The Will of the Lord

January 12, 2016

Many Latter-day Saints I know have struggled with the recent “policy change” that labels same-sex couples “apostates” and bars their children from baptism. It strikes them, as it does me, as deliberately splitting families and punishing children for the actions of their parents. Brigham Young used to say something to the effect that good doctrine tastes good, but this policy is about as appetizing as a hair omelet.

Most Mormons I know who have been troubled by the policy have said that it’s just a policy, not doctrine, so they don’t feel obligated to agree with it. Policies are the decisions of organizations, and they are subject to change; doctrine reflects the revealed word of God and, at least in theory, doesn’t change. The three-hour block of meetings on Sunday is policy; the saving ordinance of the sacrament is doctrine. The white-shirt-tie-and-nametag missionary ensemble is church policy; Christ’s injunction to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” is doctrine.

For a lot of Mormons, it’s perfectly acceptable to disagree with a church policy, even publicly. When I was a young boy, most of the Latter-day Saints I knew in Southern California disagreed with the church’s policy against ordaining men of African descent to the priesthood. It was a policy, they said, and it would change. And of course it did. Yes, some church leaders said it was revealed doctrine, but there was no revelation on the matter that anyone could point to.

I think a lot of people feel the same way about this new anti-gay policy: it’s just a decision of men, and it will change, so church members do not feel obligated to support it. One sign of its temporary nature is that, within a week, the church changed a significant aspect of the policy: originally, a child would be excluded from baptism if he or she is “child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship.” The church later changed this to exclude only children who are currently living with a same-sex couple as their primary residence. Of course, that opens a number of other issues, but I digress.

In short, a policy subject to almost-immediate revision is not set in stone, and does not have the authority of revelation.

Then, this past Sunday, President Russell Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the church changed everything by equating the policy with revelation. Speaking at BYU-Hawaii, President Nelson spoke about how individuals can learn the mind and will of the Lord through study, fasting, and prayer. He compared the individual quest for answers to the process by which the Lord makes His will known to church leaders:

We sustain 15 men who are ordained as prophets, seers, and revelators. When a thorny problem arises–and they only seem to get thornier each day–these 15 men wrestle with the issue, trying to see all the ramifications of various courses of action, and they diligently seek to hear the voice of the Lord. After fasting, praying, studying, pondering, and counseling with my brethren about weighty matters, it is not unusual for me to be awakened during the night with further impressions about issues with which we are concerned. And my brethren have the same experience. The First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together and share all the Lord has directed us to understand and to feel individually and collectively, and then we watch the Lord move upon the president of the church to proclaim the Lord’s will.

This prophetic process was followed in 2012 with the change in minimum age for missionaries, and again with the recent additions to the church’s handbook consequent to the legalization of same-sex marriage in some countries. Filled with compassion for all, and especially for the children, we wrestled at length to understand the Lord’s will in this matter. Ever mindful of God’s plan of salvation and of His hope for eternal life for each of His children, we considered countless permutations and combinations of possible scenarios that could arise. We met repeatedly in the temple in fasting and prayer, and sought further direction and inspiration, and then, when the Lord inspired His prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, to declare the mind of the Lord and the will of the Lord, each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation. It was our privilege as apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President Monson. Revelation from the Lord to His servants is a sacred process. So is your privilege of receiving personal revelation. My dear brothers and sisters, you have as much access to the mind and will of the Lord, for your own life, as we apostles do for His church. Just as the Lord requires us to seek and ponder, fast and pray, study and wrestle with difficult questions, He requires you to do the same as you seek answers to your own questions.

President Nelson leaves little room for disagreement here: according to him, this new policy was given by revelation and represents the mind and will of the Lord.

Nelson

My initial response was a little snarky in that I said I could see two possible explanations:

  1. God is a muddleheaded douchebag.
  2. These guys don’t know the mind and will of the Lord.

Snark aside, for believing Latter-day Saints, I think President Nelson has drawn a distinct line: either you sustain the policy as the revealed will of the Lord, or you don’t. There’s no middle ground, no excusing it as a matter of policy.

