Thursday, March 26, 2015

Strep by Strep

A couple of weeks ago, Melanie came down with strep throat. She’s well past the contagious stage, but the symptoms linger. Her voice still isn’t back to normal, and she still coughs more than usual. She’s a lot peppier, though. That’s nice.

Last Friday, Eddie stayed home from school because he wasn’t feeling well. By Saturday, all of the kids had fevers and were coughing, though Creegan was faring much better than Eddie and Peter. We stayed home from church on Sunday and canceled our social plans. On Monday, Eddie seemed a little better, but Peter was worse. We kept them both home from school. Beegy was still doing pretty well in comparison.

Being about a day behind Eddie, Peter stayed home again on Tuesday, but Eddie went to school. He (Eddie) was still coughing a decent amount, but the fevers had subsided and he seemed in relatively good spirits. But by Tuesday night, his eyes were looking cloudy, a fever had returned, and it was clear he wasn’t doing well. He went to sleep on the couch, earlier than normal, which was very unusual for him. Peter was even more extreme. He went to sleep barely after 3 PM and woke up only a few times, for very brief periods of time, until the next morning. Even Creegan was coughing a lot more than he had been before.

I took all three kids to the doctor on Wednesday. It was a hellish experience. Beegy doesn’t handle doctor visits well at all. He freaks out and screams and resists everything. Even having his ears checked, which isn’t a big deal. I knew having his throat swabbed was not going to be pretty. And it wasn’t. We had to try multiple times, with me holding him on my lap, trying somehow to hold his head in place and his arms still. He kicked the nurse pretty hard. I don’t think she was too happy about it. I’m not sure she even got a good swab, but it was good enough for her. Eddie and Peter had already had their throats swabbed by the time I went through this charade with Beegy. Because Beegy took so much concentrated effort, I didn’t even notice that Peter had vomited all over the floor, a delayed gag reflex brought on by the probing swabs. “I know my youngest child just kicked you super hard in the stomach, nurse, but would you mind wiping up my other child’s barf now?” That’s basically the situation I was dealing with. All three kids were bawling at this point—Creegan because of everything, Peter because he had puked, and Eddie because everybody else was freaking out. Good thing nobody was taking my blood pressure. I would’ve been hospitalized.

When the doctor came in, she happily informed me that all three boys tested negative for strep. She said it was incredibly unlikely that all three would come back as a false negative, so she was quite confident in her diagnosis.  All we could do is try to keep the boys comfortable while they let whatever viral infection had attacked them pass. We got some ice cream from the drive-thru window at Arctic Circle on the way home. The world seemed a much better place than it had 30 minutes earlier.

At the doctor’s recommendation, we kept Eddie and Peter home from school yet again today. The doctor had said only that we should definitely keep them home if they continued to have a fever, and that we should probably keep them home if their coughing continued to be extreme. Both Eddie and Peter had had fevers on Wednesday night, and the coughing was still intense. So, one more day at home. I took comfort in the assumption that they’d be back to school tomorrow. Surely, they’d be feeling better by then.

Melanie got a call from the doctor this afternoon. It turns out Eddie and Peter do have strep throat. Beegy’s still shows as negative, but apparently it can take up to two days for strep to show on their test. So, it’s quite possible he does have it, especially when you consider that his throat swab may have been less than adequate. The good news is, Eddie and Peter now have prescription antibiotics that will hopefully nip this thing in the bud. Beegy’s fate remains up in the air—he’s still coughing a decent amount—but it’s quite possible we can resume normal life within the next couple of days. The antibiotics will make Eddie and Peter innocuous to others, so we can actually leave the house and do something (besides visit a doctor’s office and puke on the floor).

