Monday, February 6, 2017

Why Are You a Mormon? My Personal Answer

To date, I have extensively studied and documented here on my blog thousands of reasons why Mormons believe what we do, but I have yet to directly give my readers a personal answer to this question. Well of late, I've felt the Spirit of the Lord urging me to do just that, so here it is.



Mormonism: A Most Outlandish Religion

Why am
I a Mormon of all things, you ask? The question is an understandable one.

Mormonism has got to be the most outlandish and unlikely of religions on the planet. We believe in Jesus Christ and strive to live His teachings, yet our beliefs concerning the nature of God do not qualify us in the eyes of others to be called Christians. (see my articles: Latter-Day Saints and the Creeds of Christendom, Holy Trinity, He is Risen) We believe that our Church is destined to put the capstone on the promises which God made to the Jews anciently, saying the Gentiles would help gather them, re-establish their nation, and even provide the means for them to rebuild their temple at the coming of their Messiah, yet we are not Jews. (see my article on The Savior's Parable of the Fig Tree, Ezekiel 37) We are the only religion on earth that believes in the operation of living oracles as did the people of the Bible - the primary reason why the world has labeled us a cult, just as it once did both Judaism and Christianity. (see my article: Is Mormonism a Cult? Answered By a Mormon) Our doctrines and practices are unique, to say the least. Yet the more I study, the more I see how perfectly our religion fits the teachings of the Bible. (see my Beliefs of the LDS Church page) We believe God has given more scripture in resumption of a divine pattern established and repeated many, many times throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Malachi and Matthew to Revelation - the same God, yesterday, today, and forever! (see my articles: The Importance of "New" Scripture, Biblical Reasons Why Everyone Should Want to Read the Book of Mormon, Hebrews 13:8) We are easily the most peculiar religion on earth - a thing which we consider to be an identifying feature of the kingdom of God in every dispensation, including our own. (1 Peter 2:6-9)


I could get into the work scholars have done both inside and outside the Church which has cast light on ancient evidences of our doctrines and practices and even the historicity of both the Pearl of Great Price and the Book of Mormon. I could get into archaeological and genetic discoveries made in North America that prove Jews were here in the Book of Mormon time frame. I could get into the weapons and highways and architecture discovered in South America that match Book of Mormon descriptions. (see my article The Coming Forth of the Book of Mormon) I could tell you of ancient evidences of Mormon temple practices in early Christianity. (see the Fair Mormon article: The Israelite Temple and The Early Christians) I could tell you of the many things I personally have discovered in the Bible and elsewhere that for me uniquely identify the LDS Church as the kingdom of God in latter days. (see my LDS Beliefs page again, link provided above)


All these things reaffirm my faith, but they are not the real reasons why I - or any of us - has joined the Mormon church.


 So, why Mormonism of all things? Why have millions of ordinary, fairly intelligent, unassuming, genuinely religious people, including myself, gathered to its ensign over the last two centuries? Why is Mormonism one of the few religions on earth that is still growing? Why am I personally a Mormon, you ask?


For me, and for every other devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the answer centers around a steady stream of deeply personal spiritual experiences. Although they make no sense to those who do not believe in such things, these experiences are very real, and they answer questions and fill soul-deep holes that cannot be answered or filled in any other way. (1 Corinthians 2:9-14)



Mormonism and Jesus Christ

I am a Mormon because my faith has shown me the way to see the salvation of my God, who is that same Jesus of Nazareth who was born in a manger, lifted up upon the cross, and slain for the sins of the world.


