Editor's note: This post by Emma Widman originally appeared on her blog, Hello, Yellow!. It has been reprinted here with permission.
I’ve always considered myself a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or “Mormon,” as we’re more commonly known. I was, as Latter-day Saints say, “born and raised in the church.” And when I say raised in the church, I mean it. My family’s existence seemed to revolve around church. We attended our local ward (congregation) every Sunday for three hours, no exceptions, and held regular family scripture study and family prayer. Casual family conversation seamlessly looped in and out of religious topics.
Life as a Latter-Day Saint kid was dandy. By being a good Mormon girl, I found security within a prominent subcultural group. At the time, however, my practice of Mormonism was no more than going through the motions that would establish myself an obvious member of that group. It was keeping up appearances of the sweet, never-swearing, modestly dressed Widman girl (my parents’ involvement in church certainly helped to boost my reputation among ward members). It was saying the things people wanted me to say and doing the things people wanted me to do.
I came to a point, however, just a few years ago when I was 16 or 17, that I couldn’t keep up the façade any longer. There were little things I was struggling with, things that had been slowly eating away at my heart for years. I felt terribly caught. I couldn’t admit to anyone that I was in a vicious cycle of self-destruction and doubt and lose my identity as the perfect Mormon girl. But the clash between who I was when I was alone and who I was when I was at church was tearing me apart.
In my desperation, I did what I’d been taught to do since I was born. I knelt down, and I prayed. But this prayer was different from the many mindless, repetitive prayers I was used to giving. I remember it very clearly: Unsure of what to say, I knelt in the small corner that my bed and nightstand formed, facing the window that was open to the dark night sky. Struggling to force words between heavy sobs, I poured my heart out to a God whom, I realized in that moment, I hardly knew. It was a moment of complete honesty — with myself and my Heavenly Father. I felt heaven surround me as I expressed my desire to be what God needed me to be. What he knew I could be. In that moment, I caught just one clear glimpse of things. But one small glimpse was all I needed.
There were several honest and humbling conversations that followed, with my bishop (the priesthood leader over our ward members) and my parents. To my surprise, there was no finger waging, no disappointment, only encouragement, reassurance and guidance that would lead me closer to my Heavenly father and to my Savior.
This was when I became a Mormon. I mean, really became a Mormon. In the grand scheme of things, and even in my short 19 years, it was really a pretty small step, but it was the beginning of seeing things a bit more clearly. It was my first real understanding of the gospel, untainted by cultural norms. It was the start of honest study and seeking to learn and know for myself. It was a realization of how beautiful personal religious convictions are when developed over time and applied to the deepest crevices of your heart.
I continue to make steps like that. Steps that open my eyes to the hope and astounding beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Steps that make me increasingly aware of how terribly imperfect I am and how very little I know about life. Steps that show me the breadth, depth and diversity of life. Little by little, I’m realizing who I am and how, through the Atonement of a perfect Savior, my disheartening struggles and subsequent repentance are shaping me into the woman God knows I can become. We are not meant to be a cookie-cutter people who all think, look, talk and act the same. And nothing has shown me this more clearly than the pure doctrine of the Mormon church.
The gospel of Jesus Christ isn’t about being perfect. If you had to be perfect to go to church, no one would go. It’s about humbly presenting to the Lord everything you have, weaknesses and all, and slowly, very, very slowly, becoming perfected.
Hello, My name is Emma, and I’m a Mormon; not because of how I talk, how I dress or how I style my hair, but because of what’s growing within my heart.
Emma Widman is a student at BYU studying graphic design. She blogs at Hello, Yellow!