Wait … what if I get sick? Oh dear. Let’s not go there. So far, I’m doing pretty well. I’ve felt a little congested, and my throat hasn’t felt 100% normal, but I’ve been that way for several days without deterioration. Melanie doesn’t remember it, but I swear she once had strep and I never caught it, even though we were cuddling and kissing like lovesick fools. (A quick search of my blog history reveals that Melanie had strep throat in November 2004 and February 2005, with me remaining healthy both times.) I even hypothesized that I had somehow made myself immune by making out with her. We probably don’t make out like we used to, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed. I’ll also hold out hope that the antioxidants I’m ingesting from my ongoing tea binge will help. You never know.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Adventures of an Amateur Tea Drinker

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, I had my first sip of tea in 20+ years. I wrote about it the next day and promised I’d let you know how my adventures as a tea drinker continued to unfold. Since then, I have had some form of tea almost every single day. I’m completely sold on it. I feel healthier drinking it. No joke. This shouldn’t be a surprise, as tea is known to have some incredible health benefits. But I didn’t know I’d feel the effects so quickly. More on this in a moment.

The first tea I tried after my last blog post on tea was a chai latte. I got it from Beans & Brews. It was phenomenally good, just as I had hoped for. It’s like cinnamon-sugar-honey-vanilla hot chocolate, but without the chocolate. Darn good stuff. A couple of days later, I tried the Teavana® Oprah Chai Tea Latte from Starbucks. I would describe it as a brighter, slightly more fragrant version of the chai latte I got from Beans & Brews. It reminded me very much of apple cider, but without the slight tart of apple. It also had a rather strong black pepper taste to it that I rather liked. It tickled the throat on its way down. A couple of days later, I was back at Beans & Brews, having yet another chai latte. This time I went in the morning by my dang self and had “scripture study” as I drank my tea. Ha ha. Times have changed. It was a really nice experience, I must say. I could get used to it.

At this point, my tea drinking went cold. That is, I returned to drinking iced tea almost exclusively. I got some Lipton® Tea & Honey Blackberry Pomegranate Iced Green Tea packets from the grocery store. It’s super good. If you’ve had Crystal Light, it’s very much along the same lines. But it’s better somehow. There is an almost toasty quality to the flavor, I’m tempted to say. I really, really like it. We’ve tried to keep ourselves stocked up on this product now. I credit this tea with the health benefits I’ve experienced, but again, I’ll come back to that in a minute. I’ll note here that I’ve also tried Crystal Light Raspberry Green Tea, which wasn’t that great, and from a bottle, Diet Snapple Peach Tea, which was even less enjoyable.

On Friday the 13th, Melanie and I took the kids to Fashion Place Mall to see the many Lego sculptures on display. While there, we figured we’d hit Teavana once again. Melanie had iced tea, a blend of two different kinds of herbal teas. I don’t remember what flavors she had, but the result was sensational (even if not real tea). I went for a hot tea, opting for Toasted Nut Brulee Oolong Tea, which the Teavana employee told me would taste like an oatmeal cookie. I requested it as a latte (i.e. with milk), but it was a hectic situation and they overlooked that. It was pretty good, but it benefitted greatly from a dash of Half & Half, which I added after stopping at a 7-Eleven when my tea was nearly gone. (I didn’t stop for the sake of the Half & Half, by the way.) The cool thing is, the tea bag thing (can’t remember what they called it officially) was left inside my drink so I could re-use the tea leaves. (Apparently, you can usually get 3–4 “infusions” out of the same tea leaves.) Reusing those tea leaves, I’ve had tea and toast for breakfast on three of the last four days. This morning, I splashed it with some Irish Crème creamer, which was quite nice. The tea had gotten a little weak, but it was still nice.

Yesterday, Melanie and I took advantage of a BOGO at Starbucks and tried, at the recommendation of a friend, a Green Tea Crème Frappuccino® Blended Crème. (We didn’t say all that when we ordered, for the record. We’re not that snobby.) It was like a green tea milkshake, basically. Which means it sort of tasted like a grass or hay milkshake, but in a yummy way. Yeah, I know. But it really is good, somehow.

