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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- The Book of Mormon teaches the doctrine of the atonement with poignant, empowering clarity
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Ordinary folks like you and I routinely spend 5, 10, even 20+ hours a week serving our congregations without pay.
- 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.
- We start at 3 years old and never stop learning how to be a part of a living, breathing, giving community.
- Parts of our history are often confounding, but it’s also FULL of miraculous witnesses of gods divinity, authority, and love.
- Our church is really good at making YouTube videos
- 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.”
- I love that I can go to the celestial room of the temple and experience a piece heaven
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mormonism not only suggests, it commands us to seek truth wherever we can find it. Literally wherever.
- 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.
- 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.