Is “Born Mormon” Enough?

By: Mike S
May 23, 2012

I am a Mormon.  I haven’t made a fancy ad of me skateboarding or anything like that, but still, I’m a Mormon.  But “why” am I a Mormon?   What makes me say that?

Like many people in the Church, I was “born Mormon”.  I have ancestors who were born in Winter Quarters in 1846 on their way to Zion.   I have generation after generation in the Church.  I was born to active Mormon parents.  I went to Primary on weekdays and 2 separate blocks of church on Sundays.  I visited all of the church historical sites and was baptized in the Susquehanna River at the Aaronic Priesthood restoration site.  I was an Eagle scout and was on seminary council in high school.  I received a 4-year scholarship to BYU.  I went on a mission, serving in various callings including zone leader and AP.  I got married in the temple and have amazing and active children.  I’ve served in numerous callings, gone on Treks with the youth, and have helped with whatever has been asked.  (OK – I do suck doing formal visits as a home teacher – but who’s perfect?).  I follow the Word of Wisdom and have always paid tithing.  I’ve always been active and I have a temple recommend (although I don’t go as much as I should).  Is all this enough?  Are all these things a valid answer to “why” I am a Mormon?

While there are many things I’ve done because I was “born Mormon”, there is one major thing which I have NEVER done because of that – I’ve never had to “convert” to Mormonism.  In all my life, I’ve never “chosen” to be a Mormon – I was simply “born Mormon”.  I chose where to go to school.  I chose who I was going to marry.  I chose my profession.  I have chosen many things.  But I’ve never conscientiously chosen what is perhaps the biggest decision of all – my religion.

Granted, we teach that there are many benefits to being “born in the covenant”.  We teach that the valiant were saved and born to LDS families.  We teach the benefit of not needing to “find” the truth, but receiving it from a young age.  This isn’t unique to us.  Buddhists teach that if someone is good in a prior life (or as we might say – pre-mortal life) they will be blessed with being born into a valiant Buddhist family where it will be easier for them to receive the truth.  Muslims might tout the blessing of being born into a Muslim family and not an infidel.  Etc.

So, being born into a situation can be seen as a great blessing, but are there any disadvantages?  Is there something to be said for a conscientious decision to struggle, to investigate, to ponder, and to actually choose one’s religion?  Does someone voluntarily choosing a religion change their fervor for that religion?  Perhaps.  And, importantly, can someone “convert” to their own religion?

We teach a form of this in the LDS Church, that everyone needs to “gain a testimony”, but what does this mean?  As above, I’ve been involved with and have been active in the Church my entire life.  I have read the Book of Mormon at least 15 times and have prayed about it hundreds of times.  I’ve read hundreds of LDS books over the years.  I’ve taught countless lessons to investigators and other members.  Yet, at the end of it all, I still can’t say that I’ve experienced that indescribable moment of “conversion”.  I don’t know what that would actually entail, as everyone experiences it differently, but if I’m honest, I still can’t say that I “know” Mormonism is any more true or less true than any other faith.  But is that enough, or should I be looking for something else?

In reality, I have looked at a lot of other faiths.  I went to a Jewish synagogue when I was young and learned Hebrew.  I’ve studied Islam and have read the Qu’ran (on my bucket list is to actually read it in Arabic, which I’ll have to learn first).  Hinduism is beautiful and the Bhagavad Gita is one of my favorite books.  I have encountered more profound truths in Buddhism about reality and myself than I have seen in any other place, including my own faith.  Meditation clears my mind and teaches me a lot.  I greatly admire the faith of many other Christian denominations, where trust is ultimately and profoundly placed in Christ, without our Mormon neuroses on being “good enough”.  I have encountered amazing truths in all of these faiths, and continually learn new things.

Given this, why don’t I leave Mormonism and join one of these faiths?  The Dalai Lama perhaps has an ideal attitude.  When he visited Canada in 2007, a Catholic asked if he should convert to Buddhism.  The Dalai Lama replied that the man should use Buddhism to become a better Catholic.  He has repeatedly used the quote that “we should bloom where we are planted.”  So, I’ve used all of these other faiths to become a better Mormon.  They fill in gaps where our faith is, quite frankly, deficient in emphasis.  I am more empathetic to others.  I see God in more simple and mundane things.  I care more about the earth and the world.  I see myself intimately bonded to everyone I encounter.  I am a better person.  But, am I a better “Mormon”?

I still can’t get up in a testimony meeting and say “I know the Church is true”.  I can’t see serving in an administrative role that would require me to be able to say this is the “only true Church”.  I can’t really see trying to convert someone to the LDS faith, when I think their faith is wonderful as well and has just as much to offer me as mine has to offer them.  I think Joseph Smith was a prophet who touched the Divine, but I also feel the same about Muhammad and Buddha.

Might this someday change?  Perhaps.  I’m always open to the chance that I will have some experience that will give me the profound “testimony” that the typical Mormon talks about in testimony meeting or that we hear in General Conference.  I don’t know when, if or how this will come, but at this point, I doubt it will be from reading the Book of Mormon for the 16th or 17th or 20th or 30th time.  I doubt it will be from praying about it for the hundredth or thousandth time.  In reality, it’s in God’s hands.  I may have that experience someday, insha’Allah, if I need that for a role He wants me to fill.  And if not, that’s God’s will too.

In the meantime, I can still say I’m Mormon merely because I was “born Mormon”.  My curiosity will still drive my search for truth, wherever that may be.  My compassion will still cause me to love my fellow man.  My faith will still cause me to thank God for my blessings and to ask Him to bless those around me.  And I’ll always say, “I’m Mike, I’m a family man, a music-lover and a surgeon.  And I’m a Mormon.”

I may always say “I’m a Mormon” merely because I was “born Mormon”.  But … that’s enough for me.

—————–

Questions:

  • The majority of people in the world belong to their faith, not because of any characteristics of their faith, but simply because they were born into that faith.  Is that sufficient for Mormonism?
  • Can someone who is Mormon primarily because they were “born Mormon” fill ALL roles in the LDS Church?  Primary teacher?  Sunday School teacher?  Bishop?  Stake President?  Missionary?  Or do they need “more”?
  • What truths from other faiths have helped you with a deeper understanding of your own faith?

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63 Responses to Is “Born Mormon” Enough?

  1. jks on May 23, 2012 at 6:11 PM

    Interesting. I talk to my kids about the fact that they grow up in the church and might not get the idea of “feeling the spirit” because everything just feels normal to them. I was born Mormon but it has always been a conscious choice to me. It is a choice I make over and over again every day. I think it is the “right” choice. I applaud your determination to find other things that make you a better Mormon. Just this morning I was reading the lyrics of a Linkin Park song with my song and we talked about poetry having different meanings to people because he could see the song’s lyrics being an expression of his religion’s teaching and I hope it is something that gives the teaching deeper meaning to him.

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  2. Bradley on May 23, 2012 at 6:45 PM

    Would you rather be a Nephi or an Alma Jr? Is being a “good Mormon” as simple as following a set of rules handed to you in a box, or are you ultimately required to deal with God on your own terms?

