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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.

Why I’m Mormon

By Guest Blogger Denia-Marie Ollerton

I grew up in a religious LDS household. My parents were and are hardworking, God-fearing, sacrificing people. But it wasn’t easy. We had our difficulties and challenges, and at the time I felt we had more problems than my seemingly-perfect Mormon neighbors.

Church was just a thing we did every week. My friends were there, but I didn’t feel much else pulling me besides them. I remember thinking that religion as taught in my church was for perfect people only. They’d talk about the virtues of being good, and of happy families. I didn’t feel that fit my experience. I thought that God was cold, mean, and punitive.

In my teens, I got into some trouble with school, friends, and had some close calls with the law. I wasn’t happy, but I was trying desperately hard to become so. I still felt that religion was too strict and family relationships too sterile. Around eighteen years old my parents loosened their grip, and I began to experience the reality of being all on my own. I had long since lost any close friends I had in high school. My interactions with my family were minimal, and my life consisted mostly of going to school, trying to stay out of everyone’s way, and going home to sit in my room. Yes, it was very lonely. I knew that the life I had lived and the choices I had made up to that point were not making me happy.

I noticed my siblings were good enough people, and they seemed happy. They were active churchgoers, and always talked about how great the church was. I decided that I’d try religion one time, and one time only. If it was true, if it did work to live by certain rules, then great. If not, I’d know and I could move on with life. At this time, a lot of teachings from my childhood started to come into mind. One principle that came to mind was repentance. Repentance as I understood it was supposed to be this thing where you told God (or your bishop) about all the bad things you’d done, and somehow that was supposed to make you feel better. Oh yeah, and you weren’t supposed to do it again.

I also remembered the teachings about Jesus. I didn’t have much of an opinion on him. I had heard about the crucifixion and the atonement, but those were just words to me. And yet, he did seem like the only forgiving person in the entire story of religion. I remember thinking, “Alright, if he really is merciful and kind, I’ll test it out. I’ll see if he can handle me and all I’ve done.”

I went to my bishop after thinking this over for some time. I expected some harsh words and punishment, but I was willing to go through the process to get to the other side whatever that was. I went in and just let everything out to him. I was surprised but grateful at how calmly and kindly he handled the situation. He just listened for a while, and then asked if we could meet again after church. I agreed. I went to sacrament meeting, and the speakers all spoke about repentance and the atonement. I cried. I felt like a spotlight had been shone on me, and God was finally noticing me. I went back and talked more with my bishop. All of his words were encouraging, hopeful, and healing.

I walked home that day and went to ponder all that had gone on. It was as if a heavy load had been lifted off my shoulders, and I didn’t even know I was carrying it until it was gone. I felt incredibly happy. I think it was joy. I can honestly say I hadn’t felt joyful or happy up until that point in my life. I had seen people cry “tears of joy” before, but I didn’t want to cry, I just wanted to smile. I went through the rest of that week with a huge grin on my face. I knew then that God lived, and that there was so much more to life than I had known. Who knew that because Jesus Christ died thousands of years ago, and went through the atonement, that I could find healing and happiness in life? I didn’t before, but I knew it then. And there was no way I was going back to the life I had lived before.

I became fascinated with religion. I realized that I had been surrounded all along by a wonderful road map to a successful and happy life! I felt that I was doing years of make up work, but also felt that I was given an increased ability to soak it all in. Everything was positive that I found out. My previous notion of a punitive God was erased in large, sweeping motions. I found out he really did care about me. He did answer my prayers, he listened to me, he talked to me, and he helped me connect with others in ways I never knew were possible.

By relying on the teachings of the gospel, I’ve overcome fear, judgment (mostly of myself), and discouragement and have instead found opportunity, growth, excitement, and love. I thought my past would weigh me down, but it has buoyed me up. It has taught me that if God can right the wrong in life, he can make the good even better. I can come to the Lord, imperfect and all, and ask him to change me. And he does!

