I gloria, having been born of "goodly parents" ( taken from the first line of the Book of Mormon) was raised and taught somewhat about the Lord Jesus as a child. My parents being devout Roman Catholics, tried the best they could with the limited biblical knowledge they had to share with me the good news. Mom & Dad has come to the U.S. in 1960, fleeing communist Cuba. They brought with them their love of music, ( salsa and conga), love of good food ( black beans & sweet plantains) and also their love of God. Mami would often tell me that she fled her beautiful tropical island to seek religious freedom. She wanted her children to be able to pray and worship without fear of imprisonment. Fidel Castro was no Christian and was quickly squashing any religious freedom he could. ( Christianity is Communism's biggest threat) So mami & papi left their beautiful homeland forever. To this day, 49 yrs later, they have yet to return. They tell they want to remember Cuba the way it "used to be".
My childhood was stable, predictable and secure. Mami & Papi ( mom & dad in Spanish) were good parents. Not perfect, but committed, loving parents. They taught me to pray, to fear God, to be honest, hard working and to love their new homeland of America. They were passionate about America, and are definitely more patriotic than your average U.S. citizen. Each morning I would walk the 3 blocks to the local parochial school, where I spent the first 8 yrs of my schooling years. I grew up with the same kids, who all attended the same school . Mom worked from home, so she could watch after my failing "abuelita". ( grandma) She ran an in home daycare in the remodeled basement of our split level middle class home. My parents had worked very hard to give us a good life. They came to the U.S. with nothing in their hands - not a penny. Dad was a garment cutter and worked in a ski wear factory in downtown Seattle. Mom had also worked in the factory, until abuelita's health had deteriorated. It was at that time she opened up the home daycare. I remember helping mom with the babies. She was amazing. She would care for 3 babies at a time and handful of toddlers too! She ran that daycare for 25 yrs, until I left home as new bride.
I was the youngest daughter of my parents 5 daughters. All of us attended private schools, went to mass weekly, received the sacraments of the Catholic Church and married good Catholic boys...... that is all of them except 'me'.
I was different from the get go. Opinionated, inquisitive and forever asking questions.......... I think I drove my parents crazy as a kid! From the time I could remember I took a deep interest in spiritual things. Fortunately my parents believed children should be allowed to think for themselves. They gave me freedom to think, ask questions and wonder about things. Now looking back as a 41 yr old woman, I thank God they instilled in me this ability to "think for myself". It helped me years later in leaving the LDS church.
As I mentioned, my family was deeply religious. I say "religious" because they were just that. Active in our local parish, we rarely missed mass or a feast day. I remember fondly the Lenten season. Mom would take me to mass daily, the last week prior to Easter Sunday ( Holy Week). We would go thru the stations of the cross. ( pictures of the passion of Christ) We would stop and Mami would explain to me what each picture meant. Some of the stuff she told me, I didn't grasp, but I did grasp the essential and that was I knew my mother loved Jesus deeply. She would weep and tell me how Jesus died on the cross for our sins. I remember Friday nights during lent were "fish" only nights..... I hated that. I wasn't fond of fish at that time. ( my taste buds later matured and I know appreciate seafood!) We were not allowed to go out on Good Friday. No friends over, no going to movies...... it was a day to go to mass, pray and remember the sacrifice of our Lord on the cross. A solemn day of sorts.
Growing up, I shared a room with my sister Ani for a while, but then she was able to get her own room and that made "our room" officially "mine". Mami would pray with me each night. Then , I can't remember at what age, ( mami says about age 10 or so) she told that I was old enough to pray on my own. She never came to my room again to pray with me. I lamented that, and felt a loss. I loved our time in prayer together. Maybe that's why I still pray with my teenage son before bed? I love to hear the prayers of my children. They bless my heart so. Since I had my own room, I could decorate it as I wished. I put a small table in the corner of my room and placed a small photo book of pictures of Jesus and Catholic Saints. I had a small cross above that table, and I remember praying to Jesus as I looked at that cross. I never did learn to pray the rosary or pray to Catholic Saints. It struck me as odd, and "why" would I pray to Mary who isn't my God? My parents, being the broad minded souls they are, didn't seem to care one way or another about it.
Abuelita was the picture perfect example of a devout Roman Catholic. She had hoped to become a nun, and had spent years in a convent, before meeting my grandfather. Her room was filled with "stampitas" ( little drawings of catholic saints) of Mary, Joseph, Jesus and others. It was a bit much. Abuelita loved to pray......oh she would spend hours in her room praying....... I often wondered what she could be praying for at her age... I mean she seemed very old to me..... and what could possibly consume so many hours of her day? Oh, how little I understood prayer back then. How young and ignorant I was to God's ways and how His people are blessed to spend time in prayer with Him. I understand now "why" Abuelita prayed so much. God bless her. She passed away when I was 14 yrs old, but she left her mark in my life and her praying heart deeply impressed upon my soul.
High school consisted of adventures in "worldly pursuits". I attended the new Catholic High School across town. Some of my friends from my grammar school days were also going to this school, and we hung out together. School was challenging, and I enjoyed the drama club, and English classes.......at least those are the ones that stood out the most. I also remember the impressions that the Nuns and Priests made on me. Let's just say that it wasn't always good....... we had some Priests that were shall I say living lives that were not pleasing to God. My drama coach/english professor was living an openly gay lifestyle and used religion class to promote the gay agenda. Yeah , I know crazy. And this was years ago, 1980's! I had another religion teacher, who the boys would cringe at..... his nickname was "father touch"...... he "liked" the boys in a way that NO priest, NO man should like boys. I did enjoy Sister Mary Lila..... a rebel nun who decided to leave her habit, and abdicate as a nun........ she was a loving soul who was truly kind and gentle.... then there was the English teacher, a former nun who had left the order and was living a alternative life style. Can you get the idea of what I was seeing? My parents were horrified! They had sent their daughter to what they thought was a "conservative" Catholic School, and realized a bit too late how liberal it was..........
Although, my parents were horrified at what was going on at the high school, I think it served a good purpose. As paul writes, "All things work together for good to those that love God"..... This experience really began to "open" my eyes about the problems with "religion" as I gained first hand experience with dealing with hypocrites and wolves in sheep's clothing. I didn't know God's word, but I knew in my heart, from what my parents had modeled to me and from what they had taught me that what I was seeing was not pleasing to God.
I grew up with large doses of "religion", but very little Biblical Truths. There was no bible in my home. I don't ever recall hearing my father read from the bible. Mami began to attend a bible study when I was a young girl, and I believe she received the Lord at that time. She met with a local Hispanic group of baptists. She spent years in bible study, and I really think it opened her eyes, unfortunately not enough to leave behind the Catholic Church. But she did put away her idols. For that I am grateful. Mami was more outspoken about her faith, my dad on the other hand was a "doer" of good works. Ever the champion of the poor, dad would spend hours helping out at the parish with the Hispanic community. In fact this coming month he will be receiving the St. Vincent D. Paul award for his years of community service. I sent my dad a Bible soon after I left the LDS, and I pray he is reading it. Don't know if dad is born again, but there is no doubt in my mind that my mom is. When I told my parents I had left the LDS and found Jesus -- they wept...... they had been praying for 19 yrs.......
Which may bring you to ask, "how" did I hook up with the Mormons any ways?
That is a good question....... and one which I'll be answering in my next post.
It's 9 am and I need to get back to the kids, they are waiting for me.
Check back again , I hope to write up how I converted to Mormonism in the next day or two.
Until then, God bless!