My name is Marivic and I am a Mormon woman in progress. I say that not so much because I worry about not being the kind of Mormon woman people expect me to be, but because I believe I still need to cover a lot of ground before I become the Mormon woman Heavenly Father wants me to be.
I have been married 24 years to my husband and best friend, Alan, and we have three children, 2 boys and a girl. Our oldest son, Christopher, completed earth life before he turned three years old which is the biggest sadness of our life, but we have faith that someday we will have a full understanding of the plan and have the answers to our questions. I look forward to the day when we are reunited with him, and faith becomes true knowledge, and I can finally comprehend why he left so soon and broke our hearts.
Meanwhile, we have been blessed to have the opportunity to enjoy our daughter and youngest son, both currently wonderful teen-agers. Ah, I know— “enjoy,” “wonderful,” and “teenagers” should be antonymous! Believe me, I often agree, but I can honestly say that Heavenly Father blessed me with good children who fill me with joy and make me grateful for motherhood. It is the hardest but most fulfilling role that I have been entrusted in my life. I am grateful that the gospel of Jesus Christ enabled me to recognize this.
The first time I heard about the Mormon Church was as a young girl in the Philippines. I was about eight years old when Mormon missionaries were first invited in to our home. Unfortunately, my parents were in a sort of “all is well” state common to the prosperous, and my dad told the missionaries not to come back. But times changed. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law in 1972, and the people of the Philippines suffered. The years of economic hardship my family endured under the Marcos regime humbled my parents and the next time the missionaries knocked on our door my parents’ minds were open and their hearts were ready. Our family was baptized into the church in 1977.
Being a young Mormon in a predominantly Catholic country was quite interesting. The best education was at private schools run by the Catholic Church, so I attended private Catholic institutions both in high school and college. The nuns and the priests were aware of my religion and were tolerant and kind. They did not bother me about my beliefs but neither did they exempt me from the required Theology classes. So for at least a couple of years I managed to balance being president of my seminary class in the LDS Church and an A-student in theology at my Catholic school. You would think I would have been one confused young woman! But I believe that this experience made me feel secure in my faith and my Mormon identity no matter where I am and what the circumstances are. It taught me not only to be tolerant of people with different values, but to also be comfortable in my friendships with people who do not believe as I do.
My friends in the church and out of the church like to say that I am not a stereotypical Mormon. Maybe it’s because, as some say, I have a lot of spunk. Maybe it’s because, in some ways, I tend to do things atypical of how some may have stereotyped a Mormon wife and mom. For example, except for a brief five-year stint as a stay-at-home mom before my kids went to school (which was an awesome and treasured experience), I actually choose to work outside the home; I am a revenue manager for a large hotel chain in the United States. Also, I do not find joy in baking, cooking, sewing, scrapbooking, gardening, canning, etc. I do enjoy reading, amateur photojournalism, and occasional blogging. I currently serve on the Activities Committee in my ward and as a visiting teacher.
I may not fit some stereotypes, but I am a Mormon woman who is deeply although quietly grateful for the gospel and for the Savior. I pray and I study the scriptures. I also strive to have a clean mind, clean hands, a clean mouth, a clean heart and a clean life. I teach my kids to love, to be kind and courteous, to be happy, to seek intelligence and knowledge, and to have faith. I can only hope these things count in my identity as a follower of Christ.
There are many spiritual experiences that have shaped who I am. These experiences came when serving as a full-time missionary in The Philippines Baguio Mission, and when serving in different church callings throughout the years, whether it be as a nursery teacher or as a Stake Young Women President when I was just in my twenties.
However, the experience which defines me the most, which indelibly shaped me and convinced me that Heavenly Father lives, is the experience of losing my first born child. I was crushed under the weight of overwhelming sorrow, but I was lifted up so I could rise from its depths and allow faith to set me on the path to healing. This experience is so sacred to me I have rarely if ever shared it. But I felt it would be worthwhile to share here.
Twenty years ago this year, my son who was not yet three passed away during his nap. There was no medical explanation for the devastation I was asked to bear. “Undetermined natural causes” was all the medical examiners could give us as the reason for why my world was turned upside down. Suddenly, what I thought was my strong testimony that helped me as a young woman, a missionary, a young bride, a new mother, could not hold me up against overwhelming grief and pain. I found myself desperately needing to know that the plan of salvation was true, not just because I felt it or that it made sense in my mind, but because I know. I needed to know it just like I know with perfect knowledge that the sky is blue, and that I have five fingers in each hand, and that a flame hurts when it burns my skin. I had to know not in the abstract but with absolute knowledge that there is indeed a resurrection and that I will see my son again. If I could not know that, then I decided I would rather die.
I am not sure how much my mother-in-law knew of my struggle, but she arranged for me and my husband to meet with Elder Richard G. Scott (an apostle in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints; the Mormons) shortly after our son’s funeral. (She was a church office employee back then and was able to do this.) My husband and I went to see Elder Scott and I was determined to get an answer. I did not want an apostle to just bear his testimony to me. I wanted an apostle of Christ to give me a testimony, to tell me how he knew the plan of salvation is true, so I could know it myself. I told Elder Scott exactly how I felt. But of course, and as you already suspected, Elder Scott could not give me a testimony. He shared his testimony, but he could not give me the knowledge and testimony I sought. However, I will always remember what I walked away with on that day. Elder Scott, whether he knew it or not, gave my spirit peace and solace when he told me that it was okay if all I had was faith and not knowledge. He did not judge me or chastise me. He simply told me to keep believing even when I don’t know. Because believing based on faith will carry me to the end, and in the end I will know.
Twenty years later my heart and my spirit are still broken in many ways, and I am still without perfect knowledge. For this I sometimes believe I am farther behind than most Mormon women in their journey back to Heavenly Father. Nevertheless, I am farther along in that path than I was twenty years ago. I can only measure myself against my own progress and not against others’. Along the way I learned to separate the gospel from the cultural expectations of my religion. More importantly, I know now more than I knew back then that I have a Heavenly Father, and to Him I pray. I believe with a deep abiding faith that someday I will see Christopher again. And so I continue in faith to seek understanding, and knowledge— a Mormon woman in progress.
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