I love living the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not because it’s what I’m used to, or what I’ve known all my life, but because it makes me truly happy. And although I haven’t had a perfect life, I don’t hold myself to that perfect standard anymore, and I know God doesn’t either. He and I both know that I am powerful, and I have so much potential. And I’ll continue to draw on that potential, with his support, for the rest of my life.

Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy…or How We Actually Accomplish More by Taking a Day Off

By Guest Blogger Jenn Felkner

After creating the world, God himself took a day off to rest, then sanctified that day, or made it holy (Genesis 2:2–3). He later commanded us that we should do the same thing (Exodus 20: 8–11). As Latter-day Saints, we generally don’t work, play sports, go to movies, shop, or go out to eat on Sunday, and this often begs the question, “So what do you do on Sundays?” Every member chooses the way that they honor the Sabbath, but here are three things that I do on Sundays that help me be more productive throughout the rest of the week.

1. Rest
Because Sundays are dedicated to God and family, Latter-day Saints generally avoid working on Sundays if possible (although we understand the necessity of doctors, police, firemen, etc working on Sundays). We also try to avoid activities that would require someone else to work on Sunday. If I go shopping on Sundays, it means the store employees don’t have the opportunity to take a day of rest.

During the past year, I was in an intensive graduate program that required many study hours. I decided early in the year to avoid studying on Sundays as much as possible. I realized that when I didn’t study on Sunday, I felt more refreshed on Monday morning and was much more productive that week. I also find it helpful to take some time on Sunday to look at what I have planned for the week to come, set goals for the week, and schedule in everything I need to do.

2. Go to church
Going to church every week allows me to recharge myself spiritually. It helps me get above my day-to-day stresses and refocus on the big picture, which is trying to be more like Christ so that I can follow the plan God has for me. Understanding that plan helps me to deal with daily choices and problems.

3. Spend time with friends and family
Sundays are perfect for spending time with friends and family. Although I don’t have any family nearby, I usually chat on the phone with my grandma, or Skype with my parents and siblings in Texas. Sunday dinner was always a big deal at our house growing up, a tradition that I often carry on with friends or roommates. In my hectic life, it’s nice to have quality time to build relationships with those I care about.

Christ taught, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath,” (Mark 2:27). Observing the Sabbath is not a list of restrictions, but rather a blessing, as it gives me an opportunity to rest, increase my spirituality, and build relationships.

Guest Blogger Annie: Receiving Answers through the Holy Ghost

The evidence of God’s love for his children is abundant. As a loving father, one thing that is very important to him is communicating with his children, which he does by means of the Holy Ghost. After an individual is baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost. This means that, as we keep ourselves worthy, we can enjoy the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. Even those who have not been baptized can feel the influence of this Spirit. This is especially important if you are learning about the gospel, because it means you can ask God questions and he is able to literally answer you. God and Jesus Christ both have physical bodies, just like us. Since the third member of the Godhead, the Holy Ghost, has no physical body, he is able to speak to us through thoughts, feelings, and promptings. Getting in touch with the Holy Ghost is a delicate process. In order to create a relationship with the Holy Ghost, you must behave in a way that invites his presence. God gave us many commandments to help us to do this. Abstaining from alcohol and drugs keeps our minds clear, sharp, and more able to receive communication. Watching movies that do not contain violence, distasteful language, etc. keeps our thoughts in a good place. Following commandments not only keeps us out of situations that are uninviting to the Spirit, but also our obedience shows Heavenly Father that we are responsible and ready to be instructed.

This all must seem a bit hard to swallow—that God can speak to people, and that he can even speak to you. It is a beautiful truth, and fortunately, one that can be easily tested. Once you learn how to access the power of the Holy Ghost, your many questions and doubts about gospel principles, church standards, and our beliefs will begin to come to light. The Holy Ghost will be one of your most important tools in the learning process. So whatare some ways to find out whether the Holy Ghost actually works? Let’s run an experiment.

First, following the commandments is a good place to start. Try to reduce negative influences in your life in order to create a spiritually conducive environment in your heart. Next, start praying to God; have sincere conversations with him in which you tell him your thoughts about the gospel, ask for help to understand the concepts that confuse you, and ask him questions about the concepts you don’t believe. Specifically ask him for help to feel the Spirit. Ask him to help you understand the language of the Spirit, to teach you what the Spirit feels like.