My favorite character in the Bible is the apostle Paul, because he shows me how to deal with my "thorns in the flesh". He shows me how to "take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake", how to become strong and have the Lord's all-sufficient grace in my life by admitting my weakness before Him. He shows me how, when I finally start succeeding at my efforts to live the gospel, "laboring more than they all", the real power is "not I but grace which was in me." (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, 1 Corinthians 15:9-10) I love the words of Isaiah who taught me how the Lord causes those who "wait upon [Him]" to "mount up with wings" and "run and not be weary and walk and not faint". ( Isaiah 40:31) Isaiah taught me to seek to have the Lord make me into a "tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord" (Isaiah 61:1-3) He taught me to impose on the Lord, to let His chastisement and His stripes and suffering buy me peace, not just by way of salvation from sin but also in all adversity and injustice. (Isaiah 53:5). He taught me to freely and frequently partake of the Lord's grace to enable me to do all He requires of me. (Isaiah 55:1-3, compare John 4:10-14) I love the words of Jesus Himself who so freely offered to bear up our burdens and our pains - to join us and pull with us in our heavy yoke, if we would but believe and let Him. (Matthew 11:28-30) I love His teaching about my need to abide in His love, to connect into His "true vine" in order to "bring forth much fruit". (John 15:1-8)


But I don't just have the likes of Paul and Jesus and Isaiah and so many more from the Bible to teach me these things.


I first learned them from Alma the Younger whose exquisite and bitter pains in sin were replaced by the exquisite and sweet joy of redemption when his mind caught hold of the memory of his father prophesying about the coming of "one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world." (Alma 36:11-22) He went from considering himself to be "the vilest of sinners" to being a powerful missionary who helped convert thousands at the city of Ammonihah and worked to strengthen the church in the valley of Gideon. (Mosiah 28:4) Talk about becoming a new creature in Christ! Alma the Younger taught me that, although God does not always take our troubles away, he does "deliver us out of them all" in the sense that he walks with us and succors us in the midst of our trials "according to our infirmities". (Alma 7:11-12,see also Psalms 34:19)  In speaking of his father's ministry, he gave me the hope of having bands of my own loosed by the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and he encouraged me work toward the day when I too got to feel of His redemption and "sing the song of redeeming love!" Because of the words of Alma the Younger, I sought to have "a mighty change wrought in [my] heart", to be "born again!"  (Alma 5:3-14)


I testify that I went on to obtain in abundance!


I learned from the example of Nephi the importance of having a personal relationship with "my Jesus", of "[knowing] the God in whom I have trusted". (2 Nephi 4:19-34, 2 Nephi 33:6) I learned from Enoch to at least begin learning to "walk with God". (see Moses 6:39) I learned from the prophet king Benjamin to seek to lose my disposition to do evil and have it replaced with a "disposition to do good continually", that if I would do so the day would come when "my [mouth would be shut] that [I] could not find utterance, so exceedingly great [would be] my joy!" (see Mosiah 5:2, Mosiah 4:20) Such is the joy of freedom from sin. I learned from Zeniff and king Limhi and Ammon about my need to "serve the Lord with all diligence of mind" and fight my battles "in the strength of the Lord" if I would be "[delivered] out of bondage" in sin. (Mosiah 7:29-33, Mosiah 10:10) I learned from Mormon my need to have the Lord "make weak things become strong unto me". (Ether 12:27-28) I learned from Helaman about reading the scriptures and following the witness of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Helaman 3:29-30, see also Ephesians 6:10-17), and I learned from him what the Lord meant when He said "build upon [my] rock". (see Helaman 5:12, compare Matthew 7:24-27)


The Book of Mormon has played a major role in my life, in leading me to come unto Christ and be saved in Him!


See my article: What Jesus Christ Means to Me


 

Restoration and Revelation

I believe God works miracles and gives revelation only according to our faith. If we believe He does no such things, we preclude Him from doing them among us. Our lack of faith becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Joseph Smith had faith in God's willingness to communicate His wisdom to mankind. He showed us that what the apostle James had taught was true: personal revelation is available to all who "ask in faith, nothing wavering!" (see James 1:5-6)

I myself have felt what it is to pray and have the Lord confirm His truths to me by the witness of His Spirit. I trust and believe because I know by extensive experience that God can and does speak, not so much by "visions" or "voices", but directly to the human soul through His Spirit, and God does not lie.


