Last night, as I was digging through a stack of books looking for my copy of Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan to give to a family member who will really enjoy it, I stumbled across my copy of the Huston Smith’s The World’s Religions, first published in 1958. My copy is the 50th anniversary edition, which includes an additional chapter (first added in the 1991 revised edition) on “the primal religions,” including for example Native American religious beliefs and practices, as well as the original chapters on Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. It was the original “world religions” book, and made the author the best known religious studies scholar of his generation. He passed away in 2016.
Smith was not your average scholar. He was a participant, not just a scholar, in the religions of the world. He was raised a Christian (his parents were missionaries in China), but in the course of his lifetime practiced Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. In his later years he studied with leaders of the Native American Church and publicly defended its right to practice its rites (which included the use of peyote). Smith took a different approach to exploring the faiths he discusses in the book than you might expect. As explained in the back cover blurb of my copy of The World’s Religions, Smith “emphasiz[es] the inner — rather than the institutional — dimensions of these religions …. He convincingly conveys the unique appeal and gifts of each of the traditions and reveals their hold on the human heart and imagination.”
Unfortunately, Mormonism doesn’t get a chapter in the book. It doesn’t even appear in the index. So we’re going to have to do our own thinking about what the “unique appeal and gifts” of Mormonism or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are. There are, of course, many different ways that the Church appeals to active and believing members of the Church. Surprisingly, there are many ways that the Church continues to appeal to those who are inactive and unbelieving members of the Church. And that’s a perspective that comes from the Smith book, which looks at the world’s faiths through the lens of experience and meaning and enduring relevance, rather than simply in terms of truth claims or doctrine or historicity.
Let me defend that point of view before I offer my own example of something appealing about the Church. Truth has a lot to offer, but not in every context. If you tour an art museum, you don’t look at this or that painting asking yourself, “Is it true?” If you explain why you root for a certain football team and not one of the others, you don’t say that it’s the true team, as opposed to all those other false or apostate teams. When you decide where to take the family on vacation, you don’t look for the one true vacation. When you fall for that special someone, you might note many wonderful things about Ms. or Mr. Right to your parents, but you won’t say, “this is the one true spouse for me, as opposed to all those wannabe false ones.” Truth is an important concept, but in many areas of our lives, even many important ones, truth is not the controlling dimension. Sometimes it’s not even relevant.
Now if you are raised Mormon and learned to use the term “the one true church” without even a hint of irony, your default mode for thinking about religion is going to be in terms of truth. In recent years, the leadership has walked back that rhetoric to claim only “one true priesthood,” acknowledging that there is a goodly measure of truth in other Christian denominations and even in other religions. I think that’s a nicer way to express the claim of Mormon exceptionalism. It at least inclines the average Mormon to recognize and even applaud the good things in other denominations and religions. Sometimes those of other faiths do the same for Mormonism. Not every Evangelical stands on a corner waving anti-Mormon signs or cheers those who do.
If you are going to be critical about religion, the best place to start is your own. If you practice religious self-criticism, you are likely to develop a measure of humility about your own place in the religious world. You are likely to think about how to make your own congregation or religion better. You may even think about how to make yourself a better person and a better member of your congregation or religion. Self-criticism is rather alien to the Mormon way of thinking, but Mormonism could certainly use more self-criticism. That’s one of Hugh Nibley’s traits that I wish the apologists who idolize him would clue into a bit more.
Mormon blogs and social media groups do a lot of Mormon self-criticism. It’s about the only place in the wide world of Mormonism that you find much of that, outside of Sunstone and Dialogue. But self-criticism shouldn’t be the only tune you sing. Honesty and fairness requires acknowledging what is good and praiseworthy in your own faith, as well as the weaknesses and problems. A good Mormon blogger should take both approaches from time to time. Hence this post, an attempt to look at some of the positives of being a Mormon. As Mormon insiders, let’s try to identify and articulate something of the “unique appeal and gifts” of Mormonism or the LDS Church. There are dozens of nice things to choose from. Me first.
