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What I believe

{I have really enjoyed sharing my heart on these personal posts, and have appreciated your feedback.  For a while, I’ve wanted to share with you something that is near and dear to my heart, and I hope this will be received kindly. To share something that encompasses who I really am, and the core basis to my joy in life….for the record…my hubby says this is too long, but I can’t shorten it!}

I grew up in a charmed, loving household back and forth between Houston and New Orleans.  I had parents who poured on the kind words and encouragement in whatever I wanted to pursue. They believed in me, trusted me, and even when my mom caught me sneaking out of my bedroom window to go to Denny’s in the middle of the night on a school night…she let me go. THAT is my one “naughty” in high school.  Can you believe that? They knew I had chosen good friends.  There were expectations, and I adhered to them.  In  younger years, if we disobeyed, we had to put our nose in a corner. I don’t remember too many punishments as a teenager, because I was a rule follower.  Except for the Denny’s incident….I digress.  I wanted to please them, I was fiercely independent and sassed I’m sure more than I should have, but they had instilled in me qualities that deep down, I chose because I knew they would make me the happiest. I assumed that all homes were such a happily painted picture.  As I’ve grown and seen the world, I realize this was not the case.  I am blessed. So many specific instances from before high school are a blur and intangible to me as an adult, but I always knew my parents loved me and most of all wanted me to be happy in life.

I was raised to never drink alcohol (not even after age 21).   I was raised to be morally clean, to keep the Sabbath day holy,  not use the Lord’s name in vain, to dress modestly, not watch R rated movies, to live a life of service to others, to raise a family with the same standards they taught me… I was raised to continually have a prayer in my heart, and to kneel in prayer on a daily basis….to partake of scripture reading each day, and I do my best, but often fall short.  I do know that when I do…my days go better.  I am calmer, slower to anger, and more at peace….a happier person (we all know when momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy).

Our Sabbath day consists of 3 hours of church and the rest of the day spent mostly at home as family time.  No shopping, no eating out, no swimming, no playing with friends. We stayed inside playing board games or writing in our journals or baking cookies or taking naps. Oh, the blessed Sunday nap. We’d sometimes invite a family over for dinner to get to know them better, and I often do that now.

Maybe some of you hear this list and think that I grew up in a super strict household, never had any fun.  But as I said above, I was surrounded by LOVE and JOY and Happiness.  I never saw that list as “rules” but as blessings and a guide to happiness.  Sure, it was difficult to tell my friend who had a birthday party on Sunday that I couldn’t go, but I’d suggest a play date on Monday instead and still brought a present. But Monday evenings were reserved for  Family Home Evening.  This is a time set aside each week for a topic and discussion. Mostly a study from the scriptures.  A time to bond, have fun, eat a treat, sing a hymn, & feel of the Spirit of God together as a family. Each evening, we’d pray as a family and read from the scriptures together.  In high school, I attended early morning seminary.  An hour long religious study starting at 6:10 a.m. Yes, you read that right–in HIGH school!   Below is a pic of my friends in my seminary class as well as the grade younger.  We hung out a lot on the weekends, too.  This was in my parents family room.  Can you find me in the cell phone snapshot from my scrapbook?  So many stories I could tell from this pic…;) (Seriously, for years I’ve thought about writing a book about my high school years).  

Now, 3 hours of church really isn’t as long as it seems.  It’s broken up into 3 parts, and as a teenager, I was taught in the 3rd hour by other adult women in our congregation.  There, they they reinforced to myself and the girls my age, how I had been taught by my parents.  It takes a village, to raise a child.  Those teachings all came from the same source. Our lessons varied from light-hearted “show kindness to one another” to  the heavier “wait for marriage” to the reverent “Follow the Savior.” I look back fondly on those women who led me, who I wanted to pattern my life after, who gave me an alternate perspective than that of my parents, but living the same way.  I babysat for them, I went to hang out at their homes, I cried about my boyfriend to them.  They were the village that helped raise me.