How to Obtain a Spiritual Witness
How to Pray

Harden Not Your Hearts Any Longer; Believe in Christ



The prophet Amos foretold of a time when there would be a "famine of hearing the word of the Lord." (Amos 8:11) Isaiah prophesied of a time when the Lord would pour out a deep spiritual sleep upon the earth; He would "cover" the prophets and the seers.  In a time when the fear of God is "taught by the precept of men", the Lord would do a marvelous work and a wonder whose advent would be marked by the publication of a sealed book read by the unlearned. This was to become "one in thine hand" with the Bible - more scripture! (see Isaiah 29, Ezekiel 37:15-20)

The apostle Paul told the Thessalonians Christ would not come "except there come a falling away first". The New Testament is full of evidences that early Christian church leaders were already having trouble keeping the Church from going astray. (e.g. 2 Thessalonians 2) John the Revelator lived at a time when the fullness of the gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ were on the earth. I believe he foresaw a time when, by angelic ministration, that same Church and gospel would be restored to the earth again, there being an evident need for it:


"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters." (Revelation 14:6-7, emphasis added, compare D&C133:36-39)

I believe the words of Jesus Christ concerning our time:

"I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments; And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world... That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers. Behold, I am God and have spoken it; these commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness..." (D&C 1:17-18, 23-24)

"...this church have I established and called forth out of the wilderness..." (D&C 33:5, compare Revelation 12:6, The Amazing Christian Escape)

"For thus shall my church be called in the last days, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (D&C 115:4)


I believe that, because of the lack of faith and because the people of His Church did not heed them, the Lord withdrew his prophets and apostles anciently - he did indeed cover the seers! And I believe that, because of faith, He has uncovered them again in our time, just as He promised He would! To me, His Church truly is a marvelous work and a wonder!


 

LDS Lower Light:
General Apostasy & Restoration Foretold
General Apostasy & Restoration Fulfilled

 

Earliest Experiences

Like Clark Kent discovering something glowing in his barn, I remember some of my earliest experiences with the witness of the Holy Ghost, whispering like a secret something, "You're a stranger here". I remember in my youth that sweet influence working in my mind and gently burning in my heart, infusing me with conviction no earthly proof or reason alone could ever hope to match. I remember the light and the power that flowed through me when, as a child, I first sang those words in Primary:


"The Spirit of God like a fire is burning!

The latter-day glory begins to come forth;
The visions and blessings of old are returning,
And angels are coming to visit the earth.

The Lord is extending the Saints' understanding,
Restoring their judges and all as at first.
The knowledge and power of God are expanding;
The veil o'er the earth is beginning to burst.

We'll sing and we'll shout with the armies of heaven,
Hosanna, hosanna to God and the Lamb!
Let glory to them in the highest be given,
Henceforth and forever, Amen and amen!"


LDS Hymns #2 - The Spirit of God
 
I came away from that experience without any doubt whatsoever that an ancient God of miracles and prophets and angels and revelation and visions and glory had begun His work in the earth once again. That conviction has only deepened with time and study.


Deepening Convictions and The Life-Changing Power of Baptism

I still remember what it felt like to be baptized. I remember feeling the joy of being so perfectly clean that I walked as on eggshells for days, trying desperately not to mess it up, to hold on to something that seemed to be slipping through my young fingers. It was so real to me that it was almost tangible. That experience ignited in me a yearning to get back to that purity, that indescribable joy! It was a yearning that, unbeknownst to me at the time, would continue to drive my passionate pursuit of spiritual things for the rest of my life.

Being a music person, I leaned heavily on the Primary Children's Songbook and the hymns for getting through some rough patches in junior high school. The many powerful experiences this provided served to further deepen both my conviction and my pursuit of spiritual things. It also gave me a powerful desire to serve as a full-time LDS missionary in my youth.


 
The Temple and A Long-Forgotten Home

Again, like Clark Kent, casting his crystal out onto the glacier, the day came when I experienced going to the temple for the first time. Suddenly, the house of the Lord became a place where I could go to learn of my First Parents, of my origins, of my journey to Earth, and of my Heavenly Father's reasons for sending me to crash-land in this forlorn realm. This was a place where I could go to train in the tools I needed to to succeed in my earthly mission here in mortality. Here, I could complete the training which the Bible and Book of Mormon had afforded me - training that to this day still leads me to come unto Christ. Strange and beautiful at the same time, going to the temple was like being reunited with an ages-old keepsake, an ancient heirloom reminiscent of a long-forgotten Home!

