayers today, but they all centered on my uttermost desire to do the right thing. I am no longer willing to concern myself with how I feel, or how I am perceived, or how I am and will continue to be attacked. I am still scared, because if there is one power that a few select people have over me, it is the power of knowing how much I love them anod how much it terrifies me to anger or offend them. This fear has prevented me from doing or saying things I should, and has caused me to do or say things I shouldn't. But I cannot allow this to continue. I have never in my life asked God for what I did today, but I pleaded that He use me to fulfill my mission and my blessing -- even if it meant that I had to give up anything or everything in order to do so. I was finally willing to face all my fears of rejection and hate and to do the right thing, even if it meant more pain and despair in my future. Even if it meant initially offending or angering someone I loved. But as more time goes on, and more of my family and friends start to doubt their own testimonies, become inactive, make some wrong choices, and in some cases, completely remove themselves from the church...the more I see that the thing Heavenly Father has asked me to sacrifice in order to be there for these people, even when they don't want me to be, is of little consequence.
"10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
11 For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.
15 And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
16 And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!" Doctrine and Covenants 18:10-11, 15-16
Heavenly Father hasn't asked perfect people to teach and preach repentance. He has asked imperfect men and women to teach his Gospel and bring souls unto Him. Who better is there to reach out to others than other fallible human beings? Christ is the epidomy of perfection AND grace; for He truly knew the galls of bitterness, our pains and trials, and the sorrow for our sins. But mankind, we are ALL imperfect..and of course that is the very reason He died for us. But who better to teach His word of love and redemption than those who need it the most -- and have accepted it?
I certainly need his Atonement. I certainly am a grave sinner and utterly imperfect. But He loves me, and my worth in His eyes is beyond my comprehension. The least I can do for Him is to love His brothers and sisters unconditionally as well, and to do my best to lovingly reach out and "cry repentance" unto them. Because by doing so, I am also crying repentance unto myself.
I remember how scared I was when Jess was so angry with me concerning that whole Lord Valdemort business. I cried a lot during that period, but I knew, despite her anger, that I had done the right thing. To this day, she continues to be one of my best friends, and one I admire very much. She feels remorse for how she treated me, but as I told her, "I understood. I expected it, and it is forgotten". And that is true. I love her, and I loved her then, and she knows it. And for me, knowing that at least that time I put away my fears of her rejection and did what I had to do in order to help her, is what gives me great comfort and strength to continue doing so for others.
I know that I would want a friend or family member who loved me enough to do the same thing for me. In fact, I have been in that situation before...and while I was so angry and so hurt by how they were treating me, I eventually realized it was done simply because they loved me.
I cannot doubt and I cannot fear. I cannot allow Satan to win. Sometimes doing the right thing and loving someone so much does only bring pain and bitterness, but in the end, knowing that you did all you could and you did what Heavenly Father asked you to do makes it all worthwhile.
I'm thankful for these lessons. I guess even though I'm in the middle of some bitterness and persecution, I'm even thankful for it. I know it is helping me to become a better person.
I'm grateful that Reid and I are friends again. He has given me a few insights that have helped tremendously. I mean, this guy knows me well, and knows how "crazy" I can be:) But he too eventually saw the other side of the coin...and now we are friends. I'm grateful for his support, and for his ability to see past what he initially thought was my craziness and to see what was truly inside of me.
He reminded me that I am loved, and that I need not despair. How grateful I am to hear those words from a person who had hurt me so terribly in the past and thought ill of me at that time! What a miracle God's plan is; what a miracle repentance is; and what a miracle forgiveness is! It is truly like that pain never even happened. I remember it, but I remember it with peace. And I am awed and amazed that absolutely no grudges or mistrust are barriers to this growth or our friendship.
The greatest joy really does come from love and forgiveness. It does, because it is a realization of the Gospel; of God's plan, and it is true acceptance of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Yes, I have cried myself into despair tonight; I have been sworn at and reviled, but I feel no hate, no anger, and no shame. I am NOT a victim, and will no longer play one. I am who I am willing to become; even when life hands me lemons. I will not allow others or their intolerance, misunderstanding or hatred to dictate who I am or how I feel about myself. I will not let heredity, social and cultural circumstances, mistrust or fear ultimately decide my fate. I am the master of my self-esteem and my sense of worth. I know who I am, and I know my worth in the eyes of God. I am "one soul", and I am precious beyond measure. I know that it is my duty and responsibility to teach this to others; to help them recognize who they are, and what their divine potential is. I may not know how I will do it, and I may not know why I have been given this task. But what I do know is that my knowledge is the truth. I know that God loves me..that He loves us. I know that I am doing what is right. And that is all that matters.