I think of that a lot, because now…I am that adult leader.  I have the wonderful opportunity to teach the 14 and 15 year old girls at church…and echo what their parents are teaching them at home. I remember what it meant to me to have a leader that was a friend…as well as a spiritual advisor and I strive to be both for my girls now. Here is my beautiful class—not only are they super cute on the outside, but it is their strength of character and goodness that shines through and gives them a glow.  My tears well up with joy as I think of them, and concern when I hear them speak about how tough high school is, and trying hard to make good choices when not so many others around them are doing so. They have the countenance of walking in the footsteps of the Savior, something I strive for daily as well (my co-leader has on the glasses).

Oh my goodness, I love that picture.  I could stare at it for hours. I’ve only had the assignment to teach them for about 7 months.    Soon, a handful of them will turn 16 and will move up to another class, another leader, and I will miss them.  Someday in the future, I will be given another assignment to do something else.  Maybe to teach the adult women, or the nursery age children, but THIS is my favorite. Our ecclesiastical leaders through inspiration give us varying assignments at varying times. We are encouraged to accept that assignment, even if we don’t feel up to the task.  It is something that stretches us and teaches us that we are always learning and growing. Sometimes I love what I do (now) and others, I try to have a good attitude. I’ve taught the young childrens class, helped with the women’s monthly activities, led the music in the women’s class, taught the 8 year old boys life skills (scouting).  Some assignments are more time consuming than others. But it ebbs and flows.

I state the above about how my parents raised me, because it is exactly the way I aim to raise my children. I realized this “charmed” life is few and far between–even for those in my faith.  I recognize it is rare. I’ve had difficulties, disappointments, & heartache just like everyone else. My faith anchors me during those tough times. My parents teachings didn’t come from their own minds, but from our faith in what we believe.

I believe I have a Father in Heaven who loves me and wants me to be happy, and to return to Him someday. I pray to Him. I cry to Him. He knows me. I believe that His son, Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world who suffered for not only our sins, but our sadness and pain. I believe that families can be together forever, and live as a family unit–even after this life.

I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Some people call us by our knickname, Mormon.  Yes, I’m a Mormon.  Which brings me such joy….

I love that I can share my life on this blog with people all over the world of every different faith. In college, I studied World Religion and traveled to Jerusalem and have so much respect for all faiths and how they live their lives.  All searching for the good. As an adult, and being surrounded predominantly by fellow Christians, I am searching to understand how varying Christian denominations are different, and I find that for the most part, we are more similar than we think.  All looking to The Savior for strength and comfort. I enjoy the conversations I have with friends of other faiths. I find that many people have “heard things” about Mormons but are afraid to ask me about it, fearing they would offend me.  I’m an open book and I would prefer to clear something up about my faith, than have someone be misguided.  It pains me to hear that there are other churches who preach to their congregations spreading untrue statements about us, or twist what we do believe into something unkind.We know we are different because of the way we live our life.  We delight in the fact that we are a “peculiar people.” We are different, we know. Though I was raised with my faith, I have many friends who converted as a teenager, adult, even after marriage and children. We base our faith on the teachings of the Bible as well as doctrine found in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. They are companion books. We believe in modern revelation and that we have a living prophet on the earth today.  There are congregations all over the world that run the exact same way as mine here at home.  When I travel and go to church, it is just the same structure.

There are quite a few Mormon bloggers out there. A few months ago, I read a very interesting read from Design Mom. It was mostly the conversation in the comments that interested me. I know lots of the readers that come to my blog are also of my faith. I also know that there are a good majority that are not. could tell you all sorts of things, and if you’d like, you can read my profile there where I’ve answered a few questions.

At some point in life, each of us has to find out if what our parents believed is true.  I have asked in sincere prayer, and I had a confirmation unique to myself, that it is true.

So tell me…do you know a Mormon?  Have you heard something that you wonder if it’s true? Do you have a question that has never been answered?  I have never felt super academic in my life, but I actually enjoy answering questions about my faith–it’s the one thing (maybe besides photography) that I feel I can explain, understand, share with ease because I have studied it all my life.  I don’t plan to discuss my faith often on my blog, but I did want to share this, just once.