Moroni was a prophet and the final record-keeper of the Book of Mormon, about six hundred years ago. In his conclusion of the record, he gives this invitation and promise: if you read, ponder, and then “ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith… [God] will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4-5).

If you do not immediately feel that your questions have been answered, don’t worry. Heavenly Father teaches us patience by working on his own timetable. Additionally, the Spirit often speaks to us through the words of prophets—both modern day prophets and those from the scriptures. If you diligently keep listening, reading, studying, and pondering, you will receive an answer, just like Moroni promised.

I know that the Holy Ghost is a real being, and that he has the power to communicate to us the truths of God.  I have learned this for myself through hard work and patience. Though my connection with the Holy Ghost is not perfect, it is one of my favorite relationships. He has the ability to comfort me in times of pain. He helps me learn, both spiritually and academically, beyond my natural abilities. He guides me as I prayerfully make decisions. His influence makes me a better person, more loving, more understanding, and more willing to serve others. He is a dear friend, and I encourage you to prayerfully invite him into your life.

What is the Differnce Between Temples and Churches?

This is an example of a Temple

You may have seen many beautiful Mormon Temples in your areas, standing out and very tall. There are 135 of them in existence today. These buildings differ from the Churches we have where our religious services are held every Sunday. We believe that these beautiful temples are the houses of God. We also believe that our Churches are for God’s intentions, but not where he dwells. Many of my Non-Mormon friends have been confused about the differences between these, so I will go in to greater detail on how they differ, and affect my life.

Churches: Our churches are meeting houses for our services. A usual Service consists of 3 hours. It is broken up into three segments: Sacrament Meeting, Sunday school and then Split into Men and Women groups for the last hour. In these three hours, those who attend gain a better knowledge about the chruch, and are instructed on how they can better live their lives. Anybody can, and are encouaged to attend. Visitors are welcome, and can benefit just as much, if not more from coming.

Temples: We believe that Temples are the closest things to heaven on earth today. These are built by the church, for God. We believe God dwells in these sacred buildings. The feeling there is very strong, and inspiration is very easy to come by.

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!

My Conversion

The following is from Bev King, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who relates in this blog how she was first introduced to the “Mormon” Faith:

Sixteen years ago I was yearning to find a group of Christians to join with.  I grew up in the Episcopal church, and there was much about the Episcopal church that I loved and still do love.  I found the cathedral-like beauty of the church interior and the sacred music very uplifting.  I liked the fact that my church was interested in social justice issues.  I resonated with the values of love and service of the Episcopal church, but I was looking for something more.   I explored many different religions but didn’t find one that suited me.  I was spiritually adrift.

After many years of spiritual drifting, I prayed to find a Christian group with whom I could continue my spiritual journey.  I had a desire to deepen my relationship with God and be joined with people who shared the same values.  I never dreamed that when I signed on for my first acting job on the feature film, The Crucible, that I would find the answer to my prayer on that film set.   I developed a friendship with a woman I met on the set of The Cruicible.  One night, we had a conversation about religion.   She told me she was Mormon, I exclaimed, “Mormon, I’ve never known anyone who is Mormon.  Tell me what you believe.”  And she did.

Everything she told me resonated with me.  She told me that there is a Spirit World where we lived with God before we are born.  Families can live together forever.  We live with God after we die.  That life on earth is a time where we can grow and change and can become more like Christ.  She told me many other things that made sense to me.  One important thing that she told me was that each person is entitled to personal revelation directly from God.  My interest was piqued.  I wanted to learn more.  I started going to church events with her and then started to go to church meetings, and three months later converted to the LDS faith and was baptized.

In the LDS church, I have found something very precious.  I have found a group of people who live their religion. They don’t leave their Sunday values in church.  They endeavor to live them 24/7.  I learned that God does hear our prayers.  God is real, and I can have a personal relationship with Him.  For this and so much more, I am so very gratedul for the restoration of the gospel and the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that espouses these precious teachings.

