I think I was born with faith. It was a gift bestowed upon me. It was obvious to me that the earth was a wonderous place…..especially nature. The more I observed and learned about stars, the sky, animals, plants and ecosystems, the more in awe I was. It could only have been created. I knew that creator to be God.
I was open minded about trying to understand God. I read about and tried all sorts of religions. All were interesting to me. All had truths. Mostly I looked at religions as different systems to explain life….with more similarities than differences. I think each particular religion is dependent on geography and culture to define itself. I always wished we could just all get along and share the best parts of what we believe.
It did not take long as a kid to figure out much of the separation was all about power and money. Each type of belief system wanted me as their own…..as a means of control and for financial gain. I was never impressed by religions that forbade members to visit other churches. Why did everybody have to insist their religion was the only real one and other people were unenlightened fools? That still bugs me to this day.
I did Sunday school, church, vacation Bible school, mid-week Bible studies, intense weekend retreats and college classes in scripture and comparative religion. I read lots and lots of books. I was always searching, always trying to understand and find my place in the world. I tried many religions. They each had their strengths and weaknesses.
When I became a Unitarian Universalist, my favorite night each week was called spiritual investigations. There were some extremely intelligent and learned people there. It was exhilarating to explore ideas. But it was missing something. I liked the emphasis on the here and now and the caring about humanity….but why were they so ambivalent about God?
After a few years I decided the heck with religion. It was too confining and devisive. I wanted to feel connected to God. I was tired of all the trappings and the bureaucracy. I never felt I was free to be me. I hungered for something more intense and meaningful. I declared myself spiritual and not religious. I found all I needed in nature. God was more obvious to me in the woods and fields than in a church building.
To outside observers, they are often taken aback that an old hippy like me would find the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be appealing. For me, it offered free agency, finding out truths layer by layer, better understanding of life and purpose, a clear path, simple explanations for big deal ideas….and there were sacred temples. What I felt was missing everyplace else I had looked, was part of this religion.
LDS people believe, and indeed know, that Christ is our Savior and that He is the Son of God. During baptism and confirmation, our sins are forgiven and we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit to be our constant companion. I believe we all have access to the Holy Ghost, but the connection during confirmation is an incredible experience. The teachings of the LDS church are true. It has the power and authority of God behind it. Plain and precious truths have been restored to the earth. The more I understand the actual beliefs, the more I am sure I am among true Christians.
People love to poke fun at Mormons. As anybody who has read my blog much knows….I think there is a huge difference between pure LDS religion and Mormon culture. I think the culture has taken a bad turn. Just like in the Book of Mormon, when a society gets too wealthy and self-centered, they begin to self destruct. That is also true of everyone on earth.
I found this paragraph that fits in perfectly for me. Norman Mailer, while promoting his novel about the life of Jesus Christ, The Gospel According to The Son, explained that anxiety troubles the American heart, because most Americans identify as Christians and prefer to pretend they live in a “Christian nation,” but on some deep, intuitive level suffer from the awareness that they violate the basic principles of Christianity on a daily basis. The Synoptic Gospels are filled with excoriations of the rich, and implorations to help the poor.
I chose to live a simple life in the woods of Vermont. I figured the only influence I could have on society was to live lightly on the land and to utilize alternative systems. I could be an example of a possibility. I did not want to change people to be like me. I wanted to be one of a zillion possibilities. That’s how I feel about being LDS. I don’t want to drag anyone kicking and screaming to church….I just want to be me and live what I believe to be one of a zillion possibilities…..but for me…..the right choice.
People who enjoy their lives often wish others could share the same happiness. I tried to share my homesteading happiness. I also try to share my sincere religious beliefs as the rock in my life. It’s the anchor that keeps me sane. My understanding of the world is infinitely clearer than ever. I know something good, I want other people to know it, too.
From time to time, people on support groups share their incredibly stressful lives. Most of the time, the most distressed people, with the least satisfying lives, do not have a relationship with God…..or any other higher power. I will always believe there is a purpose to life and by pursuing that purpose, we find a deeper meaning and satisfaction. Money isn’t it. It’s nice to have, but there are many more important things. Clothes, beauty and outward trappings aren’t it. Who we are inside is exponentially more important than who we are outside. The most important relationships are between us, God and our families. Ultimately we are all brothers and sisters. Some people are easier to love than others, but we are supposed to love them all. It’s a life-long project. Not as easy as it ought to be.