Mormons are pleasantly and surprisingly inclusive. That’s a good thing and a Christian ideal and virtue. I think back to a talent show I attended as a youth, where a young man with disabilities and not much of a talent nevertheless had a place on the program, and everyone listened. I think of the average priesthood quorum, which generally works hard to make everyone who attends, however marginal in terms of gospel knowledge or Church commitment, feel welcome. I think of the average sacrament meeting and the noticeable buzz of babies bubbling or crying and kids chatting. We like reverence, but we like babies and kids more, so we put up with it. It may be offputting to visitors, but if they stick around they’ll come around. We like visitors from out of town. We like visitors who aren’t LDS. Even the Mormon vision of Zion is inclusive. It’s not like there is a gatekeeper checking temple recommends in the LDS vision of Zion. It’s not like Zion is a collection of morally or doctrinally perfect Mormons. There are plenty of average Mormons there. There are plenty of non-LDS there. Zion is a city, not a purified congregation, and as such there is a lot of diversity in the citizenry. I’m not sure what the gatekeeper to Mormon Zion asks. Maybe it’s just “you’re welcome to come in if you leave your guns outside.”
You might reply to me that the long and painful LDS priesthood and temple ban against those variously identified as African or with African heritage or black (and all of these and other classifications used at various times are problematic, but that’s another post) cuts against my inclusion claim. You might reply that the continuing campaign by leadership against LGBT persons and gay marriage cuts against my inclusion claim. Yes, there is a bigoted and exclusionist strain within Mormon thinking and Mormon leadership. But in the long run I believe the Mormon arc bends toward inclusion rather than virulent or even polite exclusion. The priesthood and temple ban was dropped. The LDS position and leadership rhetoric directed against LGBT persons has softened. In another couple of generations, the Church might actually live up to the Christian ideals it proclaims (all are alike unto God) rather than the watered-down version it actually practices (all are alike unto God, but some are more alike than others, and a few aren’t very alike at all).
Your turn. What do you like about Mormonism? What do you find appealing about membership in the Church? What was it you liked about the favorite ward you ever attended? If you don’t attend anymore, what do you miss? If you attend another denomination, what light does that new approach to church shine on your prior experience in LDS congregations? I look forward to your interesting observations.
“If you attend another denomination, what light does that new approach to church shine on your prior experience in LDS congregations?”
I now attend my local Episcopal church, and have come to fully embrace Anglicanism. I am probably personally heading toward Anglo-Catholicism in my own religious sensibilities, but there is no Anglo-Catholic parish nearby where I could explore that avenue.
What new light does this shine on my prior experience?
1. Latter-day Saints can talk all they want about their “Christ-centered” worship. Maybe there are wards scattered across the globe that do a better job of this than elsewhere, but after I left Mormonsim (I could still say that word back then ), I attended a Congregational church, a Methodist church, and a Lutheran church, before finding Anglicanism. There is more Jesus packed into that 60 minutes of worship than I ever saw in three hours of LDS church meetings on any given Sunday.
2. Ritual and repetition are ennobling and spiritually filling. What I have experienced in Anglican liturgical worship is symbolism that truly points to something deeper. It isn’t profound because everyone is telling me it is profound (like I was told about the confusing rituals of the temple endowment. If they were really ever pointing to anything deeper, I never figured it out, and of course, you can’t just go asking somebody about it, either, because it’s “sacred.” ) Anglican liturgy is profound because the symbols actually reveal something deep and profound. And they are communally shared and celebrated. Any person on any Sunday could walk right in and witness it. Not like the Mormon rituals, which are VIP members only.
3. Jesus chose wine for a reason. And it is a shame that the powerful symbolism of wine has been removed from the Mormon Eucharist. When Jesus turned water into wine, it wasn’t just ordinary water he was tampering with. He commanded the men to fill pitchers with water, and these pitchers were used for Jewish ceremonial washing according to the Jewish law. This “water of the Old Covenant” is what Jesus turned into the wine of the New Covenant. Mormons have turned the wine back into water. There is a big difference between the physical sensation of swallowing tap water and swallowing even a sip of real wine. And in this, too, is rich symbolism.
