General Conference Prep: Remembering What I Love About Mormonism

General Conference Prep: Remembering What I Love About Mormonism


General Conference is this weekend and something is weighing heavily on my mind. But I’ll begin with a prefacing confession. These days, what you say isn’t taken seriously unless it’s “authentic.” So here’s an authentic, unvarnished truth:

I love being Mormon.

I love being a member of a Church that believes God still speaks. I love being a member of a church that believes literally *everyone* who has ever lived has a shot at salvation—the Chinese farmer in 400 BC, Muslims, Catholics, atheists, that guy who cut you off on I-15. I am energized by our vibrant, personal, and giving Mormon community, especially in times such as these, where few even know their neighbors’ name let alone find community in rotary clubs, Boy Scouts, or church. I’m humbled by the several moments in which God has quietly touched my heart with assurances that this indeed is His Church and that He’s in control.

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People gather outside the Conference Center in Salt Lake City, Utah

Of course, as with every religion, institution, or dogma, there are some difficult things that have to be taken in stride, with faith and hope. Some parts of our history, some contemporaneous Church practices, some things our leaders say, are difficult to understand and can even cause pain. These things are worth talking about, especially if correction and healing are our aims.

Now, I don’t want to minimize that at all, but I need to take that risk because what I want to say next is important. I believe those negative facets are, proportionally, only one part of the overwhelmingly beautiful portrait of Mormonism.

Lately though, it seems we only focus on the negatives. We air our grievances with the Church far more often than we extol its virtues, even though that approach gets the proportionality precisely backwards. And as a result, we distort the portrait. Narratives are powerful, and unless we remind ourselves of the good “whole,” we may start to see only the bad “part.”

It is easier to destroy than to construct. More to the point, It’s easier to tear down what others have constructed than to admire it. When I was in Peru a few months ago, I was impressed by the architectural facility of the Incas, who *without having invented THE WHEEL,* nevertheless built fortresses and temples so formidable that a layman can tell by the naked eye whether it is an Incan or a less carefully constructed Spanish structure. My admiration also fueled my frustration with the Spanish Conquistadors, who, upon their arrival in Cusco, promptly destroyed every Incan building they could find.

Cusco

The Spanish-built cathedral, the Church of Santo Domingo, literally on top of the Incan Temple of the Sun, Coricancha, after they knocked it down and looted its gold, sourced here

Does the fact that the Spanish successfully destroyed these fortresses and temples diminish how well-constructed they were? Does it reveal that actually their buildings were never that impressive after all, that they were unworthy of respect and awe? Of course not. All it reveals is the simple truth that anything can be destroyed with enough force.

I’m worried that we’re treating our Church like the Spaniards treated those Incan ruins. I don’t mean to imply Mormonism will be destroyed, but I do feel this deconstructive impulse will do serious harm to the Church’s ability to carry out its mission. After all, if one wanted to deconstruct Mormonism (or anything for that matter), there are ways to do it. But just as the Spanish weren’t exposing Incan architectural naïveté when they destroyed their civilization, he won’t be proving Mormonism is wrong or harmful or lacks salvific force. He’ll just be knocking down something awesome.

With General Conference coming this weekend, My prayer is that we can all spend some time remembering what is good and positive, that we can remind ourselves that what is good and positive vastly overwhelms what isn’t.

Like I said, sometimes it takes more effort to appreciate what has been constructed than to deconstruct. Lest this post be merely as an abstract theoretical exercise without practical application, I spent a significant amount of time composing a list of things I love about being Mormon.

  1. I love that membership in the Church fills my life with a more complete, ennobling purpose. There’s always someone to serve, something to work towards, a vision for humanity to realize.
  2. Ours is the only church that believes in and acknowledges a Heavenly Mother! “In the heav’ns are parents single? / No, the thought makes reason stare! / Truth is reason; truth eternal / Tells me I’ve a mother there.”
  3. The Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of the atonement with poignant, empowering clarity
  4. The Church entrusts it’s most important weekly ritual—the Sacrament—to 12, 14, and 16-year-old kids, instilling in them at an early age a familiarity with and reverence for that which is sacred.
  5. Amidst every crisis, whether it be a natural disaster or a geopolitical struggle, the Church and its members are there with helping hands and full hearts
  6. Every month ordinary members donate money sometimes as much as 1 to 2% of their income to literally feed the hungry mouths and shelter the homeless souls of those who silently, often anonymously, suffer in the pews beside them.
  7. Every member of the Church is assigned home teachers and visiting teachers so that nobody is without aid in time of need, whether it be physical emotional or spiritual.
  8. Ordinary folks like you and I routinely spend 5, 10, even 20+ hours a week serving our congregations without pay.
  9. Our church emphasizes scripture study so much, we send our teenagers to study the Scriptures every single day throughout the four years of high school (most of whom attend before 6AM!), at a time when they need it most. That’s a testament to how much our church values and esteems the powerful Word of God.
  10. We start at 3 years old and never stop learning how to be a part of a living, breathing, giving community.
  11. Parts of our history are often confounding, but it’s also FULL of miraculous witnesses of gods divinity, authority, and love.
  12. Our church is really good at making YouTube videos
  13. Because I believe the church’s unique doctrine of pre-mortal existence, namely that our souls were known and numbered by God before we came to this earth, I am able to see trials for what they are: “a small moment.”
  14. I love that I can go to the celestial room of the temple and experience a piece heaven
  15. I love that there are 15 people (the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency), all of whom could be in the apex of their professional careers or enjoying well-deserved retirement, who have instead chosen to consecrate every waking hour to the Church and its efforts to bless the world.
  16. I love that I can go just about anywhere in the world and find a congregation of saints, possessed of that identifiable Mormon sense of community, worshiping the Lord just as I do in my home congregation.
  17. I love it when our leaders make pretty mild jokes in general conference but we laugh like it’s Jerry Seinfeld’s newest stand-up routine.
  18. I love that the President of our Church spent his 20s and 30s caring for lonely, tired widows, people who otherwise might have passed silently and unnoticed into the annals of eternity.
  19. I love that I can show up to church on Sunday and, if I’m looking for it, find a wealth of ways to serve and to engage with my brothers and sisters.
  20. I love that we believe that God never stopped caring, never stopped speaking, and never gave up on us. That God did not snip the cord of his microphone in 33 A.D., that there are many things he’s yet to reveal and will reveal to us as we need it.
  21. I love how our church prioritizes family history,  that it seeks with unyielding persistence to connect us with our past, with our families, with the hope that we can form true, lasting connections with them in the temple.
  22. I love that we believe salvation is open to all. The question whether the Chinese farmer in 400 BC can go to heaven has confounded other religions. It’s a question without a satisfying answer everywhere else, but in Mormonism, it finds an answer, and that answer confirms that Jesus truly is as merciful as He’s always told us He is.
  23. Mormonism not only suggests, it commands us to seek truth wherever we can find it. Literally wherever.
  24. I love that Mormonism plucks self-absorbed 18 and 19 year old kids out of society at the peak of their narcissism, and drops them into a system that gets them to spend  every hour of the day, searching, teaching, and living the Word of God.
  25. I love that we are the only church (traditional Catholic parishes aside) that still separates into congregation by where we live. Just like my family, I don’t get to choose my ward and as a result, I rub shoulders with people I might never encounter otherwise, with people who disagree with my politics or who exhibit each and every one of my pet peeves. I call that person “brother” or “sister” and I serve them, and let them serve me, and therein find God.