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  3. ji on May 23, 2012 at 7:06 PM

    You write, “We teach that the valiant were saved and born to LDS families.” I hope that is folklore rather than real doctrine.

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  4. Mike S on May 23, 2012 at 7:23 PM

    #1 jks: …might not get the idea of “feeling the spirit” because everything just feels normal to them

    Maybe that’s it. Maybe I’m just so used to feeling the spirit that I don’t know what it’s like to not have it.

    At the same time, however, I feel what I think is the spirit testifying of truth all the time – just not necessarily with LDS things. I might have a good feeling at church, but might have the same feeling listening to a song lyric. I have the same feeling reading the Dhammapada as I do the Book of Mormon. I had a copy of the Qur’an in my church bag one Sunday which my wife started thumbing through for the first time one Sacrament meeting. She felt the spirit regarding truth in that. So, I feel it all the time, and most of the time it’s regarding non-LDS things.

    BTW: I love Linkin Park. I took my boys to their last concert here in SLC.

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  5. Mike S on May 23, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    #2 Bradley: Would you rather be a Nephi or an Alma Jr? Is being a “good Mormon” as simple as following a set of rules handed to you in a box, or are you ultimately required to deal with God on your own terms?

    When younger, I wanted a profound Alma Jr type of confirmation that the Church was true. Now, I’m content taking truth where ever I find it, and will leave it up to God as to the experience I have “confirming” anything.

    And regarding “rules in a box” vs dealing with God on our own terms, it’s certainly the latter. However, there are some things I do merely for the same of “rules in a box”. As in my post last week on the Word of Wisdom, I absolutely don’t think that wine is against any eternal law of God. But it’s currently a “rule in a box” that you have to jump through to be seen as an active Mormon in today’ church. Since I value my membership for the reasons above, I jump through the hoop. Other things like the silliness attached to white shirts and such, I simply ignore.

    So, I am very much an orthodox Mormon in terms of actions, as that is what is required to keep a temple recommend and have callings and participate fully. Yet my thoughts are likely quite unorthodox in many other ways. We are all unique.

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  6. Mike S on May 23, 2012 at 7:29 PM

    #3 ji: I hope that is folklore rather than real doctrine.

    Unfortunately, it is not. I’ll find references later.

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  7. Remlap on May 23, 2012 at 7:41 PM

    “…Maybe I’m just so used to feeling the spirit that I don’t know what it’s like to not have it.

    If you don’t know what it’s like to not have it, how do you know that you actually have it?

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  8. ji on May 23, 2012 at 8:11 PM

    No. 6 — Oh, no — does this mean that persons born in non-LDS homes were less valiant? Let’s call thisf folklore…

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  9. jks on May 23, 2012 at 8:18 PM

    “If you don’t know what it’s like to not have it, how do you know that you actually have it?”
    I grew up in the church in a happy family. My children are growing up in the church in a happy family. I don’t know what it is like to grow up without parents who loved me and supported me. I can imagine it. I do not know what it is like to not know that God loves me, I can only imagine it. I do not know what it is like to not know right from wrong, I can only imagine it. I do not know what it is like to want to choose the wrong, I can only imagine it. I do not know what it is like to think drugs are a good idea, that infidelity is the way to go, that raising my children well isn’t important, that being honest isn’t a priority. I can only imagine a life without my religion and without good parents. I can only imagine life without getting a good feeling for being kind or for trying my best in any given circumstances.
    Will my children need an Alma Jr. dramatic conversion? Will they always know? Will they learn little by little?
    I can’t know for sure. All I can do is encourage them.

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  10. Remlap on May 23, 2012 at 8:28 PM

    jks-

    I would state that your examples arn’t truly valid. Mike S stated that he “feels” the spirit and so if he has never “not felt” the spirit, how does he know what he thinks is the spirit is realy the spirit? You know, the whole how do you know pleasure if you have not felt pain sort of thing.

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  11. jks on May 23, 2012 at 9:46 PM

    Remlap – I don’t understand your question I guess. Mike S says he feels a feeling he calls feeling the spirit during LDS and non-LDS experiences in his life. I have too. My point is that for me I feel like I grew up with a basically constant low level dose of feeling the spirit and I expect my children to have that constant level of feeling the spirit and hopefully become more in tune in feeling the spirit in their own individual ways in their lives.
    It is similar to a loving family. There are people in this world who would be shocked at the feeling of peace of a loving family sitting down and eating dinner together and talking about their day. Simple, basic, no big deal feeling of love and security that my kids get. To my kids church may feel boring or like a chore sometimes, but they also have those moments of spiritual knowledge that they don’t even realize they are experiencing because it is just so every day. I’m guessing my 12 year old son might not know if he ever “feels the spirit” but if you ask him if he think God loves him you can tell that he really knows it. It is so much a part of him. I want him to take the time to examine his feelings and realize that he has this knowledge and where it came from.
    As I told him recently, no one can prove that I love him or that his father loves him, just like no one can prove that God exists. But you can know it anyway, even without proof.
    “how does he know what he thinks is the spirit is realy the spirit”
    What is interesting to me is that when I was growing up I thought I didn’t feel the spirit. I was kind of confused by those crying adults feeling the spirit all the time. Eventually I realized that I did feel the spirit. I just didn’t have a name for it because it was just feeling normal. It was normal for me to have all those things I listed…..all of those things were me feeling the spirit but just not having a name for it. I wasn’t stopping to say “Wow, right now I am feeling like I know God exists. That is the spirit testifying to me!” or “Wow, right now I feel like I should make this right choice. Must be the spirit” or “Wow, right now I feel calm and peaceful like I am a daughter of God and there is purpose to my life. I am feeling the spirit.” It was just normal to feel that way.

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  12. Mike S on May 23, 2012 at 10:11 PM

    #5/10 Remlap:

    I suppose your questions are right in a way, as to how I (or anyone) knows if they are “feeling the spirit”. It is actually an unanswerable question and is very nomenclature dependent.

    I use the phrase “feeling the spirit” because this is a Mormon-themed blog, and that is the terminology most frequently used in the Mormon faith. If I were to describe my personal description of it, it would actually be somewhat different.

    For me, there are certain things that resonate with me as being “true”. They feel “right”. They touch something inside me. They “resonate” with me. These things are occasionally related to Mormonism, but as described above, there are often NOT specifically related to Mormonism. This leads to my difficulty in saying that any particular feeling I might have when reading the Book of Mormon “proves” its validity, as I have the EXACT same feeling when I read the Qur’an. If those feelings prove my Mormon faith, then they also prove that I should be a Muslim.

    So, instead, I take truth where I find it, with what resonates with me. And this is absolutely different from person to person. Some of what resonates with us comes from our prior experiences. Some of it comes from our family and our culture and even our “pre-earth” time (whether pre-mortal or prior existence, depending on your philosophy). So it is absolutely different from person to person, and even for a single person at different times in their lives.

