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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Manifestations of My Faith: Why I am a Mormon

I am a very flawed person with a very limited perspective on life. In no way should I be anybody's lens to see life in a precise manner. However, I have sought for "meaning" all my life, especially in the realm of my religion. I'm a practicing Mormon, but I also refuse to simply take any element of my faith for granted . Nor do I trust any other earthly person, even people who I consider to be inspired leaders, to be my yardstick regarding what I believe or to dictate to me my behavior or to correlate my worldview. My mother would be the first to tell you that I can be one stubborn boy that way. So when I declare myself as a "Mormon" (my preferred term because of its immediate and recognizable distinctiveness, although many or my faith prefer to be called Latter-day Saints, LDS, or Latter-day Saint "Christians"), I make that declaration after a long and hard struggle to investigate the faith and its history, search my own experiences, and seek my own experiences of revelation with the Divine.

Lately I've been startled by just how many people have personally approached me about my faith and asked me why I believe what I do. Non-Mormons, former Mormons, struggling Mormons, anti-Mormons... they have all asked me some very sensitive and sincere (or at times very pointed) questions about why I believe in Mormonism. Many of them do so because they know I talk very openly about it, try to be non-judgemental with those who doubt, and that I have put a in good deal of research to understand the context of whatever aspects of the Mormon story that they're struggling with.

Especially in this so-called "Mormon Moment" with presidential candidates, satirical Broadway musicals, and intense media scrutiny, it's becoming an increasingly sensitive (and sometimes defensive!) time to be a Mormon, which makes these questions posed all the more urgent. Honestly, I find aspects of this questioning a little intimidating, especially coming from loved ones, family and friends who are looking to me with some shard of hope, thinking that I may be able to assuage their doubt and resolve their concerns. To have a person handing me their eternal identity and ask me what I think of it... it's like holding a beautiful glass sculpture and hoping that your sweaty hands don't drop it.

In this regard I really hope not to be a disappointment. But I also know that I dare not deny any of these requests, although I sometimes hesitate in order to gather my thoughts. Here, however, is a very personal essay to answer my loved ones. It's not apologetics, nor hard hitting academic scholarship, nor anything nearly so sophisticated as any of that. It's my thoughts, my feelings, my experiences, my testimony, in a VERY truncated source (despite my long, typical wordiness, this is definitely only the smallest of shards when it comes to how I've experienced my faith).

MANIFESTATION 1: HISTORICAL MORMON

Just like my Christian identity ties directly back to what I think and feel about Jesus of Nazareth and whether what is purported in the Gospels is essentially true, so does my Mormon identity directly tie to the historical context of Joseph Smith and those long suffering pioneers around him and whether their spiritual experiences (including the events surrounding the coming forth of the Book of Mormon) are essentially true.