Tag Archives: World Religions

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.

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.

We’re Not So Different

I think a lot of times when we as Mormons talk about our beliefs and experiences we focus on the things that are different. It’s easy to do, sometimes I just feel so incredibility different from everyone else around me. Not this past weekend.

I attended a funeral on Saturday. I didn’t really know the family, the person that had died was a family member of one of my husband’s co-workers. The death was very tragic and untimely. To be honest I was a little nervous to attend. I don’t have much experience with funerals. The only funerals I’ve been to have been for people who it was clearly their time to go and had been suffering for a long time. It was easy to feel peace at those funerals. I wasn’t sure how this funeral would be. I felt like if I had been in this  family’s shoes I would feel incredibly bitter and want revenge. I was nervous because I wasn’t sure what to say or do to show support and love because I imagined that this family would be suffering a great deal.

At the funeral I learned that the family was Christian though I’m not sure what denomination. At the funeral I also learned a lot about faith and hope. As the speakers talked they shared messages about this person’s life and carried a spirit and feeling with them that touched me so much. They did not dwell on the tragedy of the situation or the injustice that had happened to their family, they simply spoke about the wonderful life that this person had lived and the sure knowledge that they had that that person was still with them and was happy.

As members of different Christian denominations I’m sure many of our beliefs differ. But, I am also sure that we believe in the same Jesus Christ that brings peace and comfort in times of trials. I am grateful I was able to attend this funeral so that I could learn more about hope and try to live a more faith filled life.

Do Mormons know what goes on in the world?

A certain popular musical is pushing the idea that Mormons have never been outside their own front doors and have no idea what real problems face the world (or how to handle them). I think this is probably a common thought about Mormons. We’re really nice but we are so totally naive and would be shocked to find out half the things that go on in the ‘real world.’ I can’t speak for everyone but I can speak for myself and I’m a Mormon and I know there are other Mormons who have had similar experiences so I thought I’d share some of the experiences I’ve had outside my own front door.

I grew up traveling and have always loved it. I’ve also always loved different aspects of the medical field. When I was 17 I decided to combine those two interests and I went to the Philippines with a medical group of volunteers. The group specialized in fixing cleft lip and palates and also in education for the local medical professionals. In many ways this trip was a lot of firsts for me. It was my first time traveling alone, my first time being completely immersed in a culture totally different from my own, my first real experience in a medical environment, and my first time seeing real poverty and misfortune. This trip changed my life, not only how I viewed life but it changed the whole trajectory of my life. I saw true horrors; children covered in burn scars,  severely malnourished children, children and adults who had been literally shun their whole lives because of their appearance, people who could not afford food…at all.  I also saw happiness and gratitude in these same people. When I came home from that trip and stepped foot into my room I cried my eyes out, I couldn’t believe how much I had: a functional body, a home, food, family, friends…the list goes on. I decided I would become a nurse so that I could do all that I could to relieve some of the suffering that went on in the world.

It’s now almost 10 years later and I am a nurse. In college I lived in Jordan for a summer to help implement an anti-smoking campaign and educated the medical schools about the harmful effects of tobacco (the tobacco use rate there is seriously around 85%). Again, I was thrust into a culture that was so completely different. I was there during the Hezbollah bombings. Every weekend there were anti-American riots where we either had to hunker down in our lodgings or leave the capital. Again, I saw immense poverty and suffering. Many people weren’t so grateful we were there but we also made great friends, people who taught us about their culture and religion and all the wonderful things about the area.

A few years later I went to Ethiopia with a medical group. My role was largely focused on education. I educated people about STDs, AIDS, clean water, latrines, diet, and fetal-maternal health. I thought I had seen poverty before, I was wrong. The problems in Ethiopia were the most severe I’ve seen. But the people in Ethiopia were also the most kind and generous and grateful people I’ve seen.

Apart from traveling I also worked at a residential treatment center for teenage boys. The boys were there for various reasons; addiction, behavioral problems, compulsive issues, etc. Most of them struggled because of things that had happened to them like abuse or abandonment.