For the record, I am sure these men “wrestled” with this issue, and I want to believe they had the best of intentions. In the end, however, this policy is hurtful and wrong, and anything but compassionate.

Looking back at my life as a believing Mormon, I probably would have accepted President Nelson’s words at face value, put my personal feelings aside, and sustained this policy as the revealed will of the Lord. I suspect a lot of people I know are doing just that. Heaven knows I forced myself to believe, say, and do things I thought were wrong–just  because I believed the church was right, no matter what.

But I also think it would have gnawed at my conscience, despite my best efforts to fall in line. President Monson has often quoted Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn to illustrate that one cannot say one thing when your heart says something else:

It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray; and see if I couldn’t try to quit being the kind of a boy I was, and be better. So I kneeled down. But the words wouldn’t come. Why wouldn’t they? It warn’t no use to try and hide it from Him. … I knowed very well why they wouldn’t come. … It was because I was playing double. I was letting on to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth say I would do the right thing and the clean thing, … but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He knowed it. You can’t pray a lie—I found that out.

In context, however, Twain is writing about the conflict between one’s conscience and what others tell you is right. In this passage, Huck isn’t praying about giving up a vice or sin; rather, he is wrestling over whether he should turn in the runaway slave, Jim. Society, the law, religion–all of these tell him that slavery is right, and helping a slave escape is wrong, but his heart tells him otherwise.

I think I would have forced myself to accept and sustain the policy, but I would have known it was wrong. I’ve felt this way before. The summer before I left on my mission, I worked for a time as a janitor at a dialysis center (this was 1983). I got to know several of the patients fairly well, as they came in regularly. One African-American man I met was what I would call a religious seeker. He told me he was looking for the true church on earth, the kingdom of God, where he knew he was supposed to be. He asked me about Mormonism and what I believed. Then, of course, he asked about the priesthood restrictions that had been rescinded only 5 years earlier. He asked me to explain why, and I couldn’t. No answer I could come up with was adequate. A friend had recently returned from a mission to Jamaica and had said the granting of the priesthood was gradual: first only to the Israelites, then (as of the New Testament) to the Gentiles, and finally to black men. It didn’t sound right to me, especially since the New Testament made it abundantly clear that no one was “unclean” any longer and unworthy of the blessings of the gospel. I did my best to justify a policy I had never agreed with, but it was no use. He knew, and I knew, that it had been wrong.

This morning I am thinking of all those in the church who want to sustain the leaders of the church but recognize that this policy is wrong and harmful. I would imagine there will be some wrestling, fasting, praying, and studying. And that’s a good thing. I’m glad I don’t have to wrestle with this at all.

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52 Questions That Might Lead You to Mormonism