Ask a question, share a thought, tell a story, but please show kindness;) I realize religion is a hot button topic, and I hope you will respond knowing that this is dear to my heart.
{To read part II of what I believe with more thoughts on religion, CLICK HERE.}

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  1. I think your husband may have been worng. I don’t think your post is too long. :)
    It is a great post… and your YW are georgeous!
    As a Mormon, I also feel the same way you do. I love my sheltered life. I choose to raise my family this way. I like my sheltered life.
    I love the family time and the life of service that we live.
    Awesome post Kristen!

  2. Hey Kristen,
    always good to read your thoughtful thursday. Your husband thinks it´s too long because he´s a boy. :) It´s just the right length for us girls, lol.
    I am a Christian, and have participated in independent, Methodist, Lutheran and baptist churches throughout many years of moving around. The misconceptions are great, and the similarities in Christian churches are much, much greater than the differences. One of my favorite books is Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis. I love it because he starts out telling how he decided to write a book about the core beliefs in Christianity — the ones that all Christians agree upon. It´s very interesting and so true. I find it very sad that the differences separate so many people… something to keep praying about, right? That we may change the image many people have of Christians.
    Well, that was just my musing about your post. :) This really is the kind of conversation that can last for hours.
    Thanks for posting your thoughts. Your joy and lifestyle shine through your photography and you truly capture joy. That is a gift in itself. Every time we plan a trip to the USA I think: could I maybe fit in a trip for Kristen to take pics of us? Hasn’t happened yet, maybe someday. :)
    May God continue to bless you and guide you.
    I´ll stop writing now. :)

  3. It was a beautiful post and I love that you are able to share your convictions with such passion and faith. It is a good life. I would say not so much sheltered as protected. Protected from the world and the influence that we feel to be a certain way or do certain things just because that is the trend. I am grateful for your thoughts and glad to be your friend!!

  4. I think your post was exactly the right length.

    I’m a born-again Christian and know no Mormons, only through the blogs of those I read.

    Thanks so much for sharing – it was really insightful – and I love that pic of you jumping.

    I do love how you LOVE LIFE and LIVE IT FULL :)

  5. Kristen Duke says:

    Monica & Emily, thanks for your added thoughts, its delightful to hear, and yes, my Young Women ARE gorgeous! Emily, protected is a great word.

    Aline–I’d LOVE for you to come visit me in Texas…bummed our little Brasil scheme hasn’t panned out yet. When are you coming this way again?…And yes I did tell my husband that most of my readers (or at least commenters) are women and don’t get as overwhelmed reading more than a sentance like he does! I read Mere Christianity years ago, I need to pick it up again, thanks for mentioning that! I really appreciate your thoughts!

  6. that top picture is just how I remember your family, and your family was always so fun, your mom is such a friend but also a leader and example to the young people around her. it is fun for me to see you as a grown-up now :-) (I, on the other hand, just feel old)

  7. Kristen Duke says:

    Marcia–we were posting at the same time–Since you don’t know any Mormons, I’m glad to be able to shed a little light;) I do love life!

  8. Kristen – I LOVED your post. We have been encouraged to use the internet for good – to share our beliefs and values with others. You do that on a daily basis as you share your life, your talents, your thoughts with your readers. I am grateful to know you and I am grateful to also be a Mormon!

  9. You are really good at sharing your testimony Kristen…that is a talent! It doesn’t come across as “holier-than-thou” or condescending at all. Good job! I have read a few other Mormon blogs where they didn’t do it as kindly as you did. :) You’re a good friend, daughter, sister and Mama! Thanks for sharing WHO you are! xoxo

  10. I’m so glad I found your blog. I really enjoy reading your thoughts and especially seeing your pictures. Sounds like your parents had an easy job raising you. You cared, listened, understood your boundaries…I was quite the opposite growing up. Rebelious and a mind of my own. Looks like their efforts have paid off, though, because you are doing a wonderful job following their examples as an adult.

