Born again again
Life is a series of “born again” experiences: these are experiences in which you come to believe in something so strongly that it defines your life. When I was a teenager, I was “born again.” Then as a missionary, I was “born again again.”
In Mormonism one is made to feel guilty about sexual activity before marriage. I recently learned that Mormons feel more guilt about sex than any other type of religious people. Allow me to outline how this guilt is instilled. Starting at age 12, my teachers used a scripture in which Alma tells his son that sexual sin is second only to murder. I was told that should I commit this sin, I could never receive forgiveness unless I discussed it with a man four times my age. My parents told me that if I looked at pornography, if I masturbated or if, God forbid, I had sex, the decision would haunt me the rest of my life. Certain individuals couldn’t enter the temple or partake of the sacrament. They were silent lessons of the horrible state of sexual sinners.
When I began to discover my sexuality around the age of fourteen, I started masturbating. These moments of satisfaction cost me the Spirit and my self-esteem. I felt like a freak and a depraved wretch.
I knew I had to go to the Bishop to repent but, I was too ashamed. I didn’t want to be the person cast out of the temple and unable to partake of the Sacrament.
When I was 15, I attended an EFY. I decided to participate in the Choir. During the first rehearsal, one of the pieces was “I am a Child of God.” The song had added a bridge section between the two verses. During the bridge we sung “You are my savior, yes you.” Looking back, I realize how cheesy the whole arrangement was. But it moved me to tears. I had always believed that if I repented, I could receive forgiveness of my sins. But at EFY, I felt it. I felt like I was in Jesus’ arms. I came out of the experience with grace. I looked at the sky and promised Heavenly Father I would go to my Bishop.
I went to my Bishop and told him what I had done. I struggled with the “flesh” for a few months but then one day, I stopped masturbating cold turkey.
From the day I sung “I am a child of God” until my mission, I never lost the passion of my EFY experience. That experience was truly my second birth.
As a missionary, I lost my faith. I have written about it in more detail about it elsewhere. This experience was more of a process than a single event. However it was just as profound, just as magnificent, and just as lasting as my EFY experience. When I lost my faith I realized that although I make my fair share of mistakes, I was a good person. God didn’t demand perfection; I just needed to be good to other people. I realized that masturbating as a teen did not ruin my life forever. I was born again again.
My born again again experience contradicted my first born again experience at EFY. As I reflect on the past, I recognize that there are many born again experiences in life. Just because I have one doesn’t mean that in the future, I won’t have another. I am passionate about what I believe but that doesn’t mean that I will never change it. In the sea of life, I will never reach the horizon of absolute certainty but I will always rely on the map of my tentative beliefs.