"I had to put all of my doubts and all of my fears and all of my anxiety and frustrations on a sacrificial table, and say these stay here and I want the blessings more. So that's what I did, and I met with the bishop and the stake president. That Thursday I went to the temple and the following week the temples were shut down. It was so significant to me how many steps had to be completed and in place in order for my heart to be ready to do that. It was a huge step and something that I never thought I would do...When things were dark and it was hard, to have those extra covenants and blessings were really important to me. There was no accident that it happened the way that it did."

Come Back Podcast
Sharing stories of coming back to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. If you have a story of coming back, email me at ashly.comebackpodcast@gmail.com.
‎Come Back Podcast on Apple Podcasts
‎Religion & Spirituality · 2023




Hey, everybody, welcome to the Come Back Podcast.  My name is Lauren Rose, I'm your host today.  Ashly is under the weather, so, we are interviewing Julie today.  And she has a really incredible story.  And we're really excited to share it with you.  So, Julie, why don't you go ahead and kind of tell us about your early years in the Church, and then just kind of take us on your journey with you.




Great.  So, I grew up in the Church in Utah, and I loved going to church, I loved everything they taught.  And I loved the songs, I loved primary, I loved everything about it.  And it just really spoke to my heart.  And so, I never really questioned myself or questioned what I believed.  It always just felt true.  And so then, in about 2016, I was 39, I was turning 40, and I wasn't sleeping well.  I just really felt like there was something I was supposed to do. 


I had four kids at home, and I was trying to be the best mom I could.  But I just really felt like there was something else for me.  And so, I went into therapy just for me just to get some peace and get some answers.  And so, the first thing that he said –because I gave him a laundry list of all the things that was going wrong in my life – and he said, “Well, what do you dream about?”  And I was like, “What does that have to do with anything?”  And he said, “What do you dream about?”  And I was like, “I don't know, I don't even know what I like, I don't even know who I am.” 


And so, I kind of just started exploring what did I like.  I went to a restaurant by myself, which I would never do before, and I did I started beginning to dream.  And some of these dreams were really powerful.  And one of them was about going to school. one of them was about teaching music because that's one of my passions, but I wasn't doing any of those things at the time.  And so, I went back to school, which was a huge step for me, because I was always taught that I want to be a stay-at-home mom.  And that was it, right?  And so, I didn't think that I had permission to go outside of this realm. 


And so, I started questioning everything.  I started questioning my marriage, started questioning being a mom, my identity, and then I started questioning the Church.  And I started questioning what do I believe and what don't I.  And there were so many things that came up that really bothered me.  Like, if someone talks about gratitude then you're supposed to feel grateful, because they told you that’s what is true or like a service.  Is it really service if you are told to do it?  Or is it from your heart? 


I feel like the Church has changed a lot since my leaving and coming back.  I felt like there was a lot of rules put in place that we felt like we had to do, I felt like I had to do them.  And so, my covenants were something that I felt like it was a “have to” thing:  I have to go to the temple, I have to do these things. and it was more of an obligation, rather than something that I wanted, or I felt like was bringing me closer to where I wanted to be. 

And so, I was like, “You know what?  I'm going to make my own covenants.  I'm going to follow my own heart.  And I'm going to put my covenants behind.”  And so, the thing is, not a lot of people knew that I had left.  My husband knew and my oldest daughter knew my other kids didn't.




So, when you say you left, you mean you just mentally checked out, but you were still going to church or how did they know?




I was leading choir, because I was going to be a choir teacher.  And so, I was like, “well, I'll just stick with this job that I have at the church, and I'll do that.”  But as far as like staying after sacrament and going to the rest of the meetings, I would usually go home.  And underwear, I got a new set, and just leaving those specific things behind.  I just felt like, “that's not a part of me anymore.  That's my past life.  I'll do these things as service, but it's really to help me to grow as a person in what I want to do.” 


And so, people would ask, “well, where's Julie?” at church, to my husband, and he's like, “Well, church isn't her thing.  She just goes for the kids.  But it's not really something that she's into right now.”  And he was super patient.  He knew where I was.  He wasn't upset, he wasn't saying, “Oh, come on,” or trying to get me to do anything.  Which I thought was huge because it helped me to go on my own path and to not feel any pressure that there was any huge expectation. 


I feel like it's a really easy trap like “Oh, no, you're not such and such.”  And then there can be this battle.  And that just wasn't the case.  He just felt peace about it, that I just needed to do this.


So, that was probably for a couple of years.  And I want to say there were things that came up, specifically with my children, that were really hard.  And so, stepping away from the Church, stepping away from those blessings, I just took things really personal.  And it was really hard to go through.  But I didn't think that I needed those covenants, I didn't think that it was necessary.  But I didn't have that extra help either to get me through those hard things. 


