Friday, May 26, 2017

My Spiritual Journey

My parents were Christians and good people in every way that I can remember.  They valued the important things in life.  My great grandfather on Dad's side and one of his sons were Assembly of God preachers. My mother's side were always church going people While we attended church my brothers and I weren't raised with a focused education regarding a Christian belief system.  

They did teach us good values and to consider the existence of a supreme being but I wasn't actively concerned whether God had any role in my life, or in the world for that matter.

I was curious and desirous to know about eternal things and did believe, but I didn't know who or what God was. Our family attended Methodist and non-denominational churches on a sporadic basis when I was growing up. My mother died when I was eight. This event caused me to wonder more intensely about God, family relationships and eventually about what the truth was.  

My earliest recollection of a concept of God was from the front page of the church program at the Methodist church in Caldwell, Idaho.  It showed a picture of a Christlike figure without a body but a trail of light and stardust.

I learned to prayer saying memorized prayers that many have heard.  "Now I lay me down to sleep" and another one for the food and the Lord's Prayer from the Bible. I didn't know have a personal understanding as to how we might be connected to God. 

When I was 6 we moved to Grandview Idaho. One of our babysitters was a Mormon and talked a lot about her church. She told us how it was different from other churches, even that it was the true church.  I remember asking my dad about it and he said that all churches were the really the same. 

Over the next 5 or so years I would meet other Latter-Day Saints in this small farming community in Southwest Idaho but I was young and not much interested. Just going to our church when we did was a chore. My brother attended their Primary class with some friends but I never did. Her words about a true church lingered with me though.

When we moved to Boise, I met more Mormons, and became aware of some of their teachings. I went to church with some friends when I was about 16.  I learned about how they were not supposed to use tobacco or drink alcohol. I heard about their doctrines of living prophets like in the Bible and the principle of eternal marriage, families and temples. 

I had never heard such teachings from orthodox Christian ministers about eternal marriage. I quickly realized that many things I had been told about Mormons were not true and that those that had tried to dissuade me were seriously misinformed.  

The Christian churches that I attended taught that marriage was until death do you part as fundamental orthodox theology. Over the years I have asked many people what they thought about family relationships and most claim some hope that their family relationships continue after death. This is not however what orthodox Christianity teaches.  

I made a discovery in the process of learning these things. Every doctrinal teaching and practice in mainstream Christianity is based on opinions of Bible scholars, not revelation or affirmation from God. 

In essence Christian sectarianism is based the philosophies of individuals that don't agree about what the Bible teaches or practices in the church community. Mormonism is founded on direct revelation from God to prophets, the same as the pattern as found in the Bible.

I became aware that most Christians are not familiar with the basic tenets of their own fundamental mainstream Christian theology. Mormonism gives the strongest assurance that I know of that marriage and family relationships can indeed continue with those bonds of love and affection continuing and even increasing in the eternities.  

As I learned basic LDS beliefs about God, Jesus Christ, living prophets and the doctrine of eternal families, I found answers to questions that the sectarian ministers could not answer with any logical conclusion. Where did we come from, why are we here on earth and what happens after we die?  

Sectarian ministers say life is just a mystery and God left it to us to figure out. Their answer that the Bible is perfect but that no person, minister or scholar understands it perfectly never seemed logical to me.  This is one reason there are so many churches.  My personal view was that if there was one God over us all, why would he have more than one church? 

When I was 17 years old I was baptized and became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Many of my questions were answered and God confirmed the truth of it to me through the power Holy Ghost. This is a pattern explained in the Bible.  It is part of the process of being born again spiritually. Before that time I had no idea as to how God would communicate truth to me. 

I have observed convincingly that he loves us and will reveal truth to us. I have seen pray answered in my life and in others in many ways hundreds of times. Truth, help and guidance can be communicated to us that is consistent with truth already revealed and authority that exists to receive it.  Such is the Lord's church regarding theological teachings and authority to administer the Church. 

The churches of men have no such authority. Mainstream Christianity, protestantism is essentially a rejection of the Catholic church and continuing disagreement among Bible Scholars as to how they should teach and preach.

Some tried to tell me I was not informed enough about religion, that Mormons were not Christians, but a cult and other misleading things as well to dissuade me.  Now after 43 years I have been well assured and know with absolute certainty their suppositions were not correct and they were misinformed themselves.  

These long standing myths about Mormons persist in the modern era. Just for starters everything in the church, Sunday attendance and worship, the temple, tithing and any participation in any respect is voluntary. There is no paid clergy and there have been 16 prophet leaders.  There is no personality other than Jesus Christ at the center of our beliefs.  The majority of the church has never met Joseph Smith yet his early critics established a narrative that persists with all of its falsehoods. 

How could 14 year old uneducated boy be a mastermind or a mind control genius of some kind according to the allegations of his critics. These are perhaps the most unbelievable of the myths perpetuated by his and the church's critics. This link to Mormon Critics.

This video explains how the church began.  It is a principle we can all use to discover truth.

I have watched how our membership in the church has blessed our lives with happiness through understanding our purpose. I served a two year mission to Argentina when I was 19. I was married in the temple 39 years ago. My children have chosen to be married in the temple as well. Five have served missions, my five sons-in-law have served missions and our youngest son is on a mission. 

I have also known hundreds of members and observed thousands of people in the church. Millions of others have had experiences similar to mine as we witness the effects of the gospel teachings and living them. 

I have served in many callings and currently am a primary teacher with my wife, serving a local service mission and a temple ordinance worker in the Mesa Arizona Temple. As I look back over my experience with the church, the temple and the doctrines of Christ and eternal families that are associated with it, I feel an extreme amount of gratitude. 

