Why I Am A Mormon

I’ve stolen the title of this post from a book written by my grandfather over fifty years ago. Yet the content of the book, which serves essentially as a primer to basics in Mormon theology, has very little to do with what I’m about to write about, which might be more aptly described as “Why I’m Not an Anti-Mormon,” or, perhaps, “Why Anti-Mormons Don’t Shake My Faith.” Because, for whatever reason, I seem to be bumping into a lot of anti-Mormons lately.

Of course, a great deal of it is my own doing.

My latest encounter came as I looked at the suggested videos on YouTube following this gem, which is a gentle spoof on the speech patterns of prominent Mormon leaders.

One of the videos that was suggested was one called “Behind the Veil,” which shows surreptitiously filmed footage of Mormon temple ceremonies accompanied by spooky music. My favorite bit was a shot of an LDS temple’s baptismal font, which is something that the LDS temple provides high-res pictures of same on their own web site.

Behold! Secret Mormon things revealed – from the church’s own website, no less!

Maybe this guy didn’t have the big scoop he thought he had.

In the age if the Internet, it’s rather foolish to presume that the church has any capacity to hide any aspect of its practices or history from the world at large, so it always amazes me when people who hate the church, as they fixate on something that church does or did that they don’t like, act like they’ve uncovered something nobody else has ever seen or heard about. That was certainly the case with the purveyor of this particular video, who claimed all this stuff was “never before seen… until now!” (Apparently, the guy doesn’t watch a lot of Big Love.)

I made the mistake of commenting on his video, saying something along the lines of “Yes! Because nothing’s more Christian than mocking someone else’s faith!” That led to a series of pointless exchanges, and then the guy posted his phone number and dared me to call him. Not having learned my lesson from past experiences calling Internet cranks, I gave him a buzz.

He was very friendly at the outset, and remained friendly even as he launched into a 45-minute diatribe against the church, all of which was stuff that I’d heard before and have talked about on this blog beyond the point of endurance. Did I know all about the seedy elements of Joseph Smith’s polygamy? Well, yes. What about the Kinderhook Plates? Yeah, haven’t written about them, but they’re no big deal. What about the lack of external evidence for the Book of Mormon? Well, I think there’s quite a bit more evidence, both internal and external, than enemies of the church will admit. Didn’t get a chance to say any of that, though – he tore through his spiel under the assumption that I’d never heard such things before, and I just listened as he recited them as he has likely done dozens, if not hundreds, of times before. The oddest complaint he had, the only one which I have not, in fact, heard from anyone else, was that Gordon B. Hinckley wasn’t a prophet because he didn’t act like Moses coming down from Sinai when Larry King interviewed him.

Watch and judge for yourself – I found him pleasant and inspiring, but maybe he should have parted some large body of water or something.

In any case, this dude claims to have fifteen different temple recommends under assumed names, and he was in the temple “just last week” filming more footage for his next Internet opus. Such activity requires him to lie every time he enters the temple, and then lie again repeatedly as he makes covenants that he violates in the very act of making them. Seems like kind of a miserable way to live your life to me, but to each his own.

He’s not unique, though, much as he thinks he may be.

I’ve found that people who leave the church experience an almost debilitating sense of loss, and one of the reasons they obsess over it is that they’re looking to fill the hole they’ve created in their lives when they abandon their faith. A fellow who sneaks into temples probably devotes more time and energy to being an anti-Mormon than he ever did to being a Mormon. In a perverse way, it’s satisfying the same fundamental spiritual need that the church did when he was a believer.

I thought about all this as I read this latest piece from the New York Times about a doubter, who, this time, is someone who actually held a high ecclesiastical position in the church and yet still didn’t know Joseph Smith was a polygamist, which kind of blows my mind. Seriously, how could he not know? There isn’t a missionary in the church that doesn’t know, but this guy, raised in the church and an Area Authority Seventy, finds out online and acts like someone’s been keeping secrets from him. I don’t get it at all.

Regardless, it rehashes all the same stuff – polygamy, Book of Mormon questions, and the usual issues with racism and the like, and, once again, it’s all treated as if it’s some kind of remarkable, amazing discovery about a church that’s been around for 183 very well-documented years. Fact is, people have been asking – and answering – these questions for decades, if not centuries. I occasionally get annoyed with the presumption that someone like me would never have thought to examine these issues with a lifetime in the church, but that’s because I’m still something of a jerk, and I need to become more Christlike in my approach to those who feel it necessary to tear down the faith of others in order to justify their own doubts.

I’ve been accused, therefore, of not having an open mind on this subject. And I think there’s more than a grain of truth to that.

After all, when presented with the latest “new” argument against the church, which is invariably just a recycled old one, my first instinct is not “Gosh! All the amazing spiritual experiences I’ve had, my personal relationship with my Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, the remarkable good works and powerful bonds of fellowship and faith that I’ve seen in my church over a lifetime of service thereto – it’s all nonsense because of some comments about forged bell-shaped plates in Kinderhook, Illinois!”

If that’s a closed mind, I plead guilty.

My encounters with deity, some of which are too sacred to relate in a public forum, are more potent, powerful, and, yes, true to me than anything else I’ve had the opportunity to experience in this life. I’m not going to uproot or abandon them on the basis of something that is usually a misrepresentation, a misunderstanding, or an outright fabrication. I’ve seen too much that is undeniable to get unnerved when the latest critic comes up with the latest distortion designed to undermine the things I already know.

As Gordon B. Hinckley, a prophet regardless of what armchair TV critics might think, so eloquently stated:

We have those critics who appear to wish to cull out of a vast panorama of information those items which demean and belittle some of the men and women of the past who worked so hard in laying the foundation of this great cause. They find readers of their works who seem to delight in picking up these tidbits, and in chewing them over and relishing them. In so doing they are savoring a pickle, rather than eating a delicious and satisfying dinner of several courses.

We recognize that our forebears were human. They doubtless made mistakes. … But the mistakes were minor, when compared with the marvelous work which they accomplished. To highlight the mistakes and gloss over the greater good is to draw a caricature. Caricatures are amusing, but they are often ugly and dishonest. A man may have a blemish on his cheek and still have a face of beauty and strength, but if the blemish is emphasized unduly in relation to his other features, the portrait is lacking in integrity.

There was only one perfect man who ever walked the earth. The Lord has used imperfect people in the process of building his perfect society. If some of them occasionally stumbled, or if their characters may have been slightly flawed in one way or another, the wonder is the greater that they accomplished so much. …

I do not fear truth. I welcome it. But I wish all of my facts in their proper context, with emphasis on those elements which explain the great growth and power of this organization.

There is promise, given under inspiration from the Almighty, set forth in these beautiful words:

“God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost.” (D&C 121:26.)

The humanists who criticize us, the so-called intellectuals who demean us, speak only from ignorance of this manifestation. … They have not heard it because they have not sought after it and prepared themselves to be worthy of it. …

Do not be trapped by the sophistry of the world which for the most part is negative and which seldom, if ever, bears good fruit. … Rather, “look to God and live.” (Alma 37:47.)

That’s what I’m talking about. That’s why I’m a Mormon. And I can’t say it any better than that, so, for now, here’s where I stop.

I Hate It
A Conversation with Mike Norton

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