In this post I am going to share the story of why and how I converted to Mormonism. This life changing experience did not happen easily. But I am so grateful for my experience, because it has helped me to grow immensely. Mormonism has a beautiful, edifying theology that inspires goodness and growth in humanity. My relationship with Jesus Christ has grown much stronger and I have come closer to God.
To start off I would like to explain a bit of my history. I was born to parents who were/are active members of the L-DS Church. Growing up in the Church I was pretty average. I did what I was asked to, and was very serious about the gospel. I recall exploring passages of scripture and using study guides to understand them better. I enjoyed reading the Words of God and exploring the meanings of them. I couldn’t be part of the Church just for social aspects, I was shy and reserved, an introvert. But I took God, the gospel, and the scriptures very seriously.
While on my mission I remember just how seriously I took my beliefs. I truly believed that I was a representative of Christ. When people helped me, they were helping Christ. If someone fed us dinner, they were feeding Christ. And I just knew they would be blessed, or not, depending on how they treated me; a representative of Christ. Looking back I realize how arrogant that view was. But that’s what I was taught, that missionaries are representatives of Christ; and I took it seriously.
The next phase of my journey was after my first daughter was born and reading in the scriptures about how the sacrament if for those who are baptized. I came to a realization that there was no need for un-baptized children to partake of the sacrament. Yet, every Sunday parents give the sacrament to their children so they can “practice” for when they will partake of the sacrament after they are baptized. The idea of children practicing eating the sacrament seemed a ridiculous excuse for maintaining a tradition we were all brought up in, but is not backed by the Word of God. Do we have children practice baptism, the endowment, or ordination? Of course not. The sacrament is something serious. And how much more special would it be for a child’s first experience with the sacrament to be after they are baptized. They too, would know just how important this ordinance is.
That was the beginning of my journey of discovery. I read the scriptures like mad. I also read a variety of sources and experiences of other people who has already peeled away the layers of traditions that had accumulated in the Church. But I discovered something. I realized that I was relying too much on these people and not enough on the Lord. This issue was manifested to me when I read one blog entry about a topic and agreed with it completely. Then I read an entry on another blog that gave a different interpretation of the same subject; and I agreed with it completely. It was then that I realized that I had completely shifted my view within about 30 minutes. I realized that I was just agreeing with whatever I read and not actually seeking for myself to know the truth. I was relying on these people to guide me instead of the Spirit. It was after this that I committed myself to basing my beliefs in the Words of God and not the opinions of men. Sure these books and blogs gave me ideas for further research, but I wouldn’t agree with someone just because I read it somewhere.
It was during this time that I had an experience. I didn’t have a desire to be involved in any thing other than the Work of the Lord. It was for about a week that I felt like I was on fire.
However, I discovered that many people in the L-DS Church get a little nervous when people start putting forward ideas other than what we were raised with. Now, I don’t blame anybody. Most members of the Church simply struggle to live life and live the gospel. Their primary concern is just living the basics of the gospel rather than delving into those things that are considered “deeper.” So when I started talking about things that were different that what has been talked about in Sunday, people got worried. They worried that I was being deceived into believing false doctrines.
That is certainly and understandable view. If all your life you hear one worldview and someone comes along with something else, it doesn’t seem right. It’s different. And the issue that faithful L-DS face is that different means error, and error means apostasy, and apostasy means following Satan.
Recently I found a comment that exemplifies this thinking. It is this: “Get your priorities straight. Pray. Ask God. Get a testimony. The rest is just words in a book. Once you have a testimony, you might understand the words in the book.”
When a faithful L-DS member says this, they are concerned for you. They want you to get back on board with the system of belief they believe to be true. And the advice given therein is perfectly reasonable and sound. I support it whole heatedly. But the issue is that the differences in my belief system came because I HAVE done those things, not because I haven’t. Understandably a lot of people wont understand how someone can honestly seek for truth and testimony, yet arrive at a different conclusion than what we are taught in Church. There is an understanding that such people are being deceived, or did not seek with real intent, or they didn’t take it seriously. However, it is precisely because I took the Gospel seriously that I was led to my differing views.
It’s like I began scraping the barnacles off of the belief system I was given and underneath I found a shiny, sleek speedboat. Most people are just trying to keep their boat afloat and don’t have time or energy to worry about scraping barnacles. But what I realized is that, while keeping your boat afloat is a worthy goal, when I stopped bailing and started scraping the rest took care of itself. My boat was no longer weighed down and I could use the boat as it was intended.