4. Women have already been ordained. When I was baptized, my priest was a man. Soon thereafter, we were blessed with a female deacon in our parish. I wasn’t sure what I felt about that, being an exMormon man who was used to a male-only clergy. However, on Ash Wednesday, when I went up to receive the imposition of ashes, I saw that the line was leading me away from the priest and toward the deacon. Bummer! I wanted my ashes from my priest. But when the deacon placed her ashen fingers upon my forehead, and said, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” I felt it! Wow….I was left with no doubt that this woman was truly ordained. The power of her ordination was obvious on that and many other occasions. Later, the priest moved on to another role in the diocese, and the parish selected a female priest. During a particularly difficult phase of my life (anxiety/depression) she offered to anoint and bless me. Again, same experience.
Latter-day Saints….you don’t need to wait for God to tell your prophets that women can be ordained. God has already spoken on the subject…your prophets just aren’t listening.
Those are the biggest differences I can think of at the moment. I am sure there are many more.
Not sure this answers any of your questions but there’s a point I really want to make: When you highlight the fact that a book about major world religions published in the 50s does not even mention the LDS Church, it reminds me of the same observation I made a few years ago when picking up a copy of the Economist magazine which was featuring world religions. I thought to myself, “why aren’t we mentioned?”
Even before I had issues with many of the Church’s truth claims (literally when I was in ward and stake leadership positions), I had an issue with the numbers. Why are we so few and far between if we are the “one true Church” with a capital C? I did the simple math: If there’s 7.8B people on earth and 15.5M LDs members, we represent 2/1000 of the population (and given that 50% of the membership is totally inactive it’s more like 1/1000). Think of this for a moment. We are living in a modern area with the Internet and instant communications and a missionary force of 60 or 70k and in what we call “the fullness of times” and we only constitute 2 out of every thousand people? I don’t require us to be the dominant religion in the world or even one of the dominant religions in the world but these numbers reinforce for me the idea that what we are is Joseph Smith’s 1830 invention.
When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s the Church was growing at a rate that suggested that some day (2050 was a well-known marker) the LDS would become a world force. But the last few years have shown the opposite to be true. This does not prove the Church is “not true”. But it certainly doesn’t help make the case. Can someone out there explain to me why we are so few in number if we are so “true”? Please don’t repeat Elder Cook’s “the world is too evil” argument. Why is the Lord’s success rate with us earthlings so low? President Nelson is right it’s going to be a sad heaven.
As an RLDS, I attended with friends Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, Pentecostal, LDS, and Contemporary Christian Center (an RLDS separatist group). As LDS, I’ve attended Community of Christ.
Many of you at this site have griped about your Bishop having warped perspectives. For denominations with just one clergyman, you’d be stuck with him or her.
The church services of other denominations often cross the line from worship to entertainment, and the conclusion is that LDS services are boring.
The RLDS had two advantages over LDS: they sang hymns with more enthusiasm and they had a summer camping program open to all ages.
Flying into Salt Lake City on a bright clear Fall day; Ken Sanders Rare Books on 200 East; Salt Lake Coffee Break on 400 South. Thank you, Brigham Young, for one of the world’s most beautiful cities!
“An Insider’s View of Mormonism” I expect there’s about sixteen million such things.
“I’m not sure what the gatekeeper to Mormon Zion asks.” I believe there will be no gatekeeper. Each person chooses where to go in the next life, just as each person chooses where to go in this life. Some will choose to be with others like themselves; but more adventurous types probably prefer to explore different realms and different ways. Source: Doctrine and Covenants Section 88.
Keeping options open seems best; living a good and charitable life to reach the kingdom or realm with the most liberty, which includes the liberty of slumming in lower kingdoms if you want to if things become a bit boring on the sea of glass. But apparently you don’t actually have to go anywhere, that sea of glass is a “looking glass”.
I was not raised as a Latter-day Saint, and I have never lived in the center place.