    This is how I interpret Moroni 10, and how I presented it on my mission. People can read the Book of Mormon. If it resonates for them (feel the spirit / confirmation / whatever terminology you want), then it makes sense to seek out more of whatever they are feeling. If it doesn’t resonate for them, then they should continue down whatever path is working best for them.

    This is obviously at odds with the standard missionary teaching, that Moroni’s promise will work for EVERYONE who honestly tries it, but I really don’t think that is true. There have been many honest seekers who haven’t really felt anything when they have tried it.

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  13. Geoff-A on May 23, 2012 at 10:23 PM

    Mike S, Really apreciate your post. This is pretty much how I feel too. My problem is that my ward and Bishop expect me to be able to KNOW.
    I found out last night that one of the young families had split up because the husband idn’t have a testimony any more. I’m not sure he is any different from us but because he comes from a family, and in laws that are black and white he may not realise he could be like us and still be active.

    I have been reassured, by reading blogs like this that I was OK. I try to convey this in church so that others who feel similarly can feel support but it is not really acceptable in my environment.

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  14. Bonnie on May 23, 2012 at 11:06 PM

    There is such a wide spectrum of folks on paths to the tree. I like that. I really like this post.

    My personal experience is similar, but obviously different. My parents joined the church when I was 4 and 5 (they didn’t join together.) I was raised as if I were born in the covenant, though my family journeyed to the temple when I was 11. I was baptized at 8 like everyone else who has generations behind them, and I feel like a generational Mormon.

    But I am also a convert. It happened when I was 20, temple married for almost two years after the kind of idyllic leadership-oriented life you describe, pregnant, and my husband left me. To say that I faced a faith crisis would be an understatement. I read the BofM through with the most critical eyes you could imagine, challenging God to prove himself to me at the same time that I inwardly desperately needed him to at least reveal himself to me. I read until Moroni discussed miracles, and then I prayed for one: that my husband would return and my life could go back to being the dream I’d always been told I was living for.

    He did not. And I was converted. It’s a longer story than could be told, one of the best things that ever happened to me, and it just about killed me. I’ve had several experiences like that in my life because I’m apparently a magnet for crisis, and each has been a quantum leap forward and a conversion. Like pins driven into the rock as a climber moves up the mountain, I won’t fall any further than those pins because they have tied me to the rock.

    I don’t think there’s any standard way that people are converted. Even converts have myriad paths to the discipleship they live. The standard answer for generational Mormons is the “and they knew it not” evaluation of a whole group having been born of the spirit.

    For me, the key to faith is the trilateral faith formula given my Joseph: to know God is, to know who he is, and to know we are aligned with him. The key is what we know about our relationship with him.

    For me, that makes the question of the church being true moot. It’s the only place I can find the priesthood ordinances, and that’s what makes it true and living. Everything else is just support, and doesn’t require us to insult other religions. It’s the covenants that matter. I too find myself being a better Mormon because of other religions because the covenants make me seek truth where’re ’tis found.

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  15. meg on May 24, 2012 at 1:42 AM

    Yes, it is a myth that the most valiant souls
    were born into the Church. It is my opinion that many of the ones who would have trouble
    making it back to Heavenly Father, those were born into good LDS homes so they would have every chance to make it.

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  16. Mike S on May 24, 2012 at 6:05 AM

    #13 Geoff-A: My problem is that my ward and Bishop expect me to be able to KNOW.

    Unfortunately, I think this is the general rule rather than the exception. There is little room for true faith in the Church anymore, with faith being a hope for things. The expectation is for knowledge. I can’t imagine someone being called to a leadership position who can’t say “I know”, whether quorum president, RS president, bishop, or higher.

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  17. Mike S on May 24, 2012 at 6:05 AM

    #13 Geoff-A: I found out last night that one of the young families had split up because the husband idn’t have a testimony any more.

    This is really sad.

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  18. ji on May 24, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    By study and by faith…

    There’s room for those who say “I know” and those who say “I hope”…

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  19. Howard on May 24, 2012 at 9:29 AM

    I was born Mormon and grew up thinking being prompted by the Spirit was normal.  I left the church in my early 20s and the Spirit remained with me even when I was sinning.  I studied health and wellness for years which eventually lead to nutrition and meditation which in turn lead to a very significant spiritual epiphany, easy access and much greater connection with the Spirit.  A few examples:  I had three cats and a new dog.  I was prompted that something had just been killed in my living room and I was worried the dog had attacked one of the cats so I drove 20  minutes to see and when I entered the room there were bird feathers all over the room!  My cats caught a humming bird on the balcony and killed it in my living room!  I was prompted to visit my sister now!  I drove more than an hour to find her peaceful but unconscious on the floor!  She died a couple of days later without regaining consciousness.  Several times a year I am prompted to tell someone I just met something about themselves they were not aware of and it has always been verified and embraced by them.  I’ve been prompted that certain things the church teaches are true and others are not.

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  20. anonlds on May 24, 2012 at 9:49 AM

    ji,

    I wish what you said were true, but I don’t think reality in the current church culture bears that out.

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  21. alice on May 24, 2012 at 10:33 AM

    Mike, I can’t tell you how grateful I am for you. I wish I could be as ambitious in pursuing all of the truths available to us.

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  22. Mike S on May 24, 2012 at 1:16 PM

    #14: Bonnie:

    Great comment. As a climber, I especially like the imagery of Like pins driven into the rock as a climber moves up the mountain, I won’t fall any further than those pins because they have tied me to the rock.

    Thanks.

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  23. Mike S on May 24, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    #18 ji: There’s room for those who say “I know” and those who say “I hope”…

    As much as we may say this, and as much as I would truly like this to be true, I don’t actually believe it on a practical basis.

    Could you imagine a (bishop/stake president/mission president/general authority/whoever) getting up and saying, “I don’t know if any of this is true, but I sure hope it is.” I think that unless someone can say “I know”, there is a very real glass ceiling as to the roles they can have in the LDS Church. And as per Geoff-A (which is not atypical) some leaders have a difficult time even accepting “I hope” in the lay members who aren’t in leadership positions. They just don’t know how to process the concept that EVERYONE can’t pray about the Book of Mormon and say “I know”.

    Ultimately, there is not much room for pure faith.

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  24. Mike S on May 24, 2012 at 1:28 PM

    #19 Howard:

    Thank you for the comment. I do think there is an underlying “something” that we, in the Church, ascribe to the Holy Ghost with the assumption that “only” faithful LDS members can participate. We use these experiences to build our faith in the LDS Church. Even to this day, President Monson’s having some money make it through the wash as a little boy served to confirm his beliefs.

    The issue is that as you look further, you see that everyone has the exact same experiences, which also serve to confirm their own beliefs. I recently read an account about a woman who was meditating in a hut in California. She was really sick and thought she was going to die. One day, she was visited by a man who comforted her, promised that she would be better, and attended her through the worst part of the illness. After she recovered, she still had a vivid recollection of the experience including the man’s appearance, mannerisms, etc. She wondered if she perhaps hallucinated it, but it seemed to real and vivid for that.

