Sunday, October 9, 2011

Why I Believe

I spent the last few days thinking about Karen's, Alycia's and Jen's questions contained in the comments section of this post.  Your questions made me reflect not only on what I believe, but why.  It's been an interesting journey.  Thank you, friends. I hope this series of posts can shed some light on your questions.

image from here

I was born into a Mormon family--many generations back on both sides.  It's all I've ever known really, so I don't have any perspective of Mormonism from outside my faith.  One statement has always puzzled me:  "Mormonism is a cult."  I don't know exactly what people mean when they say this.

I worship God the Father, and His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ. I call myself Christian, and I feel this word accurately describes who I am and what I believe. I do not worship Joseph Smith, Thomas Monson, or any other man who has lived or will live on earth.  I respect and honor Joseph Smith as a man who was persecuted for his beliefs, a man who had a difficult task to perform on earth, like I respect Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, or any of the other Founding Fathers.  I believe Thomas Monson to be the man currently holding responsibility for me and the other members of my Church.  He is nothing more than a man, doing his best to be obedient, and chosen to lead a large group of people who believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ.

I attend the temple whenever I can.  The practices in LDS temples are best described here. In essence, the temple is a sacred place on earth where members of the Church can go to ponder and think about holy things or personal problems, away from the distractions of daily life. The lessons taught in the temple aren't secret.  In the temples around the world, we are reminded of the importance of obedience, chastity and virtue, studying the scriptures, and devoting our time and energy and talents to working in God's kingdom here on earth.  We also covenant with God that we will follow these commandments.  These covenants--two-way promises between us and our Father in Heaven--are not secret, but they are so sacred to us that we keep them private, so that they remain sacred and personal. Marriages are also performed in the temples.  I'll talk more about that on Friday.

Let me describe myself a little bit:
No one forces me to do anything.  Ever.  As a child, I would call black "white" just to be obstinate.  I am very opinionated, often admittedly to my detriment, and I'll try to prove my point to my dying breath.  And that's just my good qualities.

True, I was raised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I consider being "converted" to its teachings, doctrines, beliefs, and practices a lifelong journey.  My parents never forced me or my siblings to attend Church--it was always our choice, but we knew where they stood on the issue and where they would be for three hours every Sunday.

When it was time for me to get married, no one forced me to marry in the temple or take my children to Church or pay tithing or read my scriptures or pray or volunteer to work in my ward (a term for a Mormon congregational division).  I do these things because I've tested their promises.  I know that when I take my family to Church, we are happier and are one in purpose.  I know that when we pay our tithing, there is always enough money to meet our expenses.  I know that the scriptures contain answers for me and the problems I face and questions I have.  Why? Because time and again I have found what I desperately sought in their pages.

When I serve others in my ward--whether I'm teaching a class or cleaning the meeting house or watching the little kids in the nursery--I am happy, and I know that no matter how small my efforts may be, God is pleased with my offering.  It isn't a contest of who can be the most important or pay the most tithing or work the hardest.  The underlying beauty of the Church that I belong to is this (as summarized by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, one of our Church's leaders): "God knows that some of the greatest souls who have ever lived are those who will never appear in the chronicles of history. They are the blessed, humble souls who emulate the Savior’s example and spend the days of their lives doing good." (For the text of his entire message, click here.)

I spend my days teaching my family, working, studying and thinking, praying and playing--and trying to "do good."  And every day I reconvert myself to the teachings of Jesus Christ.  It's an ongoing, lifelong process.

Why do I believe?  Not because my parents believe it or because a man in a dark suit in Salt Lake City, Utah, requires it.  I believe because I've tested it, and I know it's where I belong.
Today:  My personal conversion
Tuesday: Missions and the Plan of Salvation
Wednesday:  The Son of God, Birth and Conception, Mormons and the Trinity
Thursday:  The Bible and Other Sacred Texts
Friday:  Eternal Families


  1. I don't really have any questions, Jen, but I will tune in for your series. I am always interested to learn more about other denominations.

  2. That was beautiful Jen. I loved it.
    Thanks so much for sharing it.

  3. I am looking forward to reading your series this week Jen! Thanks again for being so willing to be so open with us about your faith and to answer our questions. :)

  4. That was beautifully written, and so heartfelt. I look forward to reading your series this week, not for the knowledge of new things, but for the strengthening of my own testimony. What a great way to come out of a blogger's block! Hope Micah back to his normal speed, and the cast isn't slowing him down.

  5. You couldn't have said it better. I enjoyed every word and look forward to reading more. See THIS is why you blog. Because you never know who you're going to touch or help with the written word.
    If your son has even a fraction of the testimony you have, then I know he's an awesome missionary.
    Well done friend.

  6. I love hearing the testimonies of my children. I will certainly enjoy your blog this week.

  7. I really enjoyed your post! I was born and raised "Mormon" as well, and never felt like I HAD to be. My parents taught me just like yours did and I've followed the teachings that I've learned and gained my own testimony of it. I'm grateful for the gospel and love reading more about it and about other people's testimonies. I love that you mentioned that "conversion" is a life-long journey. I think that even members of the church need to be reminded of it...sometimes more than those who find the gospel later in life! Thanks for the reminder! I'll continue to tune into the series!

  8. So astutely put! I am a convert and am constantly teaching my family of origin about the LDS church and sometime defending my choice. I am directing them to you!

  9. Missed this yesterday, and it's funny that I wrote about the church being called a cult in my post today.

    I think you did it better because I was just venting after watching an annoying news program. I can't wait to read the rest of your week's posts.


  10. oh the many times i have had this conversation with my dad and stepmom:) i think they are FINALLY starting to come around, after we convinced them that joseph smith didn't really pull jesus out of his hat (where did they get that from??????). anyway, we all are finally agreeing that faith is faith. whenever we discuss something more peculiar about being mormon my dad always chimes in to my stepmom and says, "sandra, mary was a VIRGIN! have a little faith!" love him:)

  11. Good job!
    I was not born into an LDS family so sometimes I can look at the questions people have from the outside perspective and it makes my testimony grow all over again!

  12. Good thing I read this every day, or else I would die having to wait until Friday for my answer. Ha! I look forward to reading all of it!

    I really wish people didn't just throw around the word "cult". It just makes the person misusing the word look foolish. I thought Romney's response about hateful words never changing anyone's mind was right on.

  13. I love the testimony. I hope my children can say this someday. I am the convert for my family. It is one of the best decisions of my life.

  14. I'm really looking forward to reading this series Jen. I am drawing on the things you say to be able to put them in a context for people I know. It's hard for me to put my testimony into the right words. Reading something like this helps.

  15. This is a wonderful post, Jen. I think your faith in your religion is beautiful and the fact that you follow it because *you* choose to makes it even more special.

  16. Faith is faith. No matter the higher power.