September 14th, 2012 by admin

17 Comments

Humbled Through Affliction

Humbled Through Affliction

Elizabeth Perry

At A Glance

Elizabeth Perry’s evangelical upbringing caused her to loathe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. An eating disorder she developed in college helped soften her heart. An LDS boy from her high school introduced her to the Church; she later embraced the gospel, then married that boy.

Tell me about your upbringing.

I grew up in the Bay Area in California. My parents were very involved in different Christian evangelical churches and involved my brother and me in them as well. Some of the churches we went to offered classes on how to preach to people of other faiths. So I read a lot of anti-Mormon material. I learned what tactics to use to prove to Mormons that they were wrong.

Why was your family so opposed to the Church?

Mormonism is very powerful. I grew up thinking it was dangerous because it is so close to the truth, but at the same time so far from it. I knew Mormons believed in God, but it was wrong to me because it was a different God. So I essentially thought Mormons were devil worshippers.

So you grew up with a strong belief that Mormonism was evil. Did you know any Mormons at the time?

The first Mormon I knew well was a boy in my high school named Daniel. He and I liked each other and even dated on and off some, but the whole religion thing was a problem, so we never pursued anything serious. Plus he wanted to follow the prophet’s counsel to not date seriously before a mission. There were other Mormons as well; I could pick them out of the crowd because there was something unique about them. I would recognize that now as the Spirit, but at the time that feeling scared me because it was powerful but unfamiliar. I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, these are nice people. It’s too bad they are going to hell!”

“Wow, these are nice people. It’s too bad they are going to hell!"

Tell me about what happened when you went to college.

I graduated from high school in 2006 and went to UC Davis. I still felt very passionately about the importance of preaching against the Mormon Church. I became involved in a Christian group on campus and wanted to start a class to teach about the dangers of Mormonism. I was very prepared and had lots of material to teach. But at this time I developed a severe eating disorder that changed my plans.

Can you explain about the eating disorder?

I come from a long line of people who struggle with eating disorders, and the problem started early for me. When I was in third grade I started thinking I was fat. This continued as I grew up, but my freshman year of college it really took hold of me. I was depressed and on medication, but still, some days were so hard that I didn’t want to get out of bed. Then I would binge and purge to take away the pain I felt. Both my eating disorder and my depression spiraled out of control. I was failing almost all my classes and considered dropping out of school. Thankfully I got help early; I saw a psychiatrist and also was in group therapy. So I never ended up teaching that class on Mormonism.

So it seems that your eating disorder helped you in the long run, although I would never want to say it was a good thing…

I would! If I hadn’t had an eating disorder, I wouldn’t have joined the Church. Just as the Nephites and the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon were humbled by their trials, I was humbled by my trial. It stripped me of my pride. I was so angry at God; I felt like He had abandoned me, so I decided to abandon Him. But in order to heal I had to soften my heart and let go of any anger I had, including my anger about the Mormon Church. So my eating disorder removed my vendetta and caused me to give up my hatred.

Just as the Nephites and the Lamanites in the Book of Mormon were humbled by their trials, I was humbled by my trial. It stripped me of my pride.

Tell me about how your thoughts on the Church began to further change and how you eventually joined.

The turn-around: it was wild!  So Daniel, my Mormon friend from high school, had just gotten back from serving a mission in Germany. He felt inspired to come pay me a visit, although he had reservations because he didn’t want me to think that he was just trying to convert me. I was dating another guy at the time who was also doing a lot of soul-searching. When Daniel and I met up again, I was so impressed by the change in him. He was a good person before but still there was such a profound change in him after his mission. I was so curious as to what had brought this about. And he had such a peace and confidence that I was lacking. I wanted that peace for myself. He was reluctant to answer my questions because he didn’t want to seem too preachy, but he eventually did ask me to come to church with him. The first thing I saw when I walked in was a picture of Christ. I broke down and started sobbing. There was this indescribable feeling of love and peace that I was experiencing for the first time. It was like being an orphan my whole life, looking for my parents but being rejected and turned away, and then finally coming home. It’s pretty amazing that I felt all these things just the first time I came to an LDS church meeting. And then through attending church more I was able to learn about the Savior and about Heavenly Father’s plan for me. I broke up with the guy I was dating, and Daniel baptized me on November 1, 2008. A few months later we started dating. We got married in the Oakland Temple on May 1, 2010. And now we’re expecting our first baby!

