Megan Spurlock was raised in the Church in Utah, but considers herself a convert because she did not commit to the Gospel and the Church until she was an adult.
What was your experience with the Church while you were growing up?
Both of my parents come from old pioneer families that crossed the plains. Both of my families are from polygamy, a long time ago. My parents met at BYU, so we’re very Mormon. I was definitely raised in the Church. We went to church every week, we had Family Home Evening every week, and all that typical stuff.
But I just wasn’t into it for some reason. I hated going, and I got in fights with my parents. When I was 13, I told them, “I’m not doing this and I’m not going.” They asked why and I told them it meant nothing to me. I didn’t like being there and it didn’t make me feel very good. I remember very strongly disliking Young Women. I really didn’t like the focus on modesty and how girls are responsible for boys’ thoughts. That stuff used to always bug me as a teenager. Luckily, we’re moving in a better direction, I think.
Once I moved away and went to college, I never really thought about it. Religion played no part in my life, and I didn’t want anything to do with it. I considered myself pretty atheist or agnostic. A lot of religious people hear the word “atheist” and they’re terrified. But there was no darkness associated with it for me, just neutrality, if that makes sense. Like – I don’t know what’s out there, so I’m just going to live my best life and continue moving forward. It didn’t bother me that I had no answer to things. I was okay with the ambiguity of everything. Plus, at that time, I was a biology major. Science answers questions, what I can see and feel is real, and I’m good with that.
I went to Southern Utah University and graduated as a nurse, and then I moved to Salt Lake and had a couple of different jobs. My work initially started me on the path to finding some kind of higher power for support and strength – I had a really tough job in the Burn ICU (intensive care unit) at the University of Utah. It was really, really hard – people in the most intense pain you could ever see and so many people died or lost limbs. There were kids in there too. Plus, I was working nights, and days, with no consistency to the schedule, so I had a nervous breakdown.
That sounds rough. What helped you make the mental turn to seeking support from a higher power, when that wasn’t something you’d ever considered before?
I had a couple of days off work and I escaped to my parents’ house. My mom is a spiritual giant – she is very much a “Spirit of the law” kind of woman. She is incredibly strong and wonderful, and one of those women everyone is drawn to. She’s so strong and so fierce. She said something like, “This might be a job you need to leave. Maybe there’s something else out there that will work better for your life. Maybe you could ask the universe for help.” I thought, “Huh. Ask the universe for help. Okay.” I could at least concede that there’s something bigger than me.
That’s an interesting way to put that because of you being anti-religion, agnostic and not really believing in God.
She knew that talking to me in religious vocabulary would be a No! I’d put up a wall. People who don’t really want anything to do with religion, if you talk to them in that religious vocabulary. I think they feel like they’re being proselytized to. My mom knew that about me and knew to not go there. So she said to maybe ask the universe for help, the universe is big. There’s stuff we can’t understand…I think there’s something bigger than us, just see what you think.
So, I actually did. I said, “Okay, Universe, I need some direction here and some guidance.” I found another job that was much easier on me, and I could work during the day, live a normal life, and start sleeping normally. Wow, the universe was listening, that’s cool, maybe try thanking the universe. I thought, “This is so weird but I’m going to do it anyway.” So I thanked the universe.
Through that time, I was really struggling emotionally. The sleep deprivation of working such a hectic schedule got to me, and I started having really intense anxiety and panic attacks. My mom told me to talk to the universe, so I did. And I started to feel like something was talking back to me – like there was something actually listening to me, that cared, and was trying to communicate with me. Maybe not so much through words but more through feelings instead. And I started following that. It shifted so rather than talking to the universe, I started talking to a creator. I had experiences and feelings with some kind of spiritual Creator, some kind of spiritual Heavenly Parents, that were powerful enough that I couldn’t chalk it up to coincidence.
I remember praying to the universe or my Creator and having these really great moments of what I can only call personal revelation. I had a lot of insight about myself and my life, and things that I had always said that I didn’t want but maybe I really did want. By that I mean – I always thought people who got married young were so silly, and I had this attitude about Mormon culture that I tried so hard to run away from. And then I came full circle. I thought, maybe I do want to get married and have a family and be with a nice guy and enjoy that simple bliss of life.