    Later that year, she was on a pilgrimage to Tibet. In one monastery she entered, she was absolutely stunned to see the man sitting in front of her. He was a Buddhist monk. As she asked some of the people about him, without telling her story at first, she was told that at night, he would enter a deep meditation and “leave” his body to go minister to people around the world who are sick.

    If a version of this happened in the LDS Church, it would be a powerful confirmation that the Church is true. But these same things happen to Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, other Christians, and even to people who don’t profess a particular religion. And they all use these experiences to confirm their choice of path to the Divine.

    So, I DO think there is something fundamental below what we normally experience. I DO think there is a “Divine”. In my Mormon faith, I call this God and Christ and the Holy Ghost and promptings and healings and what-have-you. But they exist in all faiths.

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  25. Mike S on May 24, 2012 at 1:29 PM

    #21 alice: I wish I could be as ambitious in pursuing all of the truths available to us.

    I’m sure my family wouldn’t call it ambitious – I’m sure they would call it misguided.

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  26. Howard on May 24, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    Thanks Mike S I totally agree and what it says to me is that there are many paths that lead to the divine, the LDS path is just one of God’s many marketing channels.

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  27. jks on May 24, 2012 at 3:23 PM

    I disagree. I think that most LDS members think this is the one true church, but they absolutely think that people of other faiths can be guided and comforted and learn spiritual truths. I think we tend to insist that our gospel is truer than the spiritual beliefs of others but I thought most “orthodox” members acknowledge what they view as partial truths that other religions have, as well as the universal all access to spiritual experiences in nature, in birth, death, love, etc.
    I think we do think there is a problem in replacing the church with other stuff or holding other things up to be gospel. But I fully expect LDS members to feel the spirit while doing every day things like helping a friend, reading a novel, driving a car or big things like a crisis and sometimes even reading spiritual text of another church. The problem is that some people would feel like it is irreverent to participate in a ceremony or study another religion too much in a certain way that feels disrespectful to them, if that makes sense. It feels different to watch and learn something from the outside vs. using it as an insider which feels disloyal and wrong because I am a member of the church.

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  28. alice on May 24, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    MIke-

    Whatever. Your fearlessness, honesty, kindness, clarity and enlightenment are apparent to me and inspire me to try to be a better person.

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  29. Bob on May 24, 2012 at 4:13 PM

    #27: Jks,
    Most of Mormonism was taken from other churches. Why should members now feel it’s disloyal or wrong? Lots came from Baptists, Methodists, and Masons. Mormon music was mostly taken from others.

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  30. I Dwell In A Tent on May 24, 2012 at 4:28 PM

    I joined the church at 18, served a mission, married in the temple, and am 52 now. Am I the only “convert” reading this post? I believe, if Christ were to come to the earth tomorrow, and someone were to ask him “Which church should I join?” He would answer “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” In that sense, it is “the one true church.” I don’t think he would take the univeral view that all faiths are “good” and lead to the divine. Like JKS, most members acknowledge the truths and spiritual experience found in the faiths and lives of non-members. You certainly don’t have to be a member of the church to merit the Celestial Kingdom. But sooner or later, people have to accept the basic gospel principles as taught by the church, and receive the ordinances that only the priesthood has authority to perform. You can learn great truths by studying other faiths, but I think there is more than enough material within the walls of our chapels, temples, scriptures, callings and people to obtain everything that is needed to merit the Celestial Kingdom. After reading the various posts, I am more thankful than ever I was given the opportunity to accept the gospel.

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  31. Mike S on May 24, 2012 at 5:49 PM

    #27 jks: The problem is that some people would feel like it is irreverent to participate in a ceremony or study another religion too much in a certain way that feels disrespectful to them, if that makes sense.

    I think this is a very valid point. There are many faithful members who would be uncomfortable enough with reading materials of “other faiths” that for their psyche, it would be tantamount to “cheating”.

    I absolutely accept this and don’t fault them. We all have different approaches to truth. If someone is perfectly comfortable with the path they are following in our Church and have no interest in anything else, that is wonderful, and in fact is enviable in many ways. As a Church, we hope people aren’t “totally” set in this manner, otherwise people wouldn’t listen to our faith because it was “foreign” to theirs, and the missionary program would shut down. But many people have found what they were looking for in the Church and simply have no interest in looking any further.

    My own personal psyche is different, for whatever reason. I have always been a very curious person. I have always sought for knowledge. I have always asked “why”? Several quotes that perhaps drive my quest:

    “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good”

    - Paul telling us to look at what’s out there and keep the good – 1 Thessalonians 5:21

    “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
    Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
    Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
    Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
    Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.
    But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

    - Buddha, basically saying the same thing as Paul, where we accept truth and live by it

    “I have spoken with the tongue of angels
    I have held the hand of the devil
    It was warm in the night
    I was cold as a stone

    I believe in the kingdom come
    Then all the colors will bleed into one
    Bleed into one
    But yes I’m still running
    You broke the bonds and you
    Loosed the chains
    Carried the cross
    Of my shame, of my shame
    You know I believe it

    But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for…”

    - Bono, a devout Christian who has great faith, yet still has an underlying quest…

    Perhaps I suffer from what Paul Eluard entitled a book of his poetry – Le devoir d’inquietude (or The Duty of Uneasiness)

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  32. Jared on May 24, 2012 at 7:08 PM

    Mike S-

    I appreciate your post. I think being straight forward about where we’re at spiritually is important. Not only for ourselves, but for others.

    One thing for sure, the world we live in has a vast variety of people and ways of believing. What you’ve written is really a study in abundance and scarcity.

    In fact, the discussion of abundance and scarcity is a topic that touches us every day in one way or another.

    We see this in many categories: food, shelter, medical care, education, and etc.

    When intelligence is measured (IQ) the Bell Curve is used to show its distribution. I assume the bell curve could be used to show the distribution of things of the Spirit if data were available.

    The things of the Spirit appear to be distributed in a spectrum of abundance to scarcity like just about everything else.

    For those, like yourself–Mormons who have been very successful in the church but are struggling with having an equivalent experience in the gospel–frustration weights on them (please correct me if I’ve got it wrong about how you feel).

    I don’t know the answer to why Heavenly Father’s creation is put together this way, but I have faith that there is a very good reason.

    You said that reading the Book of Mormon and praying more doesn’t seem to be the remedy. I don’t know that I entirely agree with this notion. My experience with things of the Spirit have been profoundly increased by prayer, fasting, study, and giving service.

    That said, I recognize that my experience and perspective, like a prescription for eye glasses, may not provide the same benefit to others that it does for me. But that doesn’t mean that the entire concept of eye glass prescriptions needs to be abandoned.

    The Book of Mormon provides various examples of conversions. The main ones being, Enos, Alma the older and younger, the 4 sons of Mosiah, king Lamoni, Abinadab and 300 Lamanites.

    A careful study of these conversions has one thing in common: faith. Either the faith of the converted individual (Enos 1:7-8) or the faith of others (a father and interested church members (Mosiah 27:14), dedicated missionaries/leaders (Ether 12:14-15)).