Understanding Theology 

I learned many things about both Mormons and Mainstream Christians in the process of my journey in life.  One of the stories that I had heard before I joined the church was that Mormons believed that only Mormons went to heaven. Other Christians still claim that we are not Christian. I knew these statements were not true but didn't know why other people thought so. 

The Holy Ghost did bear witness to me of the truth of the gospel and the reality of our Savior's atonement. I know what I experienced was real. I recognize that this is not what others perceive about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It caused me to study more intently what orthodox Christianity really taught and believed both about Mormons and their own doctrines.

I learned how people get their information about Mormons from so called Christian apologists using books and materials provided by critics of the Mormon church whose intent has been to spread misinformation. I encountered a multitude of other inaccurate things that Mormons supposedly believe and do. These notions circulate in sectarian church meetings and other settings and are promoted by a small number of people that have disagreed with the church on various principles, doctrines and teachings since its beginning.

Being accused of not being a Christian made me wonder what other Christians really believed. Learning about some of the differences in theology taught me why there are certain misunderstandings circulating in the religious world about Mormons. I discovered that most church attending Christians are not familiar with their own theology let alone what Mormon teachings.

Modern Christians with their foundational creeds believe that earth is God's only populated creation.  Although scholars may disagree, the fundamental doctrine is that the trinity deity is a being of limited capacity.  It created only one earth, saves a limited number of people and condemns more that it saves according to most Christian apologists.

Mormons believe that we lived with God before we came to earth. We are literally the sons and daughters of God. All human beings are literal brothers and sisters.  The theology is very unique in that as I mentioned earlier we teach that marriage and family unit relationships can be eternal. Another unique claim of Latter-Day Saints is that we are created literally in the image of God, male and female.  

Orthodox Christianity teaches that we were created out of nothing at our birth, we never lived with God or knew him and all we are is simple pawn like creations. They teach that that this was God's first and only creation with people on it.  They also teach that God has no form, is celibate, solitary and genderless.  In mainstream Christian terminology words like brothers and sisters are used, but are only metaphorical and not as we understand them in our family relationships.  

There is no actual relationship with our creator in orthodox Bible scholarship and its theological conclusions. Since Jesus and God are the same essence of being, even though the terms father and son are used, they are neither father or son since they are the same formless being and genderless except for a short time Jesus was corporeal according to the dictates of the Nicene Creed.

Mormons are the only Christian church that I am aware of that has millions of believers worldwide and does not believe that God is an incorporeal, incomprehensible entity.  We do not believe in the mysterious trinity of the Nicene Creed of orthodox Christianity. We believe in an eternal godhead consisting of our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. They are the divine leadership fully united as one in the saving process of Heavenly Father's children.  

Orthodox sectarian churches teach that God is single or solitary, genderless, celibate and incorporeal in nature. Mormons believe that God the Father and Jesus Christ have bodies.  They are men, and literally a father and his son.   They are exalted beings of the highest possible glory and we at present are not.  We do look like them however and that is what it means to be created in their image. 

Mainstream Christianity again says that we are created in the image of God (that is what the Bible teaches) however orthodox theologians teach the formless nature of deity and therefore the impossibility of being created in God's image. This is a contradiction that seems evident. They use other metaphors to be in God's image to match the biblical narrative.

The average Christian believer that has some biblical scholarship as well as those that don't find God most approachable in the form of Jesus Christ.  For the obvious reason he was incarnate or embodied in flesh. According to their own theology he is not really the son of God, but a part of a mystical trinity of beings that form one incorporeal god. Neither fatherhood or sonship is actually acknowledged except for metaphorical purposes since the Bible uses those terms. 

Their precept is that deity is genderless by determination of Bible scholars and such teachings of orthodox theological seminaries and divinity schools. Mankind is according to these scholars a creation of this being, a pawn of sorts, but not really a child like we are children to our parents. 

According to sectarian professors of religion we are not really created in the image and likeness of God at all.  According to them God has no form. To Mormons the image of God is not a single genderless deity as taught by mainstream theologians but is male and female as in separate and actual beings, not in the same person.

Our individual intelligence is eternal and our spirit is the offspring of God in a literal manner. We are the sons and daughters of God. We are part of God's eternal family. Our creation is the result of divine love between eternal beings, one our heavenly father and the other, our heavenly mother.  All of us are brothers and sisters to each other and to Jesus Christ and have parents in heaven who are our creators.

Our life on earth is an essential part of a growth process and an eternal pattern of creation that allows us to develop our eternal potential.  All mankind will be saved through the resurrection of Jesus Christ no matter what they believed while alive. The resurrection does consist of varying degrees however.  

We came to earth for a divine purpose to form our own families, which also can be eternal as I mentioned.  The temple blessings and covenants exist for this purpose. This is our turn to learn to love, serve, create and nurture the life giving process.  

Mainstream Bible scholars can't ascribe a logical reason for God creating the world or people other than to give glory to himself. What type of being, already perfected would have need to start creating people to glorify it for the last six thousand years?

I believe that because of his perfect love God wants all of us to return to live with him.  It is however our choice.  He will not force us and cannot force us because he also abides by perfect justice. This is based on the doctrine or principle of moral agency.   He will give us the information we need to return to his presence but it only happens if we chose it and follow it. That is how we demonstrate our faith. We do make a doctrinal distinction between salvation and exaltation.  The choices we make affect the outcome.

Those that offer willing commitments through their covenants to the eternal designs of our Heavenly Father receive all of the grace necessary to be exalted in the image and likeness of God. That is his ultimate endowment based on his perfect love, justice and mercy and our willingness to accept it and act on it.  

We can live with God and our own families forever.  We are part of his eternal family as well as those that he allows us to form.