Category Archives: Sharing Your Beliefs

Andrew Schneider’s Conversion Part 1

Describe your first visit to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  • I recollect a distinct impression as one filled with a sense of “coming home” when I was introduced to members of the local congregation for the first time.  I never felt entirely comfortable or fulfilled with any other organization of involvement during my life in the way I experienced during my initial visit to Church.  Being shy and socially awkward during my life made it difficult to engage groups of various sizes and many types of individual people.  The moment I set foot in the Church building, those feelings and lingering effects of past experiences melted away like frost on a new spring day.  My heart was filled with joy and an inexpressible attachment to people I had never met.

What were your initial impressions of the missionaries? How did that change over time?

  • Perceived notions of raving preachers with doomsday delusions danced in my mind before the first visit to the extent I coordinated that meeting at my friend’s home.  Expectations were somewhat unfavorable due to my disdain of organized religion, yet life had humbled me enough to exercise even a small particle of faith, even if it was surrounded by doubt and a need to affirm for certain it was founded.  However, when I entered my friend’s home and saw two meek “boys” as I thought of them at the time, I soon realized how imagined my thoughts were compared to reality.  As the ice of unfamiliarity was broken with the Elders, I felt a burning in my heart akin to a joy I never knew.  They felt like family in no time.  Skepticism and hesitation soon gave way to immense enthusiasm for their message and its profound impact on altering the very fabric of my life in ways I had never thought possible in such a short period of time.

The New NextDoorMormon

NextDoorMormon is moving in a new direction. We have focused, over the years, on sharing experiences and perspectives of everyday Mormons. We have tried to provide another place on the web to find out what Mormons are all about, to highlight the diversity of our community and our shared faith in Jesus Christ. None of that is changing.

But we are now focusing on sharing the experiences and perspectives of a particular group of Mormons, those who are new or returning to participation in the Church.

New Mormons and those renewing their relationship and commitment to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints experience many and varied challenges. Affiliation with the Church often requires great sacrifice. It usually means adjusting to a new social, cultural, and theological environment. In general, it’s not easy.

However, new and returning Mormons also experience great joy and generally find their engagement with the Church personally enriching and deeply meaningful. That is part of why they choose to be Mormons.

We hope that providing a forum where these converts can freely share their faith, thoughts, experiences, doubts, and difficulties will strengthen them as they seek to remain committed to Jesus Christ and the Church. We hope that those who blog here will strengthen each other.

We also hope that the conversations, stories, expressions of faith, sincere questions, and, in general, the perspectives of these new and returning Mormons will inspire all who read and respond to seek God in their own lives. We believe these new NextDoorMormon bloggers will provide a powerful example of everyday Mormons who are converted to Christ.

As the number of full-time Mormon missionaries (those smartly dressed young women and men with the black name tags) surges toward 100,000, the commitment of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to sharing the teachings of Jesus Christ with all who will listen becomes increasingly evident. We’ve never tried to hide it.

So as it relates to this blog, it is probably worth mentioning that we would love for everyone to make a free and informed choice to become a Mormon, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We would love for everyone to be converted to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

But we believe that conversion is a process that each of must independently choose to pursue. We believe that we do not have the power to change hearts and minds, but that God teaches truth and spreads his love through the Holy Ghost. We are not out to convert anyone through NextDoorMormon, but we do hope that all will be converted.

If you are a new or returning member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we hope you will consider blogging with us. If you would like to join the team, please submit your information on the “Blog With Us” page of the website.

To everyone, we hope you will return frequently to enjoy, ponder, question, comment on, share, and otherwise interact with the thoughts and stories shared on this blog and with those who shared them. We hope you will feel welcome to participate whatever your religious affiliation (or non-affiliation).

There’s a place here for everyone who is willing to engage in a civil and respectful conversation about topics and experiences that matter deeply to many of us.

Sharing My Faith: An Interview with Hunter Romano

Hunter Romano grew up in Woburn, Massachusetts. When he turned twelve and joined the deacons’ quorum he was on crutches with a broken leg that was still mending. That didn’t stop him from passing the sacrament. He and his quorum worked out a way for him to get the job done. Hunter is now a freshman at Brigham Young University.

What are some experiences you had talking with people at Woburn High about how you live and what you believe.

Once they hear I’m a Mormon, people always ask about multiple wives and polygamy. It’s the first thing to explain. Once you explain that then they ask, “What’s the deal with Mormons? What makes you a Mormon and not something else? I say we’re peculiar because of the Word of Wisdom and law of chastity, but it’s more than that. I also talk about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

In the first month of my freshman year of high school, my history teacher brought up Mormons in a lesson but didn’t know that I was one. He made the comment that Mormon men currently still have multiple wives. I spoke up to clarify that we do not and then was asked if I would be comfortable getting in front of the class. I was, and I talked about my faith and answered questions for the rest of the class period.

