A friend asked me a few months ago how I could be a member of such a close-minded religion. I’ve been asked this question before, and I never really know how to answer it. And I think it’s because my answer has nothing to do with equal rights for women in the church. And it has nothing to do with the Mormon Church’s standing on same sex marriage. (Although I will admit that I do struggle with those two topics.)
My answer is this. My life got better after I started practicing Mormonism. And it has continued to get better. I was born into Mormonism, but I didn’t buy into it much until my early twenties, after I met my wife. Before I started practicing Mormonism I was a college drop out (I didn’t even finish my first semester), struggling with depression and anxiety, living in a one bedroom apartment with an angry redheaded girlfriend, working full-time at a hardware store and attempting to get a job as a prison guard, trying to cope with the death of my father, addicted to Xanax and sleeping pills, and contemplating suicide.
I had no aspirations to go to college. I didn’t know how to type and I’d never read a novel. I was constantly getting in trouble at work for using bad language around customers and fellow employees. People described me as white trash. I had long grizzled hair and a scruffy neck beard, and most of my shirts held names of crappy punk bands, offensive statements, or serial killers.
Honestly, I was miserable and I was a mess.
Shortly before I met Mel (my wife) I broke up with my long time girlfriend and started to look for religion. Not surprisingly, I was drawn to the religion of my youth: Mormonism. For the first time in my life I started reading the Book of Mormon, praying nightly, and attending church meetings.
During the ten years that I’ve been practicing Mormonism, I met my wife, got married in the Mount Timpanogos LDS Temple, learned how to manage my depression and anxiety, stopped taking Xanax and prescription sleeping pills, went back to college, taught myself how to type, read a novel (and many more), had two children, earned two advanced degrees (while caring for two kids), found a job at a university, bought a house, and started getting published in places like the New York Times and The Huffington Post.
I am happier now than I’ve ever been.
I still struggle with depression now and again, and there are many ways that I’d like to grow and become better, but when looking at my life before and after Mormonism, I can’t help but notice a huge difference.
And there are probably a million ways to explain all my changes without mentioning my faith. And I know that me simply saying, “my life got better,” is not going to be a strong enough answer for some of you to overlook your hard feelings about Mormonism. Some of you might even find my answer selfish. Perhaps you believe I’m weak because I couldn’t fix these problems without help for Mormonism. And that’s fine.
I get it.
But what I can say is that I never would’ve made it through college without prayer and the solace and reflective feeling that I get from visiting a Mormon temple. Paying a tithing of 10% was catalyst that led me to keeping a budget, and ultimately getting my finances in order. The support of church leaders, along with priesthood blessings, helped me feel strong enough to manage my anxiety and depression and stop contemplating suicide. Following “The Word of Wisdom” (Mormon doctrine) helped me stop abusing my prescription pills. And the community support of my Mormon congregation helped me to manage raising a family while finishing college.
I could go on.
I can’t help but look back on the past ten years and not feel God’s hand. I can’t deny that Mormonism changed my life. Nor do I want to. And the fact that my life is better than it has ever been is why I’m Mormon.
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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in New York Times Motherlode, Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Photo by Lucinda Higley