After growing up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints my whole life, I decided to leave when my son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). I was angry with Heavenly Father for allowing my son and me to be challenged in this way. I was also offended because I had frequently heard people share their negative opinions about me having a career and being a mom at the same time. I never felt like I fit in, to the point where I had to attend a different ward as a teenager to escape bullying. I left bitter and angry. I now realize I never saw the gospel for what it really was.
Several years after leaving the Church, I needed back surgery. The surgery left me with nerve damage and excruciating pain that nothing could relieve. During the first few weeks after surgery, I was terrified that this agony would be my life. None of the doctors or specialists could give me any definitive answers other than “wait-and-see.” They were also unable to do anything to relieve my pain. For five months, I was flat on my back, unable to tolerate sitting in a chair. And then came the wheelchair for two more years. There seemed to be no comfort for me anywhere.
Finding the Love of Jesus Christ Through a Priesthood Blessing
Desperate, I asked my husband to find someone to give me a priesthood blessing. I figured it could not do any harm.
Our bishop came over and gave me the most powerful priesthood blessing I have ever received. I felt overwhelming peace. He told me in the blessing that I would regain all that was lost. For the first time in years, I felt the Spirit again, and I realized how much I needed it. I finally had hope. I never expected a simple request for a blessing to be such a huge turning point in my life.
Learning from the Words of Prophets
Since I could not do much else, I started watching conference talks. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk “Lord, I Believe” (Ensign, May 2013) especially touched my heart, as well as many other addresses. It felt like I was discovering the gospel for the first time: how Jesus Christ did not just die for our sins but also felt everything we have gone through so that He could be there for us and help us. So many teachings of the restored Church of Jesus Christ are not just a list of “dos and don’ts,” but ways of helping us get through the trials of life. I could not believe that I had never seen how much the Lord’s living servants want to help us navigate this mortal life and come out the other end as better people. Before I had only heard a list of things that I wasn’t doing “good enough.” Now I hear encouragement and guidance.
My trial went from pointless pain and suffering to having a purpose—we go through trials so we can rise out of them better people. It did not always feel that way, and for me there were many times I felt I could not take it a second longer. In the end, I now realize that my Father in Heaven and my Savior helped me through it.
As Elder Richard G. Scott said: “Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you perfectly. They would not require you to experience a moment more of difficulty than is absolutely needed for your personal benefit or for that of those you love” (“Trust in the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 1995).
Being Welcomed as a Returning Member
My bishop and stake president kept in close contact with my family and me. During a visit with my stake president, he asked me, “Why did you leave the Church?” I told him of my earlier experiences in being criticized for being a working mother. He reassured me by reviewing gospel truths: as long as my husband and I both put our family first, having a career and being a mom was totally acceptable. A burden lifted off my shoulders.
This principle concerning the rearing of children is clearly explained in “The Family: A Proclamation to the World”: “In these sacred responsibilities, fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”
My relief society president also visited. She knew me before, and she came into my home with such love. The compassionate service committee, visiting teachers, and other friends in the ward all pitched in to lighten my burden. Not once did I feel judged by any of them.
The Blessings of Again Partaking of the Sacrament
When I could tolerate the pain enough to sit for a few hours, I got a wheelchair and resumed attending Church.
This time, I promised myself I would return for the gospel. I knew that while people’s opinions are sometimes not true, the gospel is. And no one is perfect, myself included.
Renewed Joy for Our Family
So many members of my ward welcomed my family back and were so happy to see us at Church again. My son feels accepted there. He currently loves attending Young Men’s activities. He passes the sacrament with pride, and he gets himself out of bed early in the morning with enthusiasm to attend seminary. The other Young Men in the ward make sure to smile and wave at him in the halls at school. This means the world to my son, as autism makes it hard for him to build friendships. Church is a safe, accepting haven for him. My heart is full.
Now when I hear comments against women working outside the home, I no longer take offense because that is someone’s personal opinion, not a statement of the Church. I know that people do not usually intentionally mean to offend, and we all have different perspectives.
Our Spiritual Compass Is Jesus Christ
We need to follow Moroni’s counsel in watching and caring for everyone who has been numbered as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ: “that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and finisher of their faith” (Moroni 6:4).
I do not need the wheelchair anymore, and I live a fairly normal life. Lately I have had a setback: the pain has returned. I will need to go through more physical therapy and treatment. This time, however, I am not scared. Now I have my spiritual compass pointing in the right direction. I know the Savior is pulling with me and for me. The gospel is a firm foundation to lean on when life gets tough. I only wish I had realized this sooner.