March 16, 2015

  1. Why does God give some people brown skin?
  2. How many shares does God want me to buy in a hotel and at what price?
  3. What is my “little factory,” and what does it mean to tamper with it?
  4. What does it mean to be “used up”?
  5. What’s so special about Missouri?
  6. Where does the sun get its light?
  7. Was Martin Luther King part of a Communist conspiracy?
  8. Why do Native Americans look so much like Jews?
  9. If a spirit appears to me, how can I tell it’s an angel and not a demon?
  10. If God had a couple of billion dollars sitting around, what would he do with it?
  11. What kind of underwear does God want me to wear?
  12. What is the Egyptian word for the Sun?
  13. Is it wrong to try to have a personal relationship with Jesus?
  14. Is a seer stone used for finding buried treasure, translating scripture, or both?
  15. I’m a married man, and I’d like to have sex with another woman without my wife finding out about it. Is that OK with God?
  16. Is there some kind of secret handshake you need to get into heaven?
  17. Should clergy be paid, or only the ones at the top of the hierarchy?
  18. Is this man a dodo?
  19. To reach the “tree of life” and everlasting joy, are we supposed to hold onto an iron rod or a rope?
  20. Does God preserve scriptural records for 1,400 years so that eventually they will be translated by someone who doesn’t actually use them in the translation?
  21. Can we get rid of the italicized words in the King James Bible?
  22. Are gay people happier if they remain celibate?
  23. Should churches ever apologize for their mistakes?
  24. I like to re-enact disastrous journeys, such as that of the Donner party. Where can I find likeminded people?
  25. Does God have a penis?
  26. Does the Godhead consist of 2 or 3 personages?
  27. Should people of different races marry each other?
  28. In the nineteenth century, how common was it for a married man in his late thirties to marry a teenager without his wife’s knowledge or consent?
  29. Is it OK with God for prophets to borrow millions of dollars from the funds of the true church?
  30. When the Lord establishes a bank through His prophet, how long should we expect it to stay in business?
  31. What does “carnal intercourse” mean?
  32. If I have to choose between following my conscience or obeying a religious leader, which one should I choose?
  33. How many earrings are appropriate in each ear?
  34. If I do an act of charity, should I do it quietly or should I do something to attract attention to myself, such as wearing a bright yellow shirt?
  35. If the natural man is an enemy to God, does that mean gays are God’s friends because their desires are unnatural?
  36. Which one was Jesus: Quetzalcoatl or Wiracocha?
  37. How, where, and when did Arthur Patton die?
  38. Where can I find an organization that will help me find happiness in conformity?
  39. What were Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger doing in the barn?
  40. When is steel not actually steel?
  41. Is “ofin Zimim ezmon E, Zu onis i f s veris etzer ensvonis vineris” Hebrew?
  42. Is it ever OK to criticize a religious leader?
  43. Is Anubis a slave?
  44. Does God approve of oral sex?
  45. Is it ever appropriate to lie to the police?
  46. Where does God live?
  47. Are organizations that have secret rites and oaths good or bad?
  48. Should women have an education and career, or should they stay home and have lots of babies?
  49. If the Holy Spirit tells me to kill someone, should I use a sword or a knife?
  50. Are there any moral absolutes?
  51. How badly do I need to believe in things that are not so?

Bonus question: Which is worse: decaffeinated coffee or caffeinated soda?

If you enjoyed this list, you might also like the Concise Dictionary of Mormonism.


Agitation and Revelation

March 24, 2014

I haven’t weighed in on the Ordain Women issue at all, not because I’m not sympathetic but because it’s been covered elsewhere and in much better ways than I could write about it. But yesterday a reader posed the following question to me, and my response follows:

I have kind of a random question that I was hoping you would know the answer to. For some background, today I read through a debate on Facebook that was sparked by a friend of mine who is still in the church publicizing his support for the Ordain Women movement. Those supporting the movement in the comments pointed frequently to the church’s lifting the ban on blacks holding the priesthood as an example of pressure working on church leaders. That change occurred before I was born, but I have heard many members who were alive at the time saying they were so happy when the change happened (such as Mitt Romney). My question is, do you know of any polls that were conducted before the ban was lifted concerning Mormons’ support for extending the priesthood to blacks? I ask because of the recent Pew poll that showed very little support in the church for extending the priesthood to women. But I wonder, if the brethren announced at the general conference next week that women would receive the priesthood, would most members turn around and express happiness at the decision, as happened after the change before?

Anyway, I did a quick search on Google but couldn’t find anything, and I wondered if you had come across any such polls from the 70s.

I am not aware of any published polling data, though it’s entirely possible a news organization, such as the Salt Lake Tribune, might have done such a poll, which would be in their archives. I haven’t found anything, but according to BlackLDS.org, in 1963, Hugh B. Brown mentioned to the New York Times that the church was “in the midst of a survey looking toward the possibility of admitting Negroes.” Another tidbit from the BlackLDS site:

Sociologist Armand Mauss Surveys LDS Attitudes about Race
Survey shows that “the Mormons, in spite of their peculiar doctrine on the Negroes, were no more likely to give anti-Negro responses than were the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Lutherans (whether American or Missouri Synod) or Baptists (whether American or Southern), and furthermore the Mormon respondents were very nearly the same as the Protestant averages.”