I am much grateful for our scriptures, especially the Doctrine and Covenants, where we see God interacting with real people. I see power in God’s work, such as the promises God made to Abraham, coming to pass. I see us, few in numbers, as the salt that God will use to save mankind as a whole, in His own terms. It is wonderful to think that our God has put forth his hand in these latter days, and I am thankful for that. I want to be loyal to our God and this small church he established through the Prophet Joseph Smith. That said, I also appreciate all of those, everywhere on the world, the kind and the honest and the charitable, who are faithful to whatever is precious to them, in whatever conditions they are in.
Doesn’t having our own entry go against the notion that we’re a Christian denomination? And couldn’t that be considered problematic?
One thing I like as LDS was the palpable sense of community excitement and joy that I felt in Salt Lake City in 1978 when the revelation on the priesthood was announced. My financee had just told me she had heard it on the radio, and I quickly went and grabbed a newspaper to check, At the moment I was reading the newspaper, I heard numerous car horns starting honk. Growning up in the sixties meant that even in suburban Utah, we had to think about the racial issue, and the unsatisfactory answers to questions we had. Not long afterwards, at an Oakland Temple endownment, I was touched to see the color of a hand coming through the veil.
Growing up, it was impossible not to notice that positive transformative effect that LDS missions had on those who went. And I recall a wonderful passage in a dreadful book on the Hofmann case, where the author’s commented that one of the reasons that they couldn’t trust Mormons is because “their health code makes them look younger than they really are.” My Mom, fully alert and engaged at 101 has often commented that “It’s a happy way to live.” A multiyear calling in the LDS Addiction Recovery Program has reenforced that, seeing how lives have been radically improved by those who embrace recovery which is based on Christ and the principle of repentence. That stands out in contrast with observations by Rene Girard on how “Neo paganism locates happiness in the unlimited satisfaction of desires, which means the suppression of all prohibitions.” Trump’s concern with deregulation and living as though rules are meant for other people daily demonstrates where that leads. Mom knows better.
But on the other hand, it was in stepping away from the beliefs I had grown up with, and looking outside, and then back in, that I truely began to appreciate what we have. One important door was my first reading of Madsen’s Eternal Man. A short, insightful book that compared how various thinkers outside the faith approached the difficult questions of life. A member in Kendall, England, loaned a young missionary Nibley’s An Approach to the Book of Mormon. That opened my eyes and doors that led more books with more doors leading to more books and more doors. One consequence of reading Nibley, is that I ran across references to books like Eliade’s Cosmos and History: The Myth of Eternal Return, which taught me far more about the meaning and significance of the LDS temple and 3 Nephi than my LDS upbringing had done up to that point. (Later, John Welch’s work on The Sermon at the Temple the Sermon on the Mount was equally transformative.) I read Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, and Raglan’s The Origins of Religion and Hamlet’s Mill. And a passage in Hamlet’s Mill later helped me resolve the only crisis of faith moment I had. Over the years, I have read powerful essays comparing both Nephi and Joseph Smith to aspects of the Hero’s Journey. Later, I read a few dozen books on Near Death Experiences, and realized that the Book of Mormon had it already, long before Raymond Moody. The most challenging and interesting book in that bunch was Carol Zaleski’s Otherworld Journeys, which offered a cross-cultural look at the modern NDEs compared to Medieval accounts. At one point, I ran across a Sunstone article comparing LDS thought to Process Theology. At a Sunstone conference in California, I hear Loren Hansen give a talk showing how the Book of Mormon theory of Atonement was distinctive compared to everything in Christianity. (He later published it in Dialogue as The Moral Atonement). He pointed out that most theories were either Objective or Subjective, either done for what seemed a necessary reason according to this or that theory, or done without existential necessarity but to provoke a subjective response of fear or pity. Again, it was comparison and contrast with outside views that helped define the significance of the inside view. I periodically read things like Bertrand Russell’s Why I am Not a Christian, or Freud’s The Future of an Illusion, and realized very quickly that the God they didn’t believe in was quite different than the one I did believe in. Through some friends, after a California Sunstone, I ended up at a lunch at Sam Taylor’s home. One his nephews was going through a “what about this bad stuff I didn’t learn about” stage. One question he asked was about the Hoffman case. Rather than squirming, Taylor beamed, “Best damn mystery story in the past hundred years!” I liked his attitude. I love our story.
