I was a sophomore in high school when I was baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I realized that I would never really be like the LDS saints that grew up in the church. It has been an ongoing adjustment and gradual change for me. The church really has its own culture and mini cultures within it, with it being world wide. It’s my opinion that it can be quite the shock to try to fit in. I've seen converts that seem to not have an issue with the adjustment and so I speak for myself as usual and point out that my life experiences and environmental and biological dynamics have contributed to my situation.
I remember wearing sleeveless dresses and funky clothes to church because I didn’t know better. I’d wear my mom’s dresses because what average high school kid that doesn’t go to church has a church wardrobe? My mom happens to be 4’ll (I’m 5’3) and is much shapelier than I ever was and ever will be. I must have looked ridiculous!
It’s not just the Mormon fashion or modesty thing either that takes some adjusting to. It also includes language and presentation. My parents are both immigrants from different countries (
Kids that grew up in the church saw there parents teach, serve, share testimony, give talks and prayers, volunteer, socialize, cry in front of a congregation and doing the whole shebang. I on the other hand was embarrassed of my (actually cute) parents and much rather not see them embarrass themselves out in public places like church with their lack of tack and funky clothes (actually not bad just worse in my mind). I can’t imagine them bearing a testimony or teaching a lesson. It’s so out of their nature. And as it is for them, it was/is for me. As converts it’s a new thing to do all of the above. It takes a little getting use to. Some do better than others and boy have I said and done LOTS of inappropriate things along the way!! With baptism I should have come with a warning “This new convert may say or do inappropriate things.”
Well, being naïve, I made the decision to go to BYU to quote “become a better member of the church.” I absolutely LOVED my experience at BYU, but it far from made me a better member of the church. As soon as I entered my first ward, I was drowned out by all those talented and beautiful, confident, Mormon girls that had stamped on their foreheads “Relief Society President.” My time there was long before
I was glad that I felt strong inspiration to go on a mission soon after my baptism. I felt strong promptings that I was going on a mission. I felt gratitude for the Gospel and the love I felt. I was amazed at the change from not having the spirit to having the gift of the Holy Ghost. I was blessed and experienced many miracles and the fire that burns in the bosom. I wanted to share my experience to others as a missionary. But by the time I became pre missionary, I had lost all the genuine feelings of why I originally wanted to be a missionary. I knew I wanted to go. I knew I was inspired to go. But by 20, my reasons became worldly. I hoped I was going to
I see the blessings from following spiritual promptings. My mission was a refiner’s fire. I worked my tail off. I had trial after trial. The Book of Mormon became alive for me. I devoured it for the first time in my life in the MTC. I saw miracle after miracle. I seriously felt like I was protected by the hand of God. I was given the opportunity to see God’s missionary work progress and all the amazing things that happen and we don’t get to see on a regular basis. My mission was hard; it was what God knew I needed in my life. I learned what it takes to be a member of this amazing church sanctioned by God.
My focus on Mormon culture moves to how to raise a good family. I watch successful Mormon families very closely, examining what it is that they’ve done right. I realize that the spirit leads us. I realize that the Gospel teaches those basic truths. The prophets remind us of the way to do so. We just have to do it. And so I watch how it is done, sometimes mimicking, sometimes just coming up with good things on my own. Obviously, Christ’s example is the way to go. But with it, the church people have a culture and norms that perhaps have been passed down from generations before. My visiting teaching companion comes from a great family. She said that her parents always served in their calling and they continue to do so without ever complaining. That impacted her in a good way. Some may see it as a no brainer but it was a real eye opener to hear this. So although I have the gospel and study it, I learn a lot from my fellow members on how to apply the gospel in my daily life. I realize that my complaining can have a negative impact. I’m reminded of my temple covenants. And so I grow a little closer to who I want to be and who my family needs me to be.
There is still the fact that I am ME. I am who I am; Liberal on some things, conservative on other things; Comfortable in the Ghetto, comfortable in Zion; Comfortable and uncomfortable that my brothers are covered in tattoos; Indifferent to several ear piercing but glad I don’t have them; O.K. with abortion and previously to gay rights but worried about admitting it; Confused on how to raise kids in the church having never experienced it before. I have some positives that come from my life experience. I realize I am tolerant. I can have non member friends and am friends with all my neighbors regardless of their religious beliefs or membership status. I’m respectful of different types of people. I respect religious diversity and believe we aren’t the only good people in the world. Perhaps I’m no different than you but I perceive myself as such. I’ll keep working on becoming more Christ like and as I progress I realize it won’t matter to me if I fit in or not.