Sunday, February 2, 2014

Learning the Atonement--All the Difference

In my fourth semester at USU (Spring 2011), I did something that I hadn't done before while at USU.  I sat myself down and forced myself to sign up for Institute.*  I signed up for a Book of Mormon class with Brother Salmond and I decided to give the Institute Choir a try.  I soon realized that both of these choices were very inspired decisions.  These two classes were both instrumental in my recovery.

About a month into Institute Choir, we had our first performance entitled The Lord of the Small held at the Logan tabernacle.  I was still somewhat unsure about my like/dislike for the choir at this point.  If I remember correctly, the Institute Choir sang three numbers that night, and Latter-Day Voices sang a couple as well.  The Institute Choir sang I Know That My Redeemer Lives, I Stand All Amazed, and both choirs sang The Lord of the Small.  The songs were to be sung in some order, interspersed with three guest speakers; however, one of the speakers didn't come to the fireside.  I'm not sure if it was ever found out why, but at the last minute the order of the program changed.  We ended up starting the meeting off with I Know That My Redeemer Lives.  Before I describe my experience this night, I would just like to make it known that I personally never cared too much for this hymn.  I've never been able to explain why, but for some reason I just didn't like it too much.

The arrangement of the hymn was very simple, and the men were to sing the second verse alone.  Here are the words we were singing:

He lives to grant me rich supply.
He lives to guide me with his eye.
He lives to comfort me when faint.
He lives to hear my soul's complaint.
He lives to silence all my fears.
He lives to wipe away my tears.
He lives to calm my troubled heart.
He lives all blessings to impart.
As we began singing this verse, I suddenly felt as though I was hit by a wrecking ball of the Spirit.  In that instant, I knew that Jesus Christ was my Savior.  I knew that He suffered the pains I had been carrying with me for so many years, and I knew that He would help me find healing if I accepted Him as my Savior.  I am the type of person that just doesn't cry.  I don't really know why that is the case.  I will occasionally tear up a bit, but they hardly ever come out.  At this time, I just couldn't help it, and I full on cried.  I was seriously bawling through the rest of the song.  I somehow was able to sing through the rest of the song, but I just felt so much joy, happiness, and peace at that moment.  This was the night that just changed my life forever.  I will always remember it very distinctly.

I just wanted to touch a moment on my Book of Mormon class.  Similar to my feelings about choir pre-fireside, I was unsure about this class.  Remember that I was a person who was broken in many ways, especially socially.  I was really quiet and wanted to hide in the back of everything to be completely unnoticed.  Brother Salmond is not quiet.  I soon came to love this class though.  I learned so much about the power of the Book of Mormon and of the Gospel while in this class.  It seemed like so often Brother Salmond came into class telling us that he wasn't planning on sharing something from the Book of Mormon, but he just felt that he needed to teach that principle.  Pretty much every time he did this, he was speaking to my needs about some great principle on the Atonement.  One thing that really changed my life came from 1 Nephi 4.  Here in the scriptures Nephi cuts off the head of Laban (1 Nephi 4:18).  We had a lengthy discussion in class about cutting off our heads of Laban which prevent us from progressing in the Gospel.  My personal head of Laban was pretty easy to identify.  I learned a ton in his class, so much so that I wanted to re-take this class when I returned to Logan in January.  I will probably share some of the things I learned in future posts.

With these two institute classes, I was able to make decisions in my life to stop defending the problem and instead go after it and attack it.  I still hadn't been ordained an Elder as of yet because I just didn't feel right about it.  I didn't feel anywhere near enough worthy to do that.  My Bishop had the secretary set up an appointment to discuss this situation.  I wasn't sure why I was asked to set up an appointment beforehand, but as I walked to the appointment, I just felt very heavy.  I leveled with the Lord and told Him that if the opportunity presented itself, I would discuss my addiction with my Bishop.  The Spirit took over in the meeting, and I came clean.  As I walked home afterward, I just could not stop smiling.  I was so happy.  I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders.  Looking back at those couple hours, I realize that my life followed very closely to the pattern of Alma 36, which is probably my favorite chapter in the Book of Mormon, if not all scripture.

During this semester my growth everywhere, but especially spiritually, just took off.  I just could not seem to be stopped.  I met with my Bishop a few times to discuss my sins.  It was such an amazing feeling to be able to honestly answer that there were no issues when being interviewed for my ordination, my temple recommend, and my patriarchal blessing recommend.  A few weeks later, on Easter Sunday, I was ordained as an Elder.  By this time I was roughly three months into my latest string of freedom from pornography, something that would last me through the summer.

I had a very small relapse during the fall semester.  That is exactly how I looked at it.  A small setback, not a major disturbance.  My growth was continuing greatly.  I was serving in my favorite calling, where I served as a Vice President of the Institute Choir.  I loved the calling so much, and I was able to feel the Spirit so strong.  I was becoming so busy that I really didn't have much time to be around pornography.  On November 19, 2012, I intentionally viewed pornography.  Two days later, I was finally set apart in my calling.  About this time, we set a goal as a music council that we would all set an example for the two choirs by reading from the scriptures seven days a week.  I took on the challenge, one that with a few odd days in the bunch, I carry with me to this day.  November 19, 2012 was my last intentional brush with pornography.  I can honestly say that I have been clean from using pornography for over two years now.  It is such a freeing thought to me.  The Atonement works, and it can help anybody with anything!

That is where I will end this part.  There will be one more part where I discuss some of the aftermath, and I will gather my learnings from this period of my life.  I realize that I skimmed over a lot of stuff in these three posts, I'm sure that there are things which I really wanted to share but didn't end up doing so.  If I think of anything like this I will share in some ways.  I just wanted to get my story out there.  I tried to give you over ten years of history here people.  I'm only human after all.

*I just wanted to add kind of a fun little story here.  It really has nothing to do with the bigger topic, but it is something that still tickles me to this day.  I forced myself to sit down and sign up for Institute over Christmas Break 2010.  I hadn't really sung much outside the confines of my own walls at this time  One night during the break, I had a dream that I was singing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  I knew many of the people in the choir which consisted of people I knew from Burley as well as Logan.  Okay, so it may not have been the Tabernacle Choir, but it was my dream folks, so I will say it was the Tabernacle Choir.  We were, however definitely singing in the conference center.  In my dream we sang two songs, I don't know what either of them were.  What I do remember is that I knew the first one, and sang it accordingly.  The second, I did not know, but since I was singing in the Tabernacle Choir, I just mouthed the entire thing to avoid looking like some kind of idiot.  A few days after this dream, I signed up for Institute Choir, not thinking about the dream.  Fast forward to the Institute Choir.  That semester, unbeknownst to me, the men of Logan Institute got the opportunity to sing at the Priesthood Session of conference.  I actually got to sing in the conference center, which was beyond cool by the way.  The other interesting thing is that at the fireside I wrote about in this post, we sang, unplanned Go Ye Now in Peace at the end of the fireside.  Because it was unplanned, we hadn't rehearsed it.  I had never heard the song in my life, so I just stood there in the choir loft mouthing along, trying not to look like an idiot.  In the process I probably looked kind of like an idiot.  Again nothing really important, but something I found quite interesting.

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