“If I Weren’t a Mormon”

By Leeanne Askew

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    “If I weren’t Mormon” seemed to be my favorite phrase this month. If I weren’t a Mormon I wouldn’t be getting up at 5:30 in the morning enduring 6° C. and less temperatures just to go to seminary. If I weren ’t a Mormon I’d be more accepted at school, and I’d have fun going to “all weekend” parties with friends, and I wouldn’t have to endure all those jokes about my religious beliefs. If I weren’t a Mormon life would be so much easier.

    When I finally reached school that morning I was irritable, depressed, and tired. I wouldn’t be like this if I weren’t a Mormon, I thought. I missed the bus because Dad likes long family prayers. And Mom couldn’t drive me to school because she had to go to some Relief Society meeting.

    I was late for class so I took a shortcut through the back of the library where I saw my old boyfriend with his beautiful new girlfriend. We had stopped seeing each other because I wasn’t willing to compromise my standards. Seeing those two together was more than I could handle. I ran into a nearby empty room and cried.

    I finally arrived at my class just before I was marked absent. The daily notice sheet was read out loud reminding us of the upcoming long weekend and the camp planned at The Entrance, a coastal holiday town about five hours north of Sydney, Australia. That’s just what I needed. I wondered if Dad and Mom would let me go? No, they wouldn’t because I have to go to church Sunday and I have to go to family home evening Monday.

    I was so bored in my mathematics class that I calculated how much more pocket money I’d have and all the things I could buy if I didn’t have to pay tithing.

    The next morning the alarm went off at 5:30 as usual. Time to go to seminary again. Why should I have to go? Why get up at 5:30 every morning? Then I heard Mom’s happy voice telling me that if I didn’t get up I’d be late.

    The topic that morning was, “What has Joseph Smith done for you?” I could answer that easily. If it weren’t for Joseph Smith I wouldn’t be a Mormon.

    “Will you read Doctrine and Covenants, section 122, verses seven and eight, please?” my teacher asked.

    Wearily, I took out my scriptures and started reading. At first I was not really listening, but then something made me start to pay attention to the words.

    “And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very gates of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” [D&C 122:7–8]

    I choked out the last verse as my eyes filled with tears. “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”

    A few days later I was standing on the balcony of the Opera House, overlooking Sydney harbor. I couldn’t remember why I had felt so restricted because of my religion. My problems seemed pretty small and insignificant compared to those of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith. I felt selfish as I asked myself, “Art thou greater than he?”

    The lights of the city seemed to be almost as bright as the stars above. “I’m so proud of my country,” I said to myself. “It’s so full of unique beauty, people, and culture. I thank God for our beautiful plants, animals, and freedom. And I’in proud to be a part of the ever-growing and only true church in the world.”

    My favorite phrase still is, “If I weren’t a Mormon,” but in a different way. If I weren’t a Mormon I wouldn’t have such a wonderful family, such great friends, and such a clear understanding of the purpose of life.

    By the way, I calculated how much tithing I have paid, and when I look at how much God has given me, there’s no comparison.

    Illustration by Yvonne Wright