I volunteered at a free medical clinic for two and a half years for those below the poverty line and without health insurance. Many of the people we served were immigrants suffering from serious injuries or chronic health problems with little hope of getting help elsewhere.

While in college I did rotations for a semester at a chemical detox facility. Of all the things I’ve seen this is where people were understandably at their lowest. I was there when they opened up about how their lives had gotten to that point.

The point I am trying to make is that I am a Mormon and I have seen a lot of the horror that is in the world. It is one reason why The Gospel of Jesus Christ means so much to me. Many people don’t see how a happy-go-lucky church can exist while there are real problems in the world. But, that is why it exists. Christ said in Luke 5:31:

And Jesus answering said unto them, They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick.

In other words, the Gospel is for those that suffer, it is for those that deal with real problems. The Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring happiness amidst sorrow, it can take away our pain and it can help us overcome our greatest struggles. This is not a church for perfect people that are happy all the time and have never struggled. Jesus Christ is here to help us heal and to bring us peace in a world where peace in near impossible to find. Mormons know what is out there, it just gives us reason to hold on to our faith even tighter.

Humorous–and Mutual–Misunderstanding

I teach English. I saw this in one of the classrooms at my school as I was walking down the hall. As a Mormon, the top bit caught my eye:


Bless the educated teacher who teaches this to his or her students! I think the Amish are awesome, faithful, and amazing people. Though Mormons and Amish may share many things, I would think that most people know the difference between the two faiths and that neither of them is limited to northeastern United States.

This sort of misunderstanding happens a lot. In my mind, Mormonism is one thing, but to some non-members, it is something very different. We all do it to each other. I know I don’t know nearly enough about Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.

Here’s a typical example of how this plays out:


In my mind being Mormon means thinking about Christ, constantly praying for guidance in life, pondering my relationship with my Heavenly Father, etc. But, some people know Mormons only by stereotypes–some false, some true–that float around in the media and what not.

We believe in Jesus Christ with all our hearts, that we have a direct connection to our Father in Heaven, that we can pray for guidance and help, that the Book of Mormon was written by ancient prophets, that Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Heavenly Father knows and loves us each personally, no matter who we are. From an Amish man plowing a field to an enlightened Muslim imam preaching in a mosque, God loves each of us. This is the meat of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yes, Mormons abstain from alcohol and cigarettes; we stay away from non-marital sexual relationships; we give 10% of our income to the church for humanitarian assistance and church maintenance. We are peculiar in many ways, but our belief in Jesus Christ is the absolute foundation of our faith. I testify of that!

To those of you non-Mormon readers, I do apologize for any over-generalizations about your religion, culture, etc. that I’ve made. It’s easy to do as humans. Anyone of other faiths experience this type of situation?

Mormons Think Jews Are Cool

Dear Jews:  I don’t know if you know this, but we Mormons think you’re amazing.  In fact, we think we’re your cousins.  Does this make you feel weird?

We just said goodbye to this great neighbor friend who’s Jewish.  We’ve had so many questions for each other and some of the best conversations I’ve had here at school.  I also taught the Old Testament in Sunday School last year, so Jewish doctrine has been on my mind a lot lately.

Last week, our Jewish friend invited us to the Harvard Hillel for a real Seder.  We walk in, and there were three other Mormons there that we knew from church.  5 Mormons at Seder?  Possibly more we didn’t know about?  LOVED the Seder.

2 Sticks:  Basically, we believe that the two sticks talked about in the Bible are the Jews & the Bible (stick of Judah) and the Mormons & the Book of Mormon (stick of Manassah).  We believe that the Bible and the Book of Mormon enhance each other and bear witness of the truth of the other and that together they testify of God, Christ, and teach God’s commandments and plan for us.

The dialogue between Jews & Mormons is alive and open.  Here are some that have caught my eye–they help explain the relationship between the two:

http://mormonsandjews.net/

http://www.jewishjournal.com/jews_and_mormons

http://www.jewishjournal.com/jews_and_mormons/item/jews_and_mormons_and_harvard_–_oh_my_39110414/

http://byustudies.byu.edu/showTitle.aspx?title=6814

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