The survey also shows, “among those of urban origin, the ‘Orthodox’ or ‘believers’ were consistently less likely to express anti-Negro attitudes than were the ‘doubters’ of key Church doctrines.” (Neither White nor Black, Bush and Mauss, Signature Books, 1984, pg. 20-23)

Neither of those helps answer my reader’s question much, but both suggest that there was an atmosphere of acceptance in the church toward such a change.

When comparing the lifting of the racial restrictions on priesthood and the movement today to ordain women, I think it’s helpful to look at this in two ways:

  1. The actual desire to make a change in the church.
  2. The strong sense among Mormons that it’s wrong not only to demand anything of the brethren but also to even ask that something be considered.

First of all, from what I know, there was a pervasive desire among Mormons in the 1970s to lift the priesthood ban. I can only speak from my own experience as a boy growing up in Southern California, though when I’ve talked to others about their experience, they have confirmed my sense of the times. Given the social changes of the 1960s, many Mormons were bewildered and maybe a little embarrassed that the church was holding onto its racist past in this way. When it was discussed in church, it was always emphasized that we didn’t know why God had imposed the ban but that someday the priesthood would be extended to all men. That Hugh B. Brown tried to get the Quorum of Twelve to lift the ban in 1969 tells me that, even among the brethren, there was a desire to make the change. When the announcement came over the radio (it was the lead story on the national news), I was in a car full of Boy Scouts returning from a 50-mile hike in the Sierra Nevada. Everyone cheered, and the rest of the trip we talked about how exciting it was that President Kimball had received a revelation just like Joseph Smith and how we no longer had to wonder about this issue anymore.

As I said, everyone I’ve ever spoken to about this had the same reaction: joy that it had happened, and reassurance that it had been done by revelation. At the time, there were rumors that some members in the southern US and South Africa were upset, but I’ve never heard anything more about that since then.

That said, it’s important to remember that, despite the widespread support for lifting the ban, there was no organized effort to lift it. I know some members wrote anguished letters to the general authorities asking for its repeal or at least seeking an explanation, but there were no protests, not even letter-writing campaigns. To this day, many members of the LDS church I’ve spoken with deny that there was any pressure from any source that led to the 1978 revelation, which suggests that most members believe it is wrong to press leaders to go to the Lord about a specific issue. As Boyd K. Packer said in 1993:

When members are hurting, it is so easy to convince ourselves that we are justified, even duty bound, to use the influence of our appointment or our calling to somehow represent them. We then become their advocates — sympathize with their complaints against the Church, and perhaps even soften the commandments to comfort them. Unwittingly we may turn about and face the wrong way. Then the channels of revelation are reversed. Let me say that again. Then the channels of revelation are reversed.

The channels of revelation go from the top down, from the brethren to the members, and not from the bottom up, which explains why there is so much resistance to even suggesting that the brethren consider going to the Lord with a particular question.

It seems ironic now, but in 1978, the only issue about which Latter-day Saints were concerned enough to organize was in the fight against the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) to the US Constitution. Much like they did during the Prop. 8 campaign in 2008, the church organized its members and defeated the amendment in some state legislatures. As the New York Times notes:

In the 1970s, the [LDS] church quickly emerged as one of the most organized and devoted forces working against the ratification of the E.R.A., a proposed amendment to the Constitution that guaranteed equality of rights under the law, regardless of sex. Seeing the amendment as an affront to traditional gender roles and a threat to the family, the church organized its members into powerful and effective activists against the E.R.A. “We believe that E.R.A. is a moral issue with many disturbing ramifications for women and for the family,” the church’s First Presidency, its three highest-ranking leaders, declared in an official statement in 1978. Ratifying the E.R.A., they warned, would result in an “encouragement of those who seek a unisex society, an increase in the practice of homosexual and lesbian activities, and other concepts which could alter the natural, God-given relationship of men and women.”

