I’ve been reflecting on different times in my life when I felt like I had a very strong prompting to do something. Logically I might not have been able to explain why I felt so strongly about a decision I had made, but I learned to trust my inner voice. In Mormonism we might call that the Holy Ghost or the Light of Christ that prompts people to do something. An atheist or agnostic might call it intuition. Whatever it is, I am grateful for my inner voice and that I learned early in my life to listen to it.
I have always been fascinated with Germany. When I was in elementary school I read a thick book several times that talked about German history. In high school, I was excited to be able to study German and I loved learning the language every day. When I went to BYU I took more German. Logically it might have made more sense to learn Spanish, with all the Latin American immigrants in the United States, but there was something about Germany that intrigued me. I jumped at the chance to spend a few weeks in Germany as an exchange student one summer in high school, and it was even better than I imagined. When it was time to go on my mission, my dad thought I needed to work the summer after my freshman year, but my inner voice told me I needed to go on my mission as soon as BYU got out in the spring. When my mission call came, I had been assigned to serve in the Germany Munich Mission. I don’t often hear of people getting called to the exact mission that they wanted to go to, but Munich was right where I wanted to be. I worked hard and tried to have fun too, and although my mission was tough, I absolutely loved getting to live two years in Germany and Austria. I love the language, the people, the food, the culture and the scenery. I felt like I was living in a postcard, because it was so perfectly picturesque. If I had waited to go on a mission after the summer, would I still have been called to the same mission? I have no way of knowing, but I’m guessing not. Could it all be a wild coincidence that I was called to where I wanted to go? Of course! But I like to think I was meant to go there. Years later we had the pleasure of hosting two German exchange students, and I was so happy to get to use my language skills again as I helped them feel comfortable in a strange place.
Another way my inner voice didn’t let me down was with my career. While I was in elementary school, I started to teach myself to program computers. I enjoyed programming so much that I knew I wanted a career in it, but I didn’t even know if that was possible. A relative told me I was foolish to focus so narrowly on a tool, instead of a field where I could use the tool like mechanical engineering. He compared studying computer science to someone studying “wrench”, but I felt deep in my bones that I was meant to be a programmer. By the time I got to BYU, computer science was really taking off. While working in the mission office in Munich, I had my parents ship me my Pascal compiler and manuals and I was able to write some software that improved our office processes. When I came back home, I loved the classes in my major. I soon embarked on a career that has been both personally fulfilling and a financial blessing to me and my family.
When I started dating my future wife, I knew there was something special about her. Again, my inner voice didn’t steer me wrong. I feel very strongly we were made to be together. It’s sappy, but true! We balance each other out, and we never get tired of spending time together. We have had challenges along the way, but we get through them together and we come out stronger.
And then comes my faith transition. Some people call it a “faith crisis,” but I have never been a fan of that term for my situation. It wasn’t a crisis for me. Sure, it was (and still is) very difficult to go through, as family and friends feel like I’ve abandoned my heritage and church. But I wish I could help them see how beautiful my journey has been! Early in my transition, I listened to my inner voice and visited different churches. Sometimes I sobbed as a pastor gave a message that I felt had been tailored for exactly what my soul needed to hear that day. I met new people who embraced me along my faith journey, and I helped others who were embarking on their own personal discovery. I felt inspired to read books and listen to podcasts that helped me heal from the pain of losing my orthodox beliefs, as I made my way to something different, but even more beautiful than what I had before. I listened to my inner voice when it told me it was time to quit going to LDS services because it was doing more damage than good. And I listen to the voice that tells me to have compassion and respect for others on their own path, whether in or out of the LDS church.
Throughout my life, I feel I’ve been lead along the way, and I’m very grateful for that. I don’t regret any of my experiences, because I am the sum of all of those experiences, and they’ve gotten me to where I’m at. To some it might seem strange that my inner voice guided me as an orthodox LDS believer, and then guided me out of the LDS church later in life. I don’t see it as a contradiction, because I needed different things at different times, depending on what my experiences had been up to that point. I don’t pretend to have the ultimate truth for anyone, but I can hold on to what’s true for me today, and have gratitude for my inner voice that guided me there.