A book on comparative religion by Ninian Smart, Worldviews, had a passage that set of bells ringing in my head. He’s been talking about polar aspects of religious experience, the Numinous Experience. Ian Barbour’s Myths, Models, and Paradigms, drew on Smart to say the Numinous “emphasizes the ―sense of otherness, confrontation and encounter, when―man is aware of his own dependence, finitude, limitation, and contingency.” This experience usually occurs in institutionalized worship situations involving personal
models of God. The worshipper often bows to show humility, acknowledging inferiority and distance, and feels contingency and a moral demand. Worship involves sacrifice and
petition. And Smart compares that with Mystic experience. ―”joy, harmony, serenity, and peace, and a sense of the unity of all things and loss of identity. Separation seems illusory, differences and dichotomies of opposites are transcended. Most often, the mystic stresses the ineffability of the experience and uses impersonal models of God. This experience usually occurs in response to contemplation, mediation, discipline, and possibly asceticism.” It was not difficult to find examples of both kinds in LDS scripture and history. (I have an essay on this out there.) And this passage by Smart happened to account for the implications of that blend:
“If you stress the numinous, you stress that our salvation or liberation (our becoming holy) must flow from God the Other. It is he who brings it to us through his grace.
You also stress the supreme power and dynamism of God as creator of the cosmos. If, on the other hand, you stress the mystical and non-dual, you tend to stress how we
attain salvation and liberation through our own effort at mediation, not by the intervention of the Other… If we combine the two, but accent the numinous, we see
mystical union as a kind of close embrace with the other—like human love, where the two are one and yet the two-ness remains. If the accent is on the mystical rather than
the numinous, then God tends to be seen as a being whom we worship, but in such a way that we get beyond duality.”
That seemed to me to explain the distinctiveness of Mormonism, LDS theology and practice, and pointed directly to what the symbolism of the Temple means.
When you mentioned the different contexts for “truth” I was struck by two reactions: 1) that the “team” related truth is how I mostly perceive the Church’s truth claims (a gut feeling of loyalty toward my team). Weird. I would not have predicted that. and 2) when you talked about the one true spouse, that’s a prevalent theme in Grimm’s fairy tales, “the true bride.” There are many many tales in which a false bride (sometimes a disguised witch or troll) tricks everyone and takes the place of the true bride who sulks around and has to do a bunch of difficult or unsavory tasks to regain her rightful place. Often the deceived groom has no ill consequences for being so gullible and is saved in the nick of time by the true bride. I guess if there were a religious parallel to those stories it would be something like the wolf among the sheep.
As for the good stuff in Mormonism, there are many things I can think of (and often do):
– I used to think the doctrine was great, but the people were awful. Now I sometimes think it’s just the opposite, but I mostly settle on something more like “the doctrine is both the worst and the best, and so are the people.” All my dearest life-long friends (most of whom are no longer active in the Church, however) are people I only met because of the Church. I would defend them to the death. There’s something to be said for the peer loyalty created through our youth programs.
– I love the simple concept of God being an exalted person and people being embryonic deity.
– That we acknowledge Heavenly Parents vs. just a male God (although let’s be honest, we do a pretty terrible job actually talking about Heavenly Mother).
– There’s something about the Mormon ward family and everyone getting a calling that binds us together in a unique way, giving talks, and so on. We aren’t just grabbing donuts & coffee after a sermon and heading on our merry way. We have to work together and deal with each other in our volunteerism. I also have been known to love a good linger longer or gospel doctrine discussion (albeit not in my current ward on either front where I’d basically rather chew fiberglass).