How did your family react to your joining the Church?

My parents were very, very angry. They were initially going to disown me. My brother respected my decision, but it still upset him. But I can’t blame them because I understand the mindset they are coming from. Things have gotten better, though. My family is beginning to understand that Mormons are real people. My mom tells me that I am still saved because I was once a member of a “true Christian” church. I think it’s a coping mechanism for her because she still can’t accept that, according to her beliefs, I’m going to hell. So things are definitely still hard sometimes. My Mormonism is sort of the elephant in the room. It’s still something we don’t talk about a lot.

You say you are working daily to maintain a recovered state from your disorder. Explain that to me.

Everyday I wake up and don’t allow myself to give in. When you have an eating disorder, food, calories, and exercise take over your life. They consume your thought patterns. And you can begin to think that you are not worthy of happiness or worthy of love. So I fight to actively resist those kinds of thoughts. Every time something like that comes into my head I evaluate if it is true or false. Like, if I catch myself thinking badly about my body, then I realize those thoughts are lies and are not from God.

Everyday I wake up and don’t allow myself to give in.

What advice would you give someone who is struggling or has struggled with an eating disorder?

I would tell them to hold on. And to tell someone about it, tell anyone who cares about them. That person you tell can help you and also help hold you accountable to yourself. Also, I would encourage someone to evaluate the source of those negative self-thoughts and try to identify the root of the problem. If you have an eating disorder, there is hope for you.

You were Christian before joining the LDS church. Will you describe your spirituality now?

I have a very personal and close relationship with Christ that I didn’t have before. It’s not emotionally based; it’s more of a knowledge. I feel steadfast. I feel stable. I didn’t feel those things before. Our brains are so small, but our spirits are capable of so much more. It’s good to think and not be a blind sheep, but there’s such a need for a spiritual connection. So I am trying to do the best I can to maintain my spirituality and my relationship with God, including attending the temple regularly. I also want to help other women who are struggling to come to the Savior and be healed.

At A Glance

Elizabeth Perry


Location:
Livermore, CA

Age:
24

Marital status:
Married (with baby #1 on the way!)

Schools Attended:
UC Davis (BA in Linguistics), Brigham Young University (Masters of Communications)

Convert:
November 2008

Languages Spoken at Home:
English

Favorite Hymn:
“I Know That My Redeemer Lives”

Interview by Katherine Wilkinson. Photos used with permission.

 

 

17 Comments

  1. Corinne
    1:07 pm on September 15th, 2012

    Your story made me cry, today. Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. D
    9:19 pm on September 16th, 2012

    Elizabeth,

    Thank you very much for your story and your strength. Your challenges are among the hardest trials any of God’s children can ever have here on earth.

    I think your story is very faith-promoting and I am a better person for reading it.

    Thank you

  3. Beth
    9:30 pm on September 16th, 2012

    Elizabeth,

    Thank you very much for sharing your story in spite of the challenges that you continue to face. I particularly appreciated your perspective, having grown up in an evangelical environment. When I was attending High School in Texas, I often had confrontations with evangelical kids that would reduce me to tears. It was life-affirming for me to read that even though you were unable to reconcile Mormon theology when you were young, you were still able to see good in the Mormon people.

  4. Lydia
    7:13 pm on September 17th, 2012

    You are a brave person — it must be incredibly difficult to turn your back on something you’ve lived in your entire upbringing. Thanks for sharing your experience, and we’re so glad to have you as a sister!