So, let me tell you why I already feel much healthier drinking tea. For one thing, my desire for Diet Mountain Dew has dissipated to a surprising degree. I am drinking less soda, and I think my stomach feels more at ease because of it. I also feel happier. And yes, various sources will tell you that tea can help with anxiety and depression, which is something I’ve struggled with. Recently, I was going to set up a doctor appointment to see about getting on drugs. Lately, I don’t feel a need for that. Could it be the tea? I really think so, at least in part. And I’m much more content to drink tea than pop pills! And finally, I think tea is staving off gout flare-ups for me. Gout flare-ups can really, really suck. They can be very painful. They’re no joke. Well, about a week ago, my big toe was starting to swell and ache. That usually means I’m going to be in for at least a couple of days of discomfort, if not a week of hell. But it went away almost immediately. I was very pleased and thought it might have been nothing. Well, a day or two later, I go without any tea for the first time in several days. By that night, my toe was aching worse than it had a few days earlier. So, the next day, I resume drinking tea. There goes the pain. This isn’t something I’m making up, either. The anti-inflammatory properties are yet another health benefit of tea. Really, I’m tempted to say drinking tea has been one of the best moves of my life. I can’t believe how it’s impacting me for the better. It’s the best medicine I’ve ever discovered, and the only one I’m keen to take. Here’s to tea!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Coming Soon: Nauvoo

I’m sooooo excited. Approximately two hours ago, I got off the phone with the historic sites coordinator for Community of Christ. I had applied for a fellowship that would involve living in Nauvoo, Illinois for part of this upcoming summer, giving tours for the church. Although I was quite confident I’d get into the program, I didn’t know officially until now. But I’m in! I made it! I’ll be spending a chunk of my summer in Nauvoo as an employee of Community of Christ! Woo hoo!

The fellowship typically lasts from late May until mid-August, but due to my family situation, I’ll be able to participate in a limited capacity between late June and early August. Truth be told, I’d love to do this even if I had to do it for free by myself. But, as luck would have it, I’ll be paid and I get to take my whole family with me! They’ll put us up in some family housing, probably in some historic residence or another. If that weren’t exciting enough, I’ve been told that by the time we arrive, Nauvoo is likely to have a grocery store! Double woo hoo! And wifi! Triple woo hoo!

One component of the fellowship involves taking a course on church history. The class is likely to begin before I arrive in Nauvoo, but I’m encouraged to participate once I get there, and I definitely want to. I don’t need the college credit that I would get for the class if I were there for the full thing, so that’s not a concern. It doesn’t sound like it’s mandatory for me to participate in the course, given my situation, but the historic sites coordinator sounds really eager for me to be a part of everything. He seems to think I can contribute a lot to the class, as well as to the fellowship more generally. He said he thinks I’ll be really good for the program and that the program will be really good for me. I think he really meant it, and I’m flattered. I feel the same way.

This is really terrific timing for this kind of opportunity to arise. For one thing, I’ve never been as interested in church history as I am today. But more importantly, I think it will be extremely poignant to spend my summer in a city whose history is a rich part both of the religious institution I am in the midst of leaving (the LDS Church) and the religious institution into which I am currently moving (Community of Christ). Granted, I could visit Nauvoo 10 years from now and it would still have that historical relevance. But I don’t think it would strike me the same way as it will right now, when I am at a crossroads in my own life. Nauvoo is like the physical, geographical manifestation of that crossroads, in about as literal a fashion as is possible. In many respects, it is the city where the two faith traditions split. I struggle to articulate my feelings, but suffice it to say, I really think there will be something very existentially profound about my living in Nauvoo, working for Community of Christ, and this particular juncture in my life. I’m deliriously happy about it.