– I will always love the people from my mission, those I taught or met in that foreign country, that place, the food, the immersion in culture, and my fellow missionaries for the most part. That’s a formative experience that’s pretty unique. And although NO, I DON’T WANT A SPIRITUAL MESSAGE VIA ZOOM, I always feel a kinship to the missionaries whenever I see them. I just want to take care of them and feed them and let them blow off steam with normal people (me, that is), knowing that a mission is hard, and that they are at a pivotal time in their lives.
Those are the things I like the best.
A major factor caused my husband and daughter-in-law to give up on traditional Christianity was the idea that those who never had the chance to hear about Jesus were doomed to hell. They were both taught this. They both, at different times, found the hope and fairness in Mormon doctrine. I had a friend join our church. She said we were the only church, and she had been to a lot, that gave her hope for her son, who had taken his own life.
Thanks for the comments, everyone.
John, going to a high church with a formal liturgy is like way different from the LDS Sunday meetings. Interesting.
Kevin C., thanks for the reading list. I read Nibley’s An Approach to the Book of Mormon just before my mission, and read Madsen’s Eternal Man the first year I was back. These were formative books. Once upon a time there weren’t that many great Mormon books to read but now there are so many!
Angela C., thanks for the list of good things. On the one hand I think it would be nice sometimes to just go and listen to a sermon, munch on donuts, then go home. But everyone having a calling does create a sense of it being “our church” to a greater degree than just the church we attend on Sunday. Imagine how Saints felt a hundred years ago when they often built their own chapels!
Carol, great point. Remember that Joseph’s own family was very distressed by a Protestant minister telling them Joseph’s brother Alvin was going to hell because he hadn’t been baptized. Mormons aren’t the only ones who are sometimes tone deaf to the negative impact of the doctrine if wielded improperly.
I gave you a downvote, and I thought perhaps I should explain why. What you wrote was deep, eloquent, beautiful. You claim, I assume, that Mormonism was a major player in this incredible journey, and I don’t doubt that it was for you.
After I left the church, I rejected many of Mormonism’s unique teachings. However, I discovered the Rosary. It doesnt have to be just a Roman Catholic devotion. Praying the Rosary properly, by meditating upon the mysteries as one should, I found a few of my former Mormon beliefs coming back, perhaps modified slightly, but still…for someone who originally was heading full-steam toward Evangelical Christianity immediately after leaving the LDS church, it was quite surprising.
I once listened to an interview with an occultist, (I know that is a terrible generalization). He felt that the esoteric truths that can benefit people in their lives should be openly taught, not kept hidden for only the worthy few. Priests or spiritual guides who teach openly are like white mages, he said. Others, however, keep the deep stuff hidden as a means of enslaving others and propping themselves up. These types of people are black mages.
You discovered deep and profound truth in your life because you were willing to search outside of the mind-numbing drivel meted out by Correlation. You found spiritual riches in spite of the LDS institution, not thanks to it.
Many members are terrified to look where you looked, and they are terrified because the black mages tell them they should be terrified. They know if all members were like you, the hold they have over people would quickly vanish.
Kevin, I appreciate you taking us all on your journey and mentioning the many influential publications you’ve consumed. I always find this explanation for why Mormonism works for some people to be both interesting and puzzling. Whether intentional or not, correlation kind of negates this kind of journey for people who don’t know about it or simply can’t pursue it. This is problematic for a corporate entity like the church, first of all, because it has to be interested in bringing in more members, filling the coffers. It’s also problematic from an individual faith perspective because many people simply cannot, for reasons related to time and capacity, tread the same intellectual path you did. One must also ask this: Would God’s true church and doctrine only be revealed to those with the capacity and curiosity to engage in a pursuit like the one you took? Wouldn’t such hard-won knowledge make for a very small group of genuine adherents?