No Need to be Defensive

I think a lot of Mormons, including myself, have been put on the defensive lately because of all the media buzz surrounding Mormons. It seems anyone that has an opinion about Mormons is sharing it via news outlets, blogs and facebook. It is normally not hard to get a Mormon to feel and act defensive, it kind of goes with the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Historically Mormons have had to defend themselves on just about every issue pertaining to the Church, and many times these conflicts have resulted in violence and even death.

I hate feeling defensive all the time. I hate feeling like I’m going to have to combat all the false information that is out there about Mormons that I seem to run across everyday online or on TV. But, I realized something a few days ago, I don’t need to feel defensive all the time, or really hardly ever. I was trying to remember the last time I felt falsely judged or personally attacked because of my religion or beliefs. I don’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure the last time was in high school. There were a few instances in college where people would come to BYU campus and try to make a scene, but I didn’t feel personally attacked then. I would put that on the same level as internet comments. I don’t feel personally attacked or judged unless the person knows me personally and says the comments to my face. Otherwise, I think people are just trying to stir up controversy to get attention and share their opinions.

I really have had very few experiences where people have personally attacked my beliefs. I have actually had really positive experiences where friends and acquaintances have been very respectful and understanding of my beliefs. Especially in areas where we disagree or they think the beliefs are just too out there I have noticed people really put effort into trying to be understanding and non-judgmental. And when I say understanding and non-judgmental I don’t mean sterile. People kindly tease my husband or myself all the time about the more peculiar aspects of our religion. They do it in a way that lets us know that for them it is a little far-fetched but what we believe does not bother or threaten them. Everyone has different experiences but my experience is that the large majority of people  are kind enough and understanding enough to accept me with friendship even if my beliefs are different from theirs. I try to be as kind and accepting as they are, and you know what, it makes life a lot more fun and interesting when I’m surrounded by a variety of people with a variety of view points and we can all appreciate each other for our differences.

Different Congregations

This past week we started attending a new congregation because we moved across town. Our congregations are set up a little differently than other Christian sects. Congregations are based purely on geographical area. You attend the congregation whose boarders you live within. This is significant for a few reasons.

First, a congregation is not a source of income for anyone, including the head clergyman, the bishop. There is really no monetary incentive or need for a clergyman to try and get as many congregation members as possible.  No one is trying to sell you on a certain congregation.

Second, the same thing is taught in each congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide. Members don’t visit different congregations and then decide which clergyman or congregation best fits their ideas because the Church is organized in such a way that all the same doctrines and principles are taught across the board. Each congregation does have its own flavor, customs, traditions, etc though as is natural for different cultures and areas. I’ve attended congregations in Jordan, Mexico, Guatemala, Virginia, Utah, Massachusetts, New York, California, South Carolina, North Carolina, Hawaii, Florida, and Arizona. Each congregation has definitely had its own style and culture  but what has been taught  is always the same, the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To be honest, I was sad to leave my old congregation because of the friends I had made there and the people I had worked with. It can be a hard transition.  But, everywhere we go we are needed. Each congregation has needs and roles that need to be filled and those needs and roles are dependent on the congregation members.  I’m excited to get involved and contribute and I’m excited to make new friends and to get to work with new people.

What it Means to be Christian

Sometimes it gets a little frustrating when everyone feels entitled to define your religion for you. There has been a lot of talk about whether Mormons are Christians or not, whether we are a cult or not, and why it actually matters. As you can probably imagine, I have a few thoughts on the matter. But, I feel like it would be a waste of my time to write my own thoughts on this because I just read an article that I think explains it so wonderfully and already includes everything I was thinking (except Jeffers, the author, enjoys politics and I am quite the opposite :)).

I really enjoyed this post because I felt like it explored all the different sides of what it means to be a Christian and how The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints fits into that. For me, Christ is the center of everything I do. He is why I strive to be a good wife, mother, neighbor, citizen and human.  If you have any questions about Mormons’ stance on Christ (or even if you don’t and you just want a good read about what it means to be a Christian) I highly recommend reading this article from our friends over at mormonperspectives.com.