If you know me personally, or have read the “About Me” section on my blog, you’d know that I pretty much fit in with the ‘stereotypical Utahan, born and raised in the LDS religion’, topped off with the classic ‘married before the age of 20’ that us Utah Mormons are known for. Although I will say that I probably swear a bit more than your typical Mormon… which consists of a few ‘shits, hells, and damns’ sprinkled here and there 😉
Before I dive in, I just want to acknowledge that I know members of the LDS religion can get a real bad rap. People claim that Mormons are uptight, judgmental, and closed minded with a ‘Holier than Thou’ attitude. And I’ll be honest, I’ve met a fair share of members who do have one (if not all) of those attributes. BUT I’ve also been surrounded by members who are some of the strongest, most genuine, open and kind people I’ve met. I feel like Mormons can get totalized for the few ‘bad apples’ and mistakes that people within the church have made, but hey, we’re all human. No one in this religion is perfect, not even our Prophet. And if there are people in this religion who do claim to be perfect… then they probably missed a couple lessons in primary or somethin’, cause that’s not the LDS religion I know.
A N Y W A Y S…
Flash back to my sophomore year of high school when I was developing anorexia. I read my scriptures and prayed just about as much as any teenager remembers to during that time. I went to church each Sunday and partook of the sacrament (but with a fear of the single bite of white bread, thinking things like ‘why can’t they just use whole wheat’?). I hated fast Sundays just as much as the next guy (mainly because I thought that not eating a little something every 3 hours would RUIN your metabolism– still gotta laugh at how ironic my obsession with metabolism was back then ’cause literally everything I did was the OPPOSITE of maintaining a healthy metabolism). But overall, I was living ‘the holy life’. During this time, when I was becoming more and more obsessed with my body and food, I didn’t really think much about my religion. It was just there, and I believed and accepted it.
Once I started on my recovery journey, I still read my scriptures and prayed just as much as any teen during that time. I still went to church weekly and took the sacrament (still working through the fear of that tiny bite of white bread). Once I wasn’t constantly counting up numbers of calories and minutes of exercise and my brain started to have more room to think about religion, I would spend more time in the scriptures, and digging deeper into the gospel principles to find out if I truly did believe in this religion. But I’ll be 100% honest, I never had a time during the hell of my anorexia recovery that I had a ‘coming to Jesus moment’. There was never a moment where I was overwhelmed with the spirit, being filled with comfort and joy to know I would achieve recovery. When people ask if I felt that Heavenly Father’s hand played a roll in my recovery, I tell them that looking back, I know He did because I believe his support was within the people around me, but there was never a time I directly turned to Him for help. I didn’t know enough about the power of prayer, nor did I truly want to fully recover.
Jump forward a few years. When I started struggling with binge eating, I turned to my religion. Partly because I had more experience with the power of prayer and I had felt the spirit so strongly in other times of my life, and partly because I desperately wanted to escape the cycle of bingeing that I was stuck in.
I looked for General Conference talks and messages from our leaders to read regarding eating disorders (which isn’t too many), magazine articles (also not a bunch), and blogs of other LDS women who had overcome binge eating disorder. I also prayed.
And I prayed.
And I prayed.
I prayed in my bed each morning. And in my bed each night.
I prayed in the temple.
I once even prayed in the woods, midway through a run.
“Please, help me stop binge eating.”
“Please, Father, help me gain control.”
I’d plead through tears daily with all of my heart because I thought, if I can’t control myself, He will be able to give me control.
And you know what happened? I still binged. Heavenly Father did not take my urges to binge away like I so hopelessly plead for.
Now there are two common answers that people could give me as to why I was not receiving the answer to my countless prayers.
1. God doesn’t exist.
2. You weren’t praying hard enough or living as worthily as you should’ve been to receive an answer.
However, I’ve come to realize that I don’t believe either of those answers cut it.
I’ve come to understand that God doesn’t work that way of ‘you pray, I’ll give ya want you want, but you just have to be ‘holy enough”. God does allow bad things to happen to good people.
In my religion, we learn about the Plan of Salvation. And the biggest part of that plan is to be sent to earth to be tried and challenged. To learn and to grow. Why? To become more like Him.
God knows the greatest of pains. For anyone who has experienced the loss of a child, or a loved one, He knows your pain. He, Himself lost 1/3 of his children in the pre-mortal life. He had to send down his Only Begotten to be hated, spat on, rejected, backstabbed, and ultimately to go through the worst pain imaginable in Gethsemane, and then crucified. God knows pain, and that’s part of what makes him God.
For us to truly become like him, we need to endure through our own personal prisons. We need to find that there are lessons to be learned in each and every trial. For me, I learned the importance of family- I became best friends with my mom because of anorexia. I learned how to fight through the deepest of my fears from eating a slice of pizza when my soul was screaming at me not to. I learned that baby steps add up to something beautiful. Through binge eating, I learned that my relationship with food and my body still had gaps that needed to be filled in order for me to reach my ultimate goal of becoming an eating disorder specialized mental health professional. I learned the importance of vulnerability and humility in building strong relationships by admitting I needed help with my binges. And through both of my eating disorders, I learned what it means to be resilient.
I probably could’ve learned these lessons in ways other than developing eating disorders. But I strongly believe that God knows us personally, and knows in which ways we will best learn through specific trials. Sure, God sent us the Bible and Book of Mormon to teach us lessons that we should learn in this life, but as with most lessons in life, we don’t fully and completely understand something from a book until we put it into practice.
All of this is just my little understanding of a complicated question that no one on earth has the answer to. I don’t have all the answers, a bishop doesn’t have all the answers, even the Prophet himself doesn’t have all the answers. I’m just goin’ off of faith here, but at the end of the day… that’s the most we can do.
I don’t know why Heavenly Father allowed me to suffer through two eating disorders. But from the lessons I’ve learned, and the strength and resilience I’ve gained, I have faith that it was not in vain. And I have faith that this is the case for each trial every individual may face in their life.