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Why should I be Mormon?
The only reason to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that you’ve received a witness that that’s what God wants you to do.
Now, I can tell you why I’m Mormon and what I love about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and how it helps me grow closer to God and be a better person, but that’s my experience and my testimony. The answers I get from God when I ask where He wants me to be and what He wants me to do are not directly transferable to anyone else.
One of my favorite tenets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the emphasis on personal revelation, the idea that each person has access to direct communication with God through the Holy Ghost to guide her life. If you’ve read the Book of Mormon, studied the scriptures and the doctrines of the Church, met with missionaries, and prayed sincerely asking God what He wants you to do, I believe that you’ll get an answer in God’s time and in God’s way. At that point, it’s up to you to respond in the way you feel God is directing you. And that’s such a personal, individual experience that I can’t tell you what your answer will be or what you should do.
That’s God’s job, not mine.
Emily H. Geddes was born to two physicists and grew up as a Navy brat. Born-and-raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she holds a bachelor’s degree in theatre from Brigham Young University, and earned an MBA from Eastern Washington University.
I just wanted to say what a remarkable job you did in answering this question.
I’ve never understood the whole “personal revelation” thing.
I mean, ok, I get it, but think it through for a minute.
If a stage hypnotist can give you an orgasm, or make you believe that you are a chicken, WHY ON EARTH would you trust your own subjective belief about what god wants you to do?
Atilla the Hun believed that the God’s wanted him to be the vicious warlord that he was. The Aztecs believed the God’s wanted them to practice daily human sacrifice. The list of bad things that happen when people follow divine revelation is as long as history itself.
Clearly there has to be a better strategy for organizing your life.
Thanks, Shaun! 🙂
Paul, I have a sneaking suspicion that there is absolutely no response I could make that would satisfy you, but I’ll give it a shot.
For me, personal revelation doesn’t come in a vacuum. I have to work for it. When I have a big decision to make, I “study it out in [my] mind” first – as counseled in LDS canonized scripture (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8). I do research and draw on whatever resources are available to me: empirical evidence (if any is available), the opinions of experts in the appropriate field(s), my own personal experience and that of friends. I consider which options are most in line with my goals and values, and I make a decision. Then I take it to the Lord in prayer for confirmation. If at that point I feel good about it, I move ahead with the decision. If I still don’t feel settled about it, I go back and do more study and research. Except for that prayer step, that’s probably pretty close to how you make decisions, too.
I’ve certainly had experiences that were less methodical than what I’ve described above, when I felt influenced by what I believe was the Spirit in a more spur-of-the-moment situation, but even then I do my best to follow a truncated version of the above process. Sometimes it truly is just a leap of faith though, based on past experiences with the Spirit that give me the confidence to move forward.
You mentioned “subjective belief about what god wants you to do” as an inadequate basis for making a decision. But when it comes right down to it, a whole lot of the information we use to make decisions is pretty subjective. Personal experience is definitely subjective, even hard data is open to – subjective – interpretation as can be seen in the myriad disagreements on topics in the scientific community. While facts are, of course, important in making decisions, I’m not convinced that it’s possible to make most choices based entirely on objective data and I’d guess that the vast majority of people would agree that they often make decisions at least partly on the basis of something “extra”. Some people call it “gut feelings” or “intuition” or “conscience”. Some people call it “the Holy Spirit” or a combination of the above. It may not be necessarily sufficient in and of itself, but why the objection to making it a part of the decision-making process?
You also mentioned a couple of examples of people or cultures doing reprehensible things because they believed God wanted them to, and you’re absolutely right that people have done terrible things in God’s name. But there are many, many examples of people and cultures doing wonderful, life-affirming, uplifting things because they believed God wanted them to, as well. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous. And of course, both good and bad things have been done without any claim on God’s involvement, too.
I completely respect your right to be skeptical of my personal spiritual experiences, and of the existence of God, too. But please don’t discount or demean experiences that are meaningful to others by comparing them to hypnosis-induced orgasms or temporary species-confusion, simply because they are outside the realm of your experience.
Forgive me if I’m reading too much into your comment here and elsewhere on the site, but you consistently come across as antagonistic and dismissive towards people of faith and religion in general. Perhaps if you are truly interested in a productive conversation with those of us who believe in God, you should reconsider your approach.
Actually, Emily that was a VERY satisfying answer, thanks!
And yes, to be fair, I AM dismissive, and yes, to be fair there are lots of historical examples of people doing great things with the belief that God wanted them to (Sacred Heart Hospital comes to mind, as does Salt Lake City).
Sometimes I get angry with Theists in general and with Christians in particular, because, I belivf that Christianity stands in the way of human progress. I believe this because 150 years after Darwin, 40-60% of Americans still cling to the ignorant belief that the biblical story of creation is literally true. I also get angry (as I have gotten angry with you) because I see people of faith undermining basic standards of intellectual honesty in order to privilege their sacred narrative.
Apparently intellectual honesty is a sacred value that I hold, and I can be quite unreasonable when it gets challenged.
I also believe that by denying the true nature of our species, Christianity stands in the way of any honest effort to create a society that is respectful of our nature as a species of primates.
But that said, your post has reminded me that religious belief is one of the hard-won survival tools that our species has used to create societies that are bigger than tribes. Not only does religion create a bigger “tribal” group, it also creates a group that is WAY more effective at creating human prosperity than a tribe can. So thanks for that reminder.
I still hold the impression that your practice of consulting God is basically a ritualized form of psychological “gut check.” But who am I to tell you what metaphors to use to organize your experience?
The good news is that we live in a pluralistic society, so the risk of religious fervor driving violence in our society is slim. The bad news is that as the gulf between rich and poor increases (and it will), religious fanaticism will most likely rise along with it. Certainly this has been the pattern throughout history.
So while I really do appreciate your response (great response btw), I think I’ll go right on being antagonistic. I view challenging these assumptions as a kind of civic duty. Granted, I’m a bit lackadaisical in my duty, but still…