You know, I don’t talk about religion much here. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t interest me. Until now, it’s been because I’m not comfortable talking about it, and I’m still not. I’ve never felt like a “good Mormon” before. I still don’t think of myself as “normal”, but I’ve realized recently that you can be a member in good standing and not be like everyone else (I know, I’m an idiot for not realizing this sooner, but I just never thought about it before). There is room in the Church for all kinds of people, weak, strong, stalwart and slack. We all have a role to play, and we’re all trying to be good people.
What I’m dying to write about, I just can’t bring myself to start typing. I’m not sure why, but I know I don’t want to offend anyone. I’m not sure how to express what I want without it sounding overly harsh. I’m going to go ahead and write it, apologizing ahead a time if you are offended by what I write. The last thing I intend for this is to offend. I just want to explain how I feel and what I’m thinking. If you disagree, you’re welcome to post a comment or e-mail me.
I have a problem with religion. By saying that, I don’t mean I have a problem with the Gospel: the teachings of Jesus Christ. I have a problem with the culture of exclusion, shame, guilt and even hate I see in the religious world around me. I can’t stop thinking about Fred Phelps, and his plan to erect a monument declaring Mathew Sheppard’s eternal damnation in his hometown. I can’t stop thinking about the fundamentalists who see to rely heavily on the Old Testament to justify their hatred of those different from them, while ignoring conflicting statements from the Savior himself in the New Testament. I can’t stop thinking about my own religion, and the culture inside it. A culture that I thought I could never belong to because I don’t think like everyone else. I thought you had to be a Republican to be a good Mormon. Of course, I was wrong. I may be wrong about the Fundamentalists, but from the people I’ve known over the years who self-identify themselves that way, I don’t think I am.
Here’s what I believe. I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe he lived, walked on early, suffered for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane and died on the cross. I believe that three days after his death, he was resurrected. I believe that after he left the Apostles and ascended to his Father, that the world fell into apostasy, and the truth was lost from the Earth. I believe that many of the pure, sacred and simple truths of Christ’s work on the Earth was lost, either through mistranslation or deliberate works of unscrupulous scribes to mold scripture to fit their political needs. I believe that the Bible we have to today is good, but that there are pieces of it that are no longer accurate.
I believe that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about love, not hate. I believe that it is not our place to pass judgement on any of our fellow children of God. I believe that we were each given our own particular burdens to bear, and that our goal on this earth is to turn those burdens into talents – to do our best to overcome our own particular weakness and make them strengths. In realizing this, I know that I’m doing poorly enough on my own that I have neither the time nor the right to pass judgement on others in their struggle. There is no room for hate in the Gospel. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. In loving one another, I believe it is our responsibility to love them as they are, to accept them, love them and support them. We may believe the things people do are wrong, but that doesn’t give us the right to proclaim their damnation, their punishment or exclude them from society.
I believe that in 1820, Joseph Smith prayed in a grove of trees, asking our Heavenly Father for guidance about which church he should attend (more info). That prayer started the process that resulted in the Book of Mormon and the formation of the church that I belong to today. I believe this to be true. I know it in my heart to be true. There was a good long while there where I couldn’t say that. And why am I telling you this? Well, I’m not sure. I just feel the need to say it.
So there you go. That’s what I believe. I think next, I’ll talk about how my feelings about religion and Christianity relate to politics and inform my opinions there.