  5. Lydia
    7:18 pm on September 17th, 2012

    And by “turn your back” I meant rather turning *towards something else, not so much in a negative sense as it may have come across — I admire where you’re coming from, simply put.

  6. Cassandra
    7:53 pm on September 17th, 2012

    Thanks for being so straightforward and honest about your feelings. That must have been so confusing. Good job sorting it out for yourself.

    I like how you said, “Our brains are so small, but our spirits are capable of so much more.”

  7. Melissa McQuarrie
    8:27 pm on September 17th, 2012

    I so enjoyed reading your interview and I am impressed by your courage and strength. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

  8. Deila
    8:33 pm on September 17th, 2012

    Elizabeth — I loved your story, thanks for sharing things that are often not that easy to share. You are so cute, when you say, “too bad they are going to hell.” I always think of that Seinfeld episode when Elaine tells Puddy, “so you don’t care I’m going to hell…”

    My daughter-in-law met my son when she was a Jehovah Witness, it took 3 years for her to join the church, and she had some tough times telling her family. She had one long time friend of the family that told her she would not come to the wedding reception, because it was “Mormon.”

    Good luck with your pregnancy!

  9. lyndsey
    8:42 pm on September 17th, 2012

    wow, what a story! elizabeth, you are so brave — thanks for sharing your experiences, i think it will help a lot of other women who have been through similar things and are struggling.

  10. Lysa
    9:13 pm on September 17th, 2012

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I, too, have struggled with eating disorders and depression. I appreciate your honesty and faith.

  11. Patti M Cook
    11:08 pm on September 17th, 2012

    Such a sweet moment you shared walking into the church and seeing a picture of Christ – the love, the peace, the sense of belonging. Welcome home sister! Thank you for sharing your conversion, your humility and your courage to embrace it. My evangelical friends are dear but do think I’m going to hell – it can be awkward sometimes but I figure everybody’s faith is their own calculated risk. I allow them theirs and I embrace my own. Good luck in your journey.

  12. Annette
    4:18 am on September 18th, 2012

    I was touched by your ability to see your horrible, debilitating challenge as a blessing in your life. Thank you for sharing. Your story makes me stop and think hard about the way I approach my own life.

  13. Rebecca
    7:32 am on September 18th, 2012

    Elizabeth – I appreciated reading your story. I feel such sincerity from your words. I can feel your desire to do good in the world.

    I can only imagine how vulnerable it must make you feel to share your story. But in that vulnerability there is also empowerment. There is power in “coming out” to the world, in saying “here I am, this is me, and I’m okay with myself.” And as you gain strength in sharing your story, others gain strength from hearing it. To see that another has walked the same path, and come out on the other side of it happy, is so encouraging. Thank you.

  14. Chrysula
    12:17 pm on September 18th, 2012

    Elizabeth, it always takes courage to tell our stories, but the gift we give others who may be on similar paths but at different points in the journey is a profound thing. Thank you for giving that gift to the community of the Mormon Women Project. You have no idea who you have affected or will continue to affect because you took the step to share. With gratitude and the love of a sister from afar.

  15. Jessica Jackson Drollette
    10:24 am on September 19th, 2012

    Elizabeth,

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Your courage to follow your heart is inspiring. I wish the best for you in all your endeavors. Katherine, thank you for taking the time and dedication to put this interview together as well!

  16. Monica
    2:42 pm on September 29th, 2012
  17. jg
    10:05 pm on September 21st, 2013

    very good story. if all people would let go of hate of whatever they hate and fight against so much could be accomplished.
    i am female and served a mission.. my very inactive family ridiculed me and i did not have any support. after i returned home from my mission it took my father two years before he would even speak to me. so anger does not just happen in non lds families. other family members ridiculed and mocked me. i had to put up with that in high school too as i was the only lds kid.
    glad you are on our side. good luck in all you do.

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