What I found under the barnacles of almost two hundred years was Mormonism. Simple and pure Mormonism. I found God working to reestablish his people and we are all invited to join Him. After hacking my way through the hedge of the maze I found the yellow brick(or rather the straight and narrow) road leading to Zion.
But if I am really scraping barnacles and not being deceived, then why are my beliefs different than what is taught to us in Sunday School and general conference? The answer to this question lies in how I came to my views. I believe that God is our Father. I believe that he has and does communicate with us. I believe that this communication has occurred through many prophets in history and much of this communication is recorded in the Book of Mormon as well as in other sacred texts. I believe that he communicated through Joseph Smith and that those Words of God were recorded and accepted in the Doctrine and Covenants. This is my foundation, my starting point. God’s Word is not something we should dismiss, it is something we should take seriously.
So what happens when a conflict is found between the Word of God and what is taught today? The obvious answer is that we have modern prophets who have received revelation to change the practice. That’s why we have prophets, to reveal God’s will for us today. Now, if this view is correct and God has changed the way he wants us to do something, then there must have been a revelation that changed the procedure.
The first question we should ask immediately after discovering a conflict between scripture and modern teachings is where is the most recent revelation on the subject. What did the Lord say about the change? What I have found to be the case more often than not is there never was a revelation. Instead there are minor policy changes that slowly, over time accumulate into major discrepancies with the Lord’s Word. Like the talk President Hinckley gave about the gate. A minor movement at the hinge equals a large movement at the other end of the gate. Usually these changing didn’t come from some malicious deception. Rather they are from honest people reacting to the circumstances they are in. One hundred years ago someone made a policy that is well within the bounds of scripture. Then later as situations change a bit, additional changes to the policy are made. As the years progress the people growing up with these changes believe they are how we should be living. Eventually these people become the leaders of the Church, and teach what they were brought up believing. Minor policy changes are made and the cycle continues until a practice that is contrary to the Word of God is accepted as truth and taught in classes and over the pulpit. People end up asking, “How can we improve this policy?” But in reality people should be asking, “Do we even need this policy?”
Therefor, if there was never a revelation which changed a practice; and the change actually resulted from men, however well meaning or inspired; what do we follow? Do we follow the Word of God or the word of men and tradition? It stands to reason that if the Lord revealed something and then never revealed any additional information concerning that, then His original Word still stands. Since I believe that the Word of God is more important than the word of men, I say that we must follow the Word of God. This is where the discrepancy comes from with my beliefs compared to those of faithful L-DS.
How do my beliefs differ and what does that mean? While this list could go one for at great length I will include just a summary of some important topics.
The Church – This is perhaps the most misunderstood topic of our time. And it is misunderstood at our peril. Many members of the church ask questions like “What is the Church’s position?” or “What has the Church said?” Members say, “the Church is perfect but the members aren’t.” The problem here is that “the church” is viewed as something external. It is viewed as the leadership or the organizational structure which exists outside of humanity.
This understanding is not correct. Christ said:
Doctrine and Covenants 10:67
67 Behold, this is my doctrine—whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church.
The church is us. It IS the members. The church is the body and Christ is the head. The church is not perfect because we, the church, are not perfect. This concept is important to understand because if we view the church as something external to ourselves then we lose our identity. And when we lose our identity we lose our relationship with God.
Succession – This is another is]sue that is closely related to the topic of the church. This is the idea that Brigham Young was Joseph Smith’s appointed successor and that those who followed other leadership claimants left the church. This is not correct. Joseph Smith appointed Hyrum Smith as his successor to the prophetic calling. However Hyrum died at Carthage. This left most people turning to Joseph’s son, Joseph Smith III, to be the successor.
However Joseph III was too young at the time. So all of those who rose up to claim leadership did so with the intent of turning over the reins to Joseph III when he got old enough. The problem came when Joseph didn’t join with any of the splinter groups and instead joined with a gathering of reorganized branches. Brigham Young then had to institute his own First Presidency.
So which of all these splinter groups is correct? None of them are and all of them are. None of the splinter groups follows everything Joseph taught. None of these groups by themselves is the church. This is because the church fractured in the 1840s. Parts of the church followed Brigham Young, parts of it followed James Strang or Sidney Rigdon. The church exists in all of these groups together. They are all the continuation of Joseph Smith’s work.