Mormons rallied to this message and helped ensure that state legislatures across the country, from Mormon-heavy states like Utah and Nevada to less likely places like Virginia and Florida, defeated the amendment. (Young, Neil J., “Equal Rights, Gay Rights and the Mormon Church,” 13 June 2012.)

Mormons who opposed the church’s stance were denounced and marginalized, with one prominent opponent, Sonia Johnson, being excommunicated for her public and vocal stance.

Although support for the priesthood change was fairly widespread and there was almost no public support for the ERA, the common denominator was the belief that it was up to the brethren—and God, by extension—to make any changes. Calls for change, whether private or public, personal or organized, were seen as wrong.

I think that plays a part in the level of support for ordaining women to the priesthood: it would take a change, by revelation, and most Mormons believe it would be wrong to put any pressure on the brethren to ask for such a revelation. I would say this is the main reason the Ordain Women movement has been so harshly denounced and even demonized. I’ve even heard some women say they would have a very hard time accepting a revelation giving women the priesthood, and from what I gather, they base this on the belief that such a revelation would have been imposed on the brethren by “ark-steadying” agitators.

The other factor is that there’s been a common theme in LDS culture that women shouldn’t want the priesthood, that they should be happy with their God-given roles as wives and mothers. The priesthood, I’ve heard so many times, is a responsibility and in some ways a burden that women would not want. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any specific official teachings of this attitude, but it is certainly there in the culture. I would guess that, given some time, I could find a few official statements to support that.

That was a long-winded way of answering the question, but in short, given LDS culture, I think most Mormons would be happy with the change. These days, even changes in policy, such as the recent change in missionary age, are greeted as having near-revelatory power, so if such a change were announced as a revelation, I’m sure most people would be happy about it. Some people would be disappointed, especially those I mentioned above who would feel that the church had been pressured into it.

Will such a change happen? Who knows? When I was a boy I never imagined the priesthood ban would be lifted in my lifetime, so anything is possible. I suspect, however, that if such a change were ever to happen, the brethren would not make it in response to direct pressure, as that might suggest that God’s will bends to political or social pressure.

That brings me to the Ordain Women movement. As with anything else, I support those who fight for equality and for positive change, so yes, I support their efforts to effect good as they see it. As I said, I doubt any change will come directly from this effort, but it’s good to know that there are people willing to risk their standing in the church for what they believe in. That has to count for something. And, whether people choose to acknowledge it or not, change in the LDS church has always come in response to a pressing need. The 1978 revelation, for example, came in response to the ban’s impracticality in Brazil, where the church was building a new temple, and to political and social pressures elsewhere. Revelation never occurs in a vacuum, so getting this issue out in public view may eventually make it easier for the church to make a change in response to other pressures.

The church’s response thus far has been to circle the wagons (or, quite literally, the garbage trucks), which may reassure some hardliners but is a very bad public-relations move.

If nothing else, Boyd K. Packer’s warning has come to pass: members are facing “the wrong way.” A few years ago, it would have been impossible to imagine an organized movement pressing church leaders for change of any kind, and yet here we are. Many Mormons seem to have lost the reverence and, yes, fear they felt for their leaders. Perhaps the newfound confidence of some members reflects the church’s inability to control its own message in the Internet age. Many Mormons have discovered that the carefully packaged version of the church, its history, and its origins, does not align well with reality, and perhaps that has led even believing members to begin questioning everything from seer stones to restrictions on priesthood.

I do not know what the future holds, but I believe strongly that good things happen when people work together and make them happen. To that end, I wish the Ordain Women movement well.


March Surprise

March 20, 2014

It turns out not to be very surprising.