Praying is a great start. What was the step to actually going to church?
I started going to a singles ward, also at the suggestion of my mom, after I had expressed to her that I was praying to my Creator, and feeling all these great feelings that I had never experienced before, because I was actually seeking it out. I was 26 so I went to a singles ward where everyone was in their working career, taking themselves seriously, taking dating seriously, taking responsibility for themselves. I really liked that. I’d never experienced that before.
I also loved how real they were in their testimonies. The Relief Society president said she struggled with the whole Joseph Smith story. Oh my gosh, me too, thank you for saying that. I appreciated the honesty, rather than pretending that everyone was on the same page and believed the same things. People said, “There are things that I don’t know and I work on that, but the things that I do know, that’s what I stick to.”
I had such good feelings and started leaving the world that I had made for myself behind. I had broken up with a boyfriend. I was not hanging out with friends from college who mostly just drank and didn’t really do anything else with their lives. I started moving forward in the Church, following these feelings. I didn’t come into the Church because the Book of Mormon was compelling. I came into the Church because I started praying and hoping that something was out there, and then something WAS. That’s why I’m here.
What did your college friends think of you going to church? Was there much pushback?
I had so many friends who were ex-Mormons. They’d say, “But you know this about Joseph Smith, right? But you know this about the policy with gay people, right?” Yeah, I know all those things. I spent years researching those things and being mad. And I choose to believe that those things are not of God. I choose to believe that the goodness of the gospel has nothing to do with your skin color or your sexual orientation. It is for everybody.
All those things – the policy in 2016 about the children of gay and lesbian couples, Black people not even able to participate in temple ordinances until the 1970s, that we’re a patriarchal church – all of those things, to me, were conditions of a mortal earth where white men have taken power in every aspect of society, including the Church. So everything was being filtered through their minds and experiences. That’s why what some guy said in 1820 or 1890 or 1950 – if it to me, it didn’t ring true of God’s love, then I reject it, if that makes sense. To me, my Heavenly Parents are love and acceptance and beauty and aren’t about eternal punishment or making us into somebody we’re not.
To take that a couple of steps further, then, there are still things about the Church that you struggle with, even though you’re now a committed member.
It’s interesting with my generation. It does require such constant conversation and communication on a spiritual level. Otherwise, it’s so easy to just let it fall aside. So many of my friends from Utah who were raised Mormon all left the Church. There’s so much in the Church’s past that we don’t super agree with, and our culture seems to be an all-or-nothing proposition. If you don’t accept everything with no hesitation, you’re labeled as bad or apostate. So people respond, “Well, I don’t know it all and I reject these few things, so I’m just gonna be out.” And they leave. They’re very bitter and angry, and I get it because there are painful things in the Church’s history and in the Church’s present. It really takes a lot of recognizing and looking at it with your eyes wide open – maybe this thing in the Church’s past wasn’t great, but I choose to believe that wasn’t God’s say – that was just some guy that said that.
Last night, my husband and I had a very deep discussion about some of the more controversial things within the Church, and I said something like, “There’s a handful of things that keep me in, and the rest of it, I wonder – am I being a bad person by saying I choose to reject that.” Or am I just choosing that God is love and anything that’s not, I’m going to chalk that up that some guy said it in the 40s, and that’s okay.
It’s been an interesting transition from religion not meaning anything at all to me, to when I started communicating with my Creator. It’s like it opened a spiritual aspect of my heart that I had never noticed was there before. It was suddenly this different dimension existed within me, but I could still be me.
Some of the doctrine, some of the stuff in the Book of Mormon itself – I struggle wrapping my head around. I don’t feel those deep beautiful spiritual feelings necessarily. But the stuff that matters – my Creator, my Heavenly Parents, my Savior, my family – keeps me grounded. There’s so much that is hard to say, “I know this, or I know that.” It’s more like, “I hope this, or I hope that.” I want this to be true – it would be nice. I hope so! That’s where I’m coming from.
Is your husband a member of the Church?