  11. beautifully written. :)

  12. Donna Anderson says:

    I was raised in a Methodist home, but with similar Christian values and traditions. One of the most important things I learned growing up was tolerance.
    My father was a teacher and spent summers pusuing his master’s degree and various workshops during the summer months. We spent a wonderful summer in Salt Lake City while he was attending The University of Utah (I think). My mother was a history teacher, so we explored the city and learned a lot about the Mormon history and faith. Information, I think, adds to acceptance and tolerance.
    Since I discovered your blog, I’ve always been impressed by your photography, enjoyed hearing about your family and friends, and admire your openness about your faith and religious choices. Good for you. And thanks for all you do for those of us who read your blog!

  13. I always appreciate when bloggers share their testimonies on their blogs. It doesn’t have to be a main focus all the time but it’s just nice to every once in a while know that these popular bloggers aren’t trying to hide their religion.
    I’m the activity days leader in my ward and really, truly love my girls, so I know how you feel.
    I, too, am grateful for my Savior and know that He lives. Thanks for sharing today!

  14. I enjoyed reading about your Mormon beliefs. I have had a similar upbringing in the Christian faith and agree that many of us have much more in common than we do in differences. One difference I see is that your church seems to dictate how you should live, with many “added” rules, rather than each Christian seeking God’s will for themselves as to how they should be “set apart” from the world. We also volunteer in our church and in our community, but we pick ministries we think we would be good at/enjoy doing/or feel God is prompting us to do, because of our gifts and talents.

    I admire your love for God, your family and your friends.

  15. I’m jealous of your pictures. Well, not the pictures, just what’s in them. My Seminary class had 5 (at the most) kids and that was ALL grades. :-( And my poor daughter. She just turned 14 and is one of 3, soon to be the only, mia-maids. (There are a ton of Laurels and Beehives…and Teachers!) Of course, my son who is 17 is one of 3 priests. Apparently everyone else was having the other gender those years. :-)

    Thanks so much for this post! I’m in the primary presidency now and it sure is an adventure, a hard one but really an adventure!

  16. Hi Kristen! I am a Catholic and it’s kind of hard to be one nowadays :) I do not know Mormons…and I must admit that the first thing I used to think about them was ‘weird’ (so sorry for my prejudices, I really am sorry). Not in a bad way, but not in a good way either. You and other bloggers showed me differently and showed me that I am…well…not very tolerant, no?….I am everything but perfect! :) sorry again to you and all Mormons out there…

  17. Loved this. Thank you so much for stepping out of your comfort zone and sharing your true feelings with us. So nice to be able to see into your heart a little bit more. You are talented in so many different ways. I am jealous of your Young Women class. That is my very favorite class to teach. I still miss my girls who are grown and married and starting to have babies!

  18. Loved this. Thank you so much for stepping out of your comfort zone and sharing your true feelings with us. So nice to be able to see into your heart a little bit more. You are talented in so many different ways. I am jealous of your Young Women class. That is my very favorite class to teach. I still miss “my girls” who are grown and married and starting to have babies!

  19. Kristen Duke says:

    Agh, so much to respond to! Donna, I love that you know about about my faith while living in SLC. I just ordered a book from a woman who is not Mormon but lives in a small predominantly Mormon town, and I am looking forward to what she has to say because I would think it would be tough to live in SLC in that sense. I LOVE what you said,”Information, adds to acceptance and tolerance” and I think that is SO true. Becoming educated from those who live it (and not elsewhere) is the true informatin, thank you for pointing that out!

    Carol, I think that is so great to follow your heart, and in selecting where you will serve. I have found hidden talents in places I would not have known about without falling into some circumstances.

    Sharon–I was lucky to grow up with a great group of kids and I am SO hoping for that with my kids. We just moved neighborhoods for that very reason. Well, we were moving and selected it on purpose.

