Why do I blog about such a controversial topic as “Mormonism” – the ugly nickname for the Christian faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Why would I dare blog under my own name and even have an amateur Website under my name that contains many pages discussing and defending the Latter-day Saint religion? This is a question I get frequently.
In a world that increasingly associates serious religious belief with superstition, ignorance, and perhaps a touch of mental illness, and in a country where religious views are something that polite people just don’t talk about, isn’t my open discussion and defense of my religion something that will get me in all sorts of trouble, including jeopardizing my professional work (where I actually have a dream job, working with many truly amazing inventors, scientists, and business leaders)? Perhaps, but my approach is simply to make these resources available for those who are interested. The people I have worked with over the years, almost without exception, have been tolerant and intelligent people who don’t let religious differences get in the way of our work, and some, when they run into my pages, have expressed gratitude for sharing the information and clearing up some misconceptions.
But why do this in the first place? It began with my personal quest for truth and numerous personal experiences that gave me a strong personal witness – what Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”) call a personal “testimony” – that God exists, and that Jesus Christ – the Jesus Christ of the Bible, not some “other Jesus” as some of our critics claim – is for real and is our Savior (examples of expressed “testimonies” are available at Mormon.org and MormonTestimonies.org). That personal testimony also includes a vast amount of experience with The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which I accept as a volume of ancient scripture as well as the Bible. My combination of study, pondering, and prayer in exploring the Book of Mormon led me to a powerful personal conclusion that it is from God and is divine scripture, and that knowledge became a foundation for recognizing that the Church itself is a divine tool from the Lord for blessing the lives of people on this earth. I chose, on my own, to serve a two-year mission and had the amazing privilege of serving in German-speaking Switzerland. Though many people there weren’t interested in religion at all, I had numerous experiences where I saw what the teachings of the Church – the Gospel of Jesus Christ – did for the lives of people. I saw once cold, despairing people find joy and meaning, while happy people became happier. I saw people grow and have better lives. I saw families strengthened. And these kind of experiences have been repeated many times since, especially during a time when I had the privilege of serving as a bishop of a congregation. Say what you will about how awful you’ve heard Joseph Smith was, condemn us for our theological heresies in not accepting modern creeds from committees of philosophers, rant and rail about the puzzling and thankfully long-gone phenomenon of polygamy, but when I look at what happens in the lives of those who join the Church and seriously live by its teachings, on the average (exceptions abound, as in all of life) I see people becoming happier and families becoming stronger. I see people finding more meaning and purpose in life. And it’s not just “Mormonism for Dummies” – I see intelligent, educated people finding intellectual fulfillment in the rich teachings of the Church, teachings which help solve some of the biggest theological conundrums of the past.
For those who are looking for more in life, I think the Church has something wonderful to offer. For those who do join, I think you have begun a wonderful and rewarding journey of faith, a journey that will bless you and your posterity. Yes, I really believe it is true, even though there are puzzles and problems and occasional human errors (all humans are fallible – even the great apostles and prophets of the Bible as well as our modern apostles and prophets – and anyone thinking otherwise is bound for disappointment). Given my beliefs about the benefits and truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-day Saints, it pains me to see inexperienced members of the Church get torn away by assaults on their faith from our very vocal critics. It pains me to see people who are preparing for baptism in the Church suddenly get “love bombed” with anti-Mormon literature from well-meaning friends and perhaps less well-meaning pastors who tell them that “the Mormons are a cult; you’ll be worshipping a different Jesus and you’ll go to hell if you join!”
I blog because of Peter, a wonderful young man who found incredible joy when he joined the Church in Switzerland, and then was convinced by his love-bombing friends that he had joined a cult. I blog because of Eric, a man from my congregation whose whole family left the Church after their faith was shattered by what I see as the intellectual deceptions of some professional anti-Mormons (yes, there are people and “ministries” who make their livings off of spewing attacks against the Church) who had convinced him that the LDS Book of Abraham was proven as a complete fraud by scholars. I blog because the same arguments that got him shook my faith as well in the 1990s, until I realized that the most critical information in the argument had been conveniently and knowingly left out by the critics. I had been tricked by people who “lie in wait top deceive,” and I wanted to provide resources to let others who sincerely wanted to know that there might be another side to the story.
