by Kasey Tross
A few weeks ago I read an article in which a minister was attempting to explain LDS doctrine. In the comments section, a church member tried to clarify a few of this minister’s misconceptions (like that men in the LDS church could marry women without their consent- uh YIKES!), and he was met by another commenter who used the argument I hear all too often:
“Mormons don’t know the truth about their own church.”
Maybe I’m naive, but this statement is always so confusing to me. It’s like if I joined a club for people who love the color blue, and at all the meetings we all wore blue, talked about blue things, made blue craft projects, and ate blue food. Then someone told me, “You don’t know the truth about your club. It’s really a club for people who love red.”
Okay, so even if that was the case, what would be a good reason for me to stop attending, if I love blue and everything I see, hear, read, and experience from this club is about blue?
Perhaps such people think that the church is trying to get my money. After all, isn't the ulterior motive behind most things in the world either money or power? Well, if money were the driving force I would be okay with that because the church is using my money to build temples and meetinghouses where I worship, create and distribute worship materials that I use, and to spread the gospel through missionary work, which I wholeheartedly support. All church leaders on the local level are unpaid volunteers, and the ones in higher positions are paid appropriately according to the full-time service they provide. As far as I can tell, nobody is getting rich from my membership in this church.
So let's take the second option: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is power hungry, and they want to control large groups of people. To do what? To serve in disaster areas around the world? To provide means to the less fortunate to get a good education? To help people in their community who are struggling? To bring people to a knowledge of Jesus Christ?
Actually…yeah, I'm okay with all that too.
So tell me, what am I missing?
Some of these individuals cite former leaders of the church and random obscure statements they made and say, "If people in your church knew what [fill in the blank here with Joseph Smith or any other former leader of the church] said about [fill in the blank here with some topic] then you would probably [cry, demand that your name be removed from the records of the church or fill in the blank with some other extreme reaction]." I, for one, can say that that is not true. Because what these people don't know is that my faith is not based on some random statement made by Joseph Smith or any other leader of this church. They are just men- good men, but imperfect and human. My faith is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ- who is the real Head of this Church- and those are the teachings I hear in church every Sunday. His teachings are what I read about in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the Doctrine and Covenants. I am a member of this church- His church- because I believe in Him, and I believe that the doctrines of this church are what will help me draw closer to him, not the words of the leaders (though I believe many of those words are inspired and do help me draw closer to him). For a great article discussing this in more depth, click here.
The best thing about this church is that we are encouraged to question. If I ever wonder whether a leader is off the mark, I am allowed to question and receive answers from the Lord for myself. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor to the President of the LDS Church, said:
“We are a question-asking people. We have always been, because we know that inquiry leads to truth. That is how the Church got its start, from a young man who had questions. In fact, I’m not sure how one can discover truth without asking questions. In the scriptures you will rarely discover a revelation that didn’t come in response to a question…. Inquiry is the birthplace of testimony.
“Some might feel embarrassed or unworthy because they have searching questions regarding the gospel, but they needn’t feel that way. Asking questions isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a precursor of growth.”
In the LDS Church we are taught the process of personal revelation, and we are encouraged to find answers and learn the truth for ourselves, and not to simply follow our leaders blindly.
I am not writing this post to convert anyone, though you may have noticed that Mormons are pretty big on that too. Why? Because we want more money for bigger, better meetinghouses? Because we want bragging rights? No. Because we love Christ and we have found peace and joy in His gospel, and we not only want to share it, but we know that we are commanded to share it. Robert C. Oaks gave this wonderful analogy about why we share our faith:
"Consider that you are invited to a friend’s house for breakfast. On the table you see a large pitcher of freshly squeezed orange juice from which your host fills his glass. But he offers you none. Finally, you ask, 'Could I have a glass of orange juice?'
He replies, 'Oh, I am sorry. I was afraid you might not like orange juice, and I didn’t want to offend you by offering you something you didn’t desire.'
"Now, that sounds absurd, but it is not too different from the way we hesitate to offer up something far sweeter than orange juice. I have often worried how I would answer some friend about my hesitancy when I meet him beyond the veil." – Robert C. Oaks, Oct. 2000
We share because we love what we have and we want others to enjoy the same happiness and peace.
But are all Mormons happy all the time? No. Once again, we are human and imperfect. However, most of us have inner peace (sometimes called “ruthless optimism”) that comes from knowing who we are, where we came from, why we're here, and where we're going after we die.
So for all of you who try to tell me I'm in the wrong club, I know you mean well, but I just can't believe it. The scriptures tell us, "By their fruits ye shall know them.”(Matthew 7:20) When it comes to what really matters, I see nothing but good fruit. And I will continue to partake.
Please note: This is not a post directed to those who disagree with our doctrine. I understand that everyone must follow their own path, and to you I say that we can agree to disagree. “We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege. Let them worship how, where or what they may.” (Articles of Faith #11) This post is regarding those who are of the opinion that I am misinformed about my faith, or that I am somehow being duped about my religion.
Coming up this Saturday and Sunday is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' semi-annual General Conference, which is televised around the world and is also available to view online. I would encourage any of you who have questions or concerns about the LDS Church to watch this conference and make your own decision based on what you see and hear. And just so you know, this conference is not a show- the teachings you will hear are the same ones we hear every week in our meetinghouses around the world, and the messages given there will be published and used as resource material for church members from now on.