This post has been percolating for a while now. There's a lot about Mormons in the news right now. There's a major musical on Broadway and two presidential candidates who are Mormons. This has led to heightened interest.
I am the only Mormon that most of my friends and acquaintances know. This leads sometimes to questions that are asked of me. More often, it leads to questions that I sense people want to ask, but don't because they are worried about being offensive.
Most people know some of the "dont's" that guide the lives of active Mormons: no tobacco, no coffee, no tea, no alcohol, no pre-marital sex, and so forth. We are expected to keep the Sabbath holy--abstaining from work or recreation on Sundays. We tithe and contribute money to help the needy and poor.
Beyond that, some people know that we have a lay clergy, which necessitates us to spend a great deal of time helping run the Church in various capacities which could include supervising the nursery to presiding over nine congregations. This takes a lot of time.
All of this seems very restrictive to some people and makes them wonder what in the world we get out of it. Or, why in the world we do all this?
I suppose there are many reasons--perhaps as many reasons as there are Mormons--that people believe and do this stuff. Incidentally, the name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are specific reasons and meanings attached to that name. However, it is a bit of a mouthful. So, we have been given a nickname (this nickname comes The Book of Mormon, a record of scripture we believe along with the Bible. I'm too tired to write anything about it at the moment, but you can find more about it here if you like).
But I was thinking about my answer to the question I see so often in the eyes of my friends and co-workers. Why do I do this? Why do I believe it?
First of all, I truly don't see myself as giving up anything of real value. I don't feel that my teenage and college years were any less enjoyable because I didn't drink or smoke or do weed or have sex. Actually, I feel like I probably had more fun in many ways than others I know for whom those were important features of growing-up. I certainly have no regrets.
It's amazing to me how my life can be so joyful to me, but seem so restrictive to others. So, I thought I'd try to come up with a few of the benefits of my faith--a few of the things I get in exchange for giving up some others.
S0, what do I get in exchange for giving up all that stuff? My faith gives me a sense of security and grounding. I know God. He is real to me, near, and involved in my life. He is a source of strength and guidance, of comfort, solace, and stability. Living as we do in uncertain and troubled times, the reality and intimacy of my relationship with God is precious to me beyond words.
Mormons believe in a God who is watchful and aware of us--a Father who happens to be in heaven. We believe that He speaks through a prophet today--just as he did in ancient times when Abraham and Moses and Isaiah and Elijah and Peter and others walked the earth. That provides more comfort and security as the world seemingly spins out of control.
Mormons believe in the eternal durability of the family--that husbands and wives can be married for time and eternity, partners forever, and that the children who come from their union can likewise continue to be part of their lives.
If you were satisfied, deeply and thoroughly in your soul, that those things were true, and could be yours, would it not be worth nearly anything to have? Jesus taught a parable about someone who spent all he had to buy a pearl of great price. To me, I've not given up anything of much worth. I've simply exchanged some things for something of far greater value.
There are many more things, but those three--the personal presence and influence of God, the blessing of having a living prophet, and the assurance of an eternal family unit--are at the top of my list. They provide me with tremendous joy now and the anticipation of better days to come. They remove completely from me the fear of death and give me peace in chaotic times. It's not easy to live my faith, and I certainly fall short. But the rewards are so much greater than the effort that it's not a difficult equation for me.
So, having access to this joy, I am more than happy to make some very small sacrifices.
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