*Note: that lovely photo at the top of this post is credited to Michael Whiffen and is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Joining the Tea Party

Orthodox Mormons obey what’s called the “Word of Wisdom,” a health code given by revelation to Joseph Smith and later canonized by the LDS Church. More precisely, orthodox Mormons obey what has become the standard interpretation of the Word of Wisdom, an interpretation that one could easily argue is a far cry from what’s contained in the actual canonized revelation. For most Mormons, obeying the Word of Wisdom means not drinking any coffee, tea, or alcohol whatsoever and abstaining from the use of tobacco and illicit narcotics (and probably marijuana even if, when, and where it becomes legalized). In the traditional Mormon mind, that’s really all it takes to follow the Word of Wisdom. This is important, because adherence to the Word of Wisdom is a requirement of entering an LDS temple, and participating in temple rituals and ordinances is a pre-requisite to obtaining maximal blessings in the afterlife. Few Mormons give a second thought to the Word of Wisdom’s prohibition against eating meat outside of times of famine and cold. Few Mormons are even aware that the Word of Wisdom specifically allows for the drinking of beer. And then there is the philosophical problem of making mandatory adherence to a revelation that explicitly declares itself non-mandatory. If I’m forced to obey something that says not to treat itself like a commandment, doesn’t that just mean I should continue treating it like it’s not a commandment???

But my concern here today is with the Word of Wisdom’s supposed condemnation of coffee and tea. The Word of Wisdom never mentions coffee and tea by name. Instead, it states that “hot drinks are not for the body or belly” (D&C 89:9). LDS Church leaders later declared that “hot drinks” should be understood as coffee and tea. This interpretation can be confusing, however, because iced coffee and iced tea—and maybe even coffee ice cream—apparently fall under the rubric of “hot drinks,” while scalding hot herbal teas and beverages such as Postum and mate do not. The language of the revelation also raises the question of who, if anyone, ever used coffee and tea on his/her body. The fact that the Word of Wisdom discourages “hot drinks” from being used on the body makes the interpretation of “hot drinks” as coffee and tea all the more tenuous.

I have long been skeptical of the standard LDS interpretation of “hot drinks.” Though nobody ever suggested it to me, I started to believe that if there were any credence to this particular piece of the Word of Wisdom, it probably referred to the literal temperature of a beverage. Don’t drink really hot stuff. It’s not good for your body. That makes sense to me, and it’s a documented fact that hot beverages pose certain health risks related specifically to temperature.1  When I came to Community of Christ, I was pleased to learn that they too interpret “hot drinks” as referring to temperature. It’s what I already believed. Of course, as a practicing Mormon, I kept to the standard LDS interpretation of the Word of Wisdom. Even though I felt it was a distorted version of the revelation itself, I believed it would be dishonest of me to do things my own way while reporting to others that I obey the Word of Wisdom—when being interviewed for a temple recommend, for example. It wasn’t burdensome to me. I had tried coffee, iced tea, and alcohol (albeit just a wine cooler) when I was in junior high. I hated coffee and I didn’t really care about the wine cooler. I quite liked iced tea, and I was sad to think it couldn’t be among my usual beverage options. But I didn’t consider it a big deal to abstain from any of these things.

Well, although I’m still technically a Mormon, the fact that I’m converting to Community of Christ means I’m not really concerned about the LDS interpretation of the Word of Wisdom. And that means I’ve been able to spend some time over the last couple of weeks expanding my beverage horizons. Conveniently, Chick-fil-A has been offering free coffee during the month of February. So, on a recent visit, Melanie and I decided to get a vanilla iced coffee and try it together. I figured vanilla iced coffee stood as good a chance of tasting yummy as any coffee drink possibly could. But it didn’t taste yummy. To me, coffee tastes like extremely burned food. Like food that has burned to the point of being pitch black and no longer has any resemblance to food whatsoever. It’s pretty awful. People have told me some other coffee drinks to try, saying things like, “This one doesn’t taste like coffee at all!” or “That one tastes like hot chocolate!” To which I think, “Why not just drink hot chocolate, then?” If you’re not drinking coffee for the flavor, it seems sort of silly to me to drink it at all. So, I think coffee’s out for me, although I’m not against trying something else if it’s ever convenient and pretty much free for me to do so.