So, I was taking on thinking things were my fault, or that I could have been a better mom, or all these negative emotions.  And it probably wasn't necessary for me to go in that place, but I kind of went in the dark a little bit because I didn't have any extra help.




Did you believe in God still?




Yeah, but I didn't pray.  I also really felt like it was important for me that I didn't talk about it.  I didn't want to be responsible for someone else's faith failing because of me.  So, even with my children, I wouldn't talk about what I did or didn't believe.  I wouldn't criticize the Church ever because I didn't want to be responsible for them falling away or making other choices.



What did they think was going on.  Did they understand that you had left the Church, but it just wasn't talked about in the house?



Well, three of them didn't know.  So, it was just my oldest.



So, they were just oblivious, and they thought that you were still just going, and it was fine?



Yeah, they thought everyone was just going, and my oldest daughter, she stopped going to church.  And we had talked more, her and I, a little bit more about it.  She came up with her own reasons why she didn't want to go.  And I felt like she was old enough that that was going to be okay.  But it's a struggle because now three of them have left, and there's only the youngest, and I don't feel like she's old enough to make that decision. 


It's a struggle even for her to go to church.  She'll go to our adult meetings together with us, but she won't go to Primary.  So, it's been very interesting to see how it's affected our youngest that our other kids don't go to church, and some of that could be because I wasn't going that I could have influenced them in that time period that might have been critical.  But that is a space that I just can't blame myself for because it's something I needed to do. 


So, coming back, I was in a life coaching group, and I was studying to be a life coach, and I decided to get some personal life coaching for myself, just to really get good at that.  And so, January 2020, I started with a life coach, and he was a member, but it wasn't something that he would push on me, it was just more of like, “so tell me your thoughts on this.”  And then he would share some things like, “if there was ever a church out there that had the power, that had the authority, that had the priesthood like this one does, and the revelation, if there was ever a church like that, anywhere else in the world, I'd be a part of it, for sure.” 


And there would be other times where he would say, “you know, you can receive more if you had your covenants.  You could receive more.”  And so, these ideas kind of stuck with me.  And I was like, “I think I want to explore this again; I want to look at it, and maybe there's something here that could help me.”


And so, I decided the beginning of March 2020 I'd really like a blessing to kind of get some direction.  And I didn't want it from my bishop, I didn't want it from my parents, I didn't want it from my husband.  I didn't want it from anyone that I felt like had some sort of agenda, some sort of tie to me being a part of the Church.  And so, I received a blessing from a friend, and it was a beautiful blessing.  And it was so, so deep and personal. 


But one of the things it said was, “I bless you that you will walk in your own path, and, by your own choice, return to full activity in the Lord's church without obligation without compulsion,” but because of my own choice, because of me deciding that it would be right for me to do that.  And he also blessed me that the Lord would be patient with me and love me regardless.  And those things really just stuck with me.  And there were so many other things in the blessing that I would receive if I returned.  I had received blessings in the past where they would say, “if you don't return, that your daughter will be affected” or huge guilt, right?  And that's not what this blessing had in it.  And so, I was like, “wow, I really need to look at this.  And I really wanted to receive those blessings for myself. 


And so, I reached out to a friend.  And this was someone I had met online.  He was a composer.  I was a composer.  And so, we had gotten together after a concert, and I shared part of my story.  He wasn't a member at the time, but he had been a part of producing music for the Church, and he had been a member but wasn't currently.  And he just said, “I've decided that I'm a really spiritual person.  And so, I go to church.  I don't go to the LDS church, but I do go to church.”  And I was like, “That's how I feel, too.  I feel like I'm really drawn to these spiritual things, and I need them in my life.  And it's kind of felt empty and like I'm just going out of my own way, which is fine, but I could get more.” 


And so, that experience of meeting him and talking with him – it wasn't even the same church –but he loved spiritual things and so did I.  And I knew that.  And so, I went to the bishop, and I said, “I need a temple recommend,” and he's like, “well just go to the temple.”  And I'm like, “Well, it's a little more complicated than that.”  And he's like, “okay.”


So, I tell him what I need because I have no garments, no nothing.  So, I have to get all those things.  And I need a temple recommend to be able to do it.  So anyway, as I'm talking to him, he's like, “So what brought you around?”  I was like, “No,” I wasn't willing to go into it at all.  He started to cry.  And I was like, “I just want to answer these questions and go.”  I didn't want to explain anything, I didn't want to go into it.  And my heart was like, “All I want is the blessings.  Just let me answer the questions, and I'll go.” 


It was almost like I had to put all of my doubts, all of my fears, all of my anxiety and frustrations and everything, I had to put them on a sacrificial table and say, “these stay here.  And I want the blessings more.”  And so, that's what I did.  And so, I met with the bishop, met with the stake president.  This was on a Sunday, and then I got garments on Wednesday.  (And then, and this was during spring break of my schooling, so I had time to do all these things.)  And then, on Thursday, I went to the temple.  And then it was like a Wednesday or Thursday the next week, temples were completely shut down. 