 
Pre-Mortal Existence

I am a Mormon because Mormonism tells me where I came from before I came to earth. I believe what the Lord told Jeremiah is true for all of us: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee..." (Jeremiah 1:5)


I don't just have the Bible to tell me; I feel it deep inside: something of me existed before I was ever conceived in my mother's womb! I believe we were there when the Father and the Son took counsel together to organize a place where we could come to experience mortality and be proven in our faith and obedience in all things. (see Abraham 3:22-25, John 1:1-2)


I believe all of us saw "[God lay] the foundations of the earth, and... [we] shouted for joy!" (Job 38:4-7)


 
Purpose in Mortality

I don't believe the Fall of mankind was an accident; nor do I believe God is in recovery mode. Surely He who counseled us not to build a tower without first counting the cost knew the end from the beginning before He created anything that was made. (Luke 14:28) He knew Adam and Eve would partake of the tree of knowledge, that it would open the way for their mortal probation to begin. I believe what father Lehi said: "Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." (2 Nephi 2:25)


I believe that although Adam and Eve grieved over their transgression and were required to repent of it, ultimately the Savior turned their sorrow into great reason to rejoice! What began in sorrow and grief ended up being the very doorway into mortality through which all mankind had to enter if they would experience redemption or ever see a resurrection in glory! (see 1 Corinthians 15:22, Moses 5:10-11)


I believe we also knew at least something of what we were getting into when we came here. We knew there would be suffering and injustice, adversity and tragedy - even unimaginable pain, unbearable loss, and great evil in the world. But I believe we also trusted in the redemption of almighty God. We knew that enduring our trials and temptations in an imperfect world was the only way we could begin to have physical experiences, the only way we could obtain saving ordinances, the only way we could come to truly understand and deeply value the perfect world into which our Savior was offering to save us. We knew that a grueling sojourn in just such a world was necessary for us to truly understand what it would someday mean for our God to save us into a world where we would rest eternally from all these things. We trusted that all we stood to lose would be restored one day. We trusted that there would be great joy and glory hereafter, insomuch that we shouted with joy when the foundations of the earth were laid! 


I believe experiencing just such a Fall, making the everyday mistakes of mortality, and then growing in redemption through the blood of Christ, causes us to truly see what the prophets mean when they testify that God is mighty save; it causes us to deeply value the very real miracle that is salvation from sin. Redemption from sin and from the Fall makes us deeply indebted to Him. This in turn makes higher quality disciples and better candidates for salvation into His heaven. (see Luke 7:37-50, D&C 19:16-19)

Here in mortality, life may be hard and even painful at times, but it gives me great joy and great hope to hold tight to the promise of the apostle Paul: "...the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Romans 8:18)


I believe there is
great purpose in mortality!

 
Death

I am a Mormon because to us, mortality is just a temporary state, and death, though painful, is just a point in time fixed by God where we transition to the next phase of our eternal existence. The Lord, through the ordinances of His temple, has provided us the means to keep the only things that really matter, even in death: our eternal families. So for us, there is no such thing as a forever goodbye - only the pain of longing for a reunion we cannot yet see. 


If we let it, death can teach us something of the eternal nature of the human soul. Any honest person who has ever attended the viewing of a departed loved one knows at first glance that what they see is a whole lot less than their loved one with the batteries pulled out. What they see is no longer their loved one - only an expired imitation, a mockery of what we knew with that person in life. A familiar physical appearance may yet lie motionless before us, but the person we knew is no longer there. Something eternal has gone missing - he, or she, has gone somewhere else!

I believe that deep within each of us, some way, somehow, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we just know: there is no end, only impenetrable yet
temporary absence!

