Section D: Comorbid Attributes
I’m skipping section C and will go back to that next time. The reason being because this is my blog and I make the rules here.
So, today is a good day so this should be a happy post. I wanted to write about being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how my autism brought me to the Church.
If you don’t know me then here is one important fact you should know about me: my middle name is Anxiety. Any event that could have the potential to make anyone anxious usually already greeted me at the door and offered to take me out on a date with the conversation topic of Let’s-Think-Of-All-The-Bad-Things-That-Could-Happen. I get anxious in large crowds, loud music, awkward conversations, and growing up church wasn’t my favorite place to be. The church my family attended was all the anxiety rolled into one. I was not a fan of the electric guitars, the drum set, and any of the instruments that created the worship band, excluding guitar, piano, and violin (because I’m allowed to be picky. Again, this is my blog). The only thing I appreciated during worship time was listening to my family sing and reading the lyrics on the screen. Everything else was noise. My dad worked hard when he was the worship leader and there were a lot of times that people would come up to him and complain over the song choices that my dad decided on, I saw how it discouraged him, and maybe that had a lot to do with my choosing a different church to attend as well, but this blog post is not about that so we will move on with the story. (In the middle of writing this, my doorbell rang and I was worried it was my visiting teacher or something. I love her but I’m not dressed for company. I opened the door and it was my sister. I forgot I told her to come over. We had a good visit. Moving on…) Mostly there were a lot of doctrinal questions I had that no one could answer without giving me a long, complicated, scholarly article. Doctrine shouldn’t be so complicated, in my opinion.
I attended a retreat with my youth group at Ozark Christian College and one of the classes I attended was “How To Save Your Mormon Friend From Hell.” Awesome. I love learning about new religions and I don’t want people going to hell. I don’t remember exactly what all was taught in the class but I do remember a little. Basically the Jesus Christ in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wasn’t Jesus Christ. Makes perfect sense, right? (Sense my sarcasm?) and Moroni who came to Joseph Smith in his bedroom one night to reveal to Joseph about the Golden Plates was a demon and ended up possessing Joseph Smith. It was terrifying. I ended up sleeping with my light on (no joke) when I got home because I was scared to death that Moroni was going to appear in my room at night, like Joseph, and possess me with his devil-ish powers.
Obviously, that didn’t happen (although I’m a member of the Church now so maybe I did get possessed? Again, sarcasm.) and it just lead me to want to learn more. So, I did what anyone would do. I went to http://www.mormon.org ,straight to the source, to research it out. It was about the same time I was reconnected with my childhood friend from Hawaii (Hi, Saren!) and I wanted to make sure she didn’t go to hell. I was on a mission to save this good friend of mine over Facebook and I needed to do my research. As I was reading about the story of Joseph Smith, I found a lot of similarities between us. Joseph Smith wanted to know which church he should join. He read in the Bible that he should pray and ask God. So, Joseph went to the woods to pray. As he was doing so, a bright light shown above him and Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared before him. The Lord told him not to join any of the churches because they were twisting doctrine around and everything was incorrect. The Lord told Joseph that he was going to be the prophet of the Restoration and restore the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. There’s more to the story and if you want to learn more go to http://www.lds.org. Moving on. So, with all of the research I was doing to try and convince my friend that she was going to hell and she needed to be saved, I instead discovered the church she attended was a church of true grace and mercy and love and….I could go on. Someone else had already asked all the questions I was wondering about and his name was Joseph Smith. He was a cool kid in my book. One you could relate with. So, in true Aspie fashion, I became obsessed with anything Mormon and did as much research as I could on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I talked to the missionaries online and asked all sorts of questions. I learned all there was to learn about the Church. All my questions were answered, I wanted to be a member, but one thing stood in my way- my grandpa was a preacher, my dad was a worship leader, my family came from a predominantly Church of Christ background, and there was no way I had the guts to disappoint my family. I loved my family and they taught me some amazing values growing up. The last thing I wanted to do was thank them by tossing it all out the window and joining a church I knew they wouldn’t approve of. But, I already knew I loved the Church and I was so unhappy attending the church my family belonged to. So, I had to take a risk.
The first Sunday I attended, I walked in the front doors, stood and looked around. I didn’t know where to go. So, I asked. There was a little elderly lady and I said, “Excuse me, I’ve never been here before and I don’t know where to go.” Her eyes got so wide. If you know anything about Mormons, they are usually the ones knocking on doors trying to find investigators. It’s not every day an investigator just shows up on their doorstep asking to be taught. The lady told me to hold on for a moment and found a pair of Elders (missionaries) to introduce me to. I don’t remember their names.
Walking into the sanctuary, you could feel a calmness. It was so welcoming. It felt familiar and pleasant. I felt at home. All my aspie senses were tingling in a good way. The service was nice, calm, quiet, reverent. I loved it. Perfect place for someone with autism, in my opinion.
I took the lessons from the missionaries, had a baptism date set, and then I did what any investigator would do: I chickened out and started avoiding the missionaries.
I was scared. The Church felt so right but I was so scared of disappointing my family. And I was confused. And I was a teenager. Graduation was around the corner. So much change. And gnomes. Gnomes don’t really have anything to do with this story but I feel they always need a place somewhere in life. So, gnomes.
So, I tried attending my family’s church again. I tried to get involved in youth group. But my best friend Rachael had moved and I hated trying to make friends, especially if they were going to move again. (Military life, gotta love it.) Again, I was trying to search for answers in my church that I knew weren’t there. I ended up just feeling depressed, disappointed, and frustrated. I really did try. Rock and roll music just doesn’t have a place in church in my opinion and playing Spoons in youth group wasn’t going to help me learn about the Bible and the doctrinal questions I was searching for. If any of that sounds confusing to you, welcome to my world.
After a few weeks, or months, of trying my hardest to like the church I grew up in, I decided that I just had to do what made ME happy- and that was with the Mormons, sorry mom and dad and sister and grandma and grandpa and youth group leader and preacher and random friends.
So, I walked into church again the next Sunday I made my decision. And guess who I met? The sister missionaries! Hey, Sister Lamb and Sister Buckley and Sister Wright and Sister Esau!!!! The sisters became my very best friends. They answered all my questions, prayed for me, read scriptures with me, included me on their P-day (preparation day, the one day missionaries take off from mission work to do their laundry, get a haircut, and do some sight-seeing, etc.), randomly texted me or called me, and just became my best friends. They were so encouraging and true examples of everything I was searching for- a friend in Christ, a sister, and someone who knew their stuff! If they didn’t know an answer, they knew where to look. I loved it. They were genuine.
In May 2011 I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And I thank my Autism Spectrum Disorder for that. My sensory issues, general anxiety, my questioning of my place in the world all sent me to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yes, I do get mad at God for giving me ASD but I also realize that without it, I wouldn’t belong to this wonderful church and it gives me a unique story.
I’m so thankful for Joseph Smith for asking the questions that I would one day ask myself and I’m thankful for my family for respecting my decision. I know a lot of my posts have been discussing the anger I’ve had towards Heavenly Father lately, but I feel that it is part of the process of getting to know myself and my diagnosis. Thanks for getting to know me as I get to know myself!
And remember: gnomes.