    When I am asked my opinion on what is the most powerful way to gain an answer to prayer I answer: earnest fasting and prayer (our own and that of others in our behalf). I feel this way because of my own experience and what I’ve learned from others.

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  33. Stephen Marsh on May 24, 2012 at 7:15 PM

    Wish I could find the link, but there is a wonderful essay about “I hope.”

    I could not find the conference talk, though http://mormonscholarstestify.org/2974/walter-l-ames is not a bad one.

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  34. Jared on May 24, 2012 at 7:45 PM

    Correction for #32

    The name should be Aminadab, not Abinadab in the third paragraph counting from the bottom.
    Book of Mormon | Helaman 5:39)

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  35. Jon on May 25, 2012 at 12:57 AM

    Between reading mormon blogs and finally getting around to learning politics I find it hard to believe much of anything when it comes to religion anymore. I still like a lot of the concepts but finally figuring out how powerful belief is and how it stops people from seeking for truth I’m becoming more of an agnostic. I don’t see how God could expect us to sort out such complicated things as religion, which is quite confusing, without much help, and the help we do get relies on feelings which are easily manipulated by the mind and emotions, I would think God would give us more of a chance than that.

    Learning about politics has also contributed to my faith becoming more lackluster too. It is quite amazing to me how people fight over Obama vs Romney when the two are pretty much the same. Likewise, it is becoming amazing to me how we all dispute over religion when who are we to say what is truth vs belief when it comes to religion. It seems most of it is just based on belief.

    I listen to a podcast done by an atheist guy (no connection to mormonism) who is pretty antagonistic against religion since people hold to belief so much and refuse to seek or see truth because of belief. I don’t think we should be so antagonistic towards religions per say, but I do disagree with refusing to seek for truth because of our false beliefs (we can have beliefs that are true, it’s just the false ones that aren’t good). There are many good things that religions bring, like cohesion, social support, etc. But there are many bad things that they create too, like refusal to seek truth, blind obedience (i.e., follow the prophet without questioning or disagreeing or talking to others about your disagreements), etc.

    I enjoyed this post. It would be nice to have things all clear cut, I guess that is why I like discussing politics more because it is more clear cut from a logic and reason standpoint, whereas religion doesn’t seem to be clear cut at all.

    I reserve all rights to change my opinions. :)

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  36. Mike S on May 25, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    #32 Jared:

    I was hoping you’d drop by. As always, I appreciate your comments, your testimony and your faith in Christ and the goodness of people. A few comments:

    The things of the Spirit appear to be distributed in a spectrum of abundance to scarcity like just about everything else.

    I agree with this. I think there are some people who are much more attuned to the Spirit than others. We are told this in D&C 46, that we all have different things. Related to this post is my observation that the bell curve of spirituality doesn’t necessarily correlate with ones religion. With our teachings that other faiths have partial truths and that we have the “fullness” of truth, you would expect that LDS members would cluster on the high end of the bell curve, but I haven’t seen that to be so.

    For those, like yourself–Mormons who have been very successful in the church but are struggling with having an equivalent experience in the gospel–frustration weights on them (please correct me if I’ve got it wrong about how you feel).

    Yes and no. I have been “successful in the church” as seen by my activities listed above. I would seem like the “perfect Mormon”. When it comes to “struggling in the gospel”, however, I don’t know that I’d describe it like that. I have no problems at all with eternal gospel truths. I have learned a great deal about God and Christ and myself through my journey in the Church, as well as my experiences with non-LDS sources. In fact, my spirituality is quite deep.

    If, by “struggling in the gospel” you mean issues with the institution of the LDS Church, you are correct. There have been (and still are) many things that have been passed off as the “gospel” but which are, in reality, philosophies of men mingled with scripture. Some are obvious, like blacks and the priesthood or the Adam-God theory or whatever. Others are more subtle, such as fixation with white shirts and earrings and other non-essential things. Do I get frustrated by the undo importance the LDS Church places on non-eternal things at the expense of important gospel truths? Absolutely. Hence the “If I Were In Charge” series.

    You said that reading the Book of Mormon and praying more doesn’t seem to be the remedy. I don’t know that I entirely agree with this notion. My experience with things of the Spirit have been profoundly increased by prayer, fasting, study, and giving service.

    I absolutely agree with the last sentence. My spirituality has been deepened by prayer, fasting, study and service as well. I would perhaps expand it a bit more than you might. I would include meditation. And my study would perhaps include a lot more non-LDS sources than you might. But they have all contributed to a deeper spirituality.

    Regarding reading and praying about the Book of Mormon as the “answer” – I taught this as a missionary; it is the default response of many bishops and church leaders to members who are “struggling”; it is espoused in conference talks. But is anyone truly willing to make it a valid experiment?

    Suppose you were my bishop. Suppose you promised me that if I were to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it that I would get confirmation that it was true. Would you be willing to accept the converse? Would you be willing to accept the concept that if I were to read the Book of Mormon once more time and pray with real intent and follow all the commandments yet NOT receive the confirmation, that that is an answer for God that Mormonism is NOT for me – that I should leave the Church and seek a path to God somewhere else? Do you accept that as a valid alternative, or would you only accept the positive alternative, with a negative answer meaning I just needed to try again until I got the positive alternative?

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  37. Mike S on May 25, 2012 at 8:20 AM

    #35 jon: It would be nice to have things all clear cut, I guess that is why I like discussing politics more because it is more clear cut from a logic and reason standpoint, whereas religion doesn’t seem to be clear cut at all.

    Politics are actually very clear cut – say what you need to say to donors to get money to stay in power. Take care of your friends. Say what you need to say to voter to get elected again. It doesn’t matter which party you are in, which country you life in, or when you live. There have been the same complaints about government in ancient Greece and Rome, in countries around the world, and throughout the entire history of the US.

    Religion, at its core, is extremely clear-cut. As Christ said – Love God and love your fellowman. Everything else hangs on this. If we respect the Divine and truly treat our fellowman as we would be treated, the world would be a better place. These are the same fundamental concepts present in Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Humanism, etc. They are universal and have been proven to be good.

    Institutions (including our own Church) get hung up on trivial things that have little to do with these fundamental truths. Once you realize this, and take these things for what they are, it all becomes more clear. There are “club requirements” for any given denomination that are the “price” for belonging to that particular faith, but the fundamentals are simple.

    Interestingly, people around the world are realizing this. “Religion” is decreasing in the sense of people belonging to a given denomination, yet “spirituality” is increasing. People are being turned off by all of the “club requirements” that institutions have, yet are hungry for basic truth. In spite of decreasing affiliation with particular churches, people are becoming better. More people have freedom. More people have concern for their fellowman. Teenage rates of sex are decreasing. People are becoming good through acceptance of these fundamental truths.

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  38. Jon on May 25, 2012 at 8:54 AM

    @Mike,

    I guess I would agree with your sentiment in that way. So I guess what I was referring to as politics I should call the principles of freedom and liberty which would be the same as spirituality and politics or the business of ruling over others is like the institution of religion.