Judge throws out attempt to accuse Mormon church of fraudulent teachings

Some highlights from the report:

Two summons were issued to Thomas Monson, the president of the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, alleging that, by seeking money using “untrue or misleading” statements, he breached the Fraud Act 2006.

But the private prosecution by Tom Phillips was thrown out at Westminster Magistrates’ Court by Senior District Judge Howard Riddle, who said it was an “abuse of the process of the court”.

He added: “I am satisfied that the process of the court is being manipulated to provide a high-profile forum to attack the religious beliefs of others.” …

The summons, signed by District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe, ordered Mr Monson to appear at Westminster and threatened arrest if he did not.

However, Judge Riddle said today that the threat of arrest was “wrong” and should not have been made.

He described the attempted prosecution as “tenuous”, with no chance of ever making it to trial even if Mr Monson attended.

He said it was “obvious” that the case was aimed at the beliefs of the church rather than Mr Monson himself.

I’ve made a few unkind statements about Tom Phillips’ motivations, and I’ve apologized personally to Tom. I take him at his word that he really does want justice for people he feels have been victimized by the LDS church. But it’s clearly impossible to show intentional fraud by people who are simply teaching the religious tenets they actually believe.

The argument has been made that Mormon truth claims are different from other religious claims because they are falsifiable. For example, it’s quite easy to show that Joseph Smith’s “explanation” of Facsimile 3 in the Book of Abraham is far from accurate. Other religious claims, such as God creating the universe, are beyond human capacity to confirm or deny.

The problem, of course, is where one draws the line between objective “fact” and religious “faith.” Most people agree that humans cannot die and then suddenly come back to life after three days in the grave. But that’s what Jesus did, so is the resurrection objectively false (and therefore fraudulent), or is it a matter of faith? The evidence is likewise very clear that there was no Proto-Christian civilization of Hebrew settlers in the Americas between 600 BC and 400 AD, but again, that’s what the Book of Mormon claims. Is believing in Nephites a matter of fact or faith? Ultimately, these are issues that cannot be resolved in a court of law, as the judge made clear:

He added: “To convict, a jury would need to be sure that the religious teachings of the Mormon church are untrue or misleading. That proposition is at the heart of the case.

“No judge in a secular court in England and Wales would allow that issue to be put to a jury. It is non-justiciable.”

I realized a long time ago that I will never get back what the church took from me: my time, my devotion, my efforts, my money, my heart. All I can do is go forward and try to learn from the past rather than look back with regret, hurt feelings, or anger.


Conflict of Interest

February 5, 2014

Just noticed this little blurb about the Monson summons on the MormonThink web site: “Note: The MormonThink website is not involved in this private lawsuit. We merely report the news.”

Fair enough. But let’s look at the court document itself, which begins, “Information has been laid by Thomas Phillips of Kemp House, 152-160 City Road, London EC14 2 NX, UK.”

Who is this Thomas Phillips? you might ask. MormonThink reported on November 29, 2012, “Tom Phillips has agreed to act as the managing editor of MormonThink.”

Oh, that Thomas Phillips.

The frustrating thing to me is that I like the MormonThink web site. It’s as fair and balanced as anything out there, and yet they will forever be associated with Tom Phillips, who is anything but objective about the LDS church. Fairly or not, Mormons will now dismiss MormonThink as the site run by the guy who wanted to put Monson in jail. And that’s a damned shame.

Update: From David Twede’s (former managing editor of MormonThink) blog: “However, what Tom (primarily) and the MormonThink team (supportive) have done is truly amazing.”

Mormon apologists must be celebrating today, as Twede et al. have just given them a huge gift.


February Surprise

February 5, 2014

For quite some time I’ve been hearing that there would be a major development in the Mormon story any day now, which some breathless apostates have dubbed the “October Surprise.” The source of the rumors has been Tom Phillips, an outspoken ex-Mormon from the UK, who in the past suggested something big was coming, only to back off.

