Why I am a Latter-day Saint
Religion is such a personal issue. What makes a person embrace a particular faith? What makes him change from one faith to another? These are questions that not even the most knowledgeable psychologist can answer for certain. Sometimes we make the often unfair judgment that someone holds or converts to a faith out of some sort of fanaticism, that he or she was brainwashed. While brainwashing can and does occur, I think most people have sincere reasons for believing as they do. As a member of a church that is frequently labeled a “cult” I wish to share my reasons for believing as I do. Having actually been in a “cult” once in which I experienced actual brainwashing, I can speak from firsthand knowledge and can, I believe, make the claim that I know the difference between genuine proselytizing and brainwashing. This is particularly poignant given that the “cult” I was involved with was doctrinally almost identical to the “born-again” Christianity promoted by the majority of those who label Mormonism a cult. Apparently the term “cult” has little to do with precise doctrinal viewpoints and more to do with the social dynamics of a fellowship and the methods that they allow themselves to use in order to obtain or retain converts (eg. brainwashing, heavy guilt, social isolation). By this definition many so-called Christian fellowships would probably be easily defined as cults. A more academic definition of the word “cult” is any belief system which centers on the personality or identity of particular person or persons. Based on this definition, most religions of the world would be classified as “cults” including all of Christianity.
I am a Latter-day Saint because of certain undeniable experiences in which I believe the hand or voice of God was manifest. I went through a period in my life in which I was decidedly non-Mormon if not anti-Mormon and would have grown angry if anyone suggested that I would one day embrace that faith. What brought me to make such a change in my loyalty and beliefs is a matter of personal history. My conversion to Mormonism was a gradual process. It began with a period of softening, in which my anger and hostility toward the LDS religion was ameliorated by feelings of respect for LDS people and anger toward other Christians who attacked Mormons and Mormonism with a savagery that seemed most decidedly unchristian. As I developed sympathy and respect for the LDS people and their faith I gradually came to a point where I was willing to weigh their beliefs against my own. It is remarkable how few so-called Christians who love to attack Mormonism actually know anything rational about it.
I discovered that much of my hostility toward Mormonism was based on misinformation and some of it was an extension of sympathetic anger I felt toward those Mormons who had offended my parents. Once I could separate out my personal bias and false notions I was prepared to take a fair and unbiased look at the LDS faith. Eventually I made the conscious decision to evaluate Mormonism fairly, fully prepared to convert if that is where the Lord led me, or to cancel my childhood membership should the Lord lead me to do so. In all, I would be free of anger toward the LDS church. Should I choose to leave I would do so respectfully, saying “Thanks, but I think my path lies elsewhere.” What happened next was a period of study in which I learned all I could about the LDS religion and compared it carefully with those biblical principles I was already converted to. During this time I prayed continually that the Lord would teach me through the Spirit whether or not the things I was learning were true.
I am a Latter-day Saint because the Holy Spirit confirmed to me the principles of LDS theology and the historical authenticity and divine origin of the LDS Church. In short I came to believe the church’s teachings and to believe that it was intentionally established by God through a living prophet as a restoration of the ancient faith. This witness came to me through sacred feelings and impressions that came as I studied, listened, pondered and prayed. It became confirmed as I found harmony with biblical principles I already believed in and as I continued to receive confirmation day after day, month after month, year after year. I have never seen the Lord Jesus. I have never had a vision and what dreams I have had from the Lord have been confused and in need of careful interpretation. What I have received is the experience of being as recorded in the Book of Acts “cut to the heart”. I have felt the touch of the Lord’s hand upon my heart. I have felt my soul filled with spiritual light and my mind expand with divine air. God has spoken and I have heard his voice, not with my natural ears, but with my spiritual.
I wish to add my voice to millions of others in bearing witness of the divine messiah-ship of the Lord Jesus Christ. I bear testimony that He suffered and died to bring to pass the resurrection of all men and the spiritual rebirth of those who exercise faith in him, repent of their sins, are baptized by his authority, receive the gift of the Holy Ghost and endure faithfully and valiantly to the end. I bear my witness that man is literally a spirit child of God and may grow up in Christ unto a fullness of the Father’s stature. This is what is meant by the Mormon doctrine that man may become divine. It is not earned; it is a gift to those who love Christ and the Father with all their souls and serve them diligently. Man does not make himself a god. God makes faithful men and women into beings like Himself through the atonement of Jesus Christ. It is what was meant by the Psalmist who wrote “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” (Psalm 82:6) a verse quoted by the Lord Jesus himself. I bear my witness that God has restored his ancient faith after centuries of religious chaos and that it today holds His holy priesthood and has the authority to preach His word and administer the ordinances of salvation. I testify that this restored church is led today by a living prophet who receives his direction from the Lord Jesus Christ. Its mission is to gather the elect of God together and prepare them for entry into Paradise or the Lord’s Second Coming, whichever comes first. I believe these things with all of my heart and desire to share my faith with all men.