    Yes, that would make more sense to me, like I said before, I don’t understand how God could expect us to choose one religious institution over another when we can’t even trust our feelings to tell us truth, but I guess when it comes to the spirit I’m on the didn’t get much spectrum, but reading others stories it seems like there might be something out there, I guess that is why I’m leaning more agnostic in my feelings on the subject.

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  39. Jared on May 25, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    #36 Mike S.

    Mike S. wrote: With our teachings that other faiths have partial truths and that we have the “fullness” of truth, you would expect that LDS members would cluster on the high end of the bell curve, but I haven’t seen that to be so.
    —————————————-
    I don’t think there is anyway to quantify where various religions appear on the bell curve. We’re left with nothing more than speculation on this issue.

    Mike S wrote: “Suppose you were my bishop. Suppose you promised me that if I were to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it that I would get confirmation that it was true. Would you be willing to accept the converse?”
    ————————————-

    An either or else dilemma. I don’t think a Bishop should journey into this kind of wager. It would be like a Orthopedic surgeon telling a patient that if the operation isn’t a complete success we should amputate.

    The Lord has never called me to an office in the church where I’ve counseled others (I was an Elders Quorum Pres)so take what follows with that in mind.

    Jared version of, “If I Were in Charge”, as a bishop and someone came to me saying:

    I’ve been involved with and have been active in the Church my entire life. I have read the Book of Mormon at least 15 times and have prayed about it hundreds of times. I’ve taught countless lessons to investigators and other members. Yet, at the end of it all, I still can’t say that I’ve experienced that indescribable moment of “conversion”. I still can’t say that I “know” Mormonism is any more true or less true than any other faith.

    I would say, Brother Brown (name borrowed from the missionaries 1960′s brother Brown word track) you deserve to have a testimony. The Lord has promised he would reveal the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon to those who ask with a sincere heart.

    As a general rule church members are able to bear testimony that they know the Book of Mormon is true. However, there are exceptions to the general rule and apparently you fall into that category.

    I will offer you the following counsel. Go to the Lord in earnest prayer explaining the sacrifice you’ve made reading the Book of Mormon 15 or more times, and praying about it hundreds of times and still don’t have an adequate testimony.

    Tell Heavenly Father you want a testimony and will now focus your effort to obtain one by fasting and prayer. If your health permits I would like you to chose one of the following methods:

    1. Fast weekly asking the Lord to fulfill the promise found in Moroni 10.

    Read from the Book of Mormon daily for one hour as follows. Slowly read a page, ponder what you’ve learned, knee before the Lord and ask if what you just read is true. Go to the next page and do the same. Ask that family members fast and pray with you as they are able during this time.

    2. For two weeks, fast one day, then eat normally, fast the next day. In other words, fast every other day with a commitment to do this for two weeks. Pray often through out the day, reading from the Book of Mormon. Ask that family members fast and pray with you as they are able during this time.

    Note: The two approaches above have been used by others successfully.

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  40. Mike S on May 25, 2012 at 10:55 AM

    Jared:

    As always, thank you for your comments. Like I’ve said, I’m always open to truth and its pursuit. I think I’ll actually try one of your suggestions and see what happens. I’ll let you know. :-)

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  41. Jon on May 25, 2012 at 11:08 AM

    Jared, Mike,

    And then after your done you need to ask yourself, did I induce these feelings because of the fasting or are they really real? Did I induce the belief that the BoM is true by my desire that it be true or is it just feelings?

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  42. Nick Literski on May 25, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    #30:
    I believe, if Christ were to come to the earth tomorrow, and someone were to ask him “Which church should I join?” He would answer “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

    If Jesus returned to the earth in bodily form, I think he’d answer that question with something like, “My beloved one, you should become a Zen Buddhist, because that path is the best way for you to learn the lessons you most need at this time. Your older sister, on the other hand, should study Islam, and your younger brother would experience his greatest possible growth as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at this time.”

    At the very least, it would be fun to watch the reactions from all his followers who are already convinced they’ve found the “one and only true” path. ;-)

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  43. Mike S on May 25, 2012 at 1:07 PM

    #41 Jon: And then after your done you need to ask yourself, did I induce these feelings because of the fasting or are they really real? Did I induce the belief that the BoM is true by my desire that it be true or is it just feelings?

    Ultimately, that is an unanswerable question. Yet I’ll try it for 2 main reasons:

    1) If you are honestly seeking truth, come what may, you must be willing to approach things with an open mind, with as little prejudice as possible. Discounting the results of what Jared is suggesting a priori because it “can’t be right” is as consistent as a TBM discounting an anti-Mormon on that fact alone, without listening to their argument. I’m willing to give it a try and see what happens.

    It’s been the same with other things. For example, being raised as a Mormon, Buddhism and meditation was extremely foreign to me. I pictured Buddhists as strange people wearing orange robes, and sitting upright on a zafu as “out-there”. But after getting through my prejudices and trying it myself, it is tremendously enlightening. I have become a much better person incorporating Buddhist concepts into my being.

    If I were to prejudge Buddhism and not even try meditation because I was already skeptical about the outcome, I would have never experienced the outcome. If I never read the Qur’an, I never would have realized the truth in that book. And this is similar to what Jared proposes. If I don’t try it, I’ll never know the outcome. It certainly isn’t harmful to try, and maybe I’ll experience something profound.

    2) The second reason has to do with the idea of “really real” and whether feelings are perhaps induced by fasting or whatever. I would argue that EVERYTHING is subjective. We perceive things through our senses, which are inadequate and which color our interpretation.

    This extends to literally EVERY aspect of what we think we know. If you’ve read many of my posts, you will know that I am extremely pro-science. Yet even science can be wrong. Evidence at one point suggested things like a flat earth, a geocentric universe, the heart as the center of thinking, emotion and memory, etc. Ultimately, those were all proven wrong, but at they time they were held as objective truth. If we would have just accepted those as the end-all, we wouldn’t have progressed.

    So, I’m willing to accept the fact that everything is subjective, including trying things like what Jared suggests. This is just like I did with meditation or any of hundreds of other things to which my curiosity has led me.

    Read the quote from Buddha above in comment #31. It may sound like a cop-out – not accepting things just because they are religious traditions, or passed down from leaders, or based on someone’s authority. But as stated in the last line: But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it, it is actually quite hard. It means being willing to try things like what Jared suggests. It also means being willing to accept the outcome. How will my life change if I try it and have some profound experience? How will my life change if I try it and feel nothing but silence? Those are both potentially frightening outcomes, but unless we’re willing to try, we’ll never know.

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  44. Jared on May 25, 2012 at 1:08 PM

    #40 Mike S-

    The ideas on the two fasting options come from the experience of others.

    The idea of fasting and reading the Book of Mormon by a single page and then praying about it comes from an Oxford/Harvard scholar, Clayton Christensen.

    The idea about fasting every other day for a period of time comes from Gerald Lund.