I find people aren’t interested in the things you would think. When it comes to drinking, smoking, and sex before marriage, they say, “Yeah, those are good to avoid. My religion says the same thing, but in my religion they are overlooked.” They really are more interested in Joseph Smith and the Church’s origins.

Who was your best friend in high school who was not a member of the Church?

His name was John. He played lacrosse and was really busy. Pat was also a good friend. He played on our ward basketball team and attended church because this was a requirement to play. He’d also sleep over at our house. Pat became good friends with Jared, a Mormon friend of mine, and even went to his mission farewell. He came to seminary a couple of times and learned more about the Church that way. At one point, he and I went to a party out of town. I had my “Stormin’ Mormon” sweatshirt on and someone from the other town came up and commented on multiple wives and all the things Mormons can’t do. Pat spoke up first and started answering questions. Pat is now a sophomore at UMass Amherst. I hope one day the missionaries will knock on his door. I hope he’ll read this interview when I invite him.

You’ve talked about some wonderful experiences. In your high school years, did you have some bad experiences being a Mormon?

Yes. In high school kids drink and swear and do things that are not exactly aligned with the gospel. I got comments like, “Why aren’t you drinking? That sucks.” They steered clear of me, saying, “Why talk to the sober kids?” In the girl scene, some girls said, “He’s a goody two shoes.” Sometimes I was not accepted and people steered clear of me because they felt I wasn’t like them. If they can’t respect that, it’s not worth worrying about it.

But you were class president your senior year, right?

That was huge because it put me in a lot of positions where I had to be an example. When setting up certain activities, they would ask me if I was comfortable with this or that aspect. Everyone in the whole school knew I was a Mormon, and they found out that they could learn about my faith from a source other than the Internet.

You are just starting your freshman year at Brigham Young University. Did you always know you wanted to go to BYU?

It was always high on the list because my parents went there. And it’s very affordable! I grew up watching athletics. When I did well in football, I was recruited by Williams College, Middlebury College, and other small New England schools. I prayed about it. What it came down to was to meet more members of the Church, especially girls, and be around people who would put me on the right path to my mission. Going on a mission is such a big goal for me. Being in other environments could have affected my path to a mission, and after a mission it would have been hard to get to Church and hard to meet girls.

Do you feel any concerns about being at BYU?

I’ve gone from being one of the few to one of the many and not having to be the only example. I thought this would make me feel like I could waver. But, as it turns out, people at BYU are great and they help build each other up.

An Interfaith Conversation about Mormon Temples

By Guest Blogger Austin Walters

“Firesides” in the Church are meetings where (mostly) members of the Church circle up—originally around a campfire, whence the term “fireside”—to learn from each other about topics of interest. Recently, the missionaries who are currently serving in my ward suggested holding a fireside that would be designed as a discussion about Mormon temples to which we could invite our friends. I invited a good friend of mine named Emily, who is currently studying to be ordained into the Episcopal priesthood. She came, and we’ve since had a couple of discussions about the experience. I’d like to relate some of our insights in this blog post.

First, my friend found the explicit connection between Mormon temples and elements of the ancient Hebrew religion to be very striking. Traditional Christianity has let much more of the ancient Hebrew conceptions of religion fall away from their practice than Mormons have, which indicates that Mormonism is not best conceived as a Protestant sect among many, but rather a new kind of religion that reaches deeply into the past for the ritual aspects of its practice.

Second, and related to the previous insight, is that we Mormons largely skip the Middle Ages in the ways we think about religious worship. Having arisen from the Primitivist Christianity movements of the early nineteenth century, this is understandable, but the intensity of this blind spot for us may mean that we too often miss out on more recent commonalities between Christian sacred spaces and Mormon temples. For example, my friend, being from the Anglican tradition, was quick to point out how many aspects of the great cathedrals of the Middle Ages parallel the form, purpose, and theology of Mormon temples. Cathedral architecture is filled with religiously didactic symbolism, as are Mormon temples.

Third, Mormon temples are extremely central to Mormon theology. In them we are married for time and all eternity, and families are “sealed” together for eternity, never to be broken up. In them we perform baptisms by proxy for those who have passed away, the belief being that baptism is a required ordinance for salvation according to Christ’s teachings; therefore, the ordinance is to be performed by or on behalf of every human being who has ever lived on the earth. In addition, the most sacred covenants an individual makes in this life are made in the temple as part of an “endowment” ceremony, which is comprised of a series of teachings about God’s plan of salvation, covenants relating to loyalty, consecration, and chastity, and promised blessings, all carried out in ritualized ways. These exclusively temple activities form a core part of Mormon philosophy and faith practice.

Hopefully this short blog post has been helpful to those readers who are not members of the Church in better understanding the centrality and purpose of temples in Mormonism. I also hope it’s helpful to members of the Church in understanding others’ perspectives of us, which we should be sensitive to as a proselytizing faith.

Why Do Mormons Evangelize to Other Christians?

