Sunday, July 3, 2016

Opposition begins

So, on Friday night, August 10, 1973, I committed to be baptized a member of the LDS Church. I didn't really understand all that meant, just that I had to do it. The missionaries scheduled the baptism, told me I should meet the bishop on Sunday and that I had to receive all the discussions (there were 7 lessons that were supposed to be taught, and I had only received 1), but we went ahead and scheduled it.

On Sunday I attended an LDS Sunday School service for the first time. In those days, Sunday School was held in the morning, everyone went home and came back for the Sacrament service in the afternoon. The Andersons introduced me to the bishop, Bishop Lawson, who invited me into his office during Sunday School class time. As we chatted, he gave me the best advice I have ever received. Following his advice has helped me immeasurably throughout the years since.

He said something along the lines of: Now that you have decided to join the Church, Satan is going to do everything in his power to stop you. And if he can't stop you from being baptized, he will never stop trying to take away the happiness you are feeling right now. Don't let him do that. Learn to recognize when he is trying to steal your joy. The sooner you learn that, you will have the power to weather any storm.

I left the meeting very impressed by Bishop Lawson. I had learned he was not paid for being a bishop, that he had a regular job and that some day he would be released and someone else would be bishop. He also confirmed everything I had learned from Donna, her family, Group and Jerry, and showed a depth of understanding that surpassed any of the full-time, professional religionists with whom I had ever talked.

When I went back to work on Monday, within an hour of work starting, I had a couple of experiences that showed me how inspired Bishop Lawson had been. A female coworker called me and asked if I wanted to spend the night partying with her, and a delivery driver offered me a whole sheet of acid hits as well as a lid (a baggie of marijuana). That sort of thing never happened to me. No woman had ever propositioned me, and the drugs were worth about $50 back then (drugs were cheaper in those days). I recognized that this was an attempt to divert me from the path I had determined to go down. The rest of the week had similar weird attempts, most a lot more subtle, but I was now on the alert.

In another attempt to thwart my progress, the missionaries did not show up for our appointments for the remainder of the lessons on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. On Thursday they did show up with the district leaders who were to interview me to make sure I was prepared and repentant enough to be baptized. Since I didn't know the commandments or even what the Atonement of Jesus Christ was all about, to this day I cannot fathom why they let the baptism go through. Whatever the case, I am the sort that once I make a commitment, I follow through, if I have any way to fulfill that at all.

So I was baptized on August 18, 1973, and on that day Bobby Ford & I moved into the apartment that we ended up sharing for the next few months. My baptism was a great day. In those days people believed that if you took LSD, your DNA in your reproductive system was permanently altered. I had taken LSD 2 times, and I was very concerned that maybe I shouldn't have children due to heritable mutations. I was seriously troubled by this and other changes to my body from using pot. After I was baptized, I was confirmed at water's edge, and during the confirmation, as I felt the Holy Ghost flow into me, I felt knowledge pour into my brain that all ill effects from the drugs were removed, except that the eidetic memory that I once had enjoyed and lost to pot use would not be coming back. Instead, now all I have is a really good memory. So even though I had not been breaking covenants by taking drugs, I still have to suffer a little of the consequences of doing harm to myself.

As a result of moving, I was now in a different ward, so I never attended the Northridge 2nd Ward again, instead I was in the Van Nuys 2nd Ward, in a different stake. It took a long time for my records to get there, which caused some interesting challenges that I will describe in a later post, when I write about attempts by the adversary to rob me of the joy I had found.

In the meantime, I faithfully attended my official church meetings, as well as my Group meetings. I got my own copy of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, and began reading them. To me, they were like cool well water for a desert traveler. I just wanted to absorb all I possibly could. As I read and attended meetings, I discovered that I should keep the dietary restrictions called "The Word of Wisdom" (no coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco or illegal use of drugs). I also learned that I shouldn't swear, that the 10 commandments were still in effect, that I should pay 10% of my income as tithing, that there was a thing called "The Law of Chastity", that I should fast once a month, taking the money saved and donate it to the poor, and lots of other things. Some have commented that the Church demands a lot from us. I disagree. The Lord has a lot to give us, and we can free Him up to give it to us just by doing a few simple things. I am glad that I learned about these expectations gradually, as I was ready. For one thing, it didn't seem like a huge burden that hearing about all of them at once would have been. For another, as I started intentionally keeping each one, I saw the blessings in my life associated with each. Had I done them all at once, I would have noticed changes, but I would be hard pressed to correlate blessings with commandments.

In the next installment I will discuss attempts by others to destroy my new-found faith.

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