Is “Born Mormon” Enough?By: Mike S
Like many people in the Church, I was â€śborn Mormonâ€ť. Â I have ancestors who were born in Winter Quarters in 1846 on their way to Zion. Â Â I have generation after generation in the Church. Â I was born to active Mormon parents. Â I went to Primary on weekdays and 2 separate blocks of church on Sundays. Â I visited all of the church historical sites and was baptized in the Susquehanna River at the Aaronic Priesthood restoration site. Â I was an Eagle scout and was on seminary council in high school. Â I received a 4-year scholarship to BYU. Â I went on a mission, serving in various callings including zone leader and AP. Â I got married in the temple and have amazing and active children. Â Iâ€™ve served in numerous callings, gone on Treks with the youth, and have helped with whatever has been asked. Â (OK – I do suck doing formal visits as a home teacher – but whoâ€™s perfect?). Â I follow the Word of Wisdom and have always paid tithing. Â Iâ€™ve always been active and I have a temple recommend (although I donâ€™t go as much as I should). Â Is all this enough? Â Are all these things a valid answer to â€śwhyâ€ť I am a Mormon?
While there are many things Iâ€™ve done because I was â€śborn Mormonâ€ť, there is one major thing which I have NEVER done because of that – Iâ€™ve never had to â€śconvertâ€ť to Mormonism. Â In all my life, Iâ€™ve never â€śchosenâ€ť to be a Mormon – I was simply â€śborn Mormonâ€ť. Â I chose where to go to school. Â I chose who I was going to marry. Â I chose my profession. Â I have chosen many things. Â But Iâ€™ve never conscientiously chosen what is perhaps the biggest decision of all – my religion.
Granted, we teach that there are many benefits to being â€śborn in the covenantâ€ť. Â We teach that the valiant were saved and born to LDS families. Â We teach the benefit of not needing to â€śfindâ€ť the truth, but receiving it from a young age. Â This isnâ€™t unique to us. Â 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. Â Muslims might tout the blessing of being born into a Muslim family and not an infidel. Â Etc.
So, being born into a situation can be seen as a great blessing, but are there any disadvantages? Â Is there something to be said for a conscientious decision to struggle, to investigate, to ponder, and to actually choose oneâ€™s religion? Â Does someone voluntarily choosing a religion change their fervor for that religion? Â Perhaps. Â And, importantly, can someone â€śconvertâ€ť to their own religion?
We teach a form of this in the LDS Church, that everyone needs to â€śgain a testimonyâ€ť, but what does this mean? Â As above, Iâ€™ve been involved with and have been active in the Church my entire life. Â I have read the Book of Mormon at least 15 times and have prayed about it hundreds of times. Â Iâ€™ve read hundreds of LDS books over the years. Â Iâ€™ve taught countless lessons to investigators and other members. Â Yet, at the end of it all, I still canâ€™t say that Iâ€™ve experienced that indescribable moment of â€śconversionâ€ť. Â I donâ€™t know what that would actually entail, as everyone experiences it differently, but if Iâ€™m honest, I still canâ€™t say that I â€śknowâ€ť Mormonism is any more true or less true than any other faith. Â But is that enough, or should I be looking for something else?
In reality, I have looked at a lot of other faiths. Â I went to a Jewish synagogue when I was young and learned Hebrew. Â Iâ€™ve studied Islam and have read the Quâ€™ran (on my bucket list is to actually read it in Arabic, which Iâ€™ll have to learn first). Â Hinduism is beautiful and the Bhagavad Gita is one of my favorite books. Â I have encountered more profound truths in Buddhism about reality and myself than I have seen in any other place, including my own faith. Â Meditation clears my mind and teaches me a lot. Â 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 â€śgood enoughâ€ť. Â I have encountered amazing truths in all of these faiths, and continually learn new things.
Given this, why donâ€™t I leave Mormonism and join one of these faiths? Â The Dalai Lama perhaps has an ideal attitude. Â When he visited Canada in 2007, a Catholic asked if he should convert to Buddhism. Â The Dalai Lama replied that the man should use Buddhism to become a better Catholic. Â He has repeatedly used the quote that â€śwe should bloom where we are planted.â€ť Â So, Iâ€™ve used all of these other faiths to become a better Mormon. Â They fill in gaps where our faith is, quite frankly, deficient in emphasis. Â I am more empathetic to others. Â I see God in more simple and mundane things. Â I care more about the earth and the world. Â I see myself intimately bonded to everyone I encounter. Â I am a better person. Â But, am I a better â€śMormonâ€ť?
I still canâ€™t get up in a testimony meeting and say â€śI know the Church is trueâ€ť. Â I canâ€™t see serving in an administrative role that would require me to be able to say this is the â€śonly true Churchâ€ť. Â I canâ€™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. Â 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? Â Perhaps. Â Iâ€™m always open to the chance that I will have some experience that will give me the profound â€śtestimonyâ€ť that the typical Mormon talks about in testimony meeting or that we hear in General Conference. Â I donâ€™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. Â I doubt it will be from praying about it for the hundredth or thousandth time. Â In reality, itâ€™s in Godâ€™s hands. Â I may have that experience someday, inshaâ€™Allah, if I need that for a role He wants me to fill. Â And if not, thatâ€™s Godâ€™s will too.
In the meantime, I can still say Iâ€™m Mormon merely because I was â€śborn Mormonâ€ť. Â My curiosity will still drive my search for truth, wherever that may be. Â My compassion will still cause me to love my fellow man. Â My faith will still cause me to thank God for my blessings and to ask Him to bless those around me. Â And Iâ€™ll always say, â€śIâ€™m Mike, Iâ€™m a family man, a music-lover and a surgeon. Â And Iâ€™m a Mormon.â€ť
I may always say “I’m a Mormon” merely because I was â€śborn Mormonâ€ť. Â But … thatâ€™s enough for me.
- 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. Â Is that sufficient for Mormonism?
- Can someone who is Mormon primarily because they were “born Mormon” fill ALL roles in the LDS Church? Â Primary teacher? Â Sunday School teacher? Â Bishop? Â Stake President? Â Missionary? Â Or do they need “more”?
- What truths from other faiths have helped you with a deeper understanding of your own faith?