 
Salvation for the Dead

I am a Mormon because I believe that, whether in life or in death, God gives all of us an equal chance to partake in that which He has offered His children by the atoning blood of His Only Begotten Son. I believe "Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living." (Romans 14:9)


I believe in a God who is no respecter of persons, a Good Shepherd who even in death still leaves the ninety-and nine to go after one who is lost. I believe "it is not the will of the Father that any of these little ones should perish." (Matthew 18:11-14)


I believe the words of Paul who said, "For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law..." (Romans 2:11-12) There are millions upon millions of people who have lived and died without ever hearing - much less accepting - the word of God. I do not believe a just God can or will judge these people by a standard they were never taught. I believe the great mercy of God extends even to those wicked souls who died in the great flood at the time of Noah, to whom the Lord went and preached, following His death. (see 1 Peter 3:18-20, 1 Peter 4:6) I believe all people deserve an opportunity to partake of the ordinances of salvation in an unpolluted dispensation, one that has not been corrupted by the wayward philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.

For all these reasons, it gives me great joy to spend my Sunday afternoons searching out my ancestors, an occasional Saturday at the temple performing saving ordinances in their behalf, as was done anciently. (see 1 Corinthians 15:29) There is no weird stuff here, no one obligated against their will - only me doing dear friends a favor that will be with them forever if they want it to be. We don't "contact the dead" or anything strange like that. But I personally have felt the veil between heaven and earth grow very thin while I worked. I have felt the prayers of my ancestors, and I have felt their great joy at knowing I was searching them out and getting their temple work done! For me, the work of saving the dead is not just very real, it is
always deeply personal!

 

LDS Lower Light: Temple Work for the Dead
www.ancestry.com
www.familysearch.org

 
Forever Love

In every love song ever sung, every love poem ever written, people have long expressed a yearning to love "forever". Even references to "til death do us part" are often described as being "forever". Notions of "love" and "forever" seem permanently conjoined, deeply interwoven together into the fabric of the human spirit.


In my own experience both in being single and in being married, in having children and not, in knowing my Savior and not, I have found that my personal relationships with God, with my wife, and with my children represent my greatest potential for meaning and joy in life. I cannot fathom the idea of permanently losing what I have with them in death! I cannot fathom all of us passing through death, eventually to end up in the same heaven, and not being reunited as an eternal family!


I believe our God created for us "among the mansions of His Father" a heavenly abode where, if we are faithful, we will live forever. I believe in a Heavenly Father who created us with the longing to love forever. And I believe He has provided the means for us to enjoy our heavenly abode
with our loving families, together, for time and for all eternity! I don't believe heaven would be any heaven at all without my wife and children and parents and siblings and everyone else in my family there to share in it with me. I believe the Lord has once again granted the power to bind and to loose on earth and in heaven so that when we die, we have the promise of someday being "gathered to [our] people", never to bid farewell again! (see Genesis 49:33)

 

LDS Lower Light: Temple Ordinances


What I Feel At Church

On my first Sunday as a missionary in Venezuela, I attended church in a chapel unlike any I had ever seen before. This one had linoleum floors, and instead of panes in the windows, it had horizontal glass slats that could be opened to admit fresh air or closed to shut out the fury of the frequent tropical storms. It had no organ and no piano - only a CD player and the hymn accompaniments on CD, played over a microphone. I scarcely understood a word on that first day, though the bishop did ask me to address the congregation briefly in my new language.


But this humble South American chapel had something in common with every other chapel in which I had ever attended: it had a quiet Spirit that seemed to walk the halls with me.


Both during my mission and since, I have seen a handful of people join the Church because of the feeling they found in our places of worship. It's a gentle sort of spiritual fire that warms you inside if you are open to it - one that makes very evident the fact that God needs no imagining. He is not merely real; He is there! (John 14:16-18; Matthew 18:20, Habakkuk 2:18-20)


 

What It's Like to Become a Mormon - The Story of Nillia Telleria's conversion

 
It was in a chapel setting I first learned and felt the meaning of these words:

"Heavenly Father, are you really there?
And do you really answer every child's prayer?
Some say that heaven is far away,
But I feel it all around me as I pray!"

(Children's Primary Songbook #12 - A Child's Prayer)


All of these things together are the "reason of the hope that is in me." (1 Peter 3:15) These are my reasons why I am and always will be a Mormon!

Come to church with us!  www.mormon.org/meetinghouse
Meet with LDS missionaries www.mormon.org/missionaries

LDS Lower Light: What is Mormonism?