Tea has proven a much more promising avenue. Melanie recently got a raspberry iced tea with lunch, giving me my first taste in 20+ years and her her first taste ever. I liked it very much. I like that iced tea has a kind of smooth quality to it. It’s not thin like water. There’s more to it, and yet it’s not carbonated. That’s a nice alternative to have, and I look very much forward to having more iced tea in my life. More on that in a moment.

I’m still on the fence about hot tea. Meaning, I’m still not sure how much I care about it. Thankfully, I don’t hate it. Melanie and I met up with my sister Khrystine and her husband Saeed yesterday at City Creek Mall (thanks for building it, LDS Church!) to do some tea sampling at a tea store called Teavana. Khrystine and Saeed are tea drinkers, so they know what they’re doing. Melanie and I had to spend a good deal of time looking around, trying samples, and smelling tea leaves to come to a decision as to what to try. A few of the teas smelled amazingly good. The guy working at the store, who was very gracious in helping us out, recommended to me a blend of Spice of Life White Tea and MatéVana Herbal Tea. I had it hot, with cream. I didn’t know what was in these teas, I just knew they smelled fantastic. The resulting concoction wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t anything amazing to me, sadly. I wished it were creamier, and I was surprised that it tasted so much like ginger, which I hadn’t noticed when smelling the tea leaves. In fact, I’m a little stumped, because the descriptions of the teas I read online don’t really match what I tasted. According to Teavana’s website, Spice of Life is a “sweet and spicy citrus infusion with satisfying coconut undertones.” I would not have guessed my drink had anything to do with citrus or coconut. The MatéVana is said to be “coffee-like … sweetened with cocoa and chocolate chips.” Thankfully, I didn’t notice a coffee flavor, and the chocolate was mild.

Melanie’s tea struck me as a more vibrant version of my own, although hers also reminded me a little bit of those raspberry chocolate sticks that are popular around Christmastime (and which I think are pretty gross). Of course, that description doesn’t make a lot of sense based on the flavors Melanie chose, neither of which had anything to do with raspberry. Also at the recommendation of the friendly tea shop employee, Melanie had a blend of two herbal teas (served hot with cream): Caramel Almond Amaretti and CocoCaramel Sea Salt. The former flavor boasts of having “sweet candied apple and coconut with notes of caramel and cinnamon.” If anything, I think the apple is what made the flavor of Melanie’s more “vibrant” to me. Melanie very much enjoyed her tea. By the time I was finishing mine, I was enjoying it well enough. I just wouldn’t normally desire to have such a strong ginger flavor. It wasn’t what I had anticipated. Melanie says she liked mine, but she definitely liked hers better.

Eager to try out more tea flavors, Melanie and I took the kids tonight to Fashion Place Mall, which also has a Teavana. Having done a little bit of research, I knew what I wanted: an iced Blackberry Mojito Green Tea. After smelling a few options, Melanie went with an iced Jade Citrus Mint Green Tea. Melanie’s had a very strong eucalyptus tone to it. Mine was nice and much more up my alley than any other Teavana tea I’ve tried. Khrystine told me yesterday that all teas have a kind of grassy flavor to them, which certainly seems true. It’s kind of straw-like. I described my drink as tasting like “a fruit snack that spent some time rolling around in a barn.” The comparison to fruit snacks actually came courtesy of Eddie. Yes, Eddie tried Melanie’s and my teas. Preceding our outing to the mall, we had Family Home Evening—a Mormon weekly tradition of having a miniature spiritual lesson and/or fun activity together as family—and informed our kids that their mom and dad might drink tea from time to time and it wasn’t anything to be worried about. Eddie seemed a bit uncertain of that, but once we had the teas in our hands, he was jonesing to try them himself. He loved mine and kept asking for another swallow. He was clearly getting a kick out of the fact that he was drinking tea. It was quite fun for him. He was pretty good at deconstructing the flavors, too. He said a lot more about it than that it tasted like a fruit snack; he talked about the way the flavor would change in your mouth, going from “strawberry” to “cherry” (his interpretation, not mine), etc., etc., etc. Peter also tried our drinks, but never said much about them and refused subsequent offers. He must not have cared much. Beegy never wanted to try them at all.