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  45. Mike S on May 25, 2012 at 1:10 PM

    #42 Nick:

    To be honest, I actually agree with the idea of this comment. I think there are A LOT of people who think their way is the only way. I think we will all be pleasantly surprised someday when Christ accepts our efforts at being good people, regardless of all the details we spent decades arguing about.

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  46. Howard on May 25, 2012 at 2:04 PM

    Fwiw, I’ve had some very profound spiritual experiences but fasting never did anything to enhance the spiritual for me. My son has a testimony of fasting but says it works in a very round about way for him.

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  47. Stephen M (Ethesis) on May 25, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    Nick, I have seen the parable of the members of the body that Paul uses applied in the manner you suggest rather than as the way each person fits into the church.

    It actually makes a lot of sense.

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  48. Nick Literski on May 25, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    #44:
    The idea about fasting every other day for a period of time comes from Gerald Lund.

    Umm…yeah….always take your spirituality (not to mention physical health) advice from a guy who made himself famous by writing a whole series of outrageously whitewashed “historical fiction” books on early Mormonism–books which far too many modern LDS took as their primary resource for understanding Mormon history.

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  49. Mike S on May 25, 2012 at 3:21 PM

    #48 Nick:

    Yea, I was thinking more option 1.

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  50. Jon on May 25, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    Mike,

    I’ve read all the comments, sometimes I’m a lurker on this blog, I usually comment on the political ones but sometimes on other ones if I think I have anything productive to say. So, yes, I read your comment.

    What I was meaning to portray in my comment was to say, you get your results but then you make your conclusions, in order to make your conclusions one needs to look at other possible reasons that the results may have happened. E.g., what does fasting every other day cause to the body and mind? What does having a desire for something to be true and trying to convince yourself it is. Is it self induced brainwashing or is it something different? I’m not saying that any conclusions you come up with will be wrong or right, I’m just saying that one needs to look at all ideas.

    Just like if you are going to study economics it is good to look at all the different theories (or at least a good breadth of them). It seems like you have looked at a good variety of sources when considering religious thoughts and beliefs, but looking at why doing certain things can cause certain reactions in the minds of people is important also.

    It is only recently that I myself have decided that I like the agnostic view more because it is more accepting of different ideas and lends to the idea that I really don’t have all the answers and don’t understand everything. I think there are very beautiful things with mormonism and I am in awe of all the details and things that are right.

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  51. spamlds on May 26, 2012 at 9:46 AM

    I appreciate your candor and insights. I experienced a powerful conversion to the Church when I was 18 and have been faithful and active since that time. I had a great desire to serve a mission and was privileged to be able to do so. I have served where I was called throughout my adult life. There have been struggles with personal weaknesses and I found strength in the atonement of Christ to overcome them. My faith is still a vibrant, living part of my life.

    My wife is a convert, also. Her experience parallels mine. For both of us, we encountered the Church when we were actively seeking truth.

    For our children, it has been a different dynamic. Our experiences can’t give them a testimony. They grew up in a home with family home evening, Mutual, and Church on Sundays. They went to youth conferences, etc. They developed a love for the Church and one by one, each in his or her unique way, they developed a testimony. It has been a unique path for each of them.

    The key to a testimony is the sincere desire to know. It has to be more than a passing curiosity. For them, it came in moments where a sacrifice of some sort was required. One must count the cost and make a decision in faith, without all the facts. That’s just the way it works. Faith is “not to have a perfect knowledge.”

    Each of them experienced his or her own personal struggle. For those of them that are still developing and exploring, I pray for them, but I don’t worry too much. I know the Lord’s power to touch hearts. I know that he will lead each of them to a place where they’ll have to make a decision in faith. At that moment, all that we taught them will come to fruition. Until that moment, when the answer has to come, I’m sure it will be there.

    Agnosticism is born out of luxury. It tends to evolve when a person has successfully (for a time) evaded the moment of decision. The Lord eventually brings to pass the conditions where one must either act in faith or decline to move forward. That decision determines our destiny. It doesn’t matter what we think of other religions or what they think of us. It matters what we think of Christ and whether we have the faith to make and keep sacred covenants. That’s how grace comes, through the ordinances. The Lord blesses those whose hearts burn with the desire to enter into his presence and make the appropriate sacrifices to gain that blessing.

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  52. Bonnie on May 26, 2012 at 9:51 AM

    spamlds – “Agnosticism is born out of luxury.” Wow. I love pithy truths like that. You just described the pride cycle in six words.

    I can think of people who were comfortably agnostic until a crisis forced them to ask the questions, the “moment of decision” that you describe, that placed them on a path of discipleship rather than what I can “poking it with a long stick.” It’s a luxury to determine our place in the universe until we are forced to face it. I LOVE that description. If scarcity impacts value, then plenty obscures it. A plenty of options to disavow God = agnosticism. Wow.

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  53. Jon on May 26, 2012 at 3:39 PM

    My atheist great grandmother when asked on her death bed if she believed in God now that she was close to dying, her response was, “When you’re dead you’re dead.”

    I would call that the “moment of decision.” I don’t say she was right or wrong, for how can we truly know until we are dead?

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  54. Joseph S. on May 27, 2012 at 10:09 PM

    I would be more prone to believe that it is the less-valiant spirits that would be born to Mormon families. The more-valiant ones can be counted on to find and recognize the one true church and make the right decisions without the benefit of church teachings. It’s the less-valiant ones that need to have their hands held throughout the process.

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  55. [...] SiOB would be complete without the grab bag of not-Mormon-related topics by former-or-borderland-or-whatever Mormon bloggers! Like jealousy, difficult Algebra problems, forgiving yourself, the amazing Island [...]

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  56. Natsy on May 28, 2012 at 2:09 AM

    What a beautiful post. It “resonated” with me. Also, I can’t help appreciating anything that mentions one of my great loves: Buddhism. I always tell my friends that if I wasn’t Mormon, I would definitely be a Buddhist. Today, the teacher in RS ended the lesson with a quote from a Buddhist book and it warmed my heart.
    .
    What I have found from studying other religions (and I’m still very ignorant) is that we have more in common than we think. I remember trying to tell someone about the spiritual experiences of Muhammad and some of the beautiful truths taught in the Qur’an and they refused to hear anything about it. The most spiritual experience I ever had was sitting in the Sistine Chapel in The Vatican.
    .
    There is truth everywhere. I can’t speak for everyone, but I know there more I seek knowledge and understanding of other religions, the greater faith I have in general.

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  57. Mike S on May 29, 2012 at 8:18 AM

    Thank you for all the comments. I’ve been delightfully away from a computer for the weekend, playing in the Utah desert, getting stitches, rolling jeeps, and having a great time. I do want to make one follow-up comment:

    re: #51 spamlds: Agnosticism is born out of luxury. It tends to evolve when a person has successfully (for a time) evaded the moment of decision.

    I do think this comment is a bit condescending. It essentially implies that people who can’t say “I know” just haven’t gone through an appropriate trial, that they are somehow “less” than someone who has. It is used by a believer to denigrate a non-believer.