Jaredsbrother, To me, what the church is, and what the church has are not the same thing. To me the church is a covenant community. That covenant community has leaders, members, various organizations, including the corporate aspects, CES, educational materials, histories, and wide range of people of varying backgrounds, cultures, personality types, of various ages, interests, talents, and weaknesses. Among the most instructive passages of the New Testament to me are things like “Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt 7:7). And there is Paul’s comment in Romans about the members of the covenant assembly that they all had “gifts differing” (Romans 12 :6). I am personally glad the members I have known have gifts differing because there are jobs to be done that I am not suited for, and there are people with different talents and interests that bring them to the community, or other communities, and share them with me. If everyone had the same talents and took the same journey, and got the same results, what would there be to share? If God gave us all everything from the start, poured into our heads and hearts everything he wanted us to be, left us nothing to learn and nothing to do, so as to ensure that we had no need of effort or interest to come to him, how would he know that we wanted to come to him? Many years ago, I studied all the reasons I could find for Biblical peoples justifying their rejection of Biblical prophets. I located 70 or so, and eventually realized that they all boil down to people saying, either “It’s not what I think” or “It’s not what I want.” But the most important question is “What is real? Is Jesus really the Christ? Is Joseph Smith’s inspiration real?” That question leads to a very different kind of exploration than, “Does it agree with what I think?” or “Is it the way I want things to be?” If I start by telling God what is intellecually respectable, and that there are certain desires I have that I refuse to offer up, then, inevitably, those arguments demonstrate to God exactly what belief and desire I will not sacrifice to become part of a covenant community. Hence, in 3 Nephi, Jesus begins by asking for the sacrifice of a broken heart, and a contrite spirit, a willingness to offer up what we think, and what we want in order to enter the Real. That turns out to correspond with temptations that Maya, God of Illusions used to tempt the Buddha, Fear and Desire. So it turns out that Alma is on to something when he says that”The Lord grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, all that he seeth fit for them to have” (Alma 29:8), and that “all things which have been given of God from the beginning of the world unto man are typifying of him. (2 Nephi 11:4) and “there were divers ways that he did manifest things unto the children of men which were good , and all things which were good cometh of Christ” (Moroni 7:24).
And as far as the wide differences in people, culture, aptitude, beliefs, traditions, and such, Joseph Smith expressly taught, “If I esteem mankind to be in error, shall I bear them down? No. I will lift them up, and in their own way too, if I cannot persuade them my way is better; and I will not seek to compel any man to believe as I do, only by the force of reasoning, for truth will cut its own way. Do you believe in Jesus Christ and the Gospel of salvation which he revealed? So do I. Christians should cease wrangling and contending with each other, and cultivate the principles of union and friendship in their midst; and they will do it before the millennium can be ushered in and Christ takes possession of His kingdom.”
And this: “He is a wise Lawgiver, and will judge all men, not according to the narrow, contracted notions of men, but, “according to the deeds done in the body whether they be good or evil,” or whether these deeds were done in England, America, Spain, Turkey, or India. He will judge them, “not according to what they have not, but according to what they have,” those who have lived without law, will be judged without law, and those who have a law, will by judged by that law. We need not doubt the wisdom and intelligence of the Great Jehovah; He will award judgment or mercy to all nations according to their several deserts, their means of obtaining intelligence, the laws by which they are governed, the facilities afforded them of obtaining correct information, and His inscrutable designs in relation to the human family; and when the designs of God shall be made manifest, and the curtain of futurity be withdrawn, we shall all of us eventually have to confess that the Judge of all the earth has done right.”
I can live with that. Indeed, I find it all exciting and loving to contemplate.
The community to me is the best part of Mormonism. As a youth I found it to be great. Even though I had lots of issues/doubts and even conclusions contrary to the church, I kept up a very orthoprox life (I “looked” like a full-believing member) until my last child had left the house. The church was working well for all my kids growing up and I didn’t want to possibly impact them and have them not have that.
I do love many Mormons. I think those that are not all that great drop out of activity as the bar is so high in the church. So you are generally left with people that are REALLY trying to be good people (with a few narcissists often thrown in to poison the punch).
I also really love the opportunities to serve that have had via the church. When I was in a few bishoprics, I was always so appreciative that I could see so many people trying to help others.
A musician friend of mine said that we have the only “true and living church,” just not the only “true and living music.” Houston Smith had an immense love for music and the spiritual. I think he would have agreed.