So that’s that. I’ve still got a few flavors I want to try. High on my list is a classic chai latte. According to Teavana, “chai spice is generally a combination of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves and vanilla, among other spices.” Can you imagine that served with hot milk? Sounds divine! I’ll be sure to let you know how much I like it. In the meantime, I’ll conclude by sharing a few photos taken earlier tonight. Enjoy!


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What I Want People to Know about My Faith Transition

If you’ve been reading my blog or conversing with me in person at all over these last few months, you know that I’ve been going through a faith transition. Really, that’s a problematically vague description. Any time a person changes or grows in regard to spirituality, that is a kind of faith transition. But some faith transitions are more drastic and condensed than others. For me, the last few years have been particularly significant. And, even within that timeframe, these last few months have been especially important. The long and the short of it is that I have converted (all but formally, at least for now) from the LDS Church to Community of Christ. But even that is an oversimplification of the journey that I’ve been on. Unfortunately, such an oversimplification is likely to drive the opinions of those in my life who will see this as a tragedy. It is unlikely that I can sway the opinion of these people, but perhaps I can disabuse them of some misconceptions that might exist surrounding such a monumental change in my life. For that purpose, I’d now like to present a list of things I hope those who know me can understand and accept about my faith transition. Here we go:

This has been a long time coming. Some people cannot help but be taken off-guard when someone they care about announces a change as significant as the one I have announced. The shock can make people feel as though the change is coming from out of nowhere. There may be some panic involved, and in turn, they may suppose the person making the change is acting hastily or having a knee-jerk reaction either to a very positive experience (associated with a new religion, for example) or a very negative experience (associated with one’s former religion, for example). They may even plead with the person making the change to “slow down” and “think things through,” as if that person is acting on a whim that has only recently appeared. This is not the case for me. Obviously, nobody can know what my thoughts and experiences have been over the last several years, but it is evident to me that joining with Community of Christ is a step that follows naturally from the thousands of steps I have already taken on a journey long since underway. With the 20/20 vision of hindsight, it is readily apparent to me that this is all part of one continuous, spiritual progression. Though I wouldn’t have predicted this outcome, I can now see my spiritual journey of the last few years as one fluid arc.

My family and I truly are happy. It is not uncommon for Mormons to say how much joy being a member of the LDS Church brings them. Often, these same Mormons express sincere bafflement as to how those who belong to other religions can possibly be happy. When it comes to people leaving the LDS Church, many a devout Mormon will testify that such persons cannot truly be as happy as they once were. If they think they’re as happy as they once were, they must be deluded. There is no other way. It is simply beyond the realm of possibility, according to traditional Mormons. Well, I guess if anyone holds that view, I’m wasting my proverbial breath here, but I assure you: I am happier than I have been in a long, long time. So is my wife. So are my kids. In our early days of visiting Community of Christ, we intended to trade off between Community of Christ and attending our normal LDS church services. We ended up visiting Community of Christ a few times in a row before returning to LDS church. When we told our kids on Sunday morning that we were going to LDS church, my six-year-old was sorely disappointed. “We’re not going to Community of Christ?” he said with heartbreak in his voice. Our entire family has loved it there and has felt a tremendous difference in our day-to-day lives as a result. Our kids are eager to participate in ways they never did at LDS church. We aren’t pressuring them or brainwashing them to behave differently. They just feel differently. As does Melanie. As do I. Community of Christ is one of the best things that has ever happened to us.