    To me, it smacks of the same attitude you sometimes see on the other end of the spectrum – how a non-believer denigrates a believer by saying that believers are deceived and “if only” they knew the truth about Joseph Smith and under-aged girls or peep stones or whatever, they would see Mormonism for the fraud it is.

    Neither of these attitudes respect other people and their individual journeys through life:

    There are many people who have had tremendous trials and yet still say “I don’t know”. For example, Mother Theresa saw tremendous trials and suffering, yet wrote: Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear. People shouldn’t smugly judge her or anyone else who might simply say “I don’t know”.

    On the converse, there are many people who know about Joseph Smith marrying other men’s wives, about the mismatch between the papyri and the text of the Book of Abraham, etc. yet still choose to be Mormon. People shouldn’t smugly judge them either.

    So, I appreciate the sentiment of your comment and see where it is coming from, but it is somewhat condescending.

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  58. Bonnie on May 29, 2012 at 11:49 AM

    I appreciate what you’re saying, Mike, but I disagree. It’s easy to call wisdom condescension when we don’t have it yet. When older parents even kindly state that a younger person is going to feel differently when they’re seeing the situation from the other side, those younger people almost never want to hear and almost always brand it condescension. I certainly did. And although I say fewer things than I think, I’m more willing to admit that I’ll feel differently about things on the other side of the experience, and much less likely to call someone who has some wisdom “condescending.” In my experience, I know no agnostics who’ve faced a moment of decision of any particular intensity. I’m sorry, but intellectual angst doesn’t count. The people who’ve faced challenges are either believers or atheists, but they’re not on the fence anymore. Just as brats are born of luxury, either of things or of an absence of correction, so are agnostics. I stand by that statement, come what tomatoes may.

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  59. Bonnie on May 29, 2012 at 11:54 AM

    Perhaps the issue is a difference over the definition of agnosticism. Agnostics believe that truths are unknowable. That’s quite different from not knowing or acknowledging that it’s okay to not know. A person can say that they don’t know, but I find it completely condescending to state that nobody can know.

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  60. Jon on May 29, 2012 at 12:11 PM

    @Bonnie,

    Definitions are important. It’s nice to know what your definition of agnosticism is.

    Here’s what wiktionary says:

    agnosticism (uncountable)
    The view that absolute truth or ultimate certainty is unattainable, especially regarding knowledge not based on experience or perceivable phenomena.
    The view that the existence of God or of all deities is unknown, unknowable, unproven, or unprovable.
    Doubt, uncertainty, or scepticism regarding the existence of a God or of all deities.

    When I say agnosticism I use definition #3. But I think many of us use “I know” when they really don’t. Just like when my mother-in-law starts talking about all the issues that Mohammad had, I remind her that Joseph Smith had many issues himself, but she is uninterested in knowing those issues, so she isn’t seeking for all truth, how can you know something when you haven’t explored all sides?

    The great economist Ludwig von Mises said that one must explore opposing sides to your ideas in order to truly get to truth (it’s in his biography done by his wife).

    Here’s what Thomas Jefferson (who some claim to be an agnostic) said on the subject of God (among many quotes):

    What is it men cannot be made to believe!

    -Thomas Jefferson to Richard Henry Lee, April 22, 1786. (on the British regarding America, but quoted here for its universal appeal.)

    Question with boldness even the existence of a god; because if there be one he must approve of the homage of reason more than that of blindfolded fear.
    -Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Peter Carr, August 10, 1787

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  61. Mike S on May 29, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    #59 Bonnie: Perhaps the issue is a difference over the definition of agnosticism. Agnostics believe that truths are unknowable. That’s quite different from not knowing or acknowledging that it’s okay to not know.

    I do like this clarification.

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  62. An Imperfect Saint on June 14, 2012 at 2:44 PM

    I attended Bat Mitzvah classes with my best friend Wendy. Everyone was very patient with my terrible Hebrew pronunciations, and silly questions like; If the are High Holy Days does that mean that there are Low Holy Days too?

    Since my grandfather was Jewish before he converted to the LDS church, I found profound comfort and connection in the things I learned from the rabbi. I certainly didn’t feel the need to convert to Judaism, but I felt much closer to the “Jewish cousins” who did not make it out of Germany before WWII broke out. They became more than just names and dates on a family group sheet.

    Since both of my parents were converts, and all of my pioneer ancestors went to California without ever worrying about the Mormons up in Utah, there was always an emphasis on gaining a testimony. That focus is what allowed me to remain in the church despite a number of trials.

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  63. JB on November 6, 2012 at 6:02 PM

    I was recently released as a Branch President. I apologize, but no, you cannot be a Bishop (or a Branch President) without a sure testimony of the Gospel, the Restoration, and the Church.

    In a spiritual context, I had access to spiritual gifts that I did not have before my call and do not have now that I’ve been released. But, having used those gifts and enjoyed those experiences, I know you cannot have them if your devotion to the Gospel, the Restoration, and the Church is insecure. I learned for myself that there truly is a law irrevocably decreed in heaven by which all blessings are received. If you don’t obey the law, you won’t receive the blessing. Being “born Mormon” isn’t enough to qualify as valiant in your testimony.

    In a social context, suggesting that someone would be qualified to serve in important Church leadership callings without at least some sense of surety is merely hoping that you don’t really need to find out for yourself if the Church’s messages are genuine. Some have the gift of Faith. Others have the gift of having faith in the fact that others have faith. Principle leaders must enjoy the former, not the latter gift, or they are limited in their ability to magnify their calling. Yes, there are some leadership roles where the lack of a perfect testimony is acceptable. Though some will disagree, leadership in Primary and the Young Men organization can be weak. But, leadership in Relief Society and Young Women cannot. Regrettably, the Church has a lot of ways to make up for deficiencies for children and young men, but not for our dear sisters and young women. (A discussion of the effectiveness of our efforts with the Youth is not anticipated here.)

    Finally, perhaps part of the problem is that so many of our members want to treat Terrestrial behavior as the epitome of hell. It isn’t. I’ve helped many people move from a Telestial life to a Terrestrial life and I’m very proud of them for making that leap of faith. It wasn’t easy for them! The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that people who choose to believe in Jesus, but are not valiant in their testimony, will serve in the Terrestrial kingdom. I don’t think it’s shameful at all to be rewarded for your willingness to believe. Should I be contemptuous of a construction worker because I’m an engineer? That would make me a horrible Christian. Give me an honest laborer who cares for his or her family any day of the week over a professional who thinks they’re better because they had the chance to get a degree.

    While I believe that just about everybody will be surprised when Judgment finally happens, some discovering that mercy is much greater than we all thought and others discovering that justice is much harsher than we all hoped, in the end, some blessings only come when you are valiant in your testimony, and that requires getting one.

    Indeed, in the end, I could wish everyone were devoted to the fullness of the gospel of Christ. Not getting that, I wish everyone would choose the higher standards of Mormonism. Not getting that, I wish everyone would be Christian. Not getting that, I wish everyone would at least be good people, adhering to basic mores of fellowship.

    Regrettably, I won’t get that, either.

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