What about Brigham Young being transfigured? There is no evidence that it actually happened. There are no contemporary accounts. All are later “recollections.” There are even “recollections” from people whom we know were not in Nauvoo at the time.
The Restoration – This is probably THE biggest barnacle. It is that after the ancient apostles died the church went into apostasy for over a thousand years. Then God restored His church through Joseph Smith.
This belief is not correct. It is a belief that was brought into the church by the Restorationers. A group of these Restorationers viewed the Book of Mormon as evidence that their restoration was correct, and God was performing miracles again. The Mormon missionaries had great success among them and these people brought their beliefs with them into Mormonism.
The truth is that the ancient church continued among the gentiles although it fell into a state of corruption. Joseph’s work was not to built yet another church but to cleanse the existing church. How was this cleansing to occur? Through the Book of Mormon. The purposes of the Book of Mormon are to “show unto the remnant of the house of Israel what great things the Lord hath done for their fathers; and that they may know the covenants of the Lord, that they are not cast off forever—And also to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God, manifesting himself unto all nations.”
The Book of Mormon is not to be the foundation of a new church. It is not to be evidence of authority or prophetic claims. It has one simple job: initiate the process of rebuilding Israel.
Consecration – Consecration was never done away with. The idea that God would do away with something because it is too hard is rather silly. It would be like God doing away with the Law of Chastity because it is too hard for people to keep their pants on. God provides a way to accomplish His commandments. He doesn’t do away with them because they are too hard.
Tithing – Tithing is not a lesser law to prepare us for Consecration. First of all the revelation for tithing states that it is a standing law forever, not a temporary preparatory law.
Also tithing is not ten percent of ones income. In the Word of God tithing is first a consecration of all of ones surplus. Then when a person consecrates their surplus property every year thereafter ten percent of that surplus is tithing.
Tithing can only exist as part of consecration; it cannot exist independent of it.
Church Organization – The church organization is traditionally understood as the First presidency at the top. Under which there is the Quorum of twelve; and under them is the Quorum of the Seventy and so on.
This is not correct. Section 107 indicates that all of these quorums are equal in authority and power. They also have realms of responsibility. For example the Quorum of the Twelve operates outside the stakes of Zion. Additionally there are other councils which are mandated by scripture that do not exist in the L-DS Church today.
Missionary Program – According to the Word of God missionaries are supposed to go without any resources into an area. There they preach the gospel. But they also serve another function. Because they go without any resources, they are poor. They then rely upon the charity of the people that they serve among. If the people help these poor missionaries then the Lord will see that they have charity. If they do not; then the Lord will see that they do not have charity. This function of missionary work is to test the people.
Relief Society – The Relief Society is an organization parallel to the male priesthood. They are supposed to have offices just as in the church. You can read more about this subject in my post here.
Gathering to Zion – There is a belief that the literal gathering was ended and there is now a spiritual gathering, meaning that all people will gather to where they live. Which doesn’t make any sense if you actually think about it; because how can you be gathered to someplace you already are. Aside from that, there is no scriptural evidence for an end to the literal gathering nor a phase of spiritual gathering. This idea exists only to excuse our unwillingness to perform that work of the literal gathering. The command to literally gather in actual city/stakes was never revoked. We are still bound by it and stand condemned for our refusal to perform this work.
It was through the process of identification and removal of false traditions that I found Mormonism, barnacle free. Mormonism is beautiful and pure. It is the gospel of Christ. It is the continuation of an ancient work that spans back to the origins of humanity.
I would encourage everyone reading this to just make a little effort to study something new. You don’t have to agree with me on anything; but you should make an effort to grow in faith. You should take your beliefs seriously.
I’m afraid that many people will be worried about searching out these things because of the belief that if God wanted us to do something he would tell us through the Prophet. If we are supposed together to Missouri then President Monson will tell us to. If we are supposed to organize United Orders then we must wait for Salt Lake to institute the program.
In response to this thinking I leave you with the Word of God. Both from the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants:
Doctrine and Covenants 58:25-30
25 Wherefore, let them bring their families to this land, as they shall counsel between themselves and me.
26 For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
27 Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
28 For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward.
29 But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.
30 Who am I that made man, saith the Lord, that will hold him guiltless that obeys not my commandments?
1 Nephi 13:37
37 And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be.
The Lord’s promises are still extended to us. All we have to do is do our part.