I blog and write Web pages because unrealistic and naive assumptions of some faithful members of the Church can sometimes send them on a collision course with reality or with science (which is often close to reality). Issues such as DNA evidence and the Book of Mormon or the fallibility of human leaders, require a more careful reading of the scriptures and a more mature understanding of our faith than some members get in Sunday School. (By the way, if you Google “fallible Mormon,” I’m #1 – and proud of it.) There are answers to many of the questions and objections raised by these issues, but they need to be made available for them to be considered and discussed.
I blog because anti-Mormon literature is all over the Internet and there needs to be some visible wells of what I consider to be more fair information to refresh those looking for answers. I blog because the rhetoric and insinuations against the Church have reached new but often subtle highs with a Mormon candidate in the Presidential race (one minister’s declaration that “A vote for Romney is a vote for Satan himself” might be on the less subtle side). I blog because numerous ministers are telling their people – directly or through insinuation – that Mormons are a non-Christian cult, using deceptive and contrived definitions of both “cult” and “Christian” that ironically tend to condemn Christ and His early disciples as non-Christian cultists as well. (Example: “A cult is any group that tries to introduce new scripture and has a dynamic leader who claims to bring new revelation.” Anyone heard of Jesus Christ and the New Testament? As non-Christian cultists, at least we’re in good company.) Unsuspecting people, after hearing such rhetoric, may go to Google, type in “Mormon cult”, click on “I’m feeling lucky” – and encounter a page likely to shake and shock them with its information about us Mormons. Shouldn’t I do something about that? Well, perhaps, I actually have.
I started this journey with some simple Web pages back in 1994. I love to write, so I wrote about my community (best small town in America: Appleton, Wisconsin), my hobbies, my views on a variety of controversies, and, of course, my religion – sometimes with a touch of satire (Google “facetious mormon” and I’m also #1). The LDS material has been the biggest of these projects, and my Website and this blog contains material developed slowly over years. Still many gaps and flaws, but I hope it helps.
I recognize that we Mormons have plenty of flaws, and that there are plenty of things in our beliefs, history, culture, and even dancing skills that can be questioned. Insights into the complex, unflattering, and sometimes troubling realities of history are available in outstanding works like Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by LDS historian Richard Bushman, who shows that one can be an intelligent scholar, confront history and reality, and still be a Latter-day Saint. All religions have a troubling side, because all religions I am aware of have one dangerous factor in common: human beings as adherents and as leaders. And that means trouble. Rough edges. Gaffes. It began with Adam and his family, and then continues throughout the Old and New Testament and right up into modern times. Some of the things Abraham did, that old polygamist, leave me shaking my head – yet he was a great prophet and patriarch praised by Christ Himself as a friend of God. There are head-shaking moments for every faith and plenty of unanswered questions. But a lot of questions do have answers, and there are some awfully good reasons to shake one’s head up and down and say, “Yes, this is wonderful. And not just truthy, but true.” That’s where I am. I sincerely believe the Church has something fabulous to offer the world, something the world needs more than ever. And no matter how insane that my seem, I feel a need to make the pro-LDS side known to those who want to know. I respect your decision to not care and to not investigate, or to turn away our missionaries or even to leave the Church, if that’s what you really want to do. But whatever you do, if information about our beliefs and practices plays a role in your decision, I hope you’ll also consider the LDS perspective from some of its members such as myself and not put too much trust in what some of our very vocal and sometimes full-time professional critics say.
When that Florida minister told people that a vote for a Mormon was a vote for Satan himself, you should realize that he was doing a terrible disservice. Think about the pain and confusion this has caused among faithful Satanists, who already thought they had their candidate picked out. Now they aren’t sure what to do. Ouch.
Trying to share and defend something that has greatly enriched my life, and to offer some balance on a very unbalanced Web: that’s why I blog.