    Leire, you aren’t intolerant for mentioning your original impressions, thanks for your honesty! I know lots of people think it, that’s why this post was important to me, to get it all out there–we are totally normal!

  20. Hi Kristen! I just have to say, that I really enjoyed reading your post. I began following your blog for photography information but especially those Thoughtful Thursday posts are making me think and I can relate to so many things you wrote.

    I am a Lutheran and here in Germany this is basically one of two options. Most of the Christians here are either Lutheran or Catholic. I just met Mormons who are on mission and go from door to door… I have no idea how successful they are, but from what I’ve heard, this course of action is not very popular. Religion is a very sensitive topic and even if people are actively practicing their faith, the tend not to talk about it. It’s not cool.

    I like reading your and other Mormon blogs though. I get many insights I wouldn’t have gotten without all of you. I think my core believe is tolerance. I like and live my faith, but I can accept many other faiths besides it and love learning about them.

    Ok, those were the thought that came to my mind. Hope they’re not too confusing. I guess I just wanted to say: great post. Thank you!

  21. I think you needed the length to say what you wanted to say. I read every word & the whole time I was thinking “I could have written this about me/my life/my faith. She explained that so well.”… almost down to sneaking out of your room ;) haha Except I had my best friend sneak INTO my room, and my parents didn’t catch me! haha Thanks for writing this post!

  22. I LOVE this post! So well worded & honest. You did a wonderful job expressing what you believe! Beautiful job Kristen!

  23. First of all, I love your blog. Maybe one day I’ll be as good as you and be able to actually take pictures for more than just fun. Second of all, as a Mormon myself, I wanna know where you got that shirt! LOL.

  24. Kristen, I applaud you on sharing your beliefs. That’s the beauty of a blog–you can share anything you feel. No rules or guidelines. In all the years I’ve known you, I have noticed your deep commitment to your beliefs. Your desire to “be a good girl” and follow the rules as a kid comes from great parenting, and also from your inner strength. I hope my kids have that impenetrability when they are teenagers.

  25. Kristen Duke says:

    Heike–thank you for sharing ! That is frustrating that religion in general isn’t talked about…but honestly, here in the US it isn’t much different. We will have light hearted conversations, but I think people are nervous to get too much into it because we all feel passionate about what we believe and its easier to just not talk about it than to have a possible confrontation. I enjoy the times I can have a good chat with friends of other faiths, but they seem few and far between. Yes, the Mormon missionaries are all over the world, and though knocking door to door isn’t the most ideal tactic, it does reach people. I mean, who really wants to be interrupted at the door from watching their favorite show to chat religion? I applaud their efforts (my husband was a missionary in France and my brothers all served as well). It is more receptive in some places more than others.

    Heather–I snuck my BFF into my room, too;)
    Sarah T–we special ordered the shirts. customizedgirlDOTcom is a place I’ve done it before (though not this time)
    Jen–you’re the best, I love you and miss you!

  26. You go girl! I’m right there with ya. Except I’m the compassionate service leader and haven’t had the chance to serve with the YW yet. :( Someday . . .

  27. It’s always fun to find out that the bloggers that you follow (and take workshops from) are of the same faith as I am! I loved your post. I am also blessed to work with the Young Women in our ward. Such an amazing experience. Thank you for sharing your testimony with the world!

  28. tricia dunlap says:

    This is one of my favorite posts you have ever written! Love how open and honest you are in sharing your faith! You live your life very beautifully, Kristen and I am honored to know you!

  29. You’re one of those crazy Mormons! Just kidding. I am too. :) I love what your wrote about your YW leaders. I felt the same way. They were good friends to me and I loved them all so much. I’ve had the chance to work with the YW twice and it’s been one of my favorite callings. That’s a great photo of your class.

    Sister Duke, you are an inspiration!!

  30. What a beautiful and heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing many details of your faith and lifestyle. The information isn’t “peculiar” at all. It’s the misperceptions people create in their minds when they don’t research and make an effort to understand the facts from a reliable source. And as an aside…you’re adorable!