And it was so significant to me the amount of steps that had to be in place for me and my heart to be ready to do that.  And it was it was a huge step.  And it was honestly something that I never thought I would do.  I never thought I would go back.  When I left, I was like, “I'm done, I'm done.”  I just didn't think that it was a possibility to even go back.  So, as temples were closed, I was like, “Oh, my gosh,” this was a miracle to me that I was able to get this blessing, meet with this person that helped me, and then get my recommend, get everything that needs to be in place, and then to be able to go the temple, and then “shut down” for a year or longer.  It was crazy.




I can't help but think of the timing and what could have happened to your testimony if you didn't get that chance to go to the temple or start going back to church before COVID happened.  It was a saving grace.



COVID was so hard for everyone. But to have those extra blessings during COVID, when it was awful – I mean, when things are dark, and it's hard – to have those extra covenants and blessings, but it's really, really important to me.  And it was no accident that it happened in the way that it did. 


So, I feel really grateful that those things happened.  And then while we're all waiting, I took the time to start reading the Book of Mormon again and to study my covenants and what they really meant.  And that it's a relationship, that it's a closeness that we can have that we can't have any other way.  And then when we were able to go back, I started going with my dad and that was really special too because we would find cancellations, and so we would take these opportunities of looking online and finding a baptism that wasn't there before.  And it was just a miracle that we could get that baptism in there because baptisms were just booked solid.  For months, you couldn't even get one.  And so that was really significant, too, these little miracles would happen, that we could have these opportunities and things that we never went to the temple together before.  We never went ever; it wasn't a thing. 


And now, I got to go with my dad and have these amazing experiences with sealing and starting temple/family history work, I have never done that before.  So, that's been a new world for me, and it's just been incredible that I've been able to have these experiences with my dad.  He's getting older, and he’s not gonna be around forever, and these have just been really sweet experiences to be baptized by my dad, and to have these sealings and endowments and just to do family names versus just any name.  It's just been really rich and deep for me to be able to receive those things.


So, I watched Schindler's List, probably a year ago, and it really brought into perspective what covenants are to me.  Because these people, these ladies, were in Auschwitz.  And they're like, “we're not supposed to be here, we're supposed to be in Brunnzlitz, why are we here?”  And they kept saying, “We're Schindler's Jews.  We don't belong here.  We're Schindler's Jews.”  And when they started saying that that just played in my mind, and it just really brought home that those that have covenants, we say who's we are.  When we covenant, it's that he saves us from death, from spiritual death.  But not only that, it's like a protection and a safety and a closeness that we can experience when we hold close to those covenants.  So, it's really powerful to me to realize deeper what covenants mean; that it's not a “have to” thing, that it's something we get to do, that we can receive more because we're willing to receive him.




Thank you for sharing that.  That's beautiful.




Thanks.  So, yeah, it's been a beautiful journey, and I feel like my whole world has been opened up to new possibilities.  I've just discovered such beauty even in the world and just seeing so many more miracles happen because of this one experience to see God's hand in my life in small and big ways.  Even just watching the sunrise is really special because it's just feeling that sunlight on your face, and to feel that warmth and that love.  And to really feel like Christ is there in that moment of the sun peeking out from the clouds and from mountains.  It's peeking over the mountain and shining and it's like “I see you and you see me.”




I love that.  That reminds me when I was reading like the summary of your story, how you're writing about that and the depth that was added to your life by having Christ in your life.  I experienced the same thing when I was coming back, and I didn't realize that I was shallow, but I was shallow (or I was more shallow than I am now). 


But understanding the gospel and having Christ in your life, it does bring so much more depth in every little thing.  Like you said, even just a sunrise.  There's so much beauty and the gratitude. it just comes so naturally because you see the beauty, you appreciate the beauty, and then you are just grateful for it because you're in the middle of it. 


And I remember experiencing that.  And it was like seeing the world with new eyes.  So, that's really cool.  I'm glad you shared that with us.




Yeah, absolutely.  Yeah, it's been really neat.  Even just small things.  We had stake conference.  And the president talked about how, even if people leave, he knows where they are.  And studying the Old Testament has really opened my eyes to, even though they're scattered, he knows exactly where they are.  And he's there in every moment of their life as well.  Even if they don't recognize it, he's a part of it. 


And that's one thing that I've really realized in my journey, is that just because you leave, doesn't mean that you can't come back.  And even if people do leave, you can have hope.  You don't know what the future is gonna hold.  You don't know what it looks like.  I don't know what it looks like for my kids.  And we always have hope that something good will come out of it, that some miracle will happen, that we can't see, and to not give up.  There's no pressure.  But it's something that that we hope for.  And hope is a powerful thing.  It really is powerful.