Now we know what the “surprise” is:

Mormon Church Leader Thomas Monson Summoned To UK Court Over Claim Of Church ‘Fraud’

In other news, the Pope is to be arraigned for teaching that Jesus was resurrected.

Try as I may, I cannot summon the words to express just how ridiculous and pathetic this is. My eyes have been rolling so much that I fear they might become permanently stuck mid-eyeroll. I’m not going to bother with the “substance” of the charges, as many others have done so already, but I will simply say that the folks at MormonThink.com would do well to distance themselves from Mr. Phillips if they want to maintain any credibility.

I have appreciated MormonThink for its relative fairness in its treatment of the LDS church. Obviously, their website is critical of the church, but they at least provide readers with “faithful” responses to the issues they discuss. MormonThink is certainly fairer than FAIR or Utah Lighthouse Ministry, and they have always prided themselves on being as “objective” as a critical site can be. That’s why I am baffled as to why they would hitch their wagon to someone who seems interested in self-promotion and some weird kind of revenge against the church.

I’m pretty sure this case will go nowhere (the surprise for me is that it has gotten this far in the first place). You can’t prosecute religious leaders for preaching their religion’s doctrines, and that is basically what is happening. The real loser here is MormonThink, not Thomas S. Monson


Hi, I’m Jesus, and I’m a Mormon

December 13, 2012

About Me

I grew up never knowing my real father. Sure, the man who raised me and taught me his trade (carpentry) was a good enough guy, but there was always something missing in my life. Sometimes I felt like a burden, like my parents didn’t really want me around. Once they left me at the temple and forgot all about me for a couple of days. Needless to say, I had self-esteem issues. Through my teens and twenties I let myself go spiritually and physically. I wanted to be different, so I adopted a hippie style, letting my hair and beard grow out and wearing ratty old robes and sandals. I felt like I had hit bottom when I was invited to a wedding, and it turned out they just wanted me to bring the alcohol.

Confused and lost, I left home at age 30 and went from town to town looking for meaning in my life. I thought I had found my calling teaching people about being good to each other and healing the sick. I thought I’d made friends and finally felt like I belonged, but my friends deserted me when I needed them, and I ended up alone on a cross, wondering what had happened with my life.

But then two missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints knocked on my door. I was curious about a religion that coincidentally bore my name, so I invited them in. What they taught me changed my life.

Why I’m a Mormon

Since my baptism into the LDS church, I have learned that I have a purpose in life, that my time here on earth has meaning. I’ve  cleaned myself up, trading the grunge look for a clean-cut, businesslike look. I don’t have to wander around among strangers desperately seeking validation through pathetic attempts at “charity.” Now I know that true fulfillment comes from dressing in white robes and sitting for a couple of hours to watch a film and recite oaths, signs, and tokens. I go to the temple three times a week to make up for lost time.

I’ve also become more humble. I recognize that it’s rather arrogant to presume I know more about medicine than qualified doctors, like my bishop, so I have stopped healing people just to show off. Besides, I keep very busy as my ward’s physical maintenance coordinator and as a stake public affairs representative (we are making a lot of progress towards helping people to see that we’re normal).

Some of my friends think I’m too focused on rules and “standards,” but I know that diligently reading my scriptures, paying tithing, and attending meetings has helped me become a better, more Christlike person. I am so grateful for a bishop and stake president who have the priesthood authority to declare me worthy to enter the temple. Having a temple recommend has shown me what it means to be clean and pure before God.

Someday, I hope to find a worthy eternal companion to take with me to the temple to be sealed for time and eternity. I thought I had found “the one,” but she turned out to have a problem with following the prophet. Seriously, how can you jeopardize your eternal destiny just so you can wear an extra pair of earrings?

I know that we are led today by a living prophet, who stands at the head of the corporation sole, even The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Without his guidance, who knows what I would be doing with my life? I am grateful that he has shown us the way and the truth through bad poetry and shopping mall construction.

If you would like to find the same happiness I have, please contact the LDS church and have them send missionaries to teach you. You won’t regret it.