Nobody pressured me into making this decision. The people at Community of Christ are among the most laidback people I have ever met. There were no high-pressure sales techniques used on us when we first visited. Nobody challenged us to read Community of Christ materials or asked us to commit to attending church services or getting baptized. Nobody stood at the pulpit and declared Community of Christ the one and only true church on the face of the earth, the one to which everyone must belong or forfeit blessings in the afterlife. I could not possibly have been less pressured—whether explicitly or implicitly, directly or indirectly—to join with or conform to Community of Christ. I also want to make it clear that Melanie has not pressured me to join Community of Christ, even though she has been ahead of me in this whole conversion process. This is worth mentioning, because I know I used to be somewhat suspicious of spouses whose faith transitions happened to align so perfectly. “How could it be that they both felt converted to a new religion, at the same time? What are the odds? One of them must be influencing the other! One of them must just be going along with it! They must never have had solid testimonies of the LDS Church in the first place! Two people don’t just change their minds about the exact same thing at the exact same time!” Such were my thoughts. I’m embarrassed by them now; they strike me as horribly naïve. Clearly, Melanie and I have talked a lot about our experiences. But Melanie fully supported me when I initially said that I would attend Community of Christ with her only once per month because I intended to—and fully presumed that I would—remain LDS for the rest of my life. As my feelings shifted, it had nothing to do with my desire to attend the same church as Melanie, although that is obviously a huge bonus. I committed to Community of Christ only after the Spirit continually witnessed to me that I was being called there.

My beliefs haven’t changed as much as you might suppose. This is something I think few people will understand. But it’s true: my theological beliefs haven’t really changed all that much. And I really don’t think they’ve changed at all since discovering Community of Christ, except on perhaps a couple of minor points. I still believe in the power of the priesthood. I’ve had profound experiences with the priesthood that I will never deny. I still embrace the Book of Mormon as a miraculous and prophetic volume of scripture. I cherish the eternal truths that I find therein, and I draw nearer to Christ when I read its pages. I still find beauty, value, and significance in LDS ordinances, including those performed in LDS temples. God has spoken to me in profound ways at the temple, and the role it has played in my faith journey—even during this latest transitional phase—cannot be overstated. For these reasons, plenty of my LDS friends and family will wonder how I can possibly leave the LDS Church. There is no way I can adequately speak to that concern within a simple blog post. It would likely require me to write my autobiography, which I have no immediate plans to do. Suffice it to say, nothing about my converting to Community of Christ requires me to give up the beliefs I have just expressed. It is true that I will no longer be allowed to enter an LDS temple, which I will miss. It is true that many LDS folk will now deny that I have access to legitimate priesthood authority. I reject this, for reasons too complex to address here. All I can say is that I have taken these concerns to God, and God has resolved them in my heart. I do not feel I am giving anything up. I am merely making a change that, in my case, is for the better.

Where my beliefs have changed, they changed long before I found a church that welcomed them. I was a non-traditional Mormon for a very long time prior to learning about Community of Christ. My nuanced beliefs were developed over years and years and years of searching, pondering, and praying. When I learned about Community of Christ, I was stunned to discover a religious denomination whose values, doctrines, and practices more perfectly matched my beliefs than did those of the church to which I then belonged—the LDS Church. This was a confusing time for me. Imagine feeling as though God reveals truths to you that conflict with certain aspects of your own religion’s narrative and then finding a “rival” church that embraces and celebrates those truths. Mormons celebrate this sort of thing when the result is a person leaving some other religion and coming into the LDS Church. But if it results in a Mormon leaving the LDS Church, it is typically regarded as a bad, ill-informed, spiritually disastrous move to make. The person is considered duped, either by the members of the rival church or, worse, by Satan. Regrettably, I used to view things this way myself, so I know full well what certain LDS folk are thinking about me. All I can say is, I didn’t discover Community of Christ, learn about them, and become convinced that they are correct. I became convinced of certain views, discovered Community of Christ, and learned that they held those views. If someone wants to accuse me of being deceived, the blame cannot be placed on Community of Christ. The deceit, if there is any, is the result of reading, studying, and praying about LDS scripture, doctrine, and history.

