“And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things” 1 Nephi 11:17
I feel that I should caveat almost all of my posts with this scripture. It sums up my positions rather nicely. I do not know everything, but there are some basic things that I do know, and among those is the fact that there is a God and he loves his children. That is a wonderful starting point, a sure foundation upon which other truths can be built and based.
I should probably also caveat my posts with the fact that I’m not perfect. Writing is a way for me to work through ideas, I write what I hope I believe and know to be true, even if I do not always live it. Please do not think that because I write about a particular topic that I am an expert of any sort on that topic. I write my thoughts and feelings in a way to share what things I do know as well as to work through and discover for myself what I truly believe.
With that said, or written, I have known several people through the years who have been faithful active members, and who, for one reason or another, have left the Church. I consider myself an intelligent person, logical, well-read, eager to discover and learn things for myself. And so, when I think about people I have known who have decided to stop attending church, or to stop believing what they once held to be true, I find myself asking the question: Why do I stay in the church I was raised in? Or in other words: Why am I a Mormon?
In the Church we often use the metaphor that our faith is built like the church building. We talk about building on the rock of our Redeemer, which is Christ the Lord, and we talk of building line upon line, precept upon precept. You cannot build a block tower that is three feet high by starting at the top, and you cannot build a testimony that way, either. The foundation of my testimony, of my belief in God and Jesus Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants section 46.
“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world. To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful” (D&C 46:13-14)
I firmly believe that I am one of those spoken of in the first verse, one to whom it has been given to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And I am extremely grateful for that knowledge. I have spent some time in my youth reading philosophy and discussing with friends different schools of thought and different views on religion and God. I have tried to be a good deconstructionist, by deconstructing my preconceived notions and ideas to find out on what they were based. As I questioned different aspects of my life and thought, though, there was one thing that I never questioned or called into doubt — That God is my Father in Heaven and that Jesus is the Christ. I have always taken those facts as given and built everything else on top of that foundation. I look back at my life, at the many hours I spent with my family reading in the scriptures and discussing them, at the many hours in Church meetings listening and learning about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and the many hours I spent on my own reading and praying and pondering and I realize that I always started with the fact that God lives and loves me and sought to make sense of everything else in light of that fact.
But a foundation is pointless unless there is something built on top of it. I have not just accepted the fact that I have always believed in Jesus Christ. I believe Alma put it best when he was asked a similar question, why are you a member.
“And this is not all. Do ye not suppose that I know of these things myself? Behold, I testify unto you that I do know that these things whereof I have spoken are true. And how do ye suppose that I know of their surety? Behold, I say unto you they are made known unto me by the Holy Spirit of God. Behold, I have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And now I do know of myself that they are true; for the Lord God hath made them manifest unto me by his Holy Spirit” (Alma 5:45-46).
I, too, like Alma, have fasted and prayed many days that I might know these things of myself. And as I have written before, that is what I love best about the Joseph Smith first vision story. It is not only the basis of the Restoration -the facts behind how the Restoration of the Gospel of Christ occurred, it is the pattern that everyone is invited, and even commanded, to emulate. Each one of us must, as young Joseph Smith did, seriously reflect upon things heard and taught, then turn to the scriptures and read and afterward, “reflect upon it [the scriptures] again and again” and then come to the “conclusion that [we] must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else [we] must do as James directs, that is, ask of God” (Joseph Smith History 1:13).
I have done so. I have pondered upon the scriptures, I have found quiet moments and prayed to my Father in Heaven, and I have received an understanding through the Holy Spirit that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ and that the Gospel of Christ was restored to this earth with all of its ordinances and requisite priesthood authority through the Prophet Joseph Smith. I have read the Book of Mormon, in its entirety and in sections, multiple times and have felt the confirmation from the Spirit that the message it tells is true. It teaches of Jesus Christ and encourages and admonishes everyone to come unto him and “lay hold on every good thing” (Moroni 7:19).
Why am I a Mormon? Because I have found the joy of the Gospel of Christ. Because I believe that there is a God who is our Father who loves us infinitely more than we can understand. Because I have prayed to know and have felt the Spirit teach me truths that can come from no other source. I am grateful that I was blessed to have this knowledge and belief from an early age and that I had a family that helped me learn these truths. I am a Mormon because the Gospel of Christ has been restored and there is once again a Prophet in Israel who receives revelation from the Lord on how we can be happy in our families.