  31. Norman hill says:

    Love ya, bear. Very thoughtful

  32. YOU are amazing! You said it just how I would have. What a great woman you are….I’m so sad I didn’t read your blog sooner……we have so much to talk about. i truly think that we I will always admire you, and that we will always be friends. You are true and you aren’t afraid to show it. Ahhhh and those YW, they are special, aren’t they. Ahhh, let’s chat again really soon :)

  33. Naomi Theakston-Thomas says:

    Thank you. It was perfect, just what I needed tonight! I’m so glad I came across your blog!

  34. Mindy Schaper says:


    I’m an Orthodox Jew, and there are a number of similarities between what you mention here and our life. We, too, grew up sheltered, though much more sheltered than you. I am more immersed in the outside world than I was when I was growing up, but I highly dislike much of what I see, and fully support a more sheltered life. Just because a certain lifestyle is the norm, doesn’t mean that it is the healthiest or the best way of life. That is so obvious, I don’t know why people have trouble with that.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Mindy, thank you for sharing your perspective;) I agree, the world around us seems to have low values, and we have to fight for what is right. I think little by little, we can all get there together!

  35. I’m new to your blog. Found you through a photography blog. I was very pleased to read your “What I Believe” post.
    I’m consider myself a Christian and I’ve gone to Baptist, Catholic, Methodist and Non-Denominatioal Churches. I’ve always just considered them all basically the same, just some different practices. Sort of like we are all Americans but there’s differences between southerns, new englanders, mid-westerners etc. I was a big supporter of Mitt Romney in is 2008 Primary run and his 2012 Presidential run and I thought he was such an honorable and moral man of which he attributed to his religion. Also some of my favorite bloggers who I thought were just kind and sweet, I learned were also Morman. I will admit that I have has a few Christian friends who have what I consider a twisted view of the Morman religion but the more I’ve learned about your religion the more I like it. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

    Oh, and I love your photography. I am learning now and plan on purchasing your book. Have a blessed day.

  36. Michelle says:

    Kristen, thank you so much for writing that. If I tried my hardest, I couldn’t have represented my feelings as well as you have. I truly love being LDS and am so grateful to my parents for raising me with the best foundation possible. My story is different though, because I didn’t appreciate what my parents/church leaders had taught me until I was older. I guess its never too late, and now I’m strong in my testimony and trying to teach my children what I was taught.
    I came across your blog via Pinterest, where I found your Fudgy Vanilla Brownie recipe (which I made today, YUM!). Within the first sentence I read, I knew you were Mormon. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! You are right, it’s never too late! It’s tricky to share something so personal, but it has been received well, and for that I’m grateful. I’m also happy to hear that you already made the fudgy brownies–I just posted that last week! It’s fun to hear how people find my little site;)

  37. Hi :) I don’t normally comment on blogs, I’m a big reader of plenty of different blogs, usually not even the same ones consecutively, but almost never comment.
    But here I am :) I’m an atheist personally, and I think the only Mormon I know is a friend of a friend who is *amazing*, as well as having read a load of blogs by Mormon women.
    What I have found, although it is obviously a generalisation, is that of all of the religions who share their beliefs with people, Mormons tend to be the most respectful. I love hearing about other peoples beliefs without having them shoved down my throat, watching people become impassioned without being pushy that if I don’t believe the same thing, I’m being shipped off to hell tomorrow.
    The other thing I love is the support that young womens meetings seem to have, and girls camps. I don’t necessarily share a lot of the thoughts and beliefs shared, but I do love that they (from an outsiders perspective) ave a great, supportive vibe, which encourages women of all ages to support each other rather than cutting each other down. I for one, as a mother of a small daughter, and active aunt to an 11 year old girl, am sick to death of seeing women cut each other down because someone else apparently doesn’t measure up.

    Okay, for someone who doesn’t normally post, that was ridiculously long. I came here via pinterest, to your treehouse post, for the record ;) <3


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