Leaving the LDS Church is a necessary part of my spiritual journey, not the point of it. Another thing I really want people to understand is that I do not harbor ill feelings toward the LDS Church. Not in terms of my experiences with it, anyway. I am not leaving because I have been offended. I am not leaving to escape what I regard as flaws in the system. There is a widely-held assumption that when a person leaves the LDS Church, it is because that person is angry at or disappointed by the church. That’s not my motive. I feel it would be misleading and disingenuous to answer the question “Why did you leave the LDS Church?” by citing the problems or deficiencies I see in the LDS Church. When it comes right down to it, I feel called by God to Community of Christ. That’s the only reason I’ve left the LDS Church. I wouldn’t have left it otherwise. I was committed to it, warts and all. Nothing short of personal revelation from God and the witness of the Holy Ghost would’ve changed that for me. It’s also important for me to emphasize the personal nature of this call. I do not think the LDS Church is false and that Community of Christ is true. I simply believe that I have been called to serve God in the latter. I reject the idea that this means God wants everyone to convert to Community of Christ, just as I’ve long rejected the idea that God wants everyone to convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Even LDS Church leaders have rejected that idea, believe it or not.) I wholeheartedly believe God works with people in the LDS Church and calls people to it. I believe it is the right place for many people to be. I believe it is not the right place for me anymore.

God has been very, very involved in this entire process. This should be clear based on everything I’ve said above, but it’s worth reiterating. I can’t convince anyone of the sincerity and humility that went into my search for truth, but I stand with a clear conscience before God as to the integrity of my faith journey. From my own perspective, I have been very slow to accept and embrace some of these changes in my life precisely because I’ve wanted to be absolutely sure that God is speaking to me and that I’m not merely following after the desires or thoughts of my own imperfect heart and mind. I have fasted. I have prayed. I have meditated. I have visited the temple. I have done all of these things, at the same time, seeking guidance and counsel from God on this very issue. In short, I have done everything that Mormons would normally say a person should do in order to gain insight, clarity, understanding, and direction from Heavenly Father. Naturally, many LDS folk will not accept that God would lead me to a different church. And as God is not to be blamed for my “mistake,” these same LDS folk will be forced to conclude that somewhere along the way, I mucked things up. Somehow, despite my following all of the prescribed methods for seeking and ascertaining truth by the Spirit, I must have done something for which I can be blamed and that corrupted my way of thinking. If that’s what you think, there’s little I can do to sway you. I would only ask if God is really so unforgiving and/or powerless, if Satan is really so powerful, if prayer is really so unreliable, if testimonies are really so fragile, and if our access to the Spirit is really so tenuous, that we can be led astray at the first sign of human weakness or misunderstanding, no matter how sincere and earnest our seeking otherwise is. As you answer that question for yourself, please bear in mind the implications it has on your own religious convictions—assuming, of course, that you don’t fancy yourself free of human fallibility. Very few Mormons realize how much they undermine their own testimonies when they condemn others as spiritually blinded. Further, if the methods for discerning truth that are taught by LDS missionaries, over the pulpit at LDS general conference, and in official LDS church manuals can lead a person out of the LDS Church as well as into it, surely the blame cannot be placed on the shoulders of those heading toward the exit.

I’d like to conclude by sharing the words of Joseph Smith, Jr., whom I continue to regard as a prophet of God, followed by a scripture. I believe these words are true, and I leave them as my final plea to all of my LDS family and friends:

“If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven…. If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you. If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours—for charity covereth a multitude of sins.” (History of the Church, 4:445)

“Charity never faileth.” (1 Cor. 13:8)