By Guest Blogger David

Last week I attended a lesson with the full-time Mormon missionaries—the suit-and-tie, black nametag-wearing young men—who are assigned to preach in my neighborhood. They were teaching a lesson to a wonderful man they met on the street a couple weeks ago. This man, a devout Protestant, asked a question that, although phrased somewhat differently, is very important: Why do Mormons evangelize to other Christians? For me, there are at least three reasons why Mormons preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to other Christians:

(1)    We want to share additional witnesses of Christ. Mormons believe in and follow the teachings of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. We also believe in and follow the teachings of Another Testament of Jesus Christ—better known as the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon complements the writings of the Bible. Book of Mormon writers testify that that same Jehovah of the Old Testament, who is Jesus Christ in the New Testament, is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and the Redeemer of mankind.

The biblical promise that “in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established,” (2 Corinthians 13:1) is fulfilled by the Book of Mormon, which serves as a second witness of Christ. As I work to develop my own relationship with the Savior, better understand his teachings, and strive to emulate his charity for others, I am profoundly grateful for each of the testaments of Jesus Christ and know that all men and women—including faithful, Bible-reading Christians—can strengthen their relationships with Jesus Christ by including the Book of Mormon in their studies. This is one of the reasons that Mormons preach to other Christians.

(2)    We want to share our belief of living prophets. We believe that a man with a prophetic calling no different from that given to Moses, Noah, and Abraham walks the earth today. In short, we believe that there is a living prophet of God on the earth right now. This is a bold declaration and, if it is true, clearly has significant implications. If there is a prophet on the earth right now, then God speaks to man in AD 2012 just as he did in the millennia before Christ’s birth. If there is a prophet on the earth right now, then there is a continuing canon of scripture that we ought to study and ponder. If there is a prophet on the earth right now, then that is a message that should be shouted from the rooftops. Mormons believe that there is indeed a prophet on the earth right now, and that is a message we wish to share with all.

(3)    We are unique regarding priesthood authority. At a recent “Mormonism 101” seminar at Harvard Law School, a leader of the Mormon Church said the following:

We are unique in the modern Christian world regarding . . . divine priesthood authority. . . . The holy priesthood which has been restored to the earth by those who held it anciently signals the return of divine authorization. It is different from all other man-made powers and authorities on the face of the earth. Without it there could be a church in name only, and it would be a church lacking in authority to administer in the things of God. This restoration of priesthood authority eases centuries of questions and anguish among those who knew certain ordinances and sacraments were essential, but lived with the doubt as to who had the right to administer them.

In the New Testament, we read that Jesus traveled from Galilee to Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus made this journey so He could be baptized by one who possessed the proper authority to perform baptism. As we follow the Bible’s command to be baptized and participate in other ordinances, we too must seek out one who has proper authority. A foundational principle of Mormonism is that this authority was lost from the earth in the centuries following the crucifixion of the Savior, but it was restored to the earth in the nineteenth century. We invite all humankind, including our fellow Christians of other sects, to learn about the restoration of this authority and to be baptized by one with proper authority.

Interested in the LDS church, but reluctant to start attending?

Have you been considering becoming a member of the LDS church, but are reluctant to meet with missionaries or start attending church?  This was a question from one of our readers and I’ve spent some time pondering the question.   As part of my response I’ve decided to include a few thoughts in this blog that might be useful for others.  I realize that there are many reasons why someone would be reluctant to start attending the LDS church even if they are interested in becoming a member.   You shouldn’t feel any pressure by attending a service.  There are usually a few people at a church service held on Sundays that will notice a stranger and will make an attempt at introduction, whether you a member of the LDS church or not.  If they happen to find out that you are only visiting for the first time you may here any number of responses reflecting the hope that you liked what you saw or felt and are welcome to come anytime.  If you are more than a casual observer, you are likely to be invited to meet with missionaries who are full time temporary volunteers dedicated to teaching more about the LDS faith.   You are not required, however, to meet with the missionaries.  Though they are trained to teach and are commissioned to baptize they generally eschew the appearance of pressuring.

I know of instances where members not of the LDS faith regularly participated in LDS activities like organized sports and Scouting.  There are a lot of benefits to attending church regularly.  The church is divided up by geographic regions and members belong to congregations based on boundaries.  The church is very logistical in that regard, but it proves useful.  Congregations or ‘Wards’ as we call them are much like families and no one ward is exactly like another.   As my Ward has changed over the years due to migration of fellow members and/or myself my experience has varied, but I have always felt some affinity for the Ward.  Most of my life’s cherished experiences have been with people from my local Ward, but it sometimes takes an open mind, positive attitude, patience and work – perhaps more on that in another post.  I’m not sure I’ve answered your question about what to do if you are interested in becoming a member, but are reluctant to attend church or meet with the missionaries.   Thanks for the question.  It caused me to pause and reflect on some good times!