Well, to give you a little hope, I was just thinking while you're talking but, with my story, I am the child of a wayward parent.  And it led to me being inactive in the Church and kind of just leaving religion altogether.  And although I made a lot of mistakes that I didn't have to, like I could have avoided all these things if I would have stayed in the Church. but like I came back, and I came back way stronger.  I don't know if that brings you any hope, but there is always hope.



One other thing I want to say:  I had a lot of guilt coming back to the Church because I felt like I rejected Jesus and his gift. And I feel like I had to get over my guilt of even leaving in the first place. And so, that is something that might come up for people as they're coming back, that they might feel bad that they hurt him in some way and that was a healing process too was to heal from just feeling guilty about leaving.  it's that's okay too, that it was something I needed to do. And that it's okay that it had to happen that way. And that he still loves us, that he still loves me and wants me back. My children, I don't care if they've left, I want them back and it's okay, whatever their journey is, but it doesn't matter to me.  I just want what's best for them. Just wanted to share that.




Do you want to share a little bit with us about what's going on your life today?




Through all my journey, I started doing a lot of different things where I was never on Facebook, I was never on Instagram. And there's so many things I overcame fears about, so I started a blog, and my website is www.jburningham.com. And so that's where my blog is. And I started writing music, and I recorded an album 2019. That was amazing. Amazing experience.


And then I just recorded a single that's coming out in December, beginning of December, I think it's December 7. So, I'm really excited about that. It's an amazing song.  “Walk in the Sunlight” that's the title. And it's just having hope, having hope for the future. And so, I'm super excited about that.


So, I started a YouTube channel, I started doing Facebook Lives. And I started doing Instagram, like so many things, my world just opened up. And so, it's been really neat to even just overcome fear, and have a reframe of how I see life.


So, right now, I'm a music teacher, I teach K to 3rd grade a couple times a week, and I love them, I get hugs every day that I go there, they're so fun. It's my favorite thing. And then I get to be a life coach the rest of the time, I love doing that, it's been really rewarding to help people see a different, different way, a different life, a different frame of mind, to overcome their fears as well.




What an incredible transformation.  To go from just being a member that's just checking off a list to being a member that's truly engaged, and your entire life just transforms even though it's the same church, it's just your engagement has changed your life.




I could say even my depth of my relationships with my family, and my husband has just been so much deeper, it's been incredible. And even my kids and just seeing them transform.  Because I was in school, they had to step up a lot, and their responsibility level just raised because I wasn't there to do laundry, I wasn't there to make sure they got off to school, they stepped up a lot.


So, I never did dishes for four years or whatever.  They always did. And so, there was a lot that went into even raising my family and their awareness and their contribution and responsibility level was awesome. It was awesome to see all of the pieces work together. And that was pretty miraculous as well, to have that support to be able to go back to school, it was a big deal. Because for kids and all that.




You mentioned a book in our chat before we started recording, can you tell us a little about that book?




Yeah, so it's called “Covenant Hearts”, and it’s by Bruce C Hafen, and I think I already had this book, but it just drew me in when I was struggling.  Because in the blessing, it talked about understanding my covenants, and then there was this book. And so, it really just helped me to understand my covenants more, and then I could talk to my husband about it. And it was just a really neat experience to have this book right there, and to read it during COVID.  It was produced in 2005, but I have like all these different pages marked.  And so, it's just been a really neat treasure to have this to understand covenants better. It's just an amazing book. So, I highly recommend it.




We do a book club, and this month we are reading “Faith is Not Blind” by Bruce C. Hafen. So, we'll have to add that one.



Bruce C. Hafen is incredible. And his work is pretty amazing because he worked so much with statistics and what happens with a marriage versus non-marriage and all of the laws that are happening.


And so, he really has studied a lot on just what marriage looks like for the community.  That it’s not just two people, it's a community event, and it's that the community supports them. And they support the community. And it's a really neat relationship that he talks about. And so, that's something on the cover – I don't know if you can see that – but it's a marriage and the whole village is coming out to welcome them to, to support them. And so, that's why I feel like divorce can be a death, it can be hard on everybody. People don't want to say that, but it's hard. It's hard. It's not just the couple, everyone feels it.  I love Bruce C. Hafen and just his work to support families. So, he's awesome.



Yeah, I'm so glad you shared that with us.  I’m excited to read it.



Yeah. Thank you.



Cool. All right. Well, I really, really enjoyed talking to you tonight. It's been great to get to know you. And I'm so glad that you've opened up to us. And we're just so blessed to be blessed by your beautiful testimony. So, thank you so much.



Yeah, thanks for having me. I'm really grateful you have this podcast to help people understand that they're not alone, and that it's okay to come back.