He is. He is also a born-and-raised Mormon Utah guy, went on his mission, attended the singles ward for ten years, Elders Quorum president, Sunday school president, all the things. A year before he met me, he said, “I can’t do this anymore” and just bailed. He’d been doing everything right his whole life but things just weren’t going anywhere.
He did return to the Church after a short time away. He decided for himself, I do really want to be part of the gospel. This is a big deal for me. This is that important. I was also just coming into the Church and constantly being blown away with personal revelation and feeling really, really close to the Spirit and my Heavenly Parents. We immediately fell in love and were on the same page with what we wanted out of life, what we wanted with a family. I call it divine intervention that we met when we did because it was absurdly perfect timing.
He was such a big part of my return to the Church because I had someone experiencing that with me. On our first few dates, we talked about the feeling of light. There was just something about being involved in the gospel that felt like light. There were things that we didn’t know and couldn’t describe, but we were going to follow that feeling anyway.
A year later, the day we could get married in the temple, we did. That’s his story – born and raised, chose to leave, and chose to come back. All by himself, which is similar to my story.
How do you define The Gospel?
When I started coming into to the Church, I was lucky to have a really great bishop. He looked at me with love and acceptance. He didn’t need to know details of my past, which I appreciated, because that’s weird. He said, “I’m here to help you and assist you. You’re driving, what do you want? Do you want to be taking the sacrament? Do you want your temple recommend? What can I help you do?” He shared scriptures that talked about having a change of heart. That rang so true to me, because really, the only thing that ultimately mattered in my process of coming into the Church was that I had a relationship with my Heavenly Parents and my Savior.
In leading up to being able to take the sacrament again – it’s not like I was being punished, it was “let’s have this date in a month be your first day to take the sacrament again. Prepare for it. Read this, think about that in this way, pray about it.” The first Sunday I could take the sacrament again – it was a ritual I’d seen done so many times as a child, but as an adult, I was choosing for myself to basically place all the stuff that I was struggling with onto my Savior and then take the sacrament. I remember feeling really deeply the presence of a man telling me all is good, everything’s fine, you’re good to go – when I took the sacrament again for the first time.
So to me, the Gospel is our Heavenly Parents, our Savior, and the Atonement. It wasn’t about, “you’re forgiven for your past sins.” It was more like, “Hey, how do we become better every single day.” Not just about making up for a deficit you’ve created in your life but let’s just get better every single day.
That’s something so unique to Mormonism – the idea of eternal progression. The thought that you get to go to one place or the other, and you’re done forever – that doesn’t sound like an eternal truth. But eternal progression, even in a scientific aspect, that rings true to me, as opposed to you’re going to be somewhere, stagnant forever. That just doesn’t make sense.
That’s what I call the Gospel – the big, real, true things that really, really matter. Everything else is culture. Everything else is bias, opinions even. Those are the big things that really matter. Of course, like being sealed in the temple, because eternal family is also such a unique and beautiful part of the gospel that is also, I think, an eternal truth. Even when I wasn’t religious at all, I still wanted to be with my family. Why wouldn’t I? Wherever I go next, I want to be with the people that I love, that sounds great. So that’s always been something that I’ve held as something that sounds nice so I want that.
I read Brad Wilcox’s book The Continuous Atonement and it blew me away. That’s what I feel like the Gospel is. It’s not about being perfect, but about trying to be better and better and better. There’s no perfection to strive for, because it’s not possible right now. Are you better than you were yesterday? The idea that once we all die and get to where we’re going next, we’re probably going to go where we want to go. If we want to be with our Heavenly Parents, we’ll be there. Brad Wilcox says, “Christ is going to be there begging you to be with Him.” It’s not punishment or torment. It’s love and acceptance and light.
At A Glance
Location: Orem, UT
Marital History: Married to Nick Spurlock
Children: Tommy - 20 months old
Occupation: Nurse Educator
Convert to Church: Grew up in the church, left, converted back in 2015
Schools Attended: Southern Utah University, BS in Nursing
Languages Spoken at Home: English (Husband speaks Spanish too)
Favorite Hymn: Be Still My Soul
Interview Produced By: Trina Caudle