What’s on your list? Tell us in the comments or on our Facebook page, and have a great Conference weekend.

9 Comments

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  1. 1
    Jenny @ Unremarkable Files

    I love what it does for the youth of the church. Starting at age 12, they stand up in front of a group of 100+ people and speak publicly in sacrament meeting. They learn to lead and teach. Look at their Personal Progress or Duty to God books – any kid who does all those things is well on their way to becoming an awesome man or woman. I love how the church gives teenagers the big picture and encourages them to look beyond what’s happening on social media or their plans for the weekend.

  2. 3
    Laura

    I love that our buildings have a definite feeling and vibe, as well as a physical “look.”. Occasionally, we have to meet somewhere else, and it never quite feels right.
    I love to experience conference via TV and know my family and friends are watching the same thing, no matter where they live.

  3. 4
    McKenna

    I loved your list and feel like it echoes a lot of my own sentiments. I thought of three more that I could add:

    As a woman, this speech really resonated with me about why I love being a woman in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: http://www.fairmormon.org/perspectives/fair-conferences/2014-fairmormon-conference/womans-church

    I love that our prophets emphasize that life and eternity is a journey to perfection. We’re not expected to be perfect now (although we believe a standard exists) and we understand that it is okay if we make mistakes. That’s why Jesus atoned for our sins. The goal of life is improvement.

    I love the Plan of Salvation and Mormonism’s understanding of heaven. Heavenly Father’s plan is really for our happiness, both now as we follow the commandments and after death. In a sense, we believe that everyone gets to go to heaven. I had a teacher once compare the kingdoms after death to a hammock on a beach, a dance floor, and raking leaves. He pointed out that some people would be more comfortable on a beach than a dance floor and vice versa, and lots of people don’t like raking leaves. He thought that the point of this life is to learn to love work and serving others so that we will truly be comfortable in the Celestial Kingdom and it will actually feel like heaven to us. I’ve always loved that analogy because everyone goes to a happy place where they’re comfortable after this life (aka their version of heaven), but it is up to us to change our habits and desires now so that we will want to keep moving forward and serving after this life. And I love that we are sealed as family units, so we don’t lose those beautiful relationships when we die.

  4. 5
    Lucy Beutler

    I love that the church has a place and meaningful service opportunities for those of us who are over 65. We can serve missions and share the gospel in settings far beyond the retirement of our homes, where everyday their is something of inspiration and helpfulness for us to do. There is so much to celebrate. Indeed Heavenly Father loves all of his children.

  5. 6
    Sue Groesbeck

    I love how when any member of our congregation dies, the Relief Society mobilizes and as if out of thin air, comes delicious food to feed an army. Included are yummy casserole cheesy potatoes, now termed “funeral” potatoes in fact. This morning I experienced this in action following the funeral of one of our “own” who had taught us all and was so well loved. Providing a meal of comfort for the aching family is a healing balm.
    P.S. I love your list

  6. 7
    Susan Carroll

    I love all the things on your list. This church is my life. But there is such a basic truth to my church that is so important, it brings all the wonderful parts of this church together.
    I love that our righteous brothers hold the Priesthood of God. They are able to give blessings, perform baptisms, perform eternal marriages and sealings. I love that my local bishop can receive inspiration for me, and so can my home teacher and my husband, brother or son. The Patriarch of my Stake gave me a Patriarchal blessing using direct revelation from God for me, just me. The Power of the Priesthood is the Power to Act in God’s Name, using His Power. This is the literal Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. This is the church I love.

  7. 8
    Brandon Osmond

    Thank you for your positive spin on the negative tones we hear all too often. I love your list and reminder of how great the church is. I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and this conference season.

  8. 9
    Marc

    I have come back to this post over and over for the last couple of months. I’m very appreciative of your awareness of the negative parts of our church culture (which gave this post weight in my mind) and then your efforts to turn those potential negatives into positives. It’s something I need to do myself. Thank you!

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