Around the same time in 2007 as my previous post, I had a couple other spiritual experiences that I’d like to share.
The first experience took place at a Stake Conference (a stake is a group of several wards, which is the name for a Mormon congregation) at BYU. I had been struggling with some issues that I am about to talk about, and was feeling really down, frustrated with myself, and feeling like I didn’t have the spirit of God. This Stake Conference was something I had been looking forward to for quite a while. I prayed before the conference telling God that, even thought I didn’t feel worthy, I was trying to repent and I desperately wanted to feel the spirit. Elder Uctdorf, of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles, was speaking at our Stake Conference, which I was especially excited about. Well, we sat down and his talk was very inspiring to me and I was so grateful that I was feeling the Spirit. As he ended his talk, he bore witness of Jesus Christ, and as he was telling us all that he personally knew that Christ was our Savior, it seemed that light began to fill the room, and the light was coming from him. The feeling I experienced was incredible; I could hardly move; I was filled with intense joy and peace–it’s hard to describe those feelings. I shook his hand on my way out of the JSB building at BYU and when I got outside I just wanted to shout from the roof tops about what I had just experienced. I wanted So badly for everyone, EVERYONE to have the kind of peace and joy I had just experienced, the kind of peace that the Gospel of Jesus Christ and my experiences in the Mormon church had brought me. I had already been planning on going on a mission, but at that moment I wanted to go serve a mission more than anything because I wanted other people to experience that joy that was almost bursting from within me.
Call it what you want, but that’s how I experienced it, and it was one of the most wonderful moments of my life (there are several of that caliber, but it’s up there).
In order to give an accurate account of my second experience I am going to get a bit personal here. The Mormon church takes sex and all things sexual very seriously. Now, speaking as 2013 version of me, I think the church takes these rules to an unhealthy extreme. Currently, I think sex is something incredibly sacred (probably the only thing I currently experience as truly sacred) in a committed, loving relationship, and I think saving sex for a truly, deeply committed relationship is exceptionally wise. This is wise for a couple of reasons. First, I see something very unhealthy in people who try to experience sex with someone who they have no emotional attachment to. I think too many experiences like this can leave a person distorted and detached from the beautiful potential sex has for uniting people in love. Second, sex is emotional. And I think people, both men and women, can be hurt deeply by experiencing sexual things with someone who is not committed to the relationship like that individual is. So, I am a fan of saving sex for marriage, or at least for truly, deeply committed relationships. However, I think the church takes this a little TOO seriously. Telling people that sexual sins are second in seriousness only to murder, and then telling people that things like masturbation are that level of seriousness…well, some would call that abuse (caugh…Hitchens). At the very least, that is inducing a huge amount of unnecessary guilt for something that a great many people start doing without even realizing that is what they are doing. I have more thoughts on the issue, and my opinions are still developing in this area too, but I’ll stop at that.
Okay, so, now that you know how 2013 me thinks of this, rewind back to the 2007 me. I was basically addicted (addicted in the sense that I wanted badly to stop and, despite wanting to stop, I couldn’t) to masturbation and seriously feeling horrible about it. I was attending LDS addiction recovery meetings, praying constantly, and spending lots of time feeling horribly guilty. Honestly, my bishop at the time was really helpful once I decided that I needed to talk to someone about it. He gave me the (very wise) advice to not beat myself up so much about it. He also talked a lot about learning to love the Savior and be grateful for his Atonement which could make me whole. Well, long story short, I felt I received some revelation while doing baptisms in the Provo temple. I saw my soul as this beautiful, bright light that was entangled by dark fingers of addiction. I made it my goal to celebrate little victories instead of feeling guilty about the failures. This strategy seemed to actually help some. But in the end, I continued to struggle to some extent. Finally, after years of dealing with this, I was preparing to serve a mission and wanted to be rid of this before going through the temple. After some months of seeing my bishop, I went in to get a priesthood blessing from him in December 2007. He blessed me to be healed, that I would no longer struggle. He said lots of other stuff too. All I know, is that he said I would be healed and no longer deal with my addiction. And I walked out of his office and from that moment on, that behavior addiction has been gone. Could this have been just a mental change in me from believing that I would no longer struggle: a self-fulfilling prophecy of sorts. Yep. But at the time it was certainly a miracle to me. It ended months and years of suffering over something that I wanted badly to stop doing and